John's Journal
Three-Time State Champion Is Focused On Four, Not Five2/28/2014
History is on the horizon for Cameron Sykora, an 11th-grade wrestler from Border West, but he isn’t looking off into the distance. As he said Friday after winning his first two matches at the state tournament, “One title at a time, one match at a time.”

Wrestling in the 120-pound division of Class 1A, Sykora won twice Friday to advance to Saturday morning’s semifinal round. He won by technical fall in both matches, defeating Aitkin sophomore Tyler Bare in the opening round and then Ryan Killeen, a sophomore from Spectrum of Elk River. In the semifinals, Sykora will meet Osakis sophomore Brendon Coyer.

Sykora already owns three state titles and could become only the fifth wrestler in state history to win five championships. The others are Matt Nagel of Frazee (1997-2001), Eric Sanders of Wabasha-Kellogg (1999-2003), Zach Sanders of Wabasha-Kellogg (2003-07) and Destin McCauley of Apple Valley (2006-08, 2010-11).

When I asked Cameron how often people mention five titles to him, he smiled and said, “A lot. I just don’t try to think about it too much. Anyone can get beat on any given day. Anything can happen, especially here.”

As an eighth-grader Sykora won a state title at 103 pounds, as a ninth-grader he won a title at 106 and last year he won at at 113. Border West is a cooperative team that includes wrestlers from Herman-Norcross, Wheaton and Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley. Sykora attends Wheaton, but Xcel Energy Center has become a home away from home.

“I love wrestling here,” he said. “It’s probably the best venue to wrestle in and I feel like I just wrestle better here, with all the lights and all the people. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

--Apple Valley sophomore Mark Hall remains on track to become the first wrestler to win six state titles. He took home gold medals as a seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grader and is competing in Class 3A at 170 pounds this weekend. He breezed through the first two rounds with falls Friday and will meet Hastings senior Dan Marquette in the semifinals.

--In Class 2A, Kasson-Mantorville senior heavyweight Sam Stoll won both of his matches Friday with falls, meaning he has pinned 60 consecutive opponents. The National Federation of State High School Associations record book lists the record for consecutive falls as 54.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--The state wrestling tournament is always a place where friendships are renewed. One example: I ran into Bob Dettmer on Friday in the Xcel Center lobby. He is a former teacher and head wrestling coach at Forest Lake who has been a member of the Minnesota House of Representative since 2006. Since retiring as Forest Lake’s head coach, Bob has worked as a wrestling official. And this season, while continuing to referee matches, he returned to the Forest Lake team as an assistant coach.

--On Twitter, I sometimes offer free tickets to tournaments, often by holding contests that result in people winning freebies. One of Friday’s winners was Farmington High School senior Godfrey Mpetey, pictured here. (And I often make the winners pose for a photo, which I then Tweet.)

--Nice job by a quartet of students from Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg, who sang the national anthem before Friday’s second session of state wrestling.

--Things I saw at the wrestling tournament Friday: A wrestler wearing a John Deere t-shirt over his singlet … A cheerleader wearing a camo jacket … Baby pins (signifying wrestling pins) attached to letter jackets and backpacks.

--Preliminaries in the boys state swimming and diving championships were held Friday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, with Class 1A in the afternoon and 2A in the evening. State titles will be decided Saturday.

--The boys state hockey tournament fields are almost set. The final three section title games were held Friday evening …

4A/ Totino-Grace 5, Mahtomedi 4 (OT)
5AA/ Centennial 2, Blaine 1
4AA/ Stillwater 2, Hill-Murray 1

Here are the teams that will compete next week in the boys state hockey tournament …

CLASS 1A
1A/ New Prague
2A/ Orono
3A/ Luverne
4A/ Totino-Grace
5A/ Chisago Lakes
6A/ St. Cloud Cathedral
7A/ Hermantown
8A/ East Grand Forks

CLASS 2A
1AA/ Lakeville North
2AA/ Edina
3AA/ Eagan
4AA/ Stillwater
5AA/ Centennial
6AA/ Eden Prairie
7AA/ Duluth East
8AA/ Roseau

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 347
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,492
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
State Wrestling Tournament: There’s Nothing Quite Like it2/27/2014
I like to describe the state wrestling tournament as equal parts state fair, family reunion and Super Bowl. The event always draws a gigantic and enthusiastic crowd, and that’s certainly the case this week at Xcel Energy Center. From the first whistle of Thursday’s opening matches, the big barn in downtown St. Paul was raucous and rocking.

With eight mats filling the floor of the arena, there is no shortage of excitement. Thursday was devoted to team competition, with Apple Valley in Class 3A winning its ninth consecutive state championship, Simley winning in 2A and Chatfield claiming the 1A state championship.

