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Willmar notebook: Head boys hockey coach Tollefson steps down

Tribune photo by Ron Adams Schwegman’s Cleaners owners Julie and Dan Tollefson pose at their business in February.

Willmar boys hockey head coach Dan Tollefson handed in his resignation to activities director Ryan Blahosky on Monday.

“Julie and I had thought and prayed about it,” Dan told me Wednesday in his cubbyhole office at Schwegman’s Cleaners.

“There’s no drama. The kids were great, the parents were great. Even when there were issues, they were respectful. With work and family it just caught up with me.”

He didn’t rush the decision. After each season, there’s some burn out, when you might think of exiting. He wanted to be sure he was truly ready to give up the reins and working daily with “top notch kids.”

Educators/coaches have long days but they have little on a business owner/coach.

In an aside, Julie told me this: Coming back from one of those road trips to Fergus or Brainerd, her husband would still have to go back to the store on the way home to finish a load and then be right back very early in the morning to load the machines for another day’s work.

It’s impressive the 1988 Willmar grad held on this long — two years assistant to Reed Larson and the last seven as head coach.

The couple has three children. Buzzy graduates on June 1 and has been accepted into the ROTC Airman’s program on scholarship at the University of North Dakota. There are two girls yet in school, including Bronwyn, an eighth-grader in gymnastics whom dad will now have a chance to watch perform.

He will stay involved with hockey, helping out at the Mite level.

He feels the program is in good shape and growing again mentored by experienced coaches at every level.

That makes it a great opportunity for the next head coach, he pointed out.

Ohio phenom

Marlene Stollings, the newly-hired Minnesota Gophers women’s basketball coach, grew up in the rolling countryside of southern Ohio, outside the small town of Beaver. At the Gopher Road Trip stop Tuesday at Legion Post 167, the youngest of the three Stollings children told me she was driven to excel from an early age. Her older brother Charles played all sports, but she latched on to basketball at age 7, and though she would play volleyball and softball for Eastern Pike H.S., “I never looked back” when it came to her main interest.

By middle school, the motor route carrier was leaving bundles of recruitment letters in the driveway. She became a varsity starter in ninth grade (Ohio doesn’t permit varsity participation any earlier). By her junior year, she was attracting statewide attention from TV and newspapers, as far away as Cleveland. Even ESPN sent a film crew out to Pike County. Crowds swelled in the Beaver gym from a couple hundred her freshman year into the thousands. She set a state standard with 3,514 points. A kid from Akron, last name James, would graduate later with 2,657.

Bonnie Henrickson, then at Virginia Tech, was one of many to recruit Marlene. She followed her dream and went to Ohio State. She left after two years (“Issues over playing time”) and finished out at Ohio University.

Now she is a head coach in the Big 10. “I never thought of doing anything else,” she said. “From the time I started getting those letters from colleges, I was fascinated by recruiting and what was behind it. I wanted the opportunity to influence young lives and young people 18 to 20 years old.”

Lt. Robinson

It should come as little surprise that Gophers wrestling coach J Robinson is a former Army Ranger who served as a Lieutenant in Vietnam, though, you can picture him as drill sergeant.

“I had three brothers. We all served in Vietnam,” he told me shortly after getting off the Chalk Talk bus.

He grew up in San Diego and went to college in Oklahoma. I hadn’t talked with him since he coached the Carlson brothers in the early ’90s.

I asked him about another Pennock product, Kevin Steinhaus, a three-time All-American.

“He is a man of principle, a man of God who doesn’t compromise his beliefs. We made him a captain early. He is a great role model and leader.”

Robinson soon turns 68. Already, he has 27 years here, after coming up from Iowa where he coached under Dan Gable. Retirement?

Not yet. He sees himself as a “Keeper of the flame”—an old-school coach maintaining the highest standards of conduct, character and discipline. 

In the Bible, he said, “there is no word for retirement.”

“You do what you do, and you’re done.”

Besides, if he quit then he’d have to hang out with a bunch of old guys talking about retirement and their aches and pains.

“I’m a hardcore coach. It’s stimulating to be around 18 to 23 year olds all day. I’m like a kid. Heck, maybe I’ll never grow up.”

