For the very first time, our Athlete of the Week picks are siblings who play the same sport for the same coach and team. They are Bristol Eastern wrestlers Ella and Tommy Nichols, who compete at 145 and 138 pounds, respectively, for head coach Bryant Lishness.
Ella Nichols, a sophomore, competed on the varsity level in her weight class on Saturday at the Bristol Central Invitational.
“Her current record is 2-2,” Lishness said. “Last year on JV she had over 40 wins. She was a member of the CT National Team and took third at Fargo Nationals, second at Women’s Nationals in Texas and she was on the Women’s Cadet Pan Am team for USA. Unfortunately, she sustained a concussion the final practice before competition and had to back out.
“The BC Invitational was her first varsity action this year and she took fourth. I anticipate she will be our regular 145 the rest of the season Ella is just another wrestler at Bristol Eastern to her teammates. She’s treated no differently. She drills every day with Alex Marshall, who has been her favorite drilling partner since they were little. When they win at high levels and get recognized, because they both inevitably will, I’m sure they will mention each other in their speeches.
“Eventually, girls wrestling will be an independently sanctioned sport by the CIAC. It needs to happen as the growth in participation numbers is incredible at the youth levels. Ella can be proud that she has been a part of this growth, especially in Bristol. Like I said, though, we see her no different. She is not a ‘girl wrestler,’ she is a Bristol Eastern wrestler.”
Nichols started wrestling at the Bristol Boys & Girls Club through the Gladiator Program, where Lishness was also coaching.
“I started there because my brother got me into it,” Nichols said. “At first I didn’t like it, but I started gravitating to it more.”
She recalls the Fargo competition as being one of the best memories of her career.
“This was this past July and I took third,” Nichols said. “I felt I did really well. I was excited and thought I could do better. It was good to see competition at that level.”
She’s also appreciative of coach Lishness and her brother for their input into the sport.
“Coach Lishness has been with me since I was 10 years old and even earlier than that,” Nichols said. “He’s always been there for me and pushes women’s wrestling. And, he gets me to the next level. He doesn’t look at me as a girl, he looks at me like a wrestler.
“I think my brother is very dominant, hands-on and is determined in doing what he loves. It’s a little of each of us as far as helping one another. We root for each other and watch each other.”
Tommy Nichols, a junior, is already over the 100-win career mark despite having another season and a half of scholastic competition to go before college. He is a tri-captain for the Lancers along with senior Trent Thompson and junior Mason Lishness, and carries a 102-23 high school career record.
Nichols started wrestling with the Gladiators as a first grader, just like his sister, and wrestles year-round.
Lishness added that so far this season, his tri-captain has won the CJ McCormick Tournament in Berlin and the BC Tournament this past weekend, receiving its “Most Outstanding Wrestler” award.
“Tommy is one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever coached, as well as one of the hardest workers,” Lishness said. “Reaching 100 wins as a junior is a big accomplishment. It shows his dedication and how good he is. You need to advance into the postseason to have such prolific win totals.
“Last year he won [Class L], took third in the [State] Open and went to New Englands. He was also part of a group of Bristol wrestlers who went to nationals. This allowed him to reach 50 wins as a sophomore. That’s the second highest total for one season.”
His past weekend’s performance has to rate as the best of the regular season.
“It felt good,” Nichols said. “I was excited, now I have 102 wins. I want to try to make 200. But, I want to beat the city record.
The team goal is obvious and that’s to keep the Class L streak going with a fourth straight crown.
“We talk about it all the time,” Nichols said. “We know that it’s going to be more difficult this year, but if we keep it up, it’s definitely possible.”
Asked what he enjoys about the sport, it’s being a team sport but one where you alone are responsible for your performance.
“It’s different than any other sport,” Nichols said. “I like the environment. Whether you win or lose, you have no one else to blame. It’s kind of a different perspective.”