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‘It means a lot’

Albert Lea wrestling legend to be inducted into hall of fame

After spending 39 years on the side of the mat and earning many milestones and achievements, former Albert Lea wrestling head coach Larry Goodnature will add another accolade to his storied career. 

On April 28, Goodnature will be inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association’s David Bartelma Wrestling Hall of Fame. Goodnature will be inducted along with seven other nominees at an awards banquet in Benson.

“It really means a lot to me,” Goodnature said. “This is one of the most prestigious hall of fames that someone from Minnesota can be named to. It’s voted on by a committee of section reps, coaches and referees, so it means a lot.”

Goodnature was not only a standout coach for the Tigers, he was also a wrestler himself from 1967 to 1971. As a senior, Goodnature won the state title at 145 pounds, while Albert Lea also won the team title. That year, the Tigers set a record for the most team points scored at the state meet, a record that still stands to this day.

During his collegiate career, Goodnature wrestled for Mankato State University, earning three NCAA All-American honors and winning fourth place at 158 pounds in 1973, sixth place at 158 pounds in 1974 and fifth place at 158 pounds in 1976.

Out of college, Goodnature spent three years at Hutchinson as the head coach before moving back to Albert Lea. He would spend 14 years as an assistant for the Tigers before taking over the head coaching position, and would remain there for another 25 years.

Former Albert Lea wrestling head coach Larry Goodnature, right, stands matside next to Paul Durbahn. Durbahn would go on to become Goodnature’s successor as head coach. – Tribune file photo

Over all the years spent matside, Goodnature said there wasn’t one moment that stuck out more than others, but he was proud of all the young men he was able to meet and mentor.

“Of course we all wanted and like to win,” he said. “What I really cared about was taking each wrestler and molding them into young men. Watching them learn life lessons, develop and grow into young men was my goal.”

He credits his successes to all of the people who surrounded him throughout his time as head coach.

“My whole career, I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of a winning program,” Goodnature said. “I’ve had great assistant coaches who were dedicated to Albert Lea wrestling and I had a lot of unbelievably great athletes who believed in the program and what we were trying to do.”

During his tenure with the Tigers, Goodnature’s teams won three Suburban West Conference titles and 10 Big Nine Conference titles. His teams reached the state tournament seven times with four of them making it to the finals. He has coached 142 state entrants, 71 state place winners and eight individual state champions. He has been named Big Nine Coach of the Year 10 times, Section Coach of the Year 14 times and Minnesota Coach of the Year three times — in 2006, 2009 and 2015. His overall coaching record of 546-166 ranks him eighth all-time among Minnesota high school coaches.

After all the years and the milestones, Goodnature stepped down from the head coaching position in summer 2017, but that didn’t mean he was done coaching. He can still be found on the side of the mat at every meet as an assistant to current head coach, Paul Durbahn.

If Durbahn’s first year at the helm is any indication of things to come, it’s clear Goodnature left behind a lasting impact that will be felt for many years to come. Durbahn was named Section Coach of the Year, while the team won the section tournament and qualified five individuals for the state tournament, one of which went on to win the state title.

“It’s just hard to walk away,” Goodnature said. “Wrestling has been a part of my life since the eighth grade. This year’s seniors, I’ve coached their entire high school careers and it was great to see them succeed. It’s great to be a part of the team; we’re all just a big family.”

About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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