BILLINGS — Paolo Salminen loves the sport of wrestling.
And with that love for the sport comes constant competition and the grind of more work ahead with the goal of getting better with each step taken.
The sport is a perfect fit for the gifted Billings Skyview senior wrestler with a fierce dedication to wrestling.
There was a point early in his high school career when Salminen, who started wrestling at 4 years old, didn’t enjoy wrestling as much as he does now because “I didn’t like how hard it was.” But now, you could never tell there was ever that waver of feelings.
“I’ve grown to love it,” Salminen said at the Falcons’ practice Thursday. “Now, it’s like ‘I get to wrestle.’ I really like it and like when I’m out here.
“I think the reason I like it is because I like how hard it is. You have to be a little crazy to go out and do the stuff it takes to be really good. I like the challenge.”
And when he’s on the mat, Salminen has produced results.
Last February at the state tourney, Salminen busted through and captured his first championship with a title at 170 pounds. He was third at the state tourney as a sophomore at 152 and the state runner-up as a freshman at 152.
Falcons coach Jon Verlanic said Salminen is not only dedicated to the sport but has become one of the leaders of the team. Verlanic used the example of sometimes in the mornings he’ll see Salminen helping other students with their studies in the cafeteria at Skyview.
“He’s a good, well-rounded kid,” explained Verlanic. “Not only does he do good work in the wrestling room, but he does good work outside the wrestling room.”
Salminen, in a matter of fact way, said he “just wanted to set a good example,” for the underclassmen on the team when asked about helping other students.
Salminen, the top-ranked wrestler in Class AA at 170 pounds, will bring a 32-0 record and 26 pins into the Eastern AA seeding tournament at Belgrade Friday and Saturday. If Salminen finishes undefeated this season it will be the second straight perfect season for him. Last year he was 40-0 with 32 pins.
For Salminen, the key to success at divisionals and the state tournament Feb. 10-11 at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark will be to stick with what works.
“Just keep refining my position I’m good in and my best stuff,” he said. “I’ve already put in my work and there is still work to do for the offseason and nationals. I’ve done extra and wrestled all summer and made great decisions. I’ve been sticking to the plan.”
Verlanic said that Salminen is extremely dedicated to wrestling and credited his work ethic for much of the success the standout senior has achieved.
“He just puts the work in the practice room,” said Verlanic. “He works hard and does everything right and has a clean, healthy lifestyle. In the offseason he puts in the work to be the best wrestler he can be.”
The coach agreed that Salminen has done a good job of focusing on the plan of attack.
“He just has to keep on sticking to the program and what he’s good at,” said Verlanic. “He has a high attack rate and he’s great at creating angles for his shots.”
In fact Salminen, also a football player at Skyview, knows about working hard and the results it produces in other sports.
Salminen played running back at Skyview for his first 3.5 seasons but switched to right guard with five games left in the season.
“It was awesome, I loved it,” said Salminen of playing right guard. “Honestly I think everyone should play line. It shows how important they are. I was good at blocking and as a pulling guard. As a running back I knew what a lineman had to do.”
Salminen hopes his hard work on the mat helps him land a scholarship to wrestle in college. He said he has talked to a handful of Division I and Division II programs. With a 4.0 weighted grade-point average, Salminen said he has entertained thoughts of becoming a doctor, dentist, or a lawyer like his brother Vince — a former Skyview and North Dakota State wrestling standout.
“I’m looking to get college paid for and to wrestle somewhere,” Paolo said. “I want to be the best I can be and feel I have the opportunity to do that.”
Vince Salminen, now an assistant coach at Skyview, graduated from the school in 2006 and went on to wrestle at North Dakota State. He was a state champion as both a senior and junior, placed third as a sophomore and second as a freshman. So, Paolo is on the same path as his older brother.
“The crazy thing is he took second and third and won his junior and senior years, which I am going to do,” said Paolo.
Paolo explained that he grew up around wrestling and has had good examples over the years. Known as an intense competitor, Salminen said that intensity is key to his success.
“I’m driven because I’ve had great surroundings to show me what it takes and has to be,” he said. “Bite or be bitten. It’s like that.
“You have to be intense to be good. To be a winner you have to be intense. If you don’t give everything with the intensity, there is no point in doing it.”
A perfect ending to Salminen’s high school career would be to capture his second consecutive state crown on Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Metra.
But, then there will be more work to do and dreams to chase. And, that’s more than fine with Salminen.
“My goal is to win state and win Virginia Beach and commit somewhere,” he said. “That’s my goal.”
Post a comment as anonymous
Watch this discussion.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.