John's Journal
Kasson-Mantorville’s Berge Takes Short View In Drive For Five 2/26/2016
This is Mark Hall’s world and every other Minnesota wrestler is just living in it. Or so goes the attention – and who could argue with it? -- paid to the Apple Valley senior who is on track to become the first six-time state champion in history Saturday evening at Xcel Energy Center.

There are, however, others who are on the cusp of history as the 78th state wrestling tournament moves into Championship Saturday. Yes, by any measure Hall is worthy of mountains of newsprint and miles of video, but let’s not forget the other high-achieving individuals displaying their talents this week.

Among them is Kasson-Mantorville junior Brady Berge, who already owns three state championships, could win No. 4 Saturday and be on track to rack up No. 5 a year from now.

That’s rare air, because only six wrestlers have been five-time champs. Not that Berge is giving it much thought right now.

“My coach (Jamie Heidt) does a real good job,” said Berge (pictured), whose big brother Broc was a two-time state champion and now wrestles at the University of Minnesota. “Ever since I stepped into the room he’s preached that you have to take it one match at a time. I follow that. I look at every match like it’s a state championship match. I hear it quite a bit but I block it out, too. I’m not worried about that right now.”

If not for a quarterfinal loss and third-place finish at state as an eighth-grader, Berge would be joining Hall on the six-title track. His Class 2A championships came as a seventh-grader at 106 pounds, a freshman at 145 and a sophomore at 152.

He’s top-seeded at 160 this week and on Friday he won by a technical fall in the first round and a fall in the quarterfinals. He will meet fourth-seeded Luverne junior Solomon Nielsen in Saturday’s semifinals. In the other half of the bracket are second-seeded Connor Hoff, a senior from Litchfield, and third-seeded Sam Baier, a senior from Redwood/River Valley.

Berge’s loss in eighth grade took the steam out of the “six-time champion” talk, but that’s OK with him.

“I haven’t heard it as much as after I won it in seventh grade,” he said. “You hear it quite a bit, but every time I hear it all I think about is winning the next match. I’m not worried about my senior year yet, I’ve still got a match ahead of me right now.”

A MEMORABLE WEEKEND FOR MINNETONKA

In the buzz of Thursday’s team competition, it might have been easy to miss what Minnetonka accomplished this season. Of the 24 teams that qualified for state, the Skippers were the only one making the trip for the first time. (Minnetonka won a state title in 1974, but that was when only individuals went to state.)

Not only did Minnetonka get to state, they also recorded a victory. After losing to St. Michael-Albertville 55-15 in the quarterfinals, they beat Centennial 34-32 in the consolation bracket. Hastings beat the Skippers 44-33 in the fifth-place match.

”That showed all the guys on our team that we do belong here and we want to keep coming back,” said coach Josh Frie, who is in his fourth year as head coach after three as an assistant.

“What’s helped us out the most is our youth program,” he said. “We’ve got about 60 guys in that right now, it’s going strong, and it has for a few years now. We’re starting to see that with our young guys coming through.”

The Skippers won the Section 6 title with postseason victories over Edina, Mound/Westonka and Chaska/Chanhassen. They finished the season with an 18-6 record.

Four Minnetonka individuals qualified for state: freshman Jake Finken at 113, sophomore Boyd Mumbuwa at 120, senior Logan Foote at 182 and junior Aaron Moore at 285. Mumbuwa and Moore won twice Friday to advance to Saturday’s semifinals.

“Interest is high right now,” Frie said. “A lot of people came down to watch and the new guys on the team this year are telling their buddies, ‘You’ve got to get out here.’ ”

HALL MAKES A (FASHION) STATEMENT

Hall won twice by fall Friday and will meet Minneapolis South senior Sam Truen in Saturday’s Class 3A semifinals at 170 pounds. Hall also showed some love for his future college coach by wearing a warm-up t-shirt bearing the words “Cael Knows Wrestling.”

That’s head coach Cael Sanderson of Penn State, where Hall will wrestle collegiately.

