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Willmar Notebook: No answer yet in Reynolds death

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Nothing will change the reality that their 20-year-old son is gone but Mike and Darla Reynolds are hoping for an answer.

Stephen, 20, died at home a week ago Tuesday. There was early speculation that a hockey injury had led to his death.

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An autopsy in Anoka the day he died did not provide an answer, his father Mike Reynolds told me Wednesday.

Nothing was noted wrong with the heart or lungs, no evidence of blood clots.

In the Sunday league game, Steve told his dad that he was hit with a puck just below the visor, but it was only a "little bruise" by the right cheekbone.

Mike recalled that his son didn't seem quite himself Monday evening.

"When he came home (from college), I fixed his computer," Mike related. "He seemed kind of listless; not quite himself."

Mike found his son dead the next afternoon.

Mike said Steve did have asthma but it was "never severe", and he didn't have seizures, though the way he was laying when found it "looked like a possible seizure."

"Right now, we don't officially know a thing," said Mike, a member of the school board and a Willmar graduate as is Darla. "We're left with a lot of questions."

Further tests may point to a medical conclusion.

"Renney's" funeral on Saturday filled Vinje Lutheran Church to near capacity. Hockey players and coaches sat in the choir loft.

Wearing their wide-striped Red and White home jerseys, the players made an isle for a stick salute as Steve's casket was wheeled out.

Nothing can be harder than burying a child, but the Reynolds family's spirits have been buoyed by the outpouring of love and support of friends, teammates and a lot of people "we didn't even know."

The many cards and letters included one from each of his instructors at Ridgewater. One former Cardinal athlete wrote he "hoped his 9-year-old son would turn out to be just like Steve."

His composition teacher wrote that of her 90 students he was the only one when told to put down the 3 most important things in your life listed "Family."

Steve was a three-sport athlete but never a star; he encouraged youngsters and junior teammates with his friendly, unassuming manner.

"Until now we didn't know what an impact Steve had on people," said his father. "I guess, right now, that's some solace. That he leaves a legacy."

In respect, his No. 7 Jersey hung behind the Cardinal bench last Friday.

Boys BB opens tonight at home

The Willmar boys basketball team opens tonight entertaining Section 2AAA rival Hutchinson for a scheduled 7:30 p.m. tipoff. The Cardinals lost five senior who either started or were early off the bench. Willmar got off to a solid start last year but went into a tailspin in February and lost 10 of their last 11 to finish 12-14.

The Tigers, who whipped Mankato West 84-48 on Tuesday, finished 14-12 last winter. The last time Willmar and Hutchinson played was in the section final in 2010, won by the Tigers 77-59.

The Cardinals return one full time starter in 6-2 shooting guard Jimmy Unger (14.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg). Seeing frequent action were 6-foot senior guard Mowlid Mohamud, 5-10 senior guard Dean Stier, 6-2 senior forward Jeremy Olson, 6-4 junior guard Austin Rambow (late in the season) and 6-1 junior forward Alex Grove (4.5 ppg).

Starting tonight will be Mohamud at point, Stier at the off-guard, Unger shooting forward, Grove at power forward and Rambow at post.

Olson, Matt Suedbeck, Joe Leuze, Brandon Zuidema will be coming off bench.

"Hopefully, the experiences learned last year can give our returning players the confidence to thrive in those tough situations that they are going to face," commented head Coach Steve Grove.

Minnesota Basketball News rates Rocori No. 4 in AAA. Section foes Marshall and Mankato East rank in the top 10.

Area players in the Elite 100 are center Connor Goodwin of BBE, forward Riley Aiekens of MACCRAY, guard Brett Bergeson of Montevideo and guard Nathaniel Huot of Dawson-Boyd.

Willmar opens CLC play at Cold Spring on Tuesday against Rocori, a veteran team led by Nathan Meyer, who quar-terbacked the Spartans to the AAAA state title this fall. Coach Bob Brink starts the season with a 918-316 record.

