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Send Your Questions To John's Mailbag
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/3/2016 9:58:36 PM

People often ask me questions in a wide range of areas related to the MSHSL. How was a particular decision made? Who was involved in said decision? What will this mean in the future?

A flurry of questions followed the MSHSL board of directors' recent decisions to add consolation games to the girls and boys state basketball tournaments and to initiate pitch-count limits in baseball. I answered some of these questions on Twitter, but I think having a more open place to post questions and answers may be helpful to more people.

So in keeping with that idea, I'll begin posting "John's Mailbag" segments here on John's Journal. Feel free to ask questions and I will try to answer them. There are several ways to bring questions to my attention:

--Send a message to me on Twitter. I'm @MSHSLjohn on that platform.

--Send me an email. My email address is jmillea@mshsl.org

--Snail mail? Why the heck not? Lick a stamp and send a note to John Millea, MSHSL, 2100 Freeway Blvd., Brooklyn Center MN 55430

--Post a message on the MSHSL Facebook page. Search for "MSHSL" on Facebook and post away. I will see it.

I'll keep the identity of questioners secret, because the question is much more important than who's asking it.

Let the questioning begin!

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 288
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 5,086
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

A Big Start To The Wrestling Season
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/2/2016 2:47:52 PM

The Apple Valley High School wrestling team is so dominant that its conference winning streak outlived two conferences. Between the 1991 season and Thursday night, the Eagles won every conference dual meet; that streak began when they were in the Lake Red Conference, lasted through the Lake Conference and finally ended in a 29-28 home loss to Shakopee in South Suburban Conference action.

The Eagles are ranked No. 1 in Class 3A by The Guillotine and Shakopee is No. 2, spots that are sure to flip when the next rankings come out.

Thursdays match provided an interesting coaching twist: Shakopee coach Jim Jackson is a former Apple Valley head coach. The Eagles have won 23 big-school state titles since 1983. They have every 3A title since 2006; their last loss to a Minnesota team came against Wayzata on Dec. 22, 2006.

Jackson coached the Eagles for 32 years (the first 15 as an assistant) and had a head-coaching record of 618-27-3, winning 14 team state championships.

Thursday was the first day of competition for the 2016-17 wrestling season, but eyes are already turning to the Class 3A Section 2 team tournament in February. Thats when Apple Valley and Shakopee will presumably decide which team goes to state.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 288
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 5,086
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

The Jablonski Name Is Back On The Ice
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/30/2016 11:29:27 AM

The name Jablonski is a permanent fixture for Benilde-St. Margarets boys hockey games at The Rec Center in St. Louis Park. Jack Jablonskis name and jersey number 13 hang from the ceiling along with other retired numbers.

Jack, as Minnesota hockey fans know, was a sophomore at Benilde-St. Margarets when he was severely injured during a junior varsity hockey game in late December 2011. Now a student at the University of Southern California, Jack is keeping an eye on the Benilde-St. Margarets Red Knights this season for family reasons.

His only sibling, Max, is a senior captain who has brought the family name back to the ice. Seeing Jablonski on a jersey was a special moment for Red Knights fans Tuesday night as the team opened the season against St. Michael-Albertville.

I texted him this morning and he texted back, Max said after the game. He wished me good luck. Hes excited for me and hes proud of where Ive gotten, and Im proud of what hes done.

Max, who was a seventh-grader when Jacks injury occurred, has worked hard on the ice. This is his first season on the varsity, where he centered the third line during the Red Knights 4-1 loss to St. Michael-Albertville. The score was 2-1 with one minute to play in the third period before St. Michael-Albertville scored two empty-net goals. Max took one shot and won five of 13 faceoffs.

Ive been working for this for many years, he said. Its obviously nerve-wracking but coming in as a senior and a captain, I felt like I wasnt out of place. I felt like I did well and I was excited.

For people who have seen how hard Jack, who uses a wheelchair, has worked in therapy and rehab in regaining some of his physical abilities, it is no surprise to hear Red Knights coach Ken Pauly use words like grit and heart to describe Max.

Hes a heady player, Pauly said. Guys like to play with him because hell give them the puck. Hes not a quitter. He wants to be out there. Thats something thats going to be very important for us this year. We know that were going to have some struggles and having someone like him leading us should help us with that.

Benilde-St. Margarets was one of the top teams in Class 2A last season, finishing with a record of 25-1-1. Seventeen of last years 21 varsity players are now gone, however. That kind of challenge is just fine with the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Max Jablonski (pictured).

