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Minnesota’s First Family Of Basketball, Phase Three
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/9/2018 5:28:54 PM

When a young man named Bob McDonald was hired for his first coaching job with the boys basketball team at McGregor High School in the 1955-56 season, it’s a pretty safe bet that he wasn’t thinking about the 2018-19 season.

McDonald, of course, went on to a storied career that included 53 years at Chisholm, more than 1,000 victories and induction into the National High School Hall of Fame. And 63 years later, he has grandkids doing big things in the same profession.

The family history is familiar. Bob’s four sons and two daughters all became basketball coaches. Currently, Mike (Cambridge-Isanti), Joel (Hibbing) and Tom (Ely) coach high school boys teams and Paul is in his final season coaching the men’s team at Vermilion Community College in Ely before retirement. Bob and his late wife Darlene’s daughters, Sue and Judy, are former high school basketball coaches.

And now the third generation…

Sue and her husband Neil Tesdahl, along with other family members, were at Hopkins High School’s Lindbergh Center for Saturday’s Breakdown Tipoff Classic, an annual hoops hotbed featuring 16 games on two courts. Sue is the former girls coach at Crosby-Ironton and Neil is a longtime boys assistant there to Hall of Famer Dave Galovich, but the Class 2A Rangers were not involved in this event. The Tesdahl contingent was focused on back-to-back Class 4A games: Hopkins vs. Lakeville North and East Ridge vs. Prior Lake.

That’s because Brock Tesdahl, 25, is an assistant coach at Hopkins and Bryce Tesdahl (pictured), 28, is the head coach at East Ridge. They are sons of Sue and Neil and grandsons of Bob McDonald. The day began with East Ridge ranked No. 1 in Class 4A by Minnesota Basketball News and Hopkins No. 2. There will be some adjustments in this week’s rankings, with East Ridge losing to Prior Lake 70-62 and Hopkins defeating Lakeville North 78-72.

“You can tell they come from coaching stock,” said Hopkins coach Ken Novak Jr., another member of the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Novak hired Brock four years ago after he finished his college career at Bemidji State; the young man coaches the Royals sophomore team and assists the varsity.

“He’s a great kid, he’s a hard worker, he really invests in kids, he gets to know them,” Novak said. “He puts in a lot of time, more time than he needs to. He does a good job.”

Bryce, who also played at Bemidji State, was a graduate assistant at Minnesota-Duluth for two years, followed by two years as the head coach at New Prague. He’s now in his second season at East Ridge. Like his brother, he said he never really thought about doing anything other than teaching and coaching.

“When you’re born into it, there’s not really another decision,” he said. “I think it’s one of the most rewarding careers that you can be in, and obviously Grandpa McDonald set a pretty good note for us to follow. Then you’ve got mom and dad doing the same thing, and you’re living in the gym, living in the classroom and you’re always around the school. It was just so fun for me. When I went into college coaching, I was just missing something in my life. When I got back to high school, I felt like I was at home.”

Brock (pictured), who also is an assistant volleyball coach at Hopkins, said, “It’s been instilled in our family, coaching and teaching. That’s what we grew up with. We were gym rats, going to our mom and dad’s practices, it’s in our blood. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

The Tesdahl brothers coached against each other a week earlier, when East Ridge defeated Hopkins 74-65 in a season-opening game. After the Tipoff Classic both teams are 2-1.

“Last week was kind of fun, because I grew up always competing against Bryce,” said Brock. “Going head to head with him, it was a great game, a great matchup.”

The busy coaching brothers keep in touch mainly via texts. Eighty-four-year-old Grandpa McDonald – who resides with his wife Carol at an assisted-living facility in Chisholm -- isn’t much for texting or emails, but he keeps up on his kids’ and grandkids’ teams via family word of mouth.

Two more McDonald coaching notes…

--Mike’s son Rhett is the head boys basketball coach at Duluth East.

