At the New York State Championships on Jan. 21, first-year student wrestler Ryan Galka said he had a difficult tournament, being eliminated in the third consolation round. But he said one voice from off the mat helped him stay motivated during his matches — his brother, senior Nicholas Galka.
“He was in my corner every single match,” Ryan said. “It’s very motivating, very encouraging when I have someone there that’s so close to me, that wants to see me succeed and is willing to take the time and be there for me. I had a really tough tournament, and he was right there with me.”
Nicolas is also on the wrestling team and although they wrestle in classes 100 pounds apart from each other — Nicolas is in the 285 lb weight class, while Ryan switches between 174 and 184 lbs — the Galkas still say they enjoy being on the team together.
Being the younger brother, Ryan said he feels like he is always learning from Nicolas, and that has been illustrated at competitions. For Nicolas, it provides an extra support system on and off the mats.
“If you win or lose, he’s always there for encouragement,” Nicolas said. “Or just for, you know, congratulations. It’s awesome, it really is.”
David Sbriscia ’10, who coached the Galkas at Warren Hills Regional High School in New Jersey, said he does not have a bad thing to say about the brothers. He described the two as easy to coach, even if they have their differences.
“[They are] polar opposites,” Sbriscia said. “Ryan was a more emotional wrestler. He rides the match as it goes with the highs and lows and has a lot of intensity. Nick is a lot more calm and collected, I want to say stone-faced when he wrestles. Not a lot rattles him. But both were awesome kids to coach; they’re two of my favorites.”
Ryan and Nicolas are not the only people in their family to wrestle — their other brother, Michael, Ryan’s twin, wrestled in high school and attends Ithaca College, but is not on the wrestling team. However, neither of their parents, both immigrants from Poland, were wrestlers, so Nicolas said the way the three got into the sport was relatively unusual.
“We were all camping out in Upstate New York [with] a bunch of families from different European descents [about 10 years ago],” Nicolas said. “One of the dads came up to us and was talking to my dad and said, ‘These kids should try out wrestling. They have a great build, they look like they should wrestle.’ … I gave it a shot, I showed up. … And then [Ryan and Michael] signed up the next year, and that’s history.”
Sbricia said he did not try to push either brother to go to the college, but being a graduate of the institution makes him think they made the right choice. Sbricia said he knows wrestling is not a sport that is likely to make an athlete rich, so finding a college where they could still get a good education was important for him in their college search.
“Wrestling is a sport where you’re going to get out of it what you put in, so we always talk about using wrestling to open doors academically,” Sbricia said. “Ithaca’s an awesome college, and I know as they graduate from there, they’re going to get interviews and they’re going to have different connections that they may not have at other places.”
For Nicolas, his high school coach’s help with getting in touch with head wrestling coach Marty Nichols ’90 was instrumental in his decision to come to the college four years ago. Both brothers spoke highly of their current coach and the accomplished program he has led over the last 26 years.
Ryan’s decision to come to the college was largely based on the program as well as the business school, which is what he knew he wanted to study. Of course, he said there was an added benefit of coming to South Hill.
“It was a plus that [Nicolas] was already here,” Ryan said. “He’s helped me a lot already along the way.”
Although Nicolas is dealing with an injury this season — a trend, he said, during his time at college — and said it is almost time for him to “check out” of wrestling, being able to be with his two brothers again for the year has been an experience worth having.
“We built a really great relationship [over COVID-19],” Nicolas said. “I kind of missed them when I was at college and they’re in high school, so having both of them here on campus is nice. Seeing them all the time, being able to hang out. … It’s a breath of fresh air.”