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Winter Sports Preview | Sports | hometownsource.com

Winter sports in Milaca and Princeton are full speed ahead. This preview provides a quick look at the teams and athletes and offers an inside perspective of where they might finish their seasons.

Milaca Wrestling

On paper, it appears this season could be one of reconstruction for Milaca wrestling.

They return without four of their top wrestlers from 2017, Zach Salgren, Gage-Thomas Ferry, Jon Hall and Craig Santema, and the latter three were state qualifiers.


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The 2018-19 Milaca wrestling team.

The 2018-19 Milaca wrestling team.

“It’s a tough thing to come back from, but I think we’ve got a good group coming back,” Milaca coach Mitch Vedders said.

Only three upperclassmen with regular varsity experience remain, Garrett Hall, Ian Hanson and Ben Hanson, each taking up a role as team captain.

“They’re gonna be guys that we look to for sure,” Vedders said.

Hall, a junior, nearly earned the Wolves a fourth spot at the state meet last season, losing a heartbreaker in the final second of his Class 2A Section 6 true-second match at 132 pounds. The 2018-19 season gives him a chance to avenge the loss and possibly get back to state. He is also Milaca’s active leader in wins with the help of a 22-14 season last year.

Ian Hanson was voted the hardest-working Wolf in the wrestling room last year, finishing 23-17 in his first full-time stint in the varsity lineup. Meanwhile, Ben Hanson is hoping to improve on a 9-27 season as Milaca’s lone senior.

What will likely decide the team’s success this season, however, will be the development from the sophomore class Vedders said.

Sophomore Bodee Zens is one of those top sophomores who could take a big step. As a freshman at 182 pounds he finished with a team-best record among returning Wolves, 24-15.

Heavyweight Brody Ash will also fill the spot of heavyweight for the third-consecutive season and there are at least seven other sophomores or younger set to battle on varsity.

“It’s a young team, but the guys we have don’t like to lose. “We might be a little more athletic than we have been in recent years. Our sophomore class, whether they’re ready or not, they got to be the guys to improve. We know our juniors and seniors, those guys are ready for this level and they are ready to be 20-30 match-win kind of guys. It’s time for our sophomores to turn the tide from losing seasons to winning seasons and winning seasons to 20 to 30 match-win seasons,” Vedders said.

And if the team gets better Vedders believes they could be a dark horse to take the section.

“This group can make it to the state tournament. We can surprise people. I don’t want to say we’re a powerhouse by any means, but if they grow throughout the year they have potential.”

Grand Rapids begins the season as the top-ranked team in the section, No. 10 in Class 2A, according The Guillotine, while Mora and Princeton are both ranked inside the top-20.

Milaca wrestling Schedule

Dec 1    Litchfield Invitational 9 AM

Dec 6     Pine City (A) 6 PM     

Dec 14    Foley (H) 6 PM     

Dec 18    Hibbing Triangular (A) 5 PM     

Dec 20    Pierz Healy (A) 6 PM

Jan 4    Zimmerman (H) 6 PM

Jan 5    Foley Invite (A) 10 AM     

Jan 8    Little Falls Triangular (A) 5 PM    

Jan 11    Paynesville Tourn. (A) 4 PM     

Jan 15    Ogilvie Quad (A) 5 PM     

Jan 17    Albany Triangular (A) 5 PM     

Jan 18    North Branch Invit. (A) 5 PM     

Jan 22    Princeton (H) 6 PM      

Jan 24    Mora (A) 6 PM    

Jan 29    Triangular (H) 5 PM     

Jan 31    Grand Rapids Tri. (A) 5 PM

Feb 15    Section Team (H) 6 PM

Union-Times

2017-18 Season Results: 13-15 (7-7, 5th in Granite Ridge); Lost to St. Cloud Cathedral in second round of Class 2A Section 6.

The Milaca girls’ basketball team has a lot of new players ready to take the varsity court for the first time, this winter, after more than half of last year’s squad graduated in the spring.


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The 2018-19 Milaca girls basketball team.

The 2018-19 Milaca girls basketball team.

Kate Manoleff, Abby Forker, Ellie Banks, Vanessa Deerberg, Kendall Rensenbrink and Erika Maalis graduated, leaving just four players on the roster from last year’s varsity rotation. The latter four players were four of Milaca’s top-five scorers during from 2017-18, too.

“It’s going to be interesting. I mean we have talent it’s just whether they can step up,” Milaca coach Cory Ploeger said of his new look team.

Carryovers from last year are a group of experienced ball-handlers Jalen Taylor, Jerica Ploeger, Emylee Kohlgraf and Miranda Broberg which will likely change the usual Milaca offense from its usual post-up inside power offense and instead rely on perimeter speed.

