John's Journal
Osseo Wins Round Two vs. Park Center, Thoughts Turn To The Rematch 2/5/2013
If the clean-up routine after Osseo and Park Center met in a big boys basketball game Tuesday night was anything like what took place on the court, every player took time to clean out the dirt from under his fingernails. It was that kind of game: scratch, claw, dive after loose balls, fight for possessions and do everything humanly possible to win.

This round went to the defending state champion Osseo Orioles, who recorded a 66-56 victory inside their own spacious gym. The Orioles are ranked No. 4 in Class 4A and Park Center came in carrying the No. 1 ranking. The pollsters will sort everything out again this week, but as soon as the final horn blew Tuesday, attention turned to what everyone assumes will be a rematch in the Section 5 championship game.

The Pirates (17-2, 13-1) had won round one with a 73-62 victory over Osseo at Park Center on Dec. 18. The two teams are now tied for first place in the Northwest Suburban Conference, but the Orioles (17-2, 13-1) won this lastest battle between schools that are both in District 279.

“Park Center is a district rival, they’re the No. 1 team in the state,” said Osseo coach Tim Theisen after moving his career victory total to 250. “It means a lot.”

The key for Osseo was defense. Park Center came in averaging nearly 80 points a game, which is tops in the state. The Pirates were handicapped by the absence of Devin Buckley, their second-leading scorer who sat out with a back injury. Buckley’s loss put a little extra pressure on Park Center’s Quinton Hooker, who averages 25 points.

The defensive assignment on Hooker went to Osseo’s Bridgeport Tussler, a rough-and-tumble guard who roughed and tumbled his way to being named Minnesota’s Mr. Football last fall. Hooker was held to 14 points, with Treyton Daniels getting 19 for the Pirates. Tussler led Osseo with 22 and 6-foot-9 center Ian Theisen (no relation to the coach) had 21.

“Bridge Tussler had a championship performance once again,” Tim Theisen said. “He’s one of the toughest kids in the state, both football and basketball. He is hands down one of the better defensive players around. It was no easy task; Quinton Hooker is one of the best players in the state and Bridge Tussler did a fantastic job guarding him tonight.”

There were almost as many fouls and free throws as spectators (or so it seemed), and Osseo got the job done at the line. The Orioles made 23 of 31 free throws and Park Center hit 14 of 27.

Osseo never trailed, but the Orioles had to work darn hard to keep the Pirates from taking control of the game. Osseo led 33-24 at halftime, and by then the Orioles’ defensive effort in choking off three-point attemps and clogging the lane had set a definite tone. The margin swayed some early in the second half and Park Center carved Osseo’s lead down to two points when Daniels soared to the boards, grabbed a missed shot and put it in the hoop before returning to earth.

That made the score Osseo 46, Park Center 44 with 8:15 remaining. Tussler made two foul shots, the Pirated missed on their end and Ian Theisen powered through traffic to shoot from underneath the hoop. As the shot went in and the officials called a foul, the big junior let out a roar that was drowned out by the roar of the home fans. He hit the freebie to make it 51-44 and all but secure the win.

“It was a gutty win, and that’s what we had to pride ourselves on this whole past week in preparing for this game,” coach Theisen said. “We knew Park Center was a team that loved to drive to the basket, they love to shoot threes. I thought we did a good job of taking away the three-point shot tonight; we fouled a lot at times, as well, but we took away the three. And that’s one of their main strengths.”

The rematch, if both teams should reach the Section 5 title game, will be held March 15 at Rogers High School.

“We will see them again and we look forward to it,” Tim Theisen said. “We want to play the best teams and we want to make sure that we’re ready for them again. And I think we are.”

