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BLAST: 1972 Centennial Edition recaps early Trojan football teams, three undefeated seasons

WORTHINGTON -- Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky were squaring off in an ever-famous U.S. vs. U.S.S.R. chess match, Mark Spitz and Gary Hall were setting world records at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Chicago and Steve Prefontaine had been defeated in the 1,500-meter run at a pre-Olympic track and field meet in Oslo, Norway.

"Alone Again (Naturally)" by Gilbert O'Sullivan was Billboard's No. 1 single for the second week in a row, but Looking Glass was climbing the charts with "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)."

Locally, both the Heron Lake Lakers and Windom Pirates were beginning their surge through the amateur baseball playoffs to represent the area at the state tournament -- and the Worthington VFW baseball team, known as "Klumper's Thumpers," were way up north in Ely, playing in their own state tournament.

It was the first week of August 40 years ago, 1972.

Fischer and Spassky were battling through a long series for the world chess championship in Reykjavik, Iceland.

A Daily Globe sports' page headline on Friday, Aug. 4. 1972 read:

"Fischer is a chess genius, but is also a 'creep'?"

The article, written by Associated Press special correspondent Will Grimsley, detailed some of Fischer's arrogance and lack of social skills as he talked to reporters and played in a golf tournament in Iceland between chess matches against the famed Russian.

Interestingly, an adjacent story detailed each move made by both Spassky and Fischer in Game 10 of the series, which lasted more than four hours -- 146 minutes for Spassky and 118 for Fischer -- over 40 moves for each before being adjourned.

Predictions were that Fischer would win the match and take a 6-3 lead over the Soviet ace, with one previous match ending as a draw.

Spitz, who a month later made headlines with his seven swimming gold medals at the '72 Olympics in Munich, had just set a fourth world record in three days when he swam the 100-meter butterfly in 54.56 seconds.

Spitz set a new world record (54.68) in the same event hours earlier in a preliminary heat. In the two previous days, the Carmichael, Calif. native had established new world records in both the 200-meter butterfly and the 200-meter freestyle.

Hall, a great swimmer who was overshadowed by the remarkable success of Spitz, broke his own two-year-old world record in the tasking 400-meter individual medley with a time of 4:30.81, bettering his previous all-time best by .19 seconds.

Hall -- whose son, Gary Hall, Jr., claimed 10 Olympic swimming medals (five gold, three silver, two bronze) during the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Games -- was from North Carolina.

So, while Spitz grew up in California and Hall was from the Tarheel state, where did both athletes do their college swimming?

And who was their famous coach?

Call me at 822-2053 with those two answers and I'll give you some "ink" in the next "blast".

Prefontaine, who was becoming the most famous middle and long-distance runner in the U.S., clocked a sizzling time of 7:44.2 to win the 3,000-meter run at Bislett Stadium. But for the first time in two years, the University of Oregon star did not win the 1,500.

It may have been a prelude of what was to come, as Prefontaine missed medaling at Munich a month later, finishing fourth in the 5,000-meter run after leading much of the way.

I will be researching and writing an upcoming "Blast" about that highly-successful '72 Worthington VFW baseball team, coached by Wayne Klumper.

Bill Brower's facts in the '72 Centennial Edition are very interesting

While beginning my research on "Klumper's Thumpers," I came across the Worthington Daily Globe's Centennial Edition which was published on Saturday, Aug. 5, 1972.

Globe sports editor Bill Brower filled a couple of pages with interesting information, both facts and pictures.

Two things which really caught my attention were his column about George Myrum and the lop-sided victories of Worthington High School football teams during both the 1916 and 1920 seasons.

The Trojans were pretty doggone good in 1932, too.

St. Peter's Myrum Fieldhouse named for Worthington native

First, George Myrum.

A 1920 graduate of Worthington High School, Myrum earned a varsity letter in football and two in baseball -- including being captain his senior year -- at the University of Minnesota.

But, it was as a collegiate coach at Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter that Myrum left his legacy.

In 15 years at Gustavus, Myrum guided teams to 16 Minnesota College Conference championships -- six in football, nine in baseball and a tie (with perennial power Hamline) for the 1937 basketball title. The Gusties were second in the league three times each in both baseball and football.

That means that Myrum's football teams finished either first or second in the conference nine times and his baseball teams were first or second a remarkable 12 times -- during a 15-year span.

Unfortunately, Myrum was killed -- along with two players -- in a bus-truck collision on Nov. 12, 1938 after the football team was returning from a season-ending 14-6 victory at DePere, Wisconsin.

