Wrestler’s win voted most dramatic finish of all time

Wrestler's win voted most dramatic finish of all time

by Gabe GilsonStaff Writer

Eight years after winning an NCAA national championship, former Simpson wrestler Nick Ackerman is still picking up victories.

That victory in 2001 was voted the No. 1 NCAA most dramatic finish of all time.

The 2001 Simpson graduate and NCAA National Champion at 174 pounds could not have been more excited to hear the good news.

“I thought it was pretty incredible to be even on the list, let alone number one,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman was a normal Simpson student when in college. He came to Simpson to wrestle. He was an Environmental Science major and was an active member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.

The way Ackerman differed from the average student at Simpson was physical. When he was 18-months-old, Ackerman got bacterial meningitis and had to have both legs amputated just below the knee.

However, this setback never stopped him from being a success story.

Ackerman came to Simpson because he wanted a solid education at a school with good academic credentials. He also wanted to be at a place that had a solid wrestling program.

After finding success on the wrestling mat in the first couple of years, Ackerman and then head coach Ron Peterson had to reassess Ackerman’s goals from year to year.

“I knew it was realistic, and I set my sight on the national title at the end of my junior year,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman advanced to the national championship match and took on Nick Slack of Augsburg, who had won 60 straight matches. Ackerman took the match, as well as the championship, winning 13-11 against Slack.

“It was a kind of surreal feeling knowing we just did it,” Ackerman said. “Unless you have been there, it’s hard to put into words.”

Ackerman’s victory did more for Simpson College and the wrestling program than he could ever have known. Having a national champion helped bring in top recruits, including eventual three-time All-American Clint Manny.

“They told me, ‘this guy just won a national championship with no legs, think what you can do with two.'” Manny said.

Manny, current head coach for the Storm, was very happy to hear about Ackerman’s recognition.

“You got to be real proud of him,” Manny said. “I wasn’t surprised but kind of was that a Division III school would come in consideration, especially in a sport like wrestling that does not get much coverage.”

Manny was not the only person overwhelmed with Ackerman’s recent accomplishment. Sports Information Director Matt Turk was awestruck with what Ackerman did on the mat back in 2001.

“It is the highlight of my career as a sports information director,” Turk said. “It’s one of those unbelievable stories and it came true. Even eight years later thinking about it still gives me goose bumps.”

Upon graduation, Ackerman attended graduate school at Northwestern University in Chicago. Today the former wrestler works to help out other people in situations similar to his. Ackerman works in Davenport American Prosthetics, helping to fit prosthetic limbs for those without arms or legs.

Ackerman said he has simple advice for Simpson students.

“Enjoy it,” Ackerman said. “You’ve put yourself into the hands of great people at a great institution. When you surround yourself with good people in the classroom and everywhere else, you are going to be successful.”