John's Journal
Lakeville South: Guys Who Stay Together Win Together3/8/2012
Back At The X For Another Great State Tournament3/7/2012
Good morning once again from Xcel Energy Center! For the third week in a row this building is the center of prep sports in Minnesota. After completing the girls state hockey tournament and the state wrestling tournament, we turn our focus this week to the boys state hockey tournament.

We will see four games played at the X each day through Saturday, when Class 1A and 2A state champions will be crowned. With consolation-round games being played at the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena, the Twin Cities is home to plenty of high-level hockey this week.

The festivities will begin with today’s 1A quarterfinals. Defending state champ St. Thomas Academy and Little Falls will meet in the first game; Channel 45’s TV coverage will begin at 11 a.m. and the puck will drop at 11:19.

All quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games in this tournament are being televised by Channel 45 and webcast by www.prep45.com.

Here is what we’re looking at in today’s Class 1A quarterfinals…

#2 seed St. Thomas Academy (23-4) vs. Little Falls (19-9), 11 a.m.
#3 seed Breck (24-3-1) vs. Duluth Marshall (21-7), 1 p.m.
#1 seed Hermantown (28-0) vs. Rochester Lourdes (20-8), 6 p.m.
#4 seed Thief River Falls (22-4-2) vs. New Ulm (17-11), 8 p.m.

The Class 2A hockey tournament will begin Thursday…

#2 seed Maple Grove (24-2-2) vs. Hill-Murray (22-6), 11 a.m.
#3 seed Eagan (24-3-1) vs. Moorhead (21-6), 1 p.m.
#1 seed Duluth East (27-1) vs. Lakeville South (20-8), 6 p.m.
#4 seed Edina (23-5) vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (22-6), 8 p.m.

Remember, instant updates and assorted deep thoughts can be seen by following @MSHSLjohn on Twitter, and the MSHSL Facebook page will also be plugged into the tournament.

--Diet Coke Count: 0 for the day, 0 for the tournament, 30 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 389
*Miles John has driven: 6,607

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at MSHSLjohn
The Most Remarkable Player In The State Hockey Tournament3/7/2012
Ben Newman has overcome some physical issues during this high school hockey season. Early in the year, for example, the junior center from Little Falls had to deal with a shoulder injury that got in the way of his tough, physical style of play.

And during Wednesday’s Class 1A state quarterfinal game against St. Thomas Academy at the Xcel Energy Center, Newman was forced to leave the ice for a time after a high stick sliced into the skin above his left eye.

That episode could have been much worse, considering that Newman’s left eye is his only working eye. That’s right, Ben Newman plays hockey – and plays it very, very well – despite having vision in just one eye.

Is it a miracle? Not if Ben has anything to say about it. He lost the vision in his right eye when he was only eight months old, so as he put it after the Flyers lost to St. Thomas Academy, “I don’t know what it’s like to have two eyes.”

It is remarkable that he not only plays center on the hockey team’s first line but is a running back on the Little Falls football team. Wearing a facemask on the ice and a plastic visor on the football field protects his vision, but still … this is remarkable.

“I don’t notice it at all,” Ben told me. “It’s just like nothing’s wrong.”

He was just learning how to walk, pushing a wheeled planter across the floor. The toddler lost his balance and a brass rod on the planter struck his right eye. From that day forward, Ben has seen the world through his left eye.

“We’ve always been aware that he only has one eye,” Flyers coach Tony Couture said. “It’s a unique situation because you don’t realize what he goes through on a daily basis, and I don’t think he understands the whole process, either.

“The fact is that when he had his injury he was very young. He’s never had to play with two eyes so he doesn’t really know. You put your hand over one eye and your peripheral vision only goes so far.”

Couture said the coaching staff thought about putting Ben at wing, where his vision issue might not come into play as much as it could at center ice.

“But he’s been our center for a couple years now,” Couture said. “He never complains about anything. He’s kind of a hardnosed kid, a smart hockey player, kind of that grinder type.”

Newman became the 18th member of the Little Falls career 100-point club this season, and he has 21 goals and 24 assists in 2011-12. His linemates are Joey Hanowski (31 goals, 26 assists) and Luke Majerle (14 and 29). Majerle leadsthe Flyers in plus-minus this season at +44, and Newman is next at +43.

