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Minnesota mat alum, wrestling official, HS AD Pete Veldman dies

Pete Veldman, Minnesota high school state wrestling champ who went on to take to the mat for the Minnesota Golden Gophers -- then later served as a high school athletic director and wrestling official for decades -- died Tuesday at age 86.

Pete Veldman
A native of Hollandale, Minn., Peter Veldman was a multi-sport star at Albert Lea High School, winning the heavyweight title at the Minnesota state wrestling championships as a senior in 1951. He also participated in football and track.

Graduating from ALHS in 1951, Veldman then headed north to the University of Minnesota, where he continued to be an all-around athlete. In his first two years, he wrestled and played on the Gopher football team before leaving school to serve in the U.S. military for 16 months during the Korean War… then, returned to Minnesota. Overall as a Golden Gopher, Veldman was a three-time NCAA championships qualifier and twice placed at the Big Ten championships (third at 177 pounds at the 1953 Big Tens; fourth as heavyweight at the 1959 conference championships).

After graduating from University of Minnesota in 1959, Veldman launched his professional career as a physical education teacher and coach of football and wrestling in the South St. Paul school district. In 1964 Veldman became the athletic director of South St. Paul Schools.

If that weren't enough, Veldman also served as the co-coordinator of the Minnesota State High School Wrestling Tournament for 25 years. Veldman stayed actively involved with wrestling as a referee and official of high school and collegiate wrestling tournaments for more than four decades. "Recognized as one of the best officials in the country, Veldman was repeatedly selected to officiate hundreds of high school wrestling meets, Minnesota State Wrestling Tournaments, and NCAA Division I, Division II, and NCAA Big 10 Wrestling Tournaments," according to the St. Paul Pioneer-Press.

For his service to athletics -- particularly wrestling -- Pete Veldman received numerous honors over the course of his career. He was inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. In addition, Veldman was also welcomed into the Minnesota State High School Athletic Directors Hall of Fame and the Albert Lea High School Athletic Hall of Fame. He received the Minnesota High School Athletic Directors Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009. There he was honored as "one of the greatest contributors to athletics and education in Minnesota."

What's more, South St. Paul High School honored Veldman's extensive service to the district and community by establishing the Pete Veldman Wrestling Room and creating the annual Veldman Invitational Wrestling Tournament.

Peter Veldman is survived by his four sons and many grandchildren. Last summer, he was preceded in death by his wife of 60 years, Arlene.

Visitation for Pete Veldman is scheduled for 1-3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26 at the First Presbyterian Church in South St. Paul, with the funeral service to follow at the church.

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