John's Journal
Wrestling Champs: St. Michael-Albertville, Kasson-Mantorville, Zumbrota-Mazeppa 3/1/2018
This much we knew going into the 2018 state team wrestling tournament: A new champion would be crowned in Class 3A. That’s because Apple Valley, which has dominated big-school wrestling for longer than any current high schoolers have been alive, was not among the competitors.

Shakopee came to state at Xcel Energy Center as the 3A Section 2 championship, having ended Apple Valley’s run of 35 consecutive team appearances at state and 12 straight championships (the Eagles were co-champs with St. Michael-Albertville in 2013). Apple Valley owns 25 championships in 36 state tournament appearances since 1980.

The Sabers came in as the No. 1 seed in Class 3A, but it was the third-seeded Knights of St. Michael-Albertville who came away with the championship trophy. The Knights defeated Shakopee 30-25 in the finals to take home their eighth title since 1996.

St. Michael-Albertville won Class 2A gold in 1996, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and tied Apple Valley for the 3A crown in 2013. The Knights, making their 28th state appearance since 1975, have been state runners-up 10 times.

Shakopee was making only its fourth appearance in the team state tournament and first since 2004. The Sabers’ best previous finish was state runner-up in 1983.

In the other two classes, repeat champions was the theme.

In Class 2A, Kasson-Mantorville defeated first-time state entrant Fairmont/Martin County West 49-9, going back-to-back after winning the title last year. The KoMets now own four state team championships since 2013.

In Class 1A, Zumbrota-Mazeppa defeated Frazee defeated 31-19 to win its second team title in as many years, as well as its second championship all-time.

Individual competition in all three classes will begin Friday. The tournament will culminate with individual championship matches Saturday evening, capping a six-session tournament over three days.

Class 1A

Frazee 41, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City 10
Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville 43, Blackduck/Cass Lake-Bena 13
Zumbrota-Mazeppa 37, Ottertail Central 19
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove 63, Kenyon-Wanamingo 7
Frazee 38, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville 20
Zumbrota-Mazeppa 35, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove 18
Third place
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove 38, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville 18
Fifth place
Ottertail Central 39, Blackduck/Cass Lake-Bena 23
Zumbrota-Mazeppa 31, Frazee 19

Class 2A

Scott West 56, Grand Rapids 7
Fairmont/Martin County West 45, South St. Paul 16
Kasson-Mantorville 54, Totino-Grace 13
Perham 31, Foley 25
Fairmont/Martin County West 30, Scott West 28
Kasson-Mantorville 48, Perham 10
Third place
Scott West 33, Perham 30
Fifth place
Foley 44, South St. Paul 26
Kasson-Mantorville 49, Fairmont/Martin County West 9

Class 3A

Anoka 35, Hastings 22
St. Michael-Albertville 46, Stillwater 20
Shakopee 62, Minnetonka 9
Willmar 50, Albert Lea 18
St. Michael-Albertville 31, Anoka 29
Shakopee 32, Willmar 30
Third place
Anoka 30, Willmar 22
Fifth place
Albert Lea 40, Hastings 25
St. Michael-Albertville 30, Shakopee 25
The following letter comes from the Region 8A Athletic Directors Association, and was signed by 32 athletic directors, principals and deans from schools in northern Minnesota.

To Whom it May Concern:

I’d like to start by saying a very sincere THANK YOU to the many, many people that support what we do at our schools, including our extra-curricular activities. There are so many people in our communities that understand the time, effort and energy that goes into providing quality programming for all of our students, many times at the sacrifice of our own families. I call these people the silent majority.

As I sit at my desk typing this letter today, I think about how the vocal minority has caused the people in our buildings; our teachers, coaches and advisors, along with countless other teachers and coaches in surrounding communities who have sacrificed to provide a positive experience for their children, to question, “Why do we do this?”. There is an uneasiness in the coaching community as a whole because some parents have cast them as the villains, who have stopped their child from reaching what they believe is their full potential. That notion could not be further from the truth. I think about how unfair it is to criticize our coaches for the decisions they make on the court, or the kids that they play in certain situations, or the plays they call, especially when done from the stands. We each have the opportunity to play one of four roles at a sporting event; spectator, coach, player, or official. When we try to be more than one of those roles, it causes problems. Which role are you going to play?