The action will turn to the individuals beginning Friday morning, culminating with state championship matches on Saturday night.

Some sights and sounds from day one of the state tournament …

--Running into Grand Meadow police chief Jim Richardson, who is known in the wrestling world as The Unit. Jim is a large, chiseled man who is an assistant coach for the Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Kingsland team. His son Wyatt, a junior 195-pounder, has qualified for state. Or as Jim referred to Wyatt, “Little Unit.”

--Fans from Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City sing-songily chanting “A! C! G! C!”

--A giant cluster of blue clothing in the middle of the lower level on one side of the arena … turns out it was fans from both Foley and Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus.

--In the most exciting finish of the day, Scott West led Foley 24-23 in the Class 2A team semifinals with only the heavyweights remaining. After the match was scoreless into the third period, Scott West’s Josiah Schatz won by fall to boost the Panthers into the state championship match. Bedlam ensued.

--A homemade sign in the Kasson-Mantorville stands, carrying one word: “SAM.” Except the “S” was in the form of a Superman “S” … signifying Super Sam Stoll, the KoMets senior heavyweight who is undefeated and has pinned 58 opponents in a row dating back more than a year.

--The voices of public-address announcers Frank Whitcomb, Steve Heslop and Paul Leifeld seamlessly keeping everyone informed of match scores, team scores and what will happen next.

--Hearing an already screaming crowd crank it up a few notches when the referee slaps the mat.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

--The boys state swimming and diving championship began Thursday with diving preliminaries in both Class 1A and 2A at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. Swimming prelims will be held Friday and championships will be decided Saturday.

--The fields for next week’s boys state hockey tournament are starting to take shape. In section finals Wednesday, Hermantown in Class 1A and Edina, Eden Prairie and Roseau clinched spots at state in 2A.

Nine more section finals were held Thursday night …

1A/ New Prague 3, Mankato West 2
2A/ Orono 2, Breck 1
3A/ Luverne 6, New Ulm 1
5A/ Chisago Lakes 5, Princeton 4
6A/ St. Cloud Cathedral 2, Alexandria 1
8A/ East Grand Forks 3, Warroad 2 (2 OT)
1AA/ Lakeville North 6, Farmington 0
3AA/ Eagan 4, St. Thomas Academy 2
7AA/ Duluth East 3, Elk River 2 (OT)

The state hockey fields will be set after Friday’s section finals …

4A/ Mahtomedi vs. Totino-Grace
4AA/ Stillwater vs. Hill-Murray
5AA/ Centennial vs. Blaine

And on the basketball court at Greenway High School in Coleraine, Chisholm and Cherry met in the boys Class 2A Section 7 playoffs. Chisholm coach Bob McDonald is in his 59th and final season, and his Bluestreaks pulled out a nail-biter against Cherry, winning 55-54 on a buzzer-beater.

What a day!

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 347
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,452
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
High Honor For Chisholm’s Bob McDonald: National Hall Of Fame2/25/2014
Bob McDonald has accomplished more and received more accolades than possibly any coach in Minnesota history. And the Chisholm High School boys basketball coach – who will retire after this season with a state-record 1,000-plus victories in 59 seasons – learned this week that he will receive the highest high school athletic honor in the country.

McDonald will be inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame.

McDonald received a phone call from the National Federation of State High School Associations office in Indianapolis, informing him of the honor. The induction ceremony will be held July 2 in Boston as part of the NFHS annual convention at the Boston Marriott Copley Place, where high school governing bodies from all 50 states will gather. The MSHSL nominated McDonald for the Hall of Fame; he was unaware of the nomination until this week.

“It is a great honor,” McDonald said. “I will be there. I’m not much for travel and not much for fame, either. I’ll have to rev up my wife and see if she’ll go with me.”

McDonald, a native of Chisholm, began his coaching career at McGregor in 1955. He moved to Barnum in 1959 and returned to Chisholm to become head coach in 1961. His career record is 1,011-427, making him one of only 13 high school boys basketball coaches in the country with more than 1,000 victories.

In 53 years as coach of the Bluestreaks, his teams have had only six losing seasons. He has taken 11 teams to the state tournament and won state championships in 1973, 1975 and 1991. All six of his children became basketball coaches. Currently, Mike is the boys coach at Cambridge-Isanti, Tom is the boys coach at Ely, Joel is the boys coach at Hibbing and Paul is the men’s coach at Vermilion Community College in Ely as well as an MSHSL basketball official.

