Born and raised in San Diego, Nicholas arrived at USD in the autumn of 1999 with no prior rowing experience. After spending his first two years establishing himself in the program, he began to prosper in his junior year when he made the Varsity Lightweight 8 and was voted "Most Improved" for the 2002 season. In order to prepare for his senior season at USD, Nick spent the summer of 2002 in Vancouver, Washington as a coach, rigger and racing team member with Vancouver Lake Crew. The summer training paid off, and Nick quickly established himself as one of the top starboards on the team early in the season. He was a member of the Men's Open 4 that won the 2002 San Diego Fall Classic and sat bow in the Varsity 8 that set a school record of 5:58 for a 2,000 meter race at the 2003 WCC Championships, winning a silver medal in the process. That Varsity 8 went on to race in Philadelphia at the Dad Vail Regatta, where they finished a remarkable 9th place in USD's first appearance in a V8 at that regatta. Nick was the only rower from his novice year to complete all four years of rowing, and he did so earning the team MVP honor in his senior year. In 2005, Nick guided the novices to gold medals in the novice four at the WIRAs. In 2006, Nick was instrumental in developing one of the strongest novice teams in USD history, with the team picking up several sets of medals in regional and national competition.