Reinvigorated and Wrestling for Championships

Katerina Lange

By Brian Jerzak

When Martin County West's Katerina Lange finished up her freshman year of high school, she had been wrestling for ten years. Although she enjoyed the sport, something was missing for her. Wrestling had been such a big part of her life that she needed to find out more about herself outside of wrestling. Two years later, Lange's love of wrestling was reinvigorated. Now, she has a Pan-Am title to her name and national titles and world team aspirations in her future.

"My sophomore year, I took a break from wrestling to explore myself outside of the sport," Lange said. "I had been in wrestling my entire life. It had become too much of me. I came back last year. I realized I still had a lot of wrestling in me. I felt good, and from there, I decided I still had a passion for it."

During her time away from wrestling – among other things, she played on the basketball team for two years.

"When I came back, I felt like I had a new perspective with wrestling," Lange explained. "Before I took the break, I felt like it was a win/lose game, and there was nothing else in it for me. Taking the break gave me a new mindset. It was something I needed."

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A Perfect Pairing

Isaac Novacek and Badger/Greenbush-Middle River Wrestling

By Brian Jerzak

Sometimes coaches come into a program, and for whatever reason, they just don't fit. Be it personality, different technique, or familiarity with the people in the area, things sometimes don't work out. Then there are other times when a coach and a program seem meant to be. That is the case with Badger/Greenbush-Middle River's wrestling program and head coach Isaac Novacek. It was a pairing, years in the making.

"My dad is an assistant wrestling coach in Greenbush," Novacek said. "He is from a wrestling family from around Greenbush. My mom grew up in Mahnomen, and she grew up in a wrestling family too. I have been going with my dad to wrestling practice since I could walk."

It didn't take long for the younger Novacek to make his mark on the Gators' program.

"I don't think I was that good my first year. The older I got, the more I bought into it. I won a youth title in 4th grade, 6th grade, and 8th grade. When I transitioned to high school, I took sixth (at State) as a freshman, won a state title my sophomore year, and got third my junior year. I made it to State as a senior but didn’t place."

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Breaking Records, On and Off the Mat

Minnewaska Area's Tyson Meyer

By Brian Jerzak

Breaking a school record is an amazing feat. It is rare to come across someone who – during a high school career – ended a career, a season, or an individual contest holding a school record. Breaking multiple school records in more than one sport is in another category altogether. Minnewaska Area senior Tyson Meyer is a rare athlete. He breaks school records on and off the mat.

Meyer started wrestling at a young age.

“I have been in wrestling since pre-school. My mom asked me if I wanted to go out for wrestling, and I said yeah. I started wrestling and just kept doing it.”

Success on the mat came quickly for Meyer.

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Core Values and Community

Terry Gorecki and Royalton-Upsala Wrestling

Since Terry Gorecki returned as head coach in 2016, the Royalton-Upsala Royals' wrestling program has been to four straight section finals and the last two state tournaments. To do that, the most important thing is to have the horses on the mat, but the rise of the Royals' program is based on two things – core values and community. Change either one of those foundations, and those four section finals don't happen.

Gorecki knew about the community aspect of wrestling early in his life.

"I started wrestling in Foley," Gorecki said. "I wrestled until tenth grade and decided to hang it up. Everyone wrestled in Foley, so I just did what everyone else did."

An old nemesis paved Gorecki's path back into wrestling.

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A Community Program, A Community Championship

Kimball Area Wrestling

By Brian Jerzak

When Kimball Area Cubs' wrestling coach David Joseph was a senior wrestling for the Cubs, he helped the team get a section title. It was the program's first section title in years and started a string of some of the best years in Cubs' wrestling history. The future head coach had no idea how his time as a wrestler in the program would affect a second run of success – and the school's first state title ten years later.

"I got involved in wrestling at an early age," Joseph said. "My dad was a wrestler and wrestling kind of runs in the blood. My first practice was a Hi-Flyers practice – it was trial by fire. I was about five years old at the time. I think Brandon Paulson was running the practice, and I don't think I had run so many sprints in my life. I have been addicted ever since."

Joseph was a three-sport athlete for the Cubs, but wrestling had a certain appeal.

"You get to control a lot of the variables," Joseph explained. "I played football and baseball, and there is a lot more chance in other sports. In wrestling, you get out of it what you put into it. The harder I worked, the more success I had; I think that connected me to the sport."

Joseph was a one-time state entrant – taking fifth as a senior.

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A Stepping-Stone – On and Off the Mat

Minnesota West Wrestling

By Brian Jerzak

When former Jackson County Central head wrestling coach Randy Baker stepped down to become an assistant coach under his former assistant Nate Hanson, Baker didn't expect to be heading up another wrestling program any time soon. But when Minnesota West's Men's Athletic Director Bob Purcell approached Baker about taking over the program, he couldn't resist. As a former wrestler at Minnesota West – then called Worthington Community College – Baker was going to give back to a program that had given to him.

Just now completing his second season as the head coach of the Bluejays' program, Baker wants to keep it moving forward to be a stepping-stone for kids to reach their goals on and off the mat.

"Purcell approached me," Baker said. "I wasn't looking for another job. I wanted to make sure whoever took over at Jackson was stable and make sure the cupboard wasn't bare. I was working as an assistant at JCC with Nate Hanson. It was a good time for me to step down there when I did, as Nate had his two nephews going into seventh grade so he could help them. Bob was worried about the program and needed to find someone. He was worried they might look into cutting the program there if they couldn't find somebody. So, I didn't want to see them cut the program. I don't mind taking over the program for a few years to try to build it back up."

Baker had to hit the ground running.

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If It Ain’t Broke

Jackson County Central Wrestling

By Brian Jerzak

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That is a saying often heard when transitions are made in successful situations from business to athletics and everything in between. When Jackson County Central head coach Randy Baker decided to step down after twenty-nine years at the helm of the Huskies' program, long-time Huskies' assistant coach Nathan Hanson took over a program he had been involved with almost his entire life.

Hanson wasn't looking to make any drastic changes.

"It is the vision that Randy Baker built," Hanson said. "I am just trying to keep it going."

Baker's vision started about the same time Hanson began wrestling.

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