Not to be denied: Class A state wrestling champion Jon Gorter to be inducted into Pipestone-Jasper Athletic Hall of Fame

Knowing his grappler was in the driver’s seat and would have the choice of positions if the match went to a sudden death tiebreak period, not only did Pipestone Area head wrestling coach Brian Bos take for granted his senior would win a 2011 Class A state wrestling title, but he prepared himself for the inevitability.

“I knew he won it right there,” Bos said. “He’d scored first, so he’d have the choice. Watching them go at it, I knew we had the trump card and I was ready. I looked back, saw the chair and moved to my right because I was about to catch this sweaty, 215-pound kid and I wasn’t about to go toppling over that chair. He won it and it was a very special moment.”

That moment was perhaps the first time either Bos or 2011 Pipestone Area graduate and Pipestone-Jasper Athletic Hall of Fame, Class of 2022, inductee Jon Gorter took anything for granted.

“The kid from Crookston (Brody Davidson) worked quite hard between seasons too; he’d gotten leaner, stronger and bigger … worked on his technique, but I knew I had the choice and knew he couldn’t keep me down,” said Gorter, son of Pete Gorter and Luann Drew.  “I knew, then and there, I would win, I got out (from the bottom position) in 3-4 seconds, never stopped moving and won it.

“It was a great feeling and a lot of weight came off my shoulders because I knew, going in, that a lot was expected of me. I knew it was going to be tough and I didn’t take it lightly … knew I had a target on my back now – after finishing as runner-up the year before.  Losing in the finals the year before was great motivation. But I put in the time, the work and I had belief that I could do it.”

And what he did immediately following his 3-1 loss to Minnewaska Area’s Brandon Manderschied in the 215-pound finals of the tournament the previous year speaks volumes about Gorter’s approach to wrestling and athletics in general.

“He was in my weight-training class and the Monday after he got second in the state, he was in the weight room working his butt off,” said Troy Bouman, who coached Gorter in football for three campaigns. “Most kids probably would have taken some time off, but he was right back at it – working hard. That’s just who Jon is; an extremely hard worker who’s always trying to improve himself and the team.”

On Bouman’s football teams, Gorter not only worked hard, put in enormous amounts of time learning to play in the trenches, on the offensive and defensive lines, but he made himself available to learn and play any position his coaches thought might help the Arrows succeed.

And though his stint as a linebacker was over before it started, Gorter was given the nod to rush the football toward the end of his senior year.

“I think we were running a kick return in practice my junior year and Mike Merrill laid me out on my butt; I had a concussion, so that was the end of my career as a linebacker,” said the three-season letterwinner in football. “And during my senior season, Coach Bouman asked me if I’d planned on playing football in college. I’d been a lineman, but would have been small for the position in college, so he asked me, ‘if you played another position would you consider it?’

“So, we incorporated ‘student body’ into the offense, where Jadon Evans, Tyler Evans, sometimes Josh Groeneweg, and me lined up in the backfield, with no quarterback, and one of us would receive a direct snap and … go, blocking for each other. I think I ran for a good number of yards (73 yards on 12 carries) and scored once or twice (twice from one and nine yards) against Madison (S.D.) toward the end of the season.  We put student body in for a while in our playoff game against Luverne, but didn’t do very well. That was the last time I carried the football, but that was a blast … a lot of fun.”

Gorter, who always made the most of his opportunities, earned a chance to play for the Arrow varsity as a sophomore, as he’d showed the coaches what kind of ‘motor’ he had. His strength and go, go, go approach not only kept him on the coach’s radar throughout the season, but also earned him a badge of honor when, of all things, he was flagged for an infraction.

“We had a decent team that year, but we were getting beaten in the first round of the playoffs,” Gorter recalled. “I was called for blocking past the whistle. I remember on the sideline Coach Bouman saying, ‘don’t you ever worry about that penalty; I don’t ever want a sophomore to be too aggressive.’ And I ran with that, wanted to show everyone what kind of motor I had …  will take a penalty like that any day.”

“He was extremely strong and his technique was really good,” added Bouman. “And Jon was so coachable and a great teammate; what more could you ask for?

“People listened to him. How could you not listen to someone like Jon who puts so much time and energy into everything he did – in all three sports. No matter what he was doing, he was going to excel because he prepared for it.” 

His fondest memory of football was of the Arrows’ 20-17 overtime victory over the Marshall Tigers, Oct. 2, 2009 – Homecoming night. The Arrows finished that season at 6-4, bowing out to Luverne in the second round of the Section 3AA tournament, but the Arrows’ rare victory over the Tigers rested on stopping the AAAA school at the line of scrimmage.