--In recent days, a Hibbing High School senior named Abbey McDonald reached the 2,000-career-point mark and signed a letter of intent with St. Cloud State. Her dad (Joel) is rightfully proud and her grandpa McDonald is surely beaming, too.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Class 3A Wrestling Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/8/2018 1:55:08 PM

From The Guillotine

1. Shakopee (2)
2. Apple Valley (2)
3. Owatonna (1)
4. St. Michael-Albertville (5)
5. Bemidji (8)
6. Willmar (8)
7. New Prague (2)
8. Anoka (7)
9. Mounds View (4)
10. Northfield (1)
11. East Ridge (3)
12. Blaine (7)
Lean and Mean
Albert Lea Area (1), Lakeville South (2), Coon Rapids (7), Hastings (3), Rosemount (2), Stillwater Area (4), Cambridge-Isanti (7), St. Francis (7)

Class 2A Wrestling Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/8/2018 1:54:45 PM

From The Guillotine

1. Kasson-Mantorville (1)
2. Simley (1)
3. Fairmont/Martin County West (3)
4. Perham (8)
5. Scott West (2)
6. Foley (6)
7. Waconia (2)
8. Totino-Grace (5)
9. South St. Paul (4)
10. Grand Rapids (7)
11. Pierz (8)
12. Marshall (3)
Lean and Mean
Detroit Lakes (8), Hutchinson (2), Litchfield (6), Mahtomedi (4), Mora (7), Delano (2), Princeton (7), Thief River Falls (8), Watertown-Mayer/Mayer Lutheran (2)

Class 1A Wrestling Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/8/2018 1:54:21 PM

From The Guillotine

1. Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove (3)
2. LPGE-Browerville (5)
3. Kenyon-Wanamingo (2)
4. Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (4)
5. Minneota (3)
6. Goodhue (1)
7. Frazee (8)
8. Badger/Greenbush-Middle River (8)
9. Blackduck/Cass Lake-Bena (7)
10. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (5)
11. Ottertail Central (6)
12. Canby (3)
Lean and Mean
Zumbrota-Mazeppa (1), Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie (6), Minnewaska Area (5), GMLOS (1), West Central Area/Ashby/Brandon-Evansville (6), Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (5), Blue Earth Area (2), Aitkin (7), Dover-Eyota (1)

Class 1A Boys Basketball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/8/2018 1:44:27 PM

From Minnesota Basketball News

1. Minneota 1-0
2. Springfield 1-0
3. Cass Lake-Bena 1-0
4. Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 1-0
5. BOLD 2-0
6. North Woods 2-1
7. Ortonville 1-1
8. Minnesota Valley Lutheran 1-0
9. Cromwell-Wright 1-0
10. Mountain Lake Area-Comfrey 0-0

Class 2A Boys Basketball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/8/2018 1:44:08 PM

From Minnesota Basketball News

1. Minnehaha Academy 1-0
2. Minneapolis North 0-0
3. Perham 1-1
4. Lake City 2-0
5. Caledonia 1-0
6. Melrose 1-0
7. Rochester Lourdes 1-0
8. Hawley 1-0
9. Breckenridge 1-1
10. Breck 1-0

Class 3A Boys Basketball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/8/2018 1:43:44 PM

From Minnesota Basketball News

1. DeLaSalle 2-0
2. Princeton 2-0
3. Robbinsdale Cooper 1-0
4. Mahtomedi 1-0
5. Austin 0-0
6. Waseca 2-0
7. Marshall 0-0
8. Mankato East 0-0
9. Delano 0-1
10. Columbia Heights 0-1

Class 4A Boys Basketball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/8/2018 1:43:14 PM

From Minnesota Basketball News

1. East Ridge 1-0
2. Hopkins 1-1
3. Lakeville North 2-0
4. Eden Prairie 1-1
5. Park Center 2-0
6. Prior Lake 0-1
7. Wayzata 2-0
8. Cretin-Derham Hall 0-1
9. Shakopee 1-0
10. Rochester John Marshall 0-0

Class 1A Girls Basketball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/8/2018 1:42:45 PM

From Minnesota Basketball News

1. Minneota 3-0
2. Mountain Iron-Buhl 3-0
3. Heritage Christian 4-0
4. Menahga 3-0
5. Pelican Rapids 2-0
6. Ada-Borup 1-1
7. Grand Meadow 3-0
8. Goodhue 3-1
9. Lac qui Parle Valley 3-0
10. SW Minnesota Christian 1-0

Class 2A Girls Basketball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/8/2018 1:42:22 PM

From Minnesota Basketball News

1. Roseau 2-1
2. Stewartville 4-1
3. Sauk Centre 2-1
4. Eden Valley-Watkins 2-0
5. Proctor 4-0
6. Minnehaha Academy 2-3
7. Holy Family Catholic 4-2
8. Rush City 2-1
9. Norwood-Young America 2-0
10. Lake City 3-0

Class 3A Girls Basketball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/8/2018 1:42:00 PM

