John's Journal
It's Time For The Nation's Premier High School Sporting Event3/4/2013
This is a big week in Minnesota, as the boys state hockey tournament takes center stage at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Every year, the event draws interest from all across the country as well as in Canada.

For example, The Hockey News -- a Toronto-based publication that is known for its in-depth hockey coverage -- will be represented at the tournament.

The tournament begins Wednesday and will end Saturday with the Class 1A and 2A state championship games. All quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games will be televised by KSTC Channel 45.

Wednesday’s Class 1A Quarterfinals
(# seeds)

#2 Breck (24-3-1) vs. Marshall (14-10-1), 11 a.m.
#3 Hermantown (23-4-1) vs. Duluth Marshall (16-12), 30 minutes after end of 11 a.m. game
#1 St. Thomas Academy (24-2-2) vs. St. Cloud Apollo (18-10), 6 p.m.
#4 East Grand Forks (22-3-3) vs. #5 Rochester Lourdes (20-8), 30 minutes after end of 6 p.m. game

Thursday’s Class 2A Quarterfinals
(# seeds)

#2 Duluth East (24-4) vs. Moorhead (14-11-2), 11 a.m.
#3 Edina (22-6) vs. Lakeville North (11-16-1), 30 minutes after end of 11 a.m. game
#1 Hill-Murray (25-2-1) vs. Eastview (18-9-1), 6 p.m.
#4 Wayzata (21-7) vs. #5 Centennial (22-4-2), 30 minutes after end of 6 p.m. game
Boys State Hockey Tournament Pairings Are Set3/2/2013
The process of setting the brackets for next week’s boys state hockey tournament at Xcel Energy Center was completed this morning. The coaches in each class determine which five teams will be seeded via electronic voting. The teams seeded fourth and fifth meet in the state quarterfinals, and the opponents for the top three seeds are decided by random draw.

Here are the pairings…

Class 1A
Wednesday’s Quarterfinals
#2 Breck (24-3-1) vs. Marshall (14-10-1), 11 a.m.
#3 Hermantown (23-4-1) vs. Duluth Marshall (16-12), 30 minutes after end of 11 a.m. game
#1 St. Thomas Academy (24-2-2) vs. St. Cloud Apollo (18-10), 6 p.m.
#4 East Grand Forks (22-3-3) vs. #5 Rochester Lourdes (20-8), 30 minutes after end of 6 p.m. game

Class 2A
Thursday’s Quarterfinals
#2 Duluth East (24-4) vs. Moorhead (14-11-2), 11 a.m.
#3 Edina (22-6) vs. Lakeville North (11-16-1), 30 minutes after end of 11 a.m. game
#1 Hill-Murray (25-2-1) vs. Eastview (18-9-1), 6 p.m.
#4 Wayzata (21-7) vs. #5 Centennial (22-4-2), 30 minutes after end of 6 p.m. game
A Night For Champions At State Wrestling Tournament3/2/2013
Championship Saturday at the state wrestling tournament is always a night filled with drama and celebrations, and the 2013 version filled the bill perfectly. My favorite moment came when Grand Rapids 182-pound senior Jamison Evans completed an unbeaten season with a last-second decision over Christian DuLaney and then ran into his coach’s arms … and head.

Evans is a big young man, but he is no match for Thunderhawks coach Dan Jinks. Evans not only leaped into the coach’s arms, but went extra vertical and landed almost right on top of Jinks. It was a tremdendously happy scene, just one of many on one of the greatest nights of the year for high school sports in Minnesota.

The familiar names carved their names a little deeper into the record books. Simley senior Jake Short (Class 2A, 152 pounds) won his fourth state title, as did St. Cloud Apollo senior Mitch Bengston (3A, 138). Apple Valley ninth-grader Mark Hall (3A, 152) won for the second time, staying on track to become the state's first six-time state champ.

Overall, six wrestlers repeated as champions in Class 1A, six did so in 2A and six did the same in 3A. That’s what you call symmetry.

Apple Valley had seven individual 3A champions, going 7-1 in the final round.

Three of Saturday’s title matches pitted past state champions.

--In Class 2A at 138 pounds, Coltan Laganiere of Kasson-Mantorville defeated Brett Stolarzyk of Stewartville.

--In 2A at 195, Lance Benick of Totino-Grace beat Broc Berge of Kasso-Mantorville.

