Editor’s Note: This article on former CHS wrestler Matt Meuleners originally appeared in the Aberdeen American News.
By John Papendick
The man who compiled the greatest wrestling resume in Northern State history is a man of details.
Northern State senior Matt Meuleners puts his non-wrestling life in order to maximize his talents on the wrestling mat. The end result has been school records, four All-American awards and two national titles.
“I was always pretty good about staying on top of my classes, keeping my room clean, doing my laundry and things like that before wrestling practice each day,” Meuleners said. “So when I came to practice, I wasn’t focusing on those things. I was focused on getting better. I wasn’t sitting in practice thinking, ‘Oh, I have to do laundry tonight or clean my room or do the dishes or I have this big paper I have to do tonight.’ I could be focused solely on my wrestling, and not that other stuff.”
That type of mindset is why NSU coach Pat Timm says his 6-foot-3, 245-pound champion heavyweight from Minnesota is different from most college wrestlers.
“One of Matt’s biggest traits is his discipline and his routine,” Timm said. “He is very self-driven and doesn’t let other things get in the way of his goals. He really sacrifices a lot of things to train. Some guys might decide they want to take a day off, but Matt doesn’t do that. He is a guy who is going to be there working every day, and that is how champions are made, through their discipline.”
Not only was Meuleners prepared physically and mentally when he stepped on a mat, he had done his wrestling homework as well. “Matt is a real student of the game,” Timm said. “Some guys can’t handle that because they don’t want to know much about the guy who they are wrestling. But Matt always knows what is going on in the world of college wrestling. He is an avid reader and is always pursuing how to make himself a better wrestler.”
Meuleners said he is a no-nonsense type of guy, and Timm fit that style.
“Coach Timm is always going to be honest with you,” Meuleners said. “Some coaches don’t show emotion or tell you what they are thinking. Coach Timm is always going to tell you if you wrestled well, or if you didn’t it. Maybe you think you wrestled well because you won, but if you did something wrong during the match, he was going to tell you about it. I like that. He is very direct. If I take a really dumb shot in practice or a match, he will tell me that was a dumb shot. He pushes you to get better.”
He credits Timm and his teammates for helping make him successful. “Coach Timm helped a lot. He was always there for me. He wanted me to get better every day, and that is what I tried to do.”
Meuleners said he came to Northern because of the people. “My assistant at the time, Rocky Burkett (now the head coach at Aberdeen Central) spotted Matt at the Minnesota high school tournament,” Timm said. “Rocky liked what he saw, got him here on a visit, and it worked out great for all of us.”
“It was a good fit with the coaches and the guys on the team right away when I came on my visit to Northern,” Meuleners said. “And the town was a good fit. I come from a small town, and I don’t like a place with too many people. Plus, the fishing and hunting was good around here. Especially the pheasant hunting, something me and my family love to do.”
Meuleners added, “I have had great teammates all through college, guys who have really helped me get a lot better. Guys like (fellow senior from Rapid City) Chad Gibson. He was probably the hardest worker on our team. He comes in every day and gives it everything he has got. If you practice with Chad, you know you are going to leave the wrestling room tired.”
Meuleners now has set bigger goals for his wrestling career. “I want to make a world team or two, medal, make the 2016 Olympic team and medal at the Olympics.”
He plans to do that at a Division I school yet to be finalized while he trains, goes to graduate school and perhaps help coach. He will wrestle in the freestyle division at either heavyweight or 211 pounds. “Being an undersized heavyweight, I know I can comfortably wrestle at 96 kilos (211),” he said. “Not too many people have the opportunity to purse something like this, and I want to take advantage of it. Besides, I don’t want to get into real life yet. If I can push that off for a little while longer, I’m OK with that.”
Timm said Meuleners still has a lot of room to grow as a wrestler, and Meuleners couldn’t agree more. “My hand fighting has to get better. I also need to work on finishing shots and developing other takedowns and other moves.”
Timm said the community, Northern and he and his wrestling program will miss Meuleners, and the feeling is mutual.
“It is hard to explain all the things Matt has done for our program, not just locally, but nationally as well,” Timm said. “Some of the big events he has been invited to wrestle in has put Northern State on the map. It has helped us with recruiting, and it has helped us in proving that while we might be small, we still have great things going on in our wrestling program.”
Meuleners added, “It is time for something new for my wrestling career, and I am excited to go somewhere new. But I am going to miss Northern, my teammates, coaches, friends and this area. This place has become like a second home for me. It will be strange not to be able to drive over to Webster with my friends and go walleye fishing.”