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Prep Basketball: Willmar picks new girls coach

WILLMAR -- There is sure to be even more basketball talk around the dinner table winter nights for Dustin Carlson.

He confirmed Monday that he has accepted the head coaching position in girls basketball at Willmar Senior High School.

Both Carlson and his wife, the former Emily Swierenga, were outstanding athletes at Willmar. Emily is the junior varsity girls coach and Dustin has coached boys basketball at the freshman level the past four years.

Carlson takes over for Hall of Fame coach Brad Atchison, who retired from coaching at the end of last season though he continues to teach physical education at the junior high school. Carlson, 26, also teaches P.E. at the middle school.

"I'm super excited," said Dustin at the end of football practice Monday. He's the varsity defensive coordinator and still stinging from a last-second loss at Rocori Friday but expressing pride in how well the team played versus the No. 2-ranked team in 4A.

"I'm taking over for a Hall of Fame coach and will be working with a great program that is well established," he said. "We'll change a few things, but we just want to keep it going."

Carlson starred in football, basketball and baseball and was the school's outstanding male athlete (The Lions Award) in 2004.

He played football at Concordia starting at defensive end for Terry Horan, another Willmar graduate. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in September of his junior year and missed the rest of the season. After treatment, he returned to play his senior season. He said there has been no recurrence and periodic blood test and scans have been negative.

He said coaching under varsity boys head coach Steve Grove has been a major influence and source of enjoyment in his early coaching career.

The Carlsons have a son, four-year-old Jackson. Emily, a fourth-grade teacher at Kennedy, is teaching full-time for the first time since she graduated from Concordia.

There were 31 applications received for the position.

Ryan Blahosky, the new activities director, has now filled the two open head coaching posts that greeted him when he started in September. The girls hockey head coaching post was also filled in the past week with the hiring of JaColby Anderson, a teacher at the high school.