By Pat Garry, Staff Writer
It’s time to replace the rakes with the shovels, roll out the mats, and put away the pigskins, as another winter season rapidly approaches. Student athletes are chomping at the bit to get the competition under way, and coaches again look forward to successful journeys.
The 2021-22 season promises to be a highly competitive and fun-filled experience for participants and fans alike. Schedules will be printed in the Tri-County News each week. Full schedules are available for perusal on the individual schools’ websites or by visiting the MSHSL website at www.mshsl.org.
Kimball Girls’ Basketball
The Cubs welcome back seniors Madelyn Hunt, Madison Schmitz, and Ellie Schindele; juniors Hallie Arnold, Kristen Hilbert, Emily Krohn, Ellie Kuechle, Olivia Mortenson, Lexi Myers, Anjellina Schindele, Morgan Streit, and Emma Schmitz; sophomores Vivian Knaus, Brookelyn Kuechle, Allie Leither, Ella Lyrek, Natalie Loehrer, and Ava Molitor; freshmen Ellie Becker, Cheyenne Nyholm, Isabelle Schmitz, Eden Schwartz, Zoe Stuve, Jordyn Theis, Adelle Tubridy, Holly Truenow, Lily VonWahlde, and Samantha Winter. Newcomers interested in playing also will be welcomed to the team.
Last season, the Varsity team took a nice step forward, finishing with an 11-9 record while gaining some valuable playoff experience. This season, the Cubs hope to keep improving and continuing to rise up the ranks in the Central Minnesota Conference and Section 6AA. Senior Madelyn Hunt and juniors Kristen Hilbert and Ellie Kuechle return as All-Conference players from a season ago, and they provide experience and leadership to the team. Senior Madison Schmitz and juniors Hallie Arnold, Olivia Mortenson, and Lexi Myers were key contributors last season as well.
Kimball is coached by Jeremy Kuechle (Varsity) and Joe Stangle (JV), with C-Squad yet to be determined.
Kimball opens up the season with its first game at home, vs Upsala, on Tuesday, Nov. 30.
“We welcome you to come out and cheer on our Kimball teams this season!” urged Coach Kuechle.
Kimball Boys’ Basketball
Returning letter-winners: (seniors) Ty Gustafson, Lucas Jansky, Gabe Becker, Jamison Tubridy, Skylor Gruba, Gavin Loch (12), and Evan Powell (11); newcomers Jed Spaulding (9), Owen Mortenson (9), and Bryant Knaus (9).
Coaching staff includes head coach Jay Klein (16th year at Kimball); assistants Neil Helgeson, Barry Strand, and Jordan Schleper.
“BBE and Eden Valley-Watkins will be the strongest teams in the conference. We hope to be competitive every game. One of our strengths will be experience. We could have good depth if our younger players develop, and we stay injury-free,” said Coach Jay Klein.
Eden Valley-Watkins Boys’ Basketball
Key players lost from last year’s 17-3 team are: Josh Streit, two-time All-CMC Player of the Year Award Winner (Josh is continuing his basketball career at North Dakota State University); Michael Bautch, 2nd-Team All-CMC; Billy Fish, 2nd-Team All-CMC; Jared Geislinger, and Ben Ruhland.
The Eagles return nine players from last season’s Varsity roster: senior Captain Alex Haag, 1st Team All-CMC; senior Captain MaKullen Kleist; junior Captain Myles Dziengel; junior Caden Neiman; junior Tyler Stanwick; junior Eric Bauer; sophomore Nolan Geislinger, 2nd Team All-CMC; sophomore Landon Neiman; and sophomore Noah Stommes.
“We will be a young team with some valuable Varsity game experience to build on from last year. We are very athletic all over the floor, and will have size in the post. After losing one of the best players in the state of Minnesota, Josh Streit, to graduation, we will need to find our identity for this basketball team,” explained Head Coach Jake Anderson.
“Defense will be something we will need to hang our hat on if we expect to compete at a high level, and we will work harder than our opponents every night we step on the floor,” Coach Anderson added.
With the Eagles’ young roster, they must continue to adapt to the speed of the Varsity game. Coach Anderson said that, if they can do that, they have the opportunity to be very successful this season. “We want to be playing our best basketball come playoff time in order to give us the best opportunity to make a deep post-season run,” added Coach Anderson.
Coaches: Head Coach Jake Anderson, second year head coach, 14th year coaching basketball, has been at EV-W for 14 years, worked at Kimball Golf Course the past three summers; JV Coach David Luhman, second year JV coach, seventh year coaching basketball, has been at EV-W for seven years; and C-Squad coach: Chad Korte, first year at EV-W.
Last year, the Kimball wrestlers accomplished something that no other athletic team in Kimball history has ever done. They head into the 2021-22 wrestling season as the defending and reigning Minnesota Class A State Champions! The Cubs have every intention of defending that title heading into this new season, and their line-up on paper is certainly one that can accomplish that task.
Kimball lost some key, senior leadership last season to graduation. Zack Holtz finished as one of the most successful wrestlers in Kimball history, and finished his career with a second-place finish at the state tournament. The Cubs also graduated All-State wrestler Alex Nelson, a key leader on last year’s squad. Rounding out last year’s graduating class are multiple-time state entrants Austin Donnay and Brandon Guggisberg.
