Archive for Sports

As the wrestling program continues to grow, Lakers are finding ways to give back

HOWARD LAKE – It’s no secret that the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted wrestling program has had little to no success in recent years. Even with the minor accomplishments in recent years, not only is Joe Puncochar, the head coach of the Lakers, rebuilding this program from ground up, he’s making sure his team is involved in the community.

“We don’t have a huge wrestling background in Howard Lake,” Puncochar said. “There’s been like nine seasons of zero wins in the life of this program.”

Despite the lack of success and the following that some other sports may get, Puncochar knows the program is getting stronger by the year, and is amazed by the support of the community.

The Lakers will be hosting their second annual Takedown Cancer event Friday, Jan. 20, when they host Minneapolis Roosevelt.

“The first one we raised like $400,” Puncochar said about last year’s event. “Last year we did it with the same school. It’s another school that’s kind of in the same spot that we are in as far as numbers. It tends to be a lot of really good matches, and ends up being a positive experience for our kids. Last year it was pretty cool to see the community turn out. It was cool to see a lot of families who have no involvement, to just step up and say, hey we’ll donate $10 for a T-shirt, or we’ll come and put some money in the 50-50 raffle.”

The money raised from the night will be donated to Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund. T-shirts are available to buy, and there will be other fun games throughout the night to raise money.

“We kind of latched onto it last year,” Puncochar said. “It’s a really good cause. Every sport seems like they have their own, and it’s not that hard to pick a night for a cancer night and raise a little money to support the cause.”

Puncochar and the Lakers know that as they continue to rebuild the program, there are many other ways to get involved and give back in the meantime.

“Not only are we out here wrestling and teaching kids life values through the sport, we also are in the community helping through these projects and fundraising for things that have nothing to do with us, but obviously are important,” Puncochar said. “I think this year there is around 100 events around the state. For the kids, I always tell them, get your aunts and uncles and anybody else that you can think of to come out and support us.”

Along with the Takedown Cancer event that night, the Lakers have other exciting things going on that night, as well.

“Another really cool thing about that night, off the topic of the fundraiser, is that it’s also going to be Alumni Night,” Puncochar said. “We’re going to debut the new spotlight we put in the gym.”

As part of changing the identity and success of the program, Puncochar also wants to change the atmosphere at matches.

“Now we’re going to even try and change the atmosphere,” Puncochar said. “We’ll turn that light on in the gym, and with fans in the stands, I think that will be really exciting for the kids and for the fans as well. That’s pretty exciting and they’re pumped about that. We’re just changing the atmosphere here. The product that we’re trying to put on the mat is starting to slowly change, and we’re starting to get more kids in the program and a little bit more success.”

Part of the plan for turning the program around is the youth program. Puncochar noted that the numbers of the youth program are critical to the eventual success of the Lakers.

“We have a really strong youth program, and the numbers of middle school wrestlers that are starting to come in through that are getting inside our room every day,” Puncochar said. “They’re going to be really pumped for that spotlight, too. They know, in a short period of time, they’re going to get to wrestle under it in front of their crowd.”

Along with changing the atmosphere and getting the youth involved, Puncochar believes bringing in quality teams for the Howard Lake Invite is a big part to it, as well. The Lakers will host the Howard Lake Invite Saturday, Jan. 21, and it will feature some highly-touted teams from around the state.

“We’ve actually grown it to become a really competitive and big tournament,” Puncochar said. “We’re expecting 12 varsity teams and 13 JV teams this year. There’s teams in the top 15 of the state  that are coming out for this tournament, so that’s pretty cool. We will fit in with those schools somewhere around the bottom,  but it’s good for our kids to see that too and know what it takes to be a successful team and be competitive.”

Bringing in quality teams and opponents offers a full day of competitive wrestling for the Lakers. No matter how the Lakers do in their home tournament, Puncochar believes it’s a good step for the program to take to head in the right direction.

“It’s just a good, competitive tournament that shows our kids what the competition is, and it should be good for our community,” Puncochar said. “We’ll fill the gym. The gym will be packed. Last year we had 11 teams, and we’ve added a few more storied programs in it this year, so now you’re going to bring a much bigger following. Our gym was packed last year, and now it’s going to be even more packed this year.”





PREP ROUNDUP: Tuesday, Jan. 17



HLWW 48, B-B-E 46



BELGRADE-BROOTEN-ELROSA (4-8, 1-3): Derek Wiener 16, Evan Wiener 15, Parker Schwinghammer 9, Ryal Illies 4, Ryan Olmscheid 2.

HLWW (5-10, 2-3): Cameron Decker 14, Brock Bangasser 12, Brad Bickmann 11, Zach Uter 6, Chris Zander 4, Ben Paulson 1.

