As far as great moments go, it was one for the history books. Not only would alumnus Nick Ackerman’s national wrestling championship title go down as one of the crowning moments in Simpson’s athletic history, it would also be remembered as the greatest moment in the history of collegiate athletics.
Ackerman ’01 defeated the reigning national champion from Augsburg, Nick Slack — who had a 60-match winning streak — 13-11 in the final match of the Division III Wrestling Championships in 2001. His victory over Slack has been named one of the 25 most defining moments in NCAA history by ESPN and the No. 1 most dramatic NCAA Championship victory by NCAA Champion Magazine.
Former Simpson Wrestling Coach Ron Peterson called the victory “stunning.”
“For six or seven minutes, Nick dominated the match,” Peterson said. “It was unbelievable to see him go out there and compete like that.”
The victory itself was impressive, but what caught the nation’s attention was that Ackerman was a double amputee. Having lost the lower half of his legs to bacterial meningitis as a baby, Ackerman wrestled on his knees.
During his Simpson wrestling career, Ackerman received many accolades, including the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Medal of Courage and the Hodge Trophy, the Heisman Trophy of college wrestling.
Ackerman said at Simpson he was “given the tools needed to be successful by the coaches around me.”
“My first two years at Simpson were met with limited victories and learning lessons, one grueling practice after another,” Ackerman said. “I would get beaten on in tournaments but was also given the opportunity to improve. Ron Peterson and the entire coaching staff at Simpson turned me into a national champion in 2001. I beat an undefeated returning national champion in a match I wasn’t supposed to win, or for that matter, even be in. Simpson College taught me many things, but ‘surround yourself with good people, and good things will happen’ is one that I will never forget.”
Now a certified prosthetist, Ackerman works for American Prosthetics and Orthotics in Davenport. In 2008, he married his wife Rachel and in 2009, the couple had their first child, Mason — one of the happiest moments in Ackerman’s life.
“I was told after winning the national title that it would be the most memorable thing in my life,” he said. “Man were they wrong.”