Coming into his seventh grade season, Nikita Alcoba says he had a few goals for 2020 while on the wrestling team at Berlin Community School.
Coming off a 12-2 record in 2019, he wanted to go undefeated. Having finished fourth in the South Jersey Middle School Wrestling League Tournament that year, he had a hunger to earn the gold medal.
Hoping to continue his growth as a wrestler, leader and person, Alcoba wanted to continue learning new moves while emphasizing technique and the basics for himself and his teammates.
Looking back, it may have very well been the perfect season.
Alcoba started learning wrestling at the age of 4, according to his dad, Chris, simply as a pursuit that could keep him active and that he would be able to do with friends.
“He was 4 years old when he first started learning how to wrestle,” Chris said. “We didn’t think a 4-year-old would actually wrestle and compete and what not; but we just wanted him to be able to learn about the technique.”
Before entering Berlin Community School last year, Nikita Alcoba says he wrestled for various leagues and clubs, going to tournaments on weekends. Then came the exciting chance to wrestle for the first time last year with the school’s team.
As he grew up and got to wrestle more, Alcoba says he was drawn to the sport because of how hard he saw others work at it.
“Watching how hard everyone wrestles, because they’re all so good and really push each other, makes me like it so much,” he noted. “I love learning new moves from other wrestlers and getting to work with other people.”
Now at the conclusion of the middle school season, Alcoba’s hard work has paid off after a 15-0 record — including the postseason — with his first-place win in the 136-weight class at the South Jersey Middle School Wrestling League Tournament.
His parents say a large part of the credit for his success is due to coach Anthony Mazziotti, who just finished up his first year with Berlin Community School.
“There was a big change with [Coach Mazziotti] being here, being really technique-driven,” Chris Alcoba said. “He brought in a strong sense of structure and all the kids were really learning a lot throughout the year.
“For Nikita specifically, his technique has come a long way each and every year and it really got better a lot this year too.”
Despite Mazziotti entering his first year with the program, he knew going in after speaking with the old coach and others that Nikita Alcoba would be a kid to watch due to his exceptional ability.
“Nikita is a jack rabbit, he doesn’t stop.” Mazziotti said. “That’s the only way to describe him; his motor goes nonstop. His work ethic is ridiculous. I would have to say that’s his biggest strength as a whole.”
Having finished fourth the previous year’s tournament, Mazziotti says he knew Nikita had the ability to potentially win his weight class, but didn’t discuss with the young wrestler the topic of aiming for champion of the tournament for Burlington, Camden and Gloucester County wrestlers.
During the weekend of March 14, Alcoba will compete in the state’s middle school wrestling championships. After that, he will take a break before preparing for the eighth grade season, when he looks forward to competing in various tournaments up and down the East Coast.