PEMBROKE — Nick Daggett earned All-American honors as a true freshman with the University of North Carolina at Pembroke wrestling team last season, and he’s just getting started.
The Bear Creek native and Chatham Central graduate has more accomplishments on his mind as he progresses through his summer workouts.
“I’m just trying to get bigger, stronger and faster,” Daggett said.
Daggett posted the team’s highest win total with an overall record of 33-15, including a 15-6 mark in dual meets, in his first campaign with the Braves. He capped off the year with an eighth-place finish in the 125-pound division at the NCAA National Championships.
His accomplishments resulted in Eastern College Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year and a first-team all-conference selection.
Months before Daggett bought his first college textbook and put on a UNCP singlet for the first time, he was taking advantage of the offseason to set himself apart from the team’s other incoming wrestlers.
“I basically went to class and met up with O.T.,” Daggett said.
Those meetings with Othello “O.T.” Johnson, the team’s head coach, were centered around preparing Daggett to physically be able to compete in college.
“We say this to all of our guys, whether they’re incoming freshmen or transfers,” Johnson said. “Just understand that there’s a difference between being ready and being college ready. That’s the case for all sports.”
That message resonated with Daggett as he went on to secure a spot at nationals. After losing to fourth-ranked Marcus Povlick of McKendree in his first bout of the tournament, He responded by logging two consecutive wins over opponents from Kutztown and Seton Hill, respectively.
Daggett’s run came to an end with a loss to St. Cloud State’s Brett Velasquez, followed by another defeat at the hands of Povlick. With his first season in the books, Daggett knew what he had to do to get better over the offseason.
Using the lessons he learned in his freshman season, Daggett has been spending his summer working out with teammates on UNCP’s campus while earning a small income working at the school’s indoor pool facility.
He has also been volunteering at wrestling camps throughout the region, including Johnson’s annual clinic that took place in June. Daggett said working at those camps allowed him to refine his basic fundamental skills on the mat.
The three-time high school state champion plans on redshirting this year in order to continue building his physique, but he will still be taking on significant responsibilities when the team returns to campus in August. Johnson said Daggett will be expected to be a leader next season, especially because the incoming wrestlers will want to replicate what he accomplished as a freshman.
For now, he has plenty of summer workouts ahead of him.
“He’s put himself in a position where he’s not doing what he wants to do, but he’s doing what he has to do,” Johnson said. “I think that’s the big difference between the great ones. Your Mike Williams, your Daniel Ownbeys, your Blaze Shades. Guys who’ve been here for years and sacrificed their summer.
“They were three or four-time All-Americans who sacrificed multiple summers to be here because they know that as long as they stay in this environment, their goals will never leave their mind.”
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.