At 260 pounds, Nic Workman isn’t the biggest heavyweight wrestler you’ll ever see.
But the Richland High School senior just might be the most imposing cross country runner in the Mid-Columbia. For the last four seasons, Workman took to the trails with his fellow Bombers harriers in hopes of getting a conditioning edge for the winter season.
“My mom made me do it the first year. At first, I was dreading it, but in the end it’s worth people’s time. It’s a challenge every race,” Workman said. “One of the kids on the team said ‘I always knew where Nic was’ because I breathe so heavily. There are several other big guys out there, so I don’t see myself as that much different.”
Workman worked hard to get his times down, too. Competing mostly on junior varsity, he posted career-bests at 5,000 meters (21 minutes, 55.90 seconds), 3 miles (20:48.0), 2 1/2 (18:21.10) and 2 miles (13:52).
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But the real payoff has come on the wrestling mat, where Workman has emerged as one of the favorites to win the Class 4A state heavyweight wrestling title at Mat Classic XXVIII. He is 21-1 so far, with his only loss coming at the prestigious Tri-State tournament in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, regarded as the most competitive mix of talent in the Pacific Northwest, including state tournaments.
“There was a lot of competition, people from all over. There were some extremely tough matches I watched and some tough matches I had,” said Workman, who beat Travis Adams, a defending Class 1A state champion from Havre, Mont., 3-2 in the quarterfinals before being pinned by defending Class 2A state champ Hunter Mullins of Orting in the final.
“(The quarterfinal) went down to the wire. Thank God I managed to squeak it out by a point,” Workman said. “I wish I would have wrestled better in the finals.”
Richland coach Scott Surplus, a former two-time state champion with the Bombers, has every bit of faith that Workman has put in the time and effort needed to win a state title. Workman ranks No. 2 on Washington Wrestling Report among Class 4A heavyweights behind Dallas Goodpaster, a three-time state placer from Evergreen of Vancouver.
“He did what he wanted to do (at Tri-State), which was prove himself at a big tournament,” Surplus said. “Freshman year he was getting pinned left and right, but he’s put so much work in. He’s the hardest worker in the practice room, and he’s competitive, too. His feet and hand movement for a big guy is unreal.”
Workman is almost a sure bet to make his third appearance at Mat Classic, but he knows he has some work to do before that, too. He already owns a pair of Mid-Columbia Conference district titles but wants to add a regional crown as well.
“(Rankings) are all about last year. You just go out and wrestle,” said Workman, who finished third at state as a junior. “I’ve been to Washington State Intensive camp the last three years. They tell you to put your goals on a piece of paper and pin it where someone can see it every day. My goal is to be a state champion.”
His teammates treasure Workman’s gentle nature off the mat, but every once in a while they like to see Workman get riled up. When that happens, it’s best to stay out of his way.
“He gets mad easy. It’s funny because coach likes to pick on him. It’s good for him. It builds character,” said Isaac Lovato, Richland’s 182-pounder. “He just yells, gets mad and gets on the smaller kids. His head-and-arm headlock? It hurts. But it helps me, and it helps him. It’s all worth it.”
When he’s off the mat, Workman is quite adept at keeping a garden and was pleased to learn Surplus had his own garden at home.
“I charge $10 an hour,” Workman said when Surplus suggested he come over to help with his flowerbed. Based on Surplus’ response, it’s more likely to be a volunteer position.
Though Workman is proud of his green thumb — particularly his work with orchids — he is a little concerned that people will tease him.
“I get made fun of by my dad, even though he’s continually going over and looking at them,” Workman said.
But it’s not wise to make fun of Workman nowadays. Nice guy off the mat, sure, but on the mat is a different story.
“Oh he’s very mean on the mat. When it’s time to wrestle, he’ll get after it,” Surplus said.
Plus, you have to respect a man who appreciates the value of growth.