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Football: Pierz's Pohlkamp named coach of year

Crosby-Ironton assistant football coach Neil Tesdahl, left, Pierz head football coach Leo Pohlkamp and Brainerd Dispatch Sports Editor Mike Bialka were among those honored at the 54th annual Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame banquet on Saturday. Tesdahl received the Butch Nash Outstanding Assistant Coach of the Year award, Pohlkamp earned MFCA’s State Coach of the Year and Bialka was one of the inductees into the MFCA’s Hall of Fame. Pete Mohs/Brainerd Dispatch

The 54th annual Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame banquet was memorable for a group of area individuals who were honored Saturday night in Minneapolis.

Pierz football coach Leo Pohlkamp received MFCA's State Coach of the Year after leading the Pioneers to the Class 3-A state championship football game, a 34-21 victory over St. Croix Lutheran Academy in November.

Pohlkamp, whose squads also won a state title in 2015 and reached the state semifinals in 2016, currently ranks 16th in the state all-time football win list with a 265-83 record. He was inducted into the MFCA Hall of Fame in 2016 and was Class 3-A Coach of the Year in 2015 and 2017 and Class 2-A Coach of the Year in 2004.

Pohlkamp joins two other area coaches, Brainerd's Ron Stolski (2010) and Verndale's Mike Mahlen (2002), who have received the state Coach of the Year honors. Mahlen currently ranks first in all-time football wins in Minnesota with 382 while Stolski is second with 380.

Receiving Section Coaches of the Year were Mahlen (Section 4, Class Nine-Man), Pohlkamp (Section 6, Class 3-A), Chip Lohmiller (Section 8, Class 3-A) and Stolski (Section 8, Class 5-A).

Also honored at the MFCA event was Crosby-Ironton's Neil Tesdahl, who received the Butch Nash Outstanding Assistant Coach of the Year award. Tesdahl has been a long-time football and boys' basketball assistant coach with the Rangers.

Previous Butch Nash award winners were Brainerd Steve Nunnink (1984), Staples-Motley's Ron Beachy (1989), Brainerd's Chet Stevenson (1994), Brainerd's Mark Embretson (1998), Verndale's Bradley Schmidt (2000), Brainerd's Jeff Ramey (2002), Verndale's Tim Seaton (2004), Brainerd's Scott Parsons (2008), Verndale's Jeff Moore (2010), Pierz' Dave Rocheleau (2014) and Brainerd's Mike Langer (2015).

Also on Saturday, Brainerd Dispatch sports editor Mike Bialka was one of six individuals inducted into the MFCA Hall of Fame. Bialka, honored in the MFCA's Citation Division, was inducted along with coaches Doug Torgerson (Atwater/Cosmos/Grove City), Mike Belseth (Breckenridge), Steve Fedie (Orono), Ray Tri (Eden Valley-Watkins) and Terry Turek (LeSueur/Henderson).

Bialka started at the Dispatch in 1978 and has covered Brainerd Warrior football the past 33 years. Bialka, who has served two terms as president of the Minnesota Associated Press Sports Association, received the National Girls and Women in Sports Media Award in 2009 and was inducted into the Brainerd Warriors Hall of Fame in 2011. He also received the Minnesota State High School League's Outstanding Media Service Award in 2017 and has been a member of a sports staff that has earned 27 Minnesota Associated Press Sports Association writing awards, including nine first-place awards.

Besides Pohlkamp and Bialka, other area connections to the Hall of Fame in recent years include Stolski (2008), Mahlen (2009) and Nunnink (2012). Deryl Ramey, a former Willmar head football coach and Brainerd assistant coach, joined the Hall of Fame in 2004.