From Minnesota Basketball News

1. Alexandria 2-0
2. Northfield 2-0
3. DeLaSalle 1-2
4. Willmar 2-0
5. St. Paul Como Park 5-0
6. Mankato West 3-0
7. Waseca 4-0
8. Waconia 3-0
9. Hill-Murray 4-0
10. Simley 1-1

Class 4A Girls Basketball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/8/2018 1:41:36 PM

From Minnesota Basketball News

1. Hopkins 2-1
2. Wayzata 5-0
3. Eastview 3-0
4. Roseville 5-0
5. St. Michael-Albertville 3-0
6. Stillwater 2-1
7. Forest Lake 4-0
8. Farmington 1-0
9. Eden Prairie 4-0
10.Chaska 3-0

Boys Nordic Ski Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/8/2018 1:40:57 PM

Provided by skinnyski.com

Forest Lake
St. Cloud Cathedral-Sartell
Mpls Southwest
Mounds Park Academy
St. Paul Highland Park
Grand Rapids

Garrett Beckrich, Grand Rapids, 12
Peter Moore, SPA, 12
Alex Nemeth, St. Cloud Cathedral-Sartell, 12
Cooper Lennox, Mora, 11
James Schneider, Wayzata, 11
Matthew Bourne, MPA, 12
Henry Hall, Mpls Southwest, 12
Aidan Ripp, CEC, 12
Jasper Johnston, Ely, 10
Ian Ruh, Stillwater, 12

Girls Nordic Ski Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/8/2018 1:40:29 PM

Provided by skinnyski.com

Mpls Southwest
St. Paul Highland Park
Forest Lake
Duluth East
Winona-Winona Cotter

Mara McCollor, Wayzata, 12
Regan Duffy, Forest Lake, 12
Sarah Olson, Blaine, 12
Lucinda Anderson, Robbinsdale-Armstrong, 12
Libby Tuttle, Stillwater, 11
Molly Moening, St. Paul Highland Park, 9
Kasia Bednarski, Mpls Southwest, 12
Gretchen Haggenmiller, Duluth East, 11
Anni Skillicorn, Winona-Winona Cotter, 10
Celeste Alden, St. Paul Highland Park, 10

Brainerd’s Mike Bialka: 40 Years Of Positive Impacts
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/3/2018 2:43:29 PM

In 1978 Les Sellnow, editor of the newspaper in Brainerd, called a recent college graduate who was in his first year as the sports editor (and one-person sports department) for the Crookston Times. Les had an opening for a sports writer and invited Mike Bialka to return to his hometown for an interview.

The young scribe had a conflict. He would be playing in the state amateur baseball tournament and couldn’t make the interview. A couple of phone conversations later, Sellnow said simply, “If you want the job, it’s yours.” No interview, no hoops to jump through. So the young man’s first day on the job was the first day he walked into the newsroom of his hometown newspaper.

That young man’s last day on the job will be the first day of 2019, ending a 40-year career at the Brainerd Dispatch, the last 33 as sports editor. Mike Bialka is a real rarity: he devoted nearly his entire career to his hometown community newspaper and made a million friends along the way.

He announced his retirement plans last week. The reaction has surprised him but nobody else.

“It’s been really emotional. I’ve got a lot of people emailing and texting,” he said. “In a way you don’t know what impact you have on people. When you’re doing what you’re doing, you’re not the story. When you become the story I’m just not comfortable with that. I’m used to telling everybody else’s stories.”

Too bad. The Mike Bialka Story began when he was born in St. Cloud. He lived in Maple Lake (where his dad was a teacher) until the family moved to Brainerd when he was 10. Baseball was always his thing. He was a talented pitcher; in his senior season (1973) a new coach named Lowell Scearcy came to town. Earlier this year, Scearcy retired after 49 years of coaching baseball.

“I can’t overstate what Mike has meant to Brainerd athletics,” Scearcy said. “He will be almost impossible to replace, that’s for sure. I can’t think of one single person who would have a bad word to say about Mike.” (Bialka is pictured here with Twins great Harmon Killebrew.)

Bialka continued his baseball career at St. Cloud State, although his senior season was cut short by arm surgery (he played amateur baseball at other positions). He graduated with a degree in mass communications in 1977 and was hired in Crookston.

Work never bothered him. In high school he coached youth baseball and worked at Schaefer’s Red Owl as a grocery carryout and van driver. During college he sold fine footwear at Bonne's Shoes at Crossroads Center in St. Cloud.

