2016 Lakes Area Sports: Brainerd grad Haeg area's top sports story

In some years, the Brainerd Dispatch sports staff struggles to determine the top area sports story of the year. Maybe nothing of tremendous significance occurred during a particular year or there just weren't many top story candidates. In 2016, i...

Pete Mohs / Brainerd Dispatch Brainerd High School graduate Joe Haeg and the Indianapolis Colts played the Minnesota Vikings Dec. 18 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Pete Mohs / Brainerd Dispatch Brainerd High School graduate Joe Haeg and the Indianapolis Colts played the Minnesota Vikings Dec. 18 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

In some years, the Brainerd Dispatch sports staff struggles to determine the top area sports story of the year.

Maybe nothing of tremendous significance occurred during a particular year or there just weren't many top story candidates.

In 2016, it was a no-brainer to determine the top local story-it was Lake Shore resident, Brainerd High School graduate and North Dakota State University All-American offensive lineman Joe Haeg getting drafted by, and eventually starting for, the Indianapolis Colts.

On Jan. 9, 2016, Haeg played his final game for NDSU helping the Bison win their fifth consecutive Football Championship Subdivision Division I National Championship, beating Jacksonville State 37-10 for the title. In Haeg's redshirt year, and his four years as a starter, the Bison won an incredible 71 of 76 games.

On April 30 at his parents' home in Lake Shore, Haeg received a call from Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano informing him the Colts had drafted him in the fifth round (155th overall).


Haeg is believed to be only the third BHS graduate ever drafted by the NFL. Gene Bierhaus was drafted in 1943 by the Green Bay Packers. Jon Jelacic was drafted in 1958 by the Chicago Cardinals.

As a preferred walk-on at NDSU, Haeg developed into a pro prospect. He started his first two years at left offensive tackle, his junior and senior years at right tackle.

At NDSU, Haeg was a 10-time All-American, a finalist for the 2015 STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year award, a 2-time College Sporting News Offensive Lineman of the Year, a 2-time All-Missouri Valley Football Conference first-team selection and five times was named MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week.

Entering the final game of the regular season Sunday against Jacksonville, Haeg had started 13 straight games. According to the Colts' website, using a mostly-young rotation of players-starting three rookie offensive linemen the past two weeks-the Colts suddenly featured one of the NFL's top offensive lines over the last seven games as their nine sacks allowed tied for fifth-fewest in the league during that span.

Also, according to the Colts, Haeg became the first NFL rookie offensive linemen since 1998 to start at three different positions (left guard, right guard and right tackle).

"Joe Haeg, it's kind of unfortunate that we've had to maybe stunt his growth, maybe, a little bit by having him move around so much," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said on Indianapolis' website. "But then again, that in and of itself is so encouraging that he's been able to handle something like that and starting that many positions for a rookie, more than anyone since 1998."

2. Archibald plays in NHL

Another Brainerd High School graduate, Josh Archibald, made his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins, playing 5 minutes, 2 seconds, in a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames March 6. Archibald was credited with one hit and blocked one shot.


Through 29 games this season for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League, Archibald had 5 goals and 8 assists and was a plus 16. Through 150 career minor league games, all with WBS, he had 20 goals and 25 assists and was a plus 16. He has appeared in 15 playoff games with WBS, registering two goals and one assist.

After a stellar career at the University of Nebraska Omaha, Archibald was drafted by Pittsburgh. In 112 games at UNO, he scored 58 goals and earned 36 assists. As a junior in 2013-14, he finished third in the nation with 29 goals and led the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with 43 points. Those totals earned him NCHC Player and NCHC Forward of the Year honors and NCAA All-American honors. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award given to college hockey's outstanding player.

3. Zillmer third at Trials

Crosby-Ironton graduate Hayden Zillmer placed third at 187 pounds in the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials at the University of Iowa's Carver-Hawkeye Arena to land a spot on his first U.S. National Team.

The North Dakota State University wrestler went 2-2 in the NCAA Division I Championships at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Wrestling at 184 pounds, the ninth-ranked Zillmer finished his senior season with a 32-6 record and a career mark of 105-29 to rank seventh all-time at NDSU.

At C-I, Zillmer was a 3-time state champion and holds the school's all-time wins record. He went 43-1 as a senior on his way to his third straight state title.

Zillmer won the cadet national triple crown in 2007, winning national titles in folkstyle, freestyle and Greco-Roman, becoming one of only eight wrestlers to achieve that feat.

4. Poster top NSIC wrestler


Clint Poster of St. Cloud State University was named Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Wrestler of the Year.

The senior from Pierz helped the Huskies to their second consecutive NCAA Division II National Championship last season.

A redshirt senior at 165 pounds, Poster was a 4-time NCAA All-American. He placed fourth in 2013 and third in each of the last three seasons. He finished his senior season 40-2.

