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A bright and BOLD year in west central Minn. sports (with video)

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It was quite a year in west central Minnesota sports. The BOLD baseball team won the Class A state championship behind brilliant pitching performances rarely witnessed in high-level postseason competition.

A New London-Spicer girls basketball player continued her push to become not only the best player in her traditionrich program but the top player in area history.

Two wrestlers from ACGC locked down state championships while several other area wrestlers reached state title matches.

Falling just short in championship games didn’t diminish the successes of the Ridgewater volleyball team, the Litchfield boys basketball team and the NLS and Dawson-Boyd football teams.

And a track relay team from Benson/KMS earned gold medals in the Class A state meet by peaking at the absolute perfect time.

Here are the highlights of a superb year of area sports in 2013:

The Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa boys basketball team had its 50-game winning streak ended in a loss at Melrose in January. The Jaguars, who are 146-13 with a Class A state championship and a state runner-up finish the last six years, ended 2013 with a 58-game Central Minnesota Conference winning streak intact.

New London-Spicer guard Taylor Thunstedt set the Wildcats’ school record scoring 50 points in a 73-59 win over Glencoe-Silver Lake in January. A month later, Thunstedt surpassed the school’s career scoring record of 1,804 and she ended 2013 with more than 2,000 points. She has a great shot at eclipsing the Tribune-area’s all-time record of 2,305, held by Hancock’s Bree Holleman.

Former KMS wrestler Kevin Steinhaus won three matches to help lead the University of Minnesota to victory in the National Dual Meet. The Gophers counted wins over No. 2 Iowa and No. 1 Oklahoma State among its three victories in the duals.

The Willmar, ACGC and KMS wrestling teams concluded successful seasons at the Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament in March. Willmar placed sixth in Class AAA and Cardinals’ 152-pounder Colten Carlson reached the title match before losing.

ACGC’s Larry Bomstad (145) and Lucas Damm (220) both brought home Class A state championships and the Falcons’ defeated their area rival, KMS, in the consolation championship match. The Saints’ Jordon Rothers (160), Chase Norton (220) and Zach Carlson (152) all earned second-place finishes.

BBE’s Tyler Tensen (126) and Patrick Rooney (182) both were state runners-up in Class A, and Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd’s J.D. Struxness (220) placed second in Class AA.

The Litchfield Dragons concluded another successful season with their second-straight runner-up finish in the Class AA Minnesota State Boys Basketball Tournament in March. The Dragons won 52 games – 12 in the postseason – in those two seasons.

Ridgewater head wrestling coach Tom Beyer retired after six seasons with the program. Before joining the Warriors, Beyer was Willmar High School’s head coach for 26 years.

The Willmar Civic Center was host to the 2013 U.S. Mixed National Curling Championships in March. Team Surka, of Connecticut, won the week-long, 10-team tournament with a 10-4 victory over Team Murray, of Wisconsin, in the championship match.

Heather Horning and Zech Streed were named Lions Award winners as Willmar High School’s outstanding senior athletes for 2013.

Willmar senior Rose Jackson set the Central Lakes Conference indoor record with an 18-feet-0-1/4 long jump. During the outdoor season, Jackson won three sprints and the long jump to lead the Cardinals to the Section 6AA True Team championship. She won those events at the State True Team Championships and Willmar initially won the meet, but a Cardinals relay team was disqualified for running inside the track, knocking them to third place.

At the Minnesota State Track and Field Championships, Jackson placed third in the long jump and won medals in the 100 and 200, giving her eight career state medals. She’s now competing at North Dakota State.

The Benson/KMS 4 X 800 relay team won the Class A state championship. The team was seeded eighth, 13 seconds slower than the qualifying time of topseed Watertown-Mayer. The Braves team of Leah Tessem, Emily Tostenson, Jessica Goff and Bethany Rosemeier also bettered their previous top time by a remarkable 19 seconds.

The BOLD baseball team won the Class A Minnesota state championship with a 3-0 victory over Osakis at Target Field. Logan Sangren got the win, throwing a onehitter. In the postseason, Sandgren and Riley Kramer were both 4-0. Kramer’s earned-run average in the postseason was 0.80 and Sandgren gave up just three hits and one earned run for an ERA of 0.28. They threw three no-hitters and two one-hitters. BOLD outscored their postseason opponents 69-7 and their three state tournament foes 28-4. All but two starters return this spring.

Benson’s Emma Peterson and Litchfield’s Zach Kinny were named winners of the Tribune’s Hengstler-Ranweiler Award as the area’s top senior athletes. Peterson played volleyball, basketball and competed in track and field. She is the Braves’ all-time scoring leader in basketball. Kinny played football, basketball and baseball, and was the driving force on Dragons’ basketball teams that played in two consecutive Class AA state championship games.

Former Willmar Stingers shortstop Hunter Dozier was the No. 8 pick overall in the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Texas native signed with the Kansas City Royals and in 69 games in rookie and A leagues, Dozier hit .308 with 52 runs batted in and 49 runs.

2013 Willmar Stingers first baseman and designated hitter Marc Flores was the Northwoods League’s co-MVP. Flores was third with a .352 average, he led the NWL with 26 doubles, was second in hits (95) and runs batted in (64), and he tied for third with 13 home runs.

The West Central Broncos football team turned their inaugural season around at the midpoint of their schedule and reached the semifinals of the Midwest Premier League playoffs. The Broncos, who fell in the semis, won five straight games after a 1-4 start and won a playoff game in overtime.

Litchfield volleyball player Bailey Koch was named to the Minnesota High School Volleyball Coaches’ Association All-Star Match in July. Koch, one of the Dragons’ alltime top players, is now competing at Augustana.

Willmar junior volleyball player Riley Grussing surpassed the Cardinals’ all-time sets record of 1,763 in September.

The Willmar girls cross country team won the Section 8AA championship, with Jessa Hanson, Sophia Schmitz and Samantha Hanson placing sixth, seventh and ninth. Willmar placed fifth in the Class AA state meet in November. The Cards boys team’s Thomas Seifert placed 19th to earn All-State honors. In the Class A state meet, Lac qui Parle Valley/ Dawson-Boyd placed second and Alaysia Freetly came home with All-State honors. Litchfield’s Savannah Ramirez also earned All-State honors.

The Ridgewater volleyball team, a four-time NJCAA Division III national champion, reached the 2013 national tournament championship match before falling to Rochester. Entering the final, Ridgewater was 3-2 against Rochester during the regular season and the Region 13A tournament. Warriors setter Tiffani Karbo was named a first-team All-American for a second straight year.

First-year starting quarterback Augustine Hahn broke the Willmar High School single-season passing record with 2,032 yards. He threw 15 touchdown passes and ran for 460 yards and 8 more TDs to lead the Cardinals to a 6-2 regularseason record.

The Dawson-Boyd and New London-Spicer football teams both played in state championship games in the final year of the Prep Bowl’s history in the Metrodome. Dawson-Boyd, the 2011 state champion, fell to defending champion Mahnomen in the Class A state title game. NLS, the 2009 Class AAA state champion, lost to St. Croix Lutheran, the 2011 Class AAA state champion.

Tom Larson

Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.

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