Male Area Athlete of the Week: Flyers’ Nagel becomes all-time pins and wins leader

Little Falls senior breaks records for pins and wins.

Gabe Nagel.

Gabe Nagel keeps breaking records.

The Little Falls senior wrestler added another Flyers’ record to his name last week earning his 118th pin against Zimmerman.

“It was exciting,” Nagel said. “It’s been a goal for a while now and it’s cool to finally reach that benchmark. It was pretty routine. I don’t tend to get nervous before matches.”

That week Nagel also picked up wins against Buffalo and Willmar.

“Coming into his senior season he had many, many goals and one of those goals was to get that record,” Little Falls head coach Mike Hendrickson said. “We are very happy we have a season and that Gabe can play out his goals.”


The recording-breaking didn’t stop there as Tuesday, Feb. 16, Nagel recorded with 197th win to be the all-time winnest wrestler at Little Falls.

“Now that I got those two out of the way it gives me time to focus on the end of the year,” Nagel said.

This season Nagel is 16-0 and has won by pin or forfeit in every match he’s participated in.

“We always try to win the coin flip to get Nagel a good matchup,” Hendrickson said. “He’s had quite a few matches and has beaten some good wrestlers this year.”

Nagel is the second-ranked wrestler in Class 3A at 182 pounds behind Waconia’s Max McEnelly.

It was Nagel and McEnelly that faced each other in the 2020 state individual finals at 170 pounds.

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McEnelly got the best of Nagel in a sudden death 3-1 decision. It was Nagel’s lone loss of the season as he finished 41-1.

“I wish we could wrestle that state finals again,” Hendrickson said. “It was unfortunate that it played out that way. Gabe is not the same guy this year.”


The loss is a big motivator for Nagel as a rematch in this year’s state finals is likely.

“Every day I think about getting back there for a chance at redemption,” Nagel said. “I try to work on staying on my feet more and get extra mat time.”

Nagel says he feels more healthy this year to face McEnelly should the challenge come.

“For anyone to think that I’m the same wrestler I was last year would be kind of foolish,” he said.

Nagel does have a state championship to his name, however. His sophomore year saw him win by injury default at 160 pounds after an illegal takedown by Woodbury’s Brock Rinehart.

“It was kind of a letdown,” Hendrickson said. “I want to say that was his moment, but it was kind of a crappy way to be a state champ, so maybe this year.”

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Nagel wants to win a state title the “normal way” too.

“As we go into state this year I want to get it the way I want,” he said.


Next year, Nagel plans to wrestle for the University of Minnesota. He spent last offseason working with Gopher coaches on improving his tactics.

“It’s been a dream of mine forever,” Nagel said of wrestling for Minnesota. “I love the Gophers, so to go down there and wear the Maroon and Gold, I’m nervous, but it’ll be fun.”

Having Nagel is an asset to Hendrickson in the Little Falls’ wrestling room. Once a week, he gives Nagel the floor to teach moves and tactics he has learned from the Big Ten program he’ll attend next year.

“We are no dummies. We are going to take the advice he gets and pass it on,” Hendrickson said. “It’s been very cool. It’s pretty dreamy and every coach’s dream to have a wrestler of that caliber.”

When Nagel is wrestling, Hendrickson sits back and enjoys it now more than ever.

“He’s always been coachable, but now there’s not a lot of coaching to be done,” he said. “Gabe’s in total control out there. When Gabe wrestles I’m pretty quiet.”

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It’s important to Nagel to be a leader to the younger wrestlers because his best memory as a Flyer was when he was wrestling in the section finals as a seventh grader.

“That was a dual I probably won’t forget,” Nagel said. “It’s nice to see the younger guys and to see them working hard.”


Due to COVID-19, the Little Falls wrestling program combined the junior high team with the high school team so grades 7-12 are all in the same room learning from Nagel.

“Thankfully our big room can handle the large numbers,” Hendrickson said. “Those kids really look up to him and Gabe always leads by example. He’s not boastful and has a good demeanor. The kids really respond to him.”

Nagel’s go-to move is the cradle which is his finishing move that nets him most of his pins.

“He's a very driven and confident kid,” Hendrickson said. “He’s improved a lot of his game, but when it comes down to pinning a guy he uses that cradle. That’s his signature move and he’s deadly with it. When it flops them over -- it’s over.”

Other notable performances:
Basketball: Noah Cekalla, Pierz, scored 20 points against St. Cloud Cathedral.
Luke Kush, Little Falls, collected 19 points and 14 rebounds against Albany.
Hunter Nissen, Aitkin, scored 36 points against Park Rapids.
Adam Oberlander, Staples-Motley, scored 22 points against Detroit Lakes.
Austin Neu, Little Falls, scored 22 points against Zimmerman.
Hockey: Nicholas Stevens, Little Falls, scored two goals and tallied one assist against St. Cloud Cathedral.
Hunter Nybakken, Northern Lakes, scored two goals against Sauk Rapids.
Caiden Kjelstrom, Northern Lakes, tallied one goal and three assists against Sauk Rapids.

Gabe Nagel

Year: Senior

School: Little Falls


Sport: Wrestling

Position: 182 pounds

Highlights: Recorded a school record 118th career pin against Zimmerman. Also picked up wins against Buffalo and Willmar.

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