Volleyball, football teams crowned champs

With so many successful sports teams and talented individuals, it makes it difficult to narrow down the events and accomplishments to a top 10. Your list is likely different than this one, but we feel these 10 are solid.

(1-2) Volleyball, football win state
It would not only be unfair to pick one state championship team over another, but also difficult, as both the football and volleyball teams worked hard all season to achieve its goal. The volleyball team won a five-set thriller over Mayer Lutheran on Nov. 12 at Xcel Energy Center, the team the Vikings lost to in last season’s title match. Minneota finished the season 34-5 under Class A Coach of the Year Hayley Fruin. Ireland Stassen and Ella Johnson were named to the All-State team, as well as the All-Tournament team along with Lyzah Sussner. Minneota reached the championship after beating New Life Academy 25-13, 23-25, 25-13, 25-14 in the quarterfinals and Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 25-21, 25-20, 25-13 in the semifinals. The Vikings then outlasted Mayer Lutheran 25-23, 25-22, 20-25, 19-25, 18-16 in the final ... The Vikings’ football team was ranked No. 10 in Class A, but defied the odds and knocked off Springfield 38-21 in the state championship at U.S. Bank Stadium. The win was also the 200th of coach Chad Johnston’s career. Zack Fier ran for two touchdowns among his 133 yards rushing and was named the Most Valuable Teammate of the game. The Vikings knocked off Breckenridge 35-7 in the quarterfinals in Alexandria before edging Fillmore Central 28-27 in the semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.

(3) Johnston decides to coach boys
Deciding it was time for a chance, highly-successful Minneota girls’ basketball coach Chad Johnston resigned and then later accepted the vacant boys’ basketball coaching position. Johnston had coached the girls’ basketball program here for 21 seasons and won 478 games and three state championships. Johnston’s assistant coach, Al Panka, was promoted to head coach to fill the vacancy left by Johnston. Johnston’s three sons, Easton, Gage and Brooks, all play basketball so he may get a chance to coach all of them some day. Mitch Van Westen and Brock Citterman were named as Johnston’s assistant coaches. The boys’ basketball team has only two seniors on the roster.

(4) Skillings enters national Hall
Former Minneota wrestling coach Joel Skillings, who guided the team to a state title in 2015, was inducted into the Minnesota Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame on April 23 at a banquet in Austin, MN. Skillings, a two-time Minnesota High School Coach of the Year (2012 and 2015), was inducted along with eight other former Minnesota coaches or wrestlers. Those nine men will be permanently honored at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Skillings was also inducted into the Dave Bartelma Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2021. The 2015 wrestling team was honored coached by Skillings was inducted into the Wally Pesch Hall of Fame at a banquet on April 23. Skillings, who spoke at the banquet, and several of the wrestlers from that team. were on hand.

(5) Gillund runs Boston Marathon
Lisa Gillund became only the second female from Minneota to qualify and run in the Boston Marathon (Darla (Neisius) Vaughn was the first in 1992). Gillund never gave up her dream and eventually qualified for the Boston Marathon on her fifth attempt through her qualifying time from the Twin Cities Marathon in 2019. Because of the pandemic, the Boston Marathon was shut down from its original format of running on Patriots Day (the third Monday in April), so Gillund tried to get a better qualifying time. which she accomplished on Nov. 6, 2021 at the Indianapolis Marathon. This Boston Marathon also held special meaning because it was the 50th anniversary of when they first allowed women to compete.

(6) Girls basketball 2nd at state
The Minneota girls’ basketball team reached the Class A state title game for the third straight time (they won in 2019 and 2021, there was no state championship in 2020 due to the pandemic) before losing to Hancock, 54-43 at Williams Arena. Minneota built a 19-14 halftime lead before the Owls switched to a zone defense in the second half that Minneota had trouble adjusting to. The Vikings (28-5) upset top-seeded Mountain Iron-Buhl 51-48 in the quarterfinals and Hayfield 53-48 in the semifinals. Natalee Rolbiecki, McKenna Yost and Ireland Stassen were all named to the Class A All-Tournament team. Rolbiecki was also a Miss Basketball finalist this season.

(7) Myrvik honored as assistant coach
Matt Myrvik, a 1995 Minneota High School graduate, was selected as Broyles Award winner as one of the top high school assistant football coaches in the country. Myrvik was honored at a banquet in Little Rock, Arkansas on Dec. 5-6. Accompanied by his wife, Patty, Myrvik was recognized along with 20 other assistant coaches across the nation. He received a large plaque and banner. Myrvik, who is the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach of the Vikings, has been an assistant coach for 26 years. During his time here, the Vikings have appeared in nine state tournaments, winning titles in 2009, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2022. They finished as state runner-up twice. Myrvik was named the 2021 Minnesota Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year in 2021.

(8) Fier 4th, 5 others wrestlers at state
Zack Fier placed four in the Class A state individual tournament for the second straight year at 145 pounds. Despite missing several matches this season with a torn meniscus in his right knee, the junior recovered and went on to win four of six matches at state despite never being 100 percent healthy. Peyton Gillund went 2-2 at 120 pounds and Jackson Esping also won two of four matches at 285 pounds. Other Minneota wrestlers qho qualified for the state individual wrestling tournament were Adam DeVlaeminck at 106 pounds, Troy Van Keulen at 126 pounds, and Jonah Gruenes at 170.

(9) Bowyer 8th at state girls’ golf
Lauren Bowyer, a senior, had a goal before the state girls’ golf tournament began of finishing in the top eight at the state meet. After completing her round on June 15 at Pebble Creek Golf Course in Becker, Bowyer had to patiently wait until the rest of the pack turned in their scorecards. She knew her final of 175 would be close to earning a medal for finishing in the top eight, but she was hoping not to be disappointed. At the conclusion of the tournament, Bowyer’s name was called to receive her eighth-place medal. She finished 18th at state meet the previous year after shooting a 186. Cole Myhre and Jackson Esping also qualified for the state meet. Although neither medaled, they both played much better the second day than the first.

(10) Rolbiecki, Eischens passings
Again, the passing of two sports giants in Minneota was too difficult to choose one story as being bigger than the other, so we put them in the same story. Jim Rolbiecki, a popular teacher, head softball coach, Athletic Director and assistant coach in many sports, died peacefully at his home on Sept. 11 after a courageous seven-month battle with cancer. Rolbiecki was a teacher and coach for 36 years at Minneota High School. He was inducted into thew Minneota Hall of Fame in 2017, the same year as his daughter, Jami. He made sure to have his plaque inscribed with “It was for the kids.” He was 71 ... Eischens, often called the “Voice of the Vikings” died on July 12 following a brief illness at age 42. He was the public address announcer for high school football games for 24 seasons, for the wrestling team for 20 seasons, and the Minneota Mudhens for 10 seasons. The outside of the press box at K.P. Kompelien Field now has a large plaque with a microphone and his name in his memory. On the final day of Boxelder Bug Days, he was honored after the football game which included a fireworks display. Eischens was also the emcee for the Boxelder Bug Days coronation ceremony.

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