“It’s the greatest sense of pride getting your hand raised at the end of a match. It keeps you hungry. It keeps you going,” said former Yellow Medicine East wrestler and Southwest Minnesota State University senior Martin Hagen after ending his competitive wrestling career. “I just can’t give up wrestling.”
Hagen, who began his collegiate career at Ridgewater Community and Technical College in Willmar, ended it two weeks ago finishing in sixth place at 197 pounds at the NCAA Super Region Three Tournament in St. Cloud.
He admitted he was dissapointed with his 1-3 record at what would be the final wrestling tournament of his collegiate career, but, he says “I?have no regrets. I put forward my best effort. It didn’t go my way but I know I left everything I had out on the mat.”
This season as a senior captain for the Mustangs, Hagen would amass a 18-10 record, go undefeated at home and win 10 of his last 13 matches.
He’s come a long way.
As a high school wrestler, Hagen was never a star. No Section championships, no State Tournament appearences, none of the things that are usually associated with wrestlers that go on to be four-year college starters. He was a ‘grinder’ through-and-through. No awards, just passion. No one was ever awed by his ability, but the kid had guts... The kind of guts that kept him wrestling through bloody noses, tweaked knees and exhaustion. He was a fan favorite and a coaches dream and you’d have to drag him off the mat after he barely lost those big high school tournaments to wrestlers more polished and more praised.
“I wasn’t happy with how my high school career ended up,” said Hagen during a break from studying (He has about two semesters left at SMSU before receiving a major in Ag Business and a minor in Marketing). “When I was done I checked out a couple of colleges and thought about wrestling.”
At first, he says, he just wanted to stay in shape and stay close to the sport he loves. So he joined the team at Ridgewater. With each practice session and match as a college wrestler he gained confidence and in his last year at Ridgewater he’d win the Minnesota Junior College State Championship for his weight class.
“We recruited him some out of high school,” said SMSU head wrestling coach Jesse Nelson. “Then we continued to watch him at Ridgewater and there was just no doubt in my mind that this was the type of kid we wanted to bring into our program. He has great leadership abilities and a tremendous work ethic. He’s just a great all around person. He’s the type of athlete we want representing SMSU.”
Nelson believes that Hagen’s rise to big-time college wrestling all started with his passion for the sport and his ability grew as he found better workout partners and received more coaching as he progressed and matured.
“Every year he’s gotten better as a wrestler and improved as a person. He’s made a big impact on our program. He’s a tremendous young man that will do really well in what ever he does.”
Next season Hagen plans to continue to help the Mustangs as finishes up his college career. He’s says he might even keep wrestling in open meets next season.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” said Hagen. “I just love wrestling.”