On Saturday, April 27th the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Minnesota Chapter held their 17th annual banquet and ceremony and inducted eight distinguished members who have contributed significantly to Minnesota Wrestling and beyond. The celebration was held at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Austin, Minn.
Over 300 people were in attendance, including 28 former Hall of Fame inductees.
Paul Marquart was honored as Outstanding American from Minnesota. Inductees for the Lifetime Service Award were Randy Baker, Jim Bartels, Paul Bengston, Paul Cyr, Lyle Freudenberg, Neal Skaar, and Randy Zimmer.
You can read 2019 National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Minnesota Chapter member bios below.
Photos by Jeff Beshey.
Several schools in Southwestern Minnesota have certainly demonstrated their strength in the sport of Wrestling over the years, but no high school program has had more success than what is now Jackson County Central High School. The leader and coach that brought this great success to this area of the state was Randy Baker.
The schools that finally made up what is now Jackson County Central have changed through the years. Coach Randy Baker started his teaching and coaching career at Lakefield High School. That school then consolidated with Heron Lake and Okebena, making Heron Lake-Okebena Lakefield, referred to as HLOL. Those towns eventually consolidated with Jackson and were briefly called Jackson County Central/Southwest Star Concept. That name eventually changed to Jackson County Central High School. Whatever the school’s name, Coach Randy Baker’s teams were highly successful!
Coach Baker’s credentials rank among the very best ever in Minnesota High School Wrestling History. In 34 years, from 1984 to 2018 Baker’s Jackson County Central’s teams racked up 510 dual meet victories, 39 individual state championships (ranks second All-Time in Minnesota), 93 State Place Winners (ranks third All-Time in Minnesota) and seven State Team Titles, with 14 teams qualifying for State. Randy’s HLOL team, the “Silver Bullets,” placed 3rd in State in 1993. Baker also had the opportunity to coach some of the Midwest’s best high school wrestlers as a USA Developmental Coach. Randy was very active in the MN/USA wrestling program, starting in the 1980’s. He coached Schoolboy, Cadets and Juniors to the Wrestling USA National Tournaments. Minnesota Chapter-National Wrestling Hall of Fame President, Spencer Yohe, says, I always thought Randy was the best technical coach in state history!”
Honors Baker received for his coaching efforts were the 1993 Minnesota (Class AA) “Coach of the Year,” 1997 Wrestling USA Magazine’s “Wrestling Man of the Year, “ and 2001 USA Development “Coach of the Year.” Along with MN/USA “Coach of the Year” and selected 13 times as Section “Coach of the Year.” Randy also served as a Section Coaches Representative for over 20 years.
Randy obviously has been a focused coach to accomplish so much. 1996 Olympic Silver Medalist and Gopher All-American wrestler who now runs the Pinnacle Wrestling School, Brandon Paulson, said, “My wife (who had Baker as a teacher) said he was the most intense person she knows. I think that is saying something.”
Baker wrestled for Jackson County Central from 1970 to 1973 and was a two-time State Qualifier. He continued his academic and mat career at Worthington Community College (now Minnesota West Community College) where he placed 5th in 1975. He then traveled West on Interstate 90 to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where he wrestled at Augustana College. At Augustana, Baker was a 2-time NCAA II National Qualifier and served as Team Captain of the 1977 NCAA- II National Runner-Up Vikings team. He then stayed on for two years as a grad assistant.
Randy’s college coach Paul Kendle says, “Bake wrestled for me at Augustana College and was one of the greatest wrestlers that I had in my 18 years there. Everything said about his commitment, honesty, intensity and caring is absolutely true. As a grad assistant the wrestlers were prepared after wrestling with Bake!”
Baker graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree, majoring in Physical Education in 1977. He acquired his first teaching and coaching job two years later in 1984 at Lakefield High School, where he was hired as a part-time teacher and wrestling coach. The school consolidated with some other small towns nearby through the years, but basically Baker has lived and coached in his hometown throughout his career.
“The Globe” Sports editor Doug Walter, out of Worthington, Minnesota says this about Randy Baker as a coach in a previous article: “If Randy Baker seems like more than just a wrestling coach, it’s because he’s also a father figure to many of the athletes who have gone through the high school system. He’s brutally honest, he’s tough. He knows exactly what it takes for a young man to succeed, and he doesn’t mince words.”
With the above said, it is more evidence of that intensity Brandon Paulson’s wife mentioned as a student in Baker’s classroom. That same intensity carried over to his coaching. That same intensity, but also caring nature and respect from his wrestlers led to the school’s first State Title in 1999 and continued with back-to-back State titles with another in 2000. Jackson County central then won a State Team title in 2008, and another four in a row from 2010 to 2013. His teams also during that time span never went two consecutive seasons without producing at least one Individual State Champion.
