Ricky & Nicky Cabanillas – NJ
Twins: “When He Loses, I Feel It – When I Win, He Feels It”
By Bill X. Barron – RMN Events Writer
It’s one thing to be twins – a whole other level to be twin wrestlers. As friends and foes have learned, Ricky & Nicky Cabanillas of New Jersey have forged a bond to the power of 1 + 1 = 3. In Nicky’s words, “When he (Ricky) loses, I feel it; when I win, he feels it.” To this day, even though Nicky has difficulty watching Ricky wrestle, Nicky is first and last by his side. At home, Ricky is Mr. Fix It – even assembling his own computer – while Nicky is the comedian. Both, attests Mom Theresa, are “loving and caring.” For college, the twins have committed to Brown, where each will pursue degrees in engineering, with Nicky studying mechanical design and Ricky interested in computer software.
One of the top-rated 152-pounders in the country, Beast of the East and NJ State Champion Ricky knows that “my dedication and hard work pay off on the mat. I train hard to get to where I am. I love getting into the practice room, strapping up my shoes, grabbing a partner and just scrapping.” A four-time NJ freestyle-Greco national team member along with Ricky, Nicky is a NJ State 5th Placer. The 132-pound twin shares: “Every time I enter the wrestling practice room, I put in 100% effort. I love walking on the mat knowing that I am going to give my opponent everything I have. If he beats me, he deserves it, because I was not going to give him anything.”
The last time the twins weighed the same was at age 8. While Ricky is stronger and more technical, Nicky is quicker and more intuitive in his wrestling. Always there at matside, their dad Carlos has coached them throughout the past 12 years, while their mom Theresa is the team organizer and manager for Team New Jersey and the Scorpion National Team.
The Cabanillas family has traveled the past four years to Las Vegas to compete in the RMN-NUWAY Freak Show, where Ricky & Nicky were twin champions in 2016 and where Ricky earned his third consecutive crown in 2018. Together the twins say: “It’s always nice to travel so far away and attend a well-organized event. You are always certain to get the best competition with RMN Events. We love the Freak Show – lots of mats, tough competition, big heavy medals, East Coast technique versus West Coast funk. If you haven't had a chance to participate in an RMN tournament, you're missing out!”
Ricky & Nicky give a shout out to Carlos Rodriguez, owner and coach of the Scorpions. Nicky attests: “Coach Rodriguez is an inspiration and a constant influence for us. He’s the reason we are as good as we are.” Ricky asserts: “Carlos is a father figure who always believed in us. He purposely put us against the best kids in the room. He pushed us until we could no longer move. A great man!”
The brothers got their start in rec and middle school with Coach Pete Monteverdi. They proclaim: “Coach Pete still supports us in everything we do. We owe a lot of our success to him.” The boys also appreciate the guidance they have received from DePaul Catholic High School (NJ) Coach Keith Karsen: “A great coach, always has our backs and treats the team with respect. It’s been an honor wrestling for him. After we graduate, we plan to come back every chance we get.”
Coach Karsen returns the compliment: “The Cabanillas brothers are an example of true student athletes. Whether on the wrestling mat or in the classroom, they give everything they have. They are a great example for our younger wrestlers to look up to and model themselves after. It has been an honor to have them on our team. They will be greatly missed when they head off to Brown University next year.”
Wrestling is imbedded in the New Jersey culture. Its competitive balance “keeps you humble,” states Ricky. “You can be nationally ranked but still lose to another NJ kid.” Nicky keeps his ego in check by “wrestling the kid, not the accolades or the singlet. Just wrestle! If I lose, I don’t ponder on it; I study Mom’s video, then work to perfect moves in practice.” In Ricky’s perspective, “Whatever happens on the mat happens. All you can do is work to be mentally prepared. Afterward, I think about what I could have done differently to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
To those just coming up through the ranks, Nicky advises: “Believe in yourself. Don’t get discouraged. Everyone loses. Just keep competing at a higher level.” Ricky tells young grapplers: “Keep with it, even when you get your butt kicked. Success will come. Face the best kids. Keep going to gain more experience.”
Nicky thanks the sport of wrestling for “making me a hard-working person. Wrestling gave me the mindset to never give up, no matter what the situation. If you work hard in the room, and put in the time, results will show. Your work will help you become better at wrestling and in life.” Ricky enjoys the camaraderie: “Wrestling brings everyone together like a whole community. It also brings my family closer.”
Ricky (L), Nicky (R) Cabanillas - 2016 Freak Show Champions
Ricky (L), Nicky (R) Cabanillas