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Willmar notebook: Gophers’ wrestler Steinhaus stout in return

Kevin Steinhaus, the former Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg athlete from Pennock, returned to the spotlight on Saturday at Stillwater, Okla. Coming off summer ACL surgery, the Gophers’ redshirt senior wrestler won by major decision over Jordan Rodgers (6-4, five falls) by a 14-5 score to start a U of M three-bout rally and defeat Oklahoma State 16-15 in a meeting of the No. 2 Gophers and No. 4 Cowboys.

“I felt solid, strong,” Steinhaus said on Monday. He had torn his left knee at a wrestling camp in Pennsylvania in July while playing soccer with other college clinicians.

It was his first major injury through high school or college. Admittedly, the rehabilitation was “long and tedious” but spot-on. He sat out the Gophers’ first three duals.

To refresh, Steinhaus was recruited by J Robinson after winning three consecutive Class A state titles and compiling a 136-0 record his final three years at KMS. And in one of the most incredible senior years this reporter has witnessed he also quarterbacked the Fighting Saints to the 2008 Class A football championship. Yet, he lists his “Greatest Sports Thrill” as winning the high school wrestling team championship in 2009 as a senior under coaches Wes Haglund and Craig Johnson.

After posting a 20-3 record as a redshirt wrestling in open tournaments, he’s been the Gophers’ man at 184 pounds. As a freshman redshirt he was 34-12 and the Big Ten runner-up. The last two seasons, he has been 18-0 in dual meets (8-0 in the Big Ten) each year.

He was All-American both as a redshirt freshman and the next year but missed out in 2013. That’s a sore point and his goal this year again is to win the national title.

His win against the Cowboys this week was his 98th.

His career on the East Bank is distinguished by more than victories: He won the Verne Gagne “Leadership Award” last season, the team’s “Most Dedicated Wrestler” as a sophomore and “Co-Most Outstanding Freshman” three years ago.

The kinesiology major with a coaching minor has a 3.4 GPA and has a number of all-academic awards.

His immediate plans, following a spring graduation, lean to the spiritual.

He plans to join the staff of Athletes in Action Campus Ministries.

“I will be working with athletes, sharing the gospel,” he said.

Throughout his time at Minnesota, he has grown spiritually.

“We work with a guy, John Peterson, that we can meet with one-on-one. It’s had a huge impact. There are a lot of guys (in the wrestling room) with a spiritual interest. It’s a cool atmosphere.”

Now it’s time for fall semester finals. The Gophers are back in action Jan. 1-2 at the Chattanooga Southern Scuffle where Kevin has placed third twice and once champion.

Henrickson starts 10th KU season

Bonnie Henrickson, Willmar’s first 1,000-point scorer in girls basketball, is early in her 10th year helming the Kansas Jayhawks. She spent 11 successful campaigns directing the Virginia Tech Hokies.

So far, KU is 4-4 after losing three straight to Xavier, No. 2 Duke (10-0) and Arkansas (9-0).

The 1986 graduate of St. Cloud State, where she is a member of the Hall of Fame, has a career record of 320-200 and 162-139 on the Lawrence, Kan., campus. Her teams reached the Round of 16 each of the past two years and she now has three 20-win seasons in a row.

Tinklenberg finale

Alissa Tinklenberg, Willmar High School’s most decorated swimmer, has not slacked off in her four sterling years at Gustavus Adolphus.

Her early-season times lead the MIAC in the 100-yard freestyle (51.99), the 100 backstroke (55.55), 200-back (2:01.21) and 500-free (5:01.29) and the 200-yard freestyle (1:56.04). Additionally, she is second in the 200-free (1:56.04) and third in the 50-yard freestyle (24.06).

With her teammates, the 2012-13 MIAC Swimmer of the Year will now take nearly three weeks off for finals and the holiday break. They’ll return to action with a training trip to Puerto Rico from Dec. 28 to Jan. 5.

Aus’s Bengals No. 1

Dave Aus (WHS, 1987) is in his 14th season coaching Blaine boys’ hockey, which he has advanced to six state tournaments and produced Mr. Hockey selection Nick Bjugstad.

For the first time the Bengals start the season ranked No. 1 (Let’s Play Hockey poll, Dec. 4).

While a lofty preseason ranking is a nice recognition it is small reason to celebrate so early. However, LPH reports Aus does see an upside:

“One thing it does do is give your opponents more juice, which I think in the long run makes you better. So there is a benefit and there is some pressure. But this group needs that.”

On the fly

n The Winged Foot Running Club, composed of the Cardinal girls cross country team that placed fifth at the Class AA state meet on Nov. 2, finished third at the Nike Heartland Regional in South Dakota two weeks later behind first-place Wayzata and runner-up East Ridge.  The Wayzata girls, led by junior Anna French in eighth place, has now gone on to win the Nike CC Nationals in Portland, Ore., on Saturday. They out-ran seven-time defending champion Fayetteville-Manlius, N.Y., by 12 points, 108 to 120.

n The Willmar boys hockey team (2-0, 3-0) hosts the Alexandria “Black” Cardinals (3-0, 4-0) tonight. The two squads are the only unbeatens left in the Central Lakes Conference loop. Alex is coming off a 5-0 win over Fergus Falls on Tuesday. Postseason, Alex is slotted into Section 6A and Willmar into the “Sugar Beet” region 3A, where coaches have voted Hutchinson and New Ulm the top picks to win the section. Section secretary Wally Brown notes this week that five of the 11 teams have the male Cardinal for a mascot and that Chris Olson at Litchfield/DC has the longest tenure as a head coach (11 years).

n The Willmar mat team has two invite titles in the bag and a 2-0 dual-meet mark heading into tonight’s home meet and its CLC opener vs. Sartell (0-1, 2-2). The Sabres have a 33-32 loss to Alexandria and placed second, two points behind, KMS at the Melrose Invite Nov. 27.

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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