Baker also officiated high school and college matches from 1977 to 1990.
Randy is a member of Worthington Community College Athletic Hall of Fame, Jackson County High school Athletic Hall of Fame, and now enters Minnesota Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
One of Minnesota’s best and foremost media people covering and promoting the sport of wrestling for over 40 years is Brownton, Minnesota native Jim Bartels.
This former Publisher of The Guillotine, “Minnesota’s official wrestling newspaper” helped create greater interest for the sport of wrestling. This was evident from the increased subscription of sales, and the knowledge fans started to have in recognizing the wrestlers, teams and wrestling events around the state. Jim always went the “extra mile” too in adding various columns to speak on relevant and interesting topics, as well as his special 32 page State Tournament Edition.
Jim and Pat Schmidt partnered together in 1977 to purchase The Guillotine from original owner Paul Kreuger, former St. James HS wrestling Coach, who had started the paper in 1971. Jim and wife Konnie became sole owners in 1981. They later sold the paper to Jim Beshey and family. The Beshey’s have now been longtime owners with Jeff Beshey being the publisher/owner today.
During Bartels ownership The Guillotine started many informative columns, including The Ref’s Review, Nutrition Insight, the MWCA President’s column, “The Mat Bird’s Seat’ (written by brother Bruce Bartels), as well as doing new State Wrestling Rankings, called “The Dirty Dozen,” with honorable mention teams called ‘Lean and Mean.’
Even with all Jim’s work with The Guillotine, Bartels is still probably best known for his work as a Radio Broadcaster in the “Wrestling World.” He began play-by-play of college wrestling meets while as a student at Mankato State University in 1973, after sustaining an injury while competing for the MSU wrestling team. This was followed by a broadcasting career at KNUJ Radio in New Ulm, Minnesota. Jim started play-by-play broadcasts, and reports made from area District and Region tournaments. He also got KNUJ Radio to start coverage of the Minnesota State High School Tournament in 1976. That same coverage continues to this day. Jim has also served as Public Address Announcer for the past 25 years for all New Ulm High School wrestling meets.
Bartels became involved with other local radio stations too, helping them to start wrestling coverage, such towns as Hutchinson, Glencoe, New Prague and Willmar all have radio stations broadcasting wrestling meets because of Jim’s influence. These stations now not only do radio broadcasts from the state tournament, but also post websites with results, pictures, videos, Facebook photos and videos, as well as Twitter posts. Jim’s two brothers Bruce and Don, along with Jim’s wife Konnie, daughter Abby and son Adam assist in this coverage. Jim is now considered as perhaps the ‘Senior Broadcaster’ of all radio stations covering the sport of wrestling, with 35 plus stations now offering state tournament coverage. Jim is now longtime General Manager of KNUJ AM-FM Radio in New Ulm.
Oh, and Bartels was a good wrestler too! He was a 3-time District Champion for Brownton High School, finishing with 59 career victories in an era when that was a high mark in the old ‘one class’ system. Jim wrestled for Hall of Fame Coach Jim Beshey. Unfortunately, Jim encountered some injuries in college cutting his wrestling career short. He had wrestled at Willmar State Junior College (now Ridgewater CC) under legendary Hall of Fame Coach Roy Minter. There he accumulated a 17-5-5 record and received Academic All-American honors. From there he wrestled for legendary Hall of Fame coach Rummy Macias at Mankato State University (now Minnesota State-Mankato). At both school’s injuries cut his seasons short. However, this proved to create for Jim a career in broadcasting. Unable to wrestle, Jim started broadcasting the MSU wrestling meets as a student. This would lead to a career in broadcasting that continues today.
Jim’s involvement in not only has including his participation as a wrestler and radio broadcaster, but he has also done some coaching and officiating. As a youth coach in New Ulm, Bartels coached some freestyle wrestling for wrestlers, ages 15-18 years old. He was able to coach a cultural exchange team to Norway for two weeks too in 1980.
Bartels also spent ten years (1988-1998) as a youth coach in the New Ulm Youth Wrestling Club, coaching wrestlers, ages 5 to 18. His son Adam placed in the Minnesota State USA Tournament three different times, and his daughter Abby placed 3rd in State one year. Abby partnered in practice with future 2X Olympian Ali Bernard.
You may well have recognized Jim on the wrestling mats as an official too. He served as a high school and college official for 17 seasons, concluding in 1991. He started while as a student at MSU. Jim ‘s officiating included three years at the Minnesota State High School Tournament, officiating in the 1970’s , 80’s and 90’s. He also officiated the Regional Upper Midwest Junior College tournaments during that time span. In addition, he officiated the NIC and NCC college conference tournaments and the NCAA II national tournaments.
