2022 MWCA Award Recipients Honored
Benson, Minn. – Eight new members were inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association Dave Bartelma Hall of Fame on Saturday, May 7th in Benson, Minn.
The new inductees honored were Steve Carlson, Neil Jennissen, Dan Lefebvre, Tony Nelson, Jim Repke, Ron Sanders, Zach Sanders, and Kevin Steinhaus.
Each new inductee gave a speech after being introduced by a presenter(s).
MWCA Coach of the Year honorees for 2022 were Class A – Nathan Hanson of Jackson County Central, Class AA – Kurt Becker and Bill McDonald of Watertown-Mayer, and Class AAA – Josh Joriman of St. Michael-Albertville.
The MWCA selected Nathan Hanson of Jackson County Central as State Head Coach of the Year. Selected as State Assistant Coach of the Year was Mike Pettit of Waconia. Hanson and Pettit, along with MWCA Mr. Minnesota Wrestler selection Bennett Berge of Kasson-Mantorville, 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.
Brooklyn Conrad of Ortonville was recognized as the 2022 recipient of the Ms. Minnesota – Wrestling Award.
The MWCA presented State Champion and State Runners-up awards based on the unofficial individual state tournament scoring to Class A – 1st Jackson County Central, 2nd Royalton/Upsala; Class AA – 1st Simley, 2nd New Prague; Class AAA – 1st St. Michael-Albertville, 2nd Stillwater Area; Girls 1st Bemidji, 2nd Hastings. View the 2022 individual-based top-ten State team scores.
Coaches recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award for coaching longevity (30+ years) were Roger Betters of Hibbing (2021), Robert Dahline of Spring Lake Park, Randy Denardo of West Central Area/Ashby-Brandon-Evansville, Harold Holt of Pelican Rapids, Wardell Warren of St. Paul Central, and Steve Ricard of Benson.
Read program biographies of the latest inductees below.
Photos by Jeff Beshey:
Steve Carlson, Athlete
Steve Carlson attended Fridley High School, graduating from there in 1968. He was an All-State Honorable Mention his senior year in football. He was a two-time state champion; He won the 138 lb. weight class as a junior and won a second title at 154 lbs. his senior year. Steve was named the Most Outstanding Senior Athlete in Fridley (football, wrestling, and track). Steve was named team Captain of the 1968 Fridley Wrestling team. Steve attended the University of Minnesota. He was named the most outstanding wrestler at the 1969 USWF Open Freestyle Open Tournament. He won his division by beating the “Outstanding Wrestler of the Big 10 Tournament” in the finals. Steve suffered several shoulder injuries along with a broken wrist; this hampered his collegiate career. Nonetheless, he was named Captain of the 1972 University of MN team.
Steve is the CEO of Keystone Wealth Advisors, Inc., and he continues to give back to the great sport of wrestling in a variety of ways. He has been able to help out at Lely High School in Naples, Florida. He has been able to help sponsor tournaments in the area and help kids earn enough money to attend J Robinson Intensive Training Camps. Along with Alan Rice, Steve helped start the Minnesota Wrestling Club, which later changed its name to the Gopher Wrestling Club. He is a major supporter of the U of M Booster Club. Steve is married to Shiela, and they have two children, Jennifer and Angela.
Neil Jennissen, Coach
Neil Jennissen resided with his family in Sauk Centre, MN, until 1978, then moved to Staples, MN. He participated in football, wrestling, and track. He was a three-sport captain and 11-time letter winner. He was a 2x District 24 finalist his junior year, and he was conference champion and District champion his senior year. He wrestled on three state teams that made the finals, helping his team win two titles. He was captain of the 1981 Staples State Team Class A Champion. He graduated from Staples High School in 1981. Neil wrestled for Hall of Fame coach Ken Vogt as well as Hall of Fame coach Don Dravis. Neil was a state freestyle runner-up in 1980 and was an All-American (8th place) at the Greco-Roman National Tournament. Upon graduating from Staples High School, Neil attended the University of Minnesota-Morris, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Health, Driver’s Education, Athletic training, and coaching. He was a starter for the University of Minnesota-Morris at 150 lbs. and he also wrestled at St. Cloud State until injuries ended his career in 1985. Neil eventually obtained his Master’s in Physical education as well as his Master’s in Administration from St. Mary’s University.
