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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COLLEGEVILLE -- Poor Albany. What heights would the Huskies have reached without New London-Spicer High School in their section? The Wildcats delivered the latest blow -- this one an 87-62 knockout -- Tuesday night at Sexton Arena in a meeting for the Section 6AA-East boys basketball title. Behind 23 points from Jayme Moten, who canned all six three-pointers he attempted, plus 21 points and 16 rebounds by Aaron Johnson, the Wildcats rolled into Friday's section final against Staples-Motley at Halenbeck Hall. The Huskies finished 23-3 with all three losses to NLS.
Willmar met Hutchinson in the section football semifinals last Halloween. The Tigers hung a 30-point loss on the Cardinals. The outfits have changed for the section basketball final, but many of the names are the same for Thursday's Section 2AAA title game at Bresnan Arena. Over the seasons the hardcourt has been Willmar's realm, while Hutchinson has dominated the turf meetings. But this winter, Hutchinson has, unexpectedly, emerged as the team to beat. A year ago, the Tigers finished 6-20, losing 15 of their last 16, including an 87-80 loss at Willmar in the first round of the playoffs.
WILLMAR -- In the old days, Sam Esboldt's clutch basket might have met a ride on the shoulders of his happy schoolmates, who charged the court after Willmar's 43-42 victory over Mankato West in front of just over 1,000 fans. Saturday night, he got cyberspace equivalent. "Look at this," said the senior forward to teammate Andrew Bangen in the Cardinals' locker room not long after his awkward 12-foot jump shot buried the Scarlets' upset hopes. He was counting new messages on his cell phone. "Fourteen (texts)," he said with a laugh. "I got three," murmured Bangen as they exited. In a heart-
WILLMAR - The Willmar Cardinals are in the 2AAA championship game at 7 p.m. Thursday in Mankato against Hutchinson - barely. A jump shot by a well-guarded Sam Esboldt overcame the Scarlets 43-42 on Saturday evening before the largest crowd of the year in the Willmar gym. Willmar had squandered a 12-point lead with just under nine minutes left to fall behind the No. 3 seed 42-39 with under two minutes left. Esboldt scored after losing the ball and regaining possession on a save by Sam Spaulding. His game-winner from about 16 feet came with seconds left.
MANKATO - The third try was magic for the Willmar Cardinals. "This feels so good," said Jena Thompson on the floor of Bresnan Arena. "Finally, we're going." The Cardinals validated their No. 1 seed Thursday night on the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus with rollicking 77-68 win over No. 2- seed Worthington in the Section 2AAA girls basketball final. "We had so much energy tonight," said Thompson, a third-year starter whose season was ended on this same floor each of the past two campaigns by the Trojans. This time Willmar would not be denied.
Worthington has stopped the Willmar girls post-season drive to state each of the last two years. A year ago the Trojans crushed the Cardinals 54-31 in the 2AAA championship game at Mankato. Two years ago, it was 73-55 in the semifinals (Marshall toppled the Trojans in the 2008 section final). Today's 7 p.m. meeting at Bresnan Arena should be closer. The Cardinals (22-4) have a better chance, a view reinforced by their No. 1 seed. Worthington (19-5), at No. 2, is fresh off a 56-45 win No.
COLLEGEVILLE - Maren Greenwaldt drained four 3-pointers on the way to 18 points and Kali Peschel added 17 points as Sauk Centre ambushed New London-Spicer 45-32 for the Section 6AA-East girls basketball title Tuesday night at St. John's University. Greenwaldt and Peschel alone outpointed the Wildcats' offense, which made 13-of-44 shots (29.5 percent) and coughed up the ball 13 times. This was the rubber game of three meetings between the West Central Conference North co-champions and the one that mattered most. NLS upended the Mainstreeters 45-41 in New London on Feb.
ST. PAUL -- For some a championship is "expected" for others it doesn't seem possible. It can also be a "long-term goal" and for most winning that final match in the championship round puts a teenager on top of the world. The West Central Tribune coverage area went four-for-four late Saturday afternoon in the Class A championship round at the Xcel Energy Center. Ryan Thompson of Benson won his second consecutive state title, this time at 152 pounds.
Adam Fagerstrom is on the state wrestling mats today needing one win to hit the century mark. "This is my last chance. It's win or go home," said the Cardinals' 135-pounder. He sat in the Xcel Energy Center stands the past two years. "It's some scene," he says of the four-day, three-class wrestle- down. Four Cardinal wrestlers got to state this year.
ALEXANDRIA -- Willmar's bid for the Section 6A final fell short when the Cardinals lost to No. 1-seed Alexandria 3-1 on Saturday at a jammed Runestone Community Center. "They were just a few shifts better," said senior Willmar defenseman Paul Schrupp, who saw his three-year varsity career come to an end. "There's nothing more we can do; we gave it our all." By winning for the 13th time in its last 14 games, Alexandria (19-6-1) takes aim at another Central Lakes Conference team, Sartell, on Friday at the MAC in St.