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Hoialmen to be inducted into WSHS Hall of Fame
Standout wrestler, cross-country runner
First in a series of four articles about inductees into the Winona Senior High School Athletic Hall of Fame on May 21

The work ethic and determination that made Joe Hoialmen a success on the wrestling mat is carrying over into his adult life.

"What you learn through youth, high school and college wrestling, you take with you," said the 1989 Winona Senior High School graduate. "Wrestlers have something in their head. They know hard works pays off. You never give up on yourself. If it doesn't work out that day, tomorrow's another day."

Just how hard a worker was Hoialmen when it came to wrestling? Take his senior year at Augsburg College as an example. When wrestling practice started in November, he weighed 185 pounds. Five months later, he was crowned national champion at 134 pounds and led the Auggies to the NCAA Division III national championship.

"I never stopped working from my sophomore year in high school to my senior year in college," said Hoialmen, who currently owns a mortgage company, Equitable Solutions, in White Bear Lake, Minn. "I ran every day. I focused. I felt as long as I was in the best shape, I can't be beat."

Hoialmen got his feet wet with a handful of varsity matches as a freshman at WSHS. As a sophomore, he won the Region 1AA title at 98 pounds and placed fifth at state. A year later, Hoialmen and coach Bill Schmidt were thinking about a state championship after winning the region crown at 112. But in his state quarterfinal match, Hoialmen was disqualified for slamming his opponent. He won his next four matches, including a 14-0 decision in his final match, to take third place.

There was nothing stopping him as a senior. He lost his first match of the season, and then reeled off 35 straight victories to capture the 125-pound state championship. He beat the state's second-ranked wrestler, Troy Hegland of Willmar (who was 38-0), in the semifinals, then downed top-ranked Wade Short of Simley 8-5 in the title match. That was Short's last loss as a high school wrestler as he won state titles in each of the next two seasons.

Hoialmen was Winona's first state wrestling champion in 36 years.

"Bill always said I wrestled well under pressure," Hoialmen said. "Bill trained me as hard as he possibly could. The better the competition, the better I wrestled. Bill always told me to go out and have some fun. It was my goal to be Bill's first state champion."

The 1988-89 season was banner one for Winona High's wrestling program. Hoialmen was joined at state by five of his teammates, and the Winhawks just missed reaching state as a team after a close loss to Apple Valley in the region tournament.

Hoialmen was also a three-year letterwinner in cross-country. He helped Winona High win the Region 1AA title as a junior, but couldn't run in the state meet because of an illness. The Winhawks went on to win the state cross-country title in 1987.

"I used cross-country to get me in shape for wrestling," Hoialmen admitted. "Then I fell in love with my cross-country team. But I was wrestling year round."

After high school, Hoialmen first thought about going to Mankato State to wrestle, but his best friend, Ricky Habeck, chose Augsburg, and Hoialmen followed suit.

He made varsity as a freshman, won 43 matches and was an All-American following a fourth-place finish in the national meet. Hoialmen made it to the national semifinals as a sophomore, where he suffered a one-point loss and sprained his ankle in the process. He wound up sixth that year, which also earned him All-America honors.

A poor showing as a junior, when he went 1-1 at nationals, made him even hungrier his senior year.

"My junior year, it happened and that made me that much stronger," he said. "I just had to focus on my senior year and I didn't want anything to stand in the way of my goals.

"I didn't do anything different. You can only do so much every day. I came in and weighed 185 pounds before the season. I thought I would wrestle 150 or 142 for the postseason. Coach (Jeff Swenson) asked me if I could make 134 and I said yes. That made our team that much stronger. We achieved our goals. You never want to look back and say ‘what if I didn't do that.'"

Hoialmen won the 134-pound national title that year and finished 39-6. Just to boot, Augsburg had its second national team title in three years.

"Right before the (championship) match, I was looking for my dad," Hoialmen said. "He's always around somewhere. For this match, he was sitting right behind our coaches. I went over to him and he told me to ‘go out there and kick his ass.'

"He took me to my first wrestling match when I was one and a half years old. My brother Pete really got me into wrestling. I learned the values from my mom, dad and brother."

Hoialmen ended his career at Augsburg with a 146-45 record, three Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference individual titles and a three-time All-American. Augsburg placed first or second in the national meet in all four of his years.

His biggest strength on the mat was his quickness. His 437 career takedowns are still a school record and are 89 more than any other wrestler at Augsburg.

"Quickness is something you work on," Hoialmen said. "I've always been good on my feet. You have to work on your strengths. It was a lot of natural quickness. You just drill and drill. Once you perfect it, you have to keep doing it so it's second nature to you."

Even though his wrestling career was over, he remained at Augsburg and served as an assistant coach for six years (1994-99). The Auggies won two more national titles in that span.

Hoialmen just completed his first year as an assistant coach at Apple Valley High School, which won the Class 3A state championship in 2006. 


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