 “We knew we had to stop them and we knew we could hold them,” Gorter said. “Me, Cody Schulze and Mark Abrahamson did the job. It was a huge win for us because we never beat Marshall, and to do it at Homecoming was really special.”

Gorter’s work ethic, technique and coachability earned him an honorable mention in the Southwest Conference his sophomore season and he was named to the All-Conference team in 2009 and 2010. Additionally, Gorter earned a place on the 2010 Daily Globe All-Area team, as well as a place on the All-Star reserve team to close out his high school football career. Although Gorter was, as always, humble about the All-Star recognition, he knew he’d eventually have a chance to tangle with the player who beat him out for the first team – Jackson County Central’s Jordan Phibbs.

Well-conditioned for another sports season following his work on the gridiron and the wrestling mats, Gorter soaked up all he could from Pipestone Area head baseball coach Rick Zollner each spring. A three-year letterwinner in baseball, Gorter also wore many hats on the diamond – playing several infield positions, backstopping heavy hurlers like Brandan Alfson and batting in the third or fourth positions in the order.

Although he didn’t consider baseball his passion or, necessarily, his forte, that didn’t prevent Gorter from concluding his high school sports career with a place on the All-Conference baseball team.

I remember as an elementary kid, growing up, Jon was always physical, and you could put him anywhere on the football field and he’d make plays,” Zollner said. “That carried over into baseball. He played third base for us a lot because we needed a third baseman at time; I could have played him at first base, but I had other kids filling that role. He ended up playing catcher a lot for us; I think he really enjoyed the physical part of that position. And he had a beautiful swing. When he hit the ball, batting in a power spot – third or fourth – it traveled far and quick.”

And playing catcher for the Arrows suited Gorter just fine. 

“Obviously, as a catcher you’re involved in every single play,” he noted. “I always wanted to be doing whatever I could to help the team and wanted to be as involved as I could. I loved it; I didn’t want to just stand there waiting for a ball, I wanted it to be me that made the play. 

“And ‘Z’ taught me so much about baseball: how to block a pitch, pitch calling and reading signs; what to look for if a runner’s going to steal and how to throw down to second base. He taught me a lot at that position because I hadn’t grown up catching. Everything I knew, Rick taught me.”

Despite being his ‘third sport, baseball was another opportunity for Gorter to be a leader and a good teammate. 

“He was the ultimate teammate,” Zollner said. “Jon was all about team; he was very humble in everything he accomplished, could go 3-for-4 and all he’d want to talk about is what we needed to do better to improve. His teammates never said a bad word about Jon … was the Roger Pedersen of his time. He’d knock you down, extend his hand and pick you up … move on to the next play. He was, all-around, a very good athlete and … a better person.

“And one thing you see from all of these inductees, a quality they all have, is how they’re all good teammates, ultimate teammates.”

Gorter received a good education regarding team as a youth, participating and excelling with the Little Arrows (wrestling team). 

Beginning in kindergarten, Gorter worked his way up through the youth ranks and claimed podium finishes at the youth state wrestling tournament in second and fourth grades – constantly trying to improve himself and his teammates.

“Wrestling was a family thing, and thankfully my parents said, ‘you’re going to wrestle.’ said Gorter of his early years in the sport. “My cousins and uncles all wrestled and I really liked the sport. It was just a matter of grinding it out and good things were going to come. I know it’s cliché, but I just really had to trust the process, my work ethic and attitude. I never liked to lose, but I always tried to see it as an opportunity to get better.

“I was fortunate to have Bos around from a very young age, when he moved to Pipestone. Bill Alfson helped out, then Shane Reinhard and later Scott Sterud. And when I was in high school, I also had Gary Haupert in my corner. What a great assistant to have … 40+ years of experience.”

While each of Gorter’s coaches is in some way responsible for helping him achieve his ultimate goal, it’s to Reinhard he and Pipestone Area wrestling owe a debt of gratitude.

“I don’t know if I was tired of the grind and getting beaten up or it was the peer pressure, but some of my friends said, ‘just come play basketball this winter,’” he said. “I don’t know what I was thinking. 

“Toward the end of the season, I’d heard about the end-of-year wrestling meeting and Reinhard said, ‘just come to the meeting. You don’t have to come back, but just come and listen.’ I did, and I got excited about it again … ‘yeah, I’ll come back out in eighth grade.’”

