During the winter, Kenneth Nicholl can be seen jumping and rolling all over the place and hitting the ground with his hand.
Don’t worry, Yale’s Superintendent isn’t having tantrums – he’s just going all-in during his 15th year of officiating wrestling.
By day, Nicholl is tasked with bringing Yale’s community and schools to great heights. By night, he has the job of getting down and refereeing one of the most difficult, judgement-based sports around.
As different as those two roles are, Nicholl has found similarities in both.
“I really think officiating has really enhanced my administration career,” Nicholl said.
How so? Well, for starters, wrestling is all about snap decisions that immediately change the course of a match. There’s also no doubt there’s some pressure in both jobs, including always being the go-to ear for disgruntled coaches and parents.
“I had a parent come up to me once … and they asked, ‘You choose to come (to a meet) on a Saturday where you get yelled at all day?’” Nicholl recalled.
Really, Nicholl doesn’t mind all the yelling and complaining that comes with officiating. He simply sees it as the coaches, wrestlers and parents being passionate about the sport and the kids.
As much as Nicholl cares about wrestling, he loves seeing people pour that much pride into the sport.
Ironically enough, Nicholl has been called on to officiate meets that Yale participates in. He’s also run into meets with Lakeview – the team his brother, Steve, coaches. However, he removes himself from those matches whenever possible.
While Nicholl, 52, has been an official for 15 years, he also coached for 16 years prior to making the change. While he bounced around a handful of schools in those 16 years, one of his best accomplishments was bringing back the wrestling program to South Lake High School.
“We resurrected a program there,” Nicholl said. “It had been cancelled for 8 to 10 years and we were able to bring it back, and that was really hard to do because they felt like they were going to be jumping from the ropes like big time wrestling.”
Of course, all of this came after a wrestling career at Annapolis High School.
“Hard to believe I was a 112-pounder,” Nicholl said with a laugh.
While Nicholl never made the individual state finals as a wrestler, he’s definitely made a few trips there as a coach.
This year will also mark his second straight season being called on to officiate the individual state finals, and he already plans to learn from one of his biggest gaffs last year.
“I made the mistake of looking up into the crowd, and when I looked up and said ‘Oh gosh, there’s a lot of people here,’” Nicholl recalled with a laugh. “I was very nervous for that first match.”
No matter the nerves or how many people would give him grief on the mats on any given night, Nicholl loves what he does. After a life filled with wrestling and coaching, staying in the game with the black and white stripes just continues his illustrious career in his sport.
“I really, really enjoy the sport and I appreciate the athletes in it,” Nicholl said. “I felt like I had something to offer, and this gave me a way to be linked into the sport.”