John's Journal
State Championship Wrestling Dreams Begin In Rochester3/2/2011
The state tournament is the goal for every high school wrestler in Minnesota. Getting to Xcel Energy Center, however, often entails a couple of trips to southeastern Minnesota, which isn’t always perceived by some around the state as a hotbed of the sport.

Rochester, though, is where championship wrestlers are forged, where two regular-season tournaments attract top-caliber competition from Minnesota and around the nation, where dreams of state titles move closer to reality.

Forest Lake High School coach Billy Pierce, a former Big Ten champion and three-time All-American at the University of Minnesota, summed up what Rochester means to the sport when he called it “Minnesota’s wrestling mecca.”

The mecca is the Regional Sports Center at Rochester Community and Technical College (pictured). With room for eight wrestling mats surrounded by spectator seating, the Regional Sports Center hosts the Minnesota Christmas tournament every December and The Clash national duals tournament in late December or early January. The Christmas tournament attracts 36 teams from Minnesota and the upper Midwest, while the 32-team Clash has more of a national allure with some of the top teams in the nation coming to Rochester.

“When I walk in here, it kind of has the feel of the Big Ten tournament and events like that,” Pierce said during the 2011 Clash.

The people behind the scenes are from the Southeastern Minnesota Wrestling Coalition, a non-profit organization that was created to promote and support wrestling in that part of the state. Some of the founders of the coalition also were in on the ground floor of The Clash, which will mark its 10th anniversary on Dec. 30-31, 2011.

Steve Patton, Clash chairman and president of the Southeastern Minnesota Wresting Coalition, said, “The Clash started with a bunch of guys sitting around saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to get teams together from three or four states and see how we’d do?’ We started originally thinking Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.”

But The Clash grew quickly as teams from around the country expressed interest in competing. At the first Clash in 2003, teams from California, Utah, Oklahoma and Nebraska joined teams from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. In the years since, teams have come from as far away as Hawaii, Florida and Rhode Island to compete in Rochester.

“We had 20 teams the first year, and then there was so much interest that we settled on a 32-team format,” Patton said. “It’s quite an event.”

Amateur Wrestling News ranks The Clash as the number one high school dual wrestling tournament in the nation. The 2011 Clash featured 11 teams ranked among the top 38 in the country.

The Minnesota Christmas tournament is different from The Clash in two ways: The Christmas tournament attracts more of a regional field and it is an individual competition instead of team duals. Wrestlers from 34 teams competed in the 2011 Christmas tournament, which was the 24th year of the event.

Unlike the state tourney, wrestlers at the Christmas tournament are not split into classes. That means the best individuals from schools large and small go head to head in proving who the best wrestlers are in each weight class. It’s often said that the Christmas tournament is the toughest individual tourney in Minnesota, including the state tournament.

“We get in these tournaments because it’s about the best competition you can get,” Albert Lea coach Larry Goodnature said. “And my philosophy in coaching is I want our kids to wrestle with the best competition I can possibly find, which makes them better in the long run. These two tournaments are better than the state tournament, so when my kids wrestle in these two tournaments and then they get to the state tournament, they’ve already experienced tougher tournaments and maybe it’s not such a big deal to go to state as far as being scared or intimidated.”

The Clash and the Christmas tournament are both invitation-only events, and teams are often knocking on the door.

Forest Lake made its first trip to The Clash this season, and Pierce (right) said, “One of my goals at Forest Lake was to get into this tournament. They do a great job of recruiting and they get the top teams nationally. We feel very fortunate and privileged to be here.”

For some teams outside southeastern Minnesota, competing in Rochester has become as big a part of their schedule as wrestling in their own gym.

“We call it our home away from home because we wrestle more matches in this building than anywhere else,” said Simley coach Will Short. “Our kids will wrestle 13 matches for sure (in Rochester) and we probably wrestle 10 in our own gym. So this is our home away from home.”

Because of restrictions on out-of-state travel by Minnesota teams, the opportunity to drive to Rochester and wrestle against some of the top teams and individuals from around the nation makes The Clash and Christmas tournament even more important.