HOWARD LAKE – In a wild final two minutes, the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted boys basketball held on for a 48-46 win over conference foe Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Tuesday night.

The Lakers led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but the Jaguars wouldn’t go away easy. The lead was cut two with just 13 seconds remaining. The Lakers had to ball, but turned it over after inbounding the pass, giving the Jaguars a chance to tie in the final seconds. The Jaguars turned it over right back, and we forced to foul.

With seven seconds left, the Lakers missed the front end of a one and one, allowing a desperation heave near half court for the Jaguars that fell short.

Cam Decker led the way for the Lakers 14 points while knocking down three 3-pointers. Brock Bangasser almost had another double-double this season with 12 points and nine rebounds.

The Lakers are back in action Friday night when they travel to Maple Lake to take on the Irish.



Watertown-Mayer 70, Glencoe-Silver Lake 65 (OT)


W-M: 22;34;14;–70

GLENCOE-SILVER LAKE (9-5, 0-2): Kyle Christensen 13, Tyler Ehrke 15, Luke Frahm 11, Matt Sanchez 8, Nick Schmidt 5, Mitchell Boesche 4, Jacob Litzau 9.

WATERTOWN-MAYER (13-1, 3-0): Ben Theisen 12, Riley Alger 14, Drew Thibault 6, Trae Berhow 22, Ethan McCleary 9, McKinley Gehlhausen 7.

WATERTOWN – Despite a tough schedule in recent weeks, the Royals kept their streak going with a 70-65 win over the Panthers on the road Tuesday night.

The Royals trailed by one at half, but rallied in the second half to keep their streak going and remain perfect in the Wright County Conference.

The Royals are back in action Friday, Jan. 20 when they host Litchfield. The Royals defeated Litchfield 68-65 in the third place game of the St. Cloud Cathedral tournament earlier this season.



New Life Academy 62, LP/HT 36



LP/HT (4-7, 2-2): Michael Ziermann 15, Adam Heigl 9, Rees Schuette 5, Trey Fiecke 3, Tyler Scheevel 3, Andrew Jackson 1.

LESTER PRAIRIE – The Bulldogs had their three-game winning streak snapped with a 62-36 home loss to New Life Academy Tuesday night. After winning three-straight games, the Bulldogs shot just 39 percent as their winning streak came to an end in a lopsided loss.

Michael Ziermann led the way with 15 points, while Adam Heigl added nine points.

The Bulldogs will be back in action Friday Jan. 20 when they host West Lutheran.



Monticello 46, HLWW 28



HLWW (1-13, 1-3): Janna Hatrick 6, CJ Decker 10, Ivy Fesenmaier 4, Jenna Benson 5, Lilly DeBoer 1, Erin Luchsinger 2.

MONTICELLO (3-11, 0-4): Lauran Zwack 6, Brooke Bechtold 6, Brooke Haag 6, Alayna Manning 1, Anna Olson 11, Natalie Swanson 13, Caitlin Hinz 3.

MONTICELLO – The Lakers had their struggles continue on offense in their 46-28 loss to Monticello Tuesday night. Despite a strong defensive performance, the  Lakers tallied just nine second-half points in the loss.

Freshman CJ Decker led the way for the Lakers with 10 points. Janna Hatrick added six points.

The Lakers return to action Thursday, Jan. 19 when they host Paynesville in a Central MN Conference matchup.



LP/HT 76, New Life Academy 34



LP/HT (9-3, 3-0): Jenna Dolezal 11, Steph Lohse 3, Madi Radtke 22, Taylor Ebert 3, Hope Feltmann 12, Kayla Weinzierl 16, Myranda Hentges 1, Julia Pelzel 2, Kaylee Scheevel 6.

NEW LIFE ACADEMY (5-8, 2-2): Sydney Gunderson 10, Carly Hager 12, Emmy Erickson 4, Nadia Nelson 2, Hannah Nelson 2, Ally Hullett 4.

WOODBURY –The Bulldogs continued their string of blowout wins with a 76-34 win over New Life Academy Tuesday night. Madi Radtke scored a game-high 22 points, as the Bulldogs won their fifth game in a row, and third by 20 points or more.

Kayla Weinzierl added 16 points, while Hope Feltmann added 12 points and Jenna Dolezal finished with 11 points.

The Bulldogs are back in action Thursday, Jan. 19 when they take on West Lutheran.



Mayer Lutheran 70, Tri-City United 67



MAYER LUTHERAN (12-3, 5-1): Emilee Gustin 19, Kate Strehlke 2, Maddy Hucky 14, Olivia Quiram 2, Mya Chmielewski 17, Nicole Klaustermeier 8, Brooke Paulsrud 4, Sophie Flucas 4.

