Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children.
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ST. CLOUD - Perhaps it's just not meant to be. Alexandria, seemingly at the top of its game, derailed Willmar's state ambitions 2-1 on Thursday night in the Section 6A championship game. Alexandria got the game's first and last goal. Much of the time, the underdogs seemed to win the race to the puck and have the more sustained offensive pressure. "We didn't hold it in the offensive zone," said Willmar head coach Dan Tollefson. "We just didn't generate as much offense as we wanted to." Willmar was playing in only its second section final since the current program began in 1972-73.
For young athletes, postseason is the time to shine. Willmar has 10 boys going to state in swimming and diving and five to state in wrestling. And tonight, the boys hockey team plays for what would be the school's first state visit since Harry S Truman was in the White House. In state waters It's a record nine swimmers off to the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center. Plus, Bennett Woltjer dives in the preliminaries today, trying to improve on a 15th-place finish a year ago. Kyle Rozendaal medaled in the backstroke last year. His seed time of 55.75 is fourth best.
ST. CLOUD -- For a hockey team that got off to a wobbly start, Willmar sure found its edges. The fifth loss in a stumbling start was a 3-0 setback at Sartell on Dec. 23. Since then, the Cardinals are 15-3-3, including Saturday's 3-2 victory over those same Sabres in the Section 6A semifinals. The keys to the win were two Willmar scores in the first three minutes and the blockbuster goaltending of Finnish import Christian Yrttimaa. "We were ready for this.
ST. CLOUD -- The Willmar Cardinals upended No. 2 seed Sartell 3-2 on Saturday night and will advance to the boys Section 6A championship game Thursday back at Torrey Arena. No. 3 Willmar (16-8-3) will meet No. 5 Alexandria (11-15-1) at 7 p.m. at the MAC. Willmar bolted to a 2-0 lead in the first two minutes on goals by Liam Johnston and Grant Schow but Landon Peterson's goal in the second period turned out to be the game-winner as the Sabres (17-9-1) battled back. In another strong performance, Cardinal goalie Christian Yrttimaa stopped 29 of 31 Sartell shots.
ST. CLOUD -- The Willmar Cardinal wrestling team got five wrestlers through to the Class AAA state meet. Finishing first or second at the Section 8AAA meet on Saturday at Apollo High School were Nate Mittag at 103 pounds, Alex Johannes at 130, Coty Milhausen at 152, Nathanial Swoyer at 189 and Cass Herzog at 275. State individuals start Friday at St. Paul.
Willmar boys hockey advances to 6A final ST. CLOUD -- The Willmar Cardinals upended No. 2 seed Sartell 3-2 on Saturday night and will advance to the boys Section 6A championship game Thursday back at Torrey Arena. No. 3 Willmar (16-8-3) will meet No. 5 Alexandria (11-15-1) at 7 p.m.
Assistant coaches get none of the glory, and appropriately little of the heat, that falls on head coaches. Still, their days are also long and for sure, the bus rides are no shorter. Sally Wilson has been with the Willmar girls program for 11 years. She coached the freshmen for eight years and then B-squad/JV the last three. No ones kept official track but she and her colleagues estimate her won-loss record at "close to 198-30." She's leaving next month for Nebraska. "My plan is to move to Omaha," she stated in an email. "My boyfriend, Bruce, lives and works down there.
Willmar becomes a Woodstock of kids basketball this weekend when up to 700 boys and girls on 70 teams infiltrate the city limits for two days during the annual Willmar (Youth) Basketball Boosters Association hoops festival. Upper elementary through middle school ages will compete on courts at Roosevelt Elementary (4th-5th grades), the middle school (6th grade) and senior high school (7th-8th grades), nine courts in all.