--Albert Lea junior Garrett Aldrich (pictured) advanced to the semifinals in 2A at 132 and remained on track to win his third state title. With another season to go, he could become a four-time gold medalist

--The same is true for Shakopee junior Brent Jones, a two-time winner who needs to win twice Saturday in 3A at 126 to capture his third title and will be back for another year.

--Jackson County Central senior Keegan Moore, who owns two state titles, won with two pins Friday in 1A at 182, the first in 41 seconds and the second in 2:13.

--St. Michael-Albertville senior Mitchell McKee recorded two victories in 3A at 138 and remains on track for his third title.

--Apple Valley sophomore Gable Steveson, the defending champion in 3A at 220 pounds, is on track to become a four-time gold medalist.

--In the only division where two defending state champions could meet, top-seeded junior Rylee Molitor of Sartell-St. Stephen and third-seeded sophomore Peyton Robb of Owatonna advanced in 3A at 120. In the semifinals, Molitor will meet fourth-seeded sophomore Mumbuwa of Minnetonka and Robb will face second-seeded sophomore Zach Smith of Prior Lake.

--St. Michael-Albertville advanced six wrestlers to the 3A semifinals. Shakopee, Willmar and Hastings have four, while Anoka, Apple Valley, Owatonna and Prior Lake have three.

--In 2A, Kasson-Mantorville has five in the semifinals, followed by Totino-Grace, Scott West and South St. Paul with three.

--The Class 1A semifinals will be led by Kenyon-Wanamingo and Minneota with four wrestlers. Dover-Eyota, Caledonia, Pierz and Frazee all have three.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 530
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,490
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Four-Time State Champ Now Wears A Whistle 2/25/2016
As the officials were introduced, one at a time, before the first matches of the state wrestling tournament Thursday morning at Xcel Energy Center, knowledgeable fans surely recognized one name in particular: Gabriel Mooney.

Mooney was assigned to referee at the state tournament for the second year in a row. That means he’s halfway – sort of, kind of – to matching a historic streak from his own days as a high school wrestler. He is in rare company as one of only 22 wrestlers who won four state championships; six of those went on to win a fifth title and Apple Valley senior Mark Hall is on track to become the state’s first six-time champion this week.

Wrestling at Badger/Greenbush-Middle River, Mooney won titles in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 from 103 to 125 pounds. His high school record was 191-17, which included a 133-match winning streak. He wrestled at North Dakota State, where he earned a bachelors degree in dietetics and a masters degrees in health care administration. He lives in Baudette and works in health care.

He thought about going into coaching, but his job didn’t allow him much flexibility. So he turned to officiating. He became registered with the MSHSL during the 2010-11 season and is a member of the Northstar Wrestling Officials Association.

“I always thought that I wouldn’t want to be an official,” he said between rounds Thursday in St. Paul. “Then I was out of wrestling for about a year (after college).”

He talked with veteran official Brian Bakke from East Grand Forks, and that was his gateway to becoming an official.

“Brian was my mentor. I asked him about it and he got me into it. He reffed me when I was in high school, he reffed me when I was in college, and he made a difference in that sense. He gave me a good taste for reffing.”

Baudette is about as far north as you can go and still be in Minnesota. It’s isolated, which means Mooney puts in lots of mileage working high school and college wrestling duals and tournament. Last season he drove 10,000 miles while officiating. His longest road trip last year was for collegiate wrestling in Mankato, which is 370 miles (one way) from Baudette.

Mooney is staying in the Twin Cities this weekend, where he will officiate an NCAA Division III regional tournament Saturday at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

“I do a lot of weekend tournaments,” he said. “Let’s face it, we don’t want to drive 200 miles one way for a dual meet.”

He said that when he first became a registered official, he was full of confidence … some of it misplaced.

“I’ll be straight out and candid: I walked out thinking, ‘Give me a few duals and I’ll have it figured out and be the best.’ I was standing in the wrong spot, I was not in good position, I didn’t know some of the rules. As a college wrestler, I thought I would come back and know all the rules.

