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Hennings brothers take next wrestling step to Dakota Wesleyan

Twin brothers Cole and Tanner Hennings will wrestle at Dakota Wesleyan University next season, joining a former high school teammate

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WORTHINGTON -- The theme that was presented early in Cole and Tanner Hennings’ signing ceremony centered upon commitment. The twin brothers’ determination to succeed in high school wrestling turned them from also-rans to state tournament-quality matmen, and on Thursday the Trojans officially became Dakota Wesleyan University Tigers.

Head WHS wrestling coach Kirk Feit said the brothers lost a lot when he had them in the Worthington youth program, but “through hard work and dedication, lifting and doing so many other things, they’re now college wrestlers. You can control a lot through effort, and these guys did that all the time.”

As he introduced the pair at Thursday’s signing event in the school gymnasium, athletic director Josh Dale said the Hennings always had their mind on their sport. In spare moments, they were always trying to get into the wrestling room to work out.

Worthington Trojans Cole (on left)  and Tanner  Hennings signing this week to continue their wrestling careers at Dakota Wesleyan University.
Worthington Trojans Cole (left) and Tanner Hennings signed this week to continue their wrestling careers at Dakota Wesleyan University.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

It’s true, said Cole and Tanner. They weren’t real good wrestlers when they started out. But that just made them work harder.

“Some people used to say we weren’t good enough, that we’d never amount to anything. But we started to show our worth, to prove our name,” said Tanner.

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There are four sons in the Stacie and Radley Hennings family, and all of them are wrestlers. In their senior seasons of high school, Cole qualified for the state tournament at 285 pounds, where he finished fourth. He compiled a 108-36 career record. Tanner, who also enjoyed a strong senior campaign at 195 pounds, was state-ranked like his brother. He narrowly missed qualifying for state, losing a true-second match in the sectionals against a New Ulm opponent.

They’ve both come a long way, indeed, from their youth wrestling days when, Cole said, “everyone was just always a lot tougher, and they knew what they were doing.”

His sophomore year, Cole said, was what turned his mat career around. He became a workout warrior.

And today it shows. In high school, many heavyweights carry a significant amount of fat on their bodies. Cole always stood out, not just in his abilities, but in his musculature.

For much of the 2021-22 high school season, the brothers were unsure about whether they wanted to continue their wrestling careers. They said they’d decide after the season whether they still had something to prove.

Obviously, they do. And their Dakota Wesleyan coaches, Martin Mueller and Casey Mouw, are happy they do.

“You see guys like this who work so hard, others feed off that,” said Mueller, the Tigers’ head coach.

“They’re exactly the type of kids we’re looking for,” said Mouw. “Accomplished wrestlers. They wrestle the way we want them to.”

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Feit credited the Hennings for doubling down on wrestling after their early struggles.

“I’ve really enjoyed them being in the program. As they got bigger and stronger, they really closed the gap on kids that were beating them when they were younger,” he said. “It’s hard to stick with something when you don’t find success right away, and they’ve been team competitors throughout. They didn’t miss practice, they put in the work to become really good wrestlers.”

The Hennings were attracted to Dakota Wesleyan in part because a former Worthington Trojan, Kyle Mullaney, told his coaches about the two solid competitors from his home town. Mullaney, a heavyweight, is still at DW, and no doubt he’ll renew his wrestling room scuffles with Cole which began in Worthington.

“I’ll have to go against him,” Cole smiled. “I guess it’s no different than high school. We used to wrestle each other every day. That was another big part of it -- you have somebody you know already there.”

Cole and Tanner both know that they’ll have to put in more hard work at the next level. But they’re ready.

“I feel we’ll have to keep working hard, but we’ll have to keep working harder yet, just ‘cuz it’s another step on the ladder,” said Cole.

“We’re gonna prove that we’re better than everyone else,” said Tanner. “That’s the mindset. That we’re better than the other person and will beat the other person.”

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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 dwolter@dglobe.com.
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