Beyond wrestling, Bartels has been a regular contributor and donator thru KNUJ Radio to youth wrestling in New Ulm; An active board member of the Brown United Way for ten years; New Ulm Rotary Club member and council member for the Fields of Grace parish.
Other wrestling contributions and participation have been to the Rolling Thunder Youth Wrestling Club through KNUJ Radio; Served as an analyst for the Minnesota State High school Wrestling television telecasts in 1985-86; He was “PA” voice for the USA vs Russia wrestling meet held at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus; Play-by-play video announcer for the annual USA Dream team Wrestling Classic, held at Apple Valley High School in 2000; He also served as Head Official for two of Minnesota’s largest “Open” wrestling tournaments ever held in the Hutch Open and Owatonna Open in the 1980’s.
Bartels has received the 1998 MWCA “Media of the Year” award. His son Adam received this same award 20 years later. Jim and his wife Konnie were 1988 Inductee’s to the MWCA Dave Bartelma-Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame. Wife, Konnie, became only the third woman ever to be inducted! The Bartels family (Jim, Konnie, Adam, Jill and Abby) still share their love for the sport of wrestling and they all have played an instrumental role in the popular rise of wrestling in the state of Minnesota. Jim Bartels is a most welcome 2019 addition to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame-Minnesota Chapter.
Paul Bengston One of Minnesota’s most legendary names in high school wrestling is the name “Bengtson.” Paul’s “brothers” were great wrestlers for Owatonna High School in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Paul’s brother Jack became Owatonna’s first State Wrestling Champion in 1948. Dick (1951) was a two-time Region Champion and placed 4th in Sate, twice. Sam was a State Champion in 1954, and Runner-up in 1953, while Tom (the oldest) became head wrestling coach at Waterville High School in Minnesota.
Among the four brothers one became a legendary Head Wrestling Coach in Paul “Don” Bengtson. Paul became one of the premiere coaches of the 1960’s at Hopkins High School in Minnesota. His teams won three State Titles in 1963,1967 and 1968. Bengtson’s Hopkins teams also produced numerous great wrestles, as great teams do. Four of those wrestlers represented the United States in the Olympic Games, Two as regulars on the team, and two as alternates.
Bengtson, an Owatonna native, got his start in wrestling under Coach Paul Becker at Owatonna High School. At OHS Paul went on to place second in State in 1951 and captured the State Title at 145 lbs. in 1952 in the old “One Class’ system. He was a Region Champion his Junior and Senior years. He was also a rare 7-year Letterman at OHS in Football and Wrestling. He served as Team Captain in both Football and Wrestling. In Football he called the offense and defense signals for the 1951-1952 seasons. Paul also represented the South Team as Co-Captain for the annual Minnesota High School “North vs South All-Star Game.” He played Center and Linebacker the entire game. He was All-Conference in Football and All-State Honorable Mention at the position of Center.
After graduating from OHS in 1952, he attended the University of Minnesota where he Wrestled and Lettered in 1954. He was a Williams Scholar and received his Bachelor’s Degree in 1958 after serving the United States Army.
Bengtson stared his coaching career in Wisconsin, at Amery High School. His team did very well. The team was undefeated in Wisconsin, (1958-1959), qualifying 9 wrestlers out of 10 to the Wisconsin State Tournament.
Paul went on to take a new challenge as Head Wrestling Coach at the University of Chicago for one year. He then headed back to his home state of Minnesota to start the wrestling program at Hopkins High School.
When Paul interviewed for the Head Wrestling Coach’s job at Hopkins in 1960 he made a promise to the administration that his team would win a State Team Championship in three years, or they could fi re him. He was hired!
Coach Bengtson did not take long to start producing stellar teams. In his fi rst year as coach his team qualified two wrestlers to the Minnesota State “One Class” Tournament. In his second year he produced the school’s first State Wrestling Campion. With his leadership the Hopkins wrestling team did win the Minnesota State Team Wrestling Title, as promised, in 1963. Bengtson presented the Hopkins High School with the Championship Trophy! Two more State Team Championship Titles came in 1967 and 1968, a State Runner-up team, and a 4th Place and a 8th Place Team. In just 8 years Bengtson coached 9 individual State Champions and several State Place winners.
During those years Paul also served as an Assistant Football coach. He was a pioneer of sports for girls, as her started the Hopkins High School girls track team. Paul coached a State Champion in the 880 (1/2 Mile) Run his first year. The following year he coached a State Champion in the One Mile Run.
A former 1968 Hopkins State Wrestling Champion, Pat Marcy, who went on to become Augsburg College’s first National Wrestling Champion and member of the 1974, 1975, an d1977 USA World Teams, as well as a 1975 Pam American Games Gold Medalist in Greco-Roman Wrestling. Pat says, “I was extremely lucky to have Paul as my high school wrestling coach. He was my first wrestling coach and instilled in me a passion for the sport, which has guided me through life. The successes I’ve had in wrestling and in life is a direct result of Coach Bengtson’s efforts. He was the best coach I’ve ever had.”
For his teams’ success Coach Paul “Don” Bengtson was voted 1969 Minnesota Wrestling “Coach of the Year.” He was also inducted as a “Charter Member” of the Dave Bartlema-Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame. IN addition, in 1994 Bengtson was recipient of the coveted “Butch Nash Award,” from the Minnesota State Football Coaches Association, representing the state’s “Outstanding Assistant Football Coach.”
Bengtson was an inspiration to his wrestlers. Hall of Fame Coach Buzz Cummins says, “He was always upbeat, was a positive thinker, and he always made us believe we could succeed. His contributions to others in wrestling did not stop with the end of his coaching career days. He helped many of us in a quiet way behind the scenes. I don’t think his willingness to share and to help others with his knowledge, understanding, strategy, and inspiration ever stopped. I owe my success I have achieved to the help he gave mem throughout my coaching career!”
From 1968-1970 Paul served as Athletic Director at Mound High School in Minnesota. Form 1970-1974 he served as Head Wrestling Coach at Hopkins-Eisenhauer High School. During his years of coaching and after Bengtson served as a Mentor to several coaches and was also a Region Tournament Director.
Other honors came Paul’s way too. In 1952 Paul was featured in the Minneapolis Star Tribune Sunday’s “Believe it or Not” sports page for his outstanding performance as a high school athlete. In 1993 he was elected to the Hopkins School Board, became known as the “Wise Old Owl” was re-elected and served a total of 13 years. In 1994 Paul was named Hopkins Rasberry Festival Senior King. IN 1995 he was chosen as the “Minneapolis Aquatennial Senior Commodore,” He was inducted into the Owatonna High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Hopkins Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.
Former teammate to Bengtson at the University of Minnesota, and Hall of Fame Coach Pete Veldman says, “Paul was not only an outstanding athlete, a great coach and a great teacher, but also most importantly a great parent. The energy that he put into his profession was unbelievable and the really rubbed off on the athlete and coaches he worked with.” That is certainly a statement of great respect too, considering Veldman was a former rival wrestler from Albert Lea High School. Wrestling fans in Southern Minnesota are well aware of the long rivalry between Owatonna and Albert Lea teams over the years. Paul’s supportive family are wife, Shirley, and his adult children Rhonda Lee Bengtson and Dr. and Mrs. William Paul Bengtson, grandchildren and great grandchildren. They all are aware of Paul’s enthusiasm for every undertaking he takes on, that enthusiasm made him one of the “True Legends” in Minnesota High School Wrestling History. He is now a proud member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame-Minnesota Chapter, an honor that is long overdue! Congratulations Coach Paul “Don” Bengtson!
One of the truly likeable, enthusiastic and successful coaches in Minnesota high school wrestling history is former NHREG Wrestling Coach Paul Cyr.
Cyr is a native of Oklee, Minnesota where he attended Oklee High School, graduating in 1972. He then attended the University of Minnesota-Morris where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education in 1978. He continued his education (on and off) with stops at Moorhead State, St. John’s University, Bemidji State (Master’s Degree in Math Education) and concluding at Mankato State with a 6th year certifi cate (Principal’s License).
Paul began his coaching career in 1977 at Fertile-Beltrami, helping to lay the foundation for a team that would win four consecutive Region 8 titles.
After taking some time away from teaching and attending St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota Paul helped Coach John Elton coaching the Johnnies in 1982-83. From there he took a job in New Richland, Minnesota. The school at that time was a combination of the two towns of New Richland and Hartland. Soon the school consolidated with the nearby towns of Ellendale and Geneva, becoming New Richland-HartlandEllendale-Geneva (NRHEG) High School.
At NRHEG Paul fi rst taught Math and after receiving his Principal’s License he became the Middle School Principal, transitioning later to the High School Principal. He worked at NRHEG for 27 years.