“I still pick up little things. After about two years you realize where to stand, what to anticipate, the appropriate verbalization, how to be professional.”

Last year’s state tournament, Mooney’s first with a whistle around his neck, was a thrill for him.

“It was crazy,” he said. “I wrestled here for five years in high school. Coming out here (as an official) is a lot less stressful, to be honest. When I walk out as an official, I’m under pressure then, and I walk off and it’s done. You don’t worry about things before and you don’t worry about them after. You leave it on the mat in all aspects.”

The best part of his job, he said, is spending time with wrestlers; one wearing a red band around one ankle and the other wearing green.

“I enjoy being on the mat with the guys,” Mooney said. “You’re wrestling every match with the kids and you don’t care who wins and who loses. I see green and I see red.”

--Apple Valley won the Class 3A team title for the 11th year in a row. The top-seeded Eagles defeated second-seeded St. Michael-Albertville 31-26 in the championship match.

--Top-seeded Kasson-Mantorville defeated third-seeded Foley 37- 21 to win the Class 2A team crown.

--Top-seeded Kenyon-Wanamingo won the Class 1A championship with a narrow 26-24 decision over third-seeded Frazee.

TEAM RESULTS

CLASS 1A QUARTERFINALS
Minneota 41, West Central 15
Frazee 48, Sibley East 11
Kenyon-Wanamingo 39, Caledonia 26
Pierz 44, Kerhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 22

CLASS 2A QUARTERFINALS
Simley 53, Totino-Grace 15
Foley 33, Perham 18
Kasson-Mantorville 64, Mora 3
Scott West 35, Wabasso/Red Rock Central 25

CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS
St. Michael-Albertville 55, Minnetonka 15
Anoka 44, Centennial 24
Apple Valley 46, Hastings 15
Willmar 37, Farmington 30

CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS
Frazee 32, Minneota 21
Kenyon-Wanamingo 34, Pierz 21

CLASS 2A SEMIFINALS
Foley 31, Simley 28
Kasson-Mantorville 36, Scott West 18

CLASS 3A SEMIFINALS
St. Michael-Albertville 35, Anoka 25
Apple Valley 46, Willmar 24

CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHES
1A/ Kenyon-Wanamingo vs. Frazee
2A/ Kasson-Mantorville 37, Foley 21
3A/ Apple Valley 31, St. Michael-Albertville 26

THIRD-PLACE MATCHES
1A/ Pierz 39, Minneota 16
2A/ Scott West 40, Sinley 20
3A/ Anoka 42, Willmar 23

FIFTH-PLACE MATCHES
1A/ Caledonia 36, 21 West Central/Ashby/Brandon-Evansville
2A/ Perham 38, Wabasso/Red Rock Central 24
3A/ Hastings 44, Minnetonka 33

--Championship matches were held Thursday night.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 530
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,449
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
A Proud Minnesota Tradition Returns: State Wrestling Tourney 2/22/2016
The 78th MSHSL state wrestling tournament will be held this week at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, and there is no shortage of stories to follow. Team competition in all three classes will be held Thursday, with individual competition beginning Friday morning and culminating with championship matches Saturday evening.

Wrestling is very much a family-oriented sport, with thousands of committed fans who make the state tournament part of their annual plans. The crowd is always loud and proud, and there will be plenty of reasons to cheer this year.

Two families from southeast Minnesota will be cheering for their favorite wrestlers, Byron’s Alex Bertram and Kasson-Mantorville’s Aaron Berge.

The two seniors will compete in Class 2A at 182 pounds. They both represent Section 1, and they have wrestled against each other for a long time. They are in different halves of the bracket, but if they should meet this week it will be the final match in a very long string of head-to-head meetings.

One of these photos shows Alex and Aaron wrestling when they were just first-graders, and the other was taken at last week’s Section 1 tournament. That puts two really nice bookends on a wrestling connection.

THE WRESTLER UNDER the brightest spotlight this week is Apple Valley senior Mark Hall. He is expected to win the Class 3A state title at 170 pounds, which would make him the first six-time state champion in Minnesota history.

