Otto's Arrows had shot at Edgerton legend
This is the start of the winter season. Long ago, that meant basketball and not much else.
Times have changed but the legends and memories of packed small-town gymnasiums remain.
Ed Otto, 82, a retired Willmar educator, had a role in the greatest legend of them all.
Edgerton had only 1,000 souls but supplied players for both the public school and Southwest Minnesota Christian, just blocks apart. The farm town is forever linked with the nostalgia of the single-class tournament in Minnesota sports lore.
The fascinating story is coming out in a book by Town Team Baseball author Tom Tomashek and former Edgerton teacher Ken Kielty. "Edgerton: a Minnesota Basketball Legend" tells the story of a high school with less than 100 student mowing down the Goliaths of Minnesota basketball one by one.
In that unforgettable winter, Edgerton went 27-0 to stand at the apex of Minnesota's 488 high schools.
Except for Richfield, which lost in overtime to the Dutchmen in the state semifinals, no team had a better shot to stop the magical journey than Otto's Pipestone Arrows.
There might not be an Edgerton legend had not the Standard Oil Co. intervened in the Summer of 1959.
"I lost three kids that summer," Otto recalled this week. "The Glasrud brothers, 6-4 and 6-1, moved to Rochester and both started for John Marshall. I remember their dad coming over to the house and said he had some bad news. Standard Oil had promoted him and he had to move."
On top of that 6-3 Ron Archer, a top prospect, and his widowed mother moved to California.
The highly-rated Arrows (18-3) still had one of the state's best players in Sid Bostic, who would go on to star for South Dakota State's 1963 College Division national champions, along with 6-4 Bob Glasrud.
An overflow crowd filled the Luverne gym for the District 8 semifinal. Otto's Arrows jumped up 9-0, but the Dutchmen's 6-3 senior leader Dean Verdoes blocked Bostic off the boards and the pesky Flying Dutchmen crept back. They led by one at half and would win 66-54.
"I had scouted them twice and thought we could beat them, you know how coaches think, but they were better than I thought," reflected Otto.
Richie Olson, the Flying Dutchmen's boyish 22-year-old first-year coach, would console Otto on several occasions that the win over Pipestone win was the team's toughest all year, with the possible exception of Richfield.
The Flying Dutchmen next rolled over Worthington before 2,600 at Luverne for the school's first trip to the Region II Tournament and a meeting with mighty Mankato.
Tomashek, who grew up in Hutchinson, writes that the regional tournament generally meant midnight for a small-town Cinderella.
Mankato guard Leroy Schweim told the author: "We're on the bus ... and were headed to good ol' Myrum Field House (in St. Peter) and a 3 p.m. game against Edgerton. We thought we were going to win. 'This is going to be fun' ... but it wasn't."
Late in Edgerton's 73-44 triumph, a stunned Mankato player turned to 5-8 Darrell Kreun and asked rhetorically, "Where did you guys come from?"
At Williams Arena, among the nation's biggest venues at the time, the "small and skinny" country boys whipped Chisholm 65-54 to reach the semifinals. Richfield, which beat Willmar by 20 in the Region V tournament, lost 63-60 in overtime despite the efforts of 6-6 all-stater Bill Davis. On March 26, 1960, Edgerton defeated perennial power Austin 72-61 and the make the legend complete.
Otto took heat after the Arrows fell to the Dutchmen, but he had a retort: "Sure, we lost to 'em, but so did everyone else."
Two years later, his Arrows defeated Luverne in two overtimes for the District 8 title but lost to Windom in the first round of Region II.
The state's southwest region would soon again assert itself in 1963 and again in '64 with Marshall and than Luverne winning the state title back-to-back.
Otto, who had come to Pipestone after coaching in his native North Dakota, coached the Arrows for 10 years then stepped down when his boys got old enough to play.
In 1970, his old friend from North Dakota, Ernie Peterson, the senior high principal, convinced him to move to Willmar and take a job as the assistant principal.
The book's authors plan to launch the book prior to an Edgerton girls game on Dec. 5. All five starters from 48 years ago are expected to be on hand. More on the book can be found at Edgertonabblegend.net
Volleyball player Greta King was a role player during her freshman year at Concordia College, averaging 2.14 kills per game. The 5-10 outside hitter saw regular action, but through the Cobbers' 20-5 regular season had only two matches in which she reached double digits.
Then came the postseason and she became a go-to hitter in the Cobbers' most successful postseason run ever. In a 3-2 win over Loras College of Dubuque, Iowa, in the Central Region quarterfinals, she led the Cobbers with 21 kills, adding five digs and an ace block.
The Cobbers then swept UW-LaCrosse 3-0, a match in which she was 21 of 22 hitting with eight kills. That put Concordia in the NCAA regional final for the first time.
Against MIAC rival, College of St. Benedict, King was 25-28-10, second on the team, but the Cobbers fell 3-1.