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Boys Soccer: Warriors hope to continue winning progression

The Brainerd Warriors boys soccer season will begin Saturday, Aug. 28.

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Goalie Kalvin Stengrim, right, blocks the ball against Adam Klecker, center, as Karlton Anderson, left, watches during soccer practice Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, at the Brainerd High School. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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In Tom Grausam’s first three seasons, the Brainerd Warriors posted an 18-29-3 overall record and a 13-22-2 Central Lakes Conference mark.

During the last three seasons, the Warriors own a 34-8-2 overall record, including a 25-4-2 conference record, and a section 8-2A finals appearance.

Grausam believes the latter trend is here to stay as the players have bought into the program and the culture created is one he embodied when he took the job seven years ago.

“The work ethic is there,” Grausam said. “The intensity is there. They believe in the program. Once you start winning it’s like a domino effect it just keeps going and going. As soon as you let off that’s when things start going downhill.

“The other good thing is my coaching staff has been consistent for the last six years. Chad (Morlock) has been with me for six years. Greg (Whiteman) has been with me for seven. Nick (Weeks) is three. Michael (Morford) is three. These guys know how to communicate with kids. We respect the kids and the kids listen. They are there to learn and they do learn, and not just about sports, but life skills.”

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Grausam has led the Warriors into at least the section semifinals the last four seasons. This year, Brainerd will be in Section 8-3A with Bemidji, Buffalo, Elk River, Moorhead, Rogers, Sartell and St. Michael-Albertville. Maple Grove and Osseo moved out of Brainerd’s section.

The coach believes the winning culture created over the past few years and his team’s talent should equal another deep playoff push.

“I believe in the family concept and treating each other with dignity and honor and a pride for our team,” Grausam said. “We are kind and respectful to everyone on the team and we play hard and work hard and good things come from that.

“Every team’s goal is to make it to state as is ours. We want to make it to state, but first, we have to take it one game at a time and concentrate on that opponent and keep moving on from there. I’m hoping we make it farther than we did last year. It would be great to make the finals and our ultimate goal is to make it to state.”

The Warriors will once again have a new goalie in sophomore Kalvin Stengrim, who fills in for the graduated Brandon Neifert. Stengrim did see limited varsity playing time last season.

“I see great things in Kalvin,” Grausam said. “He’s strong, vocal, athletic and he knows the game. He’s taken two steps forward this year. He’s going to be an excellent goaltender for us.

“Last year as a freshman he got to see what varsity soccer was about and he got to play in some games and that really helped. Having Nick Weeks as our goalie coach has really helped. I think that’s why we’re getting such talented goaltenders over the past few years with Noah Sundberg, Jude Hiltner, Brandon and now Kalvin.”

Another big change for Brainerd this season will be the fluid transition from athletes playing offense and defense. Grausam changing formations and shapes will be a big focus this season to help use his team’s versatility.

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“We have several people we are going to interchange,” Grausam said. “A lot of our players are multi-positional. Each week it changes. It depends on the team that we’re playing and who is doing what. We’re going to change our formations several times, too. It might be a 3-5-2. It might be a 4-3-3 or it might be a 3-4-3. Again it all depends on our opponent and who can fill in those positions to compete.

“We’re doing it more this year because we have so many multi-positional players. Plus, early on in the season, we get to see what is each player’s top position and which position do they most understand.”

Grausam said every position except for goalie and the strikers will change game-to-game and even half-to-half. The strikes this season will be Cruz Megazzini and Tom Haataja. Megazzini finished with four goals and three assists last season. This will be Haatja’s first varsity season.

“Eli (McConkey) will be a striker, too,” Grausam said. “Cruz’s No. 1 asset is speed. He’s our fastest kid. He’s been our fastest kid for the last couple of years. If we can get him loose, he’ll be scoring a lot of goals.

“Tom is our second fastest kid on our team. He’s made great strides over the offseason. He’ll do well.”

Adam Klecker led the Warriors last season with nine goals and two assists. He’ll roam the middle of the field for Brainerd.

“He can be outside or centrally located,” Grausam said. “He will not be a defensive player. He could play a little bit of attacking/striker position, but I do see him more in the middle. He sees the field and has good foot control. He is vocal. He controls the game and he demands the ball.”

Logan Carlson is a senior captain who will switch between the middle and backline.

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“He understands the game,” Grausam said. “He’s a student of the game and he’s vocal. He’s kind of a director. He sees the field differently than most players.”

Andrew Narlock is the other senior captain and will be in the backline. Grausam called him a good leader and a great role model.

“He’s probably our most talkative leader,” Grausam added. “He’s got great communication skills, but he also sees the ball and the lanes well. He keeps the group light, but at the same time keeps pushing them.”

Seniors Ryan Westerberg, Joe Otto and Josh Eberts will switch between midfield and back.

Grausam hopes to see big progressions from juniors Kyle Duff, Cullen Davis, Karlton Anderson and Keaton Walkowiak. Sophomores Nick Holmberg and Sean Engelstad round out the varsity roster.

“They’re all going to step up,” Grausam said. “We really don’t have a weak point. Some of them will have to come off the bench, but they’re going to fill in just as well as our starters.

“This is a cohesive and good group of kids. They bought into the Warrior soccer program. They believe in each other and trust each other. Overall this is a strong team.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

Warrior schedule
Saturday, Aug. 28: hosts Buffalo 3 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 31: at Moorhead 7 p.m.
Sept. 7: hosts St. Cloud Tech 7 p.m.
Sept. 9: at Sartell 5 p.m.
Sept. 11: at Elk River 11 a.m.
Sept. 14: hosts St. Michael-Albertville 7 p.m.
Sept. 16: at Willmar 5 p.m.
Sept. 21: hosts Fergus Falls 7 p.m.
Sept. 23: at Alexandria 7 p.m.
Sept. 25: at Bemidji 3 p.m.
Sept. 27: at Rocori 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 28: hosts St. Cloud Apollo 7 p.m.
Sept. 30: at St. Cloud Tech 7 p.m.
Oct. 5: hosts Sartell 7 p.m.
Oct. 7: at Sauk Rapids 5 p.m.
Oct. 9: hosts Rogers 1 p.m.

Warrior roster
Seniors: Adam Klecker, Logan Carlson, Cruz Megazzini, Andrew Narlock, Ryan Westerberg, Eli McConkey, Joe Otto, Tom Haataja, Josh Eberts
Juniors: Kyle Duff, Cullin Davis, Keaton Walkowiak, Karlton Anderson
Sophomores: Nick Holmberg, Sean Engelstad, Kalvin Stengrim

Boys soccer
Head coach: Tom Grausam, seventh season
2020 finish: 8-0-1 in CLC, 9-1-2 overall
Career record: 52-37-5
Assistant coaches: Chad Morlock, Greg Whiteman, Michael Morford, Nick Weeks, Toni Lozancic
Captains: Cruz Megazzini, Logan Carlson, Andrew Narlock, Adam Klecker

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Tom Grausam

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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