“We’re gonna have to go quick. It will be more transition,” Ploeger said. “We’re fast quick and a lot of these girls are smart and take care of the ball.”

Broberg will likely be at the center of it. The junior was the team’s leading scorer, last season, averaging 10.9 points-per-game.

“She needs to step up again and even get better than last season. She is a gamechanger,” Ploeger said.

The returning cast will begin in the starting lineup, with the fifth spot up for grabs amongst five players with just three career shots taken during varsity action.

Joining the fold are Elizabeth Danilyuk, Madison Van Donsel, Jackie Kragt, Grace Gerking and Olivia Westling.

“We’re going to try and hit our stride and just grow every game — try to adjust.,” Milaca coach Cory Ploeger said. “There are going to be growing pains, hopefully we just got to get through them.”

Ploeger says once they get threw likely early-season struggle they could find themselves near the front of the conference.

“We can compete for the conference if we play well, take care of the ball and play good defense,” Ploeger said.

It will be a tough road to the top. Last year’s champion, Zimmerman, returns senior Alyssa Daugerty, who is closing in on 2,000 points. Ploeger says St. Cloud Cathedral returns nearly everyone from last season and will likely be a big section threat as well, along with No.2-2A Sauk Center and No.6-2A Rush City.

Milaca girls basketball Schedule

12/4      Aitkin (H) 7:15 PM

12/6      Maple Lake (H) 7:15 PM

12/11    Albany (H) 7:15 PM

12/14    St. Cloud Cathedral (A) 7:15 PM

12/20    Mora (A) 7:15 PM

12/27    Kimball Tourn. 6 PM

1/8       Zimmerman (H) 7:15 PM

1/15    Royalton (H) 7:15 PM

1/22    Becker (A) 7:15 PM

1/24    Rush City (A) 7:15 PM

1/31    St. Cloud Cathedral (H) 7:15 PM

2/1      Braham (H) 7:15 PM

2/5      Mora (H) 7:15 PM

2/7      Kimball Area (H) 7:15 PM

2/8      Zimmerman (A) 5:45 PM

2/14    Foley (A) 7:15 PM

2/19    Little Falls (A) 7:15 PM

2/21    Holdingford (H) 7:15 PM

2/22    Becker (H) 7:15 PM

Union-Times

2017-18 Results: 8-19 (2-12, 8th in Granite Ridge); Lost in first round of Class 2A Section 6 to Melrose.

Milaca boys’ basketball has a new coach at the helm, this winter.

Long-time leader Doug Reetz resigned after his second stint with the team, last March, making for Class of 2015 Milaca alumnus Bennet Lerud.

“It has been exciting,” Lerud said. “For a lot of [the players] I might be their third coach in four years, so it’s always tough getting a new message constantly, but they are doing a good job of picking up on it and kind of buying-in to the style and what we want to play.”


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The 2018-19 Milaca boys basketball team.

The 2018-19 Milaca boys basketball team.

Lerud hopes to eliminate tough mid-range jumpers and move the team towards a more efficient NBA-adopted offense with an attempted mix of three-point shots and easy two-point lay-ups.

He also wants to employ a high-tempo offense that gets down the floor in transition.

“I think it will be a lot quicker pace. I know Reetz played fairly quick last year, but this will be another level. I think we have the horses to do it.”

The team lost two of their offensive stalwarts from 2017-18, as center Dylan Ash (10.3 PPG and 9.8 RPG) and guard Peyton Rothanburg (10.4 PPG, 4.4 APG) graduated, but this season’s depth could cover the gaps.

Milaca has nine seniors ready to take on a varsity role, including last year’s team-MVP and All-Conference Honorable Mention recipient, Cade Sorensen.

Sorensen scored 14 points and 6.8 rebounds per-game last season and Lerud thinks he is only going to get better, adding a three-point shot to his repertoire.

Seniors Jake Mach (7.0 PPG, 3.3 APG) and Louis Rudolph-Munson (6.4 PPG, 1.2 APG) return after starting in the back-court last year and several of the role players, Joe Berg, Joseph Rosenberg and last year’s “most improved player” Steven Worth could see their roles expand.

Not mentioned yet is 2017-18 Defensive MVP, Logan Molacek and new-to-the rotation point guard Jack Berg could be first off the bench.

Lerud says sophomore guard Trey Hardy has also impressed in practices early, giving the Wolves a lot of options in the backcourt.

“There is going to be a lot competition in the gym,” Lerud said. We are probably going to play at least 10 guys deep this season.”

