On Saturday, April 22nd, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Minnesota Chapter, held their annual Honors Banquet. The celebration was held at the Austin Country Club in Austin, Minn. The banquet room was packed and included many former Hall of Fame inductees.
The 2023 Outstanding American Inductee was Steve Carlson. Inductees for the Lifetime Service Award were Loren Hacker, Mark Krier, Larry Mollins, Cindy Nelson, Al “Swede” Olson, Bill Olson, Steve Ricard, Richard Saxlund, and Joel Viss.
State chapter inductees are permanently honored at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Museum in Stillwater, Oklahoma. View all National Wrestling Hall of Fame – Minnesota Chapter inductees online at nwhof.org/state-chapters/minnesota.
Read the program biographies of the latest inductees below.
Photos by Jeff Beshey.
Steven D. Carlson – Fridley, 2023 Outstanding American
Steve Carlson started wrestling in 7th grade at Fridley, Minnesota, where Coach Don Meyers started the wrestling program in 1958. Nine years later, Fridley was Team State Champions in the one-class system. Carlson is still today the only two-time State Champion from Fridley. In 1967, Steve won at 138 pounds, and the following year won State at 154 pounds.
In 1967 Carlson’s record was 26–3, and he took 2nd in the District losing to Tim Stenson from Coon Rapids. He then found himself in the Region wrestle-backs and had to face Stenson for 3rd place with the winner qualifying for State. Steve scored a reversal in the last few seconds of the match to win by a point and qualify for State. The following weekend Carlson cruised through the State Tournament without a close match and won in the finals by a score of 11-0. Taking second in Districts, third in Regions, and first in State was a story told in Fridley for many years. The lesson: “Each match provides a new opportunity – and history does not dictate destiny.”
In 1968, Carlson moved up Two weight classes and was undefeated with a record of 31–0 with 21 pins and placing first in Districts as well as Regions, but the 154-pound weight class was deemed the toughest weight class in the tournament with three prior State Champions and one Jim Klemz, who was a three-time third-place finisher at State. Carlson’s only close match was with Klemz, who ended up taking took third place again by beating the other two defending State Champions.
In addition to winning the State Championship up two weights from 138 pounds to 154 pounds, Steve wrestled at 175 pounds in the Dual Meet with Cooper. Fridley was ranked #1, and Cooper #2. The match was close, and Coach Meyers told Carlson, “We are going to move you up to 175 pounds, and We Need a Pin.” Carlson followed Coach Meyer’s instructions and pinned the Cooper 175-pound wrestler, who went on to be the 175-pound Individual State Champion.
Carlson was rated one of the top two 154-pounders wrestlers in the Nation by USA Amateur Wrestling. As a result, he had a number of offers for college scholarships but chose the University of Minnesota, which is where his coach, Don Meyers, and a number of past Fridley wrestlers had competed.
Between his Junior and Senior year of High School, Carlson was a member of the USA Pan American team as the “Bat Boy” for the actual wrestlers. This gave Carlson a chance to work out with some of the best wrestlers in the Nation during the four weeks he spent with the team. This tremendous experience gave Carlson’s wrestling prowess a huge boost.
In 1968, Freshmen were not allowed to compete at the Division I level. They were supposed to be spending their first year adapting to the classroom and working on their grades.
Carlson’s first opportunity to compete after High School came in an open qualifying tournament for Team USA. Carlson was unseeded but ended up defeating a number of nationally-ranked wrestlers to get into the finals. Steve defeated the “Outstanding Wrestler” of the Big 10 Tournament in the Finals and, as a result, was awarded the “Outstanding Wrestler” of the 1969 United States Wrestling Federation Freestyle Tournament.
In Carlson’s Sophomore year, his left shoulder was severely ripped out of joint with detached tendons requiring surgery and forcing Steve to sit out his entire Sophomore season.
Carlson ended up having two additional surgeries in his Junior and Senior years, preventing him from ever having the opportunity to compete in the NCAA tournament as a result.
The individual who ripped Carlson’s shoulder out was “Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri” the Iranian 190-pound Greco-Roman Olympic wrestler who defected to the United States. Hossein came to Minnesota to wrestle under Alan Rice, the USA Greco Wrestling Coach. Hossein was 40 pounds heavier than Steve and asked him to wrestle in the practice room. Steve calls it “A Big Mistake on My Part”. Hossein went on to be a Pro-Wrestler, going by the name “Iron Sheik,” and became World Champion, eventually losing the Title to Hulk Hogan.
When healthy, Carlson did have some success at Minnesota, defeating the #2 ranked wrestler in the nation in the Iowa Dual Meet. Carlson fondly remembers what he calls “the most fun match of my career” against Gene Davis, NCAA Champion for Oklahoma State, 4x National Freestyle Champ and Olympic Bronze Medal winner. Carlson lost that match 17-15, but it reassured Carlson that he could compete with the best when healthy.
Bottom Line – Carlson will go down in history as a “Would Have, Should Have, Could Have” wrestler who was never able to compete in the NCAA Div. I Wrestling Tournament due to his shoulder injuries.