But covering sports, that was his wheelhouse. Mike, 63, never tracked such things, but he estimates he has watched 4,000 sporting events. The highlights are many: Brainerd and nearby Staples winning state wrestling championships in 1982, Brainerd state baseball titles in 1995 and 2000, the 1987 and 1991 World Series and 1992 Final Four, Brainerd grads Josh Archibald (now playing in the NHL) and Joe Haeg (NFL), and Staples native Dave Joerger becoming a head coach in the NBA.

And then, of course, there are the thousands of stories he has written about kids and teams in Brainerd and surrounding towns, articles that for four decades have been carefully clipped out of the newspaper, displayed proudly on refrigerators, placed in frames, tucked into boxes filled with memories and kept as treasured family keepsakes.

“They had a unique feel up there, with the Dispatch covering Brainerd sports like it was college sports,” said Ty Eigner, who coached boys hockey in Brainerd for nine years and is now an assistant coach at Bowling Greem University. “It was a daily paper with preseason stories, Athletes of the Week, lots of neat things. Mike was outstanding. It was great for those athletes who grew up in Brainerd and little kids who wanted to be Athlete of the Week and wanted to be interviewed by Mike. There’s nobody like him.”

One of Mike’s boyhood friends and baseball teammates was Alan Wallace, whose father was the famously crusty sports editor back then. Jim Wallace would let the two kids tag along when he covered games, and the young Bialka boy thought that seemed like a pretty cool way to make a living.

Brainerd High School athletic director Charlie Campbell said he is not alone in appreciating everything Mike has done.

“I’ve heard that culture is created and perpetuated by the stories you tell,” he said. “Mike is the guy who told our stories so well. Since my first introduction to Mike, the guy has always been very professional, he told the right stories the right way. He never tried to sensationalize anything just to get clicks. He just wanted to tell the story of what our programs are about.”

Ron Stolski, the dean of Minnesota high school football coaches, has been coaching for 57 years, the last 44 at Brainerd. For most of those years, he has met with Bialka for an interview every Thursday during the season. Mike has stood on the sidelines for all those games all those years, keeping statistics.

“Mike has always been fair and honest,” Stolski said. “The thing I liked about him most is he wrote some really compelling human-interest stories. And the thing that endeared him to me was he never looked for an angle. He reported the game the way he saw the game. He wasn’t looking to create anything that wasn’t there. He’s a hardworking, honest reporter and he was always fair.”

Eigner said, “The industry has changed dramatically, the paper changed dramatically. He’s been passionate about what he did and I think he felt a loyalty to the people he worked for and the people of Brainerd. Who’s going to do it for 40 years like Mike did? Nobody.”

Mike’s wife, Judy, is an educator who retired six years ago. Their son Troy lives in Fargo.

“We just kind of thought we’d like to do some different things while we’re still able,” Mike said. “It looked like it was just the time to do it. I agonized over it, I had a hard time sleeping. Until I told people, and then that was a big relief.

“I haven’t had to give notice that I’m leaving anywhere for 40 years. And all of a sudden, it’s like OK, it’s final now. I’m just glad that part of it is over, the notice thing.”

Mike and Judy are thinking about spending time in Arizona during the winters and maybe taking some baseball spring training trips, which they did before they became parents.

His final day at the Dispatch will be Jan. 1. That’s fitting, because it will be a quiet day in the office. He’ll map out the next edition’s sports coverage, log off the computer for the final time, turn in his key, collect his stuff and close the book on a splendid journalism career that has had a positive impact on more people than Mike will ever know.

“It won’t be too busy that day,” he said. “I want to walk out the door and not have a parade, just kind of sneak away.

“You don’t realize how much it just becomes part of you. Right now it doesn’t seem like I’m retired because I’m still working. I will miss telling stories about people, telling their stories. And it’s big to be able to leave on your own terms.”

Mike was inducted into the Brainerd Warriors Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame earlier this year. In 2017 he became the first newspaper professional to receive the MSHSL Outstanding Media Service Award (pictured). The award he might be most proud of receiving was the 2009 Media Award presented during the National Girls and Women in Sports Day celebration at the State Capitol.

Stolski still chuckles about Bialka’s induction into the Brainerd Hall of Fame.

“It was the shortest speech in history,” Stolski said. “Mike accepted the plaque, said, ‘Thank you very much’ and sat down. I said ‘Mike, this is your moment.’ ”

Nope. It’s never been about him.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

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