John's Journal
The Voice Of Hockey: Gary Thorne Set For Boys State Tourney3/3/2014
(This story originally appeared on John's Journal on Feb. 7.)

If you want to listen to someone who is excited about the boys state hockey tournament, listen to the familiar voice of Gary Thorne. The veteran broadcaster, who is well-known for his work with the NHL, Major League Baseball, ESPN, the Olympics and college hockey and football, will handle play-by-play duties on KSTC-Channel 45 for the Class 2A state tourney March 6-8 at Xcel Energy Center.

I talked with Thorne on the phone recently, and his excitement was palpable. He has never attended the MSHSL boys state hockey tournament and he is thrilled to be part of it in 2014.

“It’s one of those events, that if you like hockey it’s certainly up there among the major events in the country,” he said from his Florida home.

Thorne has seen it all. As a radio broadcaster for the New York Mets, he made the call when a ground ball got past Boston first baseman Bill Buckner in the sixth game of the 1986 World Series. Currently he is a broadcaster for the Baltimore Orioles; he also has been the voice of ESPN Radio’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts.

His hockey broadcasting career began at the University of Maine, his alma mater.
From 1992 through 2004, Thorne called NHL games for ESPN, ESPN2 and (beginning in 1999) ABC.

During his years in the NHL he came to know many players who grew up in Minnesota. He learned a lot about the state hockey tournament through those relationships.

“They’ve said that next to winning the Stanley Cup, winning the Minnesota state high school hockey tournament is their biggest thrill,” Thorne told me.

Several years ago Thorne met Dennis Silva, the KSTC executive sports producer in charge of MSHSL state tournament television coverage. As they chatted, Thorne told Silva to keep him in mind if Silva ever needed a play-by-play person for the state hockey tournament. When Silva contacted Thorne recently, they had a deal in a short period of time.

“I knew it was the No. 1 high school tournament in the country, with big crowds, a tremendous viewing audience and a great level of talent on the ice,” Thorne said. “I told him, ‘If you need anybody, give me a call.’ ”

Thorne is already doing homework for the tournament by following the top teams in Class 2A.

“I’ve got a rundown on the teams that might be likely to be involved, and their players,” he said. “I’m trying to get a little familiar with everything involved.”

His broadcast partner at the tournament will be Lou Nanne, who will be attending his 50th boys state hockey tourney. Thorne and Nanne have known each other for years.

“I’ve known Lou from his days in the NHL and we’ve crossed paths many times over the years, I believe going back to my days of doing college hockey at Maine. I couldn’t believe it when I heard this will be Lou’s 50th tournament. That’s just unbelievable. What a run.”

Thorne will arrive in the Twin Cities a few days before the tournament begins to have meetings with the rest of the KSTC broadcast team. He can hardly wait.

“Everyone’s told me that the atmosphere is one of the things that makes the tournament so special,” he said. “That it’s just unbelievable, the passion of the fans and the players. It’s engaging to me. I can’t wait. It will be great fun. It’s one of those things that will seem like it’s over before it starts.”

His contract to work at the tournament is for one year. But …

“That’s not to say that it couldn’t happen again.”

Brackets Are Set For Boys State Hockey Tournament3/1/2014
CLASS 1A BOYS STATE HOCKEY TOURNAMENT
At Xcel Energy Center

#2 Hermantown (22-4-2) vs. Luverne (27-0-1) , 11 a.m. Wednesday

#3 New Prague (21-4-3) vs. Chisago Lakes (20-8), 30 minutes after end of 11 a.m. game Wednesday

#1 East Grand Forks (25-2-1) vs. Orono (19-8-1), 6 p.m. Wednesday

#5 Totino-Grace (17-10-1) vs. #4 St. Cloud Cathedral (20-7-1), 30 minutes after end of 6 p.m. game Wednesday

CLASS 2A BOYS STATE HOCKEY TOURNAMENT
At Xcel Energy Center

#2 Lakeville North (23-4-1) vs. Roseau (20-7-1), 11 a.m. Thursday

#3 Eden Prairie (17-8-3) vs. Centennial (16-10-2), 30 minutes after end of 11 a.m. game Thursday

#1 Edina (22-4-1) vs. Stillwater (16-10-2), 6 p.m. Thursday

#5 Eagan (18-9-1) vs. #4 Duluth East (21-6-1), 30 minutes after end of 6 p.m. game Thursday
Championships Won, Memories Made, An Era Comes To An End 3/1/2014
Saturday was one of those rare, special days that provide memories of a lifetime. It was a combination of season-ending championships, large and enthusiastic crowds, and families, all tied together from around our state.

In Minneapolis, boys swimmers and divers competed in the state championships at the University of Minnesota. In St. Paul, wrestling ruled the roost at Xcel Energy Center. The pairings were set for the next state tournament, boys hockey. And in a school gymnasium in Hibbing, a historic chapter came to a close. Let’s begin there.

THE END OF AN ERA IN CHISHOLM

We all knew this day was coming. Back in November, Chisholm boys basketball coach Bob McDonald announced that the 2013-14 season would be his last. And his remarkable career came to a close Saturday when Chisholm lost to Bigfork 47-39 in the Class 1A Section 7 playoffs in Hibbing.

McDonald, 80, ended his 59-year coaching career with an amazing record of 1,012 wins and 428 losses. He is the only coach in Minnesota basketball history to win 1,000 games and the 13th boys coach in the nation to do so. He will be inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame in July. Well done, sir.