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

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 425
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 6,198
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--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
The First Family of Simley High School Wrestling2/4/2013
As coaches and wrestlers, members of the Short family at Simley High School form one of the most influential wrestling families in Minnesota. Read Brian Jerzak's story by clicking here.
700 And Counting For Wabasso/Red Rock Central’s Hindt 2/1/2013
WABASSO – Except for one big banner, the walls inside the wrestling room at Wabasso High School are pretty bare. But that banner speaks volumes about a program and the only coach the team has ever had.

The banner commemorates the 2003-04 Wabasso team, which was the state runner-up in Class 1A. In advancing to that state championship match, the Rabbits recorded the 500th victory in school history. It also was the 500th career victory for coach Gary Hindt, but his name is nowhere to be seen on the banner. And that’s exactly how he wants it.

“I just guide them,” Hindt said. “I didn’t do that. I helped, I had a hand in it.”

Since that 2004 state tournament, he’s had a hand in a couple hundred more victories. The 67-year-old Hindt, who was hired in Wabasso right out of college in 1968 and started the wrestling program, now has 702 career wins, which ranks third all-time in Minnesota and No. 1 among active coaches.

In 45 years of coaching he has had only two losing seasons. Victory No. 700 came Jan. 19 when the Wabasso/Red Rock Central Bobcats (the schools have had a cooperative wrestling team for four years) defeated Luverne. The only Minnesota wrestling coaches with more victories than Hindt are former Owatonna coach Scot Davis with 984 and former Goodhue coach Bill Sutter with 760.

No. 702 for Hindt and Wabasso came Thursday night when the Bobcats defeated visiting Minneota 40-21. Wabasso/Red Rock Central is ranked No. 4 in Class 1A by The Guillotine and Minneota is No. 8.

Before the varsity match began, Hindt was honored with a plaque commemorating his 700th victory and a framed team photo that was autographed by this year’s wrestlers. He made no speech, and school officials knew better than to ask him to make a speech. That’s because it’s never been about him.

He said to me, “You want to know the truth? The last wrestling match that I won by myself was in 1963.”

That was when Hindt was a high school senior in Fulda, another southwest Minnesota town. He played basketball through his sophomore year, but joined Fulda’s new wrestling team as a junior.

“I thought it sure beats getting slivers on my butt, being about the 10th guy on the basketball team,” he said. “I knew nothing about wrestling. I wasn’t sold on it because I didn’t know anything except grab on and hang on.”

He wasn’t sure he would wrestle as a senior, but then he was voted a team captain. “I thought I better stay with it,” he said. “I’m not a quitter.”

It’s safe to say, however, that he didn’t plan to be the Wabasso wrestling coach for nearly half a century. When he was hired to teach, he agreed to take over the school’s new wrestling program with the expectation that he would hand the reins to someone else after a few years. All these years later, he has no plans to retire.

He underwent a knee replacement after the 2005-06 season, but the spark is still there when he enters the wrestling room.

“I can get down, but it’s hard to get back up,” he said. “That’s why we’ve got younger assistant coaches. I still enjoy it. I don’t want to see the program go to pot. I have seen some programs that were very successful get into wrong situations and have no consistency.”

Hindt also coached football at Wabasso for many years but gave that up when his daughter Heather was playing college volleyball at Southwest State in Marshall and his daughter Erika was in high school. (“I got to watch my girls grow up,” he said.) Hindt and his wife Jenni have been married for 43 years.

His co-head coach is Brett Bartholomaus, who teaches at Red Rock Central. The wrestling team splits its practices and meets between Wabasso and Red Rock Central, which is 12 miles away in Lamberton.

“He’s the papa bear,” said Bartholomaus. “If they need a wake-up call he’ll give it to them, and then he’ll explain why.”

Hindt is a coach who will bark at a wrestler, then smile and put his arm around the kid’s shoulder.

“If he gets mad, he’ll say what he has to say and then he’ll sit back down in his chair and he’ll pop a smile right back on,” said senior captain Tanner Rohlik. “He’s an all-around great guy.”

