Male Area Athlete of Week: Nagel continues dominance at Paul Bunyan Tournament

Gabe Nagel

Gabe Nagel has started his state title defense on the right note.

The Little Falls junior is 11-0 on the young season and most recently took home the first-place medal at 170 pounds at the Paul Bunyan wrestling tournament at Brainerd High School.

“I show up to the tournament thinking its a good tournament,” Nagel said. “I know the teams there and everyone there. I’d say it's one of our toughest tournaments. So, I am just getting mentally prepared to wrestle four matches.”

Nagel is a year-round wrestler who has already committed to the University of Minnesota. Little Falls head coach Mike Hendrickson says Nagel is in the best condition of anyone on the team because of it.


“He conditions on his own whether the team is doing it or not,” Hendrickson said. “He is very driven and he has goals. He has been practicing down at the U of M practice facilities and all that stuff has really helped him.”

Last season, Nagel went undefeated and won the state title when his opponent illegally picked him up and did not put him down safely. He was not taken down all last year. This year has been more of the same. Nagel has pinned all his opponents up to the Paul Bunyan Tournament.

Despite the success, Nagel hopes to do better than he did last year.

“I want to make sure I am winning by maybe eight instead of a point,” Nagel said. “Just be more dominant and stay well-rounded as a wrestler. I want to finish the year undefeated again and make it to state and stay very dominant.”

Nagel fell in love with wrestling when he was a kid. His mom took him to a wrestling match to take pictures for the yearbook. Nagel watched strong guys wrestling and he knew he wanted to do that himself.

“I just love it so much,” Nagel said of the sport. “It teaches you a lot about self-accountability and how discipline will play directly to your success.”

Hendrickson thought it was unfortunate that Staples-Motley did not make it to Brainerd for the Paul Bunyan Tournament. Hendrickson was looking forward to Nagel facing S-M’s Owen Bjerga who finished second in Class A at 160 last year.

Nevertheless, Nagel still dominated everyone at Paul Bunyan.


“He is going to be a tough cat to beat,” Hendrickson said.

One thing that impresses Hendrickson is how calm Nagel gets before and during matches. Last year, as a sophomore competing for the state title he expected him to show nerves, but he never did. Nagel handled the state tournament like it was just another match in practice.

“He is just never nervous,” Hendrickson said. “He goes about the practice the same way he goes about the state championship. He just goes out there to wrestle. He’s a smart wrestler and he’s really fun to watch.”

Hendrickson thinks Nagel’s humility has kept him dominant. They talk often how in wrestling if someone doesn’t respect their opponent that is when someone will get beat. In Hendrickson’s mind, Nagel’s level-headed attitude contributes to his success.

In the last couple of years, Nagel improved his takedowns which made him into the dominant wrestler he has become. He wears down his opponent to the point where it is tough to go six minutes with him.

Nagel’s signature move is the cradle. Hendrickson says the cradle is not only Nagel’s signature move but the signature move for the Little Falls program.

“A lot of the pins he has gotten this year have been with the cradle,” Hendrickson said. “He has yet to face a really, really tough wrestler. Unfortunately, in dual meets, if we don’t win the flip, teams will not want to wrestle him and take the points.”

The competition will come and Nagel is confident when it does come he will be ready.


“I know that going into a match that I have beaten good wrestlers and people don’t get a very good chance to beat me,” Nagel said. “So it definitely puts my mind in the right place.

“Over the summer, I did a lot of wrestling. When I got to the season being in shape and at this point in my career, my body is feeling great. I feel like I can wrestle three matches in a row and still feel like I am good to go. My training has carried over to the season.”

Other notable performances:
Basketball: Peter Schommer, Pierz, netted his 1,000 career point in a win over Royalton
Jordan Oehrlein, Crosby-Ironton, got two double-doubles in two wins.
Hockey: Shane Donovan, Northern Lakes, netted his 100 career point.
Wrestling: Austin Litke, Little Falls, won a Paul Bunyan title at 106 going 3-0.
Trevor Radunz, Pierz, won a Paul Bunyan title at 120 going 3-0.

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or Follow on Twitter at

Gabe Nagel

Year: Junior

School: Little Falls

Sport: Wrestling


Highlights: Went 4-0 at the Paul Bunyan Tournament in Brainerd at 170 pounds. 11-0 overall on the season.

What To Read Next
Get Local


Must Reads