Wrestler is headed to the Gophers, but first he wants that fourth state title

Jack Nelson chuckles about it now.

When the Mound Westonka senior was 5 years old, he told his mother he wanted to become a wrestler.

Wrestling was not a family pursuit. His father's side of the family had a hockey background; his only exposure to wrestling was horsing around with a couple of cousins of similar age.

"I thought that was super fun. I wanted to learn to wrestle," Nelson recalled. "When I told my mom, she said, 'No, you don't. You want to play basketball.' "

Guess who won that battle.

A dozen years later, Nelson is a three-time individual state champion and he is ranked No. 1 in Class 2A at 139 pounds. He's going into the section tournaments (which begin this week) with a 43-2 record, and he has a signed national letter of intent to wrestle for the Gophers next season safely tucked away.

Next on Nelson's agenda is to become the most successful wrestler in school history. His three state titles — at 106 pounds in ninth grade, 120 as a sophomore and 126 last season — ties him with school legend Gary Erdman, who won three championships from 1958-1960.

A fourth would not only move him to the top of the Mound Westonka record books, it would elevate him into the rare air of only a select few wrestlers in state history: To date, only 32 have won four state championships.

Nelson said he often looks around and shakes his head at how far he's come in wrestling.

"When I was younger, I always dreamed about wrestling at the next level. And then it was like all of a sudden, boom! Everything I've worked so hard for happened," he said. "I get the opportunity to try for four state championships. And I get the chance to wrestle for the Gophers, my hometown team. Back when I was in eighth grade, I could never have imagined I could get this far."