New members of the Hall of Fame are inducted in a formal ceremony that caps the annual NFHS convention. Other members of the Class of 2014 are expected to be announced by the NFHS next week. A dozen members are inducted each year.

Male inductees wear tuxedos for the Hall of Fame ceremony, to which McDonald said with a laugh, “I don’t know if I can take that, coming from the sticks.”

He will become the 12th Minnesotan inducted into the Hall of Fame. The others are:

Billy Bye, Thief River Falls/Anoka, multiple sports (2009)
Barb Seng, Henry Sibley/White Bear Lake/MSHSL, fine arts (2008)
Terry Steinbach, New Ulm, baseball/hockey (2007)
Dorothy McIntyre, Eden Prairie/MSHSL, pioneer/administrator (2003)
Kevin McHale, Hibbing, basketball (2000)
Paul Giel, Winona, multiple sports (1998)
Willard Ikola, Edina, hockey (1992)
Jerry Seeman, official (1992)
Bronko Nagurski, International Falls, football (1989)
Janet Karvonen, New York Mills, basketball (1987)
John Mayasich, Eveleth, hockey (1986)

Other members of the Hall of Fame include Jesse Owens, Larry Bird, John Wooden, Red Grange, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Paul Hornung, Bart Starr, Jackie Robinson, Steve Prefontaine, Joe Theismann, Fred Hoiberg and many others.

McDonald was inducted into the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1990 and the MSHSL Hall of Fame in 2013.

The Chisholm basketball team finished the regular season with a record of 17-8 and will open postseason play Thursday night against Cherry in Coleraine.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 323
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,412
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Memorable Moments On One Of The Busiest Days Of The Year2/22/2014
Saturday was one of those days that goes by quickly, almost in the blink of an eye. There was so much happening in MSHSL activities around the state that keeping up with everything was all but impossible.

Personal example: I attempted to multitask on Saturday evening, watching the Class 2A girls hockey championship game between Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Hill-Murray from the Xcel Energy Center press box while wearing headphones and listening to a boys basketball game between Ely and Chisholm via the online stream of WELY radio in Ely. Oh, and I was also following the state gymnastics meet -- as well as a raft of other events -- via Twitter.

Here’s some of what took place Saturday: The girls state hockey tournament culminated with championship games … state gymnastics titles were decided at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion … state entrants in wrestling and boys swimming and diving were decided at section championships … section tournaments in boys hockey were underway … and the boys basketball regular season came to a conclusion. Whew.

The boys basketball game in Chisholm was a very special event. Chisholm’s Bob McDonald, 80, coached his final home game and final regular-season game. McDonald will retire after this season, his 59th as a head coach.

Saturday’s game was a family affair, because Ely is coached by McDonald’s son Tom. And there was a lot on the line in the form of postseason section seeding. Ely came out on top 70-55, which means the Timberwolves (25-1) will be the top seed in the Class 1A Section 7 north subsection; Chisholm (17-8) will be the No. 2 seed, meaning the McDonalds could meet once more.

Bob McDonald’s career record is 1,011-434. He is the only coach in Minnesota history to win 1,000 games.

Here’s a look at some of Saturday’s other championship highlights …

1A GIRLS HOCKEY: BLAKE MAKES HISTORY

Blake not only won its second consecutive 1A state title with a 3-2 victory over East Grand Forks, but the Bears also became the first team in the 20-year history of the girls state hockey tournament to capture five first-place trophies.

The Bears (23-7-1), who also won in 2003, 2007, 2009 and last year, had been tied with South St. Paul, which won it all in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006.

“It’s very, very special,” Blake coach Shawn Reid said. “It’s an incredible feeling. This team is different than last year’s team, and they’re both really special experiences for me.”

East Grand Forks (25-3-1) scored the game’s first two goals, with sisters Haley and Alexa Mack combining on both. Haley got the first one with an assist from Alexa, and they reversed that formula on the Green Wave’s second goal, with the second assist going to Riley Koberinski.

Carly Bullock, Sylvie Wallin and Alex Lovaas took over offensively for Blake in the final two periods. Bullock scored on a Lovaas assist midway through the second period and Wallin made it a 2-2 game early in the third with assists from Lovaas and Bullock. The game-winner was scored by Wallin with assists by Lovaas and Bullock at the 6:04 mark of the third.

“There’s a lot of skill on the team, a lot of team speed, lot of heart, and also a tradition of excellence,” Reid said. “At Blake we have high expectations in the classroom and high expectations in athletics.”

East Grand Forks was the top-seeded team in the tournament; this was the Green Wave’s first trip to state. The East Grand Forks boys hockey team has been to state eight times, most recently last year. The Green Wave boys have played in one state championship game, losing to Benilde-St. Margaret’s 4-2 in Class 1A in 1999.

