The last time Mark Jensen retired, the Albert Lea High School graduate wanted to watch what was left of his daughters’ successful athletic careers.
Jenson’s legacy was intact. He’s the most successful wrestling coach in the history of the program at Pierz’s Healy High School, winning state titles in 2004 and ’05 before resigning after the 2006 season.
With his daughters’ careers over, Jenson found his way back in Pierz’s wrestling room three years ago as an assistant.
The head coaching spot opened up this year when Simon Waltman, who had led the Pioneers to three straight state tournaments, took a teaching position at his alma mater, Little Falls Community High School.
The new-old coach has the Pioneers doing well. They went into Friday night with a 19-0 record and ranked ninth in the state in Class A.
“I can’t coach the way I used to coach,” said Jensen, a physical education teacher at Pierz. “I had to see a chiropractor three times the first week of practice.
“After that I decided I have to change the way I coach.”
There are six seniors; five of them placed at the Pete Veldman Invitational, a 16-team meet in South St. Paul. Pierz won the team title.
Freshman Brandon Ortman (103, 5th), senior Brandon Sullivan (120, 8th), senior Chris Ortman (126, 6th), sophomore Kolten Eischens (145, 7th), senior Jordan Goebel (160, 8th) and senior Curtis Brisk (285, 4th) are all state-ranked.
They are all familiar with Jensen.
“With Jensen, it seems like he makes things go so much quicker,” said Chris Ortman, who is headed to St. John’s University in the fall to continue his wrestling career. “He works us over, keeps us moving.
“He knows his stuff.”
The Pioneers have one regular-season dual match remaining.
Jensen said it will be Pierz’s toughest test of the season by a lot. The Pioneers wrestle Friday at Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City. The Falcons are ranked No. 1 in Class A.
“We’ll find out who we really are when we wrestle ACGC,” Jensen said.
Regardless of the outcome, Pierz will be a favorite to return to the state meet Feb. 27-March 1 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The Pioneers went 28-5 last year and are expected to be a good bet to win their fourth straight Section 7A title. This season’s Section 7A is Feb. 14 at Holdingford. Pierz is host to the Section 7A individual tournament Feb. 21-22.
The Pioneers have been to state 10 times since 1999 and look good to make an 11th trip.
“We’re on track to get back there,” Jensen said.
Jensen said he has four years to go until retirement. He’s not sure what will happen after that. The chiropractor’s office is on speed-dial.
Bet that Pierz hopes to have him around for a while this time around.