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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WILLMAR -- For the seventh December in a row, the Willmar Cardinals and the New London-Spicer Wildcats will tangle for county honors at the boys basketball holiday tournament. Willmar topped a tenacious Benson team 66-57 in Saturday's late game of the Bremer Bank Holiday Classic. NLS is now 8-0 and ranked No. 2 in Class AA. Willmar is 6-0 and No. 4 in AAA.
Call it Holiday Madness, Kandiyohi County style. The annual Bremer Bank Classic at Willmar and the West Central Tribune/WildCard -- this year at New London -- feature tantalizing possibilities as the double-zilch decade comes to a close. Fans and, yes, sportswriters can be forgiven for anticipating a New London-Spicer vs. Willmar showdown in each. The Willmar boys and girls are both rated in the middle of the Class AAA top ten while the Wildcat juggernauts are at the top in Class AA. All four teams head to Christmas undefeated. The Bremer Classic starts 6 p.m.
WILLMAR -- School was dismissed for the holidays at mid-afternoon and much of the time it looked like the Willmar girls basketball team already was on vacation Tuesday night. Despite a sputtering offense, the Cardinals picked up their fifth win without a loss by holding off Sartell 52-44 in a Central Lakes Conference game. The home debut was marked by turnovers and fouls and plenty of scrappy play. "We just weren't intense," said Willmar senior guard Mariel Aamot. "We're still staggering on offense; like running in mud.
Growing up under a large shadow cast by an older brother isn't all bad. It seems as though Hannah Smith would have it no other way. It was by playing games with Jordan -- older by two years -- and his friends that she learned quickly to compete or get crushed. In her senior year at Willmar High School, Hannah has emerged fully into a spotlight of her own making. "I think what really sets her apart is her tenacity," said her basketball coach, Brad Atchison. "It's so evident when you watch her play. She rebounds like no other 5-foot-7 player I've coached.
WILLMAR -- If you like a lot of offense, the Willmar High School gymnasium was the place to be on a cold night in December. Both Willmar and Fergus Falls had hot hands as the host team rolled to a 91-77 win the Central Lakes Conference boys basketball opener on Tuesday. Leading Willmar to its third win of the new season were Taylor Filipek with 25 points, Sam Esboldt with 21 and Brian Reeves at 20. Fergus kept it close, including 48-43 at intermission, with uncanny accuracy from the three-point arc. The Otters hit 12-of-23 three-point attemps.
At a junior college, a bit south of Lake Wobegon, you can't be sure who will show up. Take, for instance, the wrestling team at Ridgewater. Freshman Ryder Torgeson is from Sitka, Alaska, the son of a commercial fisherman. He himself has drawn a paycheck crewing on the boats since age 11. His dad, Dewey, has fished for a living for 50 years. They fish for halibut and black cod from the Gulf of Alaska to the Bering Sea. Torgeson said 90 percent of the cod is sold in Japan. Sitka is on Baranof Island, just miles off the Pacific coastline and south of Juneau.
WILLMAR -- Talk about a new model year. Coach Steve Grove rolled out the 2009-10 edition of the Willmar Cardinals and you would hardly recognize it. Taylor Filipek was the only face instantly recognizable. The third-year starter was in high gear too, driving to the iron repeatedly on his way to 26 points to lead the Cardinals to a 69-65 win over the Hasting Raiders on Friday night. Filipek, who made 13-of-15 free throws, was the lone Cardinal on the floor last night with an extensive varsity résumé.