Hotrod heaven

The 34th annual Willmar Car Club show at Kennedy and the Kandi Mall wasn’t the biggest ever — that was 2010 — but it was surely one of the best with near ideal weather after two years afflicted by rain. While final figures are still being calculated by club treasurer Forrest Honebrink, he estimates 270-80 registered entries and 300 vehicles overall on display. The number of swappers was way up, it seemed and attendance was “steady” all day.

On the fly

n Troy Cierna, a native of Eagan, will replace Kevin Madsen on June 1 as manager of the Civic Center. He’s managed arenas in the Boston area, where he graduated from college, and since last September has been working at rinks in the Metro. He has a background in hockey, playing for The Breck School, two years of Juniors in Canada and then at Salem State, where he also played baseball. He’s married with children 2 months and 4 years, both girls. Tony will be in Willmar on Friday for meetings. Madsen is retiring, which will be addressed in next week’s Notebook.

n The New London-Spicer school district could ask voters this fall to pass a measure to build an 800-seat performing arts center and gymnasium/fieldhouse, the Lakes Area Review reports. The structures would be part of the middle school/high school campus. The project is in the planning stage and public input is invited. As an alternate to a fieldhouse, two courts could be added to the gym with a community fitness center with a suspended walking tract.

n Brian Goodwin, the backcourt sparkplug on two state championship basketball teams at BBE, will attend NDSCS in Wahpeton and study math.

n Former Montevideo and Ridgewater College athlete Jerrid Sebesta wants to stay in television, but says that nothing is open at the moment in the Sioux Falls area where he intends to move. “I’m patient and don’t mind waiting for the right opportunity,” he told me in an email. Sebesta started at the KARE-TV in 2010 as weekend meteorologist. Jerrid and Emily and their two children are making the move to be closer to family. He called his job at Channel 11 the “best in the world” but the pull of family is stronger.

n The St. Cloud Technical College baseball team, coached by Fergus Falls grad Jason Fischer, is headed for the NJCAA Tournament in Tyler, Texas, after beating Century College of White Bear Lake 6-3 in the title game at Putz Field. Century, coached by former Ridgewater coach Dwight Kotila, was the national runner-up in 2013. Kotila announced on the Wood Duck website that sophomore pitcher Colton Vien (Montevideo) has signed with Augustana. 

n WCER has gotten middle school golf up and going again after three years without a program. Valley Golf, well suited to these youngsters, is offering a summer special of $100 for unlimited golfing.

n Dave Aus (WHS ’87) is the new head boys hockey coach at Brainerd. He’s been at Blaine for 14 seasons where his Bengals qualified for six straight State Tournaments through 2011. He told Brainerd Dispatch sports editor Mike Bialka that his primary reason for moving is that he and his wife Amy wanted to raise their children in a smaller community where they have the opportunity to play three sports and also live on a lake.

n Bob Marciniak, 75, passed away Tuesday, suffering from respiratory ailments. He was one of the original Brown Booters whose shovels and support moved hockey into the modern era. Bob and Darlene raised their children in the Garfield neighborhood, a block from the rink. Three sons thrived on outdoor ice to become major contributors on those great Cardinals teams of the eighties. Bob’s funeral is Saturday at Our Lady of the Lakes.

n The city street and parks department sent dump trucks up to St. Cloud Wednesday to pick up rolls of indoor/outdoor turf that is being pulled off the SCSU sports and recreation bubble. WCER director Steve Brisendine said the University is giving the turf away with 8-10 good years left. The main application here is expected to be seasonal turf at the Blue Line Center for spring practices and indoor soccer. Other uses are for soccer-goal mouths, batting cages and Hodapp Field bench areas.

n Youth baseball leagues have good numbers with 19 teams in the 3rd-4th-grade league at MACCRAY, NLS, BBE, Atwater, KMS, Prinsburg and Willmar. The 5th-6th league has 16 teams with Montevideo joining. The 7th has 12 teams with Waite Park and Rocori in. Softball has six 10u teams, seven 12u and nine 14u. WCER and NLS Community Education share some administrative duties.

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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