WRESTLING: GOLDEN MEMORIES

There hasn’t been a lot of drama when Kasson-Mantorville senior heavyweight Sam Stoll is on the mat. In fact, Stoll was considered a near-sure thing to win his second consecutive Class 2A state title when the heavyweight competition at state began.

His high school career came to a glorious end Saturday night when he pinned Milaca senior Brandon Merten in the championship match. It was Stoll’s 63rd consecutive pin, which is a national high school record. Stoll will start a new wrestling chapter next season at the University of Iowa.

--Border West junior Cameron Sykora defeated Spencer Jenniges of Wabasso/Red Rock Central to win the 120-pound division of Class 1A. It made Sykora a four-time winner and a candidate to win his fifth next season. Previously, 14 wrestlers have won four state titles and four others have won five crowns.

The five-time winners 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).

--Apple Valley sophomore Mark Hall rolled to his fourth state title and could become the first Minnesota wrestler to win six championships. In Saturday’s 3A 170-pound title match he defeated Garrett Beaman of Henry Sibley.

A FAMILY AFFAIR AT ST. MICHAEL-ALBERTVILLE

When Tommy Thorn, a senior from St. Michael-Albertville, defeated George Farmah of Eastview to win the 3A wrestling title at 126 pounds, the feat meant more than the four state championship Tommy has won.

It also means that the Thorn family has more state titles than any other family in state wrestling history. David Thorn won four times and Mike was a three-time champion, giving the Thorns a total of 11 crowns. The Sanders family from Wabasha-Kellogg owns 10 titles, with Eric and Zach Sanders each winning five times between 1999 and 2007.

--See a list of all the state wrestling champions below.

BOYS SWIMMING AND DIVING

St. Thomas Academy, Breck/Blake and Fergus Falls finished first, second and third Saturday in the Class 1A boys swimming and diving championships.

In Class 2A, Wayzata, East Ridge, Eden Prairie finished one, two, three.

BOYS STATE HOCKEY TOURNAMENTS ARE SET

The seeds and pairings for the boys state hockey tournament were set on Saturday, with East Grand Forks getting the top seed in Class 1A and Edina named the top seed in 2A. Here are the quarterfinal pairings at Xcel Energy Center …

CLASS 1A

#2 Hermantown (22-4-2) vs. Luverne (27-0-1) , 11 a.m. Wednesday
#3 New Prague (21-4-3) vs. Chisago Lakes (20-8), 30 minutes after end of 11 a.m. game Wednesday
#1 East Grand Forks (25-2-1) vs. Orono (19-8-1), 6 p.m. Wednesday
>#5 Totino-Grace (17-10-1) vs. #4 St. Cloud Cathedral (20-7-1), 30 minutes after end of 6 p.m. game Wednesday

CLASS 2A

#2 Lakeville North (23-4-1) vs. Roseau (20-7-1), 11 a.m. Thursday
#3 Eden Prairie (17-8-3) vs. Centennial (16-10-2), 30 minutes after end of 11 a.m. game Thursday
#1 Edina (22-4-1) vs. Stillwater (16-10-2), 6 p.m. Thursday
#5 Eagan (18-9-1) vs. #4 Duluth East (21-6-1), 30 minutes after end of 6 p.m. game Thursday

WRESTLING STATE CHAMPIONS

106/ 1A Skylar Hieronimus, Adrian; 2A Garrett Aldrich, Albert Lea; 3A Brent Jones, Shakopee.

113/ 1A Austin Anderly, LeSueur-Henderson; 2A Jakob Stageberg, New London-Spicer; 3A Wade Sullivan, Lakeville North.

120/ 1A Cameron Sykora, Border West; 2A Skyler Petry, Waterville-E-M; 3A Mitchell McKee, St. Michael-Albertville.

126/ 1A Louis Sanders, Lake Crystal-Welcome Memorial; 2A Anthony Luft, Worthington; 3A Tommy Thorn, St. Michael-Albertville.

132/ 1A Quinten Barres, Kimball; 2A Griffin Parriott, New Prague; 3A Maolo Woiwor, Apple Valley.

138/ 1A Hank Friederichs, Chatfield; 2A Zach Siegle, Scott West; 3A Seth Gross, Apple Valley.

145/ 1A Larry Bomstad, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City; 2A Brady Berge, Kasson-Mantorville; 3A Mark Voss, St. Michael-Albertville.

152/ 1A Logan Peterson, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City; 2A Mack Short, Simley; 3A Owen Webster, Shakopee.

160/ 1A Mitch Lange, Royalton/Upsala; 2A Andrew Fogarty, Scott West; 3A Cody Skog, Cambridge-Isanti.

170/ 1A Keegan Moore, Jackson County Central; 2A Josh Selly, Tri-City United; 3A Mark Hall, Apple Valley.

182/ 1A Niko Anderson, Fillmore Central; 2A Austin May, Zimmerman; 3A Bobby Steveson, Apple Valley.

195/ 1A Nathan Rose, Sibley East; 2A Lance Benick, Totino-Grace; 3A Justin Cumberbatch, Alexandria.

220/ 1A Lucas Damm, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City; 2A Clay Broze, Cannon Falls; 3A Alex Hart, Prior Lake.

285/ 1A Alex Schroepfer, Wabasso/Red Rock Central; 2A Sam Stoll, Kasson-Mantorville; 3A Luis Pinto, Prior Lake

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 347
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,532
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
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