The Saints picked up their 750th team dual meet win against New Ulm last Thursday night.
Kids have been wrestling for the Saints since 1950. The 60th Anniversary publication printed in 2010 said the wrestling program had, ‘A proud past a promising future’. Still true.
The immediate future can be seen in a class of seniors who are going to rack up a lot of wins over the next month and a half and depth the Saints have developed among younger team members.
The question of does the team rebuild or reload usually means with the Saints reload.
This number, 750 wins, is a big deal. Head Coach Gene Hildebrandt wasn’t aware of career wins records of other high schools in Minnesota. For comparative purposes, the winningest program in college wrestling is Iowa State. The Cyclones have over a thousand wins, but they’ve been wrestling since 1915.
Based on the average number of wins they have had each year, if the Saints had been wrestling that long, they would have more than 1,100 wins.
So the Saints have soared for a long time, but it started out slow. The first team the Saints sent out on the mat went 1-4. The first winning season was 52-53 when the team went 8-2.
The first head coach, Terry Haws, ended his tenure at the end of 1958 with a winning record of 58-28-2.
In that time Coach Haws coached a series of firsts:
First state entrant: 1952, John Morgan.
First state place winner: 1953, Howard Munson, second.
First multiple year state entrant: 1955&56 Errol Saunders.
Coach Ade Sponberg went 24 -6 as the Saints Head Coach between 1958-1961. He coached the first St. James state champion. Al Firchau won the championship in 1961.
Paul Kruger coached the Saints from 64-75. In that time the Saints won their first state championship in 1972. That 72 team sent seven wrestlers to state. The wrestlers were state runners up in 69 and 73 under Kruger.
Head Coach Gene Hildebrandt has been directing the program since 1986. In that time, Coach Hildebrandt has overseen more than 60 percent of the St. James wrestling wins.
He has also seen several firsts.
First two time state champion: 2005&06, Justin Schwanz.
First underclassman state champion: 2004, Jared Schwanz.
First five time state entrant: 2006-10, Ethan Hildebrandt.
Coach Hildebrandt has coached two state dual meet championship teams. The Saints were co-champions in 1989 and won the title outright in 1998.
Page 2 of 2 - The Saints have sent 22 teams to the state tournaments since 1950. They have won the SCC Tournament 25 times. The boys have won or tied for the regular season dual meet championship 21 times.
In addition to the previously mentioned state champions, these St. James wrestlers have also won state championships:
1963 Ted Anderson
1969 Richard Enger
1986 Phil Tangen
1991 Shane Nelson
1998 Brad Steele
2001 Danon Anderson
2002 Kory Anderson
The Saints have 23 wrestlers who have at least 100 career wins. The latest entrants to this club of greatness were Cody Hanson, who joined the club earlier this month and Giovanni Alvarado, who ended his career last year with 112 wins.
The top five career winners for the Saints are:
Ethan Hildebrandt 187-43.
Phil McMullen 162-30.
Troy Meyer 153-45-1.
Chris Werth 148-32.
Josh Olson 144-38.
As the rest of this year continues, the season remains promising. The Saints have a chance to win the SCC regular season championship and the SCC tournament championship.
As a team the Saints could make it to state. That would be a challenge, but challenges have made this program. Several wrestlers have a chance to make it to the 100 win club this year and several wrestlers are likely to do well in the individual state tournament - some may do very well.
With this program the tradition runs deep. The future seems promising and the milestones get bigger.