Senior Spotlight: Bryce Wollmann
If Augustana University senior nursing major Bryce Wollmann could give any advice, it would be to take advantage of every opportunity and follow your gut. Because sometimes it pays off. The Garretson, South Dakota native and 2018 Viking Days Homecoming Royalty Court member saw an opportunity to try out with the Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment in early January and took mere minutes to think about it before saying, “There’s no question. Of course!”
It all started with his New Year’s resolution. “I decided that whatever opportunity came my way in 2019, I was going to take it, without questioning and overanalyzing,” says the offensive lineman for the Vikings. Wollmann says he grew up admiring WWE greats like Steve Austin, Mark Henry and Hulk Hogan. So when he was recruited to the Augustana Vikings football team four years ago, it became a joke that the nursing major should turn pro and become The Nurse.
Little did he know, in January 2019, his coach would send him a recruiting form from the WWE looking for standouts to try out for the real deal. The WWE recruits athletes from around the world with wide-ranging backgrounds, including the NFL, Mixed Martial Arts, Olympic and collegiate athletes, the military, bodybuilding, gymnastics, and more. “So, I filled it out not expecting to hear anything back,” he says. “But then I was at a nursing research symposium in March. I had just gotten done presenting and was on a break, when I checked my emails and there it was; an email from the WWE inviting me to come to Orlando. Talk about polar opposites…here I was focusing completely on academics and then this pops up. It’s an opportunity people don’t just get so this was something I had to do, especially a couple months after making my New Year’s resolution.”
With the support of his parents, friends and coaches, Wollmann packed his bags and boarded a plane by himself to Florida on April 25. Walking into the WWE Performance Center was something straight out of the likes of America’s Ninja Warrior.
The 26,000 square foot facility features seven training rings, a world-class strength and conditioning program that helps with in-ring training, physical preparedness, character development, injury prevention and more. “It was intense,” he says. “We trained from 9 a.m. — 5 p.m. for three days. It was so physically challenging but completely rewarding.” Wollmann says he was tested through a circuit of training exercises such as weight lifting, cardio, plyometrics and stage fighting, and was one of only 40 people to try out. “We were a small group so I got to know people pretty well. We were all in it together and I walked away at the very least meeting new friends.”
The former Solberg Hall resident says half of the competitors had wrestling experience and the other half were athletes. “One of the competitors actually won The Titan Games.” According to the WWE website, competitors alongside Wollmann included pro footballers, an Olympic grappler, martial artists, a third-generation wrestler, a former world bodybuilding champion, and more.
Wollmann left Orlando on April 27 not knowing how he performed and won’t know if he made it to another round unless he receives another email from the WWE, “but whatever happens, I have no regrets. It was awesome.”
As for Wollmann’s future as a nurse, he will walk across the stage on May 25 and will enter the professional world as a nurse at Sanford Heart Hospital. How did he choose the path of healthcare? “I had asthma as a kid and the nurses were the ones to establish the tone of how the visit would go,” he says. “I love people and was always interested in science so it seemed like a natural fit for me.”
The powerlifter, who is 6 foot 7 and 355 pounds, admits nursing isn’t a male-dominated field, especially for someone who looks like they should be in the NFL. “I’ll never forget during my internship, I walked into a room at the hospital and the patient asked why the nurse had a bodyguard,” he says, laughing. “I’m going to own it. My experience at Augustana has been priceless. I had fantastic influencers in my liberal arts education such as Steve Van Bockern [professor of education], Richard Swanson [professor of religion, philosophy, and classics], and of course Coach Bear [Matt Bacoulis]. Dr. Susan Schrader, professor of sociology and the social sciences division chair, says, “he's a terrific guy. Sensitive, friendly, and extremely outgoing. He's going to be a great nurse.”
Humbled, Wollmann says, “I followed my heart when I chose Augustana and now as I look ahead to my career, I’m there to learn and be the best nurse I can be. I look forward to investing in my patients like my influencers here at Augie invested in me.”