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Jason Nickal Named State High Wrestling Coach

A championship-winning coach and father of a legendary Penn State wrestler has been picked to lead the State College Area High School boys wrestling program.

The State College Area School Board on Monday unanimously approved Jason Nickal’s appointment as State High head coach.

Nickal, who has led teams to six state championships and won 11 coach of the year awards, is the father of Nittany Lion three-time national champion and current MMA fighter Bo Nickal. He succeeds another former Penn State wrestler, Ryan Cummins, who stepped down at the end of last season after 11 years as head coach.

“We’re fortunate that we have a rich history within our wrestling program, and the candidates we received for this open position were very strong,” State High Athletic Director Chris Weakland said in a statement. “Jason set himself apart from these candidates based on his experiences, knowledge and overall vision for the growth of our program. It’s going to be exciting to work with him and see his vision come to life.”

In a coaching career spanning 30 years, Nickal has compiled a 264-43 dual meet record at five school districts in five states and mentored more than 40 individual state champions.

Nickal coached teams to two state titles at his alma mater Torrington High School in Wyoming, then led Rio Rancho High School in New Mexico to four championships in four years. He was later inducted into the Rio Rancho Coaches Hall of Fame.

He won the National Wrestling Coaches Association State Coach of the Year award twice, and Regional Coach of the Year honors in 2009. Nickal also has been a director and coach on multiple USA National Teams, and earned copper and bronze coaching certifications from the USA Wrestling Coaches College.

“I’m excited to lead the wrestling program at State College High School,” Nickal said in a statement. “My vision is to build a culture of determination, teamwork and continuous improvement. We will strive for success in every match, and together we’ll build a team that not only excels on the mat but also embodies the values of hard work, discipline, and sportsmanship.”

Nickal earned a bachelor’s degree in natural sciences from Waldron State College and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Walden University. He has taught science throughout his career.

At Paducah Public Schools in Kentucky, Nickal spent two years as athletic director, overseeing 21 teams, and assistant high school principal for facilities and operations.

He has been wrestling category manager for equipment and apparel supplier BSN Sports since 2021, according to his LinkedIn profile.

As State High wrestling coach, he will earn a salary of $8,381 a year, according to a list of human resources recommendations for appointments included in the agenda for Monday’s school board meeting.

The Little Lions are coming off a third-place team finish at the PIAA 3A Championships in March. Rising senior Asher Cunningham, the son of Penn State assistant coach Casey Cunningham and a Nittany Lion commitment, returns for State High in 2024-25 after winning the state title at 160 pounds.