Known as "Little Napoleon," Myrum became the athletic director at Gustavus in 1926 and supervised an extensive intramural program as well as being the head coach in three major sports.

Among Myrum's achievements were his pushing through a new football stadium on campus and ramrodding the funding for the construction of a new fieldhouse.

That fieldhouse -- which among many other activities, hosted Region 2 and Region 3 high school basketball games for decades -- was named in his honor, Myrum Fieldhouse.

Look at these 1916 high school football scores

Next, the 1916 football team.

These scores are incredible.

Here's the headline and four paragraphs from Brower's 1972 story:

"WHS 1916 team was great."

"On Thursday, Nov. 23, 1916, the pages of the Globe carried a story with the following headline: 'Worthington Wins Football Championship'

"The story told how the Worthington team defeated Slayton 34-13, thereby winning the southwest Minnesota football championship. And quite a team that was.

"Slayton was the only team that fall to cross the Worthington goal line. The red and black ran up 425 points to the opponents 13, for an average of 85 points per game.

"In the opening three games of the season, the powerful 1916 team rambled to some unbelievable scores. They opened the season defeating Adrian 104-0. On successive weeks they crushed Fairmont 162-0 and Luverne 110-0. They wound up the year with a 15-0 win over Windom and finally the 34-13 victory over Slayton."

That must have been some team!

The story didn't mention any players' names from the 1916 team, but it did list several names from both the WHS teams of 1920 and 1932.

But, my oh my, recap those three scores over current football powers Adrian (104-0), Fairmont (162-0) and Luverne (110-0) -- that's a combined point differential of 376-0.

That's amazing.

1920 team was honored with two banquets

In 1920, according to Brower's column, you could buy a brand new touring car for $440. If you wanted the car with a starter (automatic) the price was $510.

Here were the scores for Worthington High School's football team -- during the 'regular season' -- in that fall of '20, all wins:

Jackson 58-0, Fairmont 26-0, Pipestone 38-0, Luverne 79-0 and Windom 40-0.

But after winning all five games by a combined score of 241-0, the red and black tasted defeat in a 14-6 loss to Red Wing in a battle for the southern Minnesota championship.

Some of the listed members of the 1920 Trojans were:

Co-captains Louie Sowles and Paul "Tweed" Voss, both halfbacks; Lloyd Birch, fullback; Leo Davis, quarterback; Jake Casareto, Roy Swanson, Mason Greig, Ray Anderson, Morris Greig, Clarence Anderson, Raymond Anderson and Edwin Johnson, most of whom played on the line.

The last two paragraphs of Brower's writeup on the 1920 team are reproduced here:

"Newspaper accounts of the post-season football activities tell of two banquets accorded the team. The first dinner given the squad was held in the Palace of Sweets restaurant and was hosted by proprietor Noel Driscoll, an ardent booster of Worthington High School football.

"The second banquet for the team was hosted by the players' mothers and was held in the Presbyterian church parlors."

That was some season for the Trojans 92 years ago -- when Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge were campaigning to win the presidential election with the "Return to Normalcy" slogan.

Normalcy was a new word, coined by Harding to return to the way things were before WW I.

1932 another vintage year for WHS football

The scores were closer, but the results were the same -- Trojan victories -- in 1932, during the midst of the Great Depression.

Coached by John Hollander, who guided the red and black for six seasons (1929-1934), WHS was a perfect 6-0 in '32.

The wins came over Jackson (20-0), Tracy (27-7), Windom (6-0), Jasper (13-0), Luverne (18-6) and Pipestone (26-0).

Only Tracy and Luverne scored a single touchdown each on the Trojans, who outpointed their six opponents that season by a 110-13 spread.

The players listed in the article included:

Kenny Sall, Carl Mellgren, George Pappas, Clarence Potter, Robert Schrader, Robert Albinson, Leo Wolf, Herbert Langseth, Milton Page, Orville Fagerness, Herman Schackel, Leslie Foelschow, Warner Ahlberg, Don Bergaus, Harold Tripp, Willis Ehlers, Robert Sietsema, Austin Johnson, Lloyd Davis, Marvin Hoffman, James Paine, Albin Peterson, Russell Tripp, Leonard Reibel and Al McNab.

There are several familiar Worthington area last names on that list.

The size of the squad had grown considerably -- at least the listed ones -- from 1920 to 1932.

The quarterback on the '32 squad was Austin Johnson who was the WHS class valedictorian in 1933.

Don Woelfle, Jack Watson nearly win 1947 state track meet

Another item mentioned by Brower in his Centennial Edition was the accomplishments of the duo of Don Woelfle and Jack Watson during the spring of 1947.

