1971 Albert Lea wrestlers romped to title

Published 1:28 pm Saturday, May 22, 2010

The 1966 Albert Lea wrestling team brought home the school’s first wrestling championship and five years later the Tigers showed the state how dominate of a program they had as they established the highest point total ever at the state tournament en route to the school’s second wrestling state title.

This is the fifth article of a series of 11 highlighting the past state championship teams at Albert Lea High School in the weeks leading up to the inaugural induction ceremony of the Albert Lea High School Athletic Hall of Fame. The ceremony will be July 9 at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club where all past state championship teams will be inducted and honored. Former ALHS standout Vinny Cerrato will serve as the keynote speaker.

The 1971 Albert Lea wrestling team crowned two individual champions and five total state place winners. The Tigers wrapped up the state title after the first day at Williams Arena and went on to add a second-place finish and a fourth-place finish to score a state-record 62 points. The nearest team to Albert Lea was Fridley, which scored 28 points.

Email newsletter signup

Junior Tom Jean won the second of his three state championships at 165 pounds and completed his second consecutive undefeated season. Senior Larry Goodnature won a state title in his only state tournament appearance. Senior Mike Jean and juniors Steve Tuveson and Rick Riemann also placed at the state tournament.

Tom Jean defeated Faribault’s Larry Harn 11-2 for the state title and Goodnature beat Caledonia’s Mark Lange, the defending state champion, 5-2 for the title. Riemann took second while Mike Jean and Tuveson placed fourth.

The wrestling room boasted a number of talented wrestlers that year and made for a competitive atmosphere.

“In the practice room we worked hard, but we worked hard because we were competitive kids,” Goodnature said. “Tom Jean and I, I remember many times through the course of practice and the year, we would get in somewhat fist fights because we were so competitive. One would score on the other, we’d push and shove and punch a little bit and the coaches would break us up. It happened a lot in the wrestling room back then. Everyone was so competitive.”

That competitiveness fostered an environment where the wrestlers improved because the competition in practice was great. Goodnature wrestled Tom Jean every day in practice and it helped mold him into a state champion because he faced one of the state’s best every day.

“Back in those days it was quite an accomplishment to get on the varsity,” Goodnature said.

The state had just one class for wrestling in 1971 and Goodnature met Lange that year at the regional meet. The top two advanced to the state tournament and Goodnature beat Lange at Southwest Middle School in front of another capacity crowd.

“Back then, Southwest gymnasium, they used to pack it,” Goodnature said. “It was pretty awesome wrestling back then with the amount of people that came to watch us.”

Beating Lange serves as one of Goodnature’s fondest memories from his high school wrestling career.

As a team the Tigers completed an 18-0-1 season and won a share of the conference title with Faribault after a barn burner at Southwest.

Albert Lea and Faribault shared the conference title after a 21-21 tie in front of a capacity crowd. There were no tiebreakers in dual meets at that time and the match came down to the final three weights.

The Tigers needed to match up Tom Jean with Harn to win the meet, but at that time the home team sent its wrestler out first at every weight. When Albert Lea sent Jean out at 165, the Falcons bumped Harn up a weight. Jean pinned his opponent and Harn his to keep the match tied entering the final weight class.

“When Jean pinned the 165-pounder it was so loud … you couldn’t hear anything,” said Tigers assistant coach Neal Skaar. “Then Harn went on and pinned John Ruud, then it was so loud you couldn’t hear anything.”

Albert Lea sent Neal Barton out at heavyweight and he entered the third period with the match tied 0-0. Faribault’s wrestler got an escape point and the coaching staff thought the match might be over at that point, but Barton got a takedown with a cross ankle pick up to take a 2-1 lead. But the Faribault wrestler came back to earn another escape to tie the match and it ended in a 2-2 tie to leave the dual tied.

“It was like you could hear a pin drop,” Skaar said. “Everybody was confused. Both sides were relieved, I suppose, that they didn’t lose, but they didn’t win either.”

The team ended the dual meet season ranked No. 1 in the state, a position it held the entire season.

During this year’s inaugural hall of fame event for Albert Lea High School, both an induction banquet on July 9 and a best-shot team tournament July 10, will be held at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club. Banquet tickets at $35 and team four-some sign up at $80 per person are available online at hall of fame.

The banquet and golf tournament forms can be printed out, completed online, or sent with checks to: ALHS Athletic Hall of Fame, C/O Education Foundation, P.O. Box 828, Albert Lea, MN 56007.

Banquet and golf registration must be in by June 25.

This fundraiser is established to hopefully reduce the participation fees for student athletes and encourage boys and girls to get involved in ALHS athletic programs.

Related stories

Albert Lea’s 1919 state basketball championship

Albert Lea’s 1970 football state title team

1952 Albert Lea golf state title

1966 Albert Lea wrestling title