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Carlson named Willmar's new defensive coach

Willmar Cardinal football, as well as Vikings football, is many months off, but there are still topics for discussion.

In August second-year coach Jon Konold could welcome back as many as 55 juniors and seniors from last fall's 5-5 squad. Another 25-30 sophomores, for Willmar uncharacteristically heavy and broad shouldered, will expand the varsity roster to about 80 players.

Konold didn't make any coaching changes when he was hired last spring at Willmar, although he did rearrange the veteran staff.

Earlier this month, he made his most substantial shift. He named Dustin Carlson, a 2004 Willmar graduate, the new defensive coordinator. Carlson was on the junior high staff last season.

Bob Bezdicek, who has held the position since 1997, will take a step back and become a position coach.

Bezdicek seems fine with the move.

"I've been thinking for several years of hanging it up," said Bezdicek. "The (defensive coordinator) job is a big responsibility. You're always thinking about it, not just in season but throughout the year, and the losses eat at you. Some nights, I've thought 'Why am I doing this?' But you sleep on it and after a few days you're OK again."

The Lakefield native, a learning disabilities teacher at the high school, has taught since 1977, moved here in 1979 and became an assistant coach in 1981. He coached the sophomore program with Mike Hanson from 1982-96 and then became defensive coordinator when Ken Heitzman succeeded Deryl Ramey as varsity head coach in 1997.

He coached Carlson, an all-conference and all-area defensive end, for three seasons.

"Dusty should do well," said Bezdicek. "I had mentioned him to Jon. He's young and fresh."

Konold said he appreciates all the work Bezdicek has done and noted that Carlson will be surrounded by seasoned coaches to mentor him.

"He's young, energetic and willing to work," said Konold, "and he's going to be around for a while."

Carlson is a 2008 graduate of Concordia College. He was a Cobber captain and twice earned honorable mention MIAC.

Currently, the physical education teacher is a full-time substitute at Roosevelt Elementary. He's married to another former Cardinal and Cobber athlete, Emily Swierenga, a licensed elementary teacher working half-time as an intensive reading teacher at Roosevelt. The couple has a 19-month old son, Jackson.

Carlson played in a 4-3 defense in college and plans to take Willmar in that direction. Willmar's 3-5 alignment has had difficulty stopping the run.

"I'm pretty excited," said Carlson. "This is something I've wanted to do for a while."

Engle honored

Retired Cardinals girls golf coach and current high school league official Elaine Engle will receive the Special Merit Award at the State Capitol Feb. 3 during the 24th annual Minnesota Girls and Women in Sports Day.

Engle, who began her coaching career in the 1960s and established the girls golf program in 1973, was the first female inducted into both the Minnesota State High School Golf Coaches Association and the MSHS Coaches Association Halls of Fame. She is in her fourth decade as a swimming official.

The noon ceremony will honor 25 individuals in five categories. Sports Day is sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition of Women in Athletic Leadership.

On the fly

- Cardinal student/athletes recently honored by the Central Lakes Conference as Performers of the Week ... Boys Swimming: freshman Michael McLain swam career bests while winning the 200 freestyle (1:55.09) and placing second in the 100 butterfly (58.93) during the Fergus Falls meet ... Boys Nordic Skiing: senior Danny Voss compiled a pursuit time of 41:39 at the Little Falls Invitational.

- The Willmar Area boxing club's scheduled bout at Fergus Falls on Saturday was knocked out by the inclement weather. The next set of matches is Feb. 13 in Wadena.

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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