Conversation: Dalen Wasmund to be inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame

Wasmund graduated from WHS in 1977. He retired as Apple Valley's wrestling head coach in 2017, after 12 consecutive team championships.

Apple Valley's Dalen Wasmund
Archive: Apple Valley assistant wrestling coach and Worthington graduate Dalen Wasmund (pictured above) was recently named the NWCA's National Assistant Coach of the Year.

(Editor’s Note: Dalen Wasmund is widely regarded as the best wrestler in Worthington High School history and on April 29 will be inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame. A two-time state champion with the Trojans, the 1977 WHS graduate went on to an illustrious mat career at both Navy and the University of Minnesota, where he was an All-American and Big Ten Conference champion. He had abundant success during international freestyle and Greco-Roman competition, including twice wrestling on World Cup teams, and for decades has been a high school coach. Dalen, 63, retired as head coach at Apple Valley High after leading the Eagles to a 12th straight team championship in 2017. He remains an assistant in the Apple Valley mat program. We caught up with him recently for our latest Conversation With Scott.)

Question: Congratulations, Dalen. I’ve followed your career for a long time, ever since I was in high school at Slayton. I’m wondering if you still have relatives in Worthington?

Answer: Yes, my mother (Marie) just turned 86 and is living in Worthington. I’ve got a brother and several cousins in the area, plus several extended family members in the area.

Q: Is your father still alive?

A: No, his name was Clarence and he died in 2000. I think he knew most of the people in town (chuckles). He was a letter-carrier who knew a lot of people.


Q: I want to ask you first about football, because I noticed you were named defensive MVP for the Trojans in 1977. I remember playing for Slayton against the Trojans in the fall of 1974 and that doggone Leon Stugelmeyer returned a punt for a touchdown to break open a close game and beat us. I’ve always remembered that. Leon was a good guy and excellent athlete.

Dalen Wasmund, 1977
Dalen Wasmund, 1977
WHS Yearbook 1977

A: (Laughs) Yep. That was my sophomore year. On the first day of contact practice that season I broke my ankle, so I was out for the year and barely made it back for the start of wrestling.

Q: I believe there was a fast running back named Kirkwood on the Trojan team that year.

A: Yes, that was Andre Kirkwood. He was in my brother’s class and I knew him.

Q: You were a pretty small football player (state champion wrestler at 119 pounds in 1976 and 126 in 1977, en route to a WHS career record of 117-4, one of the best career winning percentages in Minnesota high school wrestling history), and I’m wondering if playing football helped you as a wrestler and vice versa.

A: Yes, I think so. I always thought wrestlers had the advantage defensively because they knew how to wrap up better and they’d usually stick their nose in there better than some people. I certainly think wrestling helped me as a tackler, for sure.

Q: As a high school wrestler, what was your forte? Were you stronger, quicker, meaner or what do you think?

A: (Laughs) What a question. I guess I never really felt like I was "more" or better at a lot of things, but I was fairly quick and that helped me. My strength was reasonable so I never felt like I was super outmatched. We had some kids that were stronger … I don’t know. I think I was fairly tough and my technique was good enough to get me by and I guess I was pretty good on the mat.


Q: You certainly were. Did you have wrestling in your blood? Was your father a wrestler for the Trojans?

A: No. They didn’t offer wrestling when my dad was at Worthington High School. He graduated in 1951. But I’m sure he would have been on the wrestling team. He was a co-captain of the football team. He never wrestled but I think he would have liked to.

WHS Wrestling Team, 1977
WHS Wrestling Team, 1977
WHS Yearbook 1977

Q: When we were in high school, Dalen, Adrian wasn’t quite the wrestling power that the school would eventually be. But the Southwest Conference was no slouch in wrestling, with Pipestone, Jackson and Marshall and others. Who were your real rivals in high school?

