Blogs > The Best of Don Seeley's Columns

Former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley passed away in June 2013 from a heart attack. For more than a decade Seeley wrote about local sports. Featured here are his columns that were previously printed in The Mercury.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pottstown grad Ecker caps golden career at Ithaca

Originally published in the March 17 edition of The Mercury.

ITHACA, N.Y. – Seth Ecker wasn’t exactly the 90-pound weakling getting sand kicked in his face at the beach a few years back. Looks, as most know, can be deceiving.

But when the then Pottstown High School freshman got knocked down and out of the 2005 Class AA Southeast Regional, there were some questions about his weight, about his strength ... about his future in wrestling.

“It always seemed that I was smaller than everyone else,” Ecker recalled earlier this week. “I lifted all the time back then, but I never got the muscle, never gained a lot of weight or packed on that muscle. I knew I had to rely on technique.”

He didn’t just rely on technique, he improved, refined and nearly perfected every imaginable move, both offensively and defensively.

Seven years and fortysome pounds later, Ecker not only became a three-time state medalist at Pottstown, but a three-time All-American – with two NCAA Division III national titles – at Ithaca College.

“I guess I just matured later,” Ecker said.

That, of course, is quite an understatement.

Ecker always wanted to wrestle, but he wasn’t entirely convinced he wanted to go to college to do it. He was recruited by a number of schools before finishing his career at Pottstown, then signed a national letter of intent with The Citadel, a Division I military school in South Carolina.

But it wasn’t long at all after arriving on the Charleston campus that he packed up his belongings and headed north, all the way up to Ithaca.

“Things just didn’t work out down there,” Ecker said. “I called (Ithaca head coach Marty Nichols), told him I wanted to come up there, and transferred. I had visited there before when I was in high school and loved it, loved the whole atmosphere. I felt Ithaca offered that great balance of academics and athletics.”

And no one has provided a better balancing act the last four years than Ecker, either.

In the classroom, he has carried a 3.8 grade-point average as a business administration major, earning him NCAA Academic All-American honors as a sophomore and junior. Now in the final months of his senior year, Ecker’s GPA is right around 3.9, which will undoubtedly lead to more academic honors later this spring.

Pretty amazing considering wrestling – as well as lifting and running – consumed most if not all of his free time.

“Actually it’s not as tough as you’d think,” said Ecker, who valedictorian of his class at Pottstown. “Wrestling keeps you focused. I think we have more productive days than most college students because we don’t have any time to mess around.

“You work out, you practice, you study … (it’s a schedule) that makes things more fluid. You learn to relax. Sure, it gets frustrating at times, especially when you’re off at nationals around the time of mid-terms. But you keep focused, and that helps your grades.”

Ecker, the son of Aram Ecker and Danielle McCoy, never lost focus after a banner freshman year at 125 pounds ended with 24 wins and a sixth-place finish at nationals. Never lost focus after coming back the following year and finding a major challenge in his own practice room, namely teammate Chad Winowich – an eventual two-time All-American himself. Winowich not only bounced the 133-pound Ecker out of the lineup on occasion, but completely out of the postseason that ended an otherwise superb 22-4 sophomore year.

“That still helped me having (Winowich) on the team,” Ecker explained. “It was a great experience. With all the success I had had up to that point, to know you may not be starting, that’s a learning experience. I matured a lot that year.

“The funny part was that our lockers were right next to each other. We became pretty good friends. It was a tremendous experience, and it definitely motivated me to come back better and stronger.”

One might say Ecker came back with a score to settle … and not just in his own practice room but for anyone who dared to step onto the mat with him.

The 133-pound Ecker dominated throughout his 32-4 junior season. He not only won an Empire Collegiate Wrestling Conference title again but was named the OW of the championships. He won 21 of his final 22 bouts, including the last 12 – the most memorable, of course, being his 6-2 decision over RIT’s Mike McInally for his first NCAA Division III gold medal.

“That was incredible,” said Ecker, who spent a good part of last summer working out at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado.

So were the feelings when he came back for his final season … as a defending national champion.

“It’s definitely different,” he admitted. “You obviously don’t want to do any worse than you did the previous year. I couldn’t do any better than what I did, but I could do worse. So that kind of lit a fire under my butt because I would be disappointed if I didn’t win (a national title) again.

“All you can do is take it match by match. I had a few losses early on, and they can set you back a little. It can get frustrating at times. But I knew it’s all about who shows up that week (for nationals).”

He sure did.
Ecker, at 141 a good part of December and January, dropped to 133 and avenged those four regular-season setbacks with a flurry of pins to win his third ECWC title. He spent just over six minutes on the mat thanks to the three first-period falls that earned him yet another trip to nationals.

He opened with a 4-0 decision over returning All-American Tom Mirocha of Wartburg, then put together a similar workmanlike 5-2 decision over eighth-seeded Tim Wunnicke of Wisconsin-Platteville. He left little doubt about his desire to get back into the championship, pinning Joe Mileskie of Wisconsin-Stevens Point – who earlier had upset the fourth and fifth seeds – at the 4:25 mark of their semifinal.

And there was no doubt about his desire to finish on a high note after his 8-0 major of seventh-seeded Jordan Westfall of Coe in the final.

Ecker became the first Ithaca wrestler to win more than one NCAA title. The shutout capped his senior year at 30-4 and his career at 108-20.

“Obviously it is everyone’s goal to win a national title,” Ecker said. “To win two, to be a three-time All-American … I didn’t think about all that. I do know I always wanted to be an All-American.

“It’s funny, too, because at first I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go to college. I always wanted to wrestle, though. I’m happy with the way things turned out. The most important thing was that I’ve always have had fun (wrestling). To me, that was the essence of wrestling.”

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Rollie Ciffo said...

Don,

Are you off for the summer? I have not seen any recent blog posts.

July 9, 2012 at 12:20 PM 

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