National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Minnesota Chapter Honors Nine at Honors Banquet

On Sunday, September 13th the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Minnesota Chapter held their 18th Annual Honors Banquet. The celebration was held at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Austin, Minn. Attendance was considerably less than normal because of the current pandemic.

2020 honorees Bud Heidgerken, Tom Beyer, Mary Davis, Mark Jensen, and Don Kuusinen were present and participated in the inductions. Also honored from the 2020 Class were the late Father Otto Weber, Brian Bakke, Larry Goodnature, and Bill Schmidt. Bakke was honored and inducted at a prior event. There was a social held for Father Weber at a prior event as well. Goodnature and Schmidt have opted to be part of the 2021 induction acceptance speeches.

2020 Outstanding American
Bud Heidgerken

2020 Medal of Courage
Brian Bakke

2020 Lifetime Service Honorees
Tom Beyer
Mary Davis
Larry Goodnature
Mark Jensen
Don Kuusinen
Bill Schmidt
Father Otto Weber

You can read 2020 National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Minnesota Chapter member bios below.

Photos by Jeff Beshey.

The Guillotine Photos on Flickr

Bud Heidgerken

A three-term Minnesota State House of Representative, Bud Heidgerken, is our 2020 Minnesota Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame “Outstanding American.”

Heidgerken got his first experience with wrestling with Father Otto Weber (1952 grad) at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Little did he know then that it would help in 1967 when he became a head coach, assistant coach, junior high coach, and bus driver.

When the Ashby High School head coach quit in the middle of the season, rather than drop the program, Heidgerken accepted that coaching position and assumed those duties for that year and the next. Bud says his greatest accomplishment at Ashby High School was filling out the 12 weight classes. This was done with only four boys in the entire graduating class, and not many more in the junior class either.

From Ashby, Heiderken transferred to Brooten. Little did he know that Brooten was just starting wrestling that season. Two Weeks before the season, the football coach asked Bud if he would take the job as head wrestling coach. However, Bud convinced Don Larsen, the head football coach, to take the head job and he would be the assistant. Don was totally unfamiliar with the sport, and Bud would show the moves to be taught.

Brooten, like Ashby, was very short on possibilities. Rather than waiting for kids to come out, Bud went from farm to farm during milking time to recruit the boys that were not out for basketball. Most parents were not familiar with the sport.

The first year the team went 5-5 and got better every year after for some 20 years. They never had a losing record. After five years, first-year head coach Keith Krebsbach arrived, who had high school wrestling experience. They started an elementary program and participated in the kids Jaycees Program and AAU. This started a trend of sending two to three wrestlers to the state tournament each year.

A couple of years later, first-year teacher Jerry Huls was hired. Jerry was a former state champion and had wrestled for St. Cloud State. The team had several good years under his leadership. Then Joe Traen was hired as head coach. He was a master technician and helped to continue the great tradition they had started.

During this time, Bud became aware of the “pairing system” used in the sport. He also attempted to sway the MSHSL to try 9-Man wrestling for small schools, like they had in football, eliminating the possibility of a small school in winning a dual meet in that format.

Brooten was the smallest school in the region. Bud says, “We also had some powerhouse schools in our region with teams like Paynesville, St. Michael-Albertville, Foley, Royalton, etc.

However, in the years 1975, 1981, and 1984 we sent three to State. In 1985 we sent four wrestlers to state. During those years, Brooten won 15 conference championships and 13 district runner-ups to powerhouse Paynesville.

Bud had some major obstacles to encounter at Brooten, he says, “we were the smallest school in the region and had perennial powerhouse Paynesville in the district. We lost many close meets and did knock off the reigning state champions one year only to be defeated by Foley in the region.”

Bud’s career 20-year record was 174-44-1. Despite Paynesville, STMA, Foley, Royalton in the region, Bud’s teams won 15 conference titles, and 13 district runner-up finishes to Paynesville. They did win one championship over the reigning state champions Paynesville.

Many of Brooten’s wrestlers not only placed at state, but they won state titles. More importantly, many went on to coach, such as Kraig Presler at Augustana College, Kevin Presler at Royalton, Brendan Bogart at Watertown, Alan Walz at Holdingford, and Greg Schmitz took over for Hall of Famer Paul Marquardt at Dillworth.

Many families helped make the program successful in the Hatlestads, Hansons, Bogarts, Schmitz, Fischers, and Walz’s. The Presler family was amazing, of course. Kraig, Kris, and Kyle all placed at State.

In 1989 Bud, and his wife Ann, purchased the famous Charles Cafe’ of Freeport. During this time, Bud started a kids wrestling program for the boys in Freeport. This went on for many years. After retiring from the café, Bud has continued volunteering. He firmly believes God has given each of us a gift, and when one retires, one should give back.

