Happy Thanksgiving Mustang Fans!
This week in Mustang Hoofprints, I will be featuring SMSU head wrestling coach, Jesse Nelson. Coach Nelson enters his third year at the helm of SMSU wrestling and is the fourth coach in the program's history.
A native of St. James, Nelson brings an impressive list of accomplishments to SMSU from his young career at the junior college level. He guided Ridgewater College to top-five finishes nationally in each of his five seasons, including a national championship in 2004-05 and a second-place finish in 2003-04. In addition to the team's success, Nelson coached 13 All-Americans, four national finalists and one national champion.
Nelson's head coaching career at the junior college ranks was a decorated one as he picked up many awards in his five years at Ridgewater Community College. He was named Minnesota Community College Conference Coach of the Year following each of his five seasons at Ridgewater and was named NJCAA Region XIII Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2004.
Nelson is a 1999 graduate of St. Cloud State University, where he wrestled for one season and received his Bachelor of Science in physical education with a minor in coaching. He completed his master's degree from Minnesota State University-Mankato in sports administration. Nelson also received an Associate of Arts degree from Willmar (now called Ridgewater) Community College in 1996 after wrestling for two seasons. As a wrestler, he was a NJCAA national qualifier both years and was named Male Athlete of the Year at Willmar Community College in 1996.
Coach Nelson has brought great stability to the Mustang wrestling program focusing on the recruitment of quality student-athletes, student-athlete academic success and facilitating the outreach to our former Mustang wrestlers and getting them involved in the overall development of a program they help to build.
Hoofprints Trivia Question
With all the bleachers out, how many fans will the R/A Facility seat for sporting events?
Jesse and his wife, Julie, have a 10-year-old son, Blake, and an 8-year-old daughter, Brooklyn.
I interviewed Coach Nelson on Tuesday morning after I received an update on how this past weekend's contests went at St. Olaf and in the Augsburg Open.
I started off by asking Coach Nelson:
Question: What are some of the similarities and differences between coaching at the high school, community college and NCAA Division II levels?
Coach Nelson immediately said, "Wrestling is wrestling no matter what level you are coaching at. The mentality and level of discipline you bring to the weight room, practice and competitions needs to be there day in and day out to be successful at any level."
Nelson identified one of the biggest differences he had noticed progressing from high school to SMSU is how he handled situations with his wrestlers. In high school, he tried to create an environment that balanced motivating his wrestlers to work hard and be disciplined while having a little fun to insure he kept enough athletes interested in wrestling to maintain numbers in the program.
Nelson elaborated about his experiences at Ridgewater and SMSU, "I found myself needing to be very truthful about our student-athletes abilities on the mat. Being a successful college wrestler takes a lot of hard work, determination and discipline. Sometimes it is not fun paying the dues a student-athlete has to pay to be a national qualifier or champion. The reward and satisfaction sometimes are not found or realized until the journey has been completed and a successful destination has been attained."
Question: What are some of the keys for building a successful wrestling program here at SMSU?
It did not take Coach Nelson long, "Recruiting is the No. 1 key to building a successful program. We have a great product to sell here at SMSU. Southwest has first-class educational programs, great facilities and a strong wrestling tradition. We have had 55 All-Americans and three National Champions at SMSU, and our current student-athletes and recruits need to know that we will continue to be a successful wrestling program."
Question: What was one of your more memorable moments as a head coach?
Coach Nelson thought for a while on this question, "It has to be the National Championship we won at Ridgewater Community College. We had 10 Minnesota kids who all worked hard and bought into a philosophy. Going into the last day of the tournament, we were down 25 points with four wrestlers yet to compete. I brought those four guys into my room the night before the final day and told them they were now All-Americans and the pressure was off of them. Those four wrestlers won their matches decisively to give us the National Championship. This team had a bunch of hard hat and lunch bucket type of kids. It was truly a special group."
Question: What impact has former Mustang head wrestling coach, Mike Sterner, had on you?
"When you see Mike in the halls or in the wrestling room you cannot help but feel his energy. The passion and drive Mike has for life and his profession is amazing. He has motivated me to be a better coach, educator and person. I hope when I reach Mike's age I still have that energy and love for life that he displays every day", Coach Nelson reflecting on Mike Sterner's impact on his life and time here at SMSU.
Thank you to Coach Nelson for letting us get to know him a little better on Turkey Day.
Good luck to all of our Mustang Teams this weekend. Go Mustangs!
Congratulations, Mark Hacker, for providing the correct answer to last week's Mustang Hoofprints Trivia Question: Who were the top scorers for the Mustang men's and women's basketball teams last season? The correct answers were Sara Leidall (13.1 points per game)was the leading scorer for the Mustang Women's Basketball team and Ross Demasi and Andy Beilke (8.7 points per game) for the men.
Thank you to all who submitted answers to last week's trivia question.