Rams’ Campbell signs with Mason

STRASBURG — Nic Campbell will have one less distraction to deal with this winter while he attempts to win his fourth straight Virginia High School League state wrestling championship.

Surrounded by his parents and coaches inside the weight room at Strasburg High School on Monday afternoon, Campbell took advantage of the early signing period and signed his national letter of intent to wrestle at the Division-I level for George Mason University next year.

“It’s really nice knowing that you don’t have to wonder, go through all of wrestling season and just don’t know where you’re going,” Campbell said shortly after the brief signing ceremony. “It’s good to get it out of the way and actually go somewhere.”

Campbell, a senior and three-time defending state champion for the Rams, will be attending George Mason University on an Army ROTC scholarship — Campbell said he had a childhood dream of joining the military — that covers his tuition and book fees for four years. Campbell also earned an athletic scholarship worth 25 percent of his tuition, which he said he plans on using to help cover the cost of room and board.

Campbell, who had also been in contact with Virginia Military Institute, Virginia Tech and various Division II schools, said he grew increasingly fond of George Mason University during his first two trips to the school’s campus earlier this year, citing the close proximity to home and the school’s engineering program (Campbell plans on majoring in civil engineering) as big selling points.

His official visit with the Patriots’ wrestling program on Nov. 8 cemented GMU as Campbell’s school of choice.

“My third visit was my official visit where I got to stay with the wrestlers and talk to the coaches, and that just put it [where I felt I was] definitely going here,” said Campbell, who had debated over the summer whether or not pursue a college wrestling career because of the anticipated workload. “The coaches were great. The wrestlers are great. I just pictured myself there.”

Shortly after Campbell’s official visit, he was awarded the Army ROTC scholarship, which was then quickly followed by an offer from George Mason wrestling coach Joe Russell.

Campbell said George Mason was the only school to offer him a wrestling scholarship.

“I feel like if I would’ve waited VMI might’ve given me something, too,” Campbell said, adding that the Virginia Tech coaching staff wanted to see how he performed during his senior season before making any scholarship offers.

During his high school career, Campbell has compiled a sparkling 142-1 record and hasn’t lost a match in over two seasons. Campbell won Group A state championships at 113 and 120 pounds his freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively, and claimed the Group 2A state title at 126 pounds last year.

In its first three seasons under Russell, George Mason sent three individuals to the NCAA national tournament and went 16-45 in duals, showing improvement from a winless season in 2010-11, the year before Russell took over the program. The Patriots, who compete in the Eastern Wrestling League, are 3-2 in duals so far this season.

“He’ll be a great addition to their program,” Strasburg second-year wrestling coach Mike Wood said. “He’s going to be able to help them a lot and he’s got the mentality a good college wrestler needs. It’s a perfect fit.”

Campbell, who said he was cleared to return to the mat on Oct. 1 after undergoing surgery in April to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, said he plans on bumping up to 132 pounds this season in order to “get more competition.” Campbell added that teammate and two-time state champion Hunter Dean will make the jump to 145 pounds after winning the 132-pound state title last year.

Before he joins George Mason University next fall, Campbell will attempt to become the first Strasburg wrestler to win four state championships.

“It’s anybody’s game when you get there [to college] because they’re all good in college. But to get there, I’m extremely proud of him. He’s done a great job,” Wood said. “Credential-wise you can’t get any better than what he has. We’ll get a good senior year and get his fourth and send him on his way.”

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at (540) 465-5137 ext. 161 or bfauber@nvdaily.com