Bud has served on the Brooten and Freeport City Councils, was Trustee at St. Donatus, and served the Sacred Heart Church Council for many years. Bud was past President of the Stearns Electric Trust Board, Freeport Chamber, Freeport lions, Freeport School Board, and Brooten EDA. For all that Bud has done, he was voted “Central Minnesota Difference Maker” by the St. Cloud Times Newspaper. He has also received the prestigious “Melvin Jones Award,” “Helen Keller Sight Award,” retired Teachers (Ream) “Legislator of the Year,” and the “WCMCA Working Class Hero” Award. The 543 members of the school districts of Minnesota selected Bud as their “Legislator of the Year” in 2008. These are just a few of many honors accorded Heidgerken over the years. Bud has also coached speech and debate for 20 plus years. In addition, he has also directed 25 school plays, coached high school baseball, softball and basketball.

Bud began coaching kids in 1968 and continues today. This past year he had 105 girls and boys come out for his summer program. He coached seven teams this past year and continues to do free pitching clinics each spring and is tied up most weekends. He also started the Freeport Men’s Fastpitch Softball League in 1965 and has been running it ever since. The 14 team league remains the largest of its kind, not only in Minnesota but in the entire upper Midwest.

At 76 years old, Bud continues to pitch, serves on the Community Care Board, President of the Freeport Lions, President of the Freeport Park & Rec. Board, Parade Chairman, Little League Director and coach.

With all his activities and much time shared with helping people, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame is honored to accept Bud Heidgerken as an “outstanding American” and distinguished member into the Minnesota Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Brian Bakke

Born on September 12, 1972, in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Brian Bakke was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) in 1973. Brian’s parents said, “He was born with a stubborn streak, he absolutely would not listen to his doctor’s advice not to exercise, but to take it easy.” Twenty years later, those same doctors at the CF Clinic admitted they were wrong and congratulated Brian on adhering to his rigorous routine.”

The above is the story of Brian Bakke. In spite of his health challenges, Bakke excelled at sports, including baseball, basketball, and football in junior high. He also went on to be an outstanding tennis player in high school, and of course, he participated in wrestling, even though his doctors advised limited exercise for him.

Brian started wrestling in elementary school, where he finally gained enough weight to make the varsity team as a Freshman, wrestling at 103 pounds. He only weighed 95 pounds.

This success in athletics was impressive, considering he had to have aerosol therapies three times a day, followed by automatic and manual pounding of his chest to dislodge excess mucous. He was advised to consume from 4,000 to 6,000 calories a day, not an easy task. The total number of pills Brian was consuming per day at one time totaled almost 80.

As a 7th grader, Brian started playing tennis at East Grand Forks High School. He qualified for State as a team in 9th grade. His sophomore year, he was an individual on the team qualifying for State, and in 1991 he was part of a doubles team that captured the state title his senior year. Bakke was named “Male Senior Athlete of the Year” at East Grand Forks. An unusual honor to an athlete not participating in the sports of hockey, football, or basketball at East Grand Forks High School.

From high school, Bakke attended the University of North Dakota, graduating in 1998 with a degree in physical education. He took on the coaching positions of Assistant Boys and Girls Tennis Coach for a few years, then Head Boys Tennis Coach, qualifying a team to the State Tournament. He also served as Girls Head Tennis Coach. In addition, he was an Assistant Wrestling Coach for several years. Bakke also taught one year at Spring Lake Park High School in Minnesota and served two years as a “Tennis Pro” at ‘The Rac’ in Rochester, Minnesota. However, his “CF” finally proved too debilitating for full-time work.

In 1997, Brian married his high school sweetheart Kaylen Gregoire. They adopted a son, Leyton, in 2004.

Much of Brian’s involvement in the sport of wrestling took place as a wrestling official. His first year was in 1992, officiating in northern Minnesota. His quality officiating earned him 17 appearances as an official at the Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament.

For fun, Brian enters “Corn Hole” Tournaments, and he and his partner often win. They play in the Corn Hole League at the Blue Moose Bar & Grill. He also likes playing softball during the summer months and lifts weights on his own, year-round.

In 2017 Brian was hired as a part-time Paraprofessional at East Grand Forks High School. In 2019 he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Brian Bakke is the kind of individual who refuses to be defined by his illness; He doesn’t want pity. He accepts the challenges his condition brings, such as taking numerous pills each day and doing physical therapy two to three times every day as well. He tries to live every day to the fullest! If you cross paths with Brian, you will receive a warm greeting. His parents say, “He has been known to climb trees, startling neighbors as they walk by with a joyous “hello.”

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame-Minnesota Chapter congratulates Brian Bakke with a most well deserved “Medal of Courage” Award as a new member of the Wrestling Hall of Fame. Brian represents the full concept of this honor with the life he has lived, and as he continues striving to be the best without his physical condition setting him back or used as an excuse. Brian Bakke is a great example for everyone to emulate!