Rocori is ranked No. 1 in Section 5AAA, just ahead of Orono, whose head coach is Barry Wohler, the playmaker and scoring leader on the Bird Island-Lake Lillian teams that won consecutive state titles in both football and basketball 1979-81. His son Brady is now a 6-4 senior who averaged 13 ppg as a junior.

Gymnasts open

Abbey Weiler is back for her fourth and final varsity season to lead a young but still experience Cardinal gymnastics team, which opens on the road tonight at Sartell. Weiler was 8th in the conference all-around last year and a state qual-ifier on beam. Four-year letterwinner and state qualifier Kelsey Jacobson graduated.

Coach Larry Selchow will be looking for help from Willmar Wings graduates junior Cassie Johnson and sophomore Hillary Weiler. Freshmen Maddie Lindblad and Stephanie Thompson and 8th-graders Haley Mottinger and Alexis Miley also have the skill that could put them into the varsity rotation immediately.

Returning youth who stepped into the varsity fires last winter are sophomores Kennedy Holwerda and Morgan Stoeberl and freshmen Samantha Goeser, Morgan Hamstad, Kelsey Lloyd and Nicole Marshall.

Selchow commented that the depth of talent "Will make every event, plus the junior varsity, exciting to watch." Doug Rossum and Jodi Mottinger return as assistant coaches.

Swimmers dive in

The boys swimming and diving team is on the pool deck this evening at the senior high school to compete against Rocori. Willmar has nine seniors, though they lost state qualifiers Kyle Rozendahl, Mason Kluver and David Skonard, plus point scorer Robert Brau.

Numbers are down, reports head coach Carl Shuldes with 27 in the pool 7-12.

But back with state meet experience are Nick Aaker, Ben Fuglestad, diver Bennet Woltjer, AJ Derouin, Josh Kelly and Michael McLain.

"We've got some good returning veterans, but need the younger grades to develop quickly if we are going to be com-petitive with the top teams in dual meets," commented Shuldes.

15th year as major college head coach

Bonnie Henrickson (WHS '81), Willmar's first 1,000-point scorer girls basketball, is starting her 15th season as a major college head coach. She's in her eighth season at Kansas. The Jayhawks started 7-0 and then lost to Alabama at Tusca-loosa 80-76 on Sunday.

After Willmar, she played four years at St. Cloud State where she ranks fourth in career points (1,741). Before taking the Jayhawks' top job, she spent seven seasons at Virginia Tech guiding the Hokies to some of their most successful seasons in program history.

Kansas hosts Wisconsin tonight at Fog Allen Fieldhouse.

Grove, Streed also All-State

The Willmar Cardinals actually had three players named 2011 All-State Honorable Mention. Besides senior receiver Dean Stier, quarterback Alex Grove and linebacker Zech Streed, both juniors, made the AP list.

Grove threw for 1,525 yards and 9 TDs and ran for 709 yards and 8 TDs, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Streed led the team in tackles with 33 solo and 60 assists, eight for loss. He had 2 interceptions, both returned for TDs, and recovered 1 fumble recovery.

On the fly

n The Willmar Cardinals boys hockey team hosts the River Lakes Stars tonight in the Cardinal Arena. It's homecoming for three Rocori assistants. Barry Nelson, Steve Frank and Keifer Dahle are all former Cardinals. John Pulsifer is in his first year as head coach. Willmar is 1-1 after beating MBA Storm 7-3 and losing 4-3 to Litchfield/DC. River Lakes beat Prairie Center 5-1. Austin Stone, who scored the winning goal for the Stars on Tuesday, is the grandson of retired Cardinals coach Gayne Stone, now an award-winning math instructor at the community college.

n Alexandra Lippert, 6-foot-4 sophomore post at Concordia College, is averaging 11 ppg, 7 rpg and 4 blocked shots per game for the Cobbers, off to a 4-2 start.

n The CLC named Lindsey Atchison, 5-8 senior guard, girls basketball Defensive Performer of the Week. She had 7 steals and 9 rebounds in losses to section powerhouses Hutchinson and Mankato East.

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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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