MSC Sports, 1957-1969

by Larry Scott



In the summer of 1957, the cumbersome moniker of Moorhead State Teachers College was shortened to Moorhead State College, an early marketing move that administrators and politicians favored. Yes, it was a mere name change, a matter of semantics, but it reflected the expanding mission of the university. Teaching was still paramount, but new majors were emerging, and students began to explore new curriculum.

While the change would hint of brighter days ahead, intercollegiate athletics at MSC continued to operate under the radar of more ambitious regional programs such as St. Cloud State College and Mankato State College, among others. Still, there were signs the Dragons would fill a more prominent role in the future.

The good news was slow to reach the Dragon football program, however, and MSC stumbled to three straight losing seasons in 1957 (3-4-0), 1958 (1-7-0) and 1959 (0-9-0) under coach Loel Frederickson. Senior guard Al Holmes (Moorhead) and fullback Bill Beck (Lancaster) provided a wealth of leadership for the football Dragons of ’57. Beck scored three touchdowns in a 52-0 romp over St. Cloud State College and finished as the leading scorer in the Minnesota State College Conference with 30 points. Beck and the battered Dragons, reduced to a 26-man travel squad because of injuries, remained in the hunt for the MSCC title until a 21-6 loss at Michigan Tech. There was reason to rejoice, however, when MSC solved a 20-year losing streak to Concordia College with a 10-9 shocker, but little did Dragon faithful realize that they would have to wait another 20 years to feel the same joy. 

Larry MacLeod and the basketball Dragons broke even in 1957-58 with a 11-11 finish, but slumped to 10-12 and 9-14 records the following two winters. Lowell Bolger (Moorhead), Sherm Moe (Ada), Jim Nagel (Breckenridge), Al Santwire (Mahnomen) and Rod Zimmerman (Herman) formed a solid foundation and eagerly handled much of the scoring responsibilities. Bolger and Moe led the Dragons in scoring for three consecutive seasons and pocketed three all-conference certificates each while Zimmerman set a school record with 40 points against Winona State in 1959. The Dragons also made their first airplane flight that same season to Macomb, IL, and a date with Western Illinois, although the Leathernecks removed some of the luster with a 89-83 win.

In February of 1960, MSC unveiled its new athletic showplace, Alex Nemzek Hall. Situated on the barren east end of campus, it was christened in style when Nagel scored with two seconds remaining to lift Moorhead State to a wild 72-71 victory over Concordia College in front of 3,800 fans.

Dragon wrestling began to percolate under new head coach Bill Garland in the late 50s. Rufus Bankole (Lagos, Nigeria), 123, Henry Hettwer (Carrington, ND), 191, and heavyweight Ron Wiger (Moorhead) all placed fourth at the 1959 NAIA National Championships, and freshman Bill Cronen (Benson) became the Dragons’ first runnerup at the 1960 NAIA Nationals at 167 pounds while 177-pound sophomore Ed Arneson (Glenwood) finished 14-0-1.

MacLeod and the baseball Dragons fielded competitive clubs under the umbrella of the MSCC and the Steve Gorman League, and Jerry Mehlisch (Clemons, IA) set a single season record with a batting average of .471 in 1958 that lasted for 25 years. Mehlisch also posted a 5-2 pitching mark while catcher John Chalfant (Michigan Center, MI) was a rock behind home plate. Moorhead State joined the baseball brethren of the Northern States College Conference in 1960 and kept chasing championship dreams until the sport was put in mothballs following the 1983 season.

Miler Rudy Arechigo (Moorhead) and Gene Goedel (Wadena), a tested performer in the sprints and dashes, were featured performers for track coach Roy Domek while Arechigo set the pace in cross-country as well. Lyle Hornbacher (Moorhead) was a traditional medalist for the Dragon golf team.




A new football era was ushered in at Moorhead State College in 1960 when Dwaine Hoberg left the security of high school coaching to begin a 10-year stay at MSC. It was a run that produced several highwater marks, but largely failed to match the lofty expectations that greeted his arrival. Indeed, there was good reason to believe Hoberg was the right man to resuscitate a program that had hit upon hard times. After all, the Bemidji native was a finished product of the University of Minnesota and played for legendary coach Bernie Bierman. After a coaching stop at Moorhead High School, Hoberg signed on at St. Louis Park in the powerful Lake Conference. Surely that experience would provide the seasoning Hoberg would need to flourish on the collegiate level, and also unearth a lode of prep talent he could later mine for Moorhead State.

d hoberg   Hoberg (left)  made his Dragon coaching debut September 10 against Northern State College, but the Wolves crashed the party with a 34-7 victory, the start of a five-game losing streak that included a 21-8 loss to Michigan Tech University at the christening of Alex Nemzek Stadium. A spirited defensive performance allowed Moorhead State to escape with a 2-0 Northern States College Conference victory over Winona State College in October, and MSC also produced a 14-7 non-conference win over Minot State College. The good times didn’t last long, however, as Concordia College rolled to a 36-14 victory on the final weekend of the 1960 season, a harbinger of crosstown misery to come for Hoberg.

His second club showed modest improvement with a 5-4-0 finish in 1961, and in 1962 Moorhead State fans were quick to talk of brighter days ahead. Indeed, the Dragons debuted with three straight victories, including a 22-8 non-conference triumph over North Dakota Agriculture College, but St. Cloud State College posted a 20-0 victory in week two of NSCC play, and MSC stumbled to another 5-4-0 finish. The 1963 season unfolded in style at Dacotah Field in Fargo, ND as quarterback Kevin Wimmer (Litchfield) and wide receiver Bruce Bausman (St. Louis Park) torched the Bison in a 31-14 romp. Wimmer completed 10 of 15 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns while Bausman hauled in six catches for a single game record 203 yards and three touchdowns. A three-time All-Northern Intercollegiate Conference pick and the Dragons’ first All-American, Moorhead native Lorny Johnson was rock solid at offensive tackle, but the Dragons couldn’t sustain the good times and exited 4-4-1 with a 7-6 loss to Concordia.

After a pair of pedestrian campaigns in 1964 (4-4-0) and 1965 (5-4-0), MSC ignored a 17-7 opening day loss to Concordia College and quietly pieced together a four-game win streak that elevated MSC to certified contender status in the NIC at last. A narrow 3-0 loss to Winona State tempered the championship feeling, but a 13-0 Homecoming triumph over Bemidji State College in October lifted MSC to its first NIC title since 1952. Following a road loss at Lincoln (MO) University, the Dragons closed the books on a 6-3-0 season in 1966 with a 63-0 rout of Mayville State College.

Senior Bruce Bakeberg provided a comfortable fit at quarterback for Hoberg and calmly orchestrated a suddenly potent Dragon offense. The Ortonville native completed 72 of 163 passes for 1040 yards and 11 touchdowns while Bricker Johnsen, a lean and lethal sophomore wide receiver from tiny Underwood, provided a serious outside threat with 28 receptions for 451 yards and five touchdowns. He would lead the Dragons in receiving from 1965-68 with 73 receptions and 16 touchdowns, and started up front with the basketball Dragons as well.

Center Russ Marshall (Dilworth), offensive tackles Al Berglund (Bloomington) and Dennis Yell (Parkers Prairie), and tight end Rick Cochran (Park Rapids) anchored a trusty offensive line while Dave Malchaski, a nasty defensive back from Mound, was named to the All-NIC team. A three-year fixture on the Dragons’ offensive line, Yell was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams on the 16th round of the 1967 National Football League draft.

In 1966, Mike Quirk, a 212-pound chunk of iron from Chisholm who took equal delight in running over or around defenders, arrived with little fanfare. By his sophomore season he was cleary the focal point of the Dragon offense, a hint of greater things to come.  In 1968, Quirk exploded on the national scene as a junior, reaching the magical 200-yard rushing mark on three straight weekends and closing as the leading rusher in the country with 154.7 yards per game.

It may have been the stuff of legends, but Quirk was quick to deflect individual praise. “Getting those yards when they count the most is what makes you feel good,” Quirk explained. “Those fellows up front in the line deserve a world of credit, and the job couldn’t be done without the help from the other backs.” 

Quirk was prominently featured in THE SPORTING NEWS, and professional scouts flocked to Moorhead for a closer look. Considered by many as the greatest Dragon of them all, Quirk seemed certain of a serious run in the NFL, but he suffered a compound leg fracture during spring drills in 1969, and a promising professional career evaporated.

Despite Quirk’s magnificent contribution, Moorhead State was saddled with three straight losing seasons, including a 4-5-0 mark in 1969 in Hoberg’s final season. Pressured to step aside, Hoberg announced his retirement to his team in November during the Dragons’ final game against Minnesota-Morris, and his inspired players presented him with a 22-20 parting gift.

While Hoberg would vanish from the Dragon athletic scene, his professional career was far from finished. He remained a distinguished member of the Health and Physical Education faculty for years, and fashioned a prosperous career in politics that included successful mayoral runs in Moorhead, and a very hands-on involvement in state politics as well.



Moorhead State entered a new decade in search of its first winning season since a 13-7 finish in 1956-57. The Dragons dedicated a new arena—Alex Nemzek Hall—with a 72-71 victory over Concordia in February of 1960 and posted a balanced 11-11 record under veteran coach Larry MacLeod. When MacLeod departed for a sabbatical at Indiana University a year later, Glen Cafer accepted a one-year coaching invitation in 1961-62 and prodded the Dragons to a surprising 13-10 finish.

Jim Nagel, a serious sharpshooter from Breckenridge, kindled the Dragon offense. Nagel collected all-conference certificates as a junior and senior, and averaged 20.4 points per game as a senior in 1961-62. Digesting the Dragon playbook was easy stuff for the bookish Nagel, who later gained international attention as a renowned college professor and perhaps America’s most respected scholar of author Ernest Hemingway.

For Nagel, the game of basketball took on almost mystical qualities.

“What I remember most is the guys I played with, the special friendships that develop on a team, and the mutual respect that came from the hard work at practices,” said Nagel. “I would have enjoyed basketball immensely even if we had never played another team. I never felt like the best player on any team I played on, but I did feel part of the group, happy to be accepted by fine athletes, and always grateful for the encouragement and support my teammates gave me.”

While Nagel was saluted as the Most Valuable Player in the NSCC in 1961-62, he had a fine supporting cast, including guard Al Santwire (Mahnomen) and forward Al Shogren (Alexandria), who hauled down a whopping 23 rebounds against Northern State Teachers College.

When MacLeod returned for the 1962-63 season, the Dragons tumbled to 7-17, but there was one delicious moment, a 73-66 ambush of Augsburg College, the 10th-ranked team in small college basketball. Don Wermager (Twin Valley) drained 13 of 16 field goal attempts and scored 31 points as the Dragons shot a sizzling 62 per cent from the field.

Everyone had their take on the stunning upset. “Now we don’t have to be afraid to go to Minneapolis,” beamed MSC President Dr. John J. Neumaier. “We had nothing to lose,” explained MacLeod. Sportscaster Jim Adelson of KXJB-TV said, “Moorhead State has a new mayor in town, either Larry MacLeod or Don Wermager.”

Augsburg guard Lloyd “Butch” Raymond had a simple explanation for the unlikely outcome. “You can’t beat a team that shoots over 60 per cent and plays defense the way Moorhead did,” said Raymond. While Raymond and his Auggie teammates would anguish over the loss, he would extract a full measure of revenge on MSC eight years later. 

 A 11-10 upturn the following winter restored the faith and set the table for one of the most remarkable seasons in MSC basketball history. MacLeod admitted the Dragons of 1964-65 could be something special, but little did he know the magic that waited.

“I felt at the beginning of the year we had a chance to be real good, but I didn’t expect that we would be that good,” MacLeod remembered later.

There were several elements in place, including Wermager; Granite Falls native Jerry Hegna, a talented transfer from the University of Minnesota and the last three-sport all-conference athlete in Dragon history; Jim Jahr, a laconic center from Alexandria with a deadly hook shot; Pete Lysaker, a sharpshooter from Detroit Lakes; Erwin “Cactus” Warner, a pesky guard from Halstad; and Wally Halbakken, a quiet but menacing force from Pelican Rapids. There were flaws, however. Jahr and Halbakken, both 6-4, were the biggest of the vertically-challenged Dragons.

MSC opened in style with a six-game win streak, but powerful University of North Dakota, sparked by legendary Phil Jackson, derailed the Dragons 87-53 at the Red River Classic in December. The Dragons quickly ignored the loss and returned to the business of winning a NIC championship, a feat not accomplished at State since the formation of the league in 1932. To reach that sizable goal, MSC would have to supplant the reigning king of college basketball in Minnesota, St. Cloud State. The mighty Huskies had ruled the league in the 1950s and 60s, and had no notion of abdicating. A pair of narrow victories over the Dragons, including a 78-73 overtime scare at cozy Eastman Hall in St. Cloud, appeared to secure another solo pennant for SCSC.

Still, Moorhead State would not go quietly into the night, and the Dragons kept the pressure on with a late-season, seven-game win streak. Then, on the final weekend of league play, MSC dispatched of Mankato State College, 86-79 at Mankato, while St. Cloud State was ambushed by winless Michigan Tech, 79-76 at Houghton, MI, a shocker that sent shock waves around the NIC and provided Moorhead State with a piece of the league title.

The newly minted league champs returned by a car caravan to a joyous welcome-home celebration at Alex Nemzek Hall, and were greeted with more good news when the NCAA extended an invitation to the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Championships in Grand Forks, ND. It marked the Dragons’ first post-season appearance, and MSC seized the moment with a 75-73 upset of Colorado State College in the opening round.

The triumph brought a rematch with Jackson and the mighty Sioux, and UND sealed the deal in the second half with a 83-57 victory that dispatched the Sioux to the national tournament and ended a remarkable 21-4 season for the Dragons. Lysaker led the Dragons in scoring with 19.2 ppg and joined Halbakken, Jahr and Warner on the All-NIC squad, but raw numbers don’t tell the whole story.

MacLeod remembered it all very clearly years later.

“That reception when we came home from Mankato was amazing. We had almost 2000 people there to meet us. It looked bad late in the season for us to win the league (and receive an automatic NAIA post-season tournament bid), so we accepted the NCAA bid. Both of our losses to North Dakota were very similar. We would hang with them in the first half, but they took over the game in the second half. I guess they were just too tall and too talented.”

While many were surprised by MSC’s sudden success, Nagel, now an ex-Dragon, was not.

“Larry MacLeod took a rather different approach to the game,” Nagel observed. “Here the analysis of the strategy of the opposition was largely subordinated to team discipline, to the percentage shot, to strong defense, to rebounding, and a lot of important details not usually represented in newspaper summaries. He respected the intelligence of his players, and he did not encumber us with excessive controls. We knew always that he regarded the academic integrity of the program as foremost in his relationship with us. In that climate basketball was important but subordinate to other concerns. We should represent the college and make a good showing, but primarily we should play for fun, for personal satisfaction, for friendship, for the sheer exhilaration of athletics.”

It would be the watershed point of MacLeod’s coaching career, and he resigned to concentrate on expanding athletic director duties in 1967 after 11-11 and 10-12 seasons. The search for a successor didn’t take MSC far from the family tree, and Marv Skaar, a onetime Dragon and a successful prep coach at Grand Forks (ND) Central High School, responded to the call. 

For Skaar, it fulfilled a lifetime dream to coach on the collegiate level, and he pounced on the opportunity to return the Dragons to the regional spotlight. Skaar may have spent his coaching career on the prep level, but he knew things were largely different than when he competed. Yes, indeed, the times were a-changin.’  

With the Vietnam war in full flurry, Skaar was quick to realize athletes of the 1960s were immersed in a different culture, and unquestioned discipline was no longer in vogue. He began to loosen the shackles, and the players took notice. He added some dazzle to pre-game warmups by using red-and-white colored basketballs, he allowed players to wear low-cut shoes, red ones at that, and—gasp--he permitted music in the lockerroom. The players enjoyed the new freedom and began to call him “Groovy” behind his back, and Skaar heard the whispers. It only convinced him he was building a healthy player-coach relationship that could produce some big things. 

Skaar’s persistent recruiting also stocked a cupboard with some promising freshmen, and the Dragons would benefit greatly when Wahpeton, ND native Mike Berg transferred to MSC from neighboring Concordia College. Following a 11-10 mark in 1967-68, Skaar prodded his second club to a 18-6 record and a run at the 1968-69 NIC title. The Dragons closed the decade with a 15-10 record, a precursor to the greatest season in Moorhead State basketball history.



One of the fastest growing sports in America, the wrestling roots at Moorhead State trace to 1952-53 when the Dragons competed for student-coach Pat Ferris. When Bill Garland arrived in 1958, a sport that was on the collegiate backburner was about to catch fire and explode on a national level. No one, perhaps, except Garland, saw it coming.

“I really thought we could put together a program here that could attract national attention if we recruited right,” said Garland.

Garland began a remarkable run with a 8-3-1 finish in 1958-59, the first of 11 consecutive winning seasons at State, and created a dynasty that remained in full flourish for more than a decade. Soon, the Dragons began to make a serious run at the NIC title and make a major splash on the national level as well. Some early legends, including Rod Wiger (Moorhead), Bill Cronen (Benson) and Banks Swan (Davenport, IA), helped set the table, but it was the arrival of Bucky Maughan in 1962 that officially marked the beginning of the Golden Age of Dragon wrestling. 

A native of Canonsburg, PA, and a transfer from Indiana University, Maughan quickly demonstrated he had the right stuff. His quickness, repertoire of moves, and unmistakable swagger attracted an instant following, and Moorhead State quickly grabbed some national headlines. Maughan secured NAIA national titles in 1962 and 1963, and reached the summit in 1963 by capturing the NCAA Division I national 115-pound title, the only Dragon to win a NCAA I individual crown. Because of Maughan’s singular greatness, Moorhead State tied the United States Naval Academy for 11th place on the final team standings.

While Maughan sizzled on the national scene, he had plenty of support. Heavyweight Bob Billberg, a product of Waukegan, IL, made a huge impact as well. Billberg won NAIA national titles in 1964 and 1966, and logged runnerup finishes in the NCAA Division I finals in 1964 and 1966. He also appeared on ABC WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS. His list of victims included collegiate legends Curly Culp of Arizona State and Jim Nance of Syracuse.

While Maughan and Billberg led the parade, there was an army of eager Dragons anxious to jump in line. Frank Mosier, recruited from wrestling-rich Washington, PA, was a two-time NAIA national champion at 167 pounds and helped the Dragons win their only national team title, the 1964 NAIA Championship. Three other Dragons—Earl Stottler (Benson), Jim Dreitzler (Ithaca, NY) and Rick Stuyvesant (Greenville, PA)—would win national titles while John Morley of Oceanside, NY and Rick Kelvington of Washington, PA also placed in NCAA Division I national tournaments. Stottler became the Dragons’ first national titlist, winning the NAIA 130-pound crown in 1961. Dreitzler was an NAIA champ at 130 pounds in 1964 while Stuyvesant posted back-to-back NAIA championships at 137 pounds in 1966-67. In addition, the Dragons would win NIC team titles in the 1965, 1968 and 1969, and Morley would be named an Olympic alternate.

Mosier credits Maughan with much of the Dragons’ collective success.

“He was such a skilled and confident wrestler, and he had us believing we could beat anybody,” said Mosier. “We had on Moorhead State singlets, but you could have put Oklahoma State uniforms on us, and we’d still have won almost as many matches as they did.” 



A sport that would soon become a hallmark at Moorhead State—track and field—took seed in the 1960s. Long a staple of Dragon athletics, track had enjoyed only modest success in the 1950s but began to sprout when Al Holmes assumed control of the program in 1966. Holmes began patiently building the bedrock of a program that would one day battle for national supremacy.

Holmes diligently assembled a stable of eager trailblazers, including sprinter Marshall Shoquist (Minneapolis), who would lift the Dragons into conference and regional prominence. Sprinters Lloyd Cordner, Tony Jones and Ron Monsegue from Trinidad made an instant imprint, and Monsegue would later compete in the 1968 Olympics for his native country. Distance specialist Clint Chamberlain (Williston, ND) signed on after a tour of duty with the Marines, and Holmes received solid contributions from high jumper Ron Landblom from Fargo, ND; Dick Kimball, a middle distance runner from Park Rapids; long and triple jumper Vince Felchle of Devils Lake, ND; Terry Harrington, a gritty hurdler from Halstad; distance runner Fred Dahnke of Barnesville; weightman Larron Swanson of Hartley, IA, a transfer from Iowa State; and jumper Bob Brophy from neighboring Dilworth. A conference title would remain out of reach until the 1970s, but it was clear Holmes had placed the Dragons on the right track, and Ron Masanz would later carry them to greater heights.

Dahnke, who would later serve as a cross-country and assistant track coach under Masanz, was a bridge between Holmes and Masanz.

“Coach Holmes was the pioneer who helped start the success,” said Dahnke. “He served as a father figure to most of us who ran for him. The squad was small in numbers but consisted of a bunch of hard-working individuals who helped lay the foundation for later championship squads.”

“I ran for Masanz his first three years, and he expected a lot from his athletes, but he was only preparing us for the future,” Dahnke continued. “He wanted us to do our best, be accountable for our actions, and remember we were representing our families and MSU. He strived for us to be self-disciplined and to believe that most goals were attainable with dedication and hard work. Later as a coach, Masanz taught me how to be well organized, have control of my emotions, and expect one hundred per cent from my athletes. I am forever grateful for having that opportunity.”

For the baseball Dragons, the 60s was a mixture of promise and heartache, highlights and wasted opportunities. In 1963 the Dragons shared the NIC title with Mankato State, but it would be 20 years before the Dragons could wrap their arms around another conference trophy. Ed Kelly (Fargo, ND), Lyle Hemingson (Granite Falls) and Merlin Saunders (Granite Falls) anchored a trusty pitching staff while Tom Engh (Fargo, ND), Jerry Hegna, Marshall Thorstad (Battle Lake), Norm Card (Staples), Dorwin Marquardt (Pelican Rapids) and Dick Schubbe (Richfield) would fuel plenty of offense for the championship run.  

While subsequent baseball editions could not replicate the joy of ’63, there were some notable individual performances. There was usually plenty of hitting, and outfielders Jerry Jacobson (Barrett) and Joel Boche (Moorhead) both enjoyed their day in the sun. Pitching largely remained a decade-long problem, but in 1966 Curt Walvatne (Underwood) posted the lowest earned run average in the NIC with a stingy 1.57 ERA while Duane Ramstad (Halstad) was the traditional ace of Dragon staffs in the mid-60s. Mike Berg led the league in RBI in both 1969 (15) and 1970 (18), and topped the league in home runs with six in 1969. An accomplished basketball player at State as well, Berg was a two-time All-NIC baseball selection.

There were heartaches, too, for head coach Loel Frederickson, especially the tragic skiing death of Dick Harlow (Bertha) in 1967. A three-year letterman and onetime ace of the Dragon pitching staff, Harlow debuted with a sparkling 3-0 record in 1964 that included a 2.00 ERA and a pair of shutouts.

T.E. Smith began to shape a golf program that would become a model program. Skip Adams (Fargo, ND), a letterwinner in both golf and hockey, Jim McElhenny (Breckenridge), Pete Lysaker, Pete Specht (Detroit Lakes) and Don Rhoten (Fargo, ND) formed a solid corps in the early 60s. Rhoden fired a 38-39-38—115 to win NSCC medalist honors in 1960 while Adams shared the 1961 individual NSCC title, qualified for the NAIA National Championships at Keller Golf Course in St. Paul, and helped Moorhead State share the team championship with Mankato State. Bob Werre (Fargo, ND) provided MSC with another conference medalist crown in 1967 with a 39-39-37—115.  

Tennis continued as a varsity sport in the 1960s, but fell below the radar of other more popular sports. Neither the play of the gifted Jim Nagel, nor the coaching wisdom of Clarence Glasrud and Bill Garland, could lift the Dragons into the elite of the league.

Intercollegiate hockey morphed on the MSC athletic scene in 1962-63 as the Dragons fashioned a 4-4 overall record on the outdoor ice north of Alex Nemzek Hall. Keith Brandt (Roseau), Bill France (Ft. Williams, ONT), Gordon Murray (Ft. Williams, ONT), Bill Lang (St. Paul), and Rich Panson  (Winnipeg, MAN), provided some leadership for the Dragons on ice, but the sport would have a short shelf life, however, and vanished after the 1964-65 season.

Cross-country was installed as a varsity sport in 1964, and Hallie Gregory became the first minority head coach at Moorhead State. Clint Chamberlain was a runnerup at the 1966 NIC Championships and became the first of a long line of outstanding cross-country runners at State.