Dec. 12, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. - Nick Amuchastegui, one of the most decorated wrestlers in Stanford history, returned to The Farm and sat down with GoStanford.com to reflect on his career. A recipient of the NCAA Today's Top 10 Award, Amuchastegui is not only being recognized in January for his athletic achievements, but for his success in the classroom and his work in the community.
A mechanical engineering major with a 3.91 cumulative GPA, Amuchastegui completed his career as the only wrestler in school history to reach the NCAA finals twice. The three-time All-American ended his time on The Farm as a two-time national runner-up, while also posting a fourth-place finish.
Amuchastegui, who ranks fourth in all-time wins at Stanford with 118, was named the 2011-12 Pac-12 Wrestler of the Year and captured two Pac-12 championships during his career.
A native of Talent, Ore., Amuchastegui was also recognized for his accomplishments in the classroom. A two-time CoSIDA/Capital One Men's At-Large Academic All-American of the Year, he was a two-time NCAA Elite 88 Award recipient. He was also tabbed the 2012 Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Extremely active in community service, Amuchastegui frequently assisted with elementary school and playground renovation projects. He also volunteered for the Boys and Girls Club and participated in food drives.
GoStanford: Why did you choose to attend Stanford University?
NA: I picked Stanford because I don't think there is any other school that holds a candle to it. In terms of athletics and academics, which were the two things I wanted to be great at during college, there was no place that I saw that I thought rivaled Stanford. The culture here is also really fun. The students are unique. It is a quirky, different culture where people are incredibly smart, but at the same time are free to be themselves and be goofy. They don't have their noses in the air and I love that about this place.
What was the best thing about being a wrestler at Stanford?
NA: The best part about wrestling at Stanford was being part of a team that was really close. My teammates really cared about one another and loved each other. We were a bunch of nobodies in the room downstairs working hard, and we were happy with that. There is something really great about competing and loving a sport for nothing more than the fact that you love it. It was not about someone else telling us we were great. We were really satisfied and at peace with what we were doing and we loved it, and that is what was great about wrestling at Stanford.
GoStanford: How did your team at Stanford become so close?
NA: The process of the team becoming united was interesting. When I first got here, I didn't feel like it was very united. It was made up of different groups and it was hard to transition into the team. I was from a farm in southern Oregon and I didn't really feel like I belonged. So my feeling as a sophomore and junior was that this team ought to be like a family. We needed to be a team that really supports the new kids and not give them that hard of a time. We need to support them and wrestle hard with them and really care about them as people. Little by little, that attitude began to take hold and there were several other people who felt the same way. The way that people began to treat one another was the way the team became one unit. We were all a part of a family.
GoStanford: What would you say was your top athletic achievement during you career?
NA: I reached the NCAA finals twice. I would say that is my top athletic achievement during my career. I got to the finals twice and lost twice. I didn't wrestle well either time, but I wrestled a great tournament all the way up until then. That was a tough thing to work through and deal with, but that is how it went. It was a great time all in all. I walked out of there saying `I did my best and I gave it my all.' There was no point in being stuck on a poor performance and miss the beauty of the entire journey. I didn't want to let one poor performance be the way I remembered my entire career.
GoStanford: What did you learn from your coaches at Stanford?
NA: My coaches here really taught me how to wrestle. They taught me what it was to be smart in matches. But I think one of the most important things they did was really care about me. They cared about me as a person more than about me as just a wrestler. They cared about how I was doing in school, about how happy I was and about what was going on in my life. That meant something to me and made me feel like something more than just a tool they were using. As a result of that, the wrestling room was a place where I felt free to work hard, be myself and have fun. That was the main thing that allowed me to go from being a nobody walking in as a freshman to somebody who performed relatively well on the national level.
GoStanford: What did you learn about leadership from your coaches?
NA: I think a great leader is someone who truly cares about the people that he or she leads. My coaches taught me that. You can be the best wrestler, the best athlete, have the greatest intellect, but people will really follow you if they know you care about them and want them to succeed.
GoStanford: What life lessons did you take away from being a student-athlete at Stanford?
NA: I think wrestling taught me the value of working hard and keeping your nose down. I came to really respect people who were something great in their field, and who didn't really have an attitude about it. I've met people who are humble and do the very best they can in everything, and don't need recognition from anyone else to feel fulfilled. Through my time at Stanford, I came to learn and really appreciate that.
GoStanford: What's next for you? What would you still like to accomplish?
NA: There are a lot of things I'd still really like to do. I'd like to have a family and have kids. I'd like to develop into and become the best engineer that I can be, that's what I am doing right now. I really enjoy thermodynamics and mechatronics. There are a lot of big problems to be solved right now in energy. There are a lot of improvements to be made that will have an impact on our world. I'd love to be involved in that and be a part of the solutions. My life is built around being the best person I can be as a friend, as a person who follows God, as an athlete, as everything.