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King Pin: Billings Skyview's Paolo Salminen still dominant at 152 pounds

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Posted at 2:00 PM, Jan 13, 2021

BILLINGS -- It's safe to say Paolo Salminen doesn't mess around when he steps onto the wrestling mats. He's only a sophomore, but even last year as a freshman, you did not want a piece of him.

Salminen set a Class AA record with 37 pins, not an easy feat for a freshman wrestling at 152 pounds.

"AA pin record, pinning 37 kids. I mean, that's just tremendous," Falcons head coach Ben Sulser told MTN Sports, "... and we're obviously excited about that. We're sad that he doesn't get a chance to break that again, but he'll get another chance eventually."

He won't have a chance to break the record this particular season​ because of the shortened schedule with zero tournaments on the regular-season slate. That means Salminen won't have a chance to wrestle as many opponents.

If you're looking for a chuckle, listen to how he humbly assesses himself right now.

"I've been mediocre," Salminen told MTN Sports straight-faced. "I wouldn't say I'm really good yet, but I'm still striving to get better."

That's a dangerous thought. Salminen does admit he really started to notice a difference in his attack the summer before his freshman year.

"I was wrestling a bunch of out-of-state tournaments and was starting to get a feel for offensive wrestling and being able to defend shots," he said.

He's already making quick work of opponents to start the new year, earning pins over season-opening opponents for Bozeman High and Bozeman Gallatin. For those on deck, if you're scouting him, where is he most dangerous?

"Anywhere, anywhere. That's what makes him so deadly," Sulser said. "The kid can wrestle anywhere. You wrestle him at practice, and you're like, head on a swivel, he can get you at any moment. He scrambles really well and if he gets you on your back, it's probably going to be over."

Salminen won't have a chance to close this season on the same MetraPark floor he opened it last week, because this year's all-class state tournaments are shifting to separate towns and venues. But Salminen does have a chance to close one step higher on the podium.

"Second," he recalled of last February's finish. "I lost in the finals. It was tight, the kid was a returning state champ, it was a tough match, he was a junior that year."

The match was against Missoula Big Sky's Hunter Meinzen, one of the few Salminen lost to as a freshman.

So fast forward to now, as Skyview's head coach, how does Sulser tweak the skill set of a guy coming off a 37-pin season?

"Paolo is just super free, he just flows and feels everything so good. I just try and give him a new look every time. Maybe he hasn't seen something, so let's figure that out next," Sulser said.