Culture Starts In The Room

Wes Hanson and Crookston Wrestling

By Brian Jerzak

In any sport, success doesn't start during a competition. Success begins in the offseason and during practice. To have practices that lead to success, the athletes need to buy into what the coaching staff is selling. That process starts by establishing a culture that begins not on the mat but in the practice room. Crookston head wrestling coach Wes Hanson has taken the Pirates from a sub-.500 program to a team that has had back-to-back-to-back winning seasons and might be on the verge of their best season in years. Hanson and his staff have done it by establishing a culture of hard work, not only in competition but in the practice room.

Hanson's father was a successful wrestler and started his son down the wrestling path.

"My dad wrestled and ended up wrestling at Bemidji State. He introduced me and did some coaching. I started at a young age. Right away, it was enjoyable for me, and once I started competing, I liked the individual nature of the sport. It was a lot of fun."

His dad started him in wrestling, but Hanson's friends were instrumental in stoking a passion for wrestling.

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Mini-Wins Lead to Major Growth

Matt Everson and Saint Thomas Academy

By Brian Jerzak

For programs that are not traditional wrestling powers, traditional victories don't always come right away. Improvements start with more subtle victories. New Saint Thomas Academy co-head coach Matt Everson used mini-wins to help build the East Ridge program into a section champion. Now, he hopes to do something similar at STA.

Everson is a second-generation wrestler.

"I was four years old when I started wrestling. My dad wrestled in high school and a little bit in college. His brother was a national runner-up for an NAIA school – Northern State University - in Aberdeen, South Dakota. I have an older brother and a younger brother; we all wrestled growing up. Wrestling became part of our DNA."

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Family Ties – Bennett Berge

By Brian Jerzak

Not many wrestlers have the built-in coaching staff of Kasson-Mantorville's Bennett Berge. As a youth, Berge would go to wrestling tournaments and, on a given day, could have a future two-time state champion or a future four-time state champion in his corner. Even with Berge's built-in support, the now senior still had to put in the time and effort. Berge has held up his end of the bargain – winning three straight state titles. He will be going for his fourth straight this season.

Berge and his brothers are second-generation wrestlers.

"My dad wrestled in high school," Berge said. "I think he was a state placer his senior year. Then, my brothers, Brock, was a two-time state champ, and Brady was a four-timer, so wrestling was in my family."

Bennett started wrestling early, but not by the Berge family standards.

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The Benefits of Change – Garrison Solliday

By Brian Jerzak

There have been plenty of times when St. Thomas Academy senior Garrison Solliday could have quit wrestling. He has been at a crossroads in his wrestling life more than once. Each time, teammates helped him decide to stick with the sport and stick with his school. They were decisions that benefited Solliday, benefited his teammates, and benefited the entire school.

Solliday's father grew up knowing the benefits of wrestling.

"My dad wrestled for a little bit, but he ended up playing basketball," Solliday said. "He grew up in a small town in Iowa, and wrestling was the thing that everyone did. He was very exposed to wrestling right away. He always liked wrestling. I was in third grade and wasn't in a winter sport, so he decided to put me in wrestling – just for a year to see if I liked it. Wrestling and I were very compatible. It requires a lot of hard work and dedication, and I enjoyed the season. That is when my dad realized I had some potential, so he started to get me more involved in wrestling – going to more camps and tournaments. I ended up liking it."

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Which Gophers Will Step Up and Make an Impact?

By Matt Krumrie

The fact that the 2020 NCAA Division I season was canceled just before the national championships still stings for coaches, wrestlers, and fans. It hurts even more when your team was supposed to host the premiere event, only to see it shut down due to a pandemic.

It was just last March when the Minnesota Gophers were preparing to host the 2020 NCAA DI championships at U.S. Bank Stadium, in what were supposed to be the first championships ever held in a football stadium, and were likely to set NCAA wrestling championship attendance records.

Eight Minnesota wrestlers qualified for those championships. And then, like that, it was canceled because of the Coronavirus. Several of those wrestlers are back this year and looking to take their frustrations out on the mat in 2020-2021.

“We have a lot of guys returning from last season when we were going to host the NCAA Championships at US Bank Stadium," said head coach Brandon Eggum. "That’s when everything got shut down, and that opportunity was taken from them. So for them to get another chance to go out there and compete is something they are really looking forward to."

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The Huskies Are Loaded Once Again

By Matt Krumrie

The stage was set for another memorable finish to another successful St. Cloud State University wrestling season in March of 2020. The Huskies were ranked No. 1 in the nation and qualified nine wrestlers for the NCAA Division II national championships in Sioux Falls, S.D.

And then…

The beginning of a national pandemic due to the Coronavirus shut down all collegiate athletic competition, including all NCAA wrestling championships. It was heartbreaking for every wrestler and athlete in every sport, including those at SCSU. Head coach Steve Costanzo, now in his 15th leading the nation's top NCAA Division II wrestling program, talked about that in an open letter to fans in the offseason.

"Not only did we miss our NCAA championship tournament, but we also missed recognizing this team's amazing run and last year's senior class," said Costanzo. "Unfortunately, we won't get the championship back, nor will those athletes get relief from the NCAA to get that season back."

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