Again, Gorter’s work ethic and drive took him places. From the JV mats to the varsity mats as a reserve behind 189-pounder Sean Ennen as a freshman. When Ennen needed a break or was injured, Gorter was prepared to get the nod – sometimes facing the possibility of injury himself.

“I wanted to do what I could for the team …  ‘I’ll be the guy,’ be fearless and take every opportunity to prove myself and get better,” he said. “At the Luverne tournament there was this kid who was ranked something like fourth in the nation. Ennen was hurt and Bos didn’t want to put me out there because he thought I might get hurt. I told him to send me out there and I ended up lasting longer than anyone at the tournament did against him; I was pinned in the second period, but I battled. Bos knew my mindset and knew I wouldn’t quit. 

“My work ethic took me a long way in high school and parents taught me, ‘what you put into it is what you get, nothing given to you.’ It’s how I was raised, a work hard mentality. I took that to heart, kept working and growing, knowing it was going to have its payoff.”

Building off small successes as a freshman, Gorter spent his sophomore season grinding out matches at 215 and, for the section tournament, at heavyweight. He claimed a fifth-place finish at the tournament and reiterated that his future success was to be determined ‘through the amount of work I put into it.’

And during his junior season Gorter’s work in the wrestling and weight rooms nearly saw him claim the top prize.

“Between my sophomore and junior years, I got into the weight room, worked out pretty seriously, and got leaner and stronger … for every sport,” he said. “My goal was to just make it to the state wrestling tournament that winter and I started out the season 22-0.  I came up against a kid at the Martin County West tournament. He was good, and I ended up losing to him by a point. But what I remember most about that match was him coming over to me after it and saying, ‘where’d you come from, you’re only a junior?’  That was a big boost for me, losing a 1-point match to a kid that good.”

Of course, Gorter was becoming that good. Although noticed at the MCW tournament, Gorter went through the season under the radar. And though he’d hoped to qualify for state as a section champion, he bowed out to Minneota’s Josh VanOverbeke in overtime of the 3A tournament, as the Viking grappler – with one second remaining in regulation – managed to do what few had done or would do to Gorter as an upperclassman.

“He scored a late takedown on me and that’s where I was my best – on my feet,” Gorter explained.

The loss perhaps played into keeping Gorter off the radar heading into the state tournament and actually gave the junior a better draw in the 215-pound bracket. He opened state by beating Crookston’s Brody Davidson, the wrestler he’d square off against in the finals the following season, followed with a pinfall of Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Stu Raasch to advance to the semifinals against New Richland-H-E-G’s David Lindell. 

On the bottom and trailing 3-2 with 10 seconds remaining in the tilt, Gorter wriggled free of Lindell’s grasp and immediately swung around – looking for a limb. Gorter grabbed Lindell’s right leg and forced the New Richland senior to the mat. With zeros on the clock, the official raised his index and middle fingers to signal a takedown, giving Gorter an amazing, 4-3, comeback victory.

While the action was fierce in the semifinals, the same couldn’t be said for the finals, where Gorter (32-3) dropped a 3-1 decision to Minnewaska Area’s Brandon Manderscheid. The Laker grappler scored early and avoided close contact, blocking Gorter’s heavy advances throughout the remainder of the match.

Although he’d reached his goal of qualifying for and participating at the state tournament, Gorter wasn’t about to let it go there. He banked the match, learned from it and set out to make sure he wouldn’t be stalled out like that again.

“I’ll remember that for next time,” he said after the match. “You just gotta believe and never give up. I did that, and I made it.”

As Coach Bouman noted, Gorter was back in the weight room before the shine left his silver medal.

 “Yeah; I took my Sunday (after the tournament), rested and went back to work in my first class of the day – weight training. Some kids go and view it as an easy class, but for me it was an opportunity to work harder and get better.  That’s my mindset. I didn’t do enough to win it so I was going to do more. And my goal changed from just making it to winning it.” 

“He had unfinished business,” Bos said. “It was a bit of a surprise, but I knew he could place. He ended up in the finals, just a great moment for all of us, but the loss drove him for 365 days … until he could win it the next year.”

Gorter dominated the 215-pound weight class, and attacking from the opening whistle from the neutral position saw him score 120+ takedowns to two over the course of the 2010-11 campaign.

 “Takedowns were my thing; moving forward, I got right back to work and worked even harder,” he said. “I only gave up two takedowns that year; one was to a kid from South Dakota, who I ended up beating and the other was to Jordan Phibbs early in the season – my only loss of the year.”