Steve graduated from the Carlson School of Business with an accounting degree and became a CPA working for Arthur Anderson, an international CPA firm. He left after five years to start his own CPA firm servicing entrepreneurial business owners. Carlson never thought about being a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, but his service to wrestling after college was a major factor in his induction.
In 1977, Carlson got a call from Alan Rice, wanting to meet. Alan expressed his sincere disappointment that Steve did not get the opportunity to wrestle off for the USA Team in 1969 due to finances after being crowned the “Outstanding Wrestler” in the 1969 Freestyle tournament.
Alan wanted to team up with Steve to form the “Gopher Wrestling Club”, an organization designed to raise funds to financially support amateur wrestlers in Minnesota and help them to pursue their wrestling dreams.
Alan enlisted Carlson with his CPA experience to form the Corporation, apply for 501 (c) (3) Non-Profit status, do the accounting, tax filings, handle IRS issues, and help with fundraising
Alan Rice, along with Steve Carlson, ran the “Gopher Wrestling Club” for 33 years, raising about $7,000,000 to financially support Minnesota wrestlers and help them pursue their wrestling goals. Others were brought in to carry on the mission in 2010, and Carlson and Rice pulled back. Rice and Carlson continue to be good friends and live about three miles apart in Naples, Florida.
Carlson was never able to coach due to his accounting career, however, once he moved to Naples, he had the opportunity to volunteer for five years with the Lely High School wrestling program. During his time coaching, Carlson financed the opportunity for a number of the Lely wrestlers to attend the J Robinson wrestling camp in Atlanta, GA.
Loren Hacker – Canby, 2023 Lifetime Service Honoree
Loren Hacker’s life in wrestling began in the Canby wrestling room under the guidance and leadership of Hall of Fame coaches Gerry Gingles and Bill Bredeson. Wrestling on Canby’s first undefeated dual meet team, two Region III Team Championships and a fourth-place finish in the Individual State Tournament were the first steps in the journey.
In 1972, Coach Gingles took Loren to the Olympic Trials. Watching Saunders, Gable, Wells, the Petersons, and Taylor sparked Loren’s interest in Freestyle. Winning the State AAU Freestyle Championship provided Hacker the opportunity to compete on the MWCA Cultural Exchange Team that traveled to Scandinavia. Four more State Freestyle and Greco Titles and a National Junior Greco Championship followed. In Loren’s final Freestyle match, he served as captain of the Minnesota Junior Team competing against the Russian Junior Freestyle Team.
At the University of Minnesota, Morris, Hall of Fame coaches Doug Dufty and Mick Rose helped Hacker to earn D-III All-American Honors. Some of his most valuable lessons came at the hands of Duane and Dennis Kozlowski, and Tom Beyer. Tom would finish his wrestling practice at Morris High School, then come over to work out with the Kozlowskis. Duane and Dennis showed Loren the 15 most important minutes of practice come after the head coach blows the final whistle. Hacker explains, “The three of us would try to recreate the moves in Bobby Douglas’ stop-action picture book, “The Making of a Champion.” Persistently Perfecting Practice makes Perfect Performance.
Loren’s coaching career began at the U of M, Morris as a red-shirt volunteer under Mick Rose. Two years as Head Wrestling Coach at McIntosh, South Dakota, were followed by two years at Canby, Loren’s alma mater. With assistant coaches Bill Bredeson and Greg Kockelman, Canby won the Region Title both years. From there, Hacker went to Dawson-Boyd, which may have been the high point in Loren’s coaching career. Assistant Coach Ross Jurgenson was absolutely critical to the success that the Dawson-Boyd wrestling team enjoyed. The athletes, coaches, students, parents and staff at Dawson-Boyd still hold a special place in Loren’s heart.
Hacker explains, “Being a part of the coaching fraternity and experiencing the intensity of coaches like
Rick Kelvington and Gary Wolf provided a thrilling education. Seeding meetings were fun and interesting. Coaches really got to know each other. Watching Gary Hindt in action was a wonderful experience. Mike Bredeck taught me the value of staying after class at the seeding meeting.”
After 22 years as a coach, teacher, and principal at Dawson-Boyd, Hacker returned to Canby as Superintendent of Schools. Loren states, “Serving as Superintendent at Canby, Hendricks, MACCRAY, and Hancock are cherished years of service in my 40-year educational career. As an administrator, it was an honor to serve in a wide range of volunteer roles in support of wrestling. From serving on MSHSL Committees, to managing and supporting Section Individual and Dual Meet Tournaments, to working floor security at the State Wrestling Tournament for 16 years, it has been a special privilege to serve the tremendous sport we all love.”
“The blessings I have received from my family, my many team-mates, coaches, and wrestling parents, as well as the entire wrestling community, have had a profound influence on my life and shaped me as a person. My Lord and Savior has been my guide and companion along this awesome road. Through the grace of His sacrifice, many wonderful things have been laid upon my table. Life is a Path of Service.
One never knows when the Holy Spirit will provide a new opportunity for any of us.
Faith – Family – Service. Pay it Forward.
Mark Krier – Zumbrota-Mazeppa, 2023 Lifetime Service Honoree
Mark Krier, son of Dale and Sharon Krier, was born and raised in Plainview, Minnesota along with brother Jimmy and sister Michele. Mark followed older brother Jimmy’s footsteps when he decided to wrestle as a kindiebeaner. He took to the sport like a duck takes to water and broke the varsity lineup as an eighth grader, going 13-6 at 98 pounds. He did not make the section team as the 105 pounds varsity wrestler cut down to 98 pounds for the tournament. As a freshman, Krier did make it to state, losing a hard-fought semifinal match to Benson’s Tim Cameron, the #1 ranked wrestler in the state, but came back strong for third place. In his sophomore year, Krier made it back to state and avenged that loss to Cameron in the State Finals by an 11-2 score. The following year he met another defending state Champion, Steve Anderson, from Maple Lake, and managed to win a dogfight by a 4-3 score. Mark’s senior year, he cruised through the tournament, winning in the finals 11-1. For those who never had the opportunity to see Mark Krier wrestle, it was a treat to watch one of the smoothest, slickest wrestlers this state has ever seen, cutting through outstanding wrestlers like a hot knife through butter. Plainview never lost a regular-season dual meet while Mark was in the starting lineup. One of Mark’s high school wrestling highlights included a 5-0 victory over Iowa’s top wrestler in the Minnesota – Iowa Classic Wrestling Meet.
Mark was also an outstanding baseball player, a left-handed shortstop who also did some pitching. His most memorable high school game was in the Region Finals against Pine Island, the #1 ranked team in the state. Mark pitched Plainview to a 5-2 victory and hit a home run off their All-State pitcher.
Mark attended Augustana after graduation and saw considerable success, but ended both his freshman and sophomore years with late-season injuries. As a junior, Krier defeated Rick Goeb 11-2 in the Conference finals, only to watch Goeb win a National Championship while Mark came up empty. Same situation his senior year, only this time it was Pat Dorn. In his four years, Mark won around a hundred matches, including knocking off three National Champions.
Mark spent the next two years as an assistant wrestling coach at Augustana, then spent a couple more at Bishop Heelan in Sioux City, Iowa, followed by a year as head coach at Akron-Westfield. Mark would have liked to have had a few more years there, but the head wrestling position at Byron opened up the following year and Mark had the opportunity to get back a little closer to home, After two years in Byron, Krier was hired as an assistant wrestling coach at Owatonna, where he spent the next ten years. During this time, Mark worked in sales and tended bar in Rochester part-time. By this time, Mark was married with a couple of boys living in Zumbrota and working with the youth program. As his boys both wrestled, Mark moved up with them, spending a year at the Junior High and, for the past four years, has been the varsity assistant at Z-M while continuing to work with the elementary program.
Krier has enjoyed coaching wrestling everywhere he went, but the past ten years have been a real pleasure. Mark has had the privilege of coaching hard-working wrestlers and collaborating with a great head coach who is an outstanding person. Mark is grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Z-M Program – and they are grateful he is part of their family. Head Coach Link Steffen describes Mark as intelligent and honest, with a passion for the sport of wrestling. He goes on to say Krier is totally invested in the program and has great rapport with his wrestlers because he genuinely cares for them. Zumbrota-Mazeppa finished 2nd at State in 2015, won State Team Championships in 2017 and 2018, and qualified again in 2021.
Mark is grateful for the love and support of his wife, Sara, who has worked as a nurse at Mayo for the past 23 years. Mark and Sara have two children. Son Luke, a Junior at UW, Eau Claire, has just completed his third year of wrestling under Tim Fader and finished the season with a winning record while wrestling a rugged schedule and continuing to work extremely hard. Son Jack is a three-time State Place-winner and a two-year Wrestling Captain at Zumbrota-Mazeppa with a year to go. Mark’s dad, Dale, passed away a year ago, but his mom Sharon, along with siblings Jimmy and Michelle and wife Sara continue to be Mark’s biggest supporters.
Cindy Nelson – Kasson-Mantorville, 2023 Lifetime Service Honoree
Cindy Lou Nelson, daughter of James and Geraldine Christian, was born and raised on a farm near Brownsville, Minnesota, along with brother Lloyd and sister Lora.
James was a farmer and Geraldine took care of the family and helped on the farm until her children were all in school, then worked in an assisted living facility in Austin.
Cindy attended Hayfield High School, participating in Volleyball and Track & Field. She was also active in 4H and FFA all through school and worked at a Roller Rink, a Floral Shop, and a Truck Stop during her High School years. She had some friends who were wrestlers (Kevin and Gary Heydt), but was never too interested in going to watch any matches, even though Hayfield had an outstanding program under Dave Erickson.
After graduating from Hayfield, she started working at the Mayo Clinic, where she received on-the-job training as a R. EEG Technologist. Cindy is currently in her 43rd year on the job.
In 1982 Cindy married Dean Nelson, a Hayfield classmate, and moved to Kasson, where Dean works as a Homebuilder. Dean and Cindy had their first child, Zachary, in 1985 and took him to his first youth wrestling practice when he was four years old and things snowballed from there. Zachary became a member of the K-M Lightning Youth Wrestling Club and soon Dean and Cindy were hitting the youth wrestling circuit and meeting
people from all walks of life with one common bond – a love for the sport of wrestling. Nathanial came along four years later and the Nelsons had two boys who became part of a wrestling family that extended way beyond the boundaries of Kasson-Mantorville. Daughter Clarisa followed in her brothers’ footsteps even though there were not very many girls in the sport at the time. In seventh grade, Clarisa became a wrestling cheerleader and continued cheering for the Komet wrestling team through her Senior year. Zachary and Nathanial were both hardworking, dedicated wrestlers and both served as K-M Wrestling Captains, were HVL Conference Champs, and Section Champions with Zachary placing 4th at State at 112 pounds in 2003. Zachary works as a welder and farms with Grandpa Jim and is planning to get married to his fiancé, Mackenzie, in August. Nathanial serves as Co-Head Wrestling Coach with Ryan Radke at Byron. Nathanial and his wife, Jess, have three boys and are expecting a fourth child in September. Clarissa and her husband, Anthony, have one daughter, Oaklynn, and they are expecting another daughter, Raelynn, in May. Dean and Cindy also have a daughter Mylaa
(6 years old) who became a Nelson in 2017, and now follows mom and dad to all their wrestling events, including the Section and State Team and Individual Tournaments as well as the NYWA Section and State Tournaments, where they continue serving as table workers.
Mylaa says she wants to wrestle, so wrestling may continue in the Nelson home.
Cindy is involved in many community service organizations and has served as chair in a number of them, including the Rochester Epilepsy Foundation and Marigolds Day. Cindy was named the Director of the 2023 National Girls Clash Tournament and was thrilled to be involved in the first Clash Tournament with both a Team and Individual Tournament for girls. Cindy was also recently inducted into the 2023 Region One Hall of Fame.
Larry Mollins – Perham, 2023 Lifetime Service Honoree
Larry Mollins was a 1964 graduate of Frazee High School and wrestled for Hall of Fame Coach Les Kertscher. Mollins was a two-time Conference, District, and Region Champion. As a Senior Captain, Larry was undefeated going into the State Wrestling Tournament, and in his words, “I would have been a State Champion, but………………….I lost.”
After graduating from Frazee, Mollins enrolled at NDSU and wrestled under the legendary Bucky Maughan. Bucky was a Pennsylvania State Champion and a Division I National Champion at Moorhead State. According to Larry, he was also a master technician. The new recruits were in awe of his wrestling knowledge and, at times, almost needed a pen and notepad to take it all down. That technique not only paid dividends for the NDSU wrestlers, but for those athletes who went on to coach wrestling, it was a double bonus.
Since freshmen were not allowed to wrestle, Mollins only had three years of varsity eligibility, but he was a three-year starter and a two-time National Qualifier. Larry also played three years of varsity baseball and served as a Captain his Senior Year.
Larry’s first head coaching experience came while he was finishing school at NDSU. He was hired to start a brand-new program at Glyndon, Minnesota. He had to recruit kids right out of Phy. Ed., help purchase new uniforms as well as a wrestling mat and build a wrestling schedule. That year the Glyndon Grapplers went 2-6, not too shabby for their first time out of the chute.
The following year Mollins started his teaching career at Starbuck along with Head Wrestling and Assistant Baseball positions. The Wrestling Team finished the season with an 11-1 record, winning the Conference Dual Meet Season as well as the Conference Individual Tournament. Coach Kertscher and his wife attended the final dual meet of the season with the conference title on the line. The bleachers were packed and the wrestlers were Jacked. It was a great night for Starbuck Wrestling.
Larry’s teaching and coaching career was put on hold the following year when he got drafted during the Vietnam War. He spent two years of his three-year stint in Germany manning a NATO Site with a Pershing Missile Unit.
Mollins resumed his teaching and coaching career in Perham, Minnesota, with Head Wrestling and Head Baseball coaching assignments. John McEachern was hired at the same time as Head Football and Assistant Wrestling Coach. Mollins and McEachern worked side-by-side as they started their 11-year journey together.
They did everything they could think of to build up the wrestling program and make it special for the wrestlers, their parents, and the Perham wrestling community. They went on a non-stop recruiting mission, wrote their own newspaper articles, started a Mat Club and a Mat–Maid organization, and put a handbook together for wrestlers, parents, and fans. With time and effort, the Mat Club sponsored a fan bus for every away dual meet and tournament and enabled the coaches to put on a first-class end-of-season banquet.
Perhan lost their very first dual meet under Coach Mollins but then reeled off six straight wins. Larry remembers being invited to a coach’s corner before the Frazee meet, the biggest dual of the year, every year for the Perham wrestling team. They asked Coach Kertscher, Larry’s High School coach if he could predict the score of the dual meet. He acknowledged that Perham was a very worthy opponent but felt with the home crowd on their side, they could pull it out and threw out a score. Without hesitation, Larry vowed, “If Frazee wins the meet tomorrow night, I will walk back to Perham.” The following night, Coach Mollins and his loyal partner in crime, Coach McEachern, walked the eleven-mile stretch on a brisk winter night from Frazee to Perham.
The following season Perham defeated Frazee in front of the largest wrestling crowd ever assembled for a Perham Wrestling event. The overflow crowd had to wait until the heavyweight match for the outcome to be decided. The only spot without fans was the mat itself and after the Perham Heavyweight secured a pin, that space was immediately covered with Perham Wrestling fans. At the Wrestling banquet after the season, the Superintendent noted that the wrestling dual meet that night rejuvenated the entire community.
Mollins and McEachern’s Perham wrestlers went on to accumulate 115 wins against 37 losses during that eleven-year stretch producing fifteen State Medalists and six State Champions. Seven wrestlers went on to wrestle at the collegiate level, with five of those wrestlers garnering ten All-American medals.
The 1979 Perham wrestling team was the top team in the Individual State Tournament (under the old scoring system), with three wrestlers placing in the top five.
Larry finished his career in the Insurance and Financial Services business but continued to support wrestling in Perham and the surrounding area and served as a wrestling radio announcer for 37 years in Northwestern Minnesota.
Larry and his wife Cindy are both in their second marriage. Cindy is a former Frazee Elementary Teacher and continues to teach Driver’s Training. Larry and Cindy have six children – Anne and David – Melanie, Stephanie, Marcus, and Anthony. All were High School athletes. Anne and Dave’s winter activity was on the basketball court, while Melanie, Stephanie, Marcus, and Anthony all spent their winters on the Wrestling Mat. Melanie and Stephanie were wrestling cheerleaders and Marcus and Anthony were wrestlers. Anthony was a 1996 State Champion, and Marcus was on the same path, but health problems derailed his High School athletic plans.
Al “Swede” Olson – Fosston, 2023 Lifetime Service Honoree
Al “Swede” Olson, son of Alfred and Phronie Olson, was born and raised in Lengby, Minnesota, along with his sister, Sherry. Swede attended elementary school in Lengby and started 7th grade in Fosston, graduating in 1975. Olson participated in Football and Wrestling from 1969 through 1975 and Track and baseball in 1974 and 1975. Swede was a Pine to Prairie All-Conference Lineman and held the record for most tackles, as a middle linebacker, in both his junior and senior seasons. Olson was a four-year letter-winner in Wrestling with a 52-27 record while wrestling from 119 pounds to Heavyweight. Swede finished 3rd in Region 8 at Light Heavyweight, back in the one-class system. There was no true second back then. In Track and Field, Olson was a sprinter and a shot-putter.
After graduating from Fosston, Olson enrolled at Wadena AVTI and worked in the construction area as an electrician. In 1978 Olson was hired by Everhart Electric as a licensed electrician. In 1983 Swede and took over Al’s Electric, a business that his dad started while working as a lineman and electrician for the city of Fosston.
Tom Gravelin came to Fosston in 1975 and asked Swede if he would like to get beat up in wrestling practice and not get paid for it. Swede thought it sounded like a good deal and served as a volunteer wrestling coach at Fosston from 1975 through 1982. Olson got his officiating license in 1978 and started officiating various tournaments, then moved up to sub-sections as well as section individual and team tournaments.
Swede started “officially” coaching (for pay) at Fosston in 1983. Bagley came in to Co-op with Fosston a few years later. Olson has served as an assistant coach at Fosston-Bagley for 40 years (1983 – 2023) and has officiated the Northwest Individual Tournament for 45 consecutive years. Swede also received the opportunity to officiate in the State Team Tournament in 2022.
The “Old Guard,” as well as the younger coaches had the utmost respect for the quality of Swede’s officiating as well as his professionalism on and off the mat. Swede loves to laugh and made seeding meetings, dual meets and tournaments more enjoyable for everyone with his sense of humor.
Along with hall of fame Coach Jeff “Bro” Olson, Swede put together a Region 8 Newsletter that was a “must read” at the Region Tournament. Olson started a scholarship program with Bob Ullyot and Mark Aho in memory of his father, Alfred. Swede was instrumental in the formation of the North Star Wrestling Conference and helped put several Invitational Wrestling Tournaments together, namely the Big Bear and Alfred Olson memorial wrestling Tournament.
Olson was a three-time Section 8 Assistant Coach of the Year and received the Dean Fox Sportmanship Award in 2009, but is most proud of the fact that his Fosston-Bagley Wrestlers took home the Section 8 Sportsmanship Award three separate times.
Al “Swede” Olson has been involved in wrestling for all the right reasons. He has helped numerous tough, undisciplined kids become productive citizens. Swede’s “How can I help” attitude will long be remembered and appreciated by all who have known and worked with him.
Olson served as a School Board member for twelve years and currently serves as Chairman of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Lengby. He is also a member of the Minnesota Electrical Association, the Northstar Wrestling Officials Association, the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association, and the Dave Bartelma Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Swede has also played softball in Fosston for the past 47 years and sponsors “Al’s Electric”, a softball team that has been competitive in the Fosston area for over 40 years, winning the District Title and advancing to State in Slowpitch Softball in 2000.
Swede married Jackie in 1981 and they have two children – Matt (Kelly) Olson and Rebecca (Aaron) Myhre. Swede and Jackie love to spend time with their children and grandchildren on the pontoon in the summer when Swede is not playing softball. Swede also enjoys hunting ducks, pheasants, and deer in the Fall.
Bill Olson – Byron, 2023 Lifetime Service Honoree
Bill Olson grew up in LeRoy, MN, the second of five siblings. Bill attributes much of his work ethic to watching his parents raise four boys and a girl. Bill played all sports growing up, lettering in football, wrestling, and track multiple times. Olson was a champion in the old District One and a State Qualifier in 1976. He continued his competitive career at Waldorf College and then Winona State. Bill had moderate success in college, but developed many great friendships with teammates, including Tim Sheils, NCAA Director of Officiating. Bill’s first interest in officiating started in 1976 when he enrolled in an officiating class. Olson became registered in both football and wrestling. His Waldorf Coach, Neil Boyd, was able to schedule him in junior varsity football and wrestling matches. Small pay but big learning! A keen interest was developed.
Olson has continued to be an active official for over 34 years, with 25 state tournaments. Bill currently serves as the Head Official for the Clash Wrestling Tournament. Olson has been on the Clash Board for 18 years and is the newly elected President. During the first week in August, Olson assists at the Clash Camp at Ironwood Springs near Stewartville, MN. Bill has also served on the MSHSL Officials Advisory Board.
Olson is a member of the Region One Hall of Fame and Dave Bartelma Hall of Fame. Bill was honored to receive the Official’s Award for Region One AA in 2010 and the Distinguished Service Award in 2011. He is a charter member of SMWOA and retains a board position and serves as the group’s treasurer. Olson has been an active NYWA official for over 20 years.
Bill takes great pride in his position with the Clash. He has had the opportunity to meet and become friends with Coaches and Officials throughout the country. Bill is very proud of his Clash Officials and strives to treat them well. They are some of the best! He calls them his “brothers with a whistle”.
Bill and his wife Bobbi are high school sweethearts who have three children – twins Brady and Breanna, and another daughter, Brittlyn. Bill is proud of his successful children and his four grandkids – Harper (4), Quinn (4), Asher (2), and Finn (2). They keep him young.
Bill is recently retired from a career as a Union painter and vinyl hanger, spending over 25 years in the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. While there, he often answered wrestling questions from fans of the sport, both employees and visitors.
Bill and Bobbi love to Grandparent. They are also avid Twins fans, attending games both in Fort Meyers and Minnesota, as well as Gopher football fans, holding season tickets. Bill and Bobbi love to fish and make an annual trip to Canada, along with going “Up North” for over 30 years now. They also enjoy biking on the local Minnesota trails. Bill and Bobbi reside in Byron, MN.
“Wrestling isn’t easy nor should it be, for the greatest gift this sport will ever give is who we become as a result of it” -Author Unknown
Steve Ricard – Benson, 2023 Lifetime Service Honoree
Steve Ricard, son of Larry and Elaine Ricard, was born and raised in Fertile, Minnesota, graduating from Fertile-Beltrami High School in 1986. Steve was active in Football, Wrestling, and Student Council serving as a Captain in both Football and Wrestling. Ricard was a two-time All-Conference selection in wrestling for Bartelma Hall of Fame Coaches Bob Thorson and Buck Lindberg. Steve was a member of two Region Championship Teams and an Individual State Qualifier as a Senior with an overall varsity record of 61-7.
Steve’s sister Nancy served as a wrestling manager, brothers Curt, and Eric were members of the wrestling team, and Steve’s dad drove the team bus for many years. Fertile-Beltrami Wrestling was a Ricard family affair for many years.
After graduation, Steve attended Moorhead State University and wrestled for his first two years under Head Coach Jim Aguiar and his last two years for John Sterner. Ricard was a four-time NAIA National Qualifier, a two-time Academic All-American, and an NIC Conference Champion as a Senior.
After graduating from Moorhead with a degree in Social Studies, Steve served as an assistant to Paul Marquart at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton for a year and then was hired as a teacher and coach at Benson High School. Steve assisted Gary Williams in his first year in Benson. Steve states, “Gary Williams was an incredible mentor for me. He was tough but fair.” Ricard took over the Head Wrestling duties the following year and for the next eleven years served as Head Coach, Youth Coach, and Freestyle Coach. Some of Steve’s best memories happened in the off-season, collecting a car full of wrestlers and heading for a tournament.
Steve remembers the old Region 3 being flat-out tough with the likes of Canby, BOLD, Adrian, Minneota, KMS, Wabasso, and Dawson-Boyd. There was a lot of enjoyment for Steve, watching Scott Thompson, now Benson’s Head Wrestling Coach, develop into a State Wrestling Champion. Steve was proud of all of the wrestlers who came through the ranks and finished strong in such a demanding sport. He was appreciative of all the parents who bought in at all levels to help their own kid as well as their teammates achieve their wrestling goals and grateful for all the coaches who worked with Benson’s wrestlers from the Youth on up. A special thank-you goes out to assistants Bill Kehoe, Brian Verhelt, and Dave Berens for all their effort and support over the years.
When Steve’s oldest daughter reached 7th grade, Steve stepped down from the head position but continued to work with the youth program and help out with the varsity program by organizing and running tournaments. For several years, Ricard helped organize and run the Varsity Classic, the Benson JV Tournament, and various kid’s tournaments, including the NYWA District Qualifier. This past year, the NYWA Qualifier was over 400 strong. Steve also spent four enjoyable years as an assistant wrestling coach with good friend Wes Haglund at Kerkoven-Murdock-Sunberg.
Ricard has also served as a Section Rep. for the past 22 years, a position that he has enjoyed but is willing to pass on to an up-and-coming coach who would like to continue to help make the sport of wrestling better for everyone.
After coaching wrestling for 30 years, Steve dusted off his whistle and got into officiating as COVID put a real strain on wrestling officials and their numbers. Steve is currently a member of the Southern Minnesota Wrestling Officials Association as well as the St. Cloud Officials Association. Steve is indebted to many mentors in the wrestling referee profession, including Jim Williams, Buck Lindberg, Rick Rud, Roger Wilson, Paul Fischbauer, and Tom Kuisle.
In addition to officiating Folkstyle, Steve also started officiating Freestyle and Greco-Roman in 2000 and cites Tim Lewis and Mark Shanky as being great influences and mentors to him. Ricard has continued to give back to the Sport of Wrestling officiating at the local, regional, and national levels.
Steve attended his first Bartelma Hall of Fame banquet in 2000 when he went to help honor Charlie Bishop. Steve and Greg Bishop, Charlie’s son, had wrestled many times from youth through College and Steve decided he wanted to be part of this thing. The following year, Steve joined the Hall of Fame Committee, and in 2003, Steve coordinated his first David Bartelma Hall of Fame Banquet with the help of Bill and Jill Schmidt. This year marks Steve’s 21st banquet.
Steve states, “The lifelong friends that I have made through wrestling, coaching, and now serving as Hall of Fame Chair, are incredible. I am truly blessed to be involved in this great sport.” Steve continues, “When I walk into the Xcel Energy Center each year, a wave of nostalgia passes over me – it feels like a reunion of sorts – I am sure I am not alone. It is truly one of the greatest weeks of the year.”
In addition to his devotion to the sport of Wrestling, Steve is very active in his church and often brings his guitar along to help lead the worship service with gospel hymns.
Ricard has also served as Benson’s Student Council Advisor for the past 26 years and has taken students to the State Student Council Convention every year.
Ricard also has a painting business that employs about a dozen young men and women and often goes well into September or later to finish up the summer’s painting projects.
The one constant in every one of these areas of service is passion. In the words of longtime KMS Wrestling Coach Wes Haglund, “Steve Ricard puts his heart and soul into everything he does – from his faith to his family and everything in between. Steve is an example of total dedication. He is ALL IN when it comes to helping people reach their full potential. You will never find a more caring or loyal friend.
Steve is thankful that his dad, Larry, and his mom, Elaine, allowed him to join Saturday Sports back in Fertile in 1975. He is also very thankful for his wife, Maureen, and his four wonderful children – Holland, Hannah, Grace, and Claire.
Richard Saxlund – Pipestone, 2023 Lifetime Service Honoree
Richard Saxlund, son of Gratten and Margaret Saxlund, was born and raised on a farm near Lisbon, North Dakota, along with older brothers Blaine and Burdette. Saxlund attended Lisbon High School graduating in 1961 and participating in Football, Wrestling, and Baseball.
Dick attended Mayville State College majoring in Business Education and Physical Education and participating in both Football and Wrestling. The Football Team went 25-6 in the four years he played, with his 1961 Team being Inducted into the Mayville State Athletic Hall of Fame. Saxlund was a four-year starter and a three-year captain in wrestling, with an overall record of 46-16 and two Conference Runner-up finishes. Dick was inducted into the Mayville State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2019.
Saxlund started his teaching and coaching career at LeRoy-Ostrander. In his two-year stint as Head Wrestling Coach, LeRoy–Ostrander went 24-1-1 with one State Runner-up and one State Champ. Dick was inducted into the GMLOK Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2021.
Dick went on to teach and coach at Pipestone from 1967 to 1996, serving as Assistant Football and Head Wrestling Coach, with his Pipestone charges accumulating 228 wrestling wins with 33 State Qualifiers, thirteen place-winners, ten finalists, and five State Champions. Fellow coaches had these comments about Richard Saxlund:
“Dick was a great mentor and always professional – as a coach, Dick was willing to help any athlete, anytime – the countless hours he put in outside of the wrestling season for his athletes is remarkable – Coach Saxlund is not only a great guy, but runs a tough practice and always expects his athletes to give their best – just like he does.”
A number of Dick’s wrestlers went on to compete in wrestling at the college level producing ten All-Americans, six finalists, and three national champions. Dick is proud of the accomplishments of all his wrestlers, including Perry Kozlowski, a 1975 State Champ, who was named Minnesota High School Athlete of the Year and went on to be an All-American in Football and Wrestling for NDSU. Scott Dubbelde was a Minnesota State Champ and a three-time All–American at Southwest State, Dustin Darveaux was a three-time State Place-winner and a three-time All-American Wrestler at St.Cloud State, and Dick’s son, Steve, was a Minnesota State Champion for Pipestone and a four-time Conference Champion, a four-time All-American, and a three-time NCAA Division II National Champion at North Dakota State. North Dakota State won the National Team Championship each of those three years. Steve was named Most Valuable Wrestler at NDSU all four years.
After 40 years of coaching wrestling and 30+ years of coaching football, Saxlund has continued to stay involved in wrestling, serving as an assistant to Brian Bos at Pipestone and working with son Steve, who is the Director of the Rumble on the Red, the largest High School event in the Midwest.
Dick currently resides in West Fargo, North Dakota, with his wife, Barbara, who was a teacher in Leroy when she and Dick first met. Dick and Barbara have two children, Melissa and Steve (Angie), and three granddaughters – Brooklyn, Peyton, and Brynlie.
Joel Viss – Chatfield, 2023 Lifetime Service Honoree
Joel is one of six sons born to Paul and Carolyn Viss. Born in Willmar, MN, the family moved to Hancock shortly after he was born, and he remained there through high school. Viss wrestled under Hall of Fame Coach Spencer Yohe from eighth grade through his senior year, also participating in football and track. His brothers all wrestled as well at one time or another. Much of his time was spent milking cows and putting up feed for a nearby dairy farmer. Joel picked up his work ethic from his parents, but it was supplemented by work on the farm and, of course, wrestling.
Upon graduating from High School, Viss attended Bemidji State University and earned a major in Biology and Coaching and a minor in Mathematics. After his first year of school, Joel joined the Marine Corps Reserves and was shipped off to Paris Island, where he completed basic training. Viss was stationed in Minneapolis but continued to attend Bemidji State. During this time, he wrestled under Ken Martin and Ken Jordan for two years. The summer before his senior year, he was stationed in Quantico, VA, for Platoon Leaders Class. He had aspirations of becoming a pilot in the Marine Corps.
Prior to his senior year, Bemidji State had dropped wrestling due to Title IX issues, and Joel spent the winter coaching wrestling at Cass Lake with Head Coach Andy Niemczyk along with Bill Simpkins. Upon graduation, Viss was hired by the Chatfield School District as a Science / Mathematics Teacher and Head Wrestling Coach. He finished his time with the Marines and was honorably discharged as a Corporal. He later received his Mathematics major at Winona State University and received a Master of Education in Emotional and Behavioral Disorders from the University of Minnesota.
Joel taught Junior High Math and Science and coached Wrestling in Chatfield from 1984-2015. He thoroughly enjoyed his time as a teacher and coach and summarized the students and athletes that he worked with as bigger, faster, stronger, smarter, and, in most cases, more polite than he ever was. The biggest thrill for him was watching the athletes do things that they had earlier deemed impossible. Chatfield was Section IA Champions in 2000, 2013, and 2014 winning 4th place in 2000, 3rd place in 2013, and Class A State Champions in 2014. He finished his coaching career with a 399-242-5 record. He coached 44 Region or Section champs, had 81 state entrants, 36 place-winners, and six individual state champions. Joel served as a section representative and is a member of the MWCA Bartelma Hall of Fame as well as the MCC Region I Hall of Fame. Viss has a deep respect for his high school wrestling coach, Mr. Spencer Yohe, and over the years, Joel has begun to fully realize the huge impact that Coach Yohe has had on his life, beginning at an early age. He has also developed tremendous respect for coaches from opposing schools who have instilled such work ethic and confidence in their charges. Viss has tried to emulate what Mr. Yohe and the other great coaches from around the state were doing with their teams and found it had its benefits.
Joel was hired under the Rule of 90, and in 2015 took a three-year leave of absence which essentially led him into retirement. During those three years he worked for Barth Construction, Baker Builders, Teachers on Call, and received a Nursing Degree from Rochester Community and Technical College. After passing his Nursing Boards, he began working as a Registered Nurse for the Mayo Clinic. He currently works as a bedside nurse at Saint Mary’s Hospital in the Department of Orthopedic and Neurological Trauma. He has crossed paths with former wrestlers, coaches, and officials in his line of work, as their work ethic and boisterousness often brings them in. Being able to work with former students he had in Chatfield has been a blessing to him. When asked which he likes better, Joel is quick to say he misses the wrestling but also that there is a time for everything. He is willing to accept the challenges that his new life has to offer.
He attends Greenleafton Reformed Church and spends considerable time on various church boards. Although he now works year around, the twelve-hour days and nights allow for plenty of days off to enjoy his family, hobbies, and church work. One drawback is that he sees his friends less frequently than he did before because of the strange hours. In his spare time, Joel enjoys fishing, bow hunting, and taking motorcycle trips.
Joel and his wife, Margaret, who also works at Mayo in the Department of Laboratory Medicine, have two adult children. Justin is a new LT in the United States Marine Corps and stationed in Quantico, VA, and Isaac is in Medical School at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.
Margaret is originally from Chatfield and already had a deep connection with the wrestling program as her brothers wrestled, and her mom and dad were active members in the first Chatfield Wrestling Booster Club.