The depth of talent and change in philosophy seems to have the players excited and Mach is planning to experience a lot more winning this year.

[We want to] go .500 and win two playoff games, at least,” Mach said. We are closer as a team. Everybody on the team, I think, is going to know their role and want to play it.” Overall, we kind of just have a little bit of everything.”

Melrose Area and St. Cloud Cathedral pose the biggest threats towards thwarting the goal. Melrose is ranked No. 7 in the Class 2A Preseason Poll by Minnesota Basketball News and returns 10 seniors. Cathedral is coming off of an undefeated conference season and back-to-back trips to the state tournament. Their scoring leader in the tournament last year, Mitchell Plombon (17 PPG in two games at state) has graduated, but two other scorers, Nick Schaefer and Jackson Baustian-Jangula, are back for their senior seasons to shoulder the load.

Milaca boys basketball Schedule

12/4    Braham (A) 7:15 PM

12/6    Hinckley-Finlayson (A) 7:15 PM

12/13    Pine City (H) 7: 15 PM

12/18    Foley (H) 7:15 PM

12/21    Zimmerman (H) 7:15 PM

12/28    North Branch (A) 7:15 PM

1/3    Annandale (H) 7 PM

1/8    Kimball (A) 7: 15 PM

1/10    St. Cloud Cathedral (A) 7:15 PM

1/15    Becker (A) 7:15 PM

1/29    Mora (A) 7:15 PM

2/1    Foley (A) 7:15 PM

2/5    Aitkin (A) 7:15 PM

2/8    Zimmerman (A) 7:15 PM

2/12    St. Cloud Cathedral (H) 7:15 PM

2/14    Becker (H) 7:15 PM

2/19    Albany (A) 7:15 PM

2/21    Little Falls (A) 7:15 PM

2/26    Rush City (H) 7:15 PM

3/1    Mora (H) 7:15 PM

Union-Times

2017-18 Results: 20-8 (10-3, 2nd in Mississippi 8); Lost to Cloquet in Class 3A Section 7 semifinals.

Last season ended in unexpected heartbreak for the Princeton boys’ basketball team.


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The 2018-19 Princeton boys basketball team.

The 2018-19 Princeton boys basketball team.

It cruised through the regular season, amassing a 19-7 record, the program’s best in over 20 years, came within one game of winning the Mississippi 8 Conference and was the runaway favorite to make state after going 7-0 against Class 3A Section 7 opponents during the season, including an 83-54 win over No. 2 seed Hibbing.

Everything went to plan initially in the section tournament as the Tigers topped Chisago Lakes easily, 91-59 in the quarterfinals, but in the semifinal Cloquet stunned the Tigers with a second-half comeback and 86-83 victory to cut Princeton’s season.

The Tigers are section favorites once again, this season and they seem determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.

“All of us were on some sort of training or AAU [team], just trying to get ready for this year because we knew we had a lot of potential,” Princeton shooting guard Adam Williams said. “We are a totally different team We are going to be mentally focused throughout the games and we’re not just going to skip past section [semifinal] and section final to state.”

Williams will likely be a main cog if Princeton gets a chance to avenge their defeat. He is one piece of Princeton’s All-Conference trio.

Williams, point guard James Flicek and Center Jon Stimmler combined for just over 63 percent of all points scored by the Tigers last season and all three return for their senior season to form the engine of a high-powered offense.

“We expect them to score in double-digits most nights,” Coach Brett Cloutier said. “We’ll get up and score in the eighties.”

Supplementing Flicek, Williams and Stimmler will be the deepest team Cloutier says he has ever coached.

“We are just excited that we can stretch the bench to 10 or 11 guys if needed if we run into injuries foul trouble or other things that can happen throughout the course of the season,” Cloutier said. “We’ve got the guys we can plug in to pick up the slack at both ends of the court.”

Transfer student Reilly O’Neil could provide the Tigers with even more offensive firepower. He averaged 13.4 points-per-game for Norwood-Young America last season.

“Six-foot-four-, six-foot-five-inch wing, he can shoot it, he can drive it, he can post up, so he adds another dimension to our offense,” Cloutier said.

Williams says he is impressed by how much three-point sharpshooter Calvin Peterson has improved.

All-purpose guard Tate Laabs is back after averaging six rebounds per game, last season, providing lock down defense, and a strong dribble-drive to handle the back-up point guard duties.

And varsity first-years Cody Miller and Haydn Stay provide size and athleticism when Stimmler needs a rest.

The team’s depth, talent and improvement hasn’t just excited the team. The state is starting to take notice, too. In the first preseason basketball poll, Minnesota Basketball News ranked Princeton as the No. 2 team in Class 3A.

