The 2016-2017 high school sports year was a year of the senior. It seems every school in Fillmore County had a plethora of very highly acclaimed athletes, who partook in a tremendous amount of successes. The 2017-2018 high school sports year can’t be specifically termed. Teams and athletes still had plenty of success. Six county teams made state. Twenty-one athletes attached to county squads went to state individually. Every FCJ covered school brought home at least one piece of championship hardware.
Things started a bit slow in the fall. For the first time since 2011, the county didn’t have a football team competing in a section title game. For the first time in the 2010s, no county volleyball player made All-State. Three football teams had sound campaigns. Davin Thompson’s Rushford-Peterson Trojans went 8-2 to post their sixth straight winning season. Junior running back Ethan Sense (over 1,000 yards rushing) and playmaker Jacob Paulson were main catalysts in the Trojans’ success. Houston football, under Cody Hungerholt’s command, started 5-0 and were ranked amidst the state’s toughest 9-man section. Included was beating Grand Meadow and ending their 51-game win streak. The Hurricanes rode a host a of play-makers to an 8-2 season, their third straight winning campaign, and best effort since the undefeated (14-0) state-title team of 2008. Fillmore Central, under Chris Mensink, also posted its third straight winning season. The Falcons won six straight, finishing 7-3. Luke Ristau (MS-E Lineman of the Year) and Brady Ristau (MS-E co-defensive player of the year) each took home big individual honors. Chatfield (5-5) was at five hundred. Gopher Kyle Nosbisch plowed his way to a 1,000-plus-yard season. In the last regular season game, the Kingsland Knights ended a 50-game losing streak. On the volleyball courts, Mabel-Canton was up to its old tricks, winning the SEC, moving its league (all games) undefeated streak to six years, its “in-league” streak to eight years. Lonnie Morken’s Cougars went 28-6, making it to their sixth 1A East title game. They were the only fall team to grab hardware (SEC-East Champions, 1A East Runner-Up). Milestones were reached. Savannah Slafter topped 1,000 career digs, making her one of only two Cougars to ever go over 1,000 kills and digs. Lexi Thorson topped 1,000 digs. Kenidi McCabe topped 1,000 set assists. The Fillmore Central volleyball program continued to excel, posting a 20-8 season. Junior setter Madison Scheevel topped 1,000 set assists. The other five county volleyball teams all failed to get to the Mason-Dixon Line. Kingsland had the Three Rivers Conference’s top hitter in junior Lauren Buchholtz, who amassed a league-best 448 kills (the most since 2013). On the golf courses and other off-path places, LFC runner Kaylee Arndt carried on the Burro tradition, making state individually. Her efforts gave LFC at least a state qualifier in four of the last five years.
Winter sports collectively were down. The no-state streak ended however. Rushford-Peterson boys basketball ended it a short siesta (a mere two years). In Tom Vix’s last year commanding R-P, the Trojans controlled Kingsland and pounded Spring Grove to win the 1A East and Section 1A trophies. If R-P is going to start a new banner collection in their new gym, seniors Paulson, Dawson Dahl, Ben Ansell, and Payton Hahn get credit for helping put up the first. The Trojans finished 24-9. John Fenske’s Kingsland Knight rode their good seven-man senior group to a 1A East Runner-Up trophy. In their last year in the TRC, team double-K finished 17-12. The other five county boys basketball teams all struggled, finishing well below five hundred. The top girls team was the Houston Hurricanes. Dale Moga’s group had a benchmark year, going 22-5 for their first winning season (ever). They won ten straight at one point and grabbed their first SEC-East girls basketball crown (ever). Junior guard Alyssa Rostad topped 1,000-career points. No other county girls basketball team topped the .500-threshold. Kingsland straddled it all year long and finished at 14-14. Lauren Buchholtz morphed from the TRC’s top volleyball hitter to one of its best scorers. The junior topped 1,000 career points and averaged 19.3 per game. On the wrestling mats, Chatfield’s Jake Mandt had his last prep hurrah. One of the Gophers most accomplished grapplers ever started the year 38-0, winning the prestigious Rumble on the Red and the 145-pound Section 1A title. He unofficially won 59 straight matches. Mandt was 145-pound state runner-up. He finishes his career with at least 175 wins and five state appearances. Teammate Seth Goetzinger won the Section 1A 106-pound title, then posted four wins at state to take third place. He finished the year 34-8. LARP freshman Carter Jonsgaard was 1A 113-round runner-up. He took fourth place at state going 34-13. FCLMC had its state qualifier as well. Freshman Caden Anderson was 1A 120-pound runner-up. Though not previously covered due to his affiliation with a mostly Caledonia program, Houston’s Zach Schneider was 160-pound Section 1A and state champion. Team-wise, Chatfield had a solid turn-around. Travis Bartels’ group went 12-3, losing in the 1A semifinals. They were the only county wrestling program to finish above five hundred. LARP went 10-11.