Cyr’s wrestling teams, which he still coached while serving as Principal, were always extremely competitive. Paul always challenged his teams with a tough schedule too. His wrestlers displayed great conditioning and were sound on their feet. His career high school coaching record of 445-304-12 with 11 teams capturing Gopher Conference team titles and 4 teams qualifying for State, with his 1999 team capturing a State Runner up finish, exemplifies that success too. And those teams produced some outstanding wrestlers. Six of his wrestlers won seven State Titles among them with three individuals going on to capture National Titles in College. Kory Mosher (Fertile-Beltrami High School) won an NCAA II title at the University of North Dakota. Joe Moon (NRHEG High School) won two NCAA III National Championships at Augsburg College as a 3-time All-American and Matt Pettsinger (NRHEG High School) became an NCAA II National Champion at Mankato State University in 2001, making him a 4-time All-American).
Paul also did officiating throughout his coaching career and continues doing so today, for well over 40 years behind the whistle! Paul says he learned a lot from his college wrestling coach Doug Dufty at U of M-Morris. Coach Dufty would take Paul to officiate with him places to help officiate. Paul says, “He got me started as an official, traveling with him to places like Browns Valley, Chokio, etc., to officiate matches.”
Cyr has always lent a helping hand with any wrestling events in the area. He volunteered as an official for several years at the large “Owatonna Open” held each year at the Four Seasons Arena in Owatonna. Former Owatonna High school Coach Scot Davis says, “Paul was always a great help and one of the fi nest people you will ever meet. Our sport of wrestling had a great ‘role model’ in Coach Paul Cyr.”
Paul’s successful coaching over the years earned him numerous awards and recognition. He was voted Section “Coach of the year” by his coaching peers five times (1999, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2013). Paul also served as President of the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association (MWCA) in 2009.
To know Paul Cyr is to know he is an outstanding handler of guns. He is an avid hunter and now enjoys more time to hunt ducks and geese. He has also been a longtime trapshooter. Since 1975 he has registered over 280, 000 targets. He has also traveled across the Midwest, to the states of Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and the Grand American Tournament in Sparta, Illinois.
Paul started shooting at a very young age, first at the trap club in Oklee, then traveling with his dad to Thief River Falls to compete in ‘League Shooting’ as a 12 year old. He shot his first registered targets at the Fergus Falls Gun Club in 1975. He also attended the “Grand American” for the first time in 1978, and has attended 35 Grand Americans since that time. Again, his total targets registered to date is over 280,000 ATA targets, a phenomenal amount! He has also won several State Shoot Trophies over the years and has tied for the ‘Singles’ and ‘Doubles’ championships. He has also served on the MTA Board of Directors for 11 years as the ‘Southern Zone Director,’ and one year as Vice President. He continues to volunteer at the State Shoot each year. While living in New Richland he served on the Owatonna Gun Club Board of Directors (2006 to 2014) and was President for fi ve years. He also served on the Minnesota Trap shooting Association Board (1998 to 2012).
Besides substitute teaching these days, Paul volunteers as an assistant coach at Red Lake County Central High School in Oklee, Minnesota, and works score tables and serves as a Public Address Announcer at their home meets.
A true contributor to the sport of wrestling and one of Minnesota’s fi nest coaches, Paul Cyr is an outstanding inductee to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame-Minnesota Chapter. NWHOF-Minnesota Chapter President Spencer Yohe says, “Paul certainly has been an outstanding and successful coach, and served Minnesota wrestling well as an MWCA President and volunteering his time as a table worker, announcer and official.”
One of Minnesota’s most successful wrestling coaches ever from the West Central part of the state is former Foley High School Coach Lyle Freudenberg.
Lyle is a native of Parker’s Prairie, Minnesota where he attended Parker’s Prairie High School and was a 3-sport athlete in football, wrestling and track. As a senior, Lyle placed 3rd in State in the Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament at 138 lbs in the old “one class” system in 1970. He was a 3-Time All-Conference wrestler. Lyle was also twice named to the All-Conference team in football, where he played offensive guard and was a linebacker on defense. Lyle says he also did track in the spring because his football coach Andy McCarty (inducted into the NWHOFMinnesota Chapter in 2010) was the coach.
After high school, Lyle attended Moorhead State University where his successful wrestling career continued. Lyle was a Northern Intercollegiate Conference Champion his senior year in 1974, and a 2-time national qualifi er. He also served as Team Co-Captain with teammate Bob Bowlsby, the current Commissioner of the Big 12 (D1) Athletic Conference. Bowlsby was a graduate of West Waterloo High School where legend Dan Gable wrestled. Both Gable and Bowlsby wrestled under the coaching of legendary Hall of Fame Coach Bob Siddens. Both Freudenberg and Bowlsby wrestled for Hall of Fame Coach Bill Garland at Moorhead State.