A: Well, yes. You talk about Adrian and you’re the perfect guy to hear this (laughs). My very first loss was in what we called the district tournament, and I wrestled Herman Duin from Adrian and lost to him in the Slayton gym. (Laughs) That was my first loss in high school. I was a ninth-grader. It was in the district finals. Then we turned around and wrestled each other again in the regional finals in Worthington and I beat him there. Then I placed above him at state, too. He was awfully tough. There was a kid from Pipestone, Gary Haupert, who was a real strong and tough kid. I also remember wrestling a (Brad) Botsford from Marshall who placed in the state meet. I wrestled him a couple of times in the region tournament.

Q: Just one class of high school wrestling in Minnesota back then, correct?

A: There was just one class when I was a freshman in 1974. Then it went to two classes in 1975.

Q: You know, Dalen, you mention that loss to Herman Duin. And whenever I talk to fantastic wrestlers they always remember a loss more than a victory, isn’t that right?

A: (Laughs) Oh yes. You could have a lot of wins, but you certainly remember those losses.


Q: Was your father tough on you? Did that help you become such a great wrestler?

Two-time state champ in wrestling Dalen Wasmund, as shown in the 1977 WHS yearbook.
Two-time state champ in wrestling Dalen Wasmund, as shown in the 1977 WHS yearbook.
WHS Yearbook 1977

A: No, no. My dad was a farm kid. I don’t think he was easy on me (laughs) but he wasn’t tough on me, either. I think he just supported me. Mom and Dad both did. I don’t think they ever missed any of my matches. They were both super-supportive. Actually my brother (Don) started wrestling in the YMCA circuit, and we’d wrestle in Sioux Falls and Spencer, Sioux City and Mankato. My brother was in it, and I was like 5 years old and would be there hanging around. One time we got to a meet and they didn’t have a lightweight so they went, "Hey, can your brother wrestle?" And told Dad I sure could, so at 5 years old I started wrestling (laughs). And I never looked back.

Q: Oh man, Dalen, that’s a great story. I’m sure coach (Ken) Droegemueller was a real role model for you.

A: For sure.

Q: Did the Trojans have anyone before you who went on to wrestle for the Gophers?

A: Not that I remember. Worthington had some really, really good wrestlers who were older than I was. The Lings were very good and were family friends. There was just a lot of good wrestlers from Worthington in those days. I used to go and watch that national junior college tournament we had in Worthington for many years. I’d go right over after school and watch all the matches. There weren’t enough hotels in Worthington so some of the teams at the national tournament would stay in family homes. I remember we had teams from Middlesex College in New Jersey and Schoolcraft out of Michigan stay at our house, and that was kind of cool.

Q: Really. That is interesting. You know, with all the history of the Trojans and out at the college I’ve always considered Worthington kind of a city that was known for wrestling. I’m sure that’s a source of pride for you.

A: For sure it was. I was always blessed to be around a lot of wrestling and a lot of good coaches. When Mr. (Roy) Minter was there I was in elementary school and I was friends with his son, then Doug Perry was then and always an assistant coach for Ken Droegemueller. They were both excellent role models.


Q: I don’t know how many Hall of Fames you’re in, Dalen, but this one has to feel good.

A: (Laughs) I’m not in very many, just the Worthington High School Hall of Fame. I think I was in the inaugural class, and that was a great feeling.

Q: And you’re still coaching, right?

A: Yes. I was head coach at Apple Valley until 2017 for the last five years we won (state championships) and I’ve been an assistant up through this year. I’m not sure about next year and what that holds, but we’ll see. I still love wrestling and still go the NCAA Division I wrestling championships every year with my brother and some friends.

Q: Do you think the sport of wrestling has changed much?

A: The kids are getting way better. They’re a lot more skilled with techniques way beyond what we knew in college even. I don’t know if the kids get any tougher, because I think kids were just as tough back then. But the kids have so many more wrestling opportunities with camps and schools. Some kids wrestle hundreds of matches a year and we never thought about that.

