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Gary Erdman and Jack Nelson

History Repeating

By Becca Neuger, 05/06/24, 12:15PM CDT


Westonka’s three-time state champions Gary Erdman ‘60 and Jack Nelson ‘24 reflect on high school wrestling careers

Gary Erdman and Jack Nelson

Westonka's three-time state champions Gary Erdman ‘60 and Jack Nelson ‘24 reflect on high school wrestling careers

The ‘three-timers’ club

As he entered the bright, spacious wrestling room at the Westonka Activity Center, Gary Erdman couldn’t help but remark at the difference from his wrestling days at the old Mound High School, where practices were held in the cramped space between the auditorium seats and the gym floor. Yet despite the makeshift setup of his era, Erdman managed to do something that wouldn’t happen again in the Westonka community for another 63 years - earn three state titles in wrestling.

Erdman was recruited for the wrestling team at age 15 by his woodshop teacher, Harry Bockhaus, who also happened to be the wrestling coach. In his first-ever tournament, Erdman “bullied his way up to third place” but then got pinned in about 30 seconds. In that moment, Erdman vowed to “never look up at those lights again,” and in the entire 1957-58 season, he didn’t have a point scored against him. Erdman went on to earn consecutive state titles in 1958, 1959 and 1960.

“When I was in 11th grade, I tied for eighth as a team in the state,” Erdman said. “That was my biggest achievement.”

Mound Westonka High School senior Jack Nelson’s road to the record books was markedly different, entering the sport when he was only in kindergarten. After making his first trip to the state tournament in eighth grade, Nelson became the first ninth grader in school history to win a state wrestling title in 2021. He took home the top prize again in 2022 and 2023 and was the state runner-up in his senior year.

While the style and precision of high school wrestling has changed over the years, some things remain the same. Erdman and Nelson reminisced about various tactics for making and cutting weight. The sport’s close connection to nutrition is a key reason Nelson plans to study to be a dietician in college. “I could have been a dietician,” Erdman joked. “Every holiday I had an ice cube and a Life Saver, watching everybody else eat.”

The future is bright

In addition to Nelson, the White Hawks sent three other student-athletes to the state wrestling tournament in 2024: junior Cole Munsterteiger; sophomore Cooper Rowe; and sophomore Delaney Parker, the school’s first girls state competitor. Nelson predicts that it won’t be another 60 plus years before the team has another three-time state champion. “Two years. That’s my prediction,” Nelson said, noting that 2024 state champion Rowe has a chance at becoming the school’s next “three-timer.” 

Looking back on his high school wrestling experience, Nelson said that he appreciated the opportunity to represent Westonka on a large stage. “Coming from a small school, you kind of perform to represent the whole community,” said Nelson. “You’re representing your team, yourself, your coaches, your community, your clubs.” Next year, Nelson will have the chance to represent his hometown as an NCAA Division I wrestler at the University of Minnesota.

“Good luck in your ventures, kiddo,” Erdman told Nelson. “Just remember to keep moving.”