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Tribune file photo by Rand Middleton Willmar Cardinals senior diver Bennet Woltjer, competing vs. St. Cloud Apollo on Jan. 5, seeks a return visit to state where he placed sixth in 2011.

Willmar notebook: Bid for state in Willmar waters

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Swimmers and divers from 15 schools -- make that 19 counting four pairings -- hit the 8-lane pool at the high school and the adjoining diving well for the Section 3A meet Friday at 5 p.m. with Saturday's swim/dive finals at 3 p.m.

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It's a strong flotilla with Fergus Falls, Hutchinson, Bemidji and Alexandria in the mix. The Otters (appropriate nickname) won the Class A state meet in 2011. Hutch and Bemidji were top 12.

Top seeds for the host team are Michael McLain and Nick Aaker in the 200 free and McLain in the 100 free. Ben Fuglestad has a shot in the 100 fly. The top four (individuals and relays) go on, plus those who can meet the time standard.

The Cardinals are also near the top in the freestyle relays.

Montevideo has high-seeded swimmers in Jack Speath and Tommy Payne. The T-Hawks also have the No. 3 seed in the medley relay. Eric Dahlseng is a standout for Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield.

Divers Bennet Woltjer of Willmar and Chase Testa of Montevideo are seeking a return trip to state where they placed sixth and eighth, respectively, in 2011. The diving prelims are at 11 a.m. Saturday.

The top 4 scoring divers advance to state.

This is one of four section meets in Class A.

College to nationals

Nine Ridgewater College wrestlers are off to Rochester for the Friday/Saturday NJCAA Nationals.

This is a fiercely contended event; each bracket pits 25-30 wrestlers trying to reach the championship match late on Saturday.

The athletes who reach nationals are hard-core; wrestlers pay a heavy price to compete, especially so in college.

The Warrior wrestlers get tossed into this ridiculously aggressive stew with the Division I athletes on scholarship. The brackets bristle with blue chip competitors of major-college caliber who first need to bring up their grade point.

Here's the Warriors lineup. While none of the records are off the chart like seen in high school (35-1, 31-2, 41-0, etc.), remember that Ridgewater is one of only four DIII programs in the region and competes mainly against scholarship programs and four-year colleges.

125-Lonny Booshu 21-14; 133-Javior Portillo 21-8; 141-Mariano Portillo 23-11; 149-Klinton Van Heuveln 29-11; 157- Shane Fessenmaier 28-12; 165-Tyrell Martin 13-5; 174: 174-Trevor Mahlum 18-14; 184-Kevin Hahn-8-16; 285-Charlie Gelhaye 13-17.

Heading to Hopkins

Here is the Cardinals line-up for the 6AAA Individual Tournament Friday/Saturday at Hopkins High School: 106 - Logan Walkow; 113 - Nate Mittag; 120 - Austin Miley; 126 - Estevan Navarro; 132 - Alex Johannes or Travis Deegan; 138 - Colten Carlson; 145 - Seth Pollock; 152 - Darius O'Neill; 160 - Augustine Hahn; 170 - Chad Milhausen; 182 - Shawn Johnson; 195 - Martin Cabrera; 220 - Matt Hennes; 285 - Cass Herzog

About drawing the Apple Valley juggernaut in the team quarterfinals on March 1. Co-head coach Justin Brown, a 7th-grade geography teacher, commented: "I believe our kids are very focused and fear nothing. Our wrestlers have continued to improve and step up to the competition all season. There is a reason why Valley is rated second in the nation -- they seek out the best competition in the nation and win. No matter the score our wrestling team will be focused and wrestle to the best of their ability."

California dreamin'

Mike Heinen, 28, of Willmar finished 10th of 2,443 at the Surf City USA Marathon on Feb. 5 at Huntington Beach, Calif. His time of 2:46.50 placed him third in age group and about 16 minutes off the winning time of Paul Sarris (2:30.09). Mike's dad Roger Heinen, 58, of New London, ran a personal best 3:38.35 and finished 362 and 38 of 199 in age class.

While the marathon limits entries, the half-marathon drew 14,234 runners. The unique course sashays down the Pacific Coast Highway, through oceanfront parks and along beachfront running paths at a maximum 100 feet above sea level. Surf bands and early-morning surfers add to atmosphere.

Mike is a project manager at Marcus Construction.

Girls hockey repeat academic honor

The Willmar Girls Hockey team is the Section 2A Academic Champion a fourth straight year with a GPA of 3.86. Willmar now competes for the state Academic Championship, which it won two years in a row. A Willmar player will represent the team to accept the section prize at the Ms. Hockey Banquet.

State bound

Willmar sends junior Cassie Johnson in vault and freshman Stephanie Thompson on balance beam to the Class A state meet on Saturday at the Sports Pavilion on the U of M campus.

Johnson placed fourth in vault by scoring 9.35; Thompson won beam at 9.575, a score that would have won the bronze medal at the state meet in 2011.

But the state tournament is a different beast.

Coach Larry Selchow says that it's difficult to predict where a gymnast might place, but adds "It would be a thrilled to see both Cassie and Stephanie make the top 10."

The former Gophers' gymnast points out that "The judges at the state meet are likely to be the best the state has to offer and will catch all the deductions. So, the scores can be lower where less seasoned judges might miss a deduction or two."

Both girls were on the Wings club team last year.

The competition begins at 11 a.m. Tickets are $12 adults and $8 student.

On the fly

n Receiving Central Lakes recognition this month from Willmar: Boys Nordic skiing, sophomore Ryan Haines posted season-best times at the section meet skiing 18:58 classic, 15:52 skate for a pursuit time of 34:50 ... girls hoops, offense, Lindsey Atchison, senior guard, in 2 games, she scored 25 points with 7 assists ... girls hoops, defense, Heather Horning, junior guard, in 2 games, she had 12 rebounds, 7 steals and blocked 3 shots .... Gymnastics, freshman Stephanie Thompson, won the balance beam competition at the Section 6A meet scoring 9.575 and advanced to the state meet.

n Senior Cardinals wrestler Shawn Johnson won all three of his matches at the section team tournament on Saturday to raise his record to 20-17. The 182-pound Johnson was on the swimming team year. "I just needed a break after six years of wrestling," he explained. "But I missed wrestling. It motivated me being away. I was ready to give it my all for my senior year."

n The Willmar Cardinals will play Fergus Falls for the third time on Saturday evening at the MAC in St. Cloud in the 6A boys hockey semifinals. Both CLC meetings ended 5-4 in the Otters' favor, the first in overtime. The two teams last met in a section game Feb. 20, 2007, Fergus winning 4-1 in the quarters. Fergus also won the only other post-season meeting 5-2 in the section final at Alexandria Feb. 25, 2003. In the early game Saturday, top-seed Little Falls will be out to replicate a 4-0 win over the Sartell Sabres on Jan. 19.

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Rand Middleton

Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 

(320) 214-4334
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