After graduating from Moorhead State in 1975, Freudenberg took his fi rst teaching position in Oakes, North Dakota. Lyle taught biology and chemistry and coached three different sports of football, wrestling and track. After three years at Oakes High School and a 20-10 wrestling team record, Freudenberg was hired as a science teacher at Foley High School, where he remained for 36 years, serving as a wrestling coach for the last 32 years (1982-2014). Lyle spent his last two seasons sharing the head wrestling coach position with longtime assistant coach, and former Foley wrestler, Scott Gorecki. Gorecki wrestled on the 1993 State Championship Team. In addition to coaching, Lyle also served as a Section Coaches Representative for four years.
Under Coach Lyle Freudenberg, an amazing 20 Foley High school Wrestling Teams qualifi ed for the State Tournament. The team placed in 19 of the 20 years, with 5 Consolation Championship Teams (5th place), placed 4th twice, fi nished 3rd six times, were State Runner-ups twice and won State Team titles three times, in 1989, 1993 and 1994. During that time span 72 wrestlers were State place-winners, and the teams overall dual meet record totaled 710-137-6, a winning percentage of 83%.
Coach Freudenberg’s overall head coaching record totaled 730- 158-4. With the success of his Foley teams Coach Freudenberg was awarded with numerous coaching honors. He was voted Section “Coach of the Year” ten different times, and three times voted Minnesota (MWCA) State Class AA “Coach of the Year.”
Coach Freudenberg was also named 2008 State Person of the Year,” from Wrestling USA Magazine; Inducted into the Dave Bartelma-Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Foley High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2017.
At Foley High School Lyle also coached junior high football for 20 years and Boys and Girls track for six years. In addition, he coached Girls softball for 10 years and junior high wrestling for four years. Coach Freudenberg understood the importance of assembling a quality coaching staff from top to bottom. Lyle says, “If you have good junior high and elementary level coaches then you can have a lot of success. If you don’t have those people in place, your program is going to fall apart.”
Longtime Foley Wrestling Assistant Coach Larry Harm says, “Lyle is a leader of men. He was able to mold young men into contributing members of our community. Through his wrestling program, countless young men were taught accountability to others, and respect for each other and their opponents. He also helped them develop the type of work ethic that sometimes gets lost in today’s society.”
Foley Activities Director Michael Johnson says, “Lyle is a person of passion and a true public educator. I have never seen someone so willing to work with all students and get the best out of every individual he coached no matter how much ability they have. Lyle’s character far exceeds that of my own and I look at him not only as a great mentor for myself, but the standard that ALL coaches should aspire to be.”
Finally, Assistant Foley Wrestling Coach Jake Helmin, who also wrestled for Coach Freudenberg says this about his former coach and mentor: “All of the stats and accomplishments are great to have, but for coach (Freudenberg) those stats didn’t matter to him at all. The most important thing that he cared about was his wrestlers and the staff he coached with. He would do everything in his power to develop us into great wrestlers and great young men.”
The very supportive Freudenberg Family includes wife, Lynn, and adult children, Josh, Jared and Laura. Husband and father, coach and mentor, Lyle Freudenberg has touched many people’s lives in a positive and motivating way. Congratulations to Coach Lyle Freudenberg on his inclusion to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame-Minnesota Chapter. An honor well deserved!
Paul Marquart, of Dilworth, MN is a life-long teacher and wrestling coach at Dilworth Glyndon-Felton High School, an accomplished wrestler, and a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives since 2001.
Paul had an outstanding wrestling career earning NCAA Div. II All American honors in 1980 and winning the silver medal representing the United States at the 1977 Junior Pan American Greco-Roman championships in Quito, Ecuador. While at Fargo North High School he placed 3rd in the State. Paul then competed at North Dakota State College of Science where he won conference and regional titles and twice qualified for the National Junior College Wrestling Tournament. Wrestling at the University of North Dakota, Marquart was an All American and named UND’s North Central Conference honor athlete his senior year based on academic and athletic achievement and community leadership. Paul was selected to the NDSCS Athletic Hall of Fame and the Fargo North High School Hall of Fame.
Paul has taught social studies at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton High School for 35 years where he was head and assistant wrestling coach for 16 years. He served three seasons as assistant wrestling coach at Moorhead High School. Paul volunteered for over 20 years as the announcer at the Minnesota Section 8A wrestling tournament.
Paul has been a public servant for over 30 years, serving as the Mayor of Dilworth before being elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2000. The city of Dilworth experienced strong housing and economic growth during the 11 years Marquart served as Mayor. As State Representative, Paul has served as the chairperson of the Taxes, Education Finance and Property Tax committees and served in several other leadership positions while representing his constituents in rural Minnesota. While chairperson of the property tax committee, Marquart authored a bipartisan bill that has provided significant property tax relief for disabled veterans. As Education Finance chairperson he worked to make available free all-day every day kindergarten for all students for the first time in Minnesota state history.