I wonder if people actually realize how it feels to put your heart and soul into something for all the right reasons, and then have it turned on you because the wins might not be coming, or because you’re not playing the right kids at the right time, or you’re calling the wrong plays. I have seen this negativity spread quickly and loudly, and although I don’t have the answers to help people see that we are doing the right things, something needs to be said. We, as educators, have the responsibility to care for, nurture and teach every single student and athlete that is given to us, and I’m proud to say that we do it enthusiastically. I have personally seen and heard from parents who undercut their child’s teammates and coaches, and who have told their children to look for individual success first, and team success second. That is not right, and it certainly isn’t making our teams stronger and is not helping to build better people. That message completely undermines the real lessons that our children should be learning from the activities they participate in.

The truth is that we have remarkable teachers and coaches doing great things for our kids. They provide them with opportunities that not all kids get. They care for their students and players, and spend more time with them than just about anyone else. They miss family meals, birthdays, and other family activities to make sure their players needs are met. They take the personal shots, comments from some parents and the crowd, and still keep coming back to help our kids become better people first, and better athletes second. Our coaches take a personal interest in each of the kids in their classrooms and in their activity that extends beyond the school walls. Even though some of the kids and parents will never see or understand that, it remains true.

I recently asked our coaches why they coach, and these were some of the responses I received:

“I coach for the kids. When you see the sparkle in their eyes when things start to click for them...there is nothing like it!”

“I remember what a pivotal role sports played in my development as a young person. I have had the pleasure of being coached by some fine leaders, and I try to carry on the lessons those people have taught me.”

“I see today's student athletes as tomorrow's leaders, and I try to impact their lives in a positive way through the game we play.”

“I want to help young people realize what they have inside them. More than just athletic ability, what they have as a leader, a teammate, and an overall citizen. Everyone has potential to be someone who can go on to positively impact the lives of others, I want to help them get there.”

“I continue to coach today because I enjoy being able to see the players having fun, and as they grow as a person. We aren’t just teaching players how to play basketball, we should also be preparing them to get ready for the real world.”

“I coach because of the connection made between the players and coaches. A team should feel like a family, and I think our team does. Most weeks, I see the players more than I see my own kids.”

“I coach because of the strong healthy relationships made while coaching that can last a lifetime. Watching the players smile and have fun when they succeed at something. The look on their face when something clicks and they start doing the right thing.”

“I have a passion to teach kids the sports that I loved playing as a kid and the life lessons that will be instilledin them for the rest of their lives.”

“I coach because there is nothing better than seeing a kid reach their goal or do something they thought was impossible. The smile on their faces is when that happens is what keeps me coaching.”

“I coach to teach kids that life is not about the result, it’s about the process and the execution. I teach kids how to perform at their highest level so they can be successful now and in life?

“I take pride in being someone who is trying to make things better and more enjoyable for the kids because I care about them and want them to experience success in school and life.”

“I do this to build relationships and help these boys become men of character, integrity, and respect. If I can play a small part in helping these boys fulfill some of their dreams, I could look back with pride at my coaching and teaching careers.”

There are common themes in each of these responses, and it is what we should be striving to find in all of our coaches. Our coaches emphasize teamwork, commitment, positive relationships and leadership. These are life skills that will help them be successful adults. The wins and losses will come and go, but focusing on these qualities, ensure that we will always be successful, no matter what the scoreboard says. I know that the people we trust to coach our kids are teaching the right values, along with the fundamentals of the sport that will help them be competitive on the court, field or ice.

Many of you already see the passion that our coaches possess for what they do. To others, it wouldn’t matter what we say or how much time we spend preparing, planning and working with our kids because you’re already convinced we are wrong. The reality is that we do this because we love it and we love all of our kids. Coaches get up in the morning, prepare for a full day of teaching, spend three more hours at practice, or six more hours at a game, and get home late, only to do it all over again the next day. Often times, the only feedback a coach gets is when things go wrong. That doesn’t sound like a job that anybody would like to have, yet they continue to do it. Why? Because they have a passion for their profession, and they care. Period.

In summary, we are profoundly fortunate to have the coaches and teachers that we have in our schools. Their sacrifices are extremely important examples for our children, and the work they do is important and they deserve our full support. THANK YOU to all of our coaches and teachers for all you do!
Multi-Sports Athletes, Back-To-Back Tournament Competitions 2/24/2018
One of my favorite stories of the year came from a December visit to a farm in extreme western Minnesota, just a few miles from the South Dakota border. Posted on Dec. 20 under the headline, “On The Farm, Inside The Barn, Gymnastics Rules,” the story was about the home of the Hendricks/Russell-Tyler-Ruthton gymnastics team, located inside a building on the Johnson family farm on the edge of Hendricks (population 692).