Tonight was tough, he said. You never want to fall in the season opener. But we knew there was going to be a lot of growing this season. Although tonight we lost, there were some good things; we played pretty even, we just couldnt score. So we have a lot of growing to do and I think well be able to use this to take a step in the right direction.

Theres a team goal of moving on and getting farther than we did last year and hopefully going to state. Which right now is a little tough to say. Its definitely early and it doesnt matter what were doing now, it matters what were doing in February and March.

Max said his big brothers injury never caused him to consider walking away from hockey.

Definitely it was hard to watch when that happened, Max said. It made you question, That could be me. But I love the game and he loves the game, and it wasnt like I was going to step away from it. I just try playing for him.

Pauly said the Jablonskis have never wavered on their love of hockey.

Through all this theyve continued to embrace the game, where I think some people might be bitter and blame the game. Theyve continued to embrace the game.

Until Jack left for college in California, Max was at his side. Whether Jack was working with therapists or making public appearances on behalf of the Jack Jablobski BEL13VE in Miracles Foundation (a charitable organization created to support spinal cord injury recovery: http://www.bel13vefoundation.org), Max was almost always there.

Its very motivational, Max said. How difficult his injury was to handle and his hockey career being ended so early and him losing his ability to walk, it was just absolutely devastating. And to see the way he was able to not only come back from that, but come back with a smile on his face. Right when he got out of the hospital he wanted to go to rehab right away and start working. Im very proud of wheres gone and what hes been able to do since his injury.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 288
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 5,086
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Lakeville South's Thompson Retires After 38 Years
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/29/2016 12:09:24 PM

One of Minnesota's most well-known football coaches has announced his retirement. Larry Thompson coached at Lakeville High School and Lakeville South for 38 years. His teams won three state titles, were state runner-up four times and he was named a state coach of the year five times.

His career coaching record was 259-143, putting him among the top 20 in victories in Minnesota history.

His letter of resignation ended with this zinger: "I was going to coach at South until we got turf, but I can't wait until I'm 100."

Remembering Rachel: A Special Relationship At Totino-Grace
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/28/2016 2:35:34 PM

Rachel Woell has been gone for more than two years, but the teenagers impact on the football team at Totino-Grace High School has never wavered. Eagles coach Jeff Ferguson wore green sleeves during his teams Class 6A Prep Bowl victory over Eden Prairie on Friday night at U.S. Bank Stadium. Green was Rachels favorite color.

Rachel (pictured) died in September 2014 after a second bout with brain cancer. She was a student manager for the Totino-Grace football team and was beloved at school, being named Homecoming queen. Even after her medical condition put her in a wheelchair, she was part of the football team until the day she died. She called the football players my boys.

After the Eagles victory in Fridays state championship game, Rachel was there in the form of her mother, Yvette, as everyone celebrated. Players embraced Yvette, she hugged them tightly and used both hands to form a heart symbol as she looked up into the stands.

Yvette became part of the team as Rachels health declined.

When Rachel was a junior and diagnosed with her second bout of brain cancer, she ended up in a wheelchair and the way for her to get to football practice and games was for me to bring her, Yvette said Monday. I started meeting some of the boys that way. After she passed away it was in my heart that I wanted to hang out with these guys and take them to the end of the season.

That relationship has continued, and will go on if theyll have me, Yvette said with a smile.

Theres no doubting that. Yvette is listed among the assistant coaches on the team roster. Ferguson said, Shes a coach for us. There are six volunteer coaches and shes one of them. Shes our director of football operations, which means shes a mom to the football players.

Yvette said she handles some of the small stuff, to let the coaches coach. I make sure the players get what they need to perform and play with heart.

Among the players she embraced after Fridays game was senior running back Ivan Burlak (pictured, number 5). He is an immigrant from Russia whose mother and stepfather dont speak English and didnt attend football games,

Yvette and (her husband) Jamie are such role models for our kids, Ferguson said. On senior night, she stood with Ivan. She takes care of the strays.

Yvette will be back on the sidelines at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday for the 44th annual All-Star Football Game. Ferguson will be the head coach for the North team, with Yvette at his side.

Its just been great to be part of the team, Yvette said. Its amazing how many players remember Rachel and how she has inspired them to be more than just football players, to be amazing people.

Rachel would sometimes get in the car and she would be shaking her head. Id say, Whats up? And she would just say boys. Now that Im part of it I totally get it. They just make you laugh.

And they want to keep wearing green. It just warms my heart.

Rachel is being remembered in another way, with a special award at the end of each season. The Rachel Woell Award is given to a player who displays commitment, loyalty and love.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 286
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 5,038
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

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