--And in 3A at 195, Tommy Petersen of Lakeville South beat Chase Morlock of Moorhead.

--To see a photo gallery from the tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 10 for the tournament, 22 for the winter state tournaments
*Schools/teams John has visited: 488
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 7,289
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
Eden Prairie Historically Dominant In Winning 2A Swim Title3/2/2013
Eden Prairie cruised to the Class 2A boys state swimming and diving championship Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, and St. Thomas Academy won the Class 1A crown. Read Luke Sleeper's story by clicking here.
Coach Is Gone, But Inspiration Remains For Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa3/1/2013
The state wrestling tournament is a hotbed of raw emotion, with a never-ending supply of screaming from the stands, high-wire encouragement from coaches and for the wrestlers, a very fine line between success and the end of the road as the season comes to a close.

But let’s go back to the first day of wrestling practice last November, when another kind of emotional scene played out in a very peaceful spot. The scene was a cemetery in Belgrade, Minnesota. That’s where the wrestling team from Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa went to visit their former coach as the season began.

Rich Vos was 38 years old and riding his bicycle in the early-morning darkness on Oct. 16 when he was struck by a semi-trailer and killed. Since that day, nothing has been the same for the B-B-E Jaguars.

Before beginning their first practice of the season, the wrestlers ran to St. Francis DeSales Catholic Cemetery, about a mile from the high school. Waiting for them there was Rich’s widow, Beth, a mother of two young children. She and the wrestlers gathered at the gravesite and she read them a letter. Beth tried to put into words what the coach would have said to the team if he could have done the writing.

“She wrote about what Rich would have wanted this year, what he thought we could accomplish,” Jaguars senior Tyler Tensen told me Friday at Xcel Energy Center. “How it would be awesome if we would dedicate this year to him. And of course we did.”

Rich has been listed as the team’s head coach all season. The mats inside the high school gym carry the words “Always in Your Corner.” The coaches have Rich’s name printed on the back of their shirts. The wrestlers have t-shirts that say “His Vision, Our Mission/ In Memory of Coach Vos.”

“It was definitely hard,” said Tyler, one of three Jaguars to qualify for the state tournament. “The whole season, not having him was hard. Losing him was definitely a big motivator through the year, that’s for sure. And it was certainly hard not having a good friend and a coach around.”

Assistant coach Brian Friedrichs, who took over as head coach, works as a National Guard Readiness NCO in Sauk Centre. He was on his way to Camp Ripley for a staff meeting when he learned that Vos had been killed.

“That evening I went to see the family and the next day we talked to wrestlers, to see how they were doing,” he said.

Right after Vos died, many of his wrestlers who also played football had to play the final regular-season game.

“They had to think about finishing the regular season that next day, on MEA Wednesday, and then the playoffs,” B-B-E athletic director Rick Gossen said. “Talk about an emotional roller coaster for 16-17-18-year-old kids.

“I think the students and staff supported each other very well. They had a chance to grieve and heal. It’s one of those things that never leaves you. You never stop feeling that loss, especially for the wrestlers that were closest to him.”

--Tensen (126 pounds) and fellow senior Patrick Rooney (182) each won two matches Friday to advance to Saturday’s semifinals. Sophomore Josey Tensen lost in the opening round at 106 pounds.

SETTING UP FOR THE SEMIFINALS

Every defending state champion won in the first round of the state tournament Friday, but the number was whittled a bit in the second round.

Friday’s marquee match came in Class 2A at 126 pounds. Simley senior Juan Torres, last year’s champion at that weight, won a 5-4 decision in the quarterfinals over Rockford junior Ty Griffin, who was the 2012 champ at 120 pounds.

--St. Cloud Apollo senior Mitch Bengston, a three-time champion, is on track for another 3A title. He will meet Blake Carlisle of Prior Lake in Saturday’s semifinals.

--In Saturday’s 3A semifinals, Apple Valley will have eight wrestlers and St. Michael-Albertville will have seven. Apple Valley had 14 individual qualify for state and the Knights had 12; they tied for the 3A team championship on Thursday night.

Semifinal matches will take place Saturday morning, with title matches scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

--To see a photo gallery from the tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 7 for the tournament, 19 for the winter state tournaments
*Schools/teams John has visited: 488
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 7,239
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn