WILLMAR — With no season, new Ridgewater College wrestling coach Joey Brown spent his free time trying to put together a representative roster.
It’s something the Warriors have lacked for a while. Filling in 10 names in a dual meet has been a chore. Ridgewater seriously lacked the numbers necessary on the roster to be competitive.
Brown believes that won’t be an issue when the 2021-22 season rolls around.
Brown said he has 22 committed wrestlers. It’s the most the Warriors have had in a while.
He says his first group includes “some diamonds in the rough” as well as many wrestlers who competed in the state tournament. Also on board are four wrestlers from Washington, where Brown was a high school coach in Snohomish before moving to Minnesota.
“When we moved here, I had zero interest in being Ridgewater’s coach,” Brown admitted. “But I’m at the point where I don’t want to see another program cut.”
Ridgewater put all its sports — including volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s clay target, baseball and softball — on pause for the 2020-21 school year because of the pandemic.
Wrestling was feared to vanish like football did in 2018 if something didn’t change. Brown has decided to take on the challenge.
He was recently hired as a special education teacher in the Willmar school district. He and his wife Britta (ne Hansen) live in Spicer with their young children. Britta is a New London-Spicer graduate.
He’s also seen some strong support from the community, especially Ridgewater wrestling alumni. Brown is convinced the program can succeed.
“There is so much talent within a 60-mile radius of our campus that we can win without getting athletes from the Twin Cities,” Brown said. “With just local kids, we can win a lot.
“And hopefully, after they get their degrees, they can stay here.”
Athletes to watch include Rick Jones, a projected 184- or 197-pounder from Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg, and Trey Teichert, a 285-pouncer from Montevideo who wrestled for Team United.
Others to watch include: Remington Albright (149-157, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted); Tristan Lang (133-141, Hutchinson); Lane Lembke (133-141, Blooming Prairie); and Sawyer Varpness (141-149, Glencoe-Silver Lake).
Twin Cities-area wrestlers committed included: Nicholas Dauffenbach (184-197, Stillwater); Ezra Horn (133-141, Rosemount); Alexander Gonzalez (165-174, Shakopee); Crown Htoo (149-157, St. Paul Humboldt); Calin Huntley (149-157, Shakopee); Johan Rodvik (197, Maple Grove); Poh Say (141-149, St. Paul Humboldt); and Wilhelm Yasseri (157-165, Rogers).
Wrestlers from Washington whom Brown knew before moving to the Willmar area include: Fischer Drury (165-174, Ferndale, Wash.); Matthew Miller (125-133, Snohomish, Wash.); Ray Van Scoy (146-174, Stanwood, Wash.); and Max Whitney (174-184, Renton, Wash.).
Brown says he has more tentative commitments.
“I’m excited about the group,” Brown said.
Of the potential 22, he said 17 are pursuing two-year degrees.
“What I hope that comes out of this is that someday I get invited to weddings and that these guys are part of the community,” Brown said.
Ridgewater’s wrestling program has produced numerous All-Americans since the 1960s. The most recent was Mark Voss in 2018. There have been four national champions: Josh Janousek (2003), Tony Kenning (1994), Ken Vogt (1972) and Dave Wetzel (1966), according to the Ridgewater wrestling website.
New Lakers’ coach
Hunter Salathe is the new head boys basketball coach at Minnewaska. He is a math teacher at Minnewaska High School and a graduate of Perham High School and the University of Minnesota-Morris.
He replaces long-time head coach Phil Johnsrud, who retired after the 2021 season.
Willmar’s Sam Christoffer was named a Central Lakes Conference performer of the week in girls track and field. Christopher finished second in the 100-meter dash and 4x200 relay and first in the 200.
Area bowlers fare well
Youth bowlers from Willmar and New London-Spicer competed in the Minnesota State Youth United State Bowling Congress state tournament May 1-2 in Eagan.
The team of Brayden Hansen, Jack Kreps, Keelan Darger and Quinton Hauck finished first in the 520-625 division handicap event with a score of 2,685.
In the 400-519 division, the team of Jacob McCann, Aiden Weston, Tye Stein and Ryan Jackson also took first with a score of 2,684.
The team of Aiden Sharp, Carson Endersbee and Nathan Nesges finished fifth in the 399 and lower division.
In doubles, Darger and Hauck took first in the 240-299 handicap division with a 1,385.
In singles, Darger finished first in the 102-149 division with a 774.
In the 199 and below division, Nesges took first with a 738.
In 150-184, Hansen was first with a 768.
In the all-event score division, Darger finished in first with a 2,262. Nesges was in second with a 2,066.
Coaches are Chuck Loso of Willmar and Billie Johnson of New London.
* Former Willmar Cardinal Nadi Yusuf capped off his Minnesota State-Moorhead career with NCAA Division II All-American honors after finishing fifth in the 10,000-meter rush at the national championships in Allendale, Michigan. Yusuf finished with a time of 29 minutes, 17.64 seconds.
* Jordyn Swoboda, a junior left fielder from Willmar, was named to the 2021 All-MIAC softball team. Swoboda batted .337 with five home runs and 20 RBI. She had a .587 slugging percentage and a .430 on-base percentage. She did not commit an error in 2021 for the Bennies, who were 18-4 in the MIAC and 26-7 overall.