John's Journal
Revisiting A Special Basketball Team, Preparing For State Ski Meet2/15/2012
BIWABIK – Greetings from Giants Ridge, where the state Alpine and Nordic ski championships will be held Wednesday and Thursday. It’s about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday as I write this, having arrived here after spending eight hours in the car.

Yes, I quite possibly could be directionally challenged, because it doesn’t take eight hours to drive from the Twin Cities to Biwabik (that’s a drive of a little longer than three hours). But I took a detour through Perham for a Tuesday night boys basketball game.

I checked in with the defending Class 2A state champion Yellowjackets before their game with Frazee and shot photos during the game. I interviewed coach Dave Cresap and several players before tipoff and was in the locker room during the coach’s pregame instructions. A story is in the works.

I left the game at halftime, bound for Giants Ridge … which is more than 200 miles from Perham. I saw some deer and a raccoon or two along the way, and the roads were good. I checked in at the Giants Ridge lodge a little before 1 a.m. and the first run of Alpine skiing will begin at 10 a.m.

That leaves just enough time for a little bit of sleep zzzzzzzzzz

*Schools/teams John has visited: 261
*Miles John has driven: 6,271

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Wrestling, Coaching, Officiating, Legislating: Bob Dettmer Is Committed2/15/2012
Bob Dettmer’s life is filled with accomplishments and service. He is a retired teacher, retired wrestling coach, former active duty soldier and Army Reservist who served in Kuwait. Currently he serves as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

But Dettmer has a job on the side that is very close to his heart: he is a wrestling official. He puts a whistle around his neck a couple of days a week and goes to the mat.

“I enjoy the sport, and I think when a coach retires from coaching he should still be part of the program,” Dettmer said between matches during a triangular at Cretin-Derham Hall High School.

Dettmer, 60, is as fit and trim as he was when he won a national wrestling championship at Bemidji State University in 1971. He retired as a physical education teacher and head wrestling coach at Forest Lake High School in 2008 and since then has devoted his time to the Legislature. He is unaware of any other legislators who also work as high school sports officials. But plenty of people at the State Capitol know about his side job.

Before leaving the House floor around 4 p.m. and driving directly to Cretin-Derham Hall for the first match at 4:30, Dettmer – a Republican from District 52A -- had a quick chat with House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Majority Leader Matt Dean.

“I told the speaker and the majority leader, ‘Hey, I hope we get through these bills so I can get over here in time,’ ” Dettmer said. “Luckily we did.”

Dettmer’s career record during his 32 years as a wrestling coach is 399-144-2. He coached multiple individual state champions and his 1993 Forest Lake team won the Class 2A state title. He began to work as an official immediately after ending his coaching career, and every year since then he also has worked at one of the matside tables during the state wrestling tournament.

He recently learned that he had been selected to work as an official during this year’s state tourney at Xcel Eenergy Center. A notification letter had been sent from the MSHSL to his home, and Dettmer was sitting in the House chamber when he got the news via a text from his wife, Colleen.

“I kind of jumped out of my seat,” he said.

He will work matches during the first day of the tournament, which is the team competition. The action will begin at 9 a.m. and Dettmer’s shift should end around 3 p.m. The House will be in session beginning an hour later, “so I’ll be able to scoot right over to the Capitol,” he said.

That day, March 1, is Dettmer’s birthday as well as Colleen’s. She will be on hand to watch her husband.

“That’s the one thing about my birthday,” he said, “it’s always been during the wrestling state tournament or national tournament or whatever it was during college.”

Dettmer was an official in the 1970s and 1980s but had to give it up because of family, coaching and military commitments. He said every coach in every sport would be wise to do some officiating, and officials should do some coaching.

“I think you can be a better coach if you do some officiating, and I think you can be a better official if you have coached some,” he said. “The key thing is positioning. You can anticipate what’s going to happen because you’ve been there yourself.

“Your job is to keep everything safe and legal. Wrestling is a sport where if you pick somebody up, you’re responsible for bringing them down safely. There’s no punching or hitting or anything like that. It’s a tough sport.”

Dettmer is a longtime member of the Army Reserve who served on active duty in Kuwait. The Dettmer’s three children also have been involved in the military. Sons Travis and Robb, who both wrestled for their father at Forest Lake, are West Point graduates.

