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Girls basketball: Kohler elected to MSHSCA Hall of Fame

Alexandria girls basketball coach Wendy Kohler cuts down the nets after winning the 2017-18 Section 8AAA championship in March. Kohler is one of six inductees in the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame's 2018 class. (File photo)

Wendy Kohler’s resume stretches longer than most basketball coaches.

Over 33 years leading the Alexandria girls basketball program, Kohler has racked up nine state tournament appearances, 12 Central Lakes Conference championships and a 1997 Class AAA state title. She has been named section coach of the year 14 times and state coach of the year three times. Along the way, she’s picked up 579 wins -- more than any other female coach in Minnesota history.

Just to name a few.

The Minnesota State High School Coaches Association has taken notice, and now Kohler is set to be inducted into its Hall of Fame on Oct. 13 as part of the 2018 class.

“I truly recognize that the girls are the ones who win championships,” Kohler said. “(This induction) has given me a chance to reflect on how lucky I’ve been to be at Alexandria the whole time. I’m so blessed to be able to have things fall into place like they have with our program. That’s really what it is to me: It isn’t the recognition, it’s the reflection.”

Kohler and basketball go back further than her tenure on the Alexandria sidelines. She first donned a jersey at Bertha-Hewitt, shortly after Title IX was implemented and afforded girls the same opportunities as boys to participate in sports. Kohler played basketball, volleyball and track and field before graduating in 1979.

Kohler then moved onto Moorhead State University and played four years of basketball and two years of softball. For her efforts on the hardwood, Kohler was inducted to the Dragon Hall of Fame as an individual in 1999 and as a member of the 1981-82 Northern Sun Conference championship team in 2014.

In 1983, Kohler joined the Alexandria school district. Over the years, her teams have helped her rack up the wins as the program gained the reputation of having stout defenses and winning intangibles.

“I think that the girls take on the personalities of their coaches,” Kohler said. “My long-time assistant coach Julie Wrobel… we both have that personality of that desire to do everything at an excellent level. And not that you’re always going to be successful, but you’re going to find a way to navigate, to find success, however you can find that.”

Kohler also noted the importance of teaching her players about the groundwork that has been laid before them.

“The normal that they enjoy has not always been the normal,” she said of Title IX. “You have to keep them grounded and understand that this is a privilege that they have, and that they’re representing our community. … I think we have to continually remind them of how this whole thing began so that they can continue to play with that passion and appreciation.”

Kohler was inducted into the 2003 Minnesota Girls Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. In less than a month, she’s add one more tally to her Hall of Fame count.

“I clearly recognize that the athletes are the ones that have to buy in. They’re the reason why we’ve been successful in Alexandria,” Kohler said. “This is about the girls. The girls have been the ones that have accomplished it. We’ve taken great pride in our leadership for them and being there for them.”

Kohler will be joined in the 2018 class by Craig Anderson (Pine Island), Scott Christensen (Stillwater), Debbie Hegquist (Cambridge-Isanti), Kerry Linbo (Byron) and Mike Randolph (Duluth East).

The ceremony will take place at the Sheraton West Hotel in Minnetonka, starting at 4:30 p.m. Family, friends and former players are invited to attend. Tickets can be purchased through Oct. 5 for $35 by contacting the MSHCHA office at 218-732-0204 or Hall of Fame coordinator Jim Baker at 651-357-2937.

For Kohler, the honor still circles back to the players.

“That’s a really neat thing: To see the process, year after year,” she said. “To me, more than anything -- more than state titles or conference stuff or whatever -- it’s so neat to see athletes, to see girls each year develop and step up.

“That’s something we take great pride in: Being strong role models and also teaching them that they can accomplish anything.”

Micah Friez

Micah Friez covers Bemidji State basketball and BSU for the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Beaver basketball updates.

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