From 1970 - 1984 - 2016, the Legend of Caledonia Wrestling continues

By Dugan Thomas

Photo archive courtesy of the Winona Daily News, and the Winona Newspaper Project

, MN
- 02/24/2016

In the fall of 1963, head coach Ed Ferkingstad, and assistant coach Larry Thompson started the Caledonia wrestling program at Caledonia High School.

Their team didn't win a match that year.

Year 1 (0-12-1). Year 2 (3-7-1). Year 3 (10-3-1).

By their fifth season in 1968, the Warriors were (13-0-1), and won the district title.

After another undefeated season in 1969, the Caledonia squad had high hopes coming into the 1970 season.

They added another coach in Leo Simon, well known for his discipline, technique, and conditioning skills, Caledonia knew they had the makings of something special.

They went undefeated and cruised through the district and region tournaments sending 6 wrestlers to state. Greg Meiners, Mark Lange, Bob Lange, Ron Meiners, Jim Denstad, and Darrel Bunge.

Bob Lange and Jim Denstad took third, Ron Meiners fourth, and Darrel Bunge fifth.

Caledonia sophomore Mark Lange won the state championship at 138 pounds to give the Warriors their first state title winner.

After the dust cleared, and in a monster upset, the Caledonia Warriors were the 1970 state champs, winning 50-49 to edge Grand Rapids.

Caledonia had beaten every wrestling team in the state of Minnesota, even schools that had 10 times the enrollment of Caledonia. This was a one-class tournament.

To put it into perspective, if you're familiar with the basketball movie "Hoosiers". Small town Hickory goes to Indianapolis and faces the powerhouse South Bend Central squad in the state championship, and pulls off the monster upset.

That's what happened at the 1970 Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament.

The Caledonia Warriors made headlines across the state that February, and it's forever etched in the record books. 

The Leo Simon Era

Head Coach Ed Ferkingstad stepped down, and Leo Simon took over continuing the Caledonia Wrestling tradition.

83 straight dual meet victories and 17 straight district-1 titles would put Caledonia Wrestling in the legendary category, with individual titles coming as well.

Mark Lange was runner-up at state in 1971 at 145 pounds, and in 1972 he won his second state championship at 155 pounds to finish with a 149-11-1 career record. The one-class system that Mark won his state championships in at that time made it an extremely impressive career. Lange was one of the most highly recruited wrestlers in the country in 1972. To highlight his wrestling achievements, Mark Lange is in the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Bob Link was a football star at Caledonia in 1973 winning La Crosse Tribune Player of the Year. In 1974 he completed the wrestling season in dominant fashion as well, going 27-0 and winning the 180 pound state wrestling title. Bob Link would go on to play football at The University of Northern Iowa.

In 1984 Leo Simon put together another strong squad to take another shot at the state title. His sons Trever and Brad Simon were big pieces of this team, along with current Caledonia head coach Dan Goergen, and assistant coach Jeff Winjum.

They cruised to the state finals in 1984, but fell to perennial power Staples 28-18. Staples won it's fifth straight Class A state title, and won it again in 1985.

Leo Simon would step down after the 1985 season with a 205-49-2 career coaching record, and has been inducted into multiple wrestling hall of fames for his contributions to wrestling in the state of Minnesota.

Another Caledonia coach from this era known throughout the Minnesota wrestling world is our very own Spencer Yohe. One of the most decorated high school and college coaches in Minnesota, Spencer was a member of Caledonia teams in the late 60's, continuing on to Winona State, Hancock High School, the University of Minnesota, Morris, and Moorhead State. Spencer Yohe has dedicated his entire life to the advancement of wrestling in Minnesota.

Stewartville's Roger Knutson, a Minnesota state champ in 1976, and University of Northern Iowa wrestler, took over the Caledonia wrestling program in 1985 and compiled a 116-88-5 career record.

Knutson produced a two-time state champ in 1997 and 1998 with Trent Hatlevig. Hatlevig's career record at Caledonia was 151-31-0. Trent would go to the University of Minnesota and wrestle under legendary coach J Robinson. After college, Hatlevig took his mental focus and physical conditioning skills to the United States Navy, and became a special operations combat medic, and a Navy Seal.

Jay Tolleson took over the Caledonia wrestling program in 2000, and produced 2003 Minnesota 215 pound state champ Kevan Meiners. Meiners finished an undefeated 39-0 in his senior season, and was La Crosse Tribune Wrestler of the Year. Kevan Meiners finished his Caledonia wrestling career with a 111-17-0 record. Kevan's younger brother Kasey went to state 4 times and holds the Caledonia wins record at 186-45-0. Kasey went on to wrestle at RCTC in Rochester and in 2006 he won a national junior college championship at 174 pounds.

