For Wolves, full speed ahead

by Tom Coombe
The Ely Timberwolves won’t outmuscle many opponents this winter, but they just might run a team or two right out of the gymnasium.
Ely’s high school boys basketball team doesn’t figure to slow down much at all during a 2020-21 campaign that begins with two home games this weekend.
While graduation took starters Dylan Fenske and Eric Omerza from a team that reached the Section 7A semifinals last winter, senior starters Will Davies, Emmett Faltesek and Brock LaTourell all return.
Add junior Harry Simons and sophomore Joey Bianco to the mix, and the Wolves boast a mix of speed, athleticism and three-point shooting ability that may offset their lack of height.
“We’ll be rather small in the starting lineup so hopefully we’ll get after some people,” said Tom McDonald, who has led the Wolves’ program as head coach since 1990. “We have experience, and I think it’s good experience. All five of those guys saw a lot of time last year.”


New coach, new look for Ely girls

by Tom Coombe
Ely’s high school girls basketball team will bear little resemblance to the squad that took the court last winter.
Graduation took a heavy toll on the Timberwolves’ roster, with multi-year starters and 1,000-point scorers Erika Mattson and Brielle Kallberg among those moving on.
The Wolves, who reached the Section 7A quarterfinals last year and lost a heartbreaker to Chisholm, will also have a new look on the sidelines.
Max Gantt is the Wolves’ new head coach. The physical education teacher and Ely graduate steps in for Darren Visser, who stepped aside after the 2019-20 campaign.
Gantt and assistant coach Tom Omerza are in a rebuilding mode in a season that’s starting late, and is abbreviated, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the first-year head coach said Wednesday, after three practices, that he likes what he has seen from what figures to be both a young and athletic team.


Kids snowmobile oval racing on Fall Lake Jan. 9

Snowmobile oval ice racing returns to the area on Jan. 9 with races being held on Fall Lake at the Ely-Winton Rod and Gun Club’s Longbranch hosting.
The Kids Championship Power Racing Organization. races for kids ages four to 14. will start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 9.
The event is free for spectators with 11 different classes of races starting at 10 a.m.
Registrations begin at 8 a.m. with hot laps at 9 a.m. and racing action set to begin at 10 a.m.
KCPRO East is a non- profit organization established in 1991. For more information check out


Date set for games to begin

High school athletes now have a date to look forward to.
Earlier this week, the Minnesota Department of Health cleared the way for youth sporting events to resume Jan. 14 and the Minnesota State High School League followed suit.
The move comes in advance of a Jan. 4 start date for youth and high school sports practices, and follows a several-week “pause” ordered in mid-November by Gov. Tim Walz.
It also includes some new restrictions, among them a requirement that all athletes indoors wear masks or face coverings, even when competing.
That directive generated significant pushback earlier this week but, at least for now, it stands as practices get set to begin.
Still unclear is whether or not spectators will be allowed at indoor events, which begin in Ely Jan. 14 with a girls basketball game between the Timberwolves and Two Harbors and a boys basketball game with Mt. Iron-Buhl the following evening.


Coughlins, Thomas honored

by Tom Coombe
An unbeaten season resulted in a conference championship for Ely’s high school volleyball team, and all-conference recognition for three Timberwolves.
Senior McKenna Coughlin, junior Kellen Thomas and sophomore Rachel Coughlin all won spots on the All-Arrowhead Conference Team, as selected by league coaches.
The recognition comes on the heels of the program’s first-ever unbeaten season, a campaign that was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the program’s first Arrowhead Conference title.
McKenna Coughlin played a key role in that success. The Wolves’ only returning starter from teams that reached the Section 7A final four the previous two years, she led in many ways and topped the Wolves in several statistical categories including kills (144), digs (85) and ace serves (35).
The senior averaged better than 10 kills per game and was one of the top hitters in all of Section 7A.


Wognum wins 7A coaching award

Ely’s Megan Wognum has been named Section 7A Assistant Coach of the Year in volleyball.
The acclaim came last week as the Minnesota State High School Volleyball Coaches Association announced award winners across the state.
Wognum, who has been assistant coach in Ely for five seasons, was part of one of the most unique and successful seasons in Timberwolves volleyball history.
The 2020 campaign started late and was interrupted before its conclusion because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Wolves went 12-0 and completed what’s believed to be the only perfect varsity season in school history.
Wognum aided head coach Andrea Thomas with the varsity and also coached Ely’s junior varsity team to an 11-1 record.


Youth sports set to resume Jan. 4

by Nick Wognum
It was a good news/bad news week for high school athletes in Ely and across the state.
While Gov. Tim Walz extended what began as a four-week pause that halted all high school and youth sports in Minnesota, an announcement on Wednesday offered some light at the end of a long tunnel.
In an executive order signed the same day, Walz cleared the way for sports practices to begin Jan. 4.
Within minutes of the announcement, the Minnesota State High School League made news of its own - indicating that practices for all winter high school sports would begin on that date.
Much remains unsettled, including a firm date that games and meets will begin, but the developments breathe new life into sports seasons that have been dormant for several weeks.
Practices for winter sports were slated to begin in mid-to-late November, depending on the activity, but Walz put those on ice amid rising COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations and deaths.


Three from Ely named to All-District team

by Tom Coombe
Ely’s high school football season has been capped with individual honors for three Timberwolves.
Senior Lane Anderson, junior Eddie Prijatel and sophomore Jason Kerntz were all named to the All-District Team, as selected by district coaches.
The recognition comes on the heels of a winning regular season for the Wolves, their first since 1987.
Anderson, a multiyear starter, played a key role in that success.
The 250-pounder anchored the offensive and defensive lines and came up with 39 tackles, second-most on the team.
Ely also utilized Anderson as a running back out of its “Heavy Jumbo” set, and he delivered, amassing 178 rushing yards and plowing into the end zone a team-high five times
Prijatel was a two-way starter for the Wolves and helped anchor the Ely defense, leading the team with 59 tackles for the season. He also started at running back and picked up 131 yards on the ground.


Lassi steps away from sidelines Ely

by Tom Coombe
For 11 seasons, Cory Lassi has been the common denominator when it came to Ely Timberwolves football.
But that will change in 2021, after Lassi’s announcement last week that he is stepping down from his post as high school football coach.
Lassi spent the last three years leading the Wolves and was an assistant for eight years prior to that, playing a key role in a resurgence of the football program including four state tournament berths in a six-year run.
The 2004 Ely High School graduate is moving on from coaching, at least for now, to spend more time with his family, including a daughter due to be born this week.
“My number one job right now is being here for my family and I want to make sure I am,” said Lassi.
A former Timberwolf football standout, Lassi joined the football coaching staff in 2010 and guided the defense.


Football season ends in Bigfork

by Tom Coombe
There was no dramatic finish or rousing victory. Instead, Ely’s high school football season ended on the cold turf in Bigfork Tuesday night with the host Huskies scoring a dominant 52-6 playoff win.
Yet that the Wolves played at all, and finished a season as odd in any in school history, provided memories nonetheless.
Ely finished the season 3-3, with an opening round defeat in the Section 7 9-Man playoffs and the program’s first winning regular season since 2017.
The Wolves also got to play, albeit a bit late, this fall in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. That may have been the biggest victory at all, given the times, and head coach Cory Lassi offered some perspective after Tuesday’s defeat.


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