Travis recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan after two stints in Iraq; in fact, Bob and Travis had a reunion when both were serving in the Middle East. Travis is now stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where his wife is a JAG officer (a military attorney.

Robb, who is now in the National Guard, lives near West Point in New York, where he and his wife mentor Army cadets in a Christian-based military ministry. And the Dettmer’s daughter Krystle, who graduated from Bethel College, lives in Fort Bliss, Texas, where her husband serves in the military police.

“I wish they were closer,” Dettmer said. “We’ve got six grandkids and it would be nice to have them closer.”

Officiating in this year’s state wrestling tournament will be one of many memorable moments in Dettmer’s career, and he’s happy to share advice for people who are considering becoming officials.

“Be around a wrestling program. Even if you did wrestle but you don’t coach, find a high school in your area and see if you can go in and officiate their wrestle-offs,” he said. “Learn, get certified, do some junior high, some JV, join an association so they can set you up with matches. There are a lot of middle school and junior high matches you can do.”

As long as his health allows, Dettmer will continue to put that whistle around his neck and give back to the sport that has meant so much to him.

“As long as I can do, I will,” he said. “I enjoy it. It keeps you in contact with the coaches, and I coached against a lot of these coaches. If I was coming out of college right now, I’d go into teaching and coaching. I’d do it all over again.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 281
*Miles John has driven: 6,271

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
It’s A Game In February, And It’s A Night To Remember2/10/2012
One player had a big black bandage wound around his head, covering seven staples that resulted from a collision with a teammate’s teeth earlier in the week. The player on the other end of the collision had been to the dentist for repairs and was now playing with a mouthguard. One team – Eastview -- was unbeaten and the other –Lakeville North -- came in with one loss … to Eastview a month earlier. The gym was packed, the music was cranking and a cold Diet Coke was waiting for me at the scorer’s table (even though the concession stand sells Diet Pepsi).

In other words, Friday was a perfect night for basketball.

“You want to be in close games, you want to be in an atmosphere like this as much as you can,” Eastview coach Mark Gerber said.

This was a South Suburban Conference boys game with plenty of implications as the season sprints toward the playoffs. Would Eastview remain unbeaten and hang on to the No. 1 ranking in Class 4A? Would third-ranked North avenge a six-point loss to the Lightning on Jan. 10 in Lakeville? And no matter the outcome, would the two teams meet for a third time in the state tournament?

“They’re a big rival and our kids know they’re the best,” said North coach John Oxton. “When you’re number one, everybody wants to try to beat them.”

The final score was Lakeville North 57, Eastview 56. But how we got from that cold pregame Diet Coke to the final buzzer is quite a story. The soft drink came courtesy of Eastview athletic director Matt Percival, who knows how to butter up a visiting scribe. And the outcome of the game wasn’t decided until Eastview’s Joey King missed a three-point shot at the horn.

King was the guy with the bandaged head. He and fellow senior Jordan Bolger knocked noggins on Tuesday at Burnsville, with both needing treatment. King finished with a game-high 18 points, but the fact that he scored two points in the game’s final 14 minutes was important.

Eastview led by six early but North controlled most of the first half, leading by 11 points when Brett Rasmussen hit a three-point basket with 2:33 left in the half. The Panthers led 33-24 at the break, but King made noise pretty quickly in the second half.

The 6-foot-9 forward who has signed a Division I letter of intent with Drake drained an NBA three-pointer to cut North’s lead to four points with 15:50 to play, then grabbed an alley-oop pass from Darin Haugh and threw down a dunk with 14:12 left; North led by two. Haugh scored in the lane to tie it at 35 soon after, but King went to the bench with four fouls at the 11:38 mark.

Curtains for Eastview, right? Wrong. With their top scorer on the pine, the Lightning opened a six-point lead when sophomore Mark Dwyer hit a three. King returned at the 4:25 mark, made two free throws 16 seconds later and Eastview was in front 51-46 as the momentum continued swinging.

North, however, won the battle after that, outscoring Eastview 11-5. The Lightning led 56-51 with 1:38 left, but the Panthers made some devilishly outstanding plays: Ryan Saarela drove through the tall timber, spun and put up a shot that defied the laws of physics and banked in off the glass … Tyler Flack, on a similar play, drove the lane and put up a shortie that rolled around the rim, thought about it, then decided that, yes, it would drop through after all.

