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Nagel teams up with father, Clay, at Concordia College

Matt Nagel gives an example of a wrestling move in front of area youth wrestlers who were taking part of the Laker Wrestling Camp July 13-15.

The last time Matt Nagel teamed up with his father, Clay, the duo made Minnesota wrestling history.

From his eighth grade year on in Frazee, Matt Nagel collected five state championships, a first for a Minnesota wrestler, as he learned and prospered under his head coach and father, Clay.

Matt Nagel moved on to bigger and better things, signing with the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher wrestling team -- considered traditionally one of the top programs in the nation under head coach J Robinson -- and earned All-American status his junior season during the 2004-05 season.

Meanwhile, Clay bumped up a few levels himself, taking on the head coaching duties at Division III Concordia College in Fargo, where he has built up a strong and sturdy program.

The two Nagels reunited this past wrestling season, as Matt became the head assistant under Clay for the Cobber wrestling team, with future plans of Matt eventually taking over for his legendary father.

"I feel really comfortable at Concordia and love being back in the area," Matt said.

Matt and U of M wrestler and Detroit Lakes native Brent Eidenschink were clinicians last week during the Laker Wrestling Camp, as the duo helped teach a host of young wrestlers.

The younger Nagel has quite the resumé built up when Clay wants to hand over the reins to his son.

Nagel came out of high school as the fourth-best recruit in the nation by InterMat.

He was a three-time Junior National Greco-Roman champion and compiled an overall record of 217-18 during his time as a Hornet.

Nagel was a full-time starter by his sophomore season at the U of M at 157 pounds, and went 25-17 and qualified for his first NCAA Tournament.

He hit his apex his junior season, when he earned All-American accolades after going 31-15 that season, and went 3-1 in the Big 10 Championships.

Committing to the U of M was one of the easiest decisions Nagel made, and in the end, the best one as well.

"It was the best decision I ever made to go to the U," Nagel said.

Although his college career ended on somewhat of a bitter note, he has no regrets.

In the NCAA Tournament, Nagel lost his first-round match as the No. 5 seed, to an opponent he beat just two months prior.

But Nagel worked his way back into All-American status contention, needing just one more win to clinch his second-consecutive such honor.

"I was winning the match and then a defensive fall was called," Nagel recalled. "It was... a tricky call. It's one of those calls which are so very rarely called.

"I was left a little bitter, but it was just one of those learning lessons you can pass on."

And that's exactly what Nagel decided to pursue, passing on his wrestling expertise and knowledge to the younger generation.

His under-graduate degree was in kinesiology, while he still pursued his dream of wrestling post-college in Freestyle and Greco-Roman.

"I just wasn't quite there, so I just decided to move on to my next chapter in my life," Nagel said.

That ended up being in coaching, where he was hired as the head assistant for the St. Michael-Albertville High School wrestling team.

He taught physical education and health and coached for two years.

During his tenure, SM/A qualified for state both years and finished in sixth and fourth place as a team.

"It was a phenomenal place to teach and coach, but I really wanted to coach on the college level," Nagel said. "The intensity level in college is so much higher and they are highly committed to being there."

As timing would have it, Clay Nagel was looking for an assistant at Concordia.

He didn't have to look far to find the perfect match.

"(Clay) called me up and offered me the head assistant job at Concordia," Matt said. "It was tough to move away from all my friends, but it was also nice to move back to where my family is.

"But coaching with my dad was the most intriguing part. I brought what I learned at the U of M and he teaches everything he knows."

Since Concordia is D-III, there are no scholarships available for sports, making recruiting that much more challenging.

"You really have to sell the program and what the school has to offer," Matt said. "With my dad having good connections with high school wrestling around the area, I was able to bring a pipeline from the Cities with my connections."

There is a distinct possibility that Matt and Clay will be co-head coaches at Concordia this coming year, as Matt starts his grooming to take over for his father.

With the Nagels teaming up again as coaches for the Cobbers, the wrestling world will be a better place -- especially at Concordia College.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.