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Less than two years ago, wrestling was dead at Stanford.

It had axed its wrestling program, one of 11 sports cut, claiming the financial model to support 36 varsity sports was not sustainable.

Last spring things changed drastically. Stanford reinstated all 11 varsity sports.

That was welcome news to Lakeville North senior 145-pounder Zach Hanson. Hanson, a dedicated scholar as well as an exceptional wrestler, had always been interested in Stanford, but when the school cut the program, he turned his interests elsewhere.

He still had some top-notch schools on his list — Columbia and Princeton in the Ivy League, Northwestern, Minnesota and Wyoming — so options were available. But when Stanford brought back wrestling, Hanson was thrilled.

"When they cut wrestling, that stunk for me because Stanford was one of the schools that was always on my radar," Hanson said. "When they brought it back, it was immediately right up there again for me."

Hanson, who is 28-2 at 145 this winter and ranked No. 2 in Class 3A, committed to Stanford in November.

Runner-up at 132 pounds in Class 3A last year, a 16-under champion in both freestyle and Greco-Roman at the U.S. Nationals in Fargo last summer, Hanson consulted with former Anoka wrestler Tyler Eischens, who was wrestling for Stanford when the sport was cut. Eischens went back to Stanford when the school brought the sport back.

Eischens vouched for the program and new head coach Rob Koll, who formerly led Cornell.

"He told me everything was great," Hanson said. "I think he put in a good word for me."

Hanson said the turmoil at Stanford appears to be a thing of the past. "They said they're endowed for a full 36 [sports]," he said. "I'm very excited. The education is great. I had a real fun visit out there, and the guys on the team made it feel like home. And no more cold Minnesota winters."

Awaiting Howard's choice

In early December, Cooper junior tight end/defensive end Jaxon Howard tweeted that he was close to making a college decision, possibly within a week or two.

A significant announcement, considered the high profile Howard enjoys. He's the most highly coveted high school football player in state history if college offers are the standard. When he sent out his tweet, he had 53 Division I offers, many from the biggest names in college football.

More than a month later, Howard has yet to announce his college choice. Since then, four more Division I schools have extended offers: Duke, Colorado, Miami (Fla.) and Clemson. He's up to 55 offers from Power Five teams.

In September, the 6-4, 245-pound Howard, son of Cooper football coach, dean of students and former Vikings defensive lineman Willie Howard, declared his 12 finalists: Alabama, Arizona State, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Stanford, USC.

The NCAA regular signing period for football starts Wednesday, Feb. 2.

Flynn picks Grizzlies

Edina junior goalkeeper Bayliss Flynn, a dynamo in net for the Hornets' girls' soccer team last fall, gave a verbal commitment to play college soccer at the University of Montana.

Flynn, a Star Tribune All-Metro first-team selection, allowed just seven goals in 18 games. Her stingy play helped Edina take an undefeated record and the No. 1 ranking into the Class 3A state tournament semifinals. The Hornets were upset by eventual state champion Stillwater.

Former U women's soccer coach takes over at Visitation

A sure sign that things are looking up in your high school athletic program: Convincing a former college coach to take a head coaching position.

Such is the case at Visitation, the all-girls Catholic school in Mendota Heights.

The school announced last week that it had hired former Gophers women's soccer coach Mickey Denney Wright to head its soccer program. Wright coached the Gophers from 2004 through 2012. She earned Big Ten Coach of the Year recognition in 2008, leading the Gophers to their most successful season to date, winning the Big Ten championship with a 22-4 record and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16. They returned to the Sweet 16 in 2010.

Wright played collegiately at North Carolina and was part of back-to-back NCAA championship teams in 1993 and 1994 before transferring to Minnesota in 1995. She was twice an All-Big Ten selection and led the Gophers to the 1995 Big Ten title.

Soccer players honored

Five Minnesota soccer players were honored as United Soccer Coaches All-America selections over the weekend in Kansas City, Mo.

Three Twin Cities-area girls made the team: Marisa Bonilla, Stillwater senior forward; Paige Kalal, Champlin Park junior forward, and Maddie Dahlien, Edina senior forward.

Two boys from the Twin Cities area were chosen: Wayzata senior defender Miles Akhigbe and Holy Angels senior forward Carter Hermanson.

Hockey Day 2023 set for White Bear Township

The Minnesota Wild and Bally Sports North made it official Saturday, confirming that next year's Hockey Day Minnesota will be hosted at Polar Lakes Park in White Bear Township.

It was originally set to be the host this year, but COVID-19 forced rescheduling, moving this year's festivities to Mankato, the original 2021 host, and pushing White Bear Township to 2023.

Ryskamp resets record

Orono girls' hockey senior forward Iyla Ryskamp bettered her own single-season record for points when she recently reached 58. Through 19 games this season, Ryskamp leads second-ranked Orono with 32 goals and 33 assists for 65 points. She has signed with Sacred Heart University.

Less than grand

Litchfield defeated New London-­Spicer 37-25 in Wright County Conference girls' basketball on Tuesday in New London, Minn., preventing Wildcats coach Mike Dreier from gaining his 1,000th victory. The Wildcats (14-2), who are ranked No. 6 in Class 2A and had a nine-game winning streak ended, will host Watertown-Mayer on Friday.


• Minnetonka girls' basketball coach Leah Dasovich recently won career game No. 200. Dasovich, in her 11th season guiding the Skippers, led them to the Class 4A state title in 2015-16.

• The Warroad girls' hockey program, a standard-bearer among Class 1A schools, recently claimed the 500th victory in program history. The Warriors won the 2010 and 2011 small-school titles and finished second on five other occasions.