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Swoyer staying close to home
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

The boy from Kansas is staying home when it comes to his first two years of college.

Nathanial Swoyer, the Cardinals' top male athlete this school year, will play football and wrestle at Ridgewater College beginning this fall.


He signed a letter-of-intent before graduation.

He will enter the program to become an electrician. He'll still have an option of continuing at a senior college, perhaps Concordia.

Willmar alumni Terry Horan, the Cobbers' football coach, wanted the linebacker-fullback. He told Nathanial he'd wait.

"Ridgewater gives me the chance to play two sports and after that make a decision which one to do at a four-year," said the reigning 189-pound Class AAA state wrestling champion.

Rob Baumgarn, the Warriors' football coach, is delighted to nail down the top athlete from Willmar's Class of 2011.

"It's not just his strength and abilities," said Baumgarn. "He's got a great attitude."

Swoyer is in Minneapolis this week preparing for the Minnesota All-Star Football Game on Saturday evening at TCF Bank Stadium.

He'll wrestle for Tom Beyer, his coach at the high school when the Swoyer family moved up from Kansas.

"Coach Beyer taught me about working hard," said Swoyer, who was an eighth grader when his family moved north to Minnesota.

"I learned quickly against guys like Trent Molacek and Drew Larson in the wrestling room. It was Drew who convinced me to go to the J Robinson wrestling camp before my sophomore year."

Swoyer was the first Cardinal since Larson in 2007 to reach the championship final at the state wrestling meet at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Back in Kansas, Swoyer had played tackle football starting in fourth grade, joined a kid wrestling club and ran track. He grew up in a family of four girls and three boys in Kiowa, a town of a 1,000 people on the Oklahoma border surrounded by wheat.

"At harvest time the population would double," said Nathanial, referring to the mobile combine crews thrashing their way north.

Frank would drive his two youngest sons to the next town -- an hour away -- for wrestling practice. On weekends the three drove to kid wrestling events from Kansas City, to Oklahoma City, to San Antonio. Marshal, four years older, would also play football and wrestle here.

Nathanial remembers wrestling up to 60 matches a season while still in elementary school and winning two Liberty National Championships.

Frank and Janet moved the family north in 2007 for a job on the railroad. Frank now works at an implement maker in the Industrial Park and Janet works at Roosevelt Elementary in the kitchen.

Willmar is 20 times bigger than Kiowa and the opportunities multiplied for Nathanial. He switched from track to baseball.

The state wrestling title was the end of a long quest which began with those long drives across the prairie.

When his arm was raised on March 5 on the center mat, he thought of how all the work had paid off.

"I thought about the last four years, all the cutting weight and running to keep the pounds off," he said. "Finally, it was like a wave of relief."

Saturday's kickoff is at 7 p.m. Swoyer will play for the South All-Stars. On the North Team, are Tribune All-Area selections Eric Riley of Morris Area, Ryan Swenson of Dawson-Boyd and Brandon Zylstra of New London-Spicer.

Not the 1st Indian

Jordan Smith, who was a senior all-conference wide receiver when Swoyer was a sophomore starter at linebacker, signed a pact with the Cleveland Indians on Sunday to join one of their Class A farm clubs.

If Jordan makes it to the Major Leagues, he wouldn't be the first in his extended family to do so. A great uncle, Floyd Stromme of Cooperstown, N.D., pitched in the big leagues in 1939 -- for Cleveland, no less. His name is listed in the 2011 Indians' media guide.

Floyd, who has passed away, is the older brother of Jordan's grandmother, Marilyn Hedstrom. She attended her grandson's big day at the Smith home on Sunday.

Jordan's uncle, Jim Hedstrom, a Detroit Lakes native, both pitched and played basketball for Mike Johnson at Willmar Community College in the mid-1980s and later played with the Paynesville town team.

On the fly

At mid-afternoon on Wednesday the Eagle Creek pro shop had signed up 33 golfers for the 54-hole Lakeland Tournament on Saturday and Sunday. Defending champion Aaron Barber of Maple Grove had a scheduling conflict and will not be back this year.

Ray Nelson (WHS '03) has been appointed head girls swimming coach at St. Cloud Apollo where he had been an assistant the previous two seasons.

Three Eagle Creek golfers cashed at the Men's Medal Pay Invite at the Marshall Country Club on Monday. Andy Jacobson finished in second, one stroke out of first shooting 71-33-104; third-place Pete Hannig shot 72-37-109 and fifth-place Scott Carruthers 76-37-113.

The two tennis courts scrapped bare north of Baker Field will become the new skate park, replacing the Washington site. The four courts at Kennedy, long in disrepair, will become parking. Courts open to public are at the college (four), Sperryville (two), Rice Park (two), middle school (four) and senior high (eight).

Brandi Bodin plans to play two sports at Bloomfield (N.J.) College. She was recruited for softball after two outstanding seasons at Ridgewater College. This spring she hit .525 with 51 extra-base hits and 65 RBI and earned first-team All America honors. A member of the 2010 NJCAA national champions now plans to play volleyball, too, at the NCAA Division II campus. Emily Roelike, a two-time All-America shortstop, will attend Minnesota State Moorhead.

Cole Christopher, two-time Cardinal Lineman of the Year, All-Area kicker Mitch Fader and All-Area receiver Jeremy Lawler, all of Willmar, will attend Concordia College and play football for Willmar alum Terry Horan. Third-year starter Michael Dunham (WHS '08) returns at quarterback for his senior year.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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