That put North ahead 57-56 with 2.3 seconds on the clock. The officials wanted to re-set the timer to 2.7 seconds, but the personnel at the table had some trouble doing so. The problem was solved – and the delay was ended – when Gerber leaned over the table, punched a few buttons, pulled a few switches and said the magic word. Two point seven seconds it was.

Eastview had that much time to throw a length-of-the-court pass, get off a shot, win the game, holler and celebrate. Ben Oberfeld stood with the ball in his hands, and this was an important point. Oberfeld also is 6-9, so everybody in the gym knew that Eastview Option Number One was a long pass from Oberfeld to King, who was perched 70 feet away, ready to leap, grab, turn and shoot.

He leaped, he grabbed, he turned and he shot. And he missed. Bang zoom, Lakeville North wins it.

“They had Oberfeld passing it in,” Oxton said. “So we put our two big guys on Joey and said, ‘That’s where it’s going.’ And he still caught it. That’s not real great but it worked.

“Every time we play them it’s the exact same game every time; physical, getting after it. And they’re good, they’re really good. But we’re pretty good, too. That was fun.”

Gerber did not use the word “fun” during our postgame visit. Understandably, he was not pleased.

“We have experienced guys,” he said. “That’s the troubling part; you have a six-point lead with two minutes to go and we didn’t make the right plays at the end. I never would have guessed our guys would make the plays that they made at the end. That’s not them. They know exactly how to win and they didn’t make the right plays. We took the wrong shots, we dribbled into traps; stuff that these guys aren’t accustomed to doing, so I was shocked.

“But one game isn’t going to define our season at all. Our goals are set much more higher. There’s a lot to learn, there’s a lot more positive to take out of it than negative. It’s a game in February.”

Yes, it was a game in February. “Only” a game in February, some might say.

But it sure was fun.

--To see a photo gallery from the game, as well as video of the final play, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 259
*Miles John has driven: 5,837

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
State Tourneys, Basketball Reunions And A Mystery Photo2/6/2012
With another Super Bowl in our rearview mirror, winter state tournaments can’t be far away. In fact this week marks the start of the fun, with the State One Act Play Festival at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.

Class 1A plays will be performed Thursday and 2A schools will do the same on Friday. Eight section-winning plays will be performed each day between 9:15 a.m. and 4 p.m. (This photo from the 2011 festival is Bagley High School's presentation of "4 A.M." by Jonathan Dorf.)

Next week we’ll have the state ski meet (Alpine on Feb. 15, Nordic on Feb. 16) at Giants Ridge in Biwabik and the dance team state tourney on Feb. 17-18 at Target Center. Then comes a weekly run of tournaments…

Feb. 22-25/ Girls hockey at Xcel Energy Center, gymnastics at University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion.

March 1-3/ Wrestling at Xcel Energy Center, boys swimming at University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

March 7-10/ Boys hockey at Xcel Energy Center.

March 14-17/ Girls basketball at Williams Arena and Target Center, adapted floor hockey at Bloomington Jefferson.

March 21-24/ Boys basketball at Williams Arena and Target Center.

And Speaking of State Basketball Tournaments…

--Past state tournament championship basketball teams are encouraged to plan reunions around this year’s tournaments. Target Center suites are available for rent; the rental fee includes 22 admission tickets. For more information and to reserve a suite, call 612-673-8344. Also a special block of rooms has been set up at the Marriott City Center hotel for teams having reunions as well as other state tournament fans. Call the Marriott at 612- 349-4000 and ask for the Basketball Centennial Room Block. These rooms will be available until Feb. 24 for the girls tournament and March 2 for the boys tournament.

--HELP! The League is busy collecting memorabilia related to our celebration of 100 years of state basketball tournaments. A contributor has dropped off several "old" photographs, but we're not sure what school they may represent. The uniform (photo) has a large "C" on the jersey, flanked on both sides by what looks like wings. Any ideas? Send information to MSHSL director if information Howard Voigt at

*Schools/teams John has visited: 257
*Miles John has driven: 5,827

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Correspondent Report: Ulen-Hitterdal vs. Ada-Borup Boys Basketball2/4/2012
Here's a story from Friday night, detailing a big game in northwestern Minnesota...

No. 6 Spartans claim season's second win over No. 10 Cougars