 “It’s a testament to the work the guys have put in all the way through from the guys who have graduated and the guys who are still in the program,” Cloutier said. “Now with that said, It’s better to be ranked highly at the end of the year compared to the beginning of the year, but it’s nice to see these players get the respect they deserve.”

Princeton boys basketball Schedule

11/30    Sauk Rap.-Rice 7:15 PM (H)

12/4    Delano 7 PM (A)

12/7    Fergus Falls 7:15 PM (H)

12/14    Cloquet 7:15 PM (A)

12/21    Col. Heights 7:15 PM (A)

12/28    Rocori 4 PM SCSU

12/29    Forest Lake 4 PM SCSU

1/4    Zimmerman 7 PM (A)

1/8    Big Lake 7:15 PM (H)

1/11    North Branch 7:15 PM (A)

1/15    Cambridge-Isanti 7:15 PM (H)

1/17    Buffalo 7:15 PM (A)

1/25    Chisago Lakes 7:15 PM (A)

1/26    Duluth Denfeld 1 PM (H)

1/29    Saint Francis 7:15 PM (H)

2/2    Grand Rapids 2 PM (H)

2/5    Rogers High 7:15 PM (A)

2/12    Hermantown 7:15 PM (A)

2/14    Chisago Lakes 7:15 PM (H)

2/16    Hibbing 1PM (H)

2/22    North Branch 7:15 PM (H)

2/26    Saint Francis 7:15 PM (A)

3/5    Playoffs 7 PM (H)

3/14    Playoffs 7:00PM Cloquet

3/20    State Tourn. Target Center

Union-Times

2017-18 Results: 12-15, (5-8, 7th in Mississippi 8); Lost to Chisago Lakes in first round of Class 3A Section 7.

Over his first four seasons at the helm of the Princeton girls’ basketball team, Head Coach Erik Jacobs has employed an offense which largely moved the ball around the perimeter, trying to get open shots for Julia Bjurman, one of the program’s best shooters and the fifth-highest scoring Tiger ever, but with Bjurman moving on to the University of St. Thomas and guard Reilee Schepper, moving on as well, the team’s strengths shifted to the inside, providing a whole new look to the Tigers.


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The 2018-19 Princeton girls basketball team.

The 2018-19 Princeton girls basketball team.

Excluding point guard and University of Mary-commit Mady Shafer, arguably Princeton’s next six most accomplished varsity players have primarily played in the post.

“It’s going to be a lot different. We are a lot deeper at the post position than we have ever been,” Shafer said. “The offense is going to look totally different. It’s completely changed from anything we have run before.”

In order to create space in the key, Jacobs hopes to run out in transition with his athletic lengthy bigs, ideally making post-entry passes easier and getting high-quality looks from their best scorers.

“Joanna Kostanshek, Lauren Bjurman, Gabbrielle Bekius and Sydney Hill have all been really strong inside players so we’re going to see if we can come up with as many creative ways to get them the ball,” Jacobs said.

The team’s first unveiling of the changes worked well as Princeton picked up its first win over three-time defending section champion Grand Rapids, since 2015, and shot 61 percent from the field as a team, a mark they didn’t reach all of last season. They also had five players score nine points or more.

On the other end of the court, the Tigers length has Jacobs excited.

“I have a lot of high hopes for us defensively, especially rebounding the ball. That hasn’t been a strong point of arms. Last year I think we did a better job, but this year we might be even better than that,” Jacobs said. I think we have a lot of length to impact shots, but then also finish possessions with rebounds, which will lead to our transition stuff.

“I really do think we’re a top-half-of-the-section team. I think we should compete for a home game and I think it’s wide open.

The Mississippi 8 Conference is almost certainly less so. St. Michael-Albertville went undefeated in conference last season and they come into the 2018-19 season ranked sixth in Class 4A by Minnesota Basketball News.

Princeton girls basketball Schedule

12/4    Delano (H) 7:15 PM

12/7    Hibbing (H) 5:45 PM

12/13    Sauk Rapids-Rice (A) 7:15 PM

12/15    Bemidji (A) 2:30 PM

12/18    Saint Francis (H) 7:15 PM

12/21    Duluth East (A) 7 PM

12/27    Monti Tourn (A) 2 PM

12/28    Monti Tourn (A) 12:30 PM

1/3    Zimmerman (A) 7 PM

1/4    Cambridge-Isanti (H) 7:15 PM

1/8    Big Lake (A) 7:15 PM

1/10    North Branch (H) 7:15 PM

1/15    Cambridge-Isanti (A) 7:15 PM

1/18    Buffalo (H) 7:15 PM

1/25    Chisago Lakes (A) 5:45 PM

2/1    STMA (A) 7:15 PM

2/8    Sartell (A) 7:15 PM

2/14    Chisago Lakes (H) 5:45 PM

2/22    North Branch (A) 7:15 PM

2/26    Section (H) 7 PM

3/2    Section (H) 7 PM

3/7    Section Duluth. Den. 7 PM

3/12    State Target Center TBD

Princeton boys hockey team

Union-Times

2017-18 Results: 10-15-1 (3-8, 7th in M8); Lost in first round of Class 1A Section 5 to Chisago Lakes.