Hall is one of six five-time champs. The others are Matt Nagel of Frazee (1997-2001), Eric Sanders of Wabasha-Kellogg (1999-2003), Zach Sanders of Wabasha-Kellogg (2003-2007), Destin McCauley of Apple Valley (2006-08, 2010-11) and Cameron Sykora of Border West (2011-15). There have been 16 four-time state champs and 60 wrestlers have won three times.

In 2A, Kasson-Mantorville junior Brady Berge could become a four-time champion and open the possibility of joining the five-title club a year from now. He is the top seed at 160 pounds.

Five two-time champions will go for a three-peat this week. They are:

CLASS 1A
182/ Keegan Moore, Jackson County Central

CLASS 2A
132/ Garrett Aldrich, Albert Lea
152/ Griffin Parriott, New Prague

CLASS 3A
126/ Brent Jones, Shakopee
138/ Mitchell McKee, St. Michael-Albertville

OTHER RETURNING CHAMPIONS

CLASS 1A
113/ Ethan Cota, Kenyon-Wanamingo
120/ Noah Bauer, Pine Island
126/ Tanner Reetz, Frazee
220/ Manuel Garcia, BOLD

CLASS 2A
126/ Keaten Schorr, Kasson-Mantorville

CLASS 3A
120/ Rylee Molitor, Sartell-St. Stephen
120/ Peyton Robb, Owatonna
132/ Adam Hedin, Rosemount
182/ Lucas Jeske, St. Michael-Albertville
220/ Gable Stevenson, Apple Valley

TEAM TOURNAMENT

3A/ Apple Valley is the team to beat, and that has been a theme at state for a decade now. The Eagles are the 10-time defending champions. They shared the title with St. Michael-Albertville in 2013 and the Knights are second-seeded behind Apple Valley this week. The last time Apple Valley didn’t come out on top was 2005, when Owatonna was the 3A champion. Apple Valley is at state for the 34th consecutive year and 35th time overall. The Eagles have had a state-best 89 individual champions, followed by Anoka (51) and Blue Earth and Robbinsdale (50 each).

2A/ Simley, which has won seven of the last eight championships, is seeded second behind Kasson-Mantorville. The KoMets broke up Simley’s reign by winning the title in 2013.

1A/ Kenyon-Wanamingo is the top seed and defending state champion Minnesota is seeded second. Kenyon-Wanamingo has never won a team state title.

Minnetonka (Class 3A) is the only team making its first appearance at state.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 506
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,409
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
In Age Of Specialization, She Specializes In Three Sports2/20/2016
Andrianna (Andy) Jacobs can fly. Her email address proves as much: it includes the words “girl” and “fly.” Yes, this girl can fly. And she does it in three different sports at Rochester Century.

In November she completed her diving career with a second-place finish at the Class 2A state meet. On Saturday she finished sixth in the all-around competition at the 2A gymnastics championships, placing fourth on the uneven parallel bars and fifth in floor exercise. Before long she will begin the track season as the top female high school pole vaulter in the nation.

The gymnastics meet was Jacobs’ 13th state tournament in a high school career that disrupts the notion of young athletes being best served by participating in only one sport. That’s something she has never considered.

“Honestly, no,” said Andy (pictured). “I started with gymnastics when I was really little. I did other sports for fun and in seventh grade I added diving and track and field. I just loved them all.”

This was her fourth time competing in the state gymnastics meet at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion. As an all-around competitor she performed on all four events: floor exercise, vault, balance beam and uneven parallel bars. She was the Section 1 all-around champion, finishing first on floor and bars at the section meet. She said those two events are her favorites.

“I like floor a lot because there’s more showmanship than other events,” she said, adding that the uneven parallel bars have similarities with pole vaulting.

“I always thought the pole vault was a mixture of vault and bars put together; with the vault you have to structure your run like in pole vault. And on bars, what you do in the air is like what you do in the pole vault.”

