Joel Skillings (left) and son Christian Skillings (right) with Olympian and national wrestling champion Tom Ryan of Ohio State.Tom Ryan (left) and Jesse Nelson.

Never quit learning!

If you think you know everything you can about any particular thing, well, you’re probably wrong.

Take coaches Joel and Christian Skillings and Jesse Nelson for instance. They’ve wrestled, coached for years and have influenced hundreds of young men.

So how do you learn more?

You find the best, travel to where they are, and soak it all in.

Last weekend, they traveled to Ohio State to rub shoulders with Tom Ryan, a national and reigning two-time world champion wrestler.

“As I travel around, I meet a lot of people. I met Tom at Augustana and he was a headliner (speaker),” said Skillings.

“He accepted us with open arms. He is a real great ambassador of the sport,” said Skillings.

Ryan is, “One of the best in the country in terms of wrestling.” The whole idea was to learn more about coaching the sport.

Along for advice was Skillings’ son Christian, an assistant wrestling coach at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall and the college’s head Coach Jesse Nelson, also of Minneota.

“The idea was to bring back something to our program and the school,” Skillings said. “He was such a straight forward, incredible human being,” Skillings said, adding, “He was very humble.”

While Skillings has coached in Minneota for many years, he’s found there is always more to learn. “He was so helpful to us,” the coach said.

Ryan even made the effort to contact Brad Gillingham, strength coach in Minneota in order to pass along specific techniques of the college weight-lifting programs.

“The second day we had a workout and watched their regular practice,” said Coach Skillings. Then the three were treated to a chance to not only attend the Maryland at Ohio State football game, but to go down onto the field before the game.

Ryan, who has beaten perhaps the best wrestler in the world, a Russian in the Olympics, has remained humble and gracious, said Coach Skillings. Also, they met Kyle Snyder, another member of the Ohio State team.

“They would all come over and talk to us,” the coach said. “He trains so hard. It’s hard to imagine how he does it,” the coach said.

And each wrestler, “Broke it down, piece by piece to help the local coaches understand their training and regimen.”

“These are guys who are not afraid of failing. And now, Tom and I are becoming friends. It was a huge connection,” Coach Skillings said.

Skillings added, “I love coaching and feel I have to continue to grow.”

Thanks to a couple of willing wrestlers, the learning happened last weekend.

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