The Princeton boys’ hockey team opened up its season, last Tuesday, Nov. 27 with a 9-4 victory over Mora.

They were trailing, 4-2, with 21 minutes left to play until a seven-goal barrage began.


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The 2018-19 Princeton boys hockey team.

The 2018-19 Princeton boys hockey team.

“It was a really good first game,” Princeton coach Todd Frederick said. It took us awhile to get going, but I think we tired [Mora] out.”

That first game could provide the snapshot for what makes Princeton hockey so dangerous this season. Frederick says it’s the deepest team he has had in a while and they could just overwhelm teams with options even farther back than four lines of skaters.

“We’ve had a really good first couple weeks of practice. We return a lot of leadership and a bunch of skilled sophomores…You’ll see a lot of lineup changes.,” Frederick said. “I think we can do a little bit of everything.”

What they may be best at, this season, is getting the puck in the back of the net. The front line of Carter Flor, Matt Swanson and Jack Southard combined to score 40 goals last season. Swanson was a part-time defenseman then and Southard already scored four times against Mora. Flor added a hat trick of his own, too.

On top of that, Fredrick says is second line of forwards, Tyler Danielson, Dylan Cook and Carter Huber, is just as good.

“We are pushing the compete level,” Frederick said. “We have two top lines that can go out and score.”

While they have the potential to overwhelm teams offensively, Frederick’s “number one priority” is defense.

Hunter Burian will be the primary goaltender coming off a season in which he stopped 89 percent of shots in 17 games. And team captains Cade Wyluda and Michael Pazdernik will provide him steady support from the blue line along with Ray Anderson and Logan Engelkens.

The all-around versatility of the bunch has Frederick thinking big in the Mississippi 8.

“Monticello-Maple Lake, Rogers and Buffalo are going to be really good, but I’m hoping to include us in the top three or four.

Princeton has finished fourth or better in the conference once since 2014.

Monticello-Maple Lake will likely be the toughest competition in Class 1A Section 5 as well, but Princeton will quickly find out where they stand when the two teams meet on Tuesday Dec. 4 (after deadline).

“It’s going to be extremely important for us to lock down a win there,” Frederick said.

The Moose have won four out of the last five meetings.

Princeton boys hockey Schedule

11/27    Mora (A) 7 PM

11/29    Hutchinson (H) 7 PM

12/13    Pequot Lakes (H) 7 PM

12/22    Two Harbors (H) 2 PM

12/29    Marshall Tourn (A) Noon

12/31    Marshall Tourn (A) TBD

1/1    Marshall Tourn (A) TBD

1/5    Sauk Rapids-Rice (H) 2 PM

1/10    Chisago Lakes (A) 7 PM

1/17    Cambridge-Isanti (A) 7 PM

1/19    Saint Francis (H) 7 PM

1/24    Buffalo (A) 7 PM

1/31    Breck (H) 7 PM

2/2    STMA (H) 7 PM

2/5    Pine City (A) 7 PM

2/7    Monticello (H) 7 PM

2/9    North Branch (A) 7 PM

2/12    Little Falls (A) 7:15 PM

2/19    Sections  High Seed 7 PM

2/21    Sections High Seed 7 PM

2/23    Sections High Seed TBD

2/28    Section Final, Elk River 7 PM

3/6/19    State, Xcel 7 PM

2017-18 Results: 0-9 in Mississippi 8.

Battling in one of the toughest gymnastics conferences in the state, the win-loss record for Princeton gymnastics did not reflect how successful it really was last winter. They were less than one-half point from having the best meet in program history.


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The 2018-19 Princeton girls gymnastics team.



The 2018-19 Princeton girls gymnastics team.

Last February, the Tigers finished a dual meet versus St. Michael-Albertville with an overall team score of 132.775, coming within 0.375 points of shattering a school record that has stood for 24 years, and now they are back to break it.

Laci Leverty will likely lead the team as their top gymnast after a stellar eighth-grade year.

