High school: It was a year to remember for Willmar Cardinals

Willmar honors athletes in a year of successes amid a pandemic

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Willmar senior Kirah Kessler-Gross performs on the uneven bars during the Central Lakes Conference Championships on Saturday from Willmar High School. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — During a spring in which the coronavirus has ripped away everything from student athletes, Willmar High School coaches and personnel from the athletic department have made it possible for those senior athletes to get the recognition and celebration they deserve.

This year, the annual Senior Athletic Awards Night at Willmar High could not be an in-person gathering. Instead, coaches surprised each winner at their homes Wednesday and presented them with their awards.

The winners were announced later in the evening on KWLM during the school’s final #BeTheLightMN celebration this season at Hodapp Field.

Receiving the highest honor of the day, three-sport Kirah Kessler-Gross and Ashton Gregory were named recipients of the Lions Award. The award is given to the Cardinals’ boys and girls athletes of the year.


Kirah Kessler-Gross

Over the duration of her career in gymnastics, soccer, tennis and track and field, Kessler-Gross is a 14-time varsity letter winner who has qualified for state eight times. She has earned All-State and Academic All-State honors as well as Central Lakes All-Conference and Scholar athlete recognition. Last fall, she was the leading goal-scorer on the girls soccer team and led the Cardinals to a Section 6A semifinal appearance. In the winter, she aided the Cardinals gymnastics team to their third consecutive Section 6A crown and also earned her third straight trip to state individually.

As for Gregory, he’s a nine-time varsity letter winner and a three-sport captain in football, hockey and baseball. Like Kessler-Gross, he has received All-Central Lakes Conference honors and has been named to the All-State Academic team.

Ashton Gregory

One year after helping the Cardinals football team reach the Class AAAA state championship game in 2018, Gregory’s versatility was on display in 2019, starting the season at linebacker while also playing five games at quarterback. Later in the winter on the ice, he finished third on the boys hockey team in scoring. Gregory, along with Kylie Newcomer, were named winners of the Triple AAA award.

Madison Linbo


Elsewhere, Madi Linbo and Tanner Baumann were named winners of the Jim Helin Memorial Award given to the athlete who best demonstrated outstanding character and morals.

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Willmar senior guard Madi Linbo finishes a drive into the lane during Friday's regular season opener against Zimmerman from Willmar High School. Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

Linbo is a nine-time varsity letter winner, participating in basketball, soccer, tennis and track. In 2019, she was a starting forward for the girls soccer team and was a key starting contributor from the guard position to a Cardinals girls basketball team that earned its fifth consecutive winning season. (1).JPG
Willmar's Tanner Baumann makes contact in the team's Section 6AAA opener against Delano on May 27, 2019 at Baker Field in Willmar. File Photo

Baumann is an eight-time varsity letter winner through his time with the football, hockey and baseball teams. Serving as a team captain on the football field, he was an All-Section performer.


Tanner Bauman

Baumann’s hockey season was cut short due to injury, but he remained a strong presence in the locker room.

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Willmar senior forward Ashley Prahl scores inside during Friday's game against St. Cloud Apollo from Willmar High School. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Receiving the Dean Anderson Memorial Award are Ashley Prahl and Josh Miley. Additionally, Katelyn Murphy and Ethan Roux were given the Lane Erickson Memorial Award. These athletes each exhibited a number of qualities such as high academic standards and leadership.

Ashley Prahl

Prahl is a 10-time varsity letter award winner through her career with the Willmar tennis, basketball and softball teams. Serving as a two-sport captain, she has received All-Conference and All-State Academic recognition. Prahl played near the top of the lineup for the girls tennis team and was a starter for the girls basketball team.


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Willmar senior Josh Miley delivers a throw-in toward the goal during Tuesday's match against Alexandria from Hodapp Field. Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

Twelve times a varsity letter winner through his time on the soccer, wrestling and track and field teams, Miley was a three-sport captain. Performing on three separate state-qualifying teams through his time as a wrestler, Miley made All-Conference four times. A critical defender on the soccer team, he helped the Cardinals earn a spot in the Section 6A championship game.

Josh Miley

A three-sport captain in soccer, basketball and track and field, Katelyn Murphy was a 10-time varsity letter award winner throughout her career who claimed All-Conference honors.

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Willmar senior guard Katelyn Murphy scores on an up-and-under move after getting a Zimmerman defender off her feet during Friday's regular-season opener from Willmar High School. Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune


Selected by her soccer teammates, she won the Cardinal Award for outstanding character her senior year. Murphy was a starting defender on the pitch and the starting point guard for the girls basketball team.

Katelyn Murphy

Roux has earned 11 varsity letters through football, wrestling and track and field. Another All-Conference performer among his many individual awards, Roux finished his football career second all-time in career rushing. Racking up over 2,000 rushing yards during his time as a Cardinal, he highlighted his senior year with a school-record 273 rushing yards in a game. against Little Falls.

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Willmar’s Ethan Roux (top) is one of four state competitors back on the Cardinals' roster this winter. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

Later in the winter on the mat, Roux qualified for state for the second time in his career after taking second at 170 pounds at the Section 8AAA tournament.


Ethan Roux

Leading by example with a high-energy approach, Abby Teisinger and Dominic Amon were recipients of the True Grit award.

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Willmar senior Abby Teisinger attacks the vaulting table during the Central Lakes Conference Championships on Saturday, Feb. 8 from Willmar High School. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Teisinger is an eight-time varsity letter award winner through her time on the volleyball, gymnastics and track and field teams and has received Academic All-State recognition three times.

Abby Teisinger

Battling injuries throughout her career, Teisinger this past winter captured a regular spot in the gymnastics team’s vault rotation. She was a team captain in two sports, including the only captain on a Cardinals volleyball team that finished 18-10 last fall.

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Willmar's Dominic Amon reacts after scoring a goal in the first period of Tuesday's non-conference game against Redwood Valley at the Willmar Civic Center. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Participating in baseball, football and hockey, Dominic Amon is a seven-time varsity letter winner. Recovering from a severe leg injury during his freshman season, he played six different positions on the gridiron in 2019.

Dominic Amon

A physical forward for the Cardinals hockey team, Amon picked up All-District and All-Conference senior scholar athlete honors.

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Willmar's Ashton Gregory works the puck around the back of the net during Tuesday's non-conference game against Redwood Valley at the Willmar Civic Center. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

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