Nick Suriano (Photo/Juan Garcia)
All summer long, it's been a major topic of discussion wherever wrestling fans meet: "Why did Nick Suriano want to transfer from national champion Penn State to Rutgers University?"
Now we have an idea why, straight from the source.
The New Jersey mat star wrestled for one season for the Nittany Lions but sought -- and received -- an immediate eligibility waiver from the Big Ten last weekend, meaning he will be immediately able to wrestle for the Scarlet Knights without losing a year of eligibility.
"I wasn't happy there," Suriano told NJ.com in an interview in the Rutgers wrestling practice room Friday. "I found through a tragic time with my injury and the way my season ended, I wasn't happy with how things were dealt with.
"I'm not going to get into it. For the critics, it's none of their business. I'm here at Rutgers. I'm here in New Jersey. Everyone here is supportive of me. This is my choice and I'm going to run with it. I'm here for one thing only, and that's to make history."
"Out of high school, I thought I needed to be at the best place, a Penn State-kind of place," said Suriano, referring to the program that has won five of the last six NCAA team titles. "It served me well. I learned from it. But I found out who I really am. That's not who I was. I'm a Jersey guy. I had to make a change."
"I knew this is where I wanted to be," Suriano said. "It just so happened that the Big Ten thankfully decided on this (waiver). I think I deserved to compete this season. It's only fair, especially with the circumstances I had to go through. We'll be competing this season. That's all that matters."
"This is my home. These are my people," Suriano said in the wrestling room that will now be his home away from home. "I trust everybody on the support staff here, my coaches, my (training) partners."
Suriano said his ankle injury which forced him to forfeit out of the Big Ten and NCAA championships after a 16-3 freshman season as a 125-pounder at Penn State is now just a bad memory.
"I'm 100 percent," Suriano said. "The best thing I ever did was get no surgery. Didn't need it. I feel better than I did before I got injured. I've got a clear mind. I learned a lot last season."
Now that Suriano is fully mended, what are his expectations for the 2017-18 season as he steps out onto the mat in a Rutgers singlet?
"I think nothing changes," Suriano said. "The goals don't change. The approach is a little more -- little harder, little faster, little more explosive, little more physical.
"I'm coming back with a vengeance. I had a title stripped from me, an opportunity stripped from me. That's life. I took it on the chin and had to sit it out. I'm back this year to win a title. Nothing shy of that."
Suriano is arguably one of the all-time great wrestlers to come out of New Jersey. Wrestling for Bergen Catholic High School, Suriano compiled a perfect 159-0 record, racking up four NJSIAA (New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association) titles. He also won numerous individual championships at national tournaments such as Super 32 and Beast of the East before signing to wrestle at Penn State.