TRI-CITY UNITED (11-4, 4-2): Gabby Robinson 15, Caitlin Jindra 11, Joslyn Vargo 19, Cami Vargo 2, Mattie Hellerud 10, Maddie Dull 8, Maggie Trnka 2.

MONTGOMERY – Emilee Gustin’s 19 points led the Crusaders to a 70-67 comeback win over Tri-City United Tuesday night. The senior guard helped the Crusaders erase an eight-point deficit at the half to comeback on the road and big up a big conference win.

Mya Chmielewski added 17 points, while Maddy Hucky chipped in with 14 points.

The Crusaders are back in action Friday, Jan. 20 when they take on LeSueur-Henderson.



Watertown-Mayer 90, Glencoe-Silver Lake 79

W-M: 38;52;–90


WATERTOWN-MAYER (13-2, 5-0): Emma Mass 7, Kirstin Klitzke 11, Olyvia Schroeder 3, Grace Knutson 7, Emma Ragner 6, Claire Killian 25, Sarah Zuelzke 3, Monika Czinano 28.

GLENCOE-SILVER LAKE (8-7,1-2): Miah Monahan 22, McKenna Monahan 19, Maddie Monahan 21, Olivia Lemke 2, Kendra Ziebarth 3, Mickalyn Frahm 6, Kaitlyn Uecker 2, Samantha Voigt 4.

GLENCOE – The Watertown-Mayer Royals used a big second half to top the Panthers with a 90-79 win Tuesday night. The teams were tied at the half at 38, but the Royals posted 52 second-half points to pick up a nice bounce-back win on the road after having their winning streak snapped last week.

Monika Czinano led the way for the Royals with 28 points. Claire Killian added 25, while Kirstin Klitzke chipped in with 11 points.

The Royals are back in action Thursday, Jan. 19 when they travel to New London-Spicer for a Wright County Conference showdown with the Wildcats.





Eden Valley-Watkins at Paynesville

Maple Lake at Holdingford

Kimball at Pierz



New Life Academy at LP/HT

Bethany Academy at St. Croix Prep

Trinity at West Lutheran

SW Christian at Heritage Christian

PACT Charter at Maranatha Christian



Litchfield at Annandale

New Prague at Eden Prairie

Hutchinson at Redwood Valley

Rockford at Dassel-Cokato

Glencoe-Silver Lake at Watertown-Mayer

New London-Spicer at Mound Westonka

Delano at Sauk Rapids-Rice



Jordan at Patrick Henry

Tri-City United at Belle Plaine

NYA at Sibley East




HLWW at Monticello

Kimball at Eden Valley-Watkins

Maple Lake at Royalton

B-B-E at Parkers Prairie



LP/HT at New Life Academy

Maranatha Christian at PACT Charter

West Lutheran at Trinity

Heritage Christian at SW Christian



Patrick Henry at Delano

Dassel-Cokato at Rockford

Watertown-Mayer at Glencoe-Silver Lake

Eden Prairie at Orono

Litchfield at Annandale



LeSueur-Henderson at NYA

Sibley East at Jordan

Mayer Lutheran at Tri-City United




Mound Westonka/W-M at Litchfield/D-C

Orono at Hutchinson

Holy Family/Waconia at New Prague




Delano/Rockford at Waconia

Litchfield/D-C at Mound Westonka/W-M

Hutchinson at Orono

St. Michael-Albertville at Holy Family


For in-game updates on the HLWW and B-B-E boys basketball game, follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports

Tuesday’s Delano girls basketball game postponed; hockey still on

Duo to Old Man Winter’s blustery breath, the schedule Delano girls varsity basketball game against Hutchinson at the Tiger Activity Center that was scheduled for Tuesday night has been postponed until Thursday, Jan. 12.

This postponement also includes the 7th, 8th, C and B squads and junior varsity games.

The varsity game Thursday night will be played on the bright new floor at the old Delano High School gym.

The two Delano varsity hockey games are still on. The Delano girls are at New Prague, and the Delano boys host new Prague.




