The Guillotine ready to celebrate 50th year of publication in Minnesota

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

In 1971, St. James High School wrestling coach Paul Krueger was hoping to expand and promote the reaches of wrestling, not only in St. James but throughout the state of Minnesota.

He and fellow coach and friend Bill Mohr came up with an idea to start a newspaper, fashioned after Iowa's state wrestling paper, The Predicament, which highlighted high school wrestling across the Hawkeye State.

In a twist of humor—of which Krueger was known for—Krueger named the newspaper The Guillotine, a wrestling move he hated but taught his wrestlers in case they ever needed to get out of it. 

In that first year, The Guillotine published just four papers. The first edition held features and stories of wrestlers from around the state, including St. James.

In order to find a place to publish, the duo turned towards The Plaindealer, and editor Bill Nordgren, who happily let Krueger and Mohr use the facility to print their newspaper. Mohr credits Nordgren for being a voice for St. James wrestling. 

"That was really, really nice," said Mohr. "Bill Nordgren was the editor at the time was very very good to us."

Coaches around the state would help sell ads and to send in articles about their wrestlers. In, 1971, a subscription to The Guillotine was just $1 a year.

"That's how it snowballed, and then coaches started to purchase the papers and libraries at the schools would purchase them," said Mohr.

In another twist, following that first year of publication, St. James won the state wrestling tournament.

"I think helped us grow a little bit. And by no means was the reason why we did it," said Mohr. "Because we had no idea at the beginning of that year when we started we'd be that successful. We knew we'd be good but we didn't know we'd be that good. That made it catch the attention of more people."

The coaches couldn't have put together the paper by themselves. Krueger's wife Connie, as well as Mohr's wife Susan, did most of the work including pagination and laying out the paper, as their husbands coached up the Saints.

"Connie and my wife wrote almost all the articles. We would write like one a year. They'd do all the calling for advertisers and trying to get information from different coaches. They were very busy."

One of those advertising calls went to professional wrestler Verne Gagne for Gera Speed.

"He told us that it was just a donation because he just loved wrestling, but it was laughable the coverage that he would get for the cost."

A couple of years later, the paper became Minnesota's official wrestling newspaper.

By the mid-1970s, Mohr was no longer working with The Guillotine, and the paper was solid to Jim Bartels in New Ulm.

Looking back, Mohr says that neither he, his wife, or the Krueger's could have imagined the impact that The Guillotine would have in the future.

"No, we had no idea. Of course, we had aspirations and hoped that it would grow. The Iowa paper was very popular in Iowa. We had an idea that it would be a  great idea for coaches and kids to read the paper. The kids loved it, they really enjoyed it. But we had no idea it would grow as it did."