After years away, Severson chasing Olympic wrestling dream

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 20, 2012 - 6:45 AM

Nick Severson was out of shape and out of wrestling for over seven years, but now he's at the Olympic trials.

hide

Nick Severson (right) of Pine Island, Minn., finished second in the final U.S. Olympic wrestling qualifier March 30 to earn a spot in the trials.

Photo: David Peterson, Minnesota USA Wrestling

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Wrestling wasn't at the top of Nick Severson's mind when he began getting back into shape. He just wanted to feel good again, lose some weight and be fit enough to help his friend Travis Wiuff train for his mixed martial arts bouts.

In early 2011, the 310-pound Severson started taking long walks near his Pine Island, Minn., home. That led to running, which led to wrestling, which led to a wild idea. Now that he was feeling like an athlete again, he thought, he needed some kind of goal. And with the 2012 Olympic wrestling trials in Iowa City, why not set the bar high?

The married father of three qualified for the trials in late March, in his last opportunity to claim a place in the field. This week, he is taking time away from his residential construction business to chase a U.S. Olympic berth in the Greco-Roman heavyweight class. To earn the right to compete in London, Severson, 34, must finish first in a daunting field led by Dremiel Byers, a three-time medalist at the world championships.

Severson said his hope is to land in the top three, setting him up to try and make the U.S. team for next year's world championships. That will be tough for a guy who has wrestled in only three tournaments since ending a 7 1/2-year absence from the sport, but he already has achieved more than he expected.

"It's amazing the effect this has had on my life," said Severson, a Hayfield native and two-time NCAA Division II champion at North Dakota State. "Getting back to a healthy lifestyle, I'm more motivated. It's easier to get out of bed. The days are brighter.

"All the years you're wrestling when you're younger, you take it for granted. I'm having a great time. It's a blast to be back."

As a senior at Hayfield in 1996, Severson won a state championship at 189 pounds. He started college at Wisconsin-Stout and had no intention of competing again; when he began missing the sport, he walked on at North Dakota State and won national titles in 2001 and '02.

After a year off the mat, Severson decided to try his hand at Greco-Roman wrestling. He qualified for the 2004 Olympic trials, but he chose not to compete because of an injury, and he figured his career was over.

By 2010, age and inactivity had left Severson sluggish and overweight. When Wiuff sought him out as a training partner, he committed to an exercise regimen and healthy diet. As Severson began thinking about a return to competition, he hooked up with longtime friend Jim Richardson, who competed in two Olympic trials and coaches the Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Kingsland wrestling team.

"When he said he wanted to try out for the Olympics, I was more focused on helping him back to a healthy lifestyle," Richardson said. "He was so motivated to change that he made me want to be part of it. He has worked extremely hard."

Severson got down to a fit 255 pounds and returned to competition at the Sunkist Kids International Open last October. He drew Byers as his first opponent -- and while he lost, he didn't embarrass himself, giving him confidence to keep forging ahead. Severson finished eighth at the U.S. Open in December, falling just short of qualifying for the Olympic trials, and earned one of the last slots when he finished second in a tough field at the last-chance qualifier on March 30.

At the trials, Severson is among 10 wrestlers competing for the chance to face Byers, who has a bye into the championship. "My ultimate goal is to be on the Olympic team," he said. "Realistically, my goal is to get in the top three and get on the national team.

"I like my chances. I feel confident that I'm good enough and conditioned enough. And with another year of work, I feel I can be a real serious contender. That's what I'm shooting for."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati - M. Leake 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota - T. May 6:05 PM
Baltimore - M. Gonzalez
NY Yankees - C. Capuano 6:07 PM
Toronto - M. Buehrle
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan 6:10 PM
NY Mets - J. deGrom
Boston - A. Ranaudo 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - C. Archer
Miami - T. Koehler 6:35 PM
Atlanta - E. Santana
Cleveland - D. Salazar 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Vargas
Detroit - J. Verlander 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - S. Carroll
Texas - S. Baker 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Oberholtzer
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks 7:15 PM
St. Louis - S. Miller
Colorado - C. Bergman 8:40 PM
Arizona - J. Collmenter
Oakland - J. Lester 9:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
Los Angeles - D. Haren 9:10 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Washington - J. Zimmermann 9:10 PM
Seattle - F. Hernandez
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 9:15 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Houston 7:00 PM
Sporting Kansas City
Ottawa 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 9:00 PM
Phoenix

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close