Whenever he wrestles an opponent, Nick Piccininni wears a pink sock on his right foot. It's a symbol of support for his mother, a breast cancer survivor, and oftentimes he said other kids have commented on it.
They've surely commented on his actual wrestling ability, too. Piccininni, a 5-foot-5, 108-pound Gelinas ninth grader who has wrestled on the Ward Melville varsity level since seventh grade, has won his second straight title at the Suffolk County individual championships.
Last year Piccininni wrestled at the 96-pound weight class and this year moved up to the 106-pound weight class, where he posted a record of 49-0 and went all the way without a single opponent getting a takedown on him from the neutral position.
"It felt awesome," he said. "It definitely gave me drive. It’s not over yet."
Up next for Piccininni is the state tournament in two weeks. He'll be attending a special practice for all the Section XI wrestlers who qualified for states from Suffolk County. But he'll also be working out on his own, putting in two-a-days, running and lifting weights. After he comes home from wrestling practice at Ward Melville, he has a private coaching session with Mike Patrovich, the Half Hollow Hills West wrestling coach who also runs the Suffolk County Wrestling Club.
Piccininni also participates in Pin for a Purpose, in which every time he pins an opponent, he makes a donation to the charity. With an 89-3 record over two seasons, that's a lot of donations.
Already, college recruiters have their eyes on him. Through his school, he has received letters of interest from Stanford, Cornell, Columbia, and Army.
Jumping up a weight class this year has been more of a challenge. He's learned lessons in maturity as an athlete.
"Last year I was so much stronger than everybody, but this year there were some more mature kids who’ve got muscle," Piccininni said. "I felt just as strong as them, but not stronger."
He also plays lacrosse, but wrestling is his main interest.
Last year he placed third in the state tournament at 96 pounds.
"He's on a mission," said Piccininni's dad, Anthony Piccininni. "He's such a driven, focused kid, but the success in wrestling hasn't gone to his head. He's very, very dedicated."