Another senior captain, Blake Altermatt, said, “If you do something wrong, he’ll make you do it again to make sure you do it right and don’t get into any bad habits.”

Before the Bobcats took the mat against Minneota, Hindt talked to the team about always being on the attack. He offered these words of wisdom: “Your feet are made to move forward. If God wanted you to move backwards he would have put toes where your heels are.”

Hindt, who was inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1994 and is retired from teaching physical education, health and social studies, has coached three teams to state tournaments (the most recent in 2011). Five Wabasso individuals have won state titles: Dan Zimmer in 1976, Johnny Frank in 2004, Cory Schunk in 2004 and A.J. Jenniges and Brandan Schunk in 2005.

“I’ve been pretty blessed to have some kids who have bought in,” Hindt said.

Before and after Thursday’s match, Hindt was approached by many former wrestlers and other friends who offered congratulations on his milestone. After the night’s wrestling had been completed, he joined 42 alumni wrestlers who were on hand and posed for a photo. Some of them are now old-timers and some of them are still fresh-faced. Some of them are fathers and sons who both wrestled for Hindt.

The coach, the link between them all, sat in their midst and wore a big smile.

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

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 423
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 6,118
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--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
Building A Basketball Dynasty At Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 1/27/2013
BROOTEN -- Sporting statistics can be impressive, and that is surely the case with the boys basketball team from Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa. The Jaguars are the biggest little team in Minnesota, capturing the Class 1A state title last season, carrying the No. 1 ranking this season and creeping up on one of the most revered records in state history.

But as is always the case, there are real people and interesting stories behind the numbers.

First, a numerical summary …

--The Jaguars were unbeaten in 33 games last season and will take a 16-0 record into Tuesday night’s game at Eden Valley-Watkins. That’s 49 in a row; if they should finish this season with another perfect record, their streak would be 66. The longest winning streak in boys state basketball history is 69 by Edina between 1965 and 1968. If not for a loss to Springfield in the 2011 state championship game, their winning streak right now would be 82 in a row.

--Since the start of the 2008-09 season the Jaguars have an overall record of 130-10 and a regular-season record of 113-7. Their regular-season winning streak is 78 games in a row.

This run of success began when former 15-year head coach Dave Montbriand -- who had moved to the girls team as an assistant in order to coach his oldest daughter -- returned as boys head coach for the 2008-09 season. That Montbriand ever came to the school in the first place is a story along the lines of “you never know what might happen…”

The 1979 graduate of Bloomington Jefferson thought he would stay in the Twin Cities after college and work as a teacher and coach. He attended the University of St. Thomas before transferring to Hamline, which offered a major in elementary education. He worked as a substitute teacher in the metro for a couple years. Not knowing a thing about small towns, he began applying at places he had never heard of. Brooten was among them (Brooten and Belgrade-Elrosa were separate districts back then).

“I didn’t know where Brooten was,” Montbriand told me before Friday night’s home game against Holdingford. “I figured I’d be here for two or three years and try to get back to the cities. I’ve been here 28 years.”

He’s had opportunities to leave. One came about five years into his career in Brooten when he was offered a teaching job (but no coaching) in Apple Valley.

“My wife was staying at home, which you could afford to do with a couple kids in a small town,” Dave said. “And I started thinking, ‘Is (the job in Apple Valley) a move up?’ I was happy here and I was just the assistant coach at that time. I pretty much decided at that point that I was going to stay here. And now we have four kids and we live right across the street from the school. It takes me 30 seconds to walk to work.”

The Brooten Buccaneers and Belgrade-Elrosa Redmen came together when the schools merged in 1989. When decisions were being made about a nickname and school colors, it’s safe to say that Montbriand had a hand in the final choices being Jaguars and blue and silver … just like at Bloomington Jefferson, where Dave played for Hall of Fame basketball coach Jack Evens.

As for the Jaguars’ current success, Montbriand said, “We had some real good years but nothing like this. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s happening. Obviously we’ve had a run of really good players.

