When the NCAA Wrestling Championships were held at Madison Square Garden for the first time this March, it was a victory of sorts for Nick Gallo.
“No, I wasn’t real sure about it ever being here,” the former Hofstra wrestler said, “but I’m so glad it is.”
Including Gallo, Hofstra's wrestling program has produced 29 All-Americans since 1948. The Long Island university was the host institution for the NCAA championships this year, and it's fitting Gallo was there.
He's the only NCAA champion in school history.
On March 19, 1977, he beat No. 2 seed Keith Mourlan of Iowa 8-3 to win the 126-pound weight class, the sports moment judged the greatest at Hofstra.
Gallo, the No. 1 seed, was also named the tournament's most outstanding wrestler and finished his Hofstra career with a 104-14 record.
"I tried to focus on qualifying first," Gallo said in 2009. "I knew once I saw the crowd and see how much it meant to other people, my energy level would rise right away.
"I had a good season and I was seeded first. All of the matches were pretty tough, but my closest match was my finals match. My philosophy was to score as many points as I could, take the officials out of the match and take the crowd out of the match because I didn't have that many people supporting me until I got into the finals."
The three-time NCAA Championship qualifier and two-time All-American was also a member of the 1976 and 1980 U.S. Olympic freestyle teams and a silver medalist in the 1980 World Cup.
In 1979, Gallo returned to Hofstra as wrestling coach and posted a 49-25-0 record over the next four seasons, including East Coast Conference championships in 1980, 1982 and 1983. In his final year as coach, Gallo led the Pride to a 13-3 mark, captured their third ECC title, sent five wrestlers to the NCAA Championships and finished 24th in the nation.
He is the pride of the Pride's wrestling program, which also produced Chris Weidman, the current UFC middleweight champion who finished third in the 2007 NCAA championships.
A singlet bearing Gallo's name hangs from the rafters at Hofstra's Mack Sports Complex.
"I won a national championship for myself, but also for a lot of other people," he said. "Having that banner at Hofstra means a lot to me, since I was able to go to school there and make a mark and have something that will last there forever.
"I look at Hofstra as a great opportunity. It's paid me back enormously throughout the years."
• Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame
On the cover: Nick Gallo wrestles Iowa's Keith Mourlan in the 126-pound championship match at the 1977 NCAA championships. Gallo won 8-3 to became Hofstra’s first and only national champion. (Courtesy Hofstra University Archives)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: High Point and Hofstra
• Tuesday: Holy Cross and Houston
• Wednesday: Houston Baptist and Illinois Chicago (UIC)
• Thursday: Incarnate Word (UIW) and Jacksonville State
• Friday: James Madison