Solomon Nielsen LHS graduate Solomon Nielsen has his eyes set on an individual Division III national championship with the Augsburg University Aggies. Ranked No. 3 at 174 pounds in a recent coaches’ poll, Nielsen was given another year of wrestling eligibility after Covid disrupted the 2020 season.Solomon Nielsen ended the 2020 Division III college season as the No. 2 wrestler at 174 pounds. He hopes to end his 2021 wrestling career in the No. 1 spot.

LHS wrestling program's record holder eyes national title

Solomon Nielsen helped Augsburg University to team title, now focus in on himself

When Solomon Nielsen graduated from LHS in 2017, he achieved wrestling feats no one else in school history had reached.

There is, however, one wrestling feat he hasn’t achieved — an individual championship — which he’s set as a goal to accomplish this year at the college level with Augsburg University.

“It would mean a lot just because I’ve worked so many years and I’ve never won a state title but I was always close,” he said. “I’ve always worked extremely, extremely hard and I feel I just never reached my full potential.”

Nielsen felt he was on that path as a college senior in March 2020, until the coronavirus pandemic abruptly put a stop to the Division III National Championships.

“We were weighing in — warming up – we were down to weight and at 7 o’clock at night they canceled,” he said. “I was pretty torn. I kind of felt the world was ending. All of a sudden ‘bam.’ We were set to repeat as national champions — we were ranked first — and then it was all just taken away from everyone.”

As a consolation, the college coaches’ association coordinated an individual event in 2020 under Covid restrictions. He finished second at 174 pounds.

Due to the interrupted 2020 season, Nielsen received another year of college wrestling eligibility.

 The extra time allowed the torn LCL he sustained at the end of his junior season more time to heal. The 2020 year of Covid tests and meet cancelations brings him into this season as a healthy athlete with a positive outlook.

After all, he didn’t expect to be wrestling at the college level for a fifth year. “(Wrestling has) taught me so many lessons about working hard and ignoring the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘I can’ts’ excuses and base on just yourself,” he said.

“If you want to get better, you’ve got to do it yourself.”

Nielsen admits the transition from high school to college wasn’t as smooth as he liked. Being away from home combined with time management issues led to an average freshman year on the mat.

He learned to plan.

With the help of the Augsburg coaches and teammates, he turned an average freshman season to winning records the last three years. His overall college record is 55-13 with the Auggies and a win percentage of 90, up from 78 percent as a freshman.

Nielsen, a three-time state high school wrestling tournament qualifier, admits he didn’t plan to wrestle at the collegiate level.

“I just liked wrestling and my goals just kept going higher and higher. I kept readjusting my goals and all of a sudden — in the middle of my senior (high school) year — I decided to go wrestle at Augsburg,” he said.

Under the tutelage of coach Tony Valek, and with the support of his wrestling teammates, Nielsen is well on his way to finishing his K-6 physical education degree. Nielsen would like to finish his college wrestling career as well.

“Obviously I want to obtain the goal of national champion and again try to repeat as team national champions,” he said.

He has four months before the Division III National Championships. Until then Nielsen will work toward his goal one match at a time.

“I am always looking to win each match,” he said. “I always have winning the match in my head as I begin each match — how am I going to start and eventually it is like my fight-mentality kicks in and my training habits kick in and it’s just like I don’t really think. It is all reaction.”

That reaction began with the Luverne Youth Wrestling Program, when he was in elementary school. Neighbors to his grandparents, Jerry and Ann Rigney, invited him to a practice.

He stayed with wrestling through middle school and into high school, where he is Luverne’s “winningest” wrestler with 144 wins.

“I was too stubborn to quit,” Nielsen admitted.

He placed second in his junior and senior years at the Minnesota State High School League wrestling tournament.

At Augsburg as a sophomore, he helped the team win a national championship. In 2020, under the coaches’ association format, Nielsen reached individual All-American status, which he would like to retain this year as well as add another status as a national champion.

“It’s not everything but it would mean everything,” he said.

Augsburg University, located in St. Paul, began preparing for the 2020-21 wrestling in October. Nielsen opened his wrestling season Nov. 13.

After three weeks, he is 9-0 in the 174-pound division. He is ranked No. 1 in Division III in the opening national wrestling coaches’ poll.

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