Eden Valley-Watkins at Annandale

HLWW at Kimball

Osakis at Holdingford

B-B-E at Parkers Prairie



Spectrum at Bethany Academy

St. Croix Prep at Heritage Christian

Legacy Christian at New Life Academy

West Lutheran at Maranatha Christian

Trinity at SW Christian



Holy Family at Watertown-Mayer

Waconia at Minnetonka

Mound Westonka at Breck

Willmar at Hutchinson

Eden Valley-Watkins at Annandale

Chaska at Orono



Belle Plaine at Mayer Lutheran

Jordan at NYA

Tri-City United at LeSeur-Henderson




Kimball at Eden Valley-Watkins

Pierz at HLWW

Holdingford at Paynesville



Maranatha Christian at West Lutheran

PACT Charter at LP/HT

New Life Academy at Legacy Christian

Trinity at SW Christian

Heritage Christian at St. Croix Prep



Hutchinson at Delano

Litchfield at Rockford

Annandale at New London-Spicer

Holy Family at Waconia

Watertown-Mayer at Mound Westonka

Dassel-Cokato at Glencoe-Silver Lake



GFW at LeSueur-Henderson

New Ulm at Jordan



Orono at Edina




KIP KOVAR: Ziermann exemplifies what being a top-notch athlete is all about

By Kip Kovar

Herald Journal Sports Editor

LESTER PRAIRIE – It was another cold and chilly Minnesota evening  Jan. 5. The Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity boys basketball team was scheduled to host SW Christian in their Minnesota Christian Athletic Association opener at home.

After spending a majority of the day in the office working on things, I stopped at home quick to get a bit of a break and some dinner. In fact, I got almost too comfortable, and if you combined that with dealing with a cold, I was very tempted to just stay home and lay in bed for a bit.

After contemplating this, I threw on a pair of blue jeans, stuffed my pockets with a handful of Kleenexes, filled my backpack with my clipboard, Ipad, and camera; and headed out the door.

As a sports editor, I always think about what might happen at the game that I’m covering and heading to at the moment. Of course, as almost everyone does, I was hoping for a good game. Heck, maybe even a buzzer-beater or an overtime thriller.

As I entered the gym at the Lester Prairie High School, I did so reluctantly. I would much rather have been trying to kick this cold while laying in bed and relaxing, but I owe it to the teams I cover, and to the fans to be there and be able to report on the game.

It started as all games do. A shot made here. A shot made there. The Bulldogs,  who had won just two games all season coming into this one and were coming off a 31-point loss  Tuesday night, trailed by 10 at the half.

It was a good game through the first 18 minutes, as both teams were playing well, and the score was close. As the second half began, much of the same continued to happen.

Later in the half, the Stars began to pull away from the Bulldogs, and it looked as if the game was about to slip away from them again. That wasn’t the case, though.


Remember when I said I was hoping for a possible buzzer-beater or overtime thriller on the way to the game? Well, that didn’t happen. It was nothing like that at all actually. It was something even better.

The Bulldogs rallied to cut the lead to just two points after trailing by as many as 12 points in the second half. Trailing by just two points with just over a minute to go, Rees Schuette came up with a huge block that appeared to go off a SW Christian player. Without any hesitation, the referee awarded the ball to Lester Prairie, and it looked as if they would have a chance to tie the game, or even take the lead.

I looked down at my Ipad to type the play that just happened, and when I looked out the corner of my eye, I saw sophomore Michael Ziermann having a conversation with the referee. After a few seconds, Ziermann walked away, and to my surprise, the ball was given back to SW Christian with a two-point lead.

At first, I wasn’t sure exactly what I saw. When I realized what happened, and I had to confirm with Ziermann after the game just to make sure, I couldn’t help but be impressed by this young man.

He and his team, who have had a lot of struggles this season, went out of his way to tell the referee that he touched the ball last, and that the Stars should get the ball, all while trailing by just two points late in the game.

Following the interaction, the Stars scored the game’s next six points and the Bulldogs lost their second-straight game, falling to 2-6 on the season.

There wasn’t a buzzer-beater. It wasn’t an overtime thriller. It was something much better.

In today’s day and age, sportsmanship takes a back seat to winning at many levels. Ziermann easily could have just inbounded the ball and the Bulldogs would have had a chance to tie or take the lead. But he didn’t.

I was a fan of Michael Ziermann. the basketball player, before. He’s a talented kid with a nice shot and plays hard. Now, I’m a fan of Michael Ziermann, the person, and in fact, those two versions are the same, as was displayed at Lester Prairie High School Thursday night.

To see that from a sophomore in high school amazes me. There’s hardly ever a game  that I cover where it doesn’t sound like there are at least 15 or more referees in the crowd. I always joke that there should be a promotion at high school basketball games where the first 100 fans to enter should get a whistle, since they think they’re a referee anyway.  That way, the referees can hear the fans in the crowd to make sure they got the right call, that is, as long as it benefits their team.

I applaud Michael Ziermann for the way he handled that game Thursday night. There should be more athletes like him in every sport. In fact, there should be more people like him in everyday life. People who do the right thing, whether it means a win or a loss.

It wasn’t a buzzer-beater. It wasn’t an overtime thriller. In fact, it wasn’t even an exciting comeback. It was something more.