Austin Goergen followed with state championships in 2010 and 2011 at heavyweight for Caledonia, and was runner-up in 2012. Goergen finished with a 146-12-0 record at Caledonia wrestling for his dad, current Caledonia head coach Dan Goergen. Austin took his talents to D-II wrestling power St. Cloud State, and currently is one of the best heavyweights in the nation with a 28-1 record. An All-American, Austin just missed on an individual championship in 2015 with a 2nd place finish, while his team took home the national title. 

2016 the Warriors back at State

Caledonia wrestling comes back as a team to state for the first time in 32 years on Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center. It's riding a ton of momentum coming off the Section-1A dual meet upsets against Dover-Eyota and Zumbrota-Mazeppa.

Down big in both matches, the Warriors came back strong in both matches behind their powerful state championship football lineup of Winjum, Schmitz, Stemper, Goergen, Craig, and Mauss. First knocking off D-E 33-30, then Z-M 35-22.

The same will have to hold true in their first round match against #1 ranked Kenyon-Wanamingo. The lower weights and less experienced Warriors will have to claw and fight to keep the team into the match until Caledonia Football row comes knocking at the door. The Warriors need outstanding effort out of every individual on this team to have a chance against the powerful K-W squad.

The lower weights have a trio of talented wrestlers, not from Cal, but from Houston. Caledonia and Houston once rivals, but now teammates in this co-op. Houston doesn't get it's name talked about much with the black and gold dominated uniforms, but they're a very valuable addition.

Athletic Houston quarterback Tylor Nelson came into the section tournament with a 22-12 record, and finished fourth in the section. He had a big win against D-E in the section dual, and he'll be relied upon to bring that energy again at 152 pounds.

Houston Sophomore Zach Schneider came into sections with a 17-5 record, and finished in true second at sections to send him to the individual state tournament. Zach has a lot of confidence for a sophomore, and he'll need to keep it going into the state duals.

One of the toughest wrestlers I saw in Rochester at sections, was Houston's Aaron Francis. The freshman came in with a 14-10 record, and made it to the finals at 113 pounds before he was halted by undefeated St. Charles wrestler Mark Buringa. Aaron then had a tough true second bout, but never gave up until the final whistle, losing by just two points to finish third. His opponent stalled the whole third period, and used his length advantage to keep Francis at bay. Really impressed by this gutty freshman, he'll be one to watch in the coming years.

Trever Vick (106), Jack Strub (120), and David Seymour (138) all finished 4th at sections, as well as Tylor Nelson at (152) and Sam Stemper at (182).

Coming back from a severe knee injury during football season, Jacob Winjum has been on fire for Caledonia Wrestling. He took the 160 pound section title last weekend and is still undefeated on the year. One of the favorites for a state individual title in his senior year, Winjum has the fire in his eyes, and he'll be looking to close out his career with a gold medal.

At 170 pounds Mitchell Schmitz had probably the toughest weight bracket in the section. He finished third and missed a return trip to state, but will be looking to contribute in the team tournament. Mitchell had an incredible career at CHS, and would love to add more hardware to his trophy case.

Caledonia head coach Dan Goergen gets another opportunity to coach his son at state. This time it's Alex Goergen who's ready to make his mark. A third-place state place winner as a freshman, Alex missed the tournament last year with a broken foot. The talented junior ranked #1 at 195 pounds is looking for a state title to keep pace with his brother Austin. Alex was a star in the Caledonia Football state championship game, it's time for him to be a star again.

With a 35-6 record coming in, Eli Craig has been a bulldog for Caledonia wrestling this year. That 220 pound body built through the Caledonia Football program has been a pinning machine. Craig won the section title on Saturday, and he has his eyes set on another medal to add to his state championship ring.

Closing out the Caledonia line-up at 285 is #2 state ranked Blake Mauss. Mauss 26-9 on the year came back from his shattered kneecap injury, missing all of last season, but is fully healed and ready to rumble. Mauss finished 5th as a sophomore at 285 pounds, and has that valuable state experience. He's had multiple battles with #1 Tanner Welch from Dover-Eyota, and he knows him well. It wouldn't be a surprise to see those two in the finals.

The Warriors first team dual match is at 9 AM this Thursday at Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul against #1 Kenyon-Wanamingo. Prep45.com will be carrying the live streaming of all matches from Thursday through Saturday. The individual portion of the tournament starts Friday and concludes with championship matches Saturday night.

Everyone in Caledonia and Houston is pumped to see this legendary wrestling program back at state. Cal is the underdog again, so there is no pressure. Just lay it on the line boys, and let's see what you got.