Year in review: Albert Lea wrestler wins state title tops year in sports news

Published 8:29 pm Thursday, December 27, 2018

Year 2018 left us many historic sports memories. From the predictable, like the Golden State Warriors winning a third-consecutive NBA title and the Boston Red Sox dominating their way through the MLB for another World Series championship, to the not so predictable — like the Eagles beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback, or the Las Vegas Golden Knights reaching the Stanley Cup finals in their first season of play — 2018 has been a wild year.

Aside from the championships, there have been plenty of individual stand-out moments as well. The University of Maryland-Baltimore County became the first 16-seed to ever beat a 1-seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The University of Loyola-Chicago made an improbable run in the tournament as well, going all the way to the Final Four as an 11-seed.

The United States men’s national soccer team failed to qualify for the World Cup, Lebron James left Cleveland a second time — but of course, the biggest moment of the year for Minnesota sports fans was the Minneapolis Miracle. The improbable game-winning touchdown pass from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs will surely go down as one of the best plays to ever happen in the NFL.

Email newsletter signup

A lot of important sports stories were happening locally, as well. From state and section championships to a legendary coach etching his name into history once again, the year has been filled with great stories highlighting many of the area’s standout athletes. Here is a list of the top 10 moments from the past year:


1. Zach Glazier wins his first state title wrestling for Albert Lea

After qualifying for the state tournament in the past, Albert Lea’s Zach Glazier finally captured the title with a 5-1 victory at 170 pounds as a junior.

Glazier earned his trip to the championship final by defeating rival Kenny O’Neil in the semifinals. O’Neil beat Glazier in the championship match the previous year.

“I wanted to avoid that feeling I had here last year,” Glazier said. “Getting second here last year and feeling bad about myself, I just didn’t want to have that feeling again.”

Glazier earned a takedown late in the first period to take a 2-0 lead into the second. He would start the second period on bottom, where he earned a quick escape and another takedown before the period was over. Just two minutes away from the championship, he would give up just one escape point in the period to claim his first state title.

After the tournament, Glazier was also named to the All-State Academic team and the Class AAA All-Tournament team.

Since the victory, Glazier has continued to dominate through his senior season and has committed to continue his wrestling career at one of the most prestigious wrestling schools in the country: the University of Iowa.

In his senior season, he is unbeaten, already claiming the No. 1 ranking at the 182-pound class, and beat the 2018 state champion.

Also placing at the state tournament were Jake Johnsrud (fourth place), Brody Nielsen (third place) and Gavin Ignaszewski (fifth place).

The Albert Lea team captains hold up their Section 1AAA dual tournament trophy after beating Owatonna in the finals. – Tyler Julson/Albert Lea Tribune

2. Albert Lea wrestling wins section tournament, places 5th at state

Not only was it a good year for Glazier, but it was also a good year for the Albert Lea wrestling program as a whole.

After losing by three points to Owatonna in the regular season, Albert Lea met them again in the finals of the Section 1AAA dual tournament.

Cole Glazier and Cam Davis switched weights for this dual, but came away with the same results. Davis lost by decision, while Glazier won by decision. Nic Cantu grabbed a one-point victory to give Albert Lea a three-point lead.

The Tigers would go on to win the next three matches by a total of four points combined. Johnsrud walked away with a 4-2 decision, Ignaszewski won in a 4-3 decision and Donovan won 1-0 after a third-period escape point.

The flurry of decision matches extended the Tigers lead, but the lack of bonus-point wins felt eerily similar to the way the last meeting between the two played out.

Harms lost a one-point decision, followed by the first bonus-point match of the dual, which came from Brody Nielsen getting the fall in the second period. Freshman Griffin Studier and Kermes would lose their matches, which saw the Huskies inch closer to the Tigers with the score then 21-13.

Then, in what would turn out to be likely the most important match of the dual, Indrelie came out and notched a huge victory. After falling behind in the second period, Indrelie turned the tables and put his opponent on his back, earning the pinfall with just 12 seconds left in the second period.

Valdez would fall in his match, but Zach Glazier would secure the Tigers victory after moving up to 220 pounds and getting a 13-4 major decision. Returning from injury was junior Brady Nielsen, who would get the 5-1 decision win to close out the dual.

At the state tournament, the Tigers went 2-1 to claim fifth place.

In the opening round, they took  a tough loss at the hands of Wilmar, 50-18. The big loss energized the Tigers to come back with a vengeance, beating Minnetonka 50-14 in the consolation semifinals and then Hastings in the fifth-place dual, 40-25.

Keanu Van Kuren waits for a pitch early in the game against Storm Lake this past season. Van Kuren would ground out to end the first inning. – Tyler Julson/Albert Lea Tribune

3. Albert Lea Lakers win Pioneer League title

In just their second season in Albert Lea, the Lakers dominated their way through the Pioneer League and won the championship with a sweep of the Storm Lake Whitecaps.

