Nick Rino eyes fourth straight state title this season


FARMINGTON – Nick Rino tries to overpower his foes on the mat at all times, and that approach has done wonders for him over the course of his prep career.

Constantly on the offensive, the Piedra Vista senior wrestler refuses to give others even the slightest bit of hope at gaining control.

"I like to get my hands on them first and control them, move them around," Rino said. “I can’t sit there and just wait for somebody to do something. I have to make the action to do stuff. That’s how I’ve grown so much, is being an offensive wrestler.”

That approach has guided him to three straight state titles, and he intends to make it a four-peat to conclude his career with the Panthers.

Rino said he’s “trusting the process” in knowing when to strike — especially when matches go down to the wire.

“When it comes down to gritty situations, real grinding matches… I’ve just got to pull it out and use it,” Rino said. “(In) every position, push, don’t give your opponents room to breathe. That’s how I like to wrestle. It’s always paid off.”

Rino, who will wrestle at NCAA Division I Utah Valley University, tries to quickly spot even the smallest miscues, such as an opponent lunging a bit too far when he tries to grab Rino.

Rino stresses fundamentals like maintaining a good position on his feet to help him stay on the attack.

Despite his success, Rino has endured the grind and strain of matches that go down to the final seconds. For instance, take his most recent state title in February, when he defeated Carlsbad’s Justin Wood via a 3-2 decision.

"I'll keep knocking him down," Rino said with confidence. "It's a tight match, I'm tired as hell, but I'm going to keep pushing until I get the win. That's just the mentality you develop, is never stop grinding."

Coach Mike Bejar said Rino is not afraid to go head to head with the top competition.

"He's always stepped up to that. He's a gamer. As soon as he starts believing in himself, he can be unstoppable," Bejar said. "That confidence has gone a long way with him being aggressive in that aspect. You can see that growth with him through the years since his freshman year. He's gone leaps and bounds with his confidence."

Bejar said he'd like to see Rino get out of disadvantaged positions more quickly, such as when someone is riding his back, to ensure he succeeds at the next level.

"It kills me sometimes where he will stay down there. I want him to have that mentality of 'You can't hold me down,'" Bejar said. "Within 10, 15 seconds, he shouldn't be down there any longer than that."

Rino said it's "breathtaking" that's he's building a strong portfolio getting ready for the next stage of wrestling in college.

Even so, he never lets his guard down during each match.

"It's a new day, and anybody can be beaten," Rino said.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.