“Absolutely,” Short said. “The only way to get national exposure for our teams is to have people come to us. It’s worked out for us to be part of the Christmas tournament and The Clash for years, and we keep coming back because it’s great competition and it prepares our kids for the end of the year.”

In addition to helping with The Clash and the Christmas tournament, the Southeastern Minnesota Wrestling Coalition supports wrestling in all areas of southeastern Minnesota, otherwise known as Section 1. The coalition has a representative from every high school or wrestling community in southeastern Minnesota.

“We ask their input on what we should do, how to invest our resources, what can we do better,” Patton said.
The Southeastern Minnesota Wrestling Coalition helps purchase wrestling mats and other equipment for schools and wrestling organizations, sponsors a Section 1 senior recognition dinner and Hall of Fame dinner, and contributes to college scholarship funds for wrestlers.

“The list of things we have our fingers on is pretty neat,” Patton said.

One of the philosophies for both tournaments in Rochester is simple: the organizers want everybody to say “Wow!” when the events conclude.

“We try to make it a great event for wrestlers, coaches, parents and fans,” Patton said. “And we get a lot of positive feedback. We get probably 100 emails after every tournament, from people saying they can’t believe it, what a great experience. Everybody knows it’s something we do well here in Rochester. It’s kind of our niche.”
The People Have Spoken on the Great Soft Drink Question3/1/2011
First things first: I am going to make an attempt to cut down on the Diet Cokes. One of my fellow media members has issued a challenge, with the two of us battling to see who can refrain from sipping the longest. Stay tuned for updates on that front as the tournaments roll on.

Now, about the feedback to my essay about drinking Diet Coke. This was sparked by an email warning me of the dangers of doing so. I opened the question to you, and you came through with some varying opinions.

Some of you agreed with the original email I received. Here is an example …

“Yes! Give up Diet Coke! Aspertane, nutrasweet, all pure chemicals, and pure poison! That goes for your bottled "diet" green tea you're drinking, too. Here is a thought. I'm sure they can give you hot water.......carry some tea bags with you. They don't take up much room, and your body will be much happier with you in the long run.”

Some of you told me to keep on throwing down the Diet Cokes, such as this email …

“Can the thousands of fans attending the hockey and wrestling tournaments at the Xcel this season buy Diet Coke, regular Coke, Mello Yello and similar products, OR are the concession stands and traveling vendors allowed only to sell green tea, milk and bottled water among their beverages? The reprimand against you seems kind of asinine.”

In a face-to-face conversation – yes, they still take place despite electronic communication – someone told me about her father, who began drinking Diet Rite in the 1960s, made the switch to Diet Coke, still drinks one or two of them every day and is in his 90s.

And finally, this message arrived via Twitter: “Pretty sure that if you stop pounding Diet Cokes, the state tournaments will cease to exist.”

I’m not sure that would happen, and I don’t plan to go cold turkey on the Diet Cokes. As stated above, I will try some experimenting with cutting back. We have four weeks of winter state tournaments to go. I consumed 16 cans of Diet Coke during last week’s tournaments, so the bar has been set.

Wish me luck…

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 479
*Miles John has driven: 8,215

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Ticket Info for Boys Hockey Doubleheader at Mariucci Arena3/1/2011
Mariucci Arena at the University of Minnesota will be the site of two Class 2A boys hockey section finals on Wednesday, and here are the details on game times and tickets…

SCHEDULE
6 p.m./ 2AA Edina vs. Burnsville
8 p.m./ 6AA Eden Prairie vs. Wayzata

TICKETS
Adults $10, students $6 (no senior rate). All tickets are General Admission. Pre-sale is occurring at all school sites for participating school communities until noon on Wednesday. Ticket sales for the general public will be available starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Mariucci Arena Box Office. Gates will open for seating at 4:45 p.m.
The Great Soft Drink Debate …And Some Tournament Notes2/28/2011
In the midst of section tournaments and state tournaments and hockey and wrestling and gymnastics and swimming and basketball, an old debate has returned to the scene of the action.

