Now grandma can watch him wrestle - Joel Bauman signs on with Gophers
by Ted Almen, Kerkhoven (MN) Banner
November 18, 2009
With the Minnesota Rouser playing in the background, history repeated
itself last Wednesday when Joel Bauman became the second KMS wrestler
in two years -- and only the second Fighting Saint ever, as a matter of
fact -- to sign a National Letter of Intent to the University of
Minnesota athletic department.
Bauman, an outstanding senior wrestler, will fill out his high school
obligations before joining J Robinson’s Golden Gopher wrestling team
next year, joining former teammate Kevin Steinhaus. It was just a year
ago that this same scenario played out before a room full of family and
friends of the latter, and Wednesday’s affair was similar in many
respects: Bauman was flanked by his parents at a table in front of rows
of chairs where his coaches, relatives and friends sat to witness him
lay down a little ink. Spilling through the doorway into one crowded
corner were many fellow Saints wrestlers, some just beginning their
prep careers and others who have been on the mat with Bauman since
elementary school. Maroon and gold U of M flags ‘stood’ erect, taped up
on the wall behind him.
KMS head wrestling coach Wes Haglund could get used to this drill, but
like most of his peers he knows that the probability of sending two
blue chip athletes off to a perennial national contending program in
consecutive years is highly unusual. He had a few things to say about
this latest prize athlete.
“It’s been a fun summer because of Joel,” Haglund started. “Because of
him I’ve talked to eight Division I coaches, all very interested in
“I’ve coached him since he was a little boy. He’s matured to become an
excellent person.” Haglund elicited chuckles around the room when he
recalled the youngster as “having a lot of energy.”
“I knew he was an excellent athlete. And as coaches we helped him get to this level but he had the determination to get here.”
“Joel is like a coach in the room. He’s unselfish. At last year’s
Melrose Tournament Joel told us he would sit out. We had a big jam at
his weight, so it made my job a lot easier, to give experience to
another wrestler. But when we were up there he wasn’t just sitting in
the stands. He was on the floor coaching the younger kids. It’s a
credit to our program to have a kid like this. I’m very proud of Joel.”
Bauman will be a fifth-year starter on the wrestling team come December
4 when the Saints open a season full of speculation. Coming off a state
championship with heavy losses to graduation, however, one thing is
crystal clear: Whatever success KMS has on the mat will be led by
A Class A state champ at the very tough 189-pound weight class last
year, Bauman has compiled a high school record of 126-29 heading
into his final season. He also placed third in the state tournament at
the same weight as a sophomore, and qualified but did not place at 171
pounds as a freshman. Besides that Bauman is a two-time Junior
Greco-Roman All-American, placing eighth in 2009 and second in 2008. He
is currently ranked 10th in the nation at 189 pounds by Amateur
Assistant coach Craig Johnson, too, has enjoyed watching his star pupil
grow up on the mat. “When he was in sixth and seventh grade he was a
gangly kid, all arms and legs, and he could run like a deer. We knew he
had excellent athletic ability, and he’s shown it through the years.
Even back then we could see the talent, the power. We saw him
transform. Joel backs up what he says. He sets lofty goals and strives
to be the best. More than any other wrestler I’ve coached there have
been highs and lows. I’ve asked myself, can he do it? And then he walks
out there and does it. I’m looking forward to seeing him as a Golden
The Bauman household has been bombarded by recruiting calls from all
over the country for this kid, among those some pretty significant
invitations from such wrestling powers as Oklahoma University and
University of Iowa.
But the answer to why Bauman eventually decided to stay right here,
close to home, can be seen in the very question. “This way my grandma
can come and watch me wrestle,” the effervescent young man stated with
a smile, matched at the end of the table by grandma, of course.
“All the people ask me why I chose wrestling over football,” he said.
Bauman rushed for some 7500 yards in his four years as a starter for
the Fighting Saints. “Wrestling builds character a little more than
football. Since I was in fourth grade everybody that knows me knows I
love to fight. What better way to pursue my dream to be the best
fighter than with a national championship in division I? It’s a perfect
fit. Hopefully I will do well.”
As of now the Gophers have Bauman projected to wrestle at 197 pounds.
Joel Bauman became the second KMS Fighting Saint wrestler in
two years to sign a National Letter of Intent to continue his athletic
career for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. Seated beside
him during the signing ceremony last Wednesday were his mom and dad,
Bobbi and Jeff Bauman of rural Kerkhoven.
Joel Bauman’s signing was witnessed by family and friends, including many of his Fighting Saints wrestling teammates.
Joel along with assistant coach Craig Johnson on left and head coach Wes Haglund on right.