After a first season that saw the Lakers finish less than .500, expectations were low heading into the 2018 season. However, those expectations were flipped early when Michael Keeran was named head coach of the team and immediately started pulling in top talent from all over the country.

One of those recruits was Ben Madison, who after playing one game for the Lakers was drafted into the major leagues by the San Francisco Giants.

In his one start, Madison pitched six full innings, allowing only one hit and one walk, while striking out 11 batters.

By the end of the season, the Lakers only lost a total of six games and flew through the playoffs and championship series with 4-1 and 13-12 wins.

Keeran has been hired as the new head coach for the Pioneer League rival Bancroft Bandits. Despite the loss of Keeran, expectations for the 2019 season will be substantially higher than ever before.

Lake Mills senior Grant Fjelstad crosses the finish line of the 110-meter hurdles at the Iowa high school state track and field meet. Fjelstad would be crowned the state champion with a time of 14.71. – Lory Groe/For the Albert Lea Tribune

4. Grant Fjelstad claims state title in high hurdles

Lake Mills senior Grant Fjelstad was no stranger to competing at the Iowa state track and field meet, even winning a state championship in 2017 as a member of the shuttle hurdle relay team. However, his 2018 title in the 110-meter high hurdles was his first as an individual.

Fjelstad dominated both his preliminary heat and the finals of the 110-meter hurdles, finishing with a time of 14.71, a new career best in his final race.

“The feeling of crossing the finish line knowing that everything I had been working towards for the last four years had finally paid off was unbelievable,” Fjelstad said. “I still don’t think it has quite sunk in yet.”

His final time of 14.71 beat the rest of the field by nearly a half-second.

“(I was) mainly nervous,” he said. “Knowing that this was my last chance to run as a Bulldog added to the nerves because I wanted to end on a high note. So all I kept telling myself was, ‘Just have a clean run, and whatever happens, happens.’”

Fjelstad signed on to run track and field for Wartburg College to continue his athletic career.

Albert Lea junior JJ Mucha-Owens runs the ball early in a game against Belle-Plaine. Mucha-Owens rushed for three touchdowns in the first half of the 47-6 win. – Tyler Julson/Albert Lea Tribune

5. Albert Lea football wins 2 games, sets program on good path

It had been a rough couple years for the Albert Lea football program before the 2018 season came around. The team seemed to be at the bottom of the standings  at the end of each year and were looked at as an easy win for opposing teams.

However, the Tigers started to turn that notion around in the 2018 season. The Tigers picked up their first win in two years with a dominating 47-6 win over Belle Plaine. They also grabbed their first home playoff win since 2007 by dominating the Wingers of Red Wing, 52-24.

Despite finishing the season with eight losses, Albert Lea was within a touchdown or less in four of those, including just a seven-point loss to state runner-up Fairmont.

“We can play with anybody and we’ve shown that the entire season,” Black said. “When we control the game and execute our game plan, we can hang in with anybody else. We’ve had leads late in ball games against very good teams and were looking for one more opportunity like that and hopefully this time we can hang on.”

There will be a host of Tigers returning from this year’s squad the team will be able to build on in the future, including running back JJ Mucha-Owens, quarterback Logan Howe, wide receiver Koby Hendrickson and lineman Hayden Johnston, among others.

With a continued surge in years to come, the Albert Lea football team will be a force to be reckoned with in the near future.

United South Central senior Colby Klocek catches a pass for a big gain against Bethlehem Academy in the Rebel’s 35-0 win. – Tyler Julson/Albert Lea Tribune

6. United South Central and NRHEG reach state football quarterfinals

Both the United South Central and NRHEG football teams had fantastic years, with each reaching the state quarterfinals in their respective classes.

The Rebels dominated in the regular season, going 8-0 with only one game on their resume that was decided by one touchdown or less. Their run to a Section 2A title was no different, beating Bethlehem Academy 36-20 and Randolph 42-20.

Their run would end in the first round of the Class A state tournament with a loss to Blooming Prairie.

Coming off a 2017 season with a record of 5-5, the tremendous season was a bit of a surprise, but with plenty of returning talent from this year’s team, the Rebels will be ready to make an impact again in 2019.

NRHEG’s Brady Agrimson attempts to shake off two LeSueur-Henderson defenders on a carry. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

The Panthers were also coming off a season which saw them finish with a record of 5-5, and they were also starting the season with a new head coach in Mark Krueger. 

The Panthers lost two games in the regular season, including a 48-6 loss to Waterville-Elysian-Morristown. However, they found a way to reverse that loss after meeting WEM again in the Section 2AAA finals and beating them handily, 46-6.

NRHEG fell to juggernaut Caledonia in the quarterfinals, an opponent who only gave up six points in its entire playoff run.