After dispatching his opening-round opponent by fall at the 2011 state tournament in St. Paul, Gorter (ranked No. 2) faced the familiar Phibbs (No. 1) in the semifinals. 

 Squaring off against the only wrestler to beat him during the season, Gorter trailed 2-1 following a technical foul assessed for repeatedly pushing Phibbs out of the circle. Coach Bos was furious with the call, but the score was quickly knotted at 2-all when Phibbs also was penalized, for leaving the mat without permission, pushing the match into overtime.

With 12 seconds left in the 1-minute overtime period, Gorter made a move he’d been working on throughout the season.

“Jon had a really good single-leg to the left, but rarely shot to the right,” Bos explained. “We’d worked on it and it might have been the only time he used it, but he went to the right there and got it right at the end of OT.”

Initially, no points were assessed, as the charge official believed Gorter’s takedown came after time had expired. Following a brief consultation between the two refs, which took place amid a cacophony of ‘TWO’ coming from the considerable Pipestone Area contingent, the charge official extended two fingers above his head awarding Gorter the takedown and the match – 4-2.

Having moved past the lone hiccup in his season, Gorter nearly developed another in his semifinal match against Border West’s Billy Connelly.

“I had 3-4 takedowns and was going in for another when he tossed me to my back,” he said. “It was a long way to come back from that and I ended up beating him, 16-13, to advance to the finals. I just knew I’d put myself in that hole and had to dig my way out of it.”

Gorter (45-1) went on to finish his business, beating Davidson in the fourth overtime period with an escape – turning dream into reality.

“It was a special moment; a lot of time, sweat and tears went into it and sharing it with Bos, who’s like a second dad to me, was amazing,” Gorter said. “He has a special place in my heart. I’d do anything for him, and all my coaches. I am who I am today because of Bos, my coaches and, of course, my parents.  

“You don’t realize it at the time when you’re out there doing your thing, but they’re more than coaches. Those relationships go so much further than coach/athlete. I hold those relationships close to my heart. I don’t see them too often, but I try to have conversations when I get the chance … so many memories, thick and thin.”

For Bos too, who had his first of many state champions in Gorter.

“So many great memories, and justification for me as a coach,” said Bos, who nominated Gorter for the Hall of Fame. “Going to the finals the year before and then going out and winning it. It was a great experience for me, too, although I had the easiest spot in the world – sitting in the chair.

“Jon has a motor like no other, the undisputed workhorse on our team and somebody everybody looks up to. And we had a great team that year he won it. Jaden Evans placed sixth and Tyler Evans and Dylan Kor qualified for state. Having four seniors at the ‘X’ (Xcel Energy Center) that year was great … a special time.”

In addition to his state title and runner-up finish as a junior, twice making him an All-State wrestler, Gorter was All-Conference both seasons and finished his career with a record of 107-18 – 10th all-time in wins at PAS at the time of his graduation. He was 10th all-time in team points, second all-time in takedowns and had the fifth highest winning percentage of Arrow wrestlers – not to mention being named Academic All-State in 2010 and 2011.

 “He was driven to do his best in everything; academic awards meant a lot to him too,” Bos said. “Sure, he’d spend time in the weight room and the wrestling room, but Jon also spent a lot of time in the classroom – very disciplined all the way around.”

Something Bos hopes Gorter’s wrestlers look to emulate in Tea (S.D.), where the 2011 Minnesota Class A state champion has coached for the last five years. 

“It’s no surprise he went into coaching; he’s very personable and the kids love him,” Bos said. “We were at a tournament in Parker a couple years ago and you could see the love and admiration they have for Jon. He’s a very positive influence to a lot of young men.”

As for the honor to be bestowed on Gorter, Oct. 1 in Pipestone, he counts himself fortunate to be among so many outstanding teammates like himself.

“Pipestone has had some great athletes come through the school and to be on that list is amazing, and quite an honor,” said Gorter, who will be supported at the ceremony by his parents, wife Taylor and 2 ½-year-old daughter Kollyns. “My parents are thrilled. My mom, who never missed a match from the time I started wrestling, wanted to know when she could start telling people. She knows I don’t like the limelight, but … tell whoever.”

About another prize claimed by Gorter.

“Jon did so much for our program, he took the lid off the pot that year he took second place,” Bos said. “We hadn’t had a medal in 12-13 years in Pipestone, before that. And since Jon’s championship, we’ve placed 16 kids at the state tournament – and multiple champions. Dang it, we can unlock the pot and pull out a prize. He’s very deserving of the honor.”

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