2A GIRLS HOCKEY: HILL-MURRAY IS CHAMP

Hill-Murray captured its first girls hockey state title with a 5-3 victory over Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Jess Bonfe scored the first two goals for the Pioneers (26-3-1) and Jac Kaasa and Lindsey Featherstone completed the scoring. Kelly Pannek had a hat trick for Benilde-St. Margaret’s (26-3-1)

GIRLS HOCKEY CONSOLATION GAMES

1A third place/ Red Wing 5, St. Paul United 2: Nicole Schammel scored twice for the Wingers, who finished third at state for the second year in a row. Schammel finished her state tournament career with 20 goals, one behind the all-time record of 21 held by Krissy Wendell of Park Center in 2000. Alev Baysoy scored twice for St. Paul United.

1A fifth place/ Proctor-Hermantown 4, Alexandria 1: Sophie McGovern scored two goals for the Mirage, including one of her team’s three goals in the third period. Reilly Fawcett had a goal and assist for Proctor-Hermantown.

2A third place/ Lakeville North 5, Eden Prairie 1: Maddie McGlade scored two goals as the Panthers defeated the Eagles. Dani Sadek had a goal and two assists for North.

2A fifth place/ Andover 1, Mounds View 0: A power-play goal by Mikayla Goodin with 1:42 to play lifted the Huskies past the Mustangs.

HOCKEY ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

Class 1A/ Sophie McGovern, Proctor-Hermantown; Emily Stegora, Nicole Schammel, Red Wing; Catherine Johnson, St. Paul United; Carly Bullock, Lilia Everson, Sylvie Wallin, Blake; Alexa Mack, Haley Mack, Karly Nelson, Madi Galstad, Mak Langei, East Grand Forks.

Class 2A/ Maddie Rooney, Mikayla Goodin, Andover; Dani Sadek, Maddie McGlade, Taylor Flaherty, Lakeville North; Bella Sutton, Mounds View; Caitlin Reilly, Kelly Pannek, Benilde-St. Margaret’s; Brittney Anderson, Jess Bonfe, Leah Patrick, Rebecca Zarembinski, Hill-Murray.

STATE GYMNASTICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

--Austin senior Sela Fadness won her second consecutive Class 1A all-around in competition at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion. Melrose senior Jailyn Brinkman was second and Melrose junior Lydia Butkowski was third. Fadness won the vault, beam and floor exercise, while Brinkman won the uneven bars.

--In Class 2A, Northfield junior Bailey DuPay repeated as the all-around champion. Finishing second was Winona Cotter seventh-grader Halle Remlinger, third was Roseville junior Isis Muller. DuPay won the uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. Brainerd senior Beth Etterman was the vault champion.

--Photos by www.mnprepphoto.com ... more photos on the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 323
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,412
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

East Grand Forks: First Time At State And Loving Every Minute2/21/2014
Some of the greatest scenes during this week’s girls state hockey tournament have unfolded behind the scenes, where the only onlookers are members of the media. After each game, the head coaches and selected players are brought into the interview room, where they sit at a table in front of the reporters and answer questions.

When the East Grand Forks contingent enters the room, it’s a large contingent. That’s because not only does coach Jim Scanlan and a couple of players sit at the table, most of the rest of the players sit among the media.

The Green Wave – making its first trip to state – is having a grand old time in the Class 1A field. Carrying the No. 1 seed, the Wave beat Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato 8-1 in the quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center and in Friday’s semifinals they rallied to defeat St. Paul United 3-2.

As Scanlan and sisters Haley and Alexa Mack talked about the game, the other players smiled, giggled and even broke into applause at one point. Part of the equation is that it is East Grand Forks’ first time at the tournament, and that always bring wide eyes. And yes, winning certainly makes things more fun. And the Green Wave is having tons of fun.

The win over St. Paul United might have looked unlikely after United took a 2-1 lead going into the third period on two goals by Alev Baysoy. Alexa Mack had scored for the Wave in the first period, Mak Langei tied it 2-2 on a power-play goal in the third period and Alexa Mack scored on another power play to provide the winning margin.

East Grand Forks tested United goaltender Catherine Johnson, putting 34 shots on net to 16 for United. That was part of the strategy for the Wave: attack, pound the puck and make good things happen.

“We knew somebody on our team would step up and make a play,” said Haley Mack. “We were just hoping to get pucks to the net and someone would pop one in.”

Scanlan described an emotional postgame locker room.