Longtime Albert Lea wrestling coach Larry Goodnature was selected to be inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association’s David Bartelma Hall of Fame. – Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

7. Albert Lea’s Larry Goodnature inducted into Minnesota Coaches Hall of Fame

It came as no shock to anyone when legendary coach Larry Goodnature of the Albert Lea wrestling team was inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association’s David Bartelma Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Goodnature spent 39 years on the side of the mat, coaching 142 state entrants, 71 state place winners and eight individual state champions. He was voted Big Nine Coach of the Year 10 times and Minnesota Coach of the Year three times. His overall coaching record of 456-166 ranks him eighth all-time among Minnesota high school coaches.

“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 is still with the Albert Lea program as an assistant coach.

“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.

“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.”

Lake Mills senior Gabe Irons controls his opponent from behind in the opening round of the Iowa state wrestling tournament. – Lory Groe/For the Albert Lea Tribune

8. Lake Mills gets third place at Iowa state duals

Capping off a year filled with great wrestling news, the Lake Mills Bulldogs took third place as a team at the Iowa high school state dual tournament.

Lake Mills opened the tournament with a nine-point win over Missouri Valley, 36-27.

In their second dual the Bulldogs took on the No. 1-seed Dons of Don Bosco. The Bulldogs ran into a buzzsaw and fell 42-22.

However, they came back with a vengeance  in the third-place match, defeating the No. 2 seed  Lisbon 46-29.

Gabe Irons, Elijah Wagner, Caiden Jones, Tyler Helgeson, Jack Ramaker and Casey Hanson also competed in the tournament as individuals. Irons was the top place winner, taking third place at 195 pounds.

So far this season, the Bulldogs have been having a solid year and are currently  ranked No. 4 in the state dual ranking.

Albert Lea junior Emma Loch hits a shot from the fairway at the Class AA girls’ state tournament in Jordan. Loch would end the first round of the tournament with a 99. – Tyler Julson/Albert Lea Tribune

9. Alden-Conger, United South Central and Albert Lea golfers make state tournament

Three area golfers competed in the Minnesota state high school girls’ golf tournament in 2018. Albert Lea’s Emma Loch, Alden-Conger’s Annika Riebe and United South Central’s Morgan Pyzick earned their way into the tournament with solid performances in their respective section tournaments.

Alden-Conger’s Annika Riebe tees off on Hole No. 1 during the Class A state girls’ golf tournament at Pebble Creek in Becker. – Zach Stich/Albert Lea Tribune

Loch competed in the Class AA tournament in Jordan, while Pyzick and Riebe golfed at the Class A tournament in Becker. 

Loch finished with a two-round total of 199, earning her a 70th place finish.

Pyzick was the highest finisher of the three at 55th place with a score of 207.

United South Central’s Morgan Pyzick taps in a putt during the first day of the Class A state girls’ golf tournament at Pebble Creek Golf Course in Becker. – Zach Stich/Albert Lea Tribune

Riebe, the youngest of the trio, placed 78th with a final score of 224.

While Pyzick graduated, both Loch and Riebe, now a senior and a junior, repectively, will return and compete to get back to the tournament for a second consecutive year.

United South Central’s Blake Legred wrestles at 126 pounds during the 2018 state quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

10. NRHEG and United South Central wrestlers earn trips to state tournament

United South Central’s Blake Legred was looking for school history during his state tournament run in 2018.

After winning the state title in 2017, Legred would have become the only athlete in United South Central history to become a multi-state champion.

Through the semifinals he had outscored all of his opponents 30-0, until he was beat via decision in the finals 13-9.

However, Legred returns for his senior season in 2018-19 and will undoubtedly have his mind set on reaching his second title.

NRHEG’s Tyler Jacobson wrestles at 170 pounds during the state wrestling tournament quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

NRHEG’s Tyler Jacobson also competed for his shot at wrestling glory.

Jacobson won his first match of the tournament via pinfall in the first period. After nearly pulling off the upset in the second round, he ultimately fell. Again he would nearly pick up a pinfall in his consolation match, but was pinned in the third period, bringing his tournament run to an end.

Jacobson also returned as a senior for the 2018-19 season.


The story about Polly Schiltz’s determination to participate in CrossFit sessions as she battled breast cancer was one of the top read sports stories of the year. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Top 5 sports stories online

The following are the most-clicked on sports stories at from Jan. 1 through Dec. 26:

1. March 3: “Albert Lea’s Glazier is a state champion,” 3,199 pageviews

2. Dec. 14: “Albert Lea AD resignation on board meeting agenda,” 2,960 pageviews

3. Feb. 26: “Prairie Profiles: Ammunition to fight,” 2,405 pageviews

4. Jan. 8: “Fighting out of Albert Lea,” 2,178 pageviews

5. Feb. 17: “Tigers win Section 1AAA dual championship,” 2,069 pageviews