By Larry Scott
MOORHEAD, Minn. – Finding enough motivation to fuel his ambitious wrestling dreams has never been a problem for Josten Coleman, but in this, his senior season at Concordia College, his emotional circuits could approach overload. He continues to bring his usual amount of emotion and dedication to the sport, and this winter he has added incentive as well.
The Oakes, No. Dak. native is putting the finishing touches on a rewarding collegiate career with a banner senior season. A rock solid fixture in the Cobber lineup at 165 pounds, Coleman has produced a team high 22 victories and figures prominently in Concordia post-season plans.
Clay Nagel, who shares head coaching duties with son Matt Nagel, has had a front row seat to witness Coleman’s impressive run. “Josten has done a tremendous job for us,” he said. “Since he came here his skill set has improved so much, but it took a lot of hard work and dedication to be able to compete at 165. We looked at him as a possible 149-pounder, but he just got bigger and bigger. Now, he has to cut weight to get to 165.”
“Josten is a great competitor, very focused and mentally tough. He’s also a great leader. He’s not very vocal, but he leads by example. Kids really look up to him, not just for his work ethic, but (for) his moral character as well.”
Coleman competed in football, track, baseball and wrestling in high school and was a three-time North Dakota State Class B wrestling place-winner, including a fifth-place finish as a senior. He helped Oakes High School capture both state team duals and state team individual championships and increased his visibility for college recruiters.
It didn’t take him long to make his choice.
Concordia College, Jamestown College and University of Mary were under consideration, but the persistence of Nagel was the tipping point. “Coach (Clay) Nagel called me quite a bit and it didn’t take much for him to persuade me.”
Coleman may not have been an overnight success, but it didn’t take him long to master the learning curve. “I wasn’t a starter until my junior year,” Coleman said. “I tried 149 (pounds) initially but couldn’t make it, so I wrestled 157 as a freshman. I went up to 165 as a sophomore and battled for a position.”
He also adapted quickly.
“I learned so much more technique,” Coleman confessed. “You have to adapt to the college style, it’s a lot (about) strength, technique and being mentally strong. You have to want it.”
In his fourth, and final, season with the Cobbers, Coleman has assumed a larger leadership role as well. “I’m not really a verbal leader,” he said. “I lead more by doing—work out and don’t cheat yourself (because) that shows.”
Coleman has always been able to bring the proper attitude to the mat for workouts and matches. “I’ve been a pretty motivated individual in high school and college,” he said.
There is another major force that is guiding him through his last year at Concordia – reinforcing that he always bring his best.
“I lost my mother (Sheila) in August in a motorcycle accident,” Coleman said. “It was the toughest time of my life. She’s always been my biggest fan and never wanted to miss a match. I told her I always wanted to be an All-American and she told me I could do it. I’m still striving for that. I think about her every time I step on the mat and I think about her every day.”
In his darkest hour, Coleman quickly realized he had plenty of support and would not walk the road alone. “The whole (Cobber) team came to Oakes for the funeral and supported me, and I got all kinds of letters and texts. That’s friends for sure.”
The Concordia College coaching staff of Clay Nagel, Matt Nagel and Nick Magee has been there for Josten as well. “I believe we have the greatest (coaching) staff in wrestling, and it’s been a great experience,” Coleman said. “They go above and beyond the sport. They really care about you; it’s more than just wrestling to them.”
Senior teammate and friend Tom Bouressa, an All-American heavyweight from Alexandria, has been with Coleman every step of the way during their journey at Concordia and marvels at the inner strength of his former roommate.
“Josten is not very vocal, but he’s a leader and stays strong when he needs to be. He went through a rough patch, but after all that happened he kept it together. He has a very unique style and it gets everyone excited. I would love to see him an All-American, he deserves it,” said Bouressa.
The NCAA III West Regionals will be staged at Augsburg College in Minneapolis on Saturday, Mar. 2. Concordia is ranked 21st in the latest AWCA NCAA Division III poll, but Coleman and his wrestling pals have bigger things in mind – an especially lofty team finish. “We plan on being in the top four. I would like to make it to the national tournament and be an All-American, too.”
Nagel clearly shares Coleman’s exit strategy plans for a memorable exodus this winter.
“I really think he can be an All-American for us. I think he has that sense of urgency—this is it for him—and he’s proven he can compete with the best.”
An Elementary Education major, Coleman is currently student teaching in Moorhead and fulfilling his undergraduate requirements for an Education degree.
“I was in the Criminal Justice program initially,” Coleman said. “I thought I wanted to be in something like the FBI, but decided it wasn’t for me, so I changed to education. My mom was a teacher and I saw how much she loved it. I know I got a little extra push from her.”
Coleman will be seeking an elementary teaching position next year. “I’m leaving my options open, but I would also like to coach wrestling, too, and I wouldn’t mind coaching baseball or track.”
Coleman is quick to admit the entire Cobber experience has worked out well, but he’s fully aware leaving that behind will not be easy. “It’s been even better than I anticipated,” said Coleman. “I’ll miss being with the team all the time. We’re super close, and it will be hard to separate myself from some of my best friends. It’s been even better than I expected.”