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Willmar notebook: Stahnke’s Panthers on tap for Cardinals

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The Willmar Cardinals boys hockey team, which opens tonight at 7:15 p.m. today against Highway 12 rival Morris/Benson Area, has an appetizing winter schedule.

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On Dec. 21, Pete Stahnke brings his Park Rapids Area Panthers to the Civic Center to face Dan Tollefson’s Cardinals.

Back in high school, both played on Central Lakes Conference championship teams: Stahnke in 1983 and Tollefson in ’87.

Stahnke, a three-sport standout who went in the Cardinal Pride HOF in the class of 2006, plays a demanding schedule up in hockey country, so 14 wins each of the last two seasons is impressive.

Also on tap in the Cardinal arena are Eveleth-Gilbert and Virginia /Mountain Iron-Buhl on back-to-back nights in mid-January. Ex-Cardinal coach Reed Larson helms Mountain Iron.

There’s also a first-time road trip to Luverne, now a Section 3A rival and a Saturday night home game with Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato for the Cream Can. Plus the usual Central Lakes foes will test the Cardinals in their annual pilgrimage to Civic Center Drive.

The Cardinals lost top scorer Hunter Schneider and a fine goalie in Joey Benson but have a lot of talent returning.

Here’s how the lines shape up for tonight: Hunter Mottinger centering Cole Hagen (LW) and Isaac Kobenia; Austin Smith centering Evan VanDenEinde and Ryan Woltjer; TJ Mattison centering Josh Tinklenberg and Joey Lee; Riley Grabow centering Blake Marcotte and Sam Anez.

Defensive pairs: Cole Block/Buzzy Tollefson, Nate Ackerman/Tyler Pendill, John DeLuna/Tony Kallevig and Trevor Tschida.

After backing up Benson, Levi Goosman gets the nod with Jacob Anderson and Nick Revier in reserve.

Section 3A also includes Hutchinson, Litchfield, New Ulm, Redwood Falls, Windom and Marshall.

Depth and strength are among the assets while goal scoring a question mark after Schneider, Zech Streed and Preston Peterson departed. 

Mottinger,

Rossum debut

Long-time gymnastics assistant coaches Jodi Mottinger and Doug Rossum take over for Larry Selchow, who retired after a successful run at Willmar that began in 1995.

One of the top returnees is Mottinger’s daughter, Haley, a state qualifier. Also back are all-arounds Stephanie Thompson (co-MVP with graduated Cassandra Johnson) and Alexis Miley.

Hillary Weiler and Madison Lindblad are also regular contributors. Weiler and Morgan Stoeberl are the only seniors.

The season opener is Dec. 3 against Melrose.

Hoop girls

The girls basketball team has nine seniors with one of them sidelined by an injury.

“These seniors really work hard at practice each day and have a positive attitude. They love being around one another which makes my job that much easier,” said head coach Dustin Carlson, starting his second year as head coach with wife Emily the JV coach.

“I think this group of seniors and a few juniors should have a quality season with a chance to be playing basketball later on in March.”

This is how the lineup shapes up early: Jordan Martins at point, Courtney Magnuson at guard, Kalley Fosso and Megan Rudnick at wing and McKenzie Hastad at post.

There is not a lot of size inside so Carlson will frequently rotate players off the bench to the wings and post. But he expects the team to be physical and scrappy.

“If we can hold our own on the block, we should have a pretty solid defensive team. Offense once again will be on the back burner to our defensive-minded team,” he said.

 Subs will be Leah Ruter, Sami Doering, Kaitlynn Kienholz, Bailey Hovland, Tara Rudie and Jennie Magnuson. Others are competing for playing time.

Last season the Cards finished 7-9 in the CLC and 12-15 overall. After the switcheroo with boys basketball, the girls don’t open until Dec. 7 against Mankato East.

Matmen date in Belgrade

Cardinal wrestling is expecting another strong season based on an experienced lineup. Five returnees won at least 25 matches last year.

The Cardinals are at the BBE Invite Wednesday held at the high school in Belgrade.

The lineup is very much in the formative stages with the athletes still adjusting their weight downward after only one full week of practice. Some veterans aren’t quite ready.

Ed Oehlers and Justin Brown, fresh off their AWF pro-wrestling debut as “managers” at Sunday’s TV taping for “Sunday Showdown,” return a fourth-season as co-head coaches.

 Here’s a possible line-up for Wednesday’s opener in the Jaguars’ gym: 106 - Israel Navarro 8, 0-0 (grade, record last season) … 113 - Jacob Bollig 9, 19-19 … 120 - Juan Resendez 11, 28-17 … 126 - Jonathan Linden 11, 0-0 … 132 - Logan Walkow 10, 10-9 … 138 - Austin Miley 12, 42-6 … 145 - Eli Gunderson 11, 5-15 … 152 - Travis Deegan 11, 36-10 … 160 - Colten Carlson 10, 41-6 … 170 - Kory Welgraven 12, 11-23 … 182 - Vaughn Johnson 11, 26-17 … 195 - Augustine Hahn 11, 8-4 … 220 - Jalen Cabrera 14-23 or Matt Hennes 11, 7-23 … HWT - Leon Richards 12, 8-9

Miley, Carlson, Johnson, and Hahn were individual state qualifiers on Willmar’s Section 6AAA championship team.

One of the strengths of the program is the seasoned coaching staff of Carl Carlson, Nathanial Swoyer, Tyler Steen, Tony Neumann and Mark Miley.

Wrestlemania

Official paid attendance at Wrestlemania was 734 on Sunday evening, reports Tim Kremer of the Takedown Club. Counting the sponsor table and Takedown club members the (loud) crowd approached 800.

“It was a success,” Kremer told me. “We generated funds equivalent to what we get from a wrestling tournament. Another positive point was that it allowed us to make contact with business owners in and around Willmar who have expressed interest in helping again when we hold other fundraisers.”

AWF chief Tony Denucci said earlier that it would likely be several weeks before the Willmar segment is aired on Twin Cities 23. The fans were instructed beforehand that the loudest section would get the most TV exposure so the cheering, and jeering , was raucous.

Prey for powder

 No snow, no problem. With the cool weather sans snow, the Nordic ski teams will nonetheless launch their schedule Dec. 5 at either Riverside in St. Cloud or Powder Ridge at Kimball, in either case a meet hosted by St. Cloud Tech. Both venues make snow.

Coach Brad Haugen reports 30 skiers are training.

“Everyone is excited about the upcoming season and is working hard,” said the head coach since 2005.

 The leaders will be captains Ryan Haines, Alec Janning, Erika Aaker and Kaitlyn Swanson.

  Also in the mix of top skiers will be junior Jack Erickson, last season’s boys MVP, Isaac Estrada, and Peter Rozendaal.  For the girls, Cassandra Lankenau will compete to be among the top skiers on the girls team.

 Haugen is pleased to see so many young skiers making progress or just coming into the program.

On the fly

n The Willmar boys, reviewed earlier in this column, are set to open Saturday at Mankato West (4 p.m.). The Scarlets finished 16-10 a year ago.

n The girls hockey team (0-4) hosts their annual invite Friday and Saturday with Benson/Morris Area, Long Prairie and Austin the guests. Willmar plays the Storm at 8 p.m. Friday in the Cardinal Arena.

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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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