Question: Should a guy like me be drinking Diet Coke? After the completion of last week’s girls state hockey tournament, I received an email warning me about the stuff. As noted in the daily dispatches, I sucked down four cans of Diet Coke during each of the four days of the hockey tournament.

I was inside the Xcel Energy Center for 12 hours or more each day, so is one Diet Coke every three hours too much? Here are excerpts from the email …

“John, Thanks for the great reporting on the Girls State Hockey tourney. Now, to lecture you: Diet Coke, no, no, no. John, John, John. No. No Nutrasweet. No Aspartame.

“Find something else delicious. Green tea with honey, anyone? Personally, I love the impact of green tea, a couple cups of hot, and I somehow feel better.

“Do well.”

So, I am open to further advice. I’m not saying I can, should or will give up on the Diet Cokes at tourney time. I rarely have soft drinks at home, and I generally have diet green tea in the fridge. But I don’t know if I want to haul a supply of diet green tea to all the tournaments, since the Diet Cokes are already there. And chilled.

If you have thoughts on this or any of the other Great Questions of Our Time, fire an email my way. No guarantees, but I will gladly listen to the opinions of one and all.

TOURNAMENT TIME

This is a big week, with lots of things happening on the section and state levels. I may drop in at Mariucci Arena on Wednesday for a doubleheader of boys hockey section finals. The state wrestling tournament will begin Thursday with the team competition in all three classes, and the individuals will take over Friday and Saturday.

One of the big stories at the wrestling tournament will be Elissa Reinsma, a senior at Fulda/Murray County Central. Two years ago she made history by becoming the first female to qualify for state. Now a senior with a season record of 32-5, she has qualified for a second time. Wrestling at 103 pounds, she will meet Foley sophomore Tristan Manderfeld in the first round at 11 a.m. Thursday. Reinsma is unranked and Manderfeld is ranked No. 2 in Class AA at 103.

The boys swimming and diving meet will take place at the University of Minnesota on Thursday and Friday. One of the many interesting stories there is Farmington’s Tyler Magalis. He is a top-notch diver and swims in relays, too, but there’s more to his story.

The Farmington diving coach is Gregg Rappe, whose son RJ was a state diving champion in 2004 and went on to compete at the University of Massachusetts. Magalis has already broken RJ Rappe’s school record for diving, and his coach is, yes, RJ’s father. That’s a neat story.

When the boys state hockey tournament kicks off on March 9, there is an interesting twist with the officials.Three brothers have been assigned to work the state tournament; two of them are referees and one is a linesman, so they could end up working together.

Feel free to pass along any tournament notes from your school, and we’ll spread the news far and wide. Have a great week, everybody!

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 479
*Miles John has driven: 8,215

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Girls State Hockey Tournament: Fathers and Daughters, Smiles and Tears2/26/2011
After Warroad had won its second consecutive Class 1A girls state hockey championship Saturday afternoon, coach David Marvin sat at a table taking questions from the media. On his right were forward Karley Sylvester and goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie (pictured below). On his left were forwards Lisa and Layla Marvin.

Lisa and Layla are also David’s daughters. This question was raised to the Marvin girls: What does it mean to win back-to-back championships with your dad?

Layla, a senior who is two years older than Lisa, pulled the microphone they were sharing towards her seat and said with a smile, “I’d like to say it’s more with our team, but I’m glad our dad’s here, too.”

Layla had two goals and one assist in Warroad’s 5-1 victory over South St. Paul and Lisa had a goal and an assist. South St. Paul’s goal was scored by freshman Abby Palmquist, the daughter of coach Dave Palmquist.

Dave Palmquist and senior defender Sam LaShomb represented the Packers during the postgame media sessions. Sam was a little emotional, as you would expect. Sitting in front of reporters and TV cameras and answering questions after losing the biggest game of your life … that might be a tougher assignment than actually playing the game.