In her first season competing at the varsity level, Leverty set the school-record in the floor exercise routine (9.35), consistently finished as the Tigers best all-around performer and came within one-tenth of a point from becoming the first state-qualifying gymnast for the program in 20 years when she scored 9.3 during her floor exercise at the Class 1A Section 7 Championships.

“I think she could very well by the end of the season get back to where she was and we’ll see what it holds for her,” third-year coach Jennine Martindale said.

Martindale also says sophomore Sydney Christenson might have a state chance, too, giving Princeton a formidable duo in every event. Before suffering an injury late in the season, Christenson had been the team’s second-best all-around performer and sparked last year’s best team score with her best individual performance as well. She won’t be able to help the team right away, after another injury hit this offseason, but she’ll likely return around New Year’s Day, Martindale says.

That’s when much of the remaining cast hopes to hit their stride anyway as a young core polishes the basics.

“We have a lot of new seventh-graders, so it’s just getting all the new routines figured out,” Martindale said. “The first half of the season will be just about seeing what we’ve got and where we fall, but I’m excited.”

Providing leadership will be Gracyn Bekius. Bekius tore her ACL two years ago and dealt with the after-effects of it last season before returning with a new confidence for her varsity year.

Junior Briana Dokken and sophomore Charlotte Murphy return with multiple years of varsity experience as steady contributors in every event.

Melanie Clark plans to be a major contributor on vault, following the departure of last season’s two best Tigers in the discipline, Lily Opay and Millie Anderson, and freshman Makayla Olson could be one of the team’s best at the floor exercise.

The conference looks stout once again this season and Martindale says even if the team breaks the school record it will be very hard to earn a dual meet victory.

Five Mississippi 8 schools finished 2017-18 ranked inside the top-20 of their competing class. Cambridge-Isanti hasn’t lost a dual meet in three seasons and Martindale figures them to be top dogs again.

Princeton girls gymnastics Schedule

12/6    Chisago Lakes 6:30 PM

12/8    Elk River Invite Noon

12/13    Monticello (A) 6:30 PM

12/20    Saint Francis (H) 6:30 PM

1/3    Cambridge-Isanti (H) 6:30 PM

1/5    Princeton Invite 12:15 PM

1/10    Buffalo (A) 6:30 PM

1/12    Farmington Invite 11 AM

1/17    North Branch (A) 6:30 PM

1/24    Big Lake (H) 6:30 PM

1/26    Cambridge-Isanti Invite Noon

1/31    STMA (A) 6:30 PM

2/4    Rogers High (H) 6:30 PM

2/8    JV Meet-St. Francis 6 PM

Union-Times

2017-18 Results: 14-10; Lost in Class 2A Section 7 final to Grand Rapids.

There are few teams across the state of Minnesota that, on paper, can compete with the lower weight classes of Princeton wrestling team this season.

Landen Parent, Zach Wells and Kyle Boeke return as a trio of state-experienced sophomores, who could lay the foundation for one of the program’s best seasons ever.


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The 2018-19 Princeton wrestling team.

The 2018-19 Princeton wrestling team.

Parent made it all the way to the individual state finals last season, nearly becoming Princeton’s first state champions since 2009 and claiming season-records for wins, 41, and pins, 24, in the process.

Now he’s back, currently ranked at the No. 1 wrestler in Class 2A at 106 pounds by The Guillotine, ready to improve to the top spot at likely either the 113-poud weight class or 120-pound class.

Wells finished with 38 wins and only seven losses last season, pushing himself to his first state tournament berth and securing one win against the elite field. He currently ranks 10th at 126 pounds, according to The Guillotine.

Meanwhile, Boeke had a much more trying time, last year.

He placed fifth at 106 pounds in the state tournament, two years ago, but just weeks before his upcoming freshman year of wrestling Boeke tore his Patellar tendon, in an ATV accident.

He was forced to miss the entire high school season, nearly making it back in time for sections, but returned during the offseason to win MN Cadet State Championships at 126 pounds in the Greco-Roman, Freestyle and Folk style, last May.

Around them, proven varsity brothers Parker and Kaleb Adkins, give Princeton nearly half of lineup that could be untouchable for most teams this season.

At the middle weights will be a young, but experienced core of Malachi Kolhoff, Braden Nienaber, and Josh and Zach Marshall.

The upper weights looked initially like they would be a weakness as perennial state-qualifying heavy-weight graduated with the third-most wins in program history last season, along with teammates Justin Zahner, Avery Jorgensen, Josh Fuller and Jacob Chase, all of which regularly started for the varsity team at 152 pounds or higher. However, Coach Brian Hellman has seen strong improvement from likely 220-pound wrestler Dane Haubenchild, third-year wrestler Kyle Zimmerman and new heavyweight Luke Chase, who was an All-Conference lineman for Princeton football in fall.

