In between a host of memorable events took place on the court, ice, track, baseball field, and football field, but a couple more items stood out: the spring conference titles by the boys' track and baseball teams and the return to state of the Lake Henry Lakers.
Winning a fourth title
The Bulldogs entered the sectional competition ranked fifth in the state, and earned each step to a fourth state title by defeating #4 Pierz in the section final, #3 Canby in the opening round at state, #2 St. James in the semifinal, and #1 Frazee in the final.
The Bulldogs had previously won state titles in 1987, 1990, and 1991. Frazee upset a favored Bulldogs team in 1992, but the Bulldogs returned the favor last March in Minneapolis.
Heavyweight Matt Brauchler's pin at heavyweight propelled the Bulldogs to a 24-21 come-from-behind upset victory over the defending state champions in the final.
Brauchler also delivered a pin in the team's semifinal against St. James to clinch that victory.
Josh Bork, another senior at 189, won his matches in both those meets to give Brauchler a chance for heroics.
Junior David Kerzman won an individual title at 125, becoming the seventh state wrestling champion in school history. He was the second wrestler to win state titles individually and with a team in the same year.
The Bulldogs had two more individual placewinners: sophomore Jeremy Sogge was third at 119 and senior Chris Welle was fourth at 135.
Double conference titles
Except for wrestling, conference titles for Paynesville have been few and far between in the rugged West Central Conference, where Paynesville faces a substantial size disadvantage.
Last spring, though, Paynesville boys accomplished a rare double feat: winning the conference track title and the conference baseball title.
A dozen Paynesville tracksters earned All Conference status by placing either first or second in an event. As a team, the Bulldogs had three firsts; nine seconds; and five thirds. They defeated Litchfield 172-156.
The Bulldogs eventually qualified two individuals and a relay team for state. Senior Jeff Voss took second in a photo finish in the 110-meter high hurdles. Senior Luke Trees was seventh in the high jump, as was the school's 1,600-meter relay team. That team features Voss and Trees and sophomores Nic Glenz and Eric Rausch.
The Bulldog baseball team won the WCC North title outright with a come-from-behind 7-6 victory over St. Cloud Cathedral in the Bulldogs' last conference game. The Bulldogs - 11-1 in the WCC North - had already clinched at least a share of their first conference title since 1996. But they beat the state-rated Crusaders for the school's first outright title in a decade.
The Bulldogs - led by conference MVP Doug Fuchs - featured a hard hitting lineup with a deep pitching staff. They had a team batting average of .370 and a team ERA of 1.81.
The team entered the playoffs with an 18-2 record, but lost to St. Michael-Albertville - the eventual state champion - in a wild district contest that featured three lead changes in the last three innings.
The Bulldogs ended the year with a record of 19-3.
Lake Henry to state
The Lake Henry Lakers used home-field advantage in the regional tournament to advance to the State Class C Amateur Baseball Tournament for the first time in a quarter century.
Entering the last weekend of regions in August, the Lakers were on the brink of elimination but they played flawless baseball in reeling off three straight wins. They eliminated league rival Richmond 12-6, avenged a loss to Becker 10-3 to clinch a state berth, and capped the run by defeating New Munich 8-3 to become the region champion.
The Lakers hadn't been to a state tournament since 1975. In all, the team has advanced to state six times now (1959, 1969,1970, 1971, 1975, and 2000).
The Lakers didn't play their best at state (losing to Luverne 12-1), but their fans certainly made an impression with their numbers, their devotion, their voracious attitudes, and their loud, sustained support.
And the future looks bright for baseball in Lake Henry. Not only do the Lakers have a young team, but Lake Henry won American Legion and Little League titles in the Stearns County League last summer as well.
Cross country champs
Paynesville's boys' cross country team defeated Staples-Motley - the four-time defending state champion - to win the school's fifth state title in November. The cross country crown was the school's first in a sport other than wrestling.
After narrowly missing a state berth in 1999, due to the fierce competition in their region, including the Cardinals of Staples-Motley, the Bulldogs produced a dominating season in 2000.
They beat the Cardinals for the first time in September at the NL-S Invite, but the Cards edged the Dogs the next week.
In the sections, the Cardinals handed the Bulldogs only their second loss of the season, but this time the Dogs got revenge a week later, claiming the state title as the Cardinals fell to third. Paynesville scored 76 at state, with Plainview second with 112, and Staples-Motley next with 135.
The Bulldogs featured outstanding depth - with at least ten varsity-caliber runners - but were led by senior Clayton Lang, who placed sixth individually at state. Senior Adam Utsch (19) and junior Dan Pearson (22) also earned All State honors for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs' five seniors - Lang, Utsch, Eric Korman, Travis Flanders, and Ryan Flanders - had been told since junior high by the late Bill Ochs, a volunteer coach, that they would win a state title as seniors. And they delivered.
After a handful of top three finishes in cross country and track, Jen Hess made it to the top of the podium at the state cross country meet in November. Hess won the Class A title after finishing third in 1999.
She became the school's second female athlete to earn an individual state title.
Seventh grader Brooke Schmitz also earned All State honors individually by placing 25th.
These pretigious feats of 2000 also deserve recognition.
Senior Tanya Lieser became the seventh Paynesville basketball player to score 1,000 points in a career in February. She finished her career with 1,024 points, the fifth highest total in school history.
River Lakes Stars goalie Shari Vogt was chosen as the top goalie in the state in March.
Playing cornerback, Jeff Voss became the first Paynesville football player to compete in the Minnesota All-Star Football game in June. In 1999, Voss set a single season school rushing record with 1,184 yards.
Also in June, Doug Fuchs became the third Paynesville baseball player to participate in the Lions' All Star Series.
Chuck Koshiol, 50, wrapped up a national title in enduro racing in July. The Paynesville man traversed the country for 100-mile dirt bike races through woods, deserts, and mountain terrain.
In August, the American Legion Baseball team placed third in the state tournament. The Paynesville team was second in 1999. It was the third top three finish for Paynesville in the last four years.
In August, John Liestman and Dave Heitke captained the American team to victory over the Canadian team at the Kenora Bass International. A year after winning the tournament, the duo settled for 22nd this year.
Paynesville native Bill Welle helped prepare three Vikings to have Pro Bowl seasons. Welle works at Cris Carter's gym in Florida, and helped train Carter, Randy Moss, and second-year quarterback Dante Culpepper in preseason workouts. All three will be headed to the Pro Bowl after leading the Vikings to a division championship.
For the Paynesville Bulldogs' football team, senior linebacker Joe Nosbush broke six school records this fall. Nosbush set career marks in tackles, solo tackles and defensive points. He also set records for most tackles in a game and most defensive points in a game and a season.
Two former Bulldog football players earned collegiate honors this year in football. Dustin Looman, a sophomore defensive tackle, led Rochester Community and Technical College to an undefeated season. He was named the National Junior College Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year.
Jim Mages, a former Bulldog and RCTC player, was named the Defensive Most Valuable Player in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. He had 10 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss for the University of Minnesota-Crookston Golden Eagles.
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