BRISTOL - Ella Nichols will be chasing an international dream this summer.
Nichols’ quick ascension this offseason continued this past weekend, as the Bristol Eastern wrestling team’s freshman standout earned a spot on the U.S. Pan American Cadet Wrestling Team.
This latest honor for Nichols comes a little more than a month after she earned All-American honors by finishing seventh at the National High School Coaches Association’s national wrestling tournament at Virginia Beach on March 31.
Nichols qualified for the Pan American team by finishing second at the U.S. Cadet Women’s Nationals in Irving, Texas. The event was a freestyle wrestling tournament, an international type of style that is wrestled worldwide and is more offensive than the folk-style wrestling in which colleges and high schools compete in the U.S., according to the Lancers’ wrestling coaching staff.
Nichols wrestled at the 65-kilogram weight class in the 14-16-year-old Cadet division.
In her opening-round match, she won via technical fall, 11-0, over Aliana Barnoski of Oklahoma. In the round of 16, she faced off against Hannah Strauss of Illinois and emerged with a 2-1 triumph. In the quarterfinals, she again won by techmical fall over an Illinois opponent, toppling Jazzmine Seely, 12-2.
In the semifinals, Nichols pinned Beyoncé Garcia of California in just 21 seconds to reach the final, where she squared off with nationally-ranked Lillian Freitas of California in a best-of-three series.
Freitas won both matches (via pin in 34 seconds and a 10-0 technical fall), but the second-place finish put Nichols into the Pan-Am Games.
She was invited to train at the Olympic Training center in Colorado Springs with Olympic women’s coaches next month to prepare for the tournament.
“This is a big deal for Ella, as this is the beginning steps of possibly chasing an Olympic dream,” said Dave Thompson, CT Girls National Team coach. “To train with the best coaches and athletes in our country in Colorado will greatly increase her knowledge of the sport and mold her into a great young woman. A chance to represent the USA is an honor in itself.”
Thompson was one of Nichols’ original coaches as head coach of the Gladiator program, and now serving as the CT National girls coach, has been in her corner all spring.
Nichols started her wrestling career at the Bristol Boys and Girls Club as a member of the Gladiators when she was 6 years old. She won several girls state championships and a few regional events, but did not start competing at the national level until this year.
It’s been a busy offseason for the freshman. This spring, she followed her seventh-place finish at Virginia Beach by securing a second-place medal at the Cliff Keen-Gotham City Girls Open in New York, then she won a first-place title at the Northeast Regionals in East Stroudsburg, Penn.
“The success that Ella is having right now is no surprise to me or her teammates,” Bristol Eastern wrestling head coach Bryant Lishness said. “She has been competing as a wrestler and winning for a very long time, regardless if it has been against boys or girls. She is a tough kid, and we are super excited for her.”
Nichols competed at 138 pounds for the Lancers this winter, and although she was unable to crack the varsity lineup of the three-time defending Class L state champions, her competitive drive still left a noticeable mark.
“It is not unusual for a freshman, especially at 138, to not start,” Lishness said. “She had a senior in front of her. On JV, she won over 40 matches and was on the podium in every JV tourney she entered.”
Nichols, who trains in Rocky Hill with KT Kidz Wrestling under the direction of Thompson and John Knapp, will soon head to training camp in Colorado Springs, where she will prep for the Pan-Am Games and then Fargo Nationals in North Dakota in July.
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or