MARSHALL, Minn. – Following 14 seasons at Southwest Minnesota State University, head wrestling coach Jesse Nelson announced on Thursday he is resigning his post to pursue an outside professional opportunity.
“I want to thank Chris Hmielewski for taking a chance and hiring me in 2007,” Nelson said. “A big thank you to the rest of the of the SMSU Athletics Department for all of their friendship and mentorship over the past 14 years. The opportunity has been great and has been an amazing ride. I would also like to thank the alumni and my coaching staff for their dedication and passion to Mustang wrestling. Thank you as well to all of the parents and student-athletes that put their faith in me to lead them.”
Nelson, who was named just the fourth head coach in program history on Aug. 22, 2007, groomed 25 national qualifiers—including four two-time qualifiers and three three-time qualifiers—during his tenure. He coached six NCAA All-Americans, including Justin Reinsma in both 2012 and 2013, Jacob Begin in 2015, Cole Wilson in 2016 and Jackson Ryan and Caden Steffen this past season.
Nelson closed his career with 87 dual wins and was named the 2013-14 NSIC Coach of the Year after leading SMSU to a third-place finish in the NSIC. The Mustangs recorded six Top 30 finishes at the NCAA Championships during his time, including tying for the program’s highest finish at the Division II level this past season at 17th.
“We are very thankful for the hard work and dedication Coach Nelson has provided our Mustang wrestling program during his tenure,” Hmielewski said. “Over the last 14 years, Coach Nelson has enhanced every aspect of the SMSU wrestling program. His leadership has helped our wrestling program compete and be recognized regionally and nationally for our student-athletes academic and athletic achievements. He has recruited a very talented group of student-athletes to SMSU who continue to raise the level of expectations in the classroom, on the mat, and in our community. Coach Nelson has been a valued educator and head coach at SMSU. We wish him the very best as he moves on in his professional career.”
Not only did Nelson improve SMSU on the mat but the program made major strides in the classroom as well. The team ranked among the Top 20 in grade point average several times during his tenure, including earning the ninth highest GPA in Division II following the 2011-12 season. The program had four student-athletes earn CoSIDA Academic All-District accolades, including Cole Wilson earning CoSIDA Academic All-American honors in 2016.
“Last but not least I want to thank my family, Julie (wife), Blake (son) and Brooklyn (daughter) for their continued love, support and sacrifices they have made to allow me to live my passion,” Nelson said. “Southwest Minnesota State University will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Nelson came to SMSU following a five-year successful run as head coach at Ridgewater College in Willmar, Minn. He guided the Warriors to top-five finishes nationally in each of his five seasons, including a national championship in 2005 and a second-place finish in 2004.
Hmielewski said a national search for a new head coach will begin immediately.