Former head coach to be inducted into high school’s Hall of Fame

Published 10:46 am Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Neal Skaar has been a part of Albert Lea for years. He graduated from Albert Lea High School in 1964, went to Luther College for four years, then came back to Albert Lea to teach at the high school.

After years of hard work and dedication, Skaar will receive the ultimate honor in July — an induction in the Albert Lea wrestling Hall of Fame.

“It means a lot,” Skaar said. “It’s a real honor and extremely gratifying to know that the school you’ve worked at is going to honor you.”

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In his first 70 years of life, Skaar has accomplished much, and has become a pillar around the Albert Lea wrestling program.

He was born on a farm in Hayward and started Albert Lea High School in the fall of 1960.

He didn’t become interested in the sport of wrestling until he was a sophomore.

Neil Skaar as a senior in high school at Albert Lea. - Provided

Neil Skaar as a senior in high school at Albert Lea. – Provided

“I played hockey and baseball and football, even though I wasn’t very good,” Skaar said. “I went out for wrestling my sophomore year, made the team, and well, I had to quit hockey after that.”

Skaar picked up the sport quickly and became one of the best wrestlers in the conference and Minnesota. After high school, he attended Luther College in Iowa and cemented his legacy. He wrestled on a team that won the conference three out of his four years and was named an All-American for three years, only because freshmen weren’t eligible.

While those are incredible accomplishments, it all seemed surreal to Skaar, too.

“I was very naïve,” Skaar said. “I was never heavily recruited in high school and didn’t see myself as an NCAA athlete.”

Once his wrestling days were over, Skaar returned to Albert Lea and taught math and English, and helped out with the wrestling team.

He took over the head coaching duties in 1979, after 11 years as an assistant. He remained in that spot for the next 15 years until Larry Goodnature, who was an assistant under him, took over.

“Asking Larry to come be an assistant coach for me was one of the smartest things I have done,” Skaar said. “We had very different styles of coaching, but it worked well together.”

Now he serves as assistant coach under Goodnature.

Throughout his 15 years as head coach, Skaar saw his boys, Alex and Nate, come through the program. Both Alex and Nate went to live on in their father’s legacy at Luther College, as both were All-Americans, too.

While Albert Lea has had successful teams and individual wrestlers, Skaar has preached that winning isn’t everything, but the process is.

“We teach commitment, focus, and instill the proper attitudes into our wrestlers,” he said. “Our job is to assist the athletes in applying the technique that works best for them. We teach them how to prepare and accomplish goals. Winning is just a byproduct of that.”

It is something that has gotten Skaar far in his life — and it will all culminate this summer.

Being inducted into a school’s hall of fame is something that Skaar is used to, as he is in Luther College’s Hall of Fame. But to be inducted into a school, like Albert Lea, that he has been a part of since the day he stepped his foot in the door as a freshman, is something extra special.

“When I was in high school, Albert Lea would always go to Austin for conference wrestling,” Skaar said. “I remember arriving at the high school and walking the halls, looking at all the people in its Hall of Fame. Reading their biographies, what they accomplished and when, was very cool for me. It was very humbling.”

Come this July, Skaar will enter wrestling immortality. Come this fall, athletes of all kinds will walk the halls of Albert Lea High School, and they will see his name and read his accomplishments with the hopes that someday they will reach the pinnacle, whether at Albert Lea or their respective school.

“It’s very gratifying,” Skaar said. “It’s a great sense of satisfaction to be recognized. It’s awesome.”


Neal Skaar

Age: 70

Address: Hayward

Livelihood: retired teacher and coach

Family: wife, Jean; two daughters and two sons