COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — On Sunday, Dec. 11, Ohio State freshman Nic Bouzakis won his first home wrestling match as a Buckeye.  

After the horn sounded, Bouzakis celebrated by pulling a red stocking cap on his head with two words sew on: Team Greco.  

“Greco is my little brother,” Bouzakis said with a smile. “He was named after wrestling. He’s the reason I wrestle and he was my drive in wrestling.” 

In August 2013, before Greco’s third birthday, doctors diagnosed him with an aggressive form of brain cancer called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. Greco was given three months to live; instead, Greco Roman Bouzakis battled for more than three years.  

He died in November 2016, just three days after he turned five years old. 

“At that time, he couldn’t speak or talk or move, so what we would do is put our hand on his heart to see if it would beat,” Bouzakis said. “Me and my sister walked in, put our hands on his chest and didn’t feel anything. They called the people that needed to come pick him up, and I had to carry him out of the house.” 

Bouzakis said his family was so broken that day, he knew he had to step up and be a rock for his parents and siblings. Being homeschooled, Bouzakis said he didn’t really have classmates or school friends to go to. Instead, he took everything to the mat.  

“I can tell ya my workouts picked up after that,” Bouzakis said. “I kinda leaned on wrestling, and it got me here.”

“Here” is Ohio State. Bouzakis bonded with Buckeyes wrestling coach Tom Ryan quickly during the recruiting process. Ryan and Bouzakis’ father, Troy, knew each other from their time as wrestlers — but the familiarity went beyond that.  

Ryan lost his five-year-old son, Teague, to a sudden heart attack in 2004.  

“We really connected in a deeper way than just winning wrestling matches,” Ryan said. “He’s got a unique view of, ‘I am really grateful and I’m going to do something with my life. I’m going to make a difference with my life.'” 

Bouzakis is already putting those wheels in motion. He initiated an event for his teammates to step off the mat and spend an afternoon wrestling with making blankets for patients at The James Cancer and Treatment Research Center.  

“It’s really important to him and his family that they continue to stay involved and make a difference because they know the pain families go through when you have a child with cancer,” Ryan said.  

The blankets, given to patients on their first day of chemotherapy treatments, bring warmth and love – something Bouzakis knows well. He said he feels those same emotions after every wrestling win when he pulls that stocking cap on his head. 

Bouzakis said the hat is Greco’s — it’s the only thing he kept for himself.

“My mindset going into everything is, well, if he can fight for 39 months, I can fight for six minutes or whatever,” Bouzakis said. “He was a fighter the whole time.”