Willmar notebook: Basketball a net gain for city

Get this: Ninety-six basketball teams take over town. It's a crowded Sochi-like weekend of rings and twine. Counting the fourth-through-eighth-grade boys and girls, parents, grandparents and siblings it means 4,000 people roaming from venue to re...

Gerson Garcia-Maldonado
Tribune photo by Rand Middleton Willmar eighth-grader Gerson Garcia-Maldonado is the future of Cardinal boys diving, but more boys are needed.

Get this: Ninety-six basketball teams take over town.

It’s a crowded Sochi-like weekend of rings and twine.

Counting the fourth-through-eighth-grade boys and girls, parents, grandparents and siblings it means 4,000 people roaming from venue to restaurants to shops.

It’s the annual Willmar Basketball Boosters Youth Tournaments, this year at the City Auditorium (two courts), Roosevelt Elementary (two courts) and Willmar High School (three courts).

A visit this week with tournament co-director Ross Magnuson (WHS ’83) revealed about a 1,000 kids will play (47 boys team have the floor on Saturday and 49 girls teams on Sunday). Willmar has 17 teams entered. Most neighboring towns are entered. Teams are also entered from as far away as Cambridge and St. Peter.


Magnuson has been co-chair with Doug Dunham for seven years. One key to the event’s success: a certified referee on every court. Jon Saunders, who played at Bird Island during the Barry Wohler era, handles the scheduling of officials (24 are needed each day).

WBBA members and other volunteers handle scorekeeping and clock. Cardinal high school players, both boys and girls who played in this event, now assist where needed. Each venue has a site manager, too.

Concessions? Got to have them. The football boosters - the 100-yard Club - takes care of that and reaps the profits for their programs.

As in most communities, this is the major fundraiser for the hoop boosters. Litchfield’s huge tournament was two weeks ago.

Most entries: 17 teams in seventh-grade girls and 14 in sixth-grade boys. Each team plays a minimum of three games.

The Willmar teams all play in five or more tournaments each season, in addition to middle school basketball.

Scoring big

The Willmar Basketball Booster Association has a huge impact. Here’s a list of recent contributions to schools and community:


n New scoreboards for high school gym ($25,000)

n Padded player and coach’s bench chairs for games ($3,500)

n New scorer’s table for high school gym ($5,400)

n Updated Cardinal logo painted/printed on high school gym floor ($940)

n Replace boys or girls varsity home or away uniforms one set per year ($1900/year)

n Repaired and refinished Roosevelt gym floor ($500 plus)

n Donation to high school weight room ($1,000+)

n Scoreboards for Roosevelt gym ($6,000)


n New Cardinal floor rug/runner at high school ($1,000+)

n Purchased iPad for boys/girls varsity to use for videotaping games ($1,000+)

n Purchased Hudl software subscription for boys/girls varsity teams for game video sharing ($500 annual cost)

n The big WBBA fundraisers are the boys youth tourney on Saturday and the girls tourney on Sunday filling the school gyms.

Card boys No. 3 seed

The Willmar boys are the No. 3 seed in Section 2AAA basketball and will host Worthington on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Marshall is No. 1 and Mankato West No. 2. The tournament moves to Mankato for the semifinals and championship. The Trojans (8-14) ended the schedule with a 68-65 win over Martin County West. Similar to Willmar, which has seven seniors, Worthington will graduate eight.

Windom at Willmar

The Willmar boys hockey team, stocked with 14 seniors, opens the postseason playing host to the Windom Eagles (10-14) in the Section 3A quarterfinals 7 p.m. today. The Eagles topped Redwood Valley on Tuesday in a play-in game. Tonight’s teams played on Feb. 8, in Windom, with Willmar taking a 7-2 victory.

The winner will meet either New Ulm or Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato at 8 p.m. Saturday in St. Peter. Unbeaten Luverne (24-0-1), the top seed, hosts the Morris/Benson Area Storm tonight.

Here is how the Central Lakes Conference boys hockey final standings shook out with points determining order of finish:

Brainerd 10-1-1 (13.5 points), Alexandria 12-2-1 (12.5), Sauk Rapids 9-6 (9), St. Cloud Apollo 9-6 (9), Willmar 4-8-1 (6.5), Sartell 6-9-1 (6.5), St. Cloud Tech 6-8 (6), Fergus Falls 4-9 (4), River Lakes 2-13 (2).

In girls hockey, Sartell/Sauk Rapids and the St. Cloud Icebreakers tied for first, each 11-1.

State gymnastics

The Willmar girls gymnastics team finished the season ranked sixth in Class A. To move up next year, the coaches are intent on boosting the squad’s performance on the uneven bars, historically a low-scoring event for the Cardinals.

“This is a great group of hard-workers and they will really want to give Melrose a run next year,” said Willmar head coach Jodi Mottinger. “But to do that we need to get better on bars and make some other small improvements to up difficulty. We will have most of our varsity roster back next year and our JV had a strong season. We graduate Morgan Stoeberl (varsity bars) and Hillary Weiler (varsity vault and floor). We look forward to having Haley Mottinger 100 percent next season and competing all-around. Samantha Goeser dislocated her elbow just before section and we need her to fully recover in the offseason as well.”

Junior Stephanie Thompson and sophomores Kendall Hein and Mottinger compete at state on Saturday. Section coaches voted Doug Rossum Coach of the Year and Nick Clasemann Assistant Coach of the Year in 6A.

Melrose will still be hard to overtake next year with everyone returning except Jailyn Brinkman, who won all five categories on Saturday at Litchfield. New London-Spicer will be improved also with senior losses limited to Amanda Hacker and Hannah Kingman, while the majority of scorers return.

Tinklenberg lauded

Alissa Tinklenberg is nearing the end of her collegiate career.

Gustavus Adolphus coach Jon Carlson had this to say of the 2010 Willmar graduate after she was named MIAC Swimmer of the Year a second time and the Gusties won yet another team championship:

“This women’s team was focused from the start of the year and that has a lot to do with Alissa Tinklenberg. Tink was ready to do this at the end of her junior year and was putting in workouts by herself on days that most people would take off. She was willing to put everything she had into this season and did that from the end of last season. When you’ve set that goal and are willing to put in the time and effort it sets an unbelievable tone for the team.

“There was a time when I would have said that Alissa Tinklenberg is one of a kind. I’m not so sure I would say that now because of the effect she has made on her teammates. Her work ethic and leadership is so contagious that she has created a lot of Alissa Tinklenbergs on this team.”

Tinklenberg won every race she competed in over the three-day meet and finished with 60 points for the second year in a row. She is now the owner of 19 MIAC gold medals and holds the program record point conference points with 229 - surpassing former record-holder Carrie Gundersen’s point total of 207.

On to Spokane

Ridgewater qualified six wrestlers for the NJCAA National Tournament Feb. 27-29 in Spokane, Wash.

It was the first district qualifier for new head coach Tom Gruhlke, who spent 30 years in the high school ranks, including a state title at BOLD.

“We really wrestled well with matches being incredibly tense and aggressively contested, regardless of whether we won or lost,” he said. “It’s really fun to see the Ridgewater athletes step up and compete at this higher level.”

Headed west in another week are Adam Sutlief (Browerville), Frank Wilczek (Little Falls), Matt Meyer (Atwater/ACGC), Dani Wiemann (Akeley), Zach Revier (Olivia/BOLD) and Zane Petersen (Lakeville South).

Diving in

The Cardinal diving team is two-deep this year. Senior Derik Peterson is in his second year and eighth-grader Gerson Garcia-Maldonado is brand new to the sport.

Peterson, a football player and 400-man on the track team, was encouraged to give diving a try by Kristoff Jensen, also a football player, now graduated.

Gerson said it was his girlfriend Maddie Stoeberl, also an eighth-grader competing on the girls swim/dive and gymnastics, who talked him into getting on the 1-meter board.

He’s proved a quick learner with the springs to get amplitude and the athleticism to do the somersaults, twists and pikes. Coach Kris Hawkinson gives Gerson an outside chance to make the top four at section and advance to state.

Hawkinson grew up in Washington state and is married to 1971 WHS graduate Brad Hawkinson of Kandiyohi. She coached state runner-up Bennet Woltjer her first year here and also coaches girls diving. She’s undecided about continuing next year.

Being a non-school employee, it’s difficult to “recruit” newbies for the sport, especially boys who don’t have the gymnastics connection. She just would like to see more boys down in middle school give it a try.

Prelims for Section 3A, including Montevideo, are at 5 p.m. today with finals on Saturday, both at Hutchinson.

On the fly

n A few Willmar fans overreacted when at the conclusion of the 6A gymnastics meet at Litchfield High School the winning Melrose team informally got up on the podium blocks for photographs. Soon came loud, repeated cat calls from the stands “Recognize Willmar, recognize Willmar.” Event director Mike Sundin, the Litchfield activities director, was caught off guard. The trophy/medals presentation hadn’t even begun. Shortly the Willmar team was called up to the blocks for its runner-up trophy and medals and then the Dutchmen, who had won by 10 points, a big gap in gymnastics scoring. The impatience of several Cardinal fans, I felt, was unsportsmanlike and embarrassing. 

n Sophomore Bennet Woltjer, in his second year diving for Gustavus Adolphus, made the MIAC All-Conference team in both the 1-meter and 3-meter board.

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