“For me, I just try to keep my head on a swivel more than other people,” Ben said.

A miracle? Maybe. Remarkable? Absolutely.

CLASS 1A RESULTS

--St. Thomas Academy 7, Little Falls 0: Senior Andrew Commers had two goals and three assists and freshman Tom Novak had two goals and two assists for the Cadets, who outshot the Flyers 42-15.

--Breck 7, Duluth Marshall 0: The Mustangs scored their first three goals on power plays and cruised past the Hilltoppers. Matt Colford had two goals and and assist.

--Hermantown 7, Rochester Lourdes 2: Jared Thomas scored twice and added two assists for the top-seeded Hawks, who moved to 29-0. The score was 2-2 late in the first period before Hermantown did the rest of the scoring.

--Thief River Falls 5, New Ulm 1: Riley Soderstrom and Tanner Nessen each scored twice as the Prowlers advanced to meet Hermantown in Friday’s semifinals.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

--Hermantown coach Bruce Plante referred to senior goaltender Matt Mensigner, who made 13 saves, as “a maniac genius.” He meant it as a compliment.

TWEET OF THE DAY

--“My friends and I are sitting in class, following your tweets. Excited to be at the X tomorrow!”

--My reply: “Keep those phones hidden.”

OVERHEARD NEAR THE MINI DONUT STAND

--“Oh God, they’re five dollars.”

MUSICAL INTERLUDES

Long before the first skate touched ice, the Little Falls pep band opened the musical portion of the tournament with the Yardbirds classic, "For Your Love." That one’s from 1965. To which I can relate.

--Pretty fair “Chicken Dance” rendition by the Duluth Marshall band. Couple of talented kids on snare in that bunch.

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

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 5 for the tournament, 35 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 397
*Miles John has driven: 6,649

--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
Fosston And The First State Basketball Tournament Championship3/5/2012
By Colby Garlick
MSHSL Intern

Herbert Whaley graduated from Fosston in 1911 and began working for the railroad right after graduation. In the fall of the 1911-12 school year, Fosston High School was searching for a volunteer coach for boys basketball. When no one within the district accepted the responsibility, school officials approached Herbert with the offer due to his experiences as an athlete. Whaley graciously accepted the position.

Whaley wasted no time getting the team in tip-top shape; the Fosston team was at a disadvantage with the players weighing an average of 130 pounds. Herbert stressed fundamentals, teamwork and good ball movement. Even though the players were small, Whaley taught them to be a physical ballclub. In fact, the Fosston basketball team became so physical that other teams nicknamed them the “Jack Pine Savages” instead of their school’s name, the Jack Rabbits.

It wasn’t just the players of the Fosston team that helped them become so strong on the court, they also had some help from the atmosphere and the layout of the Fosston gymnasium. There was dim lighting from lamps, and steam pipes bordered the playing floor. It wasn’t uncommon for a Fosston player to give an opponent a little shove into the steam pipes during game play.

Carlton College in Northfield had just opened a new gymnasium and in order to promote the new gym, the college decided to create and host the first official high school state basketball tournament. Fosston’s rugged play earned them one of the best records in the state and a trip to the first state high school basketball tournament.

Carlton College paid for six players, along with a coach, to travel with each team. However, since Whaley wasn’t employed by the school district he was no longer officially dubbed the head coach; the principal was the official coach of the team and Herbert was the assistant. Herbert went on to travel with the team and was present at the state tournament, much to many contrary beliefs and stories that Fosston won the championship without a coach.

The Fosston team arrived in Northfield by train and on Thursday, April 3, 1913, played its first state tournament game against Wilmer. Fosston had no problem handling Willmar, winning 27-17. On the second day of the tournament, Fosston had a similar result against Plainview, winning 38-27.

On the third and final day of the tournament Fosston defeated Luverne 38-28 to advance to the first state championship game, which was played later that Saturday night against Mountain Lake. In front of 2,000 enthusiastic fans, Fosston defeated Mountain Lake in a 29-27 thriller, becoming the first state high school championship team.

