A New Direction – Apple Valley Wrestling

By Brian Jerzak

When Dalen Wasmund decided to step away from the head coaching position at Apple Valley High School, he was not only leaving a program that was coming off a state title. He was leaving a program that set the standard for high school wrestling – not just in Minnesota but also in the nation. Following Wasmund and former Eagles' coach, Jim Jackson would take someone willing to step into a program with an impossibly high standard, and it would take someone willing to take the program in a new direction.

"Expectations were definitely high, but I felt like if you were afraid to go after things because you only worried about the potential negative outcomes, you are going to miss out on a lot of great opportunities and experiences, you can't live your life with that type of mindset," Apple Valley head coach Josh Barlage said. "You wouldn't enjoy the process if you were just worried about those things. Those things ran through my head before I took the job. Some good advice that Coach Wasmund gave me was not to get too caught up in the winning and losing – that stuck with me. Obviously, we are striving to win every day, but winning will never be the sole gauge of whether we are successful or not."

Success for Barlage and the Eagles' program comes from winning in a different way than they did in the program's heyday.

View exclusive subscriber content with The Guillotine Subscription. Current subscribers log in.

Changing The Game – Gavin Nelson

By Brian Jerzak

After moving to Wisconsin as a baby, Gavin Nelson put together a stellar youth record wrestling and training in Wisconsin. When he entered junior high, Gavin and his family decided to move back to Minnesota – in part – to try to further Gavin's wrestling career. When Nelson first stepped into the Simley wrestling room as a 7th grader, the coaching staff threw him right in with the varsity. The new Spartans' first practice did not go well.

"My first Simley practice in 7th grade," Nelson said, "I got right into it with all the varsity guys. In my first practice, I threw up so much because I was not ready for that level of practice. Coach (Will) Short got me into shape quickly. I was not ready for that grind, but once I got used to it, it was a huge game-changer for me."

The game changed to the tune of becoming a three-time state place winner, a one-time state champion, and a member of the 2021 U.S. Cadet World Championships team.

Long before entering the Spartans' wrestling room, Nelson was playing youth soccer.

View exclusive subscriber content with The Guillotine Subscription. Current subscribers log in.

High School Class A Preview

Section 1A

Favorites: GMLOS Bulldogs and Kenyon-Wanamingo Knights
Dark Horses: Chatfield Gophers and Goodhue Wildcats

GMLOS Bulldogs
Head Coach: Randy Smith
Three River Conference: 7-2 | Overall: 30-5
The Bulldogs graduated seven very good seniors last spring, including five with 28+ wins. This included six section placewinners, five super section placewinners, and a pair of state medalists. The Bulldogs return six with a great deal of experience, all with 21+ wins, including five section placewinners and a super section placewinner. The Bulldogs should challenge those very good dual meet marks if they stay healthy and they can fill in with some junior varsity. They could move up in the conference standings. Look for steady improvement from this young crew. They are in a good position for section 1A dual meet honors, in what should be a pretty balanced section dual meet campaign. The Bulldogs key leaders should include Cohen Wiste (37-8) 3rd Super Section, Donavon Felton (32-2), James Jacobson (26-13), Braxton Wiste (23-17), Aiden Quintana (23-14), and Christian Luthe (21-13).

View exclusive subscriber content with The Guillotine Subscription. Current subscribers log in.

High School Class AA Preview

Class AA: An Adventure Into the Unknown

A brighter high school wrestling season is upon us in Minnesota. After last year’s shortened schedule and limited postseason, it will be good to get back to full action this winter. With vaccines available for almost all wrestlers and fans, we should expect a normal season with weekend tournaments followed by the full slate of section and state tournaments.

Simley is the defending state champion after beating Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield by a 68-6 score in last year's final. It was the Spartans third straight state title. This year, they return seven state placewinners and are the favorite to win a fourth straight team title this season.

Individually, eight state champions take the mat again this year. Six of those champions will be defending their Class AA titles while one defends a Class AAA title and another hopes to win his first title since 2018. Bennett Berge, a senior from Kasson-Mantorville, returns as a four-time champion. Berge has the opportunity to become only the seventh five-time state champion in state wrestling history. No Class AA wrestler has ever won five state titles. The last Class AA wrestler to win four state titles was Patrick Kennedy from Kasson-Mantorville in 2020. Bennett’s older brother, Brady Berge, also won four titles for the KoMets.

View exclusive subscriber content with The Guillotine Subscription. Current subscribers log in.

High School Class AAA Preview

Section 1

In the re-alignment year, Section 1 sees the departure of Albert Lea to Class AA, and Farmington moves over to Section 2. That leaves Northfield and Owatonna to battle it out for the team title, with Faribault being a dark horse. Northfield returns one state placewinner in eighth-grader Jackson Barron (6th at 106) along with veteran seniors Beau Murphy, Jake Messner, Mason Pagel, and junior Jayce Barron. Owatonna, under new coach Derek Johnson, counters with their two returning medal winners, junior Cael Robb (6th at 120) and senior state champion Landon Johnson (160). Owatonna will also have experienced wrestlers in seniors Kanin Hable, Jacob Reinardy, and Andrew Nirk. Look for this dual to come down to who gets the flip. Rochester Century, Mayo, and John Marshall, along with Winona/Winona Cotter and Austin, round out the Section 1 teams.

View exclusive subscriber content with The Guillotine Subscription. Current subscribers log in.

Volk closing in on his third state title

By Brian Jerzak

The sport of wrestling is synonymous with families. Rarely will you come across a wrestling team where there is not at least one athlete who is a second or third generational wrestler. Lakeville North senior Jore Volk is no different. Before him, his brother and father wrestled, and each helped the younger Volk to the edge of rare high school wrestling territory – a possible third state title.

"My dad wrestled up through college," Volk said. "He wrestled in Lisbon, North Dakota, and then at Valley City College in North Dakota. My brother did the same thing as well. (Gannon Volk) wrestled for Apple Valley and then the University of Minnesota. We are a big wrestling family. They got me involved, and I fell in love with the sport."

The Lakeville North senior was on a wrestling mat before he was able to wrestle officially.

"I was running around in the practice room since I was four years old."

View exclusive subscriber content with The Guillotine Subscription. Current subscribers log in.

Gophers Have A Team Trophy In Their Sights

Minnesota looks forward to having a high-energy team

By Matt Krumrie

The biggest question fans had concerning the 2021-2022 Minnesota Gophers wrestling season was answered in early September when Olympic Gold Medalist Gable Steveson announced plans to return to the Golden Gophers for his senior season. Gopher Nation breathed a collective sigh of relief when this news came out, giving an immediate jolt to a Gophers team that returns plenty of experience, talent, and potential.

While Steveson is the anchor to a team looking to improve on its 7th place finish at the NCAA championships last season, Gophers coaches and wrestling fans know there are several other unique storylines heading into this season.

View exclusive subscriber content with The Guillotine Subscription. Current subscribers log in.