Tom Beyer

Tom Beyer grew up in Morris, Minn. He is the oldest of eight siblings, including sisters Julie, Jan, Beth, and Bonnie and brothers Ed, Joel, and Jerry. They all lived in a small three-bedroom home with the four boys sharing one bedroom while all the girls were in another. Tom’s competitive nature started with roughhousing in those tiny rooms and around the kitchen table as they competed over the last serving of his mother’s bread pudding!

Tom was introduced to the sport of wrestling by his 5th-grade classroom teacher, Mr. Gosman. Then, as a jr. high student, Tom began to develop a strong interest in the sport when another teacher, George Graff, a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, became his coach. During the two years of working with George, Tom generated a passion for the sport that drove him to spend over 30 years contributing to the sport of wrestling.

As a freshman, Tom moved on to the high school and met his next teacher/coach that influenced and increased his desire to wrestle – Al Hendrickson, another Wrestling National Hall of Fame member. At about the same time, George Graff became the assistant coach alongside Al. Al was a quiet but inspiring leader, and by observing his actions and the friendships he developed with his young men, Tom began to realize that he, too, may someday wish to coach. During his high school career, Tom was a three-year starter for the Tigers. A cherished memory of that period was winning a heavyweight match against a 280-pound opponent athlete; Tom weighed in at 190 pounds! The following day, the match was described in a similar fashion to David and Goliath’s story, with David (Tom) charging in to defeat the giant. Numerous times during the following school day, the speech teacher called Tom into his classroom to do an oral “play-by-play” of the match while watching the video. Not of any academic value, but the students sure got a chuckle out of it! However, Tom’s most memorable high school experience was winning the region and then advancing to the state tournament as a senior. His disappointing loss in the semi-finals fueled him to work harder to nurture his passion and follow his dream of becoming a college athlete.

Following graduation in the spring of 1976, Tom went to basic training and infantry training in Georgia. These four months helped him grow into a disciplined young man and taught him a great deal about mental training and what the human body can do with the correct mindset.

After completing military training in early September, Tom enrolled at the University of Minnesota Morris, hoping he could manage the Cougars’ academics and wrestle. After completing the first week of freshman science, he realized he was entering another challenging adventure, obtaining a college education.

During his first year at UMM, Tom kept his head above water and worked at becoming a better student. He also began his redshirt wrestling season. The highlight of that season was an exhibition match with Wade Schalless, the NCCA 1972 and 1973 National Champion. Tom described the defeat as, “The first time in my life I wrestled an opponent who knew what I was going to do before I did!” He realized then he had a long way to go before the next season.

When Tom returned to UMM the next fall, he felt comfortable academically and was looking forward to wrestling as a Cougar. Coach Doug Dufty, the third of Tom’s coaches who is also a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, had another challenge for Tom. That was in the form of two small-town wrestlers out of South Dakota – Dennis and Duane Koslowski. These wrestlers were two of many outstanding wrestling partners throughout Tom’s wrestling career at UMM. Dennis won two national titles, and Duane won one. Tom won one championship and was runner up once. Over the years of wrestling for Doug at UMM, the team won three NIC conference titles and produced fifteen All-Americans, including four national titles. The team finished in the top ten in four NCAA Division III national tournaments placing 10th, 4th, 6th, and 3rd. Tom recalls his UMM years as a college athlete with a fondness for his teammates and their collective accomplishments.

During the spring of 1981, Tom took a job as a fourth-grade elementary teacher in Willmar, Minn. He was also assigned the head wrestling coaching job and later served in many other coaching capacities. He stepped up and took over as head baseball coach that first year for a released teacher due to budget cuts. In his second year, Tom was asked to take a position with the varsity football team. Though these were great opportunities for the young coach to learn from experienced coaches, they were not where his heart for coaching was.

During those first years as the high school wrestling coach, Tom was fortunate to have another Hall of Famer as a mentor and friend, Coach Roy Minter, the head wrestling coach at Willmar Community College.

Tom’s first years of coaching were rather humbling as he worked to get more wrestlers on the bus than cheerleaders and mat maids! Roy was there to keep Tom focused on building the program and not worrying about winning. “It will happen, stay focused,” was something Tom heard from Roy more than once.

As the weeks became months, the months became seasons, and the seasons became years, the Cardinals began winning matches and tournaments and competing for conference titles. Finally, in 1989, the team had a couple of major breakthroughs. Coach Beyer congratulated his first state champion, which was also Willmar’s only second state champion in school history. The next year Willmar made another milestone for the wrestling program; the Cardinals produced two state champions at the same time! Coach Beyer remembers talking with then assistant coach, Paul Donner, as they were about to watch the two go at it in the wrestling room. “We may never be lucky enough to work with this kind of dedication and ability in our coaching careers again.” Chad Carlson, one of the two, went on to wrestler for the Gophers and participate in four national tournaments. Troy Haglund, the other, choose to stay close to home and wrestled for Roy Minter at Ridgewater Community College. He became an NJCAA All-American. He then transferred to Duluth and was an NCAA Division II All-American.