“I like how we’re sitting,” Hellman said. “We’re spread out across the weights well.”

Coach Hellman is so enthused he thinks this could be the team that finally brings the program a section championship.

 “I know we are making a big push, maybe working a little bit harder than they normally would because their expectations are so high,” Hellman said. The confidence is there. You can see it when you watch them compete in practice. It’s whether we get the team part of it, saying “Hey, I’m going to wrestle for my buddy. I’m not going to go out here and just beat this kid, I’m going to go pin him ‘cause I need the team points for my team.” And once everyone has bought into that things are going to really snap here.”

Standing in Princeton’s will likely be strong Mora team that beat them during a dual over the summer, a two-time defending section champ Grand Rapids, currently ranked No. 10 by The Guillotine, and Milaca, who lost a one-point thriller to Princeton during sections last season.

Princeton wrestling Schedule

12/1    Lakeville North Tourn (A) 9 AM

12/6    North Branch Tri (A) 5:30 PM

12/7    Mora Tri (A) 4 PM

12/8    Andover Tourn. (A) 10 AM

12/13    Rogers/Zimmerman Tri (H) 5 PM

12/20    Cambridge-Isanti (H) 6 PM

12/21    Quadrangular (H) 5 PM

12/28     Rogers Invite (A) 8 AM

1/10    Chisago Lakes (H) 6 PM

1/12    Elk River Invite (A) 9 AM

1/17    Saint Francis (A) 6 PM

1/19    Saint Croix Falls Invite (A) 10 AM

1/22     Milaca (A) 6 PM

1/22     Milaca (A) 7:15 PM

1/25     Conf at Cambridge (A) 2 PM

1/31     Monticello Quad (A) 5 PM

2/1     Conf Championship (H) 6 PM

2/9    JV Conf/North Branch (A) 9:30 AM

2/12    Team Sections (H) 5 PM

2/15    Section Team/Milaca (A) 5 PM

2/22    Section Indiv./Hibbing (A) TBD

2/23    Section Indiv./Hibbing (A) TBD

2/28    State Tourn Xcel TBD

2017-18 Results: Fourth in Class 1A Section 3.

Two of the most successful competitors in Princeton boys’ swimming, Wyatt Lawrence and Ryan Kreft, with eight years of making the state tournament, graduated last season, but their move has by no means left the cupboard bare.

“I’m actually really looking forward to this year,” Princeton coach Lindsy Paurus said.


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The 2018-19 Princeton swimming and diving team.

The 2018-19 Princeton swimming and diving team.

Instead, the Tigers return 11 swimmers who competed in the section meet last season, looking for improvement across the board and led by another duo of state swimmers from last winter.

Wade Lawrence finished as the 15th-fastest swimmer in the Class 1A 100-yard backstroke last season and Connor Metsala returns as the team’s fastest freestyler after competing as a part of the 17th-placed 400-yard freestyle relay team at state. Wade was also on the team.

Paurus believes all three relays could have a shot at state this year, and possibly even the entire team, given the depth she sees, especially in freestyles.

“We don’t have as many of our studs, but we’re so strong team-wise,” Paurus said. “Not as much is possible when you have three or four really good ones compared to when you have 10 strong ones.

Alongside Lawrence and Metsala, Paurus named at least six swimmers, who can push each other to put the best foursome on the starting block just in freestyle, Ben Lawrence, Bryan Baumunk, Tony McNiff, Cam Metsala, Ethan Knudson and David Lange.

“We have, not just the depth, but the drive. They actually really want to do well,” Paurus said.

Paurus says the talent is so well spread out that they could even make a sneaky team run to state.

“I want to win sections so bad…Hutchinson is really good, but maybe they won’t see us coming then,” Paurus said.

Meanwhile, Paurus said St. Michal-Albertville is the Mississippi 8 favorite for its last season, but the Tigers should find themselves in the top half.

Princeton swimming & diving Schedule

12/6     Buffalo Conf Relays (A) 5 PM

12/13    Chisago Lakes (A) 6 PM

12/20    Orono (H) 6 PM

1/3    Buffalo (A) 6 PM

1/11    Fargo North (H) 6 PM

1/17    Monticello (H) 6 PM

1/24    Cambridge-Isanti (A) 6 PM

1/26    Cambridge-Isanti Iinvite (A) 1 PM

2/1    Becker JV Champ meet (A) 5 PM

2/2    Elk River Invite (A) Noon

2/8    Chisholm (A) 6 PM

2/9    Mesabi East Invite (A) TBD

2/28    State Meet, U of M Noon

3/1    State Meet, U of M Noon

3/2    State Meet, U of M Noon

Union-Times

2017-18 Results: 13-11-2 (5-7, 4th in Mississippi 8); Lost in first round of Class 2A Section 7 to Forest Lake.