That magical trip was the first time any of the Fosston players had left their hometown. The Fosston basketball team was probably more thrilled to see the big city than they were to play in the state tournament. When the team got to Carlton College, they saw a real authentic swimming pool for the first time in their young lives and they had the pleasure of actually swimming in it. The team’s entire experience was more overwhelming and exciting than winning the tournament; that was just a bonus for them and the town of Fosston.

Whaley graduated one year prior to these events and he may have looked quite young, but in reality he was older than his high school graduation date may suggest. Fosston didn’t have class graduations every year; they did this in order to keep the enrollment of the school at optimal levels. Whaley actually graduated with his brother, who was three years younger.

Following Fosston’s amazing championship run, Herbert Whaley retired after just one magical season as Fosston’s head coach. He married, moved to Crosby, where his wife was from, and they started a family. While living in Crosby, he helped the founder of Crosby, George Crosby, establish a restaurant and Whaley also became the assessor for the city of Crosby.
State Wrestling Championships: Surprises Everywhere 3/3/2012
When the gold medals had been placed around necks and cameras snapped from the stands at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night, some memories were made that will last a long, long time.

There were tears, as is always the case when dreams of state titles are not realized. But in at least two cases Saturday, tears flowed from the eyes of champions who have little in common other than they are wrestlers.

One of them was very familiar. Ben Morgan (right) of Forest Lake, who won a 3A title as an eighth-grader before placing third three times, went out in style as a senior with his second title, winning at 132 pounds. As an eighth-grade state champ four years ago, Morgan put on an exuberant celebration. This time, however, his emotions took over and he did little more than weep. It was a celebration, nonetheless.

Albert Lea senior 285-pounder Bryce DeBoer also cried after winning a 3A title. His story, however, is much different because he is far from a veteran wrestler, much less a veteran of the state tournament. DeBoer (pictured below) is a first-year high school wrestler, and he showed what can be accomplished.

The day’s biggest surprise came in 3A at 126 pounds, where St. Cloud Apollo junior Mitch Bengston, a three-time champ, saw his state-record winning streak ended at 179 matches. Sam Brancale of Eden Prairie won his second title by getting a reversal in the final seconds and winning 2-1.

Simley had seven individuals in the 2A championship round and came away with five winners, while Apple Valley had five in the 3A finals and crowned four state champions. Apple Valley’s Brandon Kingsley (160) won his fourth title.

Gaining gold for the third time were Medford’s Curt Maas (1A 152), Joey Munos of South St. Paul (2A 132) and Jake Short of Simley (2A 145).

Among wrestlers winning their second state championships were two seniors from 1A Kenyon-Wanamingo, Mitchel Lexvold at 120 and Oakley McLain at 126.

Apple Valley eighth-grader Mark Hall won his second title at 3A 145, keeping him on track to possibly become the state’s first six-time state champion.

The boys state swimming champions also were decided Saturday, and John’s Journal correspondent Luke Sleeper has posted stories from Class 1A and 2A here on our website.

And in other news, the pairings for next week’s boys state hockey tournament were finalized Saturday.

Here’s how the Class 2A hockey tourney looks…

#2 seed Maple Grove (24-2-2) vs. Hill-Murray (22-6), Thursday, 11 a.m. #3 seed Eagan (24-3-1) vs. Moorhead (21-6), Thursday, 1 p.m. #1 seed Duluth East (27-1) vs. Lakeville South (20-8), Thursday, 6 p.m. #4 seed Edina (23-5) vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (22-6), Thursday, 8 p.m.

And here is the Class 1A field…

#2 seed St. Thomas Academy (23-4) vs. Little Falls (19-9), Wednesday, 11 a.m. #3 seed Breck (24-3-1) vs. Duluth Marshall (21-7), Wednesday, 1 p.m. #1 seed Hermantown (28-0) vs. Rochester Lourdes (20-8), Wednesday, 6 p.m. #4 seed Thief River Falls (22-4-2) vs. New Ulm (17-11), Wednesday, 8 p.m.

With that, we’re going to take part of a day off and began ramping up for another great state tournament week.

--See a photo gallery from the wrestling championship matches on the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 15 for the tournament, 30 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS *Schools/teams John has visited: 381 *Miles John has driven: 6,565

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