Pole vaulting will be her future. After making official recruiting visits to Nebraska, Ole Miss, Indiana, South Carolina and Georgia, she signed with the Cornhuskers.

She is a three-time 2A state champion in the pole vault and holds the state record of 13 feet, 7¼ inches. She wasn’t an immediate success in the pole vault – she was a varsity hurdler in seventh grade -- but her current status is a testament to hard work and not giving up.

“I tried (pole vaulting) in seventh grade,” Andy said. “I did one or two meets and I was really bad. In eighth grade I focused more on it and I kind of realized I could be good at the pole vault.

“Some of my friends who were gymnasts thought I should try it. You’ve got to be a little bit crazy. It’s kind of weird.”

Her days as a competitive diver are over, and now her gymnastics career has ended. As her high school days wind down, she has some people she would like to thank.

“I’d really like to thank my coaches,” she said. “I probably shouldn’t try to name them because there are a lot of them. I’ve been blessed with some amazing coaches and I wouldn’t be here without them and all the opportunities they have given me. I don’t want to take that for granted.”

You can say that again. Or even three times.

THE TOUGHEST KID IN TOWN

Big Lake senior Mallary Dick (pictured) didn’t let a little thing like a severely injured foot keep her from winning the 1A state championship on the uneven parallel bars. She was all smiles afterwards, despite wearing a protective “boot” on her left foot.

Mallary suffered the injury in last week’s Section 7 meet.

“I was vaulting and I landed and it gave out on me,” she explained. “It’s severely sprained with a chip in one of the bones.”

The injury wasn’t much of a factor while she was on the bars. But landing had to hurt, right?

“A little bit,” Mallary said. “My coach did a very good job of taping it.”

STATE GYMNASTICS RESULTS

CLASS 1A
All-Around Medalists
1. Maddie Mullenbach, Austin
2. Cora Okeson, Detroit Lakes
3. Mady Brinkman, Melrose
4. Kayla Austing, Melrose
5. Beth Kurkowski, Mahtomedi
6. Haley Mottinger, Willmar

Event Champions
Vault: Greta Klaphake, Melrose
Bars: Mallary Dick, Big Lake
Beam: Maddie Mullenbach, Austin
Floor: Emma Disse, Detroit Lakes

CLASS 2A
All-Around Medalists
1. Megan Trollen, East Ridge
2. Wren Anderson, East Ridge
3. Chaney Neu, Champlin Park
4. Maria McDonough, Faribault
5. Ashley Goodlund, Lakeville North
6. Andy Jacobs, Rochester Century.

Event Champions
Vault: Sophie Redding, Henry Sibley
Bars: Natalia Jacobson, Rochester Century
Beam: Megan Trollen, East Ridge
Floor: Wren Anderson, East Ridge

GIRLS STATE HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES

CLASS 1A/ BLAKE 8, ST. PAUL UNITED 0

Lucy Burton and Carly Bullock had hat tricks for Blake and Bullock set a career tournament scoring record with 22 goals. The previous record of 21 was set by Park Center’s Krissy Wendell in 2000. It was Blake’s third title in four years and sixth overall.

CLASS 2A/ EDEN PRAIRIE 3, MAPLE GROVE 2 (OT)

The Eagles held a 2-0 lead after two periods before Maple Grove roared back to tie the score and send the game into overtime, but Eden Prairie used a five-on-three power play to score the game-winning goal. Lauren Oberle scored the winner for the Eagles, who outshot the Crimson 44-31.

Third-place games…
1A/ Warroad 3, Proctor/Hermantown 1
2A/ Hill-Murray 5, Edina 3

Fifth-place games…
1A/ New Prague 7, Alexandria 0
2A/ Eastview 2, Lakeville South 1

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 506
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,409
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
A Magic Moment For St. Cloud Tech Gymnastics Family 2/19/2016
Something very quiet, very special, very emotional took place Friday evening during the awards ceremony that capped off the Class 2A gymnastics team competition at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion.

