State champion wrestler, City League great Godwin Nyama Cutler dies at 27

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Sunday, July 18, 2021 | 9:12 PM


Former state wrestling champion Godwin Nyama Cutler, an all-time City League great who won the league its first PIAA title less than a decade ago, has died. He was 27.

Nyama Cutler went 132-19 in four seasons at Brashear in a standout high school career highlighted by a 120-pound state title in 2012. The four-time City League champion later wrestled at Pitt before transferring to a university in Arizona.

“He’s regarded as the greatest of all time in City League wrestling,” said Westinghouse coach Chaney Lewis, a mentor who worked closely with Nyama Cutler as a former assistant at Brashear. “He proved that if you put the time in, you can do it.”

His record improved from 20-10 as a freshman to 41-2 as a senior, which included titles his senior year at the Allegheny County championship and the Powerade Wrestling Tournament. At the county tournament, he was named most outstanding wrestler and earned the top award for sportsmanship.

“In a sense, he put City League wrestling on the map,” said Nate Geller, who was Brashear’s head coach from 1999-2012. “There were only a couple of wrestlers over the years that had had any success.”

A Mt. Washington resident, Nyama Cutler died Friday from what was believed to be a drug overdose, Geller said. His former coaches noted his death comes six months after another former PIAA champion wrestler, Michael Racciato, died from an accidental overdose in Northampton County, and several years after NCAA Division II champion Nick Roberts, also a former PIAA champion, died similarly in Cambria County.

“It’s happening everywhere, no matter where you’re living,” Lewis said.

The story of Nyama Cutler’s fast-rising wrestling career began in middle school while watching his sister compete as one of the few female wrestlers in the City League. A year later, he joined Geller’s team at Brashear.

“Godwin came to us in ninth grade and didn’t even know how to hit a switch,” Geller said. “His sister was a senior. … The first week of practice, she actually beat him. He was flipping out, but he had that work ethic where whatever you told him to do, he would do.”

Brashear soon had nobody who could wrestle him, so Lewis, a volunteer assistant, became his daily competition.

“He was relentless and studied the sport,” Lewis said. “He always liked a challenge.”

That was no truer than at the 2012 PIAA Class AAA championships. In the final match of his high school career, Nyama Cutler won the state title in overtime with a 3-1 decision over Canon-McMillan’s Connor Schram, a junior who later graduated as a four-time state finalist and two-time state champion.

A year earlier, Nyama Cutler had placed seventh in the state.

“It was a storybook finish,” said former Brashear assistant Terry Hanna, who coached Nyama Cutler extensively in the summers between his high school years.

Hanna recalled how the state championship match turned tense in the final seconds of regulation when Nyama Cutler scored a late takedown, but the points were waved off by the referees.

“Everybody in the stadium booed,” Hanna said. “They went into overtime and he took him down to win the state title. He ran over and jumped on me and almost knocked me on my back. And then Geller picked him up, raised him above his head, took him to the center of the mat and just kept circling.

“Everybody in the stands stood and applauded and cheered.”

Hanna and Nyama Cutler both attended Allegheny Center Alliance Church in the Northside, where Nyama Cutler was baptized last week, Hanna noted. Nyama Cutler’s most recent social media post was a July 11 photo from that service.

After wrestling one season at Pitt, Nyama Cutler transferred to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz. and later attended Grand View in Des Moines, Iowa. In recent years, Nyama Cutler was interested in helping former wrestlers battling mental illness, Lewis said. He also was committed to improving wrestling in the City League and volunteered his time with a couple of clubs in Homewood for elementary-age athletes.

“He spent quite a bit of time giving back to some youth programs and teaching the young kids,” Lewis said. “Everybody knows Godwin. He did a lot for the sport.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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