The Cubs turn to a very strong senior class to lead this year’s campaign. They are led by last year’s third-place finishers Ashton Hanan and Carter Holtz; both of these young men are poised to be legitimate state champion contenders this season. Ace Meyer, Nick Bowen, Cody Leither, and Lucas Jurek are other seniors with a lot of experience and success. This group leads a talented class of underclassmen as well. That group includes names with a lot of Varsity experience and success like Gavin Winter (two-time all-state), Jack Bollman, Brett Schiefelbein, and Haden Rosenow.
Kimball’s coaching staff is anchored by last year’s Minnesota Head Coach of the Year and Kimball alumnus David Joseph. He is supported by arguably the best coaching staff in the state. Ben Fox is a Kimball alum and was last year’s section 4A assistant coach of the year. Quinten Berres is the all-time winningest wrestler in Kimball history, and he is the Cubs’ only three-time state champion. Marcus Hamer is a Kimball alumnus, four-time All-State wrestler, and collegiate All-American. Jordan Joseph had more than 200 career wins and was a two-time state champion.
The Cubs’ schedule is an exciting one, with match-ups against each of the top five ranked teams in Minnesota. Kimball also will travel to the Rumble on the Red, for the first time in program history. It is a two-day tournament in Fargo, N.D., featuring 1,500 high-caliber athletes (mostly from Minnesota and the Dakotas) all competing for a tournament title. The Cubs’ goals this year are very simple: Conference Champs. Section Champs. State Champs.
Eden Valley-Watkins Wrestling
Coach Dan Berg heads up the Eagles’ wrestling squad. “We are hopeful to have about 25 kids on our roster to start, all in an effort to get them to come out and try wrestling and see if it is something they might benefit from. We bring back everyone from last year except Carter Mathies, who graduated,” said Coach Berg.
The roster includes seniors Teagyn Ludwig, Jackson Geislinger, Gavin Mathies, Rylan Schueller, and Austin Schlangen; juniors Sam Nistler, Gavin Caron, Cyrus Kammermeier, Garrett Albers, and Anthony Albright (who will be out for the year because of an injury from football); sophomores Sonnie DeHeer, Isaac Ortiz, and Cody Kipf; freshmen Jordan Erpelding, Treyce Ludwig, Brayden Kramer, and Thomas Thompson; seventh- and eighth-graders from last year Braiden Magedanz, Ryder Schmidt, and Brody Sieben.
“We are trying to get and recruit more kids from the seventh and eighth grades, to help us in the future, and maybe benefit them in other sports or life,” explained Coach Berg.
With last year being all duals, EV-W ended up 12-32. Berg is hopeful to get the weights filled and compete in a very tough conference with ACGC, BBE, Kimball, and Royalton, along with Holdingford that graduated a few but has some good, young talent coming up.
Section-wise, Kimball is the top dog, with Howard Lake, EV-W, and Sibley-East competing with them. Austin Schlangen was the Eagles’ lone state entrant last year and should be the #1-rated heavyweight coming into this year. EV-W also features Teagyn Ludwig, Gavin Mathies, Sam Nistler, and Treyce Ludwig who made the super-section last year. Jackson and Rylan bring back good experience. Also, Gavin Caron, Sonnie DeHeer, and Isaac Ortiz will all compete for state berths.
“I look forward to this ‘normal’ season, and to watch our team compete and get better so they are ready to go at the end of the year!” declared Coach Berg.
River Lakes Boys’ Hockey
Key returning players are Joel Sowada, Senior Captain – Defense; Sam Zeiher, Senior Captain – Defense; Mason King, Senior Captain – Forward; Jayden Scheierl, Senior Captain – Forward; Jacob Philippi, Junior – Forward; Cole Pientka, Junior – Forward; Bradey Blashko, Junior – Forward. Key players who graduated are Tanner Stanley – Forward, Bennett Bjerke – Forward, Josh Venable – Goalie, and Drew Tangen – Goalie.
The Stars return 11 Varsity players from last season. They were very young last year, and were able to play a lot of different kids. Forward depth is going to be a strength of the team. At forward is the leading scorer from a year ago, Jacob Philippi. Also, River Lakes returns seven of their top nine forwards from a year ago. They return three of their top four defensemen: Joel Sowada, Bennett Schultz, and Sam Zeiher.
“We also bring up a talented group of Bantam players who will push for Varsity spots. We did graduate two excellent goaltenders – Josh Venable and Drew Tangen. Their roles will be filled by Carson Cronquist and Ashton Fischer. We are excited with the players we have coming back, as well as some young, skilled players who are eager to make their marks on our program,” said Head Coach Zach Johnson. Coach Johnson is a 2006 River Lakes alum, and is entering his third season as skipper, with a record of 18-17-3. He is assisted by Alex Naujokas, Mike Bailey, and Mark Johnson.
River Lakes Girls’ Hockey
The Lady Stars are a very young team this season, flanked with a few, key returners. RL graduated seven seniors following last year’s campaign, all of whom played special roles on the team. But there are a lot of new girls coming aboard to help fill those roles. The notable returners include the Roeske sisters (Kianna and Kaydence), Paige Blattner, Sophia Hess, Brielle Cremers, and Jordyn Bebus.
Coaches are Alexis Klatt, Kyle Curran, Shane Kunde, Bryce Savage. “Last year our goal was to put River Lakes on the map. We made it to the tournament. This year we want to grow off of our success and build off of it!” says Head Coach Alexis Klatt.