Paul has been a long-time member of his community’s Lions Club, Sportsmen Club, and Chamber of Commerce. He attends St. Elizabeth Catholic Church where he has served on the Finance Council.
Paul is married to his wife Colleen and they have two children, Lindsey and Ashley. Lindsey is married to Grant and they have two children, Addison and Lincoln. Paul is very proud of his daughters following his footsteps into the teaching profession. Lindsey and Ashley are both elementary teachers. Lindsey’s husband Grant is a state trooper with the North Dakota Highway Patrol. Ashley is engaged to Andrew Randall who is a physical therapist. Paul credits the strong support and inspiration from his family for helping him in his life’s accomplishments.
One of the most recognizable family names in the historic history of Albert Lea Wrestling is the name “Skaar.” The leader of this proud and successful wrestling family is Neal Skaar.
To know Neal Skaar is to know an extremely modest and humble individual who always displays great integrity and sportsmanship. He’s the kind of coach an opposing coach can talk to after a meet concludes and it never gets personal, no matter what side of the victory or defeat you might be on.
In Neal’s own words, “I consider myself to be very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be involved with many great individuals during my tenure at Albert Lea as a wrestler, coach, teacher and wrestling official. I do not consider myself to be extraordinary or worthy of fame. All I have done over the years is to show up. When that happens there is a good chance that good things will happen.”
Neal’s interpretation of the above statement would no doubt be: “I was in the right place at the right time.” However, his opposition would rather interpret it as: “Neal’s coaching and wrestling made good things happen!”
The Skaar name has been long connected to the success of the Albert Lea Wrestling Program. Neal’s sons, Alex and Nate were State Placewinners for Albert High School. They went on to capture All-American honors in college too, both wrestling at their father’s Alma Mater, Luther College in Decorah, Iowa . Alex was a NCAA III National Runner-up at 158 lbs in 1992. Brother, Nate, placed 5th in the NCAA III National Tournament in 1995 at 142 lbs. Their father, Neal, was a 3-time All-American, placing 5th in 1966, 6th in 1967 and 3rd in 1968 in the then NCAA “College Division.”
Neal Skaar also wrestled for Albert Lea High School under Hall of Fame Coach Paul Ehrhard. In college he was also an AllLutheran Tournament Champion in 1967 and 1968, and an Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Champion in 1967 and 1968. He sported an impressive college career record of 107-28 back when matches were not as plentiful as you see today. 100+ wins was a lot of wins in those days!
After graduating from Luther College in 1968, Neal returned to Albert Lea High School as a teacher and assistant wrestling coach, serving under his former high school Hall of Fame Coach Paul Ehrhard. Neal taught English and Math. He also has maintained his hand in farming, living in nearby Hayward, Minnesota where he grew up.
Neal took over the Albert Lea Head Coaching position from his former high school Coach Paul Ehrhard in 1979, he served in that position until 1991. He was assistant coach from 1968 to 1978. After stepping down as head coach, Neal has continued as a volunteer assistant to this day.
During Neal’s half a century involved in Albert Lea Wrestling the Albert Lea Tigers have won State Team Championships in 1971, 1976 and 1981. Neal was Head Coach for the ’81 State Championship Team. During all this time Albert Lea has won 25 Big Nine Conference Titles, eight (’79, ’80, ’81, ‘’85, ’86, ’87, ’90, ’91) of those under Neal’s Head Coaching reign. Skaar’s overall head coaching record was an impressive 232-28.
Skaar’s Albert Lea’s teams produced numerous State Champions and future collegiate All-Americans. For Neal’s success as a coach and athlete he has been awarded with several honors over the years. He was voted Big Nine Wrestling “Coach of the Year” in 1991 and Albert Lea Tribune “Coach of the Year,” also in 1991. Hall of Fame honors include the Luther College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1979; The Dave Bartelma-Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1998; The Mayo Civic Center/Region One Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2011: The Albert Lea High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016; and now the 2019 National Wrestling Hall of Fame-Minnesota Chapter.
Neal, in his modest way has stated (Albert Lea Tribune-June 7, 2016): “We teach commitment, focus, and instill the proper attitudes into wrestlers, “ he says. “Our job (as coaches) is to assist the athletes in applying the technique that works best for them. We teach them how to prepare and accomplish goals. Winning is just a byproduct of that.”
Neal’s supportive family includes his wife Jean and four adult children in Alexander, Nathaniel, Katherine and Rebecca.
The National wrestling Hall of Fame-Minnesota Chapter proudly recognizes Neal Skaar as a most deserved 2019 inductee. Congratulations to Neal on a tremendous career as a wrestler and coach!
One of the great coaches from Central Minnesota is former Milaca High School Head Wrestling Coach Randy Zimmer. With a career high school coaching record of 556-138-8, with ten teams that qualified for the Minnesota State Wrestling tournament, and 129 individual State Qualifiers, 44 State Place winners and 5 State Champions, Coach Randy Zimmer is also one of Minnesota’s fi nest ever!
Coach Zimmer is truly one of the nice guys in the coaching ranks. With all his success with his Milaca wrestling squads, he has been the recipient of numerous coaching honors over the years. As Head Wrestling Coach at Milaca High School, from 1988 to 2012, Randy was voted “Section Coach of the Year” honors nine times, including the years 1994, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012 in Sections 6AA and 7AA; He was also voted Minnesota Class AA (MWCA) “Coach of the Year” in 2000 and 2012; He was selected as 2012 Minnesota Wrestling “Coach of the Year” from the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA); He received Wrestling USA Magazine’s Minnesota “Person of the Year” in 2010; He was inducted into the Dave Bartelma Minnesota (MWCA) “wrestling Hall of Fame in 2014;” Zimmer received the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association (MWCA) “Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2013, and the St. Cloud State University “Alumni Achievement Award” in 2012; This past fall (2017) Zimmer was inducted into the Milaca High School Wrestling Hall of Fame; And now is a 2019 Inductee to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame-Minnesota Chapter.
“We were blessed to have Randy as a wrestler in our first year of our new wrestling program at Wabasso! He set a great example for others as to how to compete and also how to live life outside of the wrestling room. A fantastic person with a wonderful family; so proud of his accomplishments!” -Gary Hindt (Randy’s high school coach at Wabasso High School & 2018 MN Chapter – NWHOF Honoree).
In 1975, seventh grader, Randy Zimmer joined wrestling and started on the varsity team, he did not leave the “Varsity” wrestling mat for the next ten years! His wrestling career started in Wabasso and he wrestled for National Wrestling Hall of Fame Coach Gary Hindt. Randy was the third wrestler in the old District 10 to win 100 matches, right behind Harlan Leopold and Bob Bandmeir. Randy advanced fi ve times to the Region 3 tournament. Randy’s undefeated senior season was stopped short by a shoulder injury a day before the Region Tourney.
After graduation from Wabasso High School in 1975, Randy moved on to Worthington Community College where he advanced to the National Junior College Tournament two consecutive years, also having captured a Minnesota State Junior College Championship. He was voted “Most Valuable Wrestler” at Worthington JC in 1976 (that same year his younger brother, Dan, won a Minnesota State Title for his alma mater Wabasso High School). After finishing up at Worthington Junior College, Randy transferred to St. Cloud State University and wrestled for Hall of Fame Coach John Oxton. Randy got his start in coaching as a “Youth Coach” in 1976 in the Worthington Wrestling program while attending college at Worthington Junior College The late Hall of Fame Ken Droegemueller, who was then Head Wrestling Coach at Worthington High School, who got him involved in the program there.
After graduation from St. Cloud State University in 1980, Randy got his first job in the Milaca School system in 1980-81. He started as an Elementary School Teacher, teaching grades 2-5, and Junior High Wrestling Coach. Randy was named Milaca “Teacher of the Year” in 2011. Zimmer then stepped up to high school coaching as Assistant Wrestling Coach at Milaca High School, serving in that position from the 1981-2 season to 1987-88. The next year, in 1988-89, Zimmer started his 24-year run as Head Wrestling Coach at Milaca High School.
One of the things Randy did to build for future success was to develop a large youth wrestling program, with 150 to 175 wrestlers participating on a yearly basis. This really helped produce some quality high school teams for Milaca High School in the coming years. This also developed into a great rivalry with another successful program in Foley High School. This has become one of the most well attended and annually anticipated meets for wrestling fans in “Minnesota Wrestling History” over the years in Central Minnesota.
Beyond Randy’s many accomplishments as a wrestling coach, he has also given back to the sport helping the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association (MWCA) in several capacities and as an Alumni Booster for his Alma Mater St. Cloud State University. He continues to serve Minnesota Wrestling as a member of the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association (MWCA) Scholarship Committee as well as volunteering at the MSHSL State Wrestling Tournament.
Randy and his wife, Kris, of 39 years, raised their three children Zach, Ali and Jenna in Milaca and they now have seven grandchildren.
Read past National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Minnesota Chapter member bios at nwhof.org.