Dalen Wasmund was on the Worthington High School football team as a senior in 1977.
Dalen Wasmund was on the Worthington High School football team as a senior in 1977.
WHS Yearbook 1977

Q: You were so close to making the U.S. Olympic Team a few times. Is that a regret that you didn’t quite make it?

A: Yes, I guess so (pauses) … But you’ve got to be lucky. I got injured the first time in ‘84. And really I probably got farther than I should have. Because I could hardly stand up and was on crutches the night before (with an ankle injury). But I beat a couple of guys I’d lost to before and made it to the finals (losing to a former Olympian born in Turkey who had just acquired U.S. citizenship). Then the next time I got beat when I’d hurt my neck and had some nerve problems. I got DQed out a match that was tied. So this other guy goes (to the Olympics) and I’d beaten him two weeks earlier like 7-1 in the final tournament before the Trials. It was unfortunate because I’d beaten pretty much everyone in the three years prior to the (1988 Olympic Trials). But injuries slowed me down a little bit and then I got DQed in that match. So that makes it hard. But you’ve got to be lucky. You’ve got to stay healthy. A lot of athletes go through that. But you’ve got to be healthy at the right time (pauses). But yes, it was tough.


Q: I remember when you originally went to the Naval Academy, but that didn’t work out for you did it? (Note: Dalen transferred to Minnesota after one year at Navy).

Dalen Wasmund and Barb Wulf, homecoming royalty in 1977.
Dalen Wasmund and Barb Wulf, homecoming royalty in 1977.
1977 WHS Yearbook

A: It worked out OK, but the wrestling kind of got me. I saw all these guys wrestling all the time and I couldn’t even go wrestle at the U.S. Open tournament because I was at the Naval Academy. Since then the rules have gotten more lax and they allow athletes (at the academies) to compete more. You see it all the time with football; they let them go pro before they have to fulfill their (military) commitment. At that time I just really wanted to wrestle more, so I went to the Gophers. I always liked Minnesota and it was fun to compete in our home state.

Q: You also were an assistant coach at the Gophers, correct?

A: Yes, I did that for a couple of years. You know, Scott, people always ask about the Olympic teams and yes, it is a sore spot for me. But a couple years after 1984 I made the World Team (which is the top U.S. squad in non-Olympic years) and got to wrestle in the World Championships, which is basically like the Olympics without all the fanfare. Actually it’s a tougher tournament, because it’s a much bigger tournament than the Olympics. (Note: Dalen placed eighth and 10th in the Freestyle World Championships in those years; he was also second and third in World Cup tournaments and earned a U.S. championship in Greco-Roman).

Q: Plus you got to travel the world, I imagine?

A: A little bit, yes. (Laughs) My parents didn’t have a ton of money and we weren’t going on any vacations. Our only vacations when I was young is if I got to wrestle somewhere.

Q: Are you married to a Worthington girl, Dalen?

A: Yes. Catherine Terrones. Her dad (A.J., known as Toche) was a chamber of commerce executive.


Q: You and Cathy have a family?

A: Yes. I have three sons. My oldest (Neil, whose brothers are Bryce and Ryan) was a two-time state champ and my youngest, who had won the state freestyle championship, suffered a lot of injuries. But he was good enough to win it all if he’d stayed healthy.

Q: Those memories of your sons wrestling and winning matches has to be almost as sweet as when you yourself were winning, is that right?

A: For sure. It’s really fun. But it’s more stressful, though (laughs).

Q: Congratulations again, Dalen, on this wrestling achievement and enjoy the festivities in Benson. It’s a real honor for me to talk to you. If you had to say anything to your fans back home, what would it be?

A: Thank you. I’d just say thank you to Worthington for all the support and the background I have, which is because of all the good people I grew up to and got to be coached by.

(Scott Mansch can be reached at )

Scott Mansch, who in a crowded Viking tavern has been known to say “Go Pack Go” at times in complete disregard for his health, can be reached at
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