Minnesota’s first official basketball tournament for boys’ high school teams was contested in 1913. Our first official basketball tournament for girls’ high school teams was contested in 1976.
Thus, there was no need for Wendell Fredin, a junior guard, and his Comfrey High School friends to clarify by gender when receiving permission from parents to attend the 1953 “State Tourney” as fans.
Fredin “lived at Williams Arena” for three days, eventually watching Hopkins defeat Hibbing 58-47 to win its second straight title in the one-class tournament.
The 130-mile drive from Comfrey to Minneapolis to take in the state tournament became an annual event for Fredin. So, mark this down as another casualty of the coronavirus:
Wendell’s 67-year streak of attending the state boys’ tournament.
“I’ve also gone to quite a number of girls’ tournaments,” Fredin said Saturday. “Any time the girls from one of the towns in this area was there, my wife [Martha] and I went to the tournament.”
Fredin and his high school buddies started off pushed against beams at the top of Williams Arena and now he has deluxe seats. He sent in his check early again, the tickets were secure, but then came the cancellation on March 13.
“Martha and I go to high school games, boys and girls, as many as five nights a week during the winter,” Fredin said. “On that Friday, we were getting ready to go to Mankato to watch Springfield and New Ulm Cathedral play in the section final, and then came the news everything was canceled.
“That was a bummer.”
Wendell has declared Wabasso’s 117-113 overtime win over Red Lake in the 1997 Class 1A semifinals the most exciting tournament game he’s witnessed. And he classifies Marshall’s 75-74 win over Cloquet for the one-class title in 1963 as the “greatest championship game.”
And, unlike many old-timers who worship the one-class days (ended after 1970), Fredin is a fan of the four-class system.
“I’m a small-town person,” he said. “It’s gives more small-town teams a chance to show their talent. Plus, we get to see 32 teams, not just eight.”
Fredin’s all-tourney teams since ’53:
Honorable mention: Dean Veenhof and Dean Verdoes, Edgerton (1960); Jeff McCarron and Tom Mulso, Sherburn (1970); Blaine Joerger, Staples (1995); Jeff Nessler, St. James (1972); Terry Porter, Marshall (1963).
Second team: Joel McDonald, Chisholm (1991); Dave Tschimperle, Hopkins (1953); Barry Wohler, Bird Island-Lake Lillian (1980-81); Randy Breuer, Lake City (1978-79); Kevin McHale, Hibbing (1976).
First team: Ron Johnson, New Prague (1956); Mark Olberding, Melrose (1972-73-74); Cody Schilling, Ellsworth (2006-08); Bob Bruggers, Danube (1962); Khalid El-Amin, Minneapolis North (1995-96-97).