Neil has coached for 38 years and 90 seasons. His duties have included football, cross country, wrestling, track, and baseball. He was 1987 Section Track Coach of the Year at Sartell. He was Section Wrestling Coach of the Year in 1994, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2009. He was State Coach of the Year in 1994. He served as President of the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association in 2000 and 2019. He was the 2016 St. Cloud State Alumni Recognition Award recipient and inducted into the Bluejacket Hall of Fame in 2019. Neil’s coaching record is 645-237-3. His teams made the state team finals twice, and his teams have won 12 section titles, 10 Conference Team titles, and 22 Section Finals. He has coached 164 state entrants, 81 Section Champions, 70 All-State wrestlers, 17 All-State Academic wrestlers, and 311 All-Conference wrestlers. Five Bluejacket Wrestlers have gone on to Wrestle Division 1: Luke Becker, University of Minnesota; Jake Avre, University of Minnesota; Zach Molitor, NDSU; Billy Blumhoefer, Air Force Academy; and Tony Nelson, University of Minnesota.
Neils’ former Bluejacket Wrestlers have earned 14 All American certificates at the Collegiate level: Luke Becker 4, Tony Nelson 4, Zach Molitor 3, Ross Dankers 1, Clayton Jennissen 1, and Makayla Welch 1. Three Bluejacket Wrestlers have won national titles. Tony Nelson 2, Luke Becker 1, and Zach Molitor 1. Neil served 20 years as a member of the Army National Guard, retiring in 2003 as a Major. He served 14 years with the Cambridge Fire Department from 2004 to 2008.
Today Neil is a retired PE teacher but still employed at ISD 911 as a Driver Ed Instructor, Head Wrestling Coach, and 9th-grade Football coach. He is married to Amy, who also teaches and coaches in the District. Neil and Amy are the parents of 3 grown Children; Matt (Brita) children Amber and Lucy, Amanda (Andrew) son Charlie, and Clayton (Kylie). Neil and Amy currently reside in Grasston, MN, on Lake Pokegama.
Dan Lefebvre, Coach
Dan Lefebvre attended St. Michael-Albertville High School, graduating from there in 1982. Dan’s high school record was 90-28. He was a two-time District 17 champion. Dan placed fourth in 1982 in the 112 lbs. Class A division.
Dan wrestled for Roy Minter at Willmar Community College from 1982 to 1983. Dan then attended the University of Minnesota, pursuing a degree in Math Education. Dan later obtained a Master’s Degree from Hamline University in 2000.
Dan served as an assistant coach to Ken Droegemueller from 1988-1989, then became an assistant coach under Gregg Greeno at STMA from 1989 to 2006. He served as the head coach at STMA from 2006 to 2018. Dan has been involved with St. Michael-Albertville wrestling for over 50 years! He has been a part of several State Champion teams. Dan’s teams won titles in 2007 (AA), 2013 (AAA) and in 2018 (AAA). He coached five teams to a state runner-up finish, two 3rd place, one 4th place, and one 6th place. Dan coached 21 individual state champs and 67 total state place winners in his twelve years as a head coach. His record is 315-59-1.
Dan has been awarded numerous awards for his efforts and success in coaching:
2006: MWCA Assistant Coach of the Year
2010 and 2013: MWCA Class AAA State coach of the year
2016: Coached Team Minnesota in Dream Team Classic
2018: Wrestling USA/Cliff Keen Master of Coaching Award
2018: Guillotine Lifetime Achievement Award
2020: Inducted into “The Clash” Hall of Fame
According to current St. Michael-Albertville’s head coach Josh Joriman, “Dan’s legacy lies not only in developing great wrestlers, but great people. He made it a point to have each kid feel validated, each and every day. This sense of appreciation and belonging becomes most evident in the number of alumni that come back to help support the program at all levels. “
Dan and his wife Karen reside in Otsego, and they have three kids (Rebecca, Nathan, and Ross) and four grandkids: Charlotte, Helena, Bryce, and Vaughn.
Tony Nelson, Athlete
Tony Nelson attended Cambridge-Isanti High School, graduating from there in 2009. He was a 3-time state qualifier, and he won the 2009 Class AAA 215 lb. division in 2009. His high school record was 141-18 with 80 pins. Tony was a Virginia Beach Senior Nationals Champ, a champion in Freestyle in Fargo, ND, and a member of the 2009 ASICS All-American Wrestling Team. Tony attended the University of Minnesota, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2014. Tony was a 4-time All-American for the Gophers, a 3-time Big 10 Champ, a 3-time NCAA finalist, and a two-time National Champion. Tony’s collegiate record was 131 -16, 9th best in U of M history. Tony was also a 3-time World Team Member on the U.S. Freestyle Team. Tony’s wife is named Kristi, and they have three kids: Elsie Mae, Hattie Joyce, and Knox Anthony.
Jim Repke, Official-Contributor
Jim Repke attended Annandale High School, graduating from there in 1975. He qualified for the state tournament his senior year. Along with wrestling, Jim also lettered in football and track. Upon graduation, Jim enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he was stationed for four years in the Philippines. After he was honorably discharged in 1980, Jim started his career at the Minnesota Corrections Facility in St. Cloud, MN, where he worked for 31 years before retiring in 2012.
Jim has been an official for 32 years. He has been a state tournament official for over 20 years, as well as a college official for 15 years. He was a Charter Clinician for the MSHSL for 10 years. Jim is well-known in the St. Cloud area, and he has been consistent and dedicated to his profession. He has been courteous and professional in dealing with wrestlers and coaches.
Jim resides in Clearwater with his fiancé Pattie Maile; he has two kids, Nicholis Repke (wife Lucy) and Nicole Kujawa (husband Tim). Jim has 6 grandsons, ages 10-15, and all are involved with wrestling.
Ron Sanders, Coach
Ron Sanders attended Truman High school, graduating from there in 1973. Ron’s high school record was 61-14-3. He was a three-time Conference champion, a 2-time District champion, and a State participant in 1973, which was then a one-class system. At State, Ron lost to eventual third-place finisher Murray Herstein from Armstrong High School.
Ron attended the University of Minnesota-Morris, where he continued his wrestling career while obtaining a Biology as well as a Physical Education major. He took 3rd in the conference his senior year, qualifying him for the NAIA National tournament.
Ron taught and coached in Wabasha-Kellogg for 41 years from 1980 to 2020. He earned 391 career dual meet wins. Ron has coached 36 state place winners and is one of the few that have coached two five-time state champs, his sons Eric and Zach. Two of his teams qualified for the MN State Wrestling Tournament, first in 1999 and again in 2006. Ron has also had numerous wrestlers go on to wrestle in college at all levels, from junior college all the way to Division 1. Five of Ron’s wrestlers competed at the Division 1 level. Ron coached MN teams and individuals in Greco-Roman and Freestyle for ten years. Ron will be remembered for his dedication to his wrestlers and for continuing to learn about our great sport. Ron’s wife is Liz, and they have two sons, Eric and Zach, and a daughter Katie. They also have four grandchildren.
Zach Sanders, Athlete
Zach attended Wabasha-Kellogg High School, graduating from there in 2007. Zach was the third wrestler in Minnesota to achieve winning 5 state titles. His high school record was 223-5. While in high school, Zach was an All-American in both Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. Zach decided to continue his wrestling career at the University of Minnesota, where he became the 7th wrestler in school history to achieve All-American status four times. He was 6th, 5th, 5th, and 3rd. Zach continued to pursue wrestling at the international level upon ending his college career. He has represented the United States abroad numerous times, including at the 2019 World Cup. He qualified for the World and Olympic Team Trials nearly ten times in his career. He earned a silver medal at the 2012 University World Championships. Zach obtained his BA in Business Education and his Master’s degree in Applied Kinesiology at the U, and he has served on the Gophers coaching staff since 2012. Zach was well-known for being very good on his feet, and he has dedicated the majority of his life to wrestling. His work ethic and his knowledge of the sport has helped to elevate not only his own success but the athletes around him as well. Today Zach resides in Minneapolis and continues to serve as an assistant with the University of Minnesota wrestling team.
Kevin Steinhaus, Athlete
Kevin attended Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg High School, graduating from there in 2009. Kevin was a three-sport athlete in high school, leading his football team to a state title as quarterback in the fall of 2008. He was also an excellent pitcher in junior high, having never lost a game, but switched to track during high school. Kevin was a five-time state entrant, achieving a record of 246-12 in high school. He placed 2nd as an 8th grader (losing to future Gopher’s teammate Zach Sanders), 3rd as a freshman, then won three consecutive state titles (145 lbs. as a sophomore, 152 lbs. as a junior, and 160 lbs. as a senior, going undefeated during his last three years. Kevin was a four-time captain of the wrestling team, and he also led his KMS team to a state team title in 2009. Kevin excelled in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling as well, winning the Northern Plains Greco-Roman title in 2008, and winning the Freestyle in 2009. Kevin achieved All-American status in Freestyle at Junior Nationals, placing 5th in 2009. Kevin was crowned Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association Mr. Minnesota in 2009 and the 2009 West Central Tribune’s Hengstler-Ranweiler Award for the area’s best athlete. Kevin was also named the Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award recipient for MN in 2009.
Kevin attended the University of Minnesota, where he was a three-time All-American (8th, 5th, and 5th) and Big Ten Champ. Kevin was a five-time letter winner and was team captain for the Gophers for three years; his record in college was 123-30. He was also named to the Academic All-Big Ten team and received recognition as a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar. He was voted the Vern Gagne Leadership Award winner his junior year and was voted the Most Dedicated Wrestler of the Year as a sophomore. Upon completion of his collegiate career, he helped work out with his teammates and entered the Last Chance Qualifier in 2016. In this tournament, he teched former NCAA Champ Bo Nickal from Penn State. Today Kevin works for Athletes In Action, returning recently from Puerto Rico, where he and his wife Bre were stationed for several years. Today Kevin and Bree reside in Seekonk, MA, where they work for AIA at Brown College.