Tom Sawyer Retirement 

After leading Winona State University’s football program for the last 25 yearsWSU’s renowned football coach Tom Sawyer will retire following the Fall 2021 season. Known as a well-respected, down-to-earth, approachable leader, Sawyer holds every Warrior football coaching record and has been named the NSIC Football Coach of the Year five times during his journey of leading one of the NCAA Division II football’s most consistently successful programs. 

“He has built something remarkable here at Winona State: a great, competitive football program where student-athletes succeed in the classroom and in the stadium,” WSU President Scott Olson said. Keep reading all about Tom Sawyer’s impact at Winona State.

Milestone for Coach Eisner 

Earlier this year, WSU’s Head Basketball Coach Todd Eisner hit a milestone worthy of recognition. Over the course of 23 seasons at five different locations, Eisner in February hit the marker of 500 wins – which in itself is a testament to Eisner’s desire to succeed. Eisner’s 500 wins consist of 79 at Viterbo, 225 at Bellevue, 16 at Benedictine College, 96 at Midland and 84 at Winona State. Check out the recap of the game that marked down 500 in the history books.

Women’s Basketball Player Reaches Rare Landmark  

With under a minute left in what was called one of the best women’s basketball games played in McCown Gymnasium, player Allie Pickrain scored a long-range three-pointer that not only shifted the momentum of the game in the Warriors’ favor, but also put her in the 1,000 point clubThe riveting February game, in which Pickrain scored a total of 20 points in, ended in the Warriors beating the Mavericks 95 to 91.

All-Time Wins Softball Record Broken 

The record for pitcher with the most career wins in Winona State University softball history has been broken. After holding the record for the last 19 years, current WSU Assistant Coach and Associate Nursing Professor Cyndy Jones has passed the baton to Jordyn Kleman, who in April surpassed Jones with her 86th win of her career in a victory over Southwest Minnesota State.

Kleman has re-written the record books in her time at Winona State and currently has the second most victories among active players in all of DII softball.  Read more about the career changing game for Kleman. 

Graduate Assistants Stepped Up during Challenging Times  

Between navigating sports during a pandemic, staffing changes and the absence of two important positions – the latter being for very good reasons – WSU’s Athletic Department has had a uniquely challenging year. But when adversity hits, true Warriors step up in a big way, and for the Athletics Department that was three Graduate Assistants Malissa LeClaire, Hannah McGlone, and Joel Krenz. 

“Everybody grabbed an oar to row the boat,” Director of Athletic Communications Pete Watkins said. In between taking classes for their graduate degrees, the three absorbed larger responsibilities that helped carry the load during a time when a new staff member was transitioning in, and other positions had either been temporarily absent or cut for budget reasonsLeClaire and McGlone, who were assistants to the Women’s Basketball team and the Volleyball team, helped take over responsibilities when an associate head coach and an assistant coach were both taking well deserved time off for maternity leave. The two did everything from develop travel itineraries and making sure players were at busses at the right time, to ensuring players had food prepared at the right times. And all that’s not to include helping the team follow COVID protocols, like regular testing and monitoring results. For them in particular to pull that into their duties is really amazing,” Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator Melanie Brunsdon said, adding that traveling during COVID was a task of its own. “That can’t be overstated.” Krenz, who was a Sports Info Graduate Assistant, helped in an entirely different, but just as impactful way. While Watkins was getting settled into his new position during the beginning of the pandemicKrenz stepped in to help with the transition and to take on responsibilities of positions that were no longer thereKrenz had been helping with the Athletic Department since Fall of 2019 and with the experience of two seasons prior to the pandemic, he used that knowledge and skill to help him adapt on the spot and be solutions-oriented“He’s very much a bridge between positions that are no longer here,” Watkins said. “He’s really done a great job of rolling with the punches when he had to and having a good attitude.” The help all three graduate assistants gave was essential to the department’s ability to make it through a challenging time. “They knocked it out of the park,” Watkins said. 

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Tesla Mitchell

Named after the 80's rock band, Tesla Mitchell has a decade of experience covering local news and features as a journalist in Winona. A Saint Mary's University alumna, Tesla graduated with a bachelor's degree in Journalism with an emphasis in political science and entrepreneurship. During her free time, Tesla enjoys organizing block parties, being a super mom and an avid heavy weightlifter.