Watson, a pole vaulter, and Woelfle a multi-sport competitor (sprinter, broad jumper, high jumper) combined for enough points to come within half-a-point of winning the state championship.

Finding out exact details on the Woelfle-Watson state meet placings looks like another looming project for next spring.

OHS undefeated in football in 1948, BHS goes perfect 9-0 in '62

Two other projects appear to be Okabena's stellar 1948 football campaign, which capped a three-year streak of conference championships for the Bluehawks.

Okabena's Weldon Bayerkohler was a member of those teams and has an enclosed poster showing the OHS '48 schedule and scores.

I have also been researching the origination and continuity of the 10-member Southern Star Conference, which started up in 1959 and existed through 1981.

Heron Lake, coming off an undefeated 1958 campaign, won the first Southern Star football title with a perfect 9-0 mark in '59.

East Chain, which lost close games to the Falcons in both '58 and '59, went through the league undefeated in 1960.

Round Lake and Ceylon tied each other (0-0) and tied for the conference championship in 1961 (Blast, Monday, Nov. 28, 2011) with identical 8-1 league records.

The Brewster Bulldogs did the trick the next season, winning all their games in 1962.

Sometime this fall, both the '48 Bluehawks and '62 Bulldogs will be featured in a "Blast."

But the next one will be about the '72 Worthington VFW baseball team.

Three tie for "Mathias Reunion" Road Race Win from farm to town

It's been nearly two weeks since the Mathias clan gathered for a huge reunion at the Okabena Legion Hall.

Farmers in Jackson County's La Crosse Township, Clayton, John and George "Butch" Mathias each raised large families who contributed greatly to the Heron Lake and Heron Lake-Okabena school districts during the '60s, '70s and '80s.

Their grandchildren continued the Mathias tradition and have been part of school activities at Heron Lake-Okabena-Lakefield, Southwest Star Concept and Round Lake-Brewster during the past two decades.

On the morning of July 28, the first scheduled event of the reunion was a road race from the John Mathias home place (now owned and operated by third son Bob) through Heron Lake and all the way to the Okabena City Park.

Bob's place is the middle most of the three farm places -- all of which are northwest of Heron Lake.

The total distance from Bob's house to the OCP was exactly 7.7 miles according to the pedometer worn by 1975 HLHS graduate Larry Mathias (son of Butch and Karen) who covered the entire distance in 65 minutes and 10 seconds, placing fourth.

But a ways ahead of Larry were his younger brother David (HL-O Class of 1984) and a pair of still very athletic girls.

Brittany Liepold Henning (HLOL Class of 1999), the daughter of Bob and Martha Mathias Liepold -- Clayton and Ann's granddaughter -- was a fine high school sprinter, along with excelling in both volleyball and basketball.

Rachel Wilson, the daughter of John and Lynn Mathias Wilson and the granddaughter of John and Ann Mathias, graduated from RL-B in 2007 and was a cross country runner in both high school and college (University of South Dakota in Vermillion).

A good middle-distance runner in track, Rachel also played basketball in high school

Wasting little time, Rachel and Brittany went out fast and took an early lead in the friendly family competition.

But by the time they had reached the Catholic Cemetery -- about two miles from the start -- Dave was gaining on them.

"I'll catch them by the dump road (just past Heron Lake)," chimed Mathias, who lives and works (in public relations) in Pasedena, Calif.

He caught them sooner than that. But the former Scarlet Knight quarterback, point guard and middle-distance runner couldn't shake loose.

"It took a lot of energy to catch those two and they were booking," he said later. "It was all I could do to keep up."

The three ran through Heron Lake and the entire 3.5 mile distance to Okabena together and crossed the finish line under an hour -- 59 minutes and 30 seconds to be exact.

That's a good time, averaging well under eight minutes per mile as a light rain came down during most of the run.

Finishing fifth in the run was former Southwestern United (SSC and RL-B) football and baseball star Alex Leopold, who covered the distance in just under 71 minutes.

Leopold (a 2007 SSC graduate) is the son of Kim and Mary Mathias Leopold and the grandson of Clayton and Ann. He was a running back on the Wildcats' '06 football team which won nine straight games and was a left-handed pitcher on SWU's 2006 baseball team which placed third in the state tournament.

Leopold completed a full marathon in California early this year, so he was just getting warmed up when he reached the northern city limits of Okabena and was able to see the crowd waiting for him at the park.

The event, coordinated by Marlys Mathias Olson (Clayton and Ann's youngest daughter) was a great way to start a festive day of "reunionizing" for a large family which has been such a big part of several local communities -- especially Heron Lake -- over the past decades.