Princeton girls’ hockey went through near-complete roster turnover to begin this season. Out of the 15 girls who logged regular time for the varsity team, last season, only six returned for the season’s first four games.

Four of the team’s top-six point-scorers in 2017-18, Kenzie Skuza, Emily Moore, Eden Betzler and Ellie Schwartz either graduated or in Moore’s case suffered a season-ending ACL Tear.


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The 2018-19 Princeton girls hockey team.

The 2018-19 Princeton girls hockey team.

Madisen Peterson hopes to pick up most of the slack for her departing teammates. The Division I hockey commit (Renssalar Polytechnic Institute) is the program’s all-time leader in goals scored with 114 and she has scored 73 in the last two years.

While defenses focus on attempting to shut down Peterson, teammate Kallie Abrahamson has become a devastating scorer in her own right. Through five games this season, Abrahamson has eight goals, sixteenth-most in the state. She also has two hat-tricks already.

Senior Dani Slominski comes back as a team captain to anchor the defense. She can also score, amassing 15 points last year.

Sydney Eckert, Madi Aune and Sam Haverinen also returned, to fill second line role positions.

The rest of varsity hasn’t played more than one game of varsity hockey combined and consists of six seniors, six juniors, eight sophomores, four freshmen and five eighth-graders.

“We are a young team not age-wise, but varsity experience-wise and we know we are going to make some mistakes,” Princeton Coach Paul McElhone said after a 5-4 loss to North Shore on Nov. 18. “We can fix mistakes when they happen, hopefully we just don’t repeat mistakes.”

Since that game, McElhone says there has been substantial improvement, more than he could’ve expected.

“Everyone works hard. These are the girls that are going to set the foundation of the program for years to come, It’s kind of refreshing.” McElhone said. “They are picking things up before we even mention it in practice.”

Freshman first-liner has been particularly strong with two goals and six assists, Bailey Isaacson scored her first varsity point with an assist against Moose Lake Area on Nov. 24, and senior goalie Emily Pangerl, replacing Princeton’s best goalie in program history, Kara Schramel, has stopped 98 of 117 shot and allowed 3.8 goals per game.

Princeton likely won’t compete for the Mississippi 8 Conference championship this season. The Tigers lost their first conference game, 11-0, to North Wright County on Tuesday, Nov. 27 and the Riverhawks already suffered a conference loss to Cambridge-Isanti.

Meanwhile, section rivals Grand Rapids-Greenway, Cambridge-Isanti, Andover, Forest Lake and Elk River-Zimmerman have each started the season 4-0 or better.

Andover is the top-ranked team in Class 2A, by the Minnesota Coaches’ Association. Forest Lake is ranked seventh and Grand Rapids-Greenway is tenth.

Princeton girls hockey Schedule

11/10    Rochester JML (H) 7 PM    

11/17    North Shore Storm (H) 7 PM

11/23    Cloquet (A) 7:30 PM

11/24    Moose Lake (A) 3 PM

11/27    Moose Sherritt Ice Arena 7 PM

11/30    Buffalo (H) 7 PM

12/1    East Grand Forks (H) 7 PM

12/4    St. Francis/North Branch (H) 7 PM

12/7    International Falls  (A) 7:30 PM

12/8    Duluth Heritage Center (A) 3 PM

12/11    Rogers High (A) 7 PM

12/14    Cambridge-Isanti (H) 7 PM

12/18    Chisago Lakes (H) 7 PM

12/21    Elk River (H) 7 PM

12/27    Robbinsdale Armstrong (A) TBD

12/28    Armstrong/Cooper (A) TBD

12/29    Armstrong/Cooper (A) TBD

1/4    Rochester Mayo (H) 7 PM

1/5    Moorhead (H) 7 PM

1/11    North Wright County (H) 7 PM

1/15    Buffalo (A) 7 PM

1/18    St. Francis/North Branch (A) 7 PM

1/22    Chisago Lakes (A) 7 PM

1/29    Rogers High School (H) 7 PM

2/1    Cambridge-Isanti (A) 7 PM

2/7    Sections High Seed 7 PM

2/9    Sections High Seed, TBD

2/14    Sections Fogerty Arena 7 PM

2/20    State Tourn Xcel

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