Here are the opening paragraphs of that story …

HENDRICKS – In this small town near the South Dakota border, gymnastics is a family affair. Before the Hendricks/Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Grizzlies and their state-line neighbors from Brookings (S.D.) High School competed in a dual meet one evening this week, the Johnson cousins -- Greta, Sophie and Kaylee -- sang the national anthem beautifully. Grizzlies coach Sherri Johnson – mom to Greta and Sophie and aunt to Kaylee – then took the microphone to introduce the athletes and coaches.

Gymnastics is close to the hearts of Sherri and her husband Gary, along with Greta, 18, Sophie, 16, Sadie, 11, and their extended family and friends. It’s so close, in fact, that the Johnsons can exit their house in the country and take a short walk across the farm yard to the home of the Grizzlies. It’s called The Barn and it might be the most unique sporting venue in Minnesota and beyond.

Their lives are hectic, and this weekend was a great example. (The family is pictured after that home competition in December.)

On Friday night, the Hendricks girls basketball team (including Greta and Sophie) lost to Minneota in the Class 1A Section 3 playoffs. After the game, the Johnsons drove to the Twin Cities, where the two girls competed in Saturday’s Class 1A state gymnastics meet. Greta, a senior, competed on the balance beam and Sophie, a sophomore, competed on vault and floor exercise.

Neither received a medal after the competition, but they gave it everything they had and were all smiles afterwards. The family was staying in town Saturday night rather than brave the winter storm, and Greta said they planned to relax and unwind. Greta qualified for the state gymnastics meet five times in her high school career, and now Sophie will have two more chances to return.

On a busy weekend of state tournaments, section tournaments and contests in several sports, Greta and Sophie were the epitome of multi-sport athletes. Basketball one night, gymnastics the next night, both in postseason competition. Well done.

Girls State Hockey Tournament

Class 1A

Championship: Breck 3, Warroad 2 (OT)
Third-place game: Alexandria 1, Proctor/Hermantown 0
Fifth-place game: St. Paul United 3, Red Wing 2 (OT)

Class 2A
Championship: Edina 2, Centennial 1
Third-place game: Eagan 3, Eden Prairie 0
Fifth-place game: Andover 5, Lakeville South 4 (3 OT)

State Gymnastics Tournament

Class 1A all-around

1 Aliah Williams, Chisago Lakes
2 Jackson Hegg, Detroit Lakes
3 Jennifer Boyle, Austin
4 Ailsa Gilbert-11, Watertown-Mayer
5 Taryn Sellner, Mankato West
6 Katie Fahrenkamp, Waconia

Class 1A event champions
Vault: Greta Klaphake, Melrose
Bars: Jennifer Boyle, Austin
Beam: Peyton Jernberg, Detroit Lakes
Floor: Cora Okeson, Detroit Lakes

Class 2A all-around
1 Chaney Neu, Champlin Park
2 Sophie Redding, Henry Sibley
3 Rachel Steiner, Lakeville North
4 Mykaela Douglas, Lakeville South
5 Lindsay Bangs-9, Owatonna
6 Bailey Davidson, Apple Valley

Class 2A event champions
Vault: Sophie Redding, Henry Sibley
Bars: Grace Treanor-10, Wayzata
Beam: Brenna Sommerland, Park
Floor: Chaney Neu, Champlin Park

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Class 3A Wrestling Rankings2/23/2018
Final team rankings from The Guillotine.

1. Shakopee (2)
2. Apple Valley (2)
3. Anoka (7)
4. St. Michael-Albertville (5)
5. Willmar (8)
6. Albert Lea Area (1)
7. Forest Lake (7)
8. Owatonna (1)
9. Prior Lake (2)
10. St. Francis (7)
11. Cambridge-Isanti (7)
12. New Prague (2)
Lean and Mean
Faribault (1), Hastings (3), Bemidji (8), Maple Grove (5), Stillwater Area (4), Eagan (3), Mounds View (4), St. Cloud Tech (8)
Class 2A Wrestling Rankings2/23/2018
Final team rankings from The Guillotine.

1. Kasson-Mantorville (1)
2. Simley (1)
3. Scott West (2)
4. Fairmont/Martin County West (3)
5. Perham (8)
6. Foley (6)
7. Waconia (2)
8. Delano (2)
9. Litchfield (6)
10. Totino-Grace (5)
11. Grand Rapids (7)
12. South St. Paul (4)
Lean and Mean
Annandale/Maple Lake (6), Big Lake (6), Detroit Lakes (8), Hutchinson (2), Marshall (3), Mora (7), Pierz (8), Princeton (7), Thief River Falls (8), Watertown-Mayer/Mayer Lutheran (2)