“I told the girls they never cease to amaze me,” he said. “It was pretty emotional. This team has believed all year long, they never quit, and I told them I was proud of them. They’re three periods away from a state title.”

East Grand Forks will meet defending champion Blake in Saturday’s noon championship game. The Bears also had to withstand a challenge in the semifinals before defeating Red Wing 5-4 in double overtime.

ENVISIONING SUCCESS

Blake had held a 4-2 lead over Red Wing before the Wingers came roaring back to make it a 4-4 game. One overtime had ended and the Bears were catching their breath before returning to the ice. Carly Bullock, a sophomore sensation who leads Blake in scoring, had scored her team’s fourth goal. She described the scene in the locker room at Xcel Energy Center:

“We wanted it real bad and we all were getting pretty tired. We talked about how good it would feel to score and go to the championship. Our energy was high even though everyone was really tired. It was great.”

It became even greater for the defending champions when Bullock scored 38 seconds into the second overtime. Bedlam on the ice. A pile of Blake players.

"This was definitely one of the most memorable games,” said Bullock, who has scored 49 goals this season. “Obviously winning state last year was one of the best, but this was such a close game; double overtime and we wanted it so bad. It’s obviously one of the biggest games, probably of my high school career."

The Bears will attempt to win back-to-back state titles for the first time in program history; they also won championships in 2002, 2007 and 2009 as well as last year. This is Blake’s seventh state tournament appearance and their four championships, tied with South St. Paul for the most in Class 1A. Blake has never lost in a state title game.

Red Wing, meanwhile, remains a team that has yet to play for a state championship. The Wingers have become one of the top programs in Class 1A, but their record against Blake is 0-5.

“We want our program to be in that conversation, among the top teams in Class A year in and year out,” said coach Scott Haley. “I think we’re there, but we just can’t get over that final hurdle.”

Nicole Schammel had two goals and one assist Thursday, including the goal that tied the game 4-4 in the third period. She has scored 18 goals in four state tournaments; the record is 21 by Krissy Wendell of Park Center. Red Wing will finish its season in Saturday’s third-place game against St. Paul United.

--When the Wingers’ Emily Stegora scored to make it Blake 4, Red Wing 3 late in the second period, the Red Wing fans broke out in song, singing Happy Birthday to Emily.

CLASS 2A: HILL-MURRAY, BENILDE-ST. MARGARET’S ADVANCE

--Hill-Murray 1, Eden Prairie 0: A goal by Kenzie Prater midway through the first period was all the Pioneers needed to advance. Hill-Murray outshot the Eagles 29-8. A year ago, the Pioneers lost to Minnetonka 3-1 in the championship game.

--Benilde-St. Margaret’s 2, Lakeville North 1: Kelly Pannek had a goal and an assists to help the Red Knights defeat the Panthers. Kasandra Petersen put Benilde ahead 1-0 in the first period and North’s Dani Sadek tied the score later in the first. Pannek’s winning goal came at 3:37 of the second period.

CLASS 2A CONSOLATION BRACKET

--Andover 2, Burnsville 1 (two overtimes): Mikayla Goodwin scored the winning goal for the Huskies one minute into the second overtime at Ridder Arena.

--Mounds View 4, Roseau 3 (two overtimes): A power-play goal by Bailey Thompson at 11:18 of the second overtime moved the Mustangs into Saturday’s fifth-place game against Andover at Ridder Arena.

STATE GYMNASTICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

Melrose captured the Class 1A gymnastics team title Friday at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion. Melrose had a score of 149. 575, followed by New Prague (149.050) and Detroit Lakes (148.450).

In the 2A team championships, Roseville captured the title with a score of 151.800. Next were Northfield (150.800) and Wayzata (148.650).

All-around and individual event champions in both classes will be decided Saturday.

FRIDAY’S HOCKEY GAMES AT XCEL ENERGY CENTER

Class 1A Semifinals
Blake 5, Red Wing 4 (two overtimes)
East Grand Forks 3, St. Paul United 2

Class 2A Semifinals
Hill-Murray 1, Eden Prairie 0
Benilde-St. Margaret’s 2, Lakeville North 1

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Class 1A
Fifth-place/ Alexandria vs. Proctor-Hermantown, 10 a.m. at Ridder Arena
Third-place/ Red Wing vs. St. Paul United, 9 a.m. at Xcel Energy Center
Championship/ Blake vs. East Grand Forks, noon at Xcel Energy Center

Class 2A
Fifth-place/ Andover vs. Mounds View, noon at Ridder Arena
Third-place/ Eden Prairie vs. Lakeville North, 4 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center
Championship/ Hill-Murray vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s, 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 323
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,372
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn