Every spring at tournament time coaches from each high school section vote for their respective Section Head and Assistant Coach of the Year. Head coach selections are then put on a ballot to be voted on by all coaches at the State Tournament for Class AAA, AA, and A Coach of the Year.
A trip to Totino-Grace High School in Fridley had one goal in mind, profile the private Catholic school and its accomplished wrestling program. What happened was what makes sports great – kids doing great things to create great results. Totino-Grace wouldn’t hoist the Section 5AA trophy on Saturday, it’d be a group of kids from Orono who came into the sectional tournament with a 6-12 dual record.
When Orono wrestling coach Joe McPherson first joined the Spartans’ staff, the program was struggling. A few years later, when he walked into the Orono wrestling room for the first time as the head wrestling coach, things had gotten even worse.
“When I came on as a volunteer assistant, we had 18-20 kids in the room,” McPherson said. “The next year, we had 10-15 kids. When I took over as the head coach, we only had six kids - 7th-12th grade – in the room.”
Ten years later, they have 36 kids in the room and are coming off a 17-win season and their second straight section finals appearance. Gone are the days of six wrestlers in the room. For the Spartans’ wrestling program, there is no going back.
McPherson started his athletic career early.