As the coach answered a question, Sam (pictured) looked to her left and saw a TV monitor on which Warroad’s postgame celebration was being replayed. That had to be tough to watch.

As the Warroad contingent walked to the media session, they were one very happy group of teenagers. Amsley-Benzie had a New Year’s Eve-style party favor in her mouth. It didn’t make any noise, but as she blew into it, it would unroll and then roll back up. As the Warriors walked past the door to South St. Paul’s locker room, the door opened and the Packers began trickling out, carrying equipment bags and sad eyes. It was proof again of the narrow line between winning and losing, between unforgettable elation and heart-wrenching sadness.

David Marvin talked about the Warriors season, about the seniors on this year’s team and what they will take from the experience. “We’ll have great memories for the rest of our lives,” he said.

Indeed they will. Things will look brighter for the Packers, too. South St. Paul loses only three seniors from the state runner-up team. Don’t be surprised, a year from now, to see the Packers doing the celebrating.

MINNETONKA WINS 2A TITLE

Saturday night’s contest was as close as they come, with Amy Petersen scoring at the 16:20 mark of the third period to carry Minnetonka past Edina 3-2. While there were no father-daughter combinations this time, the emotions were just as varied as after the 1A title game.

The Minnetonka Skippers were skating on air. Down the hall, sobs were heard coming from the Edina locker room. But, as is often the case, the tears were replaced by trickles of laughter not too much later. All the teams have much to be proud of, and even those that didn’t take home a state championship will understand that more and more as time goes on.

GREAT DAY FOR FEMALE ATHLETES

--Saturday was championship day at girls state hockey as well as individual championship day of the state gymnastics meet at the U of M. For the first time, all four officials for a girls hockey title game were women: Kelli Rolusta, Kristina Langley, Ashley Alm and Kristin Moran. And there was big news in the wrestling world, too. Fulda/Murray County Central senior Elissa Reinsma, who in 2009 became the first female to qualify for the Minnesota state wrestling tourney, qualified again Saturday at the Class 2A, Section 3 tournament. The state wrestling tournament will be held Thursday through Saturday here at the X.

TIDBITS

2A Herb Brooks Award winner: Carolyn Draayer, Minnetonka.

2A All-Tournament Team: Rachael Bona, Coon Rapids; Hannah Brandt, Hill-Murray; Sarah Neilsen, Sami Reber, Ali Austin, Megan Armstrong, Maddie Dahl, Edina; Julie Friend, Carolyn Draayer, Sidney Morin, Amy Petersen, Rachel Ramsey, Minnetonka.

2A third-place game: Coon Rapids 5, Hill-Murray 4 (3 OT). Chelsea Cyert scored in the second overtime to lift the Cardinals past the Pioneers.

2A fifth-place game: Elk River/Zimmerman 2, Lakeville South 1. Josie Broan had a goal and an assist for Elk River/Zimmerman.

--1A Herb Brooks Award winner: Amanda Arbogast, Eveleth-Gilbert.

--1A All-Tournament Team: Katie Felton, Sam LaShomb, Abbie Wisneskie, South St. Paul; Milica McMillen, Prentice Basten, Breck; Paige Hailey, Red Wing; Amanda Arbogast, Eveleth-Gilbert; Sara Carlson, Hutchinson; Shelby Amsley-Benzie, Layla Marvin, Karley Sylvester, Kayla Gardner, Warroad.

--1A third-place game: Breck 6, Eveleth-Gilbert 4. Milica McMillen scored two goals for Breck. Eveleth-Gilbert’s Kayla Moe had a goal and three assists.

--1A fifth-place game: Red Wing 5, Hutchinson 4. Paige Hailey had two goals for the Wingers and Claire Cripps had two for Hutchinson.

--Pep Band Song of the Day: With drums beating, the Warroad band members stood and used their arms to form the letters and spell “W-A-R-R-I-O-R-S.”

--Diet Coke Count: Four for the day, 16 for the tournament.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 479
*Miles John has driven: 8,215

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn