Benson, Minn. — Eleven new members were inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association (MWCA) Dave Bartelma Hall of Fame on Saturday, April 28th in Benson, Minn.
The new inductees honored were Larry Goodnature, Mark Jensen, Ed Kane, Paul Kuznik, Pat McNamara, Chris Nelson, Jim Williams, and Roger Wilson. Also inducted as Pioneers of Minnesota Wrestling were Glenn Gerdes, Merv Jensen, and Fred Stoeker.
Over 250 people, including many past Hall of Fame inductees, were in attendance.
MWCA Coach of the Year honorees were Class A – Link Steffen of Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Class AA – Joe Traen of Watertown-Mayer/Mayer Lutheran (Awarded Posthumously), and Class AAA – Todd Springer/Lucas Murray of Anoka.
The MWCA selected Joe Traen as State Head Coach of the Year. Selected as State Assistant Coach of the Year was Marty Aho of Frazee. Traen and Aho, along with MWCA Mr. Minnesota Wrestler selection Gable Steveson of Apple Valley represent Minnesota as The National Wrestling Coaches Association’s State (NWCA) award winners, which qualifies them for further NWCA honors at the Regional and National levels.
The MWCA presented State Champion and State Runners-up awards based on the unofficial individual state tournament scoring to: Class A – 1st Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, 2nd Pipestone Area; Class AA – 1st Kasson-Mantorville, 2nd Simley; Class AAA – 1st Apple Valley, 2nd Anoka. Check out 2018 individual-based State team scores here: Class A | Class AA | Class AAA.
Coaches recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award for coaching longevity were Brian Clark of Norwood Young America, Tom Ellison of Alexandria, Kevin Jensen of Simley, and Dan Lefebvre of St. Michael-Albertville.
Photos by Jeff Beshey:
2018 Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association Dave Bartelma Hall of Fame inductees
|Glenn Gerdes – Pioneer||Tim Shiels|
|Merv Jensen – Pioneer||Mark Jensen|
|Fred Stoeker – Pioneer||Paul ‘Don’ Bengtson|
|Larry Goodnature – Coach||Jack Eustice|
|Mark Jensen – Coach||Tom Gruhlke|
|Ed Kane – Contributor||Josh Cagle|
|Paul Kuznik – Athlete||Rodd Olson|
|Pat McNamara – Athlete||Dan Zilverberg|
|Chris Nelson – Athlete||Jerry Reker|
|Jim Williams – Contributor||Laura Aho and Sara Williams-Mousel|
|Roger Wilson – Contributor||Holli Boelz|
Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association Dave Bartelma Hall of Fame Inductee Biographies
Larry Goodnature, Coach
Larry Goodnature wrestled for the Albert Lea Tigers from 1967-1971. As a senior in high school, Goodnature was the MN state champion at 145 lbs. in a one class system. The Tigers team were crowned state champs that season and still holds the record for the most points scored by a team at the state tournament. Larry went on to wrestle at Mankato State University from 1971-1976 and earned three NCAA All-American honors. In 1973 he finished fourth at 158 lbs., in 1974 he finished sixth at 158 lbs. and in 1976 he finished fifth at 158 lbs. Goodnature has been a wrestling coach for 42 years. After graduating from MSU in 1976 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Tech and Physical Education. He took a head coaching position at Hutchinson and coached there from 1976-1979 before moving back to Albert Lea. He was with the Albert Lea program for 39 years, 25 of those years as a head coach. Larry’s teams won three Suburban West Conference titles and 10 Big 9 Conference titles. His teams have reached the State tournament 7 times, the finals four times. He has coached 142 state entrants, 71 state place winners, and 8 individual state champions. Goodnature has been the Big 9 coach of the year 10 times, Section Coach of the Year 14 times, and Minnesota Coach of the Year in 2006, 2009, and 2015. He has an overall coaching record of 546-166 that ranks him 8th all-time among Minnesota High School wrestling coaches. Larry’s wife’s name is Mary, and they have three kids, Brian, Jake, and Nate.
Mark Jensen, Coach
Mark attended Brainerd High School, graduating in 1975. His high school record was 85-15, and he was a Region Champion and a two-time state participant, placing fourth at 132 lbs. in 1974. He attended Concordia College in Moorhead, and earned a 102-29 record, placing 2nd and 5th at the NCAA Div III National Tournament in 1978 and 1979 respectively. He was voted as a wild card to wrestle in the Division I Tournament at College Park Maryland. Mark earned a degree in both Physical Education and Biology, graduating in 1979. He then began teaching and coaching at Howard Lake Waverly in 1980-81. Mark married his wife Karla and relocated to the Brainerd area and was an assistant coach under Bruce Thompson in the early 80’s. Mark coached and taught Physical Education at Pierz High School from 1987-2017 His teams at Pierz had a record of 377-112-2. He was Section Coach of the year seven times and selected as MN State Coach of the Year in 2005. He coached 114 state entrants, 7 state champs, and coached 11 teams to the State tournament. Pierz was crowned team champs in both 2004 and 2005. Second in 2017, third in 2016 They earned consolation champs in 2003, 2006, and 2014. They placed sixth in 1996 and 2002. Mark is a member of the Brainerd High School Hall of Fame and their Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Concordia College Athletic Hall of Fame for both football and wrestling. Mark’s wife’s name is Karla, and they have four kids: Kristine, Kaley, Kaitlyn, and Kaari.
Ed Kane, Contributor
Ed Kane attended Faribault High School, graduating from there in 1962. After four years in the U.S. Navy, Ed attended Mankato State University, where he earned a degree in Art Education. Ed taught art in the Faribault schools for over 30 years, starting in 1970. Ed Kane made his mark on wrestling by coaching the Faribault youth program for over 30 years. He was a MN Wrestling/Federation MN/USA official for over 40 years. Ed served as the Head Coach of Faribault Bethlehem Academy for 5 years. He was an assistant coach and junior high coach in Faribault for 7 years. He has served as the head official for several NYWA state wrestling tournaments and was one of the first freestyle officials in Minnesota. He was selected to officiate the Final Greco Olympic Team Trials. Ed has assisted with MN Freestyle and Greco-Roman teams for many years, helping to organize, chaperone, and coach many MN athletes in state, regional, and national tournaments. Ed was the head coach of the first-ever Minnesota cultural Exchange team that went to Norway. He also took teams to Sweden and later hosted the Swedish team at Augsburg. This was all during the early years of the MN Storm Junior Greco Team. Ed, along with Doug Paulson, began taking teams to the National Duels. In 27 years they won 22 national titles. It was common to take two or even three teams there. His greatest achievement was his teams were crowned co-champions and the consolation champions in the same tournament! For years Ed Kane was the Greco Coach while Jim Short served as the Freestyle Coach. Ed was recently awarded the “Dan Drinkwine Man of the Year” for his contributions to USA Wrestling. Ed’s wife is named Sandy, and they have four kids: Jason, Justin, Shannon, and Jessica.
Paul Kuznik, Athlete
Paul Bryan Kuznik graduated from Crookston Central High School in 1986. He was an exceptional wrestler who achieved a 141-10 career record at a time when fewer matches could be wrestled. As an 8th grader, he took 3rd place in Region 8AA losing in a true second match. He was 24-4 that year. His record his freshmen year was 27-3, and he won the Region 8AA Championship and placed 4th at State. In his sophomore year, his record was 29-2, won the Region 8A Championship and placed 3rd at State. Paul became Crookston’s first Wrestling State Champion in 1985 with a record of 30-1. His only loss was in the Region 8A Championship match to Wayne Werner of Perham. Paul won his second State Championship in 1986 while compiling a perfect 31-0 record.
In the spring of Paul’s Senior Year, he wrestled for Team Minnesota against Wisconsin. He was selected Outstanding Wrestler for Team Minnesota. He was a 1986 High School All American in Wrestling as well as Academic All-State. Paul also was a Bronze Medalist in the United States Freestyle JR National Wrestling Tournament in 1986 tech falling Tom Brands twice in his route to earning All-American Status. Some of his other high school honors were as follows: Captain of the Cross Country Team and Minnesota State High School Cross Country Qualifier. First Chair in the High School Orchestra and selected to the All-State Orchestra. The 1985 Minnesota State 4-H President and State Ambassador. Paul was also named to the Guillotine’s Academic All-State Team. After high school, Paul was offered scholarships from the University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, University of North Dakota, and the United States Military Academy at West Point. Paul attended West Point, The United States Military Academy where he majored in Leadership Management and Engineering. Former West Point Assistant Coach and Head Coach at Cornell and the University of Oklahoma Jack Spates said, “his open heel picks and head snaps were awesome and his battles with Iowa great Dan Knight were legendary”. Paul wrestled at West Point where he was Captain of the team his senior year. He was a three-time NCAA Division I EIWA place winner, placing 2nd, 3rd, and 5th. He also was a two time NCAA Division 1 national qualifier. Paul suffered a career-ending injury his senior year. He was ranked 5th at the time. While at West Point, Paul won the West Point Arvin Memorial Award for Outstanding Leadership, West Point Pierce Memorial Award for Outstanding Athletics and in 1988 set the All-Time West Point Physical Fitness Record established in 1802. He was a 1990 Graduate of West Point. Paul served in the U.S. Army as a 1st Lieutenant in the Field Artillery stationed at West Point and as the Graduate Assistant Wrestling Coach and later at Fort Sill, OK as both a Firing Platoon Leader and an Executive Officer He currently resides in Fort Lauderdale Florida with Brenda, his wife of 25 years. Paul has had a 25-year career in the medical device industry and is currently serving as the Chief Executive Officer, Bolton Medical in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Pat McNamara, Athlete
Pat McNamara attended Jordan High School, graduating from there in 1996. He compiled a high school record of 165-18 as a Scott West Panther and was a four-time state entrant and three-time state AA champion-1994 112lbs. 1995 119 lbs. and 1996-130 lbs. Pat attended Michigan State University where he earned Division 1 All-American honors three years: 5th in 1998 at 126 lbs, 6th in 2000 at 133 lbs., and 6th in 2001 at 133 lbs. Pat was a Big Ten Champion at 133 lbs. in 1999. His career record as a Michigan State Spartan was 108-28. Pat graduated from Michigan State with a degree in Kinesiology. After his competitive career in wrestling had been completed, Pat would continue to follow his passion for the sport of wrestling as he would pursue a coaching career that would lead him across the country starting at Central Michigan University as a graduate assistant, (Pat earned a Masters in Athletic Administration) then to the University of Virginia as an assistant, that was followed by an assistant coaching position at the University of Missouri. After a short stint as the head coach at Southern Illinois University Pat became the Director and Head Wrestling Coach of the Edwardsville Wrestling Club in Illinois where he has been since 2008-09. Pat has also been one of the coaches for Team Illinois where he has helped play a role in their Cadet/Junior national Freestyle success at Fargo over the last several years. Pat’s wife is Andrea, and they have two kids: Michael and Luca. The McNamara family resides in Edwardsville, Illinois.
Chris Nelson, Athlete
Chris Nelson attended Leroy-Ostrander High School, graduating in 1987. He wrestled for Jerry Reker under the name GMLO (Grand Meadow/Leroy-Ostrander). Chris had a high school record of 85-6, having wrestled varsity as an eighth-grader. He was state champ at 185 lbs. Class A in 1986 and at Hwt in 1987. Chris also loved playing high school football. Chris was a 4-year letter winner under coach Stan Olson at Leroy-Ostrander and was selected as an All-State Linebacker. Chris played in the All-State Football game the Summer of 1987 before going on to attend the University of Nebraska. Chris was in a serious car accident in the Fall of 1988 and the doctors told him he may not be able to wrestle again. Chris defied his doctors and came back 100 percent where he earned All-American status twice (5th in 1990 and 6th in 1992 at 190 lbs.). He also was a Big 8 champion in 1992 and was voted the Outstanding Wrestler of the Big 8 Conference Tournament. Academically, Chris was voted as a Big 8 Classroom Champion and was part of the Big 8 All-Academic Team. Chris was a team captain for 3 years at the University of Nebraska, was voted Outstanding Wrestler in 1992 and finished with a 101-37 college record. After graduating with a degree in Mathematics, Chris served as the head Wrestling coach in Mound for a few years before moving back to Nebraska to go into the banking and finance industry. Today Chris lives in Gering, Nebraska with his wife Holli and sons Garrett, Nolan, and Taylor. Chris is the owner of Valley Wealth Management in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and will long be remembered for his athletic ability, power, and his dedication to excellence.
Jim Williams, Contributor
Jim Williams has been involved in the sport of wrestling in Minnesota for over 50 years. He graduated from Clarkfield High School in 1974. He was a two time District 11 and Region 3 champion. Jim entered the state tournament twice but did not place. His high school record was 78-12-3. Jim attended college at Southwest State University (SMSU) where he wrestled for Mike Sterner. Unfortunately, his college wrestling career ended sooner than expected with injuries his freshman and sophomore seasons. Jim has devoted the majority of his life as an educator, coach, and official. Jim taught elementary school in Clarkfield, primarily 2nd through 6th grade. He was the head coach of the Clarkfield Cardinal wrestling team from 1984 to 1988, achieving district 11 runner-ups twice. He had numerous state entrants, with at least 4 place winner (including 1 champion and 1 runner-up). From 1994 to 2005, Jim coached junior high wrestling for YME while his sons wrestled. Both of his sons were two-time state entrants, each of them reaching the state finals. Jim left the coaching profession but continued his involvement in wrestling through officiating. His 40+ year officiating career began in 1975 and continues today. Jim officiates high school, NCAA, NJCAA, and NAIA events. He has officiated the MSHSL tournament for 21 years, where they have leveraged his experience and expertise to assess the performance of his peers during the tournament. He is recognized as one of the top NCAA assistant officials in the Big 10. He also volunteers his time by training new officials at clinics. He is well-known as one of the top officials within Minnesota as well. Jim’s and his wife of over 40 years, Pam, have also kept busy with 4 successful children: Sara, Mike, Laura, and Matt. As educators, they’ve enjoyed spending their summers at the cabin with their 9 (almost 10) grandchildren.
Roger Wilson, Contributor
Roger attended Lincoln High School in Thief River Falls, MN, graduating from there in 1963. He was Region 8 champion at 112 lbs. his senior year, under head coach Al Shaff. Roger attended Bemidji State College and continued his college wrestling as a four-year starter while wrestling under Chet Anderson. He wrestled at 123 lbs. his first three years, then at 130 lbs. as a senior co-captain. He just missed the All-American round at the NAIA nationals his senior year. His teaching career spans 35 years, including Holdingford, Granite Falls, St. Cloud Apollo, St. Cloud Tech, St. Cloud South Junior High, St. Cloud Tech. He has served in various capacities as a Business Education Teacher, a Physical Education Teacher, and an Administrator. He served as a head coach in Holdingford from 1967-1969, Granite Falls in 1969-1970, and St. Cloud Apollo from 1970-1978. Roger has been a wrestling official for 52 years. During that time he has served as an MSHSL Wrestling Clinician for 27 years, and a State Tournament Official for 22 seasons. Roger, along with Will Thompson started the St. Cloud Officials Association. He has served as the Assignment Secretary for 38 years, as well as the Executive Secretary of the Central Lakes Conference for 28 years. Today Roger lives in Sauk Rapids with his wife Dorothy after 47 years of marriage. They have four daughters: Holli, Heidi, Sara, and Katie as well as seven grandkids: Kacey, Emily, Hunter, Zachary, Lily, Ella, and Sawyer-and one great-granddaughter Payton.
Gable Steveson – Apple Valley
Mr. Minnesota Wrestler
Gable Steveson was born and raised in Portage, Indiana with brothers John and Bobby by his mother, Laticia and father, Robert. According to Robert, Gable started wrestling at birth with his older brothers as Robert ran the local wrestling club for about twenty years in Portage. Gable came to Apple Valley along with his family when he was in 7th grade. He was an exceptionally gifted athlete, but pretty good sized for his age which meant he usually wrestled kids that were two or three years older. That didn’t seem to matter to Gable, who didn’t realize that an eighth grader is not supposed to be able to compete favorably with juniors and seniors at 195 pounds. Gable never got that memo.
Steveson had a tremendous eighth grade season in wrestling, making it all the way to the State Finals at 195# before losing a hard-fought match to Alexandria’s Justin Cumberbatch. From that point on, Gable went on a 173 match winning streak, collecting four Minnesota State Individual Championships along the way, and establishing the highest winning percentage in State History with an overall record of 212–3. What is even more impressive is the complete domination that Gable displays in his matches. They are NOT close.
Equally noteworthy is the way Steveson goes about his business. Even though he is ranked the top Prep Wrestler in the United States – all weight classes – Gable Steveson maintains an unassuming attitude. In the words of Apple Valley Associate Principal /Athletic Director Virgil Jones, “Gable has handled his accomplishments with a great deal of respect for the sport of wrestling and a profound humbleness among his peers.” He goes on to state, “Gable continues to give back to the sport by mentoring young student athletes and serving as an unofficial international spokesperson for the sport.
Valley Middle School Assistant Administrator / Athletic Director and Assistant Wrestling Coach Jamell Tidwell proclaimed, “Gable Steveson’s work ethic and commitment to excellence are nothing short of phenomenal. He has a dedicated and loyal presence about him to which people are drawn.”
Apple Valley Mathematic Instructor Michelle Lundquist describes Gable as a hardworking, responsible, and enthusiastic student who is willing to put in extra time and effort, even when the material is difficult for him, in order to achieve the highest level of understanding possible. Gable completely commits himself to his family, friends, and academics the same way he commits himself to the sport of wrestling.
Apple Valley Head Wrestling Coach Josh Barlage provided a snapshot of Steveson’s character commenting, “Immediately after Gable won his fourth and final Minnesota State Title this season, he stopped to sign autographs for all of the young towel tappers who had gathered around him, then took off his shoes and gave them to one of the young wrestlers. In all my years associated with wrestling, that was my proudest moment.”
On behalf of the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association, we are also proud and honored to present Gable Steveson of Apple Valley with our most prestigious wrestling award, Mr. Minnesota Wrestler.
Marty Aho – Frazee
MWCA Assistant Wrestling Coach of the Year
Marty Aho grew up on a farm just outside of Frazee, Minnesota with older brother Mitchell (Mick), twin sister Marsha, younger sister, Michelle, and little brother, Mark. His father, Maynard, worked putting up drywall in the winter when he wasn’t farming and his mother, Marie, was a sewing plant manager. Older brother Mick was a basketball player, but Marty decided to go out for wrestling as an eighth grader. Marty really enjoyed the sport and was a district and region champ as a senior, but he did not place in the State Tournament. Brother Mark followed in Marty’s footsteps, placing fourth at State as a Junior and bringing home a State Title his Senior season.
After graduation, Marty worked with his dad, taping drywall, and also with his mom at the sewing plant before taking a job with Snappy Furnace. He then married Diane and took over her dad’s dairy farm. Marty no longer has the dairy or the feeding cattle operation, but has continued to farm the land while also working at Steel–Wood Supplies in Detroit Lakes for the past 12 years. Diane works as a lab-tech at Sanford in Detroit Lakes.
Marty and Diane have three children. Son Matt, who placed third and first at State, currently serves as Head Wrestling Coach at Becker. Matt and his wife, Laura, have one daughter and another one on the way. Daughter McKenzie, who gave up her own sports and activities to help her dad milk cows so he could continue coaching wrestling, is married to Mike Hamm, State Runnerup for Frazee, and raising five children, four daughters and a son. Mike is head wrestling coach at Moorhead. Youngest son, Adam, who was a State Runnerup as an 9th grader, 3rd as a Junior, and State Champ as a Senior, and has a Frazee record 225 wins, currently serves as head wrestling Coach at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. Adam and his wife, Labrina, have two children, a boy and a girl, providing Marty and Diane with a grand total of eight (soon to be nine) grandchildren.
Marty has thoroughly enjoyed his many years of coaching wrestling for his own Frazee Hornets and with Coaches Lamphere, Carr, Blixt, Schwanke, Dissmore, Nagel, Barlund, and Nagel.
Marty’s Assistant Wrestling Coach of the Year nomination was submitted by fellow coach Travis Nagel, who stated:
Marty Aho has been an assistant wrestling coach and an integral part of the Frazee Wrestling Program for the past 44 years. He was born and raised just outside of Frazee where he attended High School and competed for the Hornets. His total dedication to Frazee Wrestling started the very first day he stepped on the Frazee wrestling practice mat and has continued to grow every day since. Throughout the years, Marty has preached the importance of fundamental technique, physical strength, mental toughness, and endurance as keys to success in the sport of wrestling. Marty’s handprint as well as his patented armbar can be seen at every level of Hornet Wrestling. As head coaches have come and gone, Marty has remained a constant cornerstone of Frazee Wrestling helping the program to flourish under coaches like Clay Nagel and John Barlund. He has been a master at pushing countless young wrestlers past their comfort zone in running stairs, drilling technique, and live wrestling. Marty has always been a proponent of a strong youth program, helping administrate and promote the Frazee Mat Rat Program at every opportunity. Over the years, Marty has been a major contributor to Frazee’s 630-151-7 dual meet record along with 21 Heart O’Lakes Titles, 24 Section 8A Championships, 22 State Team Place-winners, and 4 Class A State Team Championships. In that same time span, Frazee has produced 101 Individual State Place-winners, including 22 Individual State Champions. I cannot think of another coach more deserving of the Assistant Wrestling Coach of the Year Award than Frazee’s own Marty Aho. On behalf of the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association, we echo that sentiment.
Link Steffen – Zumbrota Mazeppa
Class A Head Wrestling Coach of the Year
Link Steffen was born and raised in Granite Falls on the banks of the Minnesota River. Link had a tough decision to make between basketball and wrestling when he hit seventh grade. At the urging of his brother, Don, he decided on wrestling. Steffen made varsity as an eighth grader and qualified for State three times, finishing fourth as a 189 pound sophomore and taking home State Titles his Junior and Senior Year at the same weight.
Steffen was an All-State Honorable Mention football player at Granite Falls as well as a standout baseball player. Link continued playing baseball after High School with the Granite Falls Town Team in the summer, helping the Kilowatts to a Town Team State Title in 1993 and continued playing town team baseball with the Red Wing Aces after moving to Southeast Minnesota.
After graduating from Granite, Steffen enrolled at Southwest State College in Marshall and began working on a K-12 Physical Education & Health Degree while participating in Wrestling and Baseball. He was a pitcher as well as an outfielder in baseball and thoroughly enjoyed his playing days at Southwest. Link wrestled for Mike and John Sterner, qualifying for the Division II National Tournament three times, placing fourth as a Junior and winning the D-II National Wrestling Title his Senior Year.
Link works at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Red Wing working with high risk students in the maximum-security unit. Link coached wrestling at Cannon Falls and baseball at Goodhue before going to Zumbrota-Mazeppa where he has served as head wrestling coach for the past twelve years.
Link resides in Zumbrota with his wife, Jen, and three children: Chase(22), Caden(18), and Avery(15). Outside of the busy wrestling season, Link spends as much time as he can outdoors, hunting and fishing, as well as coaching his daughter’s Summer and Fall Softball Teams.
The Zumbrota-Mazeppa wrestling program has continued to get stronger in recent years under Link’s direction. This year was the sixth appearance for Z-M in the State Team Tournament. They have placed five out of those six years, taking Sixth, Fourth, Second (to Minneota 31-30), and after losing a barnburner to Caledonia in the Section Finals two years ago, have put together back-to-back State Championships. As Coach Steffen looks back on the last four years, he summarizes, “ We have thirteen Seniors who have been leading this team since they were Freshman. After losing a heart-breaker in the State Finals to Minneota and not making it the following year, these kids have had a shared vision and a common goal – to finish on top. When they garnered a State Title last year with only one Senior in the starting line-up, many wrestling people figured the State Championship would be automatic this season. But that is not how things work in a sport like wrestling. The team knew coming in that everyone had their sights set on them and they had to continue to work hard and stay healthy and hungry. They wrestled a tough schedule this year, facing Ellsworth(Wisconsin), Glenbard North(Illinois) and Park Hill (Missouri) in the Clash. as well as Kasson-Mantorville and Simley during the season. But those thirteen Seniors never lost sight of The Dream and continued to battle through Section and State Competition on their way to their second consecutive State Championship. Link’s son, Caden, earned his second consecutive Individual State Title along the way.
Link explained that the success that Zumbrota-Mazeppa has enjoyed in recent years is due to the fact that the Z-M Coaching Staff as well as the wrestlers share that common vision and are all pulling in the same direction. From Assistant Coach Mark Krier all the way through the ranks, every part of the Zumbrota Wrestling Community has contributed to the success of the team. Link also would like to offer a shout out to all the volunteers around the State of Minnesota who work hard to promote and administrate the Sport of Wrestling.
When asked if there was a difference in the two State Team Titles, Link explained, “ The first State Championship had more pure excitement and genuine celebration. The second was more satisfaction and a feeling of relief. They were both wonderful, I don’t want to confuse that point, but the second had more pressure, without a doubt.” Comparing his two Individual State Titles as a competitor with the Team Titles as a coach, Link stated, “The Individual Titles were certainly exhilarating and the support from the Granite Falls community was amazing, but I was the only one on my team being recognized. The beauty of winning a team title is that all nineteen wrestlers as well as the coaching staff, managers, statisticians, and parents feel that community support. It is a feeling that I wish every kid in Minnesota could feel at least once in their athletic lives.” A sincere congratulations goes out from the MWCA to Link Steffen, our Minnesota Class A Head Wrestling Coach of the Year.
Joe Traen – Watertown Mayer
MWCA Class AA Head Wrestling Coach of the Year
Joe Traen was born and raised in wrestling country and had the privilege of wrestling in the Canby wrestling program under the tutelage of the legendary Gerry Gingles. He started wrestling in 8th grade and participated in the State Wrestling Tournament as a junior at 105# and again as a senior at 112#, placing fourth. The highlight of his high school wrestling career came in his senior year when he had the opportunity to be a part of Canby’s 1976 state team championship. Traen was also a two-year varsity runner on the Canby Cross-Country team.
After graduation, Joe enrolled at Willmar Community College and wrestled for another legend, Roy Minter. While at Willmar, Joe qualified twice for the National Tournament, placing fourth and fifth in the Regionals and helping his team to a 7TH place finish at Nationals. He went on to finish his wrestling career at St. Cloud under John Oxton, but injuries prevented him from putting together a full season.
After graduating from St. Cloud State with an Education Degree, Joe moved to Northeast Minneapolis and worked as a substitute teacher in the Minneapolis and St.Paul school districts while working construction in the summer. He followed up with an Elementary Phy.Ed. teaching position at Brooten and served as head wrestling coach for the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa wrestling program for the next five years coaching two individual state champions as well as three runners-up. His team highlight was beating Paynesville in a dual meet his second year at the helm. Joe also served as head Cross-Country coach while at Brooten.
In 1989, Traen was hired as an Elementary / Middle School Physical Education teacher at Watertown-Mayer where he has remained for the past 27 years. In that time, Watertown-Mayer has accumulated over 400 dual meet victories with numerous conference titles along with four section runner-up finishes while crowning five individual state champions.
Joe’s wife, Deb, works at Honeywell while son Adam will graduate from the College of St. Scholastica in May with a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology and son Andy attends Crown College where he is majoring in business.
Two days after I interviewed Joe for his Lifetime Achievement Award last year, he suddenly and tragically passed away from a heart attack while going on his morning run.
When the vote came up at this year’s Section meeting for Section Coach of the Year, the Scott West coaches immediately stood up and nominated Joe Traen. It was followed up by a motion to close nominations which passed unanimously. When the members of our Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association voted for the Class AA State Wrestling Coach of the Year during the State Wrestling Tournament, they selected Joe Traen as Head Coach of the Year. This is the first time in MWCA history that a deceased wrestling coach has been named Section and State Head Wrestling Coach of the year. That speaks volumes about the integrity of our MWCA Wrestling Coaches as well as the character of the nominee.
Kurt Becker, co-head coach at Watertown-Mayer, and Joe’s assistant at W-M for 19 years, touts Joe’s strengths as being well-organized, paying close attention to detail, and being able to make connections with wrestlers of every level. Traen was respected by his wrestlers, coaches, parents, and his community. Opposing coaches and officials held Joe in high regard for his sense of fair play and respect he showed for the sport of wrestling and everyone associated with the sport. Fellow wrestling coach Bill McDonald described Traen as quiet, thoughtful, and soft-spoken; but when Joe had something to say, you listened.
Greg Kockelman, a friend and classmate of Joe from elementary through Senior High who wrestled with him at Canby as well as Willmar Jr. College, remembers Joe for his determination. He stated, “When Joe Traen decided to do something, you knew it would be done and done well. He was a grinder and a finisher, always in great condition. The third period belonged to Joe Traen.” Greg said he often joked with Joe, telling him he was one guy who was going to die healthy. Gerry Gingles remembered Joe for having big hands and iron grip. Gerry also described him as being quiet and focused, a leader by example, and respected for his work ethic. Gingles summarized by stating, “Joe Traen was a class act.” Our thoughts and prayers as well as our sincere congratulations go out to the family of Joe Traen.
Todd Springer – Anoka
MWCA Class AAA Head Wrestling Coach of the Year
Todd Springer attended Anoka High School participating in soccer and wrestling. As a wrestler, Todd was a two-time state qualifier for Coach Ron Malcolm. In his junior season, he lost to Chad Carlson from Willmar in the first round who proceeded to lose his next match and then take third, so Todd was one and done. The following year Springer went on the win the state title at 135 pounds. Upon graduation, Todd enrolled at Southwest State in Marshall where he was a National Qualifier for Mike Sterner.
After graduating from Southwest, Springer was hired to teach Special Education in the Anoka School System where he served as Co-head Wrestling Coach with Roger Rowbothum. After two years, Roger turned the reins over to Todd where he has worked hard for 17 years to maintain Anoka’s Wrestling Tradition. He has also served as assistant soccer coach for the past seven years and had the privilege of being part of back to back state championship soccer teams. In Todd’s 19 years at the helm, Anoka has garnered 11 Conference Titles and six Section Championships with one State Runnerup Team and four 3rd Place Finishes at State. The Tornados have had 56 State Individual place-winners and crowned 13 State Champions. Springer’s overall head coaching record at Anoka is 321-104. In Anoka’s five team appearances at state under Coach Springer, they have placed third four times. Coach Springer has been named Section Coach of the Year five times and now twice has been our MWCA Class AAA Head Coach of the Year.
Coach Ron Malcolm watched Todd as a ninth grader, in his first year of wrestling. Even though he lost both matches that Ron watched him wrestle, he saw a gritty determination and refusal to give up that he really liked. Ron noted that both of his state champions in 1989, Dave Phillips and Todd Springer, started wrestling in ninth grade. He also noted that both Phillips and Springer lost matches in the dual against Columbia Heights as juniors, only to come back in the sections with both boys defeating the same Columbia Heights opponents by technical falls. Coach Malcolm felt that was pretty cool. As far as assessing Todd as a coach, he describes Springer as a very hard worker who took a page out of Malcolm’s book and surrounded himself with good coaches who are also good people. This past year, Lucas Murray has joined Todd serving as Co-Head Coaches for the Tornados. According to both coaches, the sharing of head responsibilities has been working extremely well. When the time comes for Springer to step down, Murray plans to do everything in his power to keep him in the program as an assistant so they can continue working together.
Todd and his wife, Angie, a realtor for Coldwell-Banker-Burnett, have been married for 23 years with two children; Lauren (19) is attending Nursing School and Scott (17) is a Junior at Anoka playing Varsity Football and Golf and is a three-time State Qualifier as well as a Wrestling Captain. It is my distinct pleasure to introduce Todd Springer from Anoka as our MWCA Class AAA Wrestling Coach of the Year.
Lucas Murray – Anoka
MWCA Class AAA Head Wrestling Coach of the Year
Lucas Murray spent the first six years of his life in Minneapolis with father Tim, a butcher, and mother Judy, an IT Project Manager, and brothers Rich and Ross. Murray started wrestling with the Minneapolis Park Board at age four. The family moved to Anoka when Lucas entered second grade. Lucas’ father, Tim, had coached wrestling with the Park Board and helped start a youth program in Anoka.
Both of Lucas’ brothers were wrestlers – Rich (Miller) placed third at State in 2000 and Ross placed third at State in 2004. The bar had already been set pretty high for Lucas, but after cracking the varsity line-up as a seventh grader at 103#, Lucas kept on improving, qualifying for State as a freshman and a Sophomore, placing third at State as a Junior at 135#, and bringing home a State Title in 2007 at 140#.
Lucas felt very fortunate to have received great coaching and mentoring from guys like Billy Pierce, Brandon Paulson, Jake Deitchler, and Head Coach Todd Springer. After graduating from Anoka, Murray enrolled at Augsburg and wrestled for three seasons, but after a number of knee surgeries, was unable to compete as a Senior.
Murray currently works at Anoka High School as a Para-Professional and also as a house painter and serves as Co-head Coach at Anoka with Todd Springer. He and his wife, Molly, an accountant at a local manufacturing company, have a newborn son, Oakley.
Lucas feels he has really hit the jackpot, being able to coach at his alma mater with his mentor and High School Coach, Todd Springer. Murray gets to share the Head Coaching responsibilities with Todd, who takes care of a lot of the paperwork and puts out fires before they start while Lucas spends his time and energy in the room working with great kids in a sport he loves. Doesn’t get much better than that. When Coach Springer asked what Lucas brings to the table he thought and said, “ I am not sure where to start. When it comes to the sport of wrestling and the Anoka Program, Lucas Murray is ALL IN.” On behalf of the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association, we offer congratulations to Lucas Murray, our Minnesota Class AAA Head Wrestling Coach of the Year.
Brian Clark – Norwood-Young America
MWCA Lifetime Achievement Award
Brian Clark was born in Blue Earth and moved to Norwood, Minnesota with his family when he was nine. His late father, Clayton, worked a number of common labor jobs throughout his life while his mom, Elsie, worked many years as a waitress. Brian has an older sister, Dawn, and two younger brothers, Bruce and Brad, who both wrestled for NYA, following in Brian’s footsteps.
Brian decided to give wrestling a try as a fifth grader at the urging of his buddy, Lars Jensen. Lee Decker, the NYA Head Wrestling Coach, ran an elementary wrestling program immediately after the season and after the first practice, Brian was hooked. By the time Clark was an eighth grader, he was a solid JV Wrestler with a few varsity matches under his belt. Brian went 3-3 that first year with a couple of ties. In his Freshman year, Clark was unable to beat the varsity 132 pound wrestler, but went up to 138#, finishing the season with a 15-7 record and a third place finish in the District Tournament. As a sophomore, Brian settled in at 132#, winning a District 12 Title and finishing fourth in Region 3. In his junior season, Clark was a District and Region Champ, but went 2-2 at State, a match short of placing. As a senior, Brian won the District Meet, took second at Regions, but put together an outstanding State tournament, finishing third. Clark was a four-time Minnesota River Conference Champion with a conference record of 26-1-1 and a career record of 104-21-4.
After graduation, Clark enrolled at Concordia-Moorhead and graduated with a Medical Technology Major and a Minor in Chemistry. While at Concordia, Brian wrestled for Finn Grinnaker with hooligans like Mark Jensen, Tom Gruhlke, Barry Bennett, and B.J.Anderson. Brian classified himself as an average wrestler, but he felt a learned a lot from his Cobber team-mates.
While wrestling at Concordia, Brian came back to Norwood every chance he got to work out with his younger brother. After graduating from Concordia, Brian was hired at Pro–Tech. Interconnect Solutions and has been there designing and producing circuit boards for the past thirty some years. During that time he has helped out at the elementary and junior high level as well as working with the Freestyle an Greco programs and even doing some officiating. Clark has spent the past 29 years as a varsity assistant at NYA and still gets goosebumps when he walks into the wrestling arena at the Excel Energy Center. When he hears that National Anthem he is ready to run out onto the mat and do battle. In that 29 years there have been many highlights, but one that still stands out is being in the corner when his son, Reid, took the mat in the State Wrestling Tournament.
Brian commented, “While there are many rewards to coaching, one of the most important things we do as coaches is to provide our wrestlers with a second family. The wrestling room should be a sanctuary where kids can get away from the stress and anxiety of their daily lives and embrace the grind of wrestling. While we try to teach some life lessons along the way, we also must provide an outlet for kids to experience the pure enjoyment of wrestling. In other words, Go Out and Have Fun!”
Brian and his wife, Roberta, have two children. Son Reid and his wife, Gien, live in Maple Grove with their son, Chandler. Daughter Kali, still single, lives at home with Brian and Roberta. The Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association wishes to thank and congratulate Brian Clark for his time and service to the Sport of Wrestling with an MWCA Lifetime Achievement Award.
Tom Ellison – Alexandria
MWCA Lifetime Achievement Award
Tom Ellison was born and raised in the Alexandria area by father Dale and mother Janet, both employed by Douglas County Hospital. Tom’s dad worked in the Lab and his mom in the recovery room. Tom has two older brothers, Tim and Scott, who both wrestled for Alexandria, and two younger sisters, Pam and Beth, both Wrestling Cheerleaders.
Ellison played Football (Quarterback) and wrestled in High School, making the varsity squad as a Freshman at 126#. His Junior Season he qualified for State at 145 pounds and again as a Senior, going into the State tournament undefeated at 155 pounds. Tom suffered a tough first round loss and that wrestler lost his next match bringing his season to an untimely end. Ellison had the good fortune of wrestling for two outstanding coaches. Ron Pfeffer was the head coach at Alexandria up through Tom’s Sophomore year and Ken Snyder coached him through his Junior and Senior seasons.
After graduating from High School, Ellison enrolled at Moorhead State College, pursuing an Industrial Arts degree and wrestling under Bill Garland, the Silver Fox. Tom enjoyed his time at Moorhead, serving as a three-year captain for the Dragons and qualifying for the NAIA National Wrestling Tournament his Senior season.
After graduating from Moorhead, was hired to teach Industrial Arts in Lakefield, Minnesota where he served as Head Football Coach, Assistant Wrestling Coach (to Randy Baker) and Assistant Track Coach. After one year, Lakefield consolidated with Heron Lake and Okabena, forming the HLOL District and making Tom’s teaching position expendable. Ellison was then hired to teach Industrial Technology at Brandon High School and spent his leisure time coaching Football and Wrestling, alternately, as an assistant and head in both sports. Brandon then paired with Evansville and Tom served as Head Wrestling Coach at Brandon-Evansville from 1989 – 1993. Brandon-Evansville joined the West Central Area Wrestling Program and Tom served as Co-Head Wrestling coach with Randy Denardo for the next four years. In 1996, West Central made it all the way to the State Finals before losing to St.Michael-Albertville. After one more year at West Central, Tom moved over to Alexandra and served as Assistant Wrestling Coach under Bill Wagner. In 2003, Ellison took over the head duties at Alexandria and decided to hang up his wrestling coaching shoes at the conclusion of this past season. In his fifteen years at Alexandria, Ellison and his charges have had 42 State Qualifiers, 12 Place-winners, and one State Champion along with two Central Lake Conference Championships. Tom served as a Section Rep for the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association from 2006 – 2014 which included a two-year term as MWCA President. During that time Tom brought forth and helped implement the idea of an All-Tournament Wrestling Team to highlight top performances at the State Meet. One of the highlights of Tom’s coaching career was having the opportunity to share the great sport of wrestling with his son, Cole, and being in his corner at the State Wrestling Tournament.
Tom intends to teach a few more years before retiring as he and his wife Julie, who works for the State of Minnesota as a probation officer, begin making plans for their next phase of adventures. Tom and Julie have two children. Daughter Kate works as a Health Insurance Fraud Investigator and son Cole is a second grade teacher in Rothsay, where he also serves as a Football Coach. It is an honor for the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association to congratulate Tom Ellison for his dedication and service to the sport of wrestling.
Kevin Jensen – LeCenter / Simley
MWCA Lifetime Achievement Award
Kevin Jensen was born and raised in North Minneapolis along with older brother Kirby and younger brother Kim by parents Jake and Irene. Kevin attended DeLaSalle High School where he participated in Cross-County, Wrestling, and Track. He started wrestling as a ninth grader at DeLaSalle and spent three years on the varsity team. After graduating from High School, Jensen enrolled at St. Cloud State University where he earned a Physical Education Major and a Mathematics Major. He wrestled for four years under John Oxton spending two years at the varsity level at 134 pounds.
After graduating from St. Cloud, Kevin took a mathematics teaching position at Wynot, Nebraska where he also served as Assistant Wrestling Coach. After two years in Wynot, Jensen went to Manly, Iowa where he again taught Math and served as a Wrestling Assistant as well as coaching some Football and Track. After four years at Manly, Jensen came back to Minnesota where he took a Junior High Mathematics and Head Wrestling position at LeCenter. Kevin spent 19 years at LeCenter, from 1979 through 1998 where he compiled a 215 – 111 – 2 won-loss record, had four Section Runner-up finishes, and four State Tournament Team appearances with a third place finish in 1990. Kevin had the privilege of coaching six individual State finalists with three champions, 18 placewinners and 55 state qualifiers. From 1985 to 1998 LeCenter was either a champion or runner-up in the conference. Jensen was a three-time Region Coach of the Year and was voted MWCA Class A Head Wrestling Coach of the Year in 1991.
After his 19 year stint in LeCenter, Kevin took a math position at Simley High School in Inver Grove Heights. Jensen retired from teaching five years ago, but has continued to serve as Middle School Wrestling Coach for this, his 19th season.
Kevin started the LeCenter Freestyle Club in 1986 and has been a referee for both Freestyle and Greco-Roman Wrestling since that time with the highest national ranking as an M-1 official and seven years as an international FILA official. Jensen also has officiated High School Wrestling for the past 42 years and has refereed in the State Tournament three times. Jensen also served as MN/USA Wrestling Cultural Exchange Director from 1990 to 1995 and served on the MN / USA Board of Directors for eight years. For the past nine years Kevin has been Section coordinator for Section 4AA tournaments.
Kevin has two adopted sons, Cola (Nicolai) and Dmitriy. Cola was a five-year starter for Simley and accumulated 143 wins in his career while Dmitriy participated in Football and Swimming. Kevin has a step-daughter Carly and stepson Jarred Oftedahl, who wrestled at Benilde-St.Margaret and just this past spring placed fourth in the D-II National Tournament for St. Cloud State.
Kevin and his wife, Karen, currently reside in Eagan MN. On behalf of the MWCA, it is with great pleasure we offer congratulations to Kevin Jensen for 44+ years of service to the sport of wrestling.
Dan Lefebvre – St. Michael-Albertville
MWCA Lifetime Achievement Award
Dan Lefebvre was born and raised on a dairy farm near Otsego, Minnesota along with four brothers and a sister – Chuck, Greg, Mark, Nancy, and Bob. He started wrestling at the age of five, following in the footsteps of brothers Greg and Mark. His youth coach was Dick Pullen, who also happened to be the STMA Varsity Wrestling Coach and is a member of the Dave Bartelma Wrestling Hall of Fame. As a result, Dan had some pretty good coaching as a kindiebeaner. Dan finished fourth in the State as a senior and went on to wrestle for a year at Willmar Junior College under another Hall of Famer by the name of Roy Minter. After a year at Willmar, Dan decided to go back home and try farming. That didn’t work out, so Dan decided to enroll at the University of Minnesota where he earned an Elementary Education Degree with a Mathematics Emphasis.
Lefebvre did his student teaching at Osseo where he served as an assistant wrestling coach under Hall of Famers Ken Droegemueller and Woody Ferry. Dan was then hired to teach sixth grade Math at his alma mater, St. Michael-Albertville, where he served as assistant wrestling coach under Gregg Greeno who happens to be (yeah, you guessed it) a current member of the Dave Bartelma Wrestling Hall of Fame.
After 17 years as assistant at STMA, Dan took over the reins and for the past 12 years has served as Head Wrestling Coach at St. Michael – Albertville. In those 29 years, STMA has qualified for the State Wrestling Tournament 25 times and the last 20 years straight. An interesting sidebar, STMA has won at least one match every year they qualified, making it to the State Finals 18 times and winning eight State Titles, five while Dan was an assistant, and three coming during his tenure as Head Coach. In the 12 seasons that Lefebvre served as head wrestling coach, STMA had 67 State Place-winners and 21 Individual State Champions.
Looking back at his 35 years in the STMA program (29 as a coach), Dan said the word that best describes his overall feeling is “Grateful”. Dan was grateful to have had the opportunity to wrestle for and coach under such legends as Pullen, Minter, Droegemueller, Ferry, and Greeno. Lefebvre is also grateful for the opportunity to wrestle in the STMA Wrestling program and then be able to come back and work with some of the outstanding competitors that have come through the STMA ranks in the past 29 years. Dan was also grateful for the opportunity to coach sons Nathan and Ross, both State Place-winners and for the dedication of daughter, Rebecca, who served as wrestling manager for four years.
When asked if he had any advice for up and coming wrestling coaches, he felt that in order for any program to be successful, you need to surround yourself with good people who share the same vision, are dedicated to the same mission, and hold onto the same ideals as you do. From assistant coaches to parents, faculty, friends, and staff – they are all important. As a coach, you need to take an interest in the well-being of your athletes and let them know you are there for them, not just during the season, but 24–7–365 and beyond. Kids don’t care how much you know, but they do know how much you care.
Dan’s wife, Karen, works as an administrative assistant in the Law Office of Thomas D. Mottaz. Dan and Karen have three children. Oldest son Nathan and wife Amy have a daughter, Helena. Daughter Rebecca and husband Tim have a daughter(Charlotte) and a son(Bryce). Youngest son Ross is pursuing a Physical Education and Health Major at St. Cloud State. University. It is an honor for the MWCA to present Dan Lefebvre from St. Michael Albertville with a Lifetime Achievement Award in the sport of Wrestling. We also want to offer a hearty congratulations on STMA’s State Team Title this past season. Talk about going out in style!