Al Nacin is one of the greatest upper-weight wrestlers in the storied history of Iowa State wrestling, graduating in 1975 as the school’s first four-time All-American and its all-time winningest wrestler (109 wins).
Nacin, a native of Burbank, Ill., arrived at ISU after capturing the 1970 175-pound Illinois state prep title for Reavis High School. The 1970-71 wrestling season was the first in which freshmen were allowed to compete. Nacin was a redshirt candidate in his first year with the Cyclones, but All-American 167-pounder Keith Abens suffered a broken ankle late in the year. That moved Keith Binek from 177 to the 167-pound slot and immediately thrust Nacin into action at 177 pounds. He shocked many by advancing to the 177-pound title match at the 1971 NCAA Championships in Auburn, Ala., where the Cyclones finished second as a team. He lost in the final to Oklahoma State’s Geoff Baum, but proved he would be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Hall of Fame ISU head coach Harold Nichols opted to redshirt Nacin the following season to prepare for the move up to 190 pounds. In 1972-73, Nacin won his first Big Eight Conference title and finished fifth at the NCAA Championships, aiding the Cyclones to their fourth NCAA title in five seasons.
Nacin continued to improve as a junior, claiming his first Midlands title and his second Big Eight championship. He was named Most Outstanding Wrestler at the 1974 Big Eight Championship and wrestled back to third place at the NCAA Championships that season.
Nacin’s senior year was his best. He was invited to the 1975 NWCA All-Star Classic, defeating Navy’s Jeff Simons, 10-4. He won his third Big Eight 190-pound title and capped off his career by winning the national title with an 8-4 win over Iowa’s Greg Stevens. Nacin ended the year with an impressive 39-2 mark and 1975 ISU Athlete of the Year honors.
Only 10 wrestlers in the history of the program have earned All-America status four times, and Nacin was the first. His 109 career wins was the most in school history when he graduated. He now is tied for 21st on the Cyclone career win list.