“It’s every coach’s dream to win the state tournament. I coached for 15 years and we didn’t make the state tournament and then I got out of it (to coach the girls). When we just made it to state one year, it was like, ‘Yes! We made it.’ And to get to the finals, then to win it … sometimes I wonder if it happened. I get that feeling all the time; ‘Is this happening?’ ”

As in most small towns, the surnames in the lineup are a constant over the years; Koehler, Kuefler, Goodwin, Borgerding, Imdieke, etc. The starting five in the 2011 state title game consisted of two Koehlers, two Goodwins and a Kuefler.

Three of the current starters -- Brian Goodwin, James Kuefler and Billy Borgerding -- are juniors who have experience in two state title games, including the first championship in any sport since the school districts merged. The 6-foot-4 Goodwin is the top scorer with a 21-point average, the 6-7 Borgerding averages 15 points and the 6-4 Kuefler averages 11 points and 10 rebounds. The other starters are 6-1 junior Trey Heinsus and 5-10 senior Alex Wosmek.

The Jaguars’ biggest game of the season so far will take place Thursday when they go to Melrose. The Dutchmen are ranked No. 2 in Class 2A and should be No. 1 by than, since top-ranked St. Peter lost to Fairmont on Thursday. There will be pressure, but Montbriand stresses to his team that pressure is a good thing.

“There’s always some pressure, but we’ve learned to welcome it and deal with it,” Kuefler said. “We like the pressure.”

Goodwin said, “Before some games he’ll say, ‘Welcome the pressure. Don’t shy away from it. Because it means you’re doing something right.’ And we know teams are going to come out and give us their best.”

Montbriand said he learned that philosophy from Jack Evens, whose teams won four state championships between 1976 and 1987.

"The more people that came to the games, the more attention we got, it was like, ‘Yeah. These games are more important now. This is what we love. This is more of a challenge. This is what makes it fun.' " Montbriand said.

The Jaguars boys play their games in the gym at Brooten Elementary school (where Montbriand teaches fourth grade) while the girls play at the high school in Belgrade. The fans at the boys games all sit on one side of the gym, with the teams on chairs in front of the stage and the scorer’s table on the stage. Two banners on the walls say a lot about the Jaguars: “We Enjoy Defense” and “Stay Hungry. Stay Humble.”

Thursday’s routine before, during and after a 65-32 win over Holdingford was business as usual. Before the game Montbriand stood at a white board in a classroom and the players sat in chairs. He quietly went through some reminders: Don’t wimp out on taking a charge. No matter what happens, defensive effort is crucial.

With a halftime lead of 38-11, the tone was the same. Montbriand talked calmly about a few mental errors and the players listened without making a peep. “This is what I love about you guys,” he said. “What’s the score, 38-13 or something like that? And I come in here and nitpick. But if we make those mistakes against other teams, that could cost us.”

Before the Jaguars went out for the second half, assistant coach (and former head coach) Brad Goodwin offered a reminder, “Smile and have fun, guys.”

The postgame gathering was in the locker room, with the team sitting silently on one long bench and Montbriand standing in front of them. He told them they had done a great job and played hard the whole game, including the reserves who played much of the second half.

“Another weekend is upon us. You’ve done a wonderful job of staying out of trouble. Keep it up; we have a great thing going. Don’t let the team down. This is something special. You won’t realize how special this is until you reflect back in a couple years.”

He told them to stay healthy, with a reminder to wash their hands often.

There are more games to play.

--To see a photo gallery from Friday's game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 421
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,982
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--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
Things Are Always Looking Up At Burnsville Ice Center1/25/2013
The Burnsville Ice Center is one of the iconic hockey arenas in Minnesota, with two Olympic-sized rinks covered by a beautiful wooden domed ceiling. Read Brian Jerzak’s story about the home of the Burnsville Blaze by clicking here.