Spring sports were besmirched by bad weather. Most ball teams’ first outdoor activity was an outdoor game. It was the most successful sports season. Five teams made state. Fillmore Central girls golf continued its dynasty. Aaron Mensink’s Falcons were only one stroke away from tying for the school’s second state title, two away from its second state title. All-State selections Grace Miller and Madison Scheevel took the Falcons to the brink of the best. FC won the TRC-East, Section 1A, and finished with the school’s third Class A state runner-up. Miller finished a five-time All-State selection. Brent Kohn’s Kingsland Knights had the surprise story of the year, winning the Section 1A boys golf crown, making their first ever state trip. Senior Simon Broadwater competed on the big stage for a third time. The Knights were also TRC-West co-champions. FC’s Carter Nevalainen and Lanesboro’s Janell Boyum each competed at state individually in golf. Rushford-Peterson baseball took the spotlight on the diamonds. Behind first year coach Jordan Aug, roughly the same group of guys that took the Trojans to state in basketball, did so in baseball. R-P won the 1A East and 1A titles, finishing 15-10. The Trojans were the only county baseball team to finish above five hundred. Chatfield ended the year at 9-9-1. Senior Ben Ihrke made All-State. The top individual spring performer (save for FC’s Miller) was Chatfield sophomore pitcher Lexi Chase. Chase’s pitching numbers were almost unbelievable. With fellow All-State performer Belle Berg, Mark Eickhoff’s Gophers won their fourth straight TRC-West title and made Austin for a fifth straight year (1AA East Runner-Up), finishing 18-3. Kati Bergey’s Mabel-Canton Cougars were the only other softball team to finish above five hundred. M-C (15-8) had another good year. Houston’s Amber Chapel was named All-State in softball. Track and field athletes probably had the most success. The GMLOKS girls were SEC and Sub-2 meet champions, Section 1A True Team runner-up. Their 4×200 team (Lauren Buchholtz, Anika Reiland, Emily Hovden, Riley Queensland) was state champion. The 4×100 (Reiland, Hovden, Kassidy Kirtz, Isabelle Olson) also made state. Senior Drew Lewison capped his stand-out hurdling career by taking second in the 300-hurdles, sixth in the 110-hurdles. LFCMC’s boys won the SEC. The boys and girls both made the state True Team meet. The girls won their second straight Section 1A True Team title. Individually, Emma Breitsprecher and Ashley Miner each triple qualified for state. Emma B. took third in the 300-hurdles. Miner took sixth in the Pole Vault. With Bailey and Brielle Ruen, the foursome took seventh in the 4×400. LFCMC youngest stand-out Carson Kiehne, finished seventh in the 400-meters. The RPH girls were Sub-1 meet champions. RPH had two state track and field entrants, Cullan Olson and Nicole Blagsvedt (shot put). Olson’s great state performance garnered him a sixth place finish.
The top individual performers, the Sportspersons of the Year, were R-P guys Jacob Paulson, Dawson Dahl, and Landon Skalet. The trio, with state berths in basketball and baseball, added to their state entry in football (2016), to pull the state hat trick. The most “cool” county athlete was M-C’s Drew Wyffels. The junior got to compete in multiple spring sports and thus earned four “A-C” (All-Conference) honors (football, basketball, baseball, track and field). The top female athlete was Kingsland’s Lauren Buchholtz, who was thrice A-C (volleyball, basketball, t/f). Fillmore Central had at least six two-sport A-C kids: Cailey Rindels (volleyball, golf), Madison Scheevel (volleyball, golf), Josh Peters (football, t/f), Logan Corson (football, baseball), Kaylee Arndt (cross country, t/f), and Paige Donlinger (volleyball, basketball). R-P had at least four: Paulson (football, basketball), Dahl (football, baseball), Ben Ansell (basketball, baseball), and Skalet (football, basketball). Chatfield had at least three: Ben Ihrke (football, baseball), Carter Fishbaugher (football, wrestling), and Jake Mandt (wrestling, baseball). Houston had at least three: Zach Schneider (football, wrestling), James Hongerholt (football, basketball), and Cullan Olson (football, t/f). Kingsland had at least two: Zach Bubany (basketball, baseball) and Wyatt Pruter (basketball, golf). Mabel-Canton had at least two: Maddy Michels (volleyball, softball) and Kenidi McCabe (volleyball, softball). Lanesboro’s Carson Schwichtenberg (basketball, baseball) was two-sport A-C.
The county cup, to the most collectively successful county sports program, goes to Fillmore Central. Teams associated with Falcons qualified three times for state and grabbed six pieces of hardware. Five Falcons individually competed at state. R-P had a pair of state qualifications, grabbed five pieces of hardware. They had one Trojan and one “LARP” athlete each go to state individually. Lanesboro had the two True Team state berths plus four individual state qualifiers. Kingsland won a trio of trophies (plus those associated with GMLOKS). They had two purely Knight and five more “GMLOKS” individual state qualifiers. Chatfield won two trophies with two state qualifiers. Houston won a trophy with two state qualifiers. M-C had ties to the FCLMC true team state groups and won a pair of trophies. Every school in the county won at least one piece of championship hardware. All numbers compiled by Journal Sports Director Paul Trende and is subject to omissions/errors.