Doug Wolter: Three high school teams equals three good stories

Doug Wolter
Doug Wolter

So I’m sitting here wanting to write a column on three of the intriguing 2022-23 high school winter sports teams we’ve got around these parts.

Hmmm…. Do you know how hard it is to settle on just three? Well, it’s hard. Every team has got a story, its own personal story. And all the stories are interesting in their own way.

I decided to touch base on the Windom Area boys basketball team, the Westbrook-Walnut Grove girls basketball team and the Worthington Trojans boys hockey team.

I think they’re good choices. The Eagle boys are putting up points like 8-year-olds with a big bag of Skittles. The Charger girls, who’ve gone through many losing seasons in the past, are thriving under young head coach Dan Klumper. And the Trojan hockey boys are hanging tough despite heading into the winter campaign with very little experience.

The Eagles


Head coach Mitch Boeck’s Windom Area boys were 14-7 through Thursday while scoring 90 or more points 18 times, and more than 100 points six times. They run a unique style of offense that emphasizes spacing players according to their strengths and making quick decisions.

But what do you call it, Mitch?

“We just call it … I don’t know what we call it,” he responds.

Boeck says he’s taken multiple ideas from multiple sources, but the overall scheme is to “push the pace of play.”

It only works well when you’ve got the right players to play it, however, and Boeck has ‘em. For starters, his point guard, Henry Erickson, is an outstanding ball-handler and passer who also leads the team in scoring. When he’s got his hands on the ball, his job is to attack. If he’s stopped, he will pass to other fine-shooting teammates who, in all likelihood, will be taking up space best suited to their own unique abilities. In short, the Eagles are looking for match-up advantages. There are lots of kick-outs to players, all who are good at accumulating points.

Erickson, Abe McKibbin and Drew Rothenberger are the top three scorers, and Greyson Elder is a strong 3-point shooter.

“Our boys, you can talk about X’s and O’s all day,” said Boeck. “It’s more that our boys are definitely good offensive players. It does sound good for me, but it’s really all about our players. They enjoy running this way.”

Of course, the Eagles’ style sometimes leads to high scoring numbers for their opponents. And Boeck is often asked if the team needs to learn how to play defense better.


But that’s not the right question, really.

The primary goal for WAHS is to get the ball back quickly -- to speed up the other team’s offense to increase the Eagles’ number of possessions. If the Eagles can keep opponents to under one point per possession, they think their chances of winning are enhanced. And the Eagles station their own players in spots on the floor that put them in optimal positions to score.

“We want the ball back,” Boeck explains.

And when the Eagles have the ball, they know what to do with it.


The W-WG girls basketball program isn’t used to producing winning records. But the Chargers were 14-6 through Thursday and will finish on the winning side of the ledger no matter what happens the rest of the way. Klumper took over the program in 2020-21 and led the team to 10-10, and they were 10-16 last season. W-WG was 4-21 in 2017-18, 5-18 the year after that, and 3-19 the year after that.

Credit this year’s success to experienced players who have learned how to win.

“When I started here we had a solid core of freshmen who are now juniors,” Klumper said. “We’ve developed some pretty good chemistry. They continue to improve, and they’re just a solid group.”


There are also key sophomores, including guard Natalie Wahl, who’s an outstanding defender with good rebounding skills. Dan’s daughter Isabel, a junior who goes by “Izzy,” averages about 19 points per game and may have already reached 1,000 career points by the time you read this. Junior Addeson Jenniges is a savvy guard and shooter. Junior lefty Amelia Sikel is a slasher, and Abby Wiggins also contributes as a junior guard.

This year, the Chargers are expecting to play meaningful games throughout the section tournament season. Klumper, whose wife Abby is his assistant, says the team often talks about “competitive spirit” and “team culture.” And the proof is in the record.


The good news for the Worthington boys hockey team is that it continues to battle. The Trojans entered this winter season with hardly any varsity experience, but heading into Friday’s game with Winona-Cotter they’d won two of their previous three games. Their record was 3-15 mid-week, but the future looks bright.

Their top two scorers, Easton Newman (a junior) and Spenser Nickel (a sophomore) will be back next year, and so will many other Trojans who are paying their dues in 2022-23.

The old Globe sports writer, columnist and lover of Worthington is finally becoming a civilian.
Murray County Central's Bryce Hoekman doesn't like tater tots, but he likes what his Rebels are up to on the basketball court
In the third meeting Tuesday between the Eagles and the Trojans this year, the Eagles withstood a strong defensive effort and defeated host Worthington

There is only one senior on this team. And depth is always a concern.

“We’re not a big team, obviously, numbers-wise, but also size-wise,” said head coach Tyler Nienkerk on Thursday.

Not being the most skilled team in the high school ranks, the Trojans prefer playing a physical game -- to, in Nienkerk’s words, “be a thorn in the other team’s side.” Unfortunately, that’s not always easy when you’re out-manned and out-gunned.


Whereas other teams in the Trojans’ shoes might pull up stakes and lick their wounds at this point of the season, Nienkerk says his boys keep fighting. They’ve seen disappointments, but they’ve also at times played better than expected.

With the section tournament coming up, expect the WHS hockey boys to fight as long as they’re able. Nienkerk said his squad is mentally ready.

“We never want to end the season wanting it to be over. We hope we end the season saying we hope it keeps going,” Nienkerk said.

Opinion by Doug Wolter
Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at
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