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MCC's wrestling pioneer Wieneke to lead softball program

Elissa (Reinsma) Wieneke made a name for herself as a trailblazing high school wrestler. Now she's bringing her expertise to the Murray County Central softball program.

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Rudy the Rebel
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SLAYTON – When Elissa (Reinsma) Wieneke was introduced a few weeks ago at the Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament, a sellout crowd gave her a standing ovation.

“I was embarrassed,” she said.

Fans at Murray County Central, where Wieneke is the new head girls softball coach, have different feelings about the famed first female ever to qualify for a state wrestling competition.

Softball

It’s a combination of confidence, pride and assurance – because that’s exactly what Wieneke has been providing her hometown for decades.

“Elissa will do great things for the MCC softball program as she is the ultimate competitor,” said former Rebel head coach James Wajer, who stepped down after two highly successful decades with the program. “She understands what it truly takes to be successful and will push those around her to be at her level while creating meaningful relationships that will last a lifetime.”

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Wieneke, who is also the Community Education Coordinator and Student Council Advisor at MCC, recently began practice with the Rebels.

“I’m a little nervous,” she smiled. “But I know coach Wajer has put this team in a great position for me to take over. I feel confident we’re going to have a good season.”

Wieneke won an amazing 145 wrestling matches in high school and competed six seasons on the varsity, qualifying for state meets in 2009 and 2011. She also earned honors as a softball player and was a standout player at Southwest Minnesota State University.

She credits her sports-minded family for much of the success.

“There are athletes on both sides of my family,” she said. “Coaching is the path I wanted to take.”

Her grandfather, the late Clete Blegen, was a longtime wrestling coach at Slayton High. Wieneke’s folks, Brad and Becky Reinsma, also offered meaningful examples.

“My parents were really good at letting us (Elissa and brothers) be ourselves,” she said. “They didn’t coach from the stands or get involved with any of our coaches (in any disagreements) here. Which is awesome.”

Wieneke, whose husband Nate is the head baseball coach at MCC, has always loved softball -- even though it was wrestling that brought her fame. She said the response from the fans at the recent state wrestling meet was overwhelming.

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“All the old emotions came rushing back,” she said. “It was a good feeling. It just made me realize again that hard work pays off. It was just amazing.”

Wajer, also the athletic director at MCC, became the head coach of the Rebel softball program in 2002. He amassed a career record of 247-125, with his teams earning seven conference championships and six league runner-up finishes.

Wajer, who was a section representative in the Minnesota Fastpitch Coaches Association for 14 years, is proud of the fact his Rebel teams earned academic “gold standard” success throughout his career, meaning they achieved team grade-point averages of 3.75 or higher.

“I truly believe that in educational athletics it is more important to teach students how to learn from failure and get back up and push through those mistakes to become successful,” Wajer said. “Too many times I see disappointment and frustration because of results. That should only be the fuel that drives you to be better.”

Wajer stepped down in large part because he has a freshman son playing baseball. Often the baseball and girls softball games are on the same days.

“I feel like I am letting (his softball program) down, but the best part of walking away is that I am leaving it in good hands with one of my softball daughters,” Wajer said.

Wieneke, one of many All-State softball players to play for Wajer, knows there is pressure that comes with the territory.

But the new Rebel head coach has faced it a lot in her young life, especially as a groundbreaking female on the wrestling mat.

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“I think wrestling really prepared me for life,” she said. “All the life lessons it’s helped me with, along with the coaches I have growing up, have helped make me who I am. I can do anything now. I’m confident about that.”

Related Topics: SOFTBALL
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 smansch5rockets@gmail.com
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