Poster also was a 3-time NCAA Super Regional No. 3 champion and a 4-time first-team All-NSIC selection. In addition, Poster was a 4-time National Wrestling Coaches Association first-team all-academic selection.

He ended his SCSU career as the winningest wrestler in Huskies history with 146 wins.

5. State track and field

Millie Klefsaas of Staples-Motley won the Class 1A girls pole vault with a state-record height of 12 feet and also won the 100-meter hurdles state championship.

Also in 1A, Pequot Lakes' Chloe Bermel won the 400 dash and finished fifth in the 100 and 200 dashes helping the Patriots to third place in the team standings.


The Patriots' 4x800 relay of Jannah Hall, Grace McGuire, Kristin Skog and Olivia Lane also won a state championship.

Pierz's Beth-el Algarin finished third in 1A girls shot put.

Other 1A girls all-staters (top nine finish) were Pequot Lakes' 4x400 relay of Olivia Lane, Mirjana Ganley, Kristin Skog and Grace McGuire who finished seventh; and Kylie Monson of Crosby-Ironton, ninth in triple jump.

In boys 1A, Pequot's Reid Pierzinski finished eighth and teammate Chase Blaeser ninth in the 110 hurdles; Wadena-Deer Creek's 4x200 relay of Jonathan Pantages, Bereket Loer, Josh Daigneault and Konnor Stueve was sixth; and Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale's Samuel Moore was seventh in discus.

6. State wrestling

Aitkin Gobblers senior Noah Landrus finished his career as the 160-pound champion in the Class 1A state individual tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The top-ranked Landrus scored an 8-6 decision over No. 3-ranked Alex Erpelding of Staples-Motley in the final to finish the season with a 43-1 record.

Aitkin's Jerod Novak was runner-up at 152, Pierz's Kolton Eischens was third at 152 and teammate Teddy Dehler was fourth at 220.


Eric Lisson of Staples-Motley was fifth at 126 and Brett Kapsner of Pierz was fifth at 170.

In 2A, Joe Harrison of PLPRB was fourth at 195 and teammate Nate Adkins was fifth at 145.

In 3A, Little Falls Justin Jenks finished third at 170 and teammate Gabe Blechinger was sixth at 220.

7. Pequot Lakes softball

The best season in Pequot Lakes Patriots softball history ended with a 7-0 loss to the Zumbrota-Mazeppa Cougars in the Class 2-A state championship game at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

The Patriots set a program record with 25 victories in 28 games and reached the state championship game for the first time.

Pequot Lakes pitcher Kathryn Miska set school records with 321 strikeouts and 25 wins. She was named to the 2A all-tournament team along with teammate Alex Kotaska.

In the quarterfinals, the Patriots beat Pipestone 5-1 and followed with a 2-1 victory over Rockford in the semifinals.


8. Burnham on the mic

Brainerd High School graduate Kelly Burnham was hired as the first public address announcer for the Minnesota Vikings who moved into U.S. Bank Stadium in August of 2016.

Burnham has also served as PA announcer for the Colorado Broncos and Colorado Rockies, for four Winter Olympics, eight Super Bowls and numerous Pro Bowls, NFL Drafts and Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies.

He has announced five Olympic Gold Medal Hockey games and multiple NFL, NHL and MLB All-Star Games.

His work includes being the voice of the underground train system at Denver International Airport. In addition, he remains the PA announcer for the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL.

9. State baseball

The Pierz Pioneers and Little Falls Flyers ended long state tournament droughts and finished third in their respective classes in the state baseball tournament.

Pierz finished third in Class 2A in its first state appearance since 1986, beating Maple Lake 11-4 in the third-place game. The Pioneers lost to Minnehaha 4-2 in the semifinals after shellacking Paynesville 13-0 in the quarterfinals. Pierz's Matt Tautges, Noah Boser and Lane Girtz made the 2A all-tournament team.

Playing in their first state tournament since 1999, No. 4-seeded Little Falls rallied from a 2-0 deficit to nip the No. 3-seeded Benilde-St. Margaret Red Knights 3-2 in the 3A third-place game. The Flyers' Austin Jenks and Thomas Miller made the 3A all-tournament team.

The Flyers beat Rocori 7-2 in the quarterfinals before losing to Mahtomedi 4-1 in the semifinals.

10. Pierz football

In November, the Pierz Pioneers made it to the Class 3A state semifinals where they lost to St. Croix 35-28 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Pierz beat Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin 34-0 in the quarterfinals.

Pierz's Brett Kapsner, who led the Pioneers in tackles two of the last three seasons, made The Associated Press All-State third team. The Pioneers finished 10-2 in their fourth straight trip to the state tournament.

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