After the strong showing in 1991, the Cardinals began producing more competitive teams and athletes. In 1992, the Cardinals again had two state champions, Carl Carlson and Andy Reigstad. Carl went on to wrestle at the University of Minnesota, and Andy went to St. Cloud State, where he was a two-time NCAA Division II National Finalist. Two years later, in 1994, Nate Villinow won a state title for the Cardinals. That would be Willmar’s sixth state title in a six-year span. Willmar had two other wrestlers make it to the state finals, Leo Ballesteros in 2001 and Drew Larson in 2007.

The Cardinals’ final big accomplishment during Coach Beyer’s reign was winning the regional dual titles in 1998 and 2005, which allowed the Cardinal’s to enter the dual team state tournament. The 1998 team was Willmar’s first team to ever qualify for the state dual tournament. The 2005 team entered the region tournament as an underdog, seeded 5th. They upset every team on their route to winning the regional tournament. They made a proud showing, placing 5th in the state AAA tournament, which was Willmar’s first time placing in the dual tournament. The seniors on this team included not only Tom’s son but other young men that each holds a special place in Tom’s heart.

In Coach Beyer’s twenty-six years as head coach, his teams won 248 matches and had sixty state entries, eight of which were state finalists. He thought he was ready to step aside and was optimistic that former Cardinal wrestlers would commit to keeping the wrestling program growing and successful. In fact, two former Cardinal wrestlers were hired as educators in the school system and are part of the high school coaching staff today.

After stepping down as the high school wrestling coach in the spring of 2007, Tom looked forward to pursuing other interests. However, as fate would have it, late in the summer of that year, Tom was approached and accepted the opportunity to coach at the collegiate level, something he had once envisioned himself doing. While coaching at Ridgewater Community College, Tom spent a great deal of time recruiting and building the program. He recruited wrestlers from not only the Willmar area but from as far away as Alaska. Tom could be seen out in area restaurants with these boys and their parents who had, perhaps, never been to the lower 48. Tom had success in building the program while coaching at Ridgewater, as he was able to recruit 20-30 wrestlers to the campus each of the six years that he coached there. This afforded the campus to have full competitive teams each year. During his time at Ridgewater, the team won five state junior college championships and competed successfully in the regional tournament against Iowa’s scholarship programs. In addition, fifty individuals advanced to the national junior college tournament, four of which became Junior College All-Americans. The 2011-12 team earned the recognition of being the NJCAA Academic All-American Team.

Currently, Tom continues to contribute to the wrestling realm as he can often be found in the local wrestling room among young boys that include his grandsons.

Mary Davis

Representing the “unsung heroes” in the sport of wrestling, and any sport for that matter is the coach’s wife. They play an instrumental role in the success of any team and program. Nobody has been more exemplary of that than Owatonna’s Mary Davis.

If the wives of coaches don’t take some kind of active role in the sport that their husband coaches, things can be tough on the home front. In the case of Mary Davis, the degree of support and active role was vital to the success of the wrestling program, coached by her husband. However, she was the most unselfish, caring, helpful, and supportive person she could be.

Mary Davis says, “the most difficult part of being a coach’s wife is the sharing of your husband and the father of your children with a demanding job.” Former Owatonna Wrestling Association President Sandy Jirele says, “Mary is a very valuable silent partner in her husband’s coaching career.” Jirele goes on to say, “Mary is the hardest-working lady I’ve ever met. She is so giving,” Sandy says, “I admire the way she picks up the slack for her family when Scot is extra busy during the season. I sense that Scot knows he doesn’t have to worry about the home front because Mary is there.” Long-time Owatonna Junior High Wrestling Coach Larry Hovden says, “Mary Davis has proven to be ‘best of the best’ with the sport of wrestling and is a great selection to enter the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Mary’s entire life has been to serve others. “She never puts herself first,” says her husband Scot, “Mary never seeks or desires recognition for all the things she has done for others. She is truly one of the most selfless people you will meet in a lifetime! This is why this honor is so deserving and will not only be enjoyed by our family, but appreciated by many people she has helped over the years.”

As a coach’s wife for 44 years, Mary has sold numerous t-shirts and souvenirs, served as Treasurer to the Owatonna Wrestling Association (OWA) and helped in the organization and setting up for tournaments and banquets, also collecting money, worker deposits, spending many hours making phone calls to people to ask for help for tournaments. Jirele says, “Mary has missed many great matches because she’s just outside the door at the merchandise table. Beyond this, Mary has even helped move and clean wrestling mats. She has also made signs, mended uniforms, sometimes even mending clothing for wrestlers that ask. Beyond this, Mary is a great cook and has made many meals over the years. One such special meal is the “Senior Supper.” The graduating senior wrestlers come to the Davis House to enjoy one last meal of their choosing that Mary makes on their request. Another special meal was for the team’s “Chow Down” just before Winter Break. She made food dishes as well as heating up other dishes the wrestlers brought for a pot luck event. Another gift Mary has is that of a seamstress. She mends uniforms, but one such undertaking was the huge banner she sewed with ‘Owatonna Open’ on it, which was 60 feet long by 15 feet high. This banner was hung in the Owatonna Four Seasons Arena for the former “Owatonna Open,” a huge wrestling tournament with as many as 1800 participants. Mary certainly did her share.

Even with all the aforementioned things Mary did for the Owatonna Wrestling Program, she found time to help her husband host the Minnesota Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Banquet. For the past 17 years, Mary has been the front registration and ticket salesperson for this large event. She also helps with setup and takedown. However, what people remember the most is her invocation prayer at the beginning of the banquet before eating dinner. Mary’s prayers over the years have received much praise from people attending the banquet. Guests feel the sincerity in which her prayers are given as she pays an honor and blessing to the honorees and their guests.

With the above said, one can feel the faith Mary has in God, and how she has lived her life in a way to serve her God and others. Mary always says, “I was born to serve others.” This is witnessed in her Bible Study Groups, where she shares with elderly women. She has assisted numerous elderly in her neighborhood, as well as the physically disabled. She has given rides, made meals, and mended clothing. She also supports numerous charitable organizations.

For Mary Davis’ many contributing efforts over the many years, she has received some recognition too, even though unwanted from her. In 1995 the Owatonna Wrestling Association honored Mary with their highest honor, the “OWA Service Award” in 1995. In 1999 Mary was selected as Wrestling USA Magazine’s “National Coach’s Wife of the Year.”

Beyond all she does for others, Mary has been a great mother, raising three children in Alyssa, now age 37, Colin, age 34, and Ashley, age 31. Mary is now a wonderful Grandmother to three children in Taylan, age 9, Lillian age 6, and Zachary, age two.

In representing the “Unsung Heroes” in the sport of wrestling, and all sports for that matter, “The Coach’s Wife,” Mary Davis is a shining example of what an instrumental role a coach’s wife can play. Mary Davis helped bring great success to the Owatonna Wrestling Program and other programs her husband has coached in over the years.

Congratulations to 2020 National Wrestling Hall of Fame- Minnesota Chapter Honoree, Mary Davis!

Larry Goodnature

Larry Goodnature began his wrestling career in Albert Lea from 1967 to 1971 under Hall of Fame Wrestling Coach Paul Ehrhard. In addition to wrestling, Larry participated in Football, Cross Country, and Track. In Track, Larry set a school record in the Pole Vault at 13 feet, 3 inches. That record stood for some 20 years. In wrestling, Goodnature was a Minnesota State Champion at 145 pounds in the old “one class” system. Assistant Coach Neal Skaar says, “I think a month before the end of his senior year in 1971, he got a lot of confidence and more assertive,” Skaar said, “He beat the defending State Champion in the finals of the Regional Tournament, Mark Lange of Caledonia, then beat him again in the finals of the State Tournament. He had been building confidence his senior year, but that last month was something.”

With Goodnature and other top performers, the Albert Lea High School Tigers won the Minnesota State Team Title in 1971. They sent an impressive five wrestlers to State that year. Along with Goodnature’s title, teammate Tom Jean also captured a State Title at 167 pounds, with a runner-up finish from Rick Rieman at 112 pounds. Mike Jean placed 4th at 154 pounds. Steve Tuveson qualified at 95 pounds. Goodnature’s Coach Paul Ehrhard called “Goody” the most technically sound wrestler he’d ever coached, and that’s impressive from a coach who coached so many outstanding wrestlers over his career at Albert Lea.

Larry went on to wrestle at Mankato State University from 1971 to 1976. He was a three-time All-American, finishing 4th in the NCAA II National tournament at 158 lbs in 1973; Larry finished 6th in 1974 at 158 lbs and 5th at 158 lbs in 1976. Goodnature wrestled under another legendary Hall of Fame coach in Rummy Macias. After graduating in 1976 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Technology and Physical Education. He accepted his first teaching/coaching position at Hutchinson High School, where he coached for three years, from 1976 to 1979, before returning to Albert Lea and serving as an Assistant Coach to Neal Skaar. He took over the Head Coaching position in 1992. Goodnature said, “I always wanted to get back to Albert Lea, I’ve always been a part of winning programs, and Albert Lea had that history.” Goodnature says, “I was very fortunate to learn from legendary coaches like Paul Ehrhard, Neal Skaar, and Rummy Macias (Mankato State).”

Goodnature has been a wrestling coach for 42 years, 39 of those years at Albert Lea – 25 of those years serving as Head Coach. Larry’s Hutchinson High School teams won three Suburban West Conference Titles, and at Albert Lea, his teams captured ten Big Nine Conference Titles. His Albert Lea teams have reached the State seven times and the State finals four times. He coached 142 state qualifiers with 71 as state placewinners. Eight of those were state champions. For Coach Goodnature’s success as a coach, he has been honored as Big Nine “Coach of the Year” ten times, Section “Coach of the Year” 14 times, and Minnesota Class AAA “Coach of the Year” 3 times in 2006, 2009 and 2015. He has accumulated an overall career coaching record of 546-166, which ranks him 11th All-Time among Minnesota Wrestling Coaches.

Another very important part of Goodnature’s coaching career that he is most proud of is that his teams won eight State Class AAA Minnesota Academic State Championships. “We stressed academics first, then the sport of wrestling. Goodnature states, “If a student is disciplined in the classroom, they are going to be disciplined on the mat.”

Coach Larry Goodnature always put together a great coaching staff, from top to bottom, and many of those coaches in the junior high and elementary were Albert Lea grads. Larry says, “If you have good coaches in the junior high and elementary levels, you will have success at the High School level. For a better part of Goodnature’s career at Albert Lea, he had Jon Hansen, Bryan “Books” Paul, and Jack Kortan running the elementary and junior high programs. Goodnature’s high school staff had outstanding Albert Lea grads, “who lived and breathed Albert Lea Wrestling” helping him out in Neal Skaar, David Frame, Alex Skaar, Mark Inderlie, Brian Goodnature, Nate Goodnature, Brandon Klukow, Ryan Palmer, Mike Hansen, Josh Bain, and Jon Lund. “He (Goodnature) had great organizational skills, things I didn’t have,” Skaar said. “He had a better ability to get people to work than I did. He was really great at building the boosters program and building on to the wrestling program. He was able to get so many good people involved,” says Skaar. “He had great organizational skills, and he was always a very likable guy, and he had a lot of knowledge of wrestling,” says Skaar. “He was the kind of guy you wanted around.”

Outside of wrestling, Larry enjoys fishing and hunting. Now that he is retired, he is able to take trips, such as to Canada two to three times a summer with friends and his wife and kids. He has traveled three times to Alaska with his wife Mary and friends Jack and Mona Eustice (Jack was a college teammate) to visit their friends Kurt and Marlene Kuehl (Kurt was another college teammate) on fishing trips to Ketchikan, Alaska and to a cabin on Prince of Whales Island. Larry also goes hunting for ducks, deer, and pheasants, taking two trips a year to South Dakota. Other trips include motorcycle trips with wife Mary, out west to Utah, Montana, Colorado, Idaho, British Columbia, and an annual trip to Mexico.

Larry and Mary have been married 45 years and raised three boys in Brian, Jake, and Nate. All three boys were three-sport athletes, with wrestling being their #1 sport. The Goodnature’s have two grandchildren with another on the way.

Congratulations to Coach Larry Goodnature on a much-deserved honor and recognition of his outstanding wrestling career.

Mark Jensen

2020 Minnesota Chapter-National Wrestling Hall of Fame Honoree Mark Jensen attended Brainerd High School, where he competed in three different sports. He is a member of both the “Brainerd High School Hall of Fame” and the Brainerd High School Wrestling Hall of Fame. Jensen went on to compete at Concordia College in wrestling and football. He continued his athletic success there, where he was inducted into the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame, both as an individual and with his 1978 football team. Mark played wide receiver on the 1978 National Championship football team. In wrestling, he was a two-time DIII All-American, placing 2nd and 5th in the national tournament. The year he took 2nd, he was actually leading his opponent, when he got Granby rolled. This served as a motivation for Mark in teaching the Granby Roll to his future teams.

As a wrestler at Concordia College, Mark won the Luther College Tournament as a Freshman in 1976. He was twice voted “Outstanding Wrestler” of the North Country Tournament, and in 1978 was named the MIAC’s “Outstanding Wrestler.” He finished his college career at Concordia with an overall career record of 106-21-1.

After graduating, Mark started his teaching and coaching career at Howard Lake-Waverly, where he coached football, wrestling, and baseball. In 1981 he married and relocated to the Brainerd/Nisswa area. During this time, he helped out with the Brainerd wrestling program.

In 1987 started teaching physical education in the Pierz School District. Mark helped his wife, Karla, start the girls tennis program there in 1993, and they coached together for 20 plus years. He was voted Assistant Tennis “Coach of the Year” in 2006 and Section 7A “head Coach of the Year” in 2010.

Pierz Wrestling is Mark’s passion. He served as Head Wrestling Coach for 21 years, qualifying 162 individuals to State and producing nine state champions, eight runner-ups, eight thirds, and 27 4th-6th place-winners. However, Mark was always most proud of his team’s success. He coached 14 teams to State. Two of those teams won State titles in 2004 and 2005. A third-place finish and consolation titles highlighted the other years. His last year in 2017, his team finished runner-ups, along with some outstanding individual performances. A sweet end to his coaching career!

Mark has been honored with numerous Conference and Section “Coach of the Year” honors. He was selected Minnesota “Coach of the Year” in 2005. He was also named Minnesota’s Coaches selection for the NWCA “National Coach of the Year” Honor. In 2018 he was inducted in the Dave Bartelma Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame. It was even more memorable because his father, Mervin, was also inducted that same year. Mark’s overall coaching record at Pierz was 377-112-2.

Mark has always said his awards are because of the great support team surrounding him in the “Pierz Wrestling Family.” They have always been there for him, and he feels blessed to be part of it. His team of assistant coaches have been second to none, and he has been fortunate to have hard-working, talented athletes who will always be “his boys.”

Mark is married to Karla (Reimer). They taught and coached together for a number of years. They have four daughters in Kristine (Tyler Gehrmann), Kaley (Joe Kahl), Kaitlyn (Jon Ledeboer), and Kaari (Matt Epperly), and the recent love of their life in their granddaughter Harper. Mark retired from Pierz in 2017 and is now busy working house construction in the Brainerd/Nisswa area.

Congratulations to 2020 Minnesota Chapter-National Wrestling Hall of Fame Honoree Mark Jensen.

Don Kuusinen

Don Kuusinen gave 50 years of his life as an official while also coaching 34 of those years. At one time at Grand Rapids High School, Don coached future NCAA National Champion Jim Kamman (Michigan) and three-time All-American Dave Allen (Iowa State). As a competitor, he was fourth in the one class system for his home town of Grand Rapids. Don wrestled at the University of Minnesota and the University of North Dakota. He served as MWCA President, is a member of the Grand Rapids High School and Grand Rapids Wrestling Halls of Fame. A long-time math teacher at Grand Rapids HS, Don started his officiating career in his hometown gymnasium and ended it 50 years later in his hometown gym.

Don wrestled in junior high under legendary Hall of Fame Coach Glen Swenson. Don graduated from Grand Rapids High School in 1963. As a wrestler, he placed 4th in the old “one class” system. He wrestled for another legendary Hall of Fame Coach in Skip Nalan. Don was a Region Champion in 1962 and 1963. He also served as team captain his senior year and was undefeated during the regular season. Kuusinen says, “When I was in high school there were five State champions on their Grand Rapids High School team. I couldn’t make the varsity team as a sophomore as there was a state champion in my weight class.”

Kuusinen wrestled one year at the University of Minnesota in 1963-64. Kuusinen went on to complete his college education at Bemidji State College, where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree and later a Master of Science Degree.

After graduation, he got a math teaching position at Grand Rapids Junior High School. He retired in 2001. While teaching, Don also served as a speaker and presenter at several state and national Math conferences. He also taught math in-service workshops at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota. In addition, he served as a math consultant for Glencoe Book Company for several years after retirement.

Don served as a junior high/middle school coach at Grand Rapids from 1968 to 1976. He was Head Wrestling Coach at Grand Rapids High School from 1977 to 1979. He served as Assistant Coach in 1979-80 and was an Elementary Coach for ten years.

Kuusinen is a member of the Grand Rapids Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame, and the Dave Bartelma Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame. He now becomes an honored member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame-Minnesota Chapter. Don also served as President of the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association. Of special note, and carries special significance to Don, is that he was the first person to have won, coached, and officiated in the Indian/Skip Nalan Invitational.

Since retiring, Don started hunting elk, deer, and antelope in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. He says he’s had several successful hunts, and he continues to go every year.

The Kuusinen Family includes wife, Laurel, sons, Kraig (a two-time cancer survivor) living in New Hope, Minnesota, and Kent, who lives with his wife and two daughters in Vernon, Vermont; and Lance, who lives in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

Bill Schmidt

Bill Schmidt, son of Frederick and Alice, grew up on a farm south of Renville, Minnesota, along with brother Rick and sisters Susan, Ellen, and Cathy. His father passed away from leukemia when Bill was an eighth-grader. While helping brother Rick on the farm, Bill played football, baseball and participated in wrestling. Schmidt was a football captain and named MVP as a Senior while being voted Homecoming King. Bill was a six-year starter in wrestling and was never pinned throughout his High School career. Schmidt placed 5th at State as a Junior and was a State Champ at 145lbs in the one-class system. Bill was the first individual state champion (in any sport) from the 212 Conference. Schmidt credits his Renville High School Coach, Jim Phillips, and teammate, Paul Olson, as being responsible for the success he enjoyed in Wrestling.

Schmidt attended Augsburg College majoring in Mathematics and had the privilege of wrestling for the legendary John Grygelko, who may best be described as a character with character. Bill was a three-time MIAC Conference Champion and a three-time NAIA All-American, placing 4th, 5th, and 2nd at Nationals at 150 pounds. Schmidt was unable to wrestle as a senior at Augsburg due to a neck injury suffered while wrestling in Japan and Korea. He still served as captain and was voted Team MVP by his Augsburg teammates that final year.

After graduating from Augsburg, Schmidt was hired to teach mathematics and coach wrestling in Mosinee, Wisconsin. After two years at Mosinee, Bill and his wife Jill moved to Winona, Minnesota, where Bill taught Mathematics and served as Head Wrestling Coach and Assistant Cross-Country Coach. With Schmidt at the helm, the wrestling program produced 24 state qualifiers and 12 place-winners along with one state champion in 12 years. Bill was voted Minnesota Wrestling Coach of the Year in 1989. Schmidt had to confess that much the success gleaned by Winona Wrestlers in the 1980s was due to an outstanding assistant wrestling coach by the name of Jim Pappas. It was a sincere thrill for Bill to watch his wrestlers compete at the next level. At one point, Augsburg had five Winona wrestlers in the starting line-up. He also took pride in seeing many of his wrestlers go on to coach wrestling at various levels around the state.

After retiring from coaching wrestling at the varsity level, Bill served as Assistant MWCA Director under Bartelma Hall of Famer Roger Gorham for nine years and then Executive Director for eight years before collaborating with Bartelma Hall of Fame Chair Steve Ricard and heading up the Mr. Minnesota as well as Head and Assistant Coach of the Year Committees. Schmidt has continued to coach youth wrestling along with youth softball and baseball throughout the past 30 years.

Bill and Jill have served on the Winona High Football Chain Gang for the past 38 years and the Winona State Chain Gang for 34 years, along with their son Sam and daughter Sundra. Bill and Jill were recently honored with the Ashley for the Arts Humanitarian Award for their many hours of volunteer work with the Winona Community youth. Schmidt is also a member of the Winona Wrestling, Augsburg Athletic, and Bartelma (MWCA) Wrestling Halls of Fame.

Bill and Jill have been blessed to have both of their children and families within a stone’s throw of their home. Daughter Sundra teaches English and Spanish at Winona Senior High while her husband serves as a Park-Rec. Director in Winona. They have two children, Avrielle and August. Son Samuel, four houses down, teaches Mathematics at Winona State and his wife, Jessica, is a kindergarten teacher in the Winona District. They also have two children, Sophie and Graham, with one more on the way.

Father Otto Weber

“Father Otto is dead!” It seemed unthinkable that a man of such energy and apparent good health could fall victim to a massive coronary. It seemed unfair that a man of such generosity should be snatched away. It seemed impossible to identify others to do all that Father Otto had done.

A 1952 graduate of St. Prep School and a 1957 graduate of St. John’s University, Father Otto devoted all but one year of his priestly life to the students of the Prep School or the University – as an instructor of Latin or Theology, as a Prefect Chaplan, or as a coach in wrestling, football, baseball, and track.

At the time of his last daily regimen of running on July 12, 1987, Father Otto was the Dean of Students at St. John’s Prep School. In his ‘spare time,” he served as Coordinator of St. John’s University Intramural Program, as Director of the Summer (Prep School) Leadership and (University) Sports Camps, and as a Girls Track Coach in the Prep School. As the St.Cloud Daily Times aptly reported, “If you attended school in Collegeville over the 30 years he was there, you knew the Reverend Otto Weber,” said Brother Linus Ascheman, OSB Head Master at St. John’s University. “Anyone who really knew Father Otto knows he lived a life considered full, not by measuring his length of days, but a life considered full by the measure of love, dedication and generosity he poured forth to the thousands of persons he has touched in his relatively short, but energetic lifetime… a measure which exceeds that which many persons could only hope to achieve in a lifetime twice as long.”

For 32 years and a day, Father Otto lived a Benedictine life in vowed pursuit of perfect charity through a monastic manner of life; Father Otto never flagged in that pursuit. His pursuit was steadfast and energetic. The pursuit of perfection or, to use his coaching expression, “to strive for one’s personal best,” was Father Otto’s constant goal, and a goal which he attempted to instill in the thousands of students he taught; counseled, disciplined, and coached.

Many of the “Wrestling World” in Minnesota will always remember The St. John’s Wrestling Camp, a camp that still runs today. It is the longest-running wrestling camp in the State of Minnesota. Father Otto Weber started this camp, and it drew many large numbers of wrestlers over the summer months with some of Minnesota’s legendary coaches invited to do the instructing. Many wrestlers attending the camp went on to do great things on the wrestling mats in high school and college. The man responsible for organizing that camp was a humble servant to God in Father Otto Weber. He will now be recognized forever at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in the Minnesota Chapter.

Congratulations to all who know Father Otto Weber!

Note: Father Otto died in 1987


Read past National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Minnesota Chapter member bios at nwhof.org.