As the gymnasts from St. Cloud Tech were called to the podium to receive their gold medals and championship trophy from members of the MSHSL board of directors, a woman in a wheelchair – behind the gaggle of gymnasts standing, cheering and applauding in front of the podium, and out of sight of many of those in attendance – ducked her head ever so slightly as Dave Swanberg, athletic director at LeSueur-Henderson High School and a member of the MSHSL board, smiled and placed a medal around her neck.

It didn’t take long for the Tech gymnasts to rush to the side of the woman in the wheelchair, because she is their coach, their mentor, their inspiration.

Colleen Stark-Haws has been dealing with multiple sclerosis since 2005, and she has little control of her body below the shoulders. She and husband Joel Stark-Haws have been coaching gymnastics at Tech since 1997, and Friday’s results were special on many levels.

It was the Tigers’ very first state team gymnastics championship. They have qualified for state for 11 years in a row, every year since 2006, and never won. Tech has never even had an individual all-around state champion. And to do it this year, when Roseville was attempting to win its fifth consecutive state title, and seeing that big blue ribbon and big gold medal hanging around Colleen’s neck … words really don’t do it justice.

“This has been so many years of work,” Colleen said. “We love this sport and we coach the beginner’s classes from kindergarten all the way through the high school. And to see the years and years of effort that the coaches and the gymnasts have done, and to keep believing that an outstate team could get it done. We’re just so proud, so proud.”

The Tech athletes were in tears as they huddled around Colleen. She spoke to them, but that was a private moment between her and eight high school kids, and they deserve to own that moment themselves forever. They posed for photos with Colleen and Joel, smiling the kind of meaningful smiles that arrive through hard work, commitment and a love for those you spend so much time with.

“It was a celebration tonight for all of us, and I wanted to make sure she was a part of this, and so did the kids,” Joel said. “It wasn’t even a thought; we all wanted to come over and share that moment and make sure that she was a part of that. Because she is the backbone of this program and it was just so exciting, it really was.”

Colleen and Joel were high school sweethearts at St. Cloud Cathedral and classmates at St. Cloud State. Their son Eli is also part of the coaching staff.

I asked Joel a question that I knew he couldn’t answer: Is it possible to measure the inspiration that Colleen provides for the team?

“You certainly cannot measure the inspiration that Colleen gives to our program, to me, to our family, to the people who are in our lives,” he said. “No, absolutely not. You can’t measure it. She just continues to inspire. It’s a group effort and we know it, and it’s always concentrate on what you can do; which easily falls into gymnastics. That’s what you’ve got to do. Don’t focus on the bad things that happen or the mistakes you made, concentrate on what’s coming up and what you can contribute. It’s unbelievable. Very special.”

When I asked Colleen what the moment meant to her, her answer said everything.

“It means that it’s all worth it. The everyday struggles just get washed away in a moment like this.”

Here are the Class 2A gymnastics team scores:
1. St. Cloud Tech 149.125
2. Roseville 147.925
3. East Ridge 147.375
4. Champlin Park 146.800
5. Cambridge-Isanti 146.200
6. Owatonna 146.125
7. Eden Prairie 144.225
8. Lakeville North 141.175

In Class 1A, Detroit Lakes put on a very strong performance and repeated as the state champion. The final standings looked like this:

1. Detroit Lakes 150.225
2. Melrose 147.025
3. Becker 144.325
4. Austin 144.275
5. Watertown-Mayer/Mound-Westonka 143.175
6. Mankato West 141.650
7. Mahtomedi 141.325
8. Worthington 134.450

HOCKEY TITLE GAMES ARE SET

At Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, state semifinals were held in the girls state hockey tournament. Top-seeded Blake and third-seeded St. Paul United advanced to Saturday’s Class 1A title game. Blake beat Proctor/Hermantown 5-1 and St. Paul United beat Warroad 4-3.

In Class 2A, Saturday’s championship game will be between third-seeded Eden Prairie and fourth-seeded Maple Grove. Eden Prairie defeated Edina 1-0 and Maple Grove beat unbeaten defending state champion Hill-Murray by the same 1-0 score.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 506
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,360
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn