John's Journal
Windom Names New Football Coach5/11/2010
Windom High School has announced the hiring of a new head football coach, and sports editor Joel Alvstad of the Cottonwood County Citizen in Windom files this report …

The Windom school board has approved hiring Travis Bretzman as the new head
football coach. Bretzman replaces Erin Elder, who served 10 seasons as the Eagles' head coach, leading the Eagles to a state Class AA runner-up finish in 2001 and a
state semifinal appearance in 2002. Elder resigned his coaching position to
become an assistant track and field coach at the University of Sioux Falls
next fall, specializing in throws.

Bretzman serves as a personal trainer for Prairie Rehabilitative Services in
Worthington. He also owns and operates a hog farm south of Okabena. He has
been an assistant football coach at Jackson County Central, coaching B-squad and coordinating the strength and conditioning program.

Bretzman is a Windom native who was a standout defensive player on the last
Eagle team to finish the regular season undefeated in 1989. That team was
also the last Windom team to win an outright Southwest Conference football
championship -- Windom shared the conference title in 1999.
Gratitude From The Family of Mike Gregory5/10/2010
We were all saddened when St. Cloud Apollo baseball coach Mike Gregory passed away last month after being severely injured in a fall.

Mike's family has sent an email to express their gratitude for the outpouring of support they have experienced. I received the email, and am happy to share it:

Thank You From the Family of Mike Gregory

Thank you to everyone for their prayers and support following Mike’s injury and death. The genuine expressions of caring were deeply moving. The sheer volume of cards, emails, flowers, food, gifts, and memorials overwhelmed our hearts. We came to clearly understand that Mike touched the lives of many and know that he gained as much from these experiences as he gave.

The support of the area’s high school baseball teams -- those within St. Cloud’s borders and beyond – as they expressed their grief was truly heartening. While we are pained to be without Mike, it is quite humbling to see the impact he made on the local baseball community. These young men demonstrated great poise and maturity. We are grateful that Mike made sportsmanship such a priority during his life.

Our gratitude also goes out to Dr. Scott Davis and the Intensive Care Unit nursing staff at St. Cloud Hospital. Their efforts made an extraordinarily difficult situation slightly more tolerable, and their honest yet gracious approach to the situation was helpful beyond words.

Although we wish Mike were still with us, we know that he lived a full and meaningful life, and that is the most anyone can hope for in the end.

With our deepest gratitude –
The Gregorys

Stan Nelson: Football Coach and American Hero5/10/2010
High school football fans know Stan Nelson as the longtime former coach at Anoka High School. Stan coached high school football for 33 years, including a reign at Anoka that lasted from 1953 to 1978.

Among his players were his sons Steve, who played 13 years with the New England Patriots, and Dave, who won a state title as the coach at Blaine in 1988 and did the same at Minnetonka in 2004, where he continues to coach.

In addition to being a football coach and raising a family, Stan Nelson is also part of the Greatest Generation. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and was part of the Allied D-Day forces that went ashore on Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Later this month, Nelson’s service in the armed forces will be recognized when he and other World War II veterans are flown free of charge to the nation’s capital to view the World War II memorial on the National Mall.

Dave Nelson and his brother-in-law Richard Ward worked behind the scenes on filling out an application for Stan Nelson to go on the trip. Once the application was processed, a letter was sent to Nelson’s Andover home, informing him of the May 22 flight to Washington. The trip, like many others, is being arranged by the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit group that honors veterans by transporting them to view memorials that are dedicated to their service.

Stan Nelson was a communications officers on a LCI 492 landing craft, which transported more than 200 soldiers at a time.

“He doesn’t talk a lot about it, although more recently he has opened up a little about it,” Dave Nelson said of his father.” He was on one of the first ships to hit Normandy.”

Dave will accompany Stan to Washington. A group of about 100 veterans will fly from Minneapolis early on the morning of May 22 and spend the day in D.C. They will tour many of the monuments and be served lunch and dinner before returning to Minnesota in the evening.

Like all those who serve our country, Stan Nelson is a hero. We wish him well on his trip to Washington.

--John Millea is on Twitter at

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Ted Schultz Named AD at Minnetonka5/7/2010
Ted Schultz, current activities director at Bloomington Jefferson High School, has been named to the same position at Minnetonka High School. He will assume his new duties on July 1.

“I’m honored and humbled to be the named the activities director for Minnetonka,” Schultz said. “Minnetonka High School offers the four A’s: Academics, Athletics, Arts and Activities; I think that combination in the high school allows any student to be successful... To be a part of that and help shape student success has always been a goal of mine. When students are involved, they are more tuned into school and the educational experience is much better," he said.

“We are quite impressed with his focus on student development and the importance he places on all activities, not just athletics, for helping students succeed with their goals,” said Tim Alexander, executive director for human resources in the Minnetonka school district. “He has also proven himself to be a leader within his conference and among AD’s throughout the Minnesota State High School League. Schultz was instrumental in negotiating the new three-conference scheduling agreement between the South Suburban, Northwest Suburban and Lake Conferences.”

Schultz said, “It is a unique partnership. We were able to put all the politics aside and say, ‘Hey, What’s best for kids?’ The spirit of cooperation is really what made that work.” The agreement puts to rest the difficult question of conference alignment for the next five years.

Schultz holds a Minnesota principal license, has a Masters in Educational Leadership from Minnesota State University-Mankato and is a certified athletic administrator. He was recently selected to serve as the Region 3AA Representative on the Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors, a position he will need to abdicate with his move out of the region.

In Bloomington, Schultz administered all aspects of the Jefferson High School student activities program, served as chair for the Lake Conference Athletic and Activities Directors and served on the Bloomington Theatre Board. He is an adjunct faculty member for the University of St. Mary’s Educational Leadership Program. Earlier in his tenure with Bloomington, he served as athletic director for the district, coordinating 132 high school teams and 24 middle school teams, as well as developing the Bloomington Safe House, a chemical use prevention program. He also served in various management roles for state tournaments for boys and girls hockey, lacrosse and adapted athletics.

--John Millea is on Twitter at

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Nothing Stops Lourdes' Tennis Champion Ben Kopecky5/6/2010
Try doing what Ben Kopecky does. I dare you. Try playing tennis on a state championship level with a backbone that’s twisted and splintered; a spine that’s shaped like a question mark with notches of bone breaking off.

The Rochester Lourdes senior knows he may face spinal fusion surgery someday, as a way to deal with the dueling maladies of scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and spondylosis (a spinal defect in Kopecky’s lower back). The most amazing aspect of his story, however, is not his physical condition but his collection of tennis hardware.

Kopecky, already the owner of two Class A individual state titles, will attempt to win a third championship at the 2010 state tourney, June 8-10 at the Reed-Sweatt Tennis Center in Minneapolis. He is one of only 16 players in the 81-year history of the MSHSL boys’ tennis tournament to capture two championships.

Two previous individuals have won three boys’ crowns, and that feat hasn’t been accomplished in nearly 50 years. If Kopecky gets title No. 3 in a few weeks, not only will he become the third three-time champ in Minnesota history, he will become the third three-time champ from Rochester.

Dave Healey won titles in1953, 1954 and 1955 for Rochester High School, and Chuck Darley did the same in 1962, 1963 and 1964, also for Rochester High School (Rochester John Marshall opened in 1958 and Mayo opened in 1966.)

“It’s a privilege just to have the chance, to be in the position to be going for a third one,” Kopecky said during practice on a windy Wednesday in Rochester.

Kopecky is the second boys’ player from Lourdes to win a state championship; Jarret Cascino was the Class A winner in 2001. But his No. 1 goal for his senior season is being part of the first Lourdes boys’ squad to win a state team championship. That says a lot about a team captain who puts team before self.

“The kids kind of gravitate to him; he’s a good leader and he’s a fun guy,” Lourdes coach Kevin Rust said. “At the same time, he’s where he’s at because he’s worked at it.”

Kopecky is an experienced hand when it comes to playing at state. He made his tournament debut as an eighth-grade doubles player and advanced in singles for the first time as a freshman, finishing as the state runner-up despite playing with a sprained ankle – further evidence of his ability to play through physical problems.

Then came state championships as a sophomore and junior, putting him on the verge of title No. 3 this season. But ask Kopecky about the 2010 state tournament, and he’ll talk about the team first.

“The thing I’m most happy about this season is that the guys on the team worked so hard in the offseason and we’re way more motivated this year,” he said. “The guys have made it a better season. I come out every day and not only am I trying to make them better, they’re helping me.

“We know how good we can be, and we know right now we’re not there. But come state tournament time, we have to bear down and everybody has to have their game face on. We’re almost there. I’m trying to lead by example in that aspect. The entire team has that potential, to show their best.”

Rust points to Kopecky and fellow senior captains Connor Rust and Javon Bea as the Eagles’ experienced leaders. “We’ve got three seniors who have been on the team since seventh grade, and I’m sure they all have that same goal in mind,” he said of the championship aspirations.

Kopecky will play collegiate tennis at DePauw University, a Divison III school in Greencastle, Ind. When his college career is over, he knows spinal surgery may be in the cards. For now, he is vigilant about taking care of his body. He works on core strength and stretching. He has an inversion table at home, which flips him upside down and takes the tension off his back, and he also uses a Tens (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit.

The scoliosis – in Ben’s case a 49-degree spinal curvature – was discovered when he was in sixth grade. The spondylosis is a different matter; the bony notches attached to a lower vertebra are separated. “I think my right one is severed and all the pressure on my lower back is on the left one,” he said.

That condition was discovered after the state tournament when he was a sophomore.
“I felt something in my back,” he said. “It got worse and worse, and the only way I made it through finals of individuals was off of adrenaline. Because I was out for the next week.”

And then he adds, almost matter-of-factly, “It’s nothing that can really go away. But everybody’s got injuries.”

The thoughts of injuries and all other distractions evaporate when Ben is on the court. For a senior religion class, he wrote a paper about where tennis takes him.

“I wrote that tennis was my refuge,” he said. “When I’m in that state, nothing else can bother me. I just have one thing to focus on, and that’s when I feel the best. I can just put everything aside and focus on one goal.”

--For more photos of Ben, go to the MSHSL page on Facebook.

--John Millea is on Twitter at

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook; simply search for “MSHSL” and become a fan