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Prep football: NLS head coach Essler diagnosed with cancer

New London-Spicer head football coach Dan Essler was on the field when the Wildcats played Becker on Friday, but he may have to turn over his sideline duties soon as he fights kidney cancer.

Dan Essler
New London-Spicer head coach Dan Essler, pictured with assistant coach Chad Powers, was diagnosed with kidney cancer the day before the Wildcats’ season-opener on Aug. 22. Rand Middleton / Tribune

New London-Spicer head football coach Dan Essler was on the field when the Wildcats played Becker on Friday, but he may have to turn over his sideline duties soon as he fights kidney cancer.
Essler said Friday that his physicians discovered a growth was cancerous the day before NLS’ season-opener against Glencoe-Silver Lake on Aug. 22.
“I had high blood pressure and my (physician) said it may be caused by a kidney blockage,” Essler said. “They did an ultrasound, boom, there’s a growth there. The next day, we find out its cancer.”
Essler said he is working to get surgery scheduled at the Mayo Clinic but that the timeframe is not known right now.
“It could be Monday, it could be three weeks from now,” he said. “Once I have the surgery, I’ll be out a couple of weeks. Depending on how it goes, I hope to be back by the playoffs.”
Essler said he’s willing to take the time to get to Rochester.
“When you have the world’s best hospital three hours away, you’re going to make that drive,” he said.
NLS assistant Jeff Gabrielson will handle the Wildcats defensive calls on the sideline, Essler said, adding that he’ll likely coach from the press box once cleared to return to work “so I don’t get run over.”
Essler is in his 16th season as head coach and has a 100-61 record. He led the Wildcats to the 2009 Class AAA state championship and they earned spots in the Class AAA state championship games in 2013 and 2014.
The Wildcats also went to the state tournament in 2008 and 2012 under Essler.
Essler said he’s confident the team will be in good hands during his absence.
“We’ve got great assistants who can handle it,” he said.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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