Speaking of Sports

By John Fragodt, Sports Reporter

I was just looking at the 100-win wrestlers in Minnewaska Area school history, and it’s quite an impressive list with 29 wrestlers achieving the milestone, according to my unofficial records.  The top career wrestling list from MAHS can be found on page 3B of this week’s paper and we’ll highlight it again throughout the season.  The list also includes the seven state championships since 1985-86, along with others who have placed second at state.

Tyson Meyer, a three-time state champion in 2019-2021, leads the all-time wins’ list with 224 victories (224-27 overall), while four others have at least 150 career wins — Mason Blair (179-60), Tyler VanLuik (172-19), Craig Cihlar (154-46) and Jacob Bryce (151-35).

Also winning state gold medals over the last 37 years at MAHS are Craig Cihlar and Aaron Erickson (both in 2000), Jacob Bryce (2003) and Jacob Braaten (2011).

I was also typing up some information about last year’s Laker wrestling season when Minnewaska Area finished third overall in the WCC.  United, the combined forces of Montevideo, Lac qui Parle and Dawson-Boyd High Schools, won the WCC title last year with a 5-0 record, followed by Morris Area-CA-Hancock (4-1), Minnewaska Area (3-2), Benson (2-3), Sauk Centre-Melrose Area (1-4) and BOLD-BLHS (0-5).

Although there are only six teams in the WCC for wrestling, there are at least 12 high schools competing in the conference, making for some very good wrestling competition.

It brought back memories of the old District 12A Wrestling Tournament I used to attend in the mid to late 1970s.  I always played basketball in high school, but the district wrestling tournament was always fun to attend.  Although most of the schools in the old District 12A have either folded or combined with others, there was Benson and Kerkhoven, Renville, Sacred Heart, Danube, Maynard, Clara City, Raymond, Murdock, Bird Island, Olivia, Atwater, Grove City and probably even more.  

Over the last few decades, those schools have combined to form BOLD, RCW, MACCRAY, ACGC, KMS and more, but back then, they all competed by themselves and it seemed like every one of them had at least a handful of great wrestlers.

There was no team tournament back then, but instead, the district team title was decided by a point system with individual wrestlers earning points for their teams.  

And, just because you placed high enough at the district tourney didn’t mean you were going to state.  You still had to compete against three other districts within Region 3A to earn a berth at state.  I think District 11A was based mostly around Montevideo, District 10A was mostly around Granite Falls, and District 9A was farther south, including the always-tough Canby.

For sports like basketball, volleyball and baseball, winning a district title was a very big deal back then, but again, you still had to win two more games to earn a state berth.

I remember one boys basketball season in 1976-76, Benson (with Jeff Eckhoff, Jim Long and Ryan Lamppa leading the way) beat its nemesis, Montevideo, in the Region 3A semifinals and most basketball fans around Benson went out and bought their state tickets.  Well, I also remember sitting at home two nights later and listening to the region championship game on radio and Benson got beat, playing possibly its worst game of the year.  The community was devastated.

Of course, now the sub-section and section tourneys have replaced the district and region competitions and instead of one or two classes for each sport, we have more and more classes added each year, including seven for football this season.

Getting back to wrestling, I’ve covered a lot of great athletes at Benson High School (including current senior Thomas Dineen and current coach Scott Thompson) and at KMS High School (including three-time state champion Kevin Steinhaus), but I’ve always respected the Minnewaska Area wrestling program and am looking forward to covering the 2022-23 season for the Lakers.  And, judging by the number of returning wrestlers for Chip Rankin’s team, this should be another great one.