Future leaders: Wrestling with success

This month, the Class of 2015 at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy is preparing for commencement. Coast Guard Compass will be featuring stories on individual cadets in the days leading up to their graduation as they prepare to head out into the fleet. Today, we feature the story of Cadet Nate Giorgio, a three-time All American wrestler headed to Coast Guard Flight Training upon graduation.

Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Brahm

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.


Nate Giorgio is a three-time All American wrestler at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in more than a decade. He will graduate near the top of his class and attend flight school, one of only 16 out of a class of about 218.

Growing up in the small town of Leesport, Pennsylvania, Giorgio was first introduced to the sport of wrestling by his older cousin, Antonio, who unwittingly set him on a course that would change his life.

“He got me and my brothers involved in wrestling in the first grade,” said Giorgio. “I saw success early, my older and younger brothers didn’t, but we just had fun doing the sport.”

During his high school career Giorgio won 159 matches and was a two-time Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class AA place winner, finishing eighth in 2009 and seventh in 2011.

Giorgio had originally planned to attend a Division I school like Stanford, but a friend who was attending the Academy at the time talked to him and his family about the school. The talks intrigued his older brother, Michael, so much so that he enrolled in Marion Military Institute, in preparation for joining the Academy.

After graduating high school two years later, Giorgio finally settled on the Coast Guard Academy as his college of choice. Meanwhile, his brother had finished prep school and would attend the Academy at the same time.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“My freshman year I ended up placing fourth at nationals and I thought ‘Man that was a great job’, but I owed a lot of that to my teammates and my brother Michael,” said Giorgio. “He has been my practice partner every single year. He has done so much for me and he never gets the recognition, but he’s been so much of my inspiration.”

Michael and Nate were always close growing up and their bond only grew stronger during their four years at the Academy.

“Going to the Coast Guard Academy with Nate was pretty normal to me; we always were pretty close even in high school and middle school and since we both wrestle we are always together,” said Michael Giorgio. “We definitely lean on each other when it comes to sports and training; however, academically, Nate always took care of tutoring me when it was necessary. I wouldn’t have made it through the Academy without him. Though younger and shorter than I am, I definitely find myself looking up to him often. And I am proud of his accomplishments, especially in wrestling!”

During his sophomore year, Nate ended up grappling his way to nationals again. He was ranked first in the country going into Regionals and ended up losing in the finals, dropping his rank to second in the country leading up to nationals.

During the beginning of Giorgio’s junior year, he sustained an injury that took him out for almost the entire season. He bounced back to participate in the last three matches before the post season started. Those three matches allowed Giorgio to enter nationals again, where he placed eighth.

At the beginning of his senior year Giorgio found out his coach was retiring, and the school ultimately selected Kevin Bratland as the new head coach.

“The structure Coach Bratland gave to the program really helped,” said Giorgio. “Before, we never really did conditioning or strength training that often. This year we did. [The coaching staff] inspired me every single day, coming in here, seeing them wrestle with us, and work hard, they were just a huge part of our growth.”

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Bratland, a renowned wrestler in his own right, coached multiple schools across the country to numerous championships. With Giorgio’s impending graduation, Bratland began to reflect on his short time coaching him.

“Nate has been such a tremendous leader this year,” said Bratland. “He sets the standard for Coast Guard Wrestling. He is one of the first people I bring up when talking to prospects. Nate has set high standards for himself and for others, and has been influential in shaping the culture of the wrestling program here.”

An even larger area of focus for cadets is academics. The qualities cultivated in the cadets sports foundation, such as discipline and hard work, translate directly to their academic life.

A lot of responsibilities are handed to cadets when they report to the Academy and Giorgio was no exception. When he first arrived at the Academy, he didn’t understand all the rules and a lot of what he did was based on how he felt. He was overwhelmed with a lot of work and he felt stressed. He knew he couldn’t continue on the same path and stay successful.

“After the first semester of my third class year, I was ranked 89th in the class and I just made a goal right then and there that I was going to be in the top 50,” said Giorgio. “I ended up placing 46th in the class and earned a place in flight school.”

“This place is really great for developing leaders,” said Giorgio. “Looking back now I can see all of the development and growth. Every single time it got hard, I got better as a person, I got stronger, I learned something every time and I’ve become a better leader and person over all. I dug deep and found it in me. I pushed past all of the other stuff and showed that it could be done.”

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