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Signing Day roundup: Hermantown soccer standout to join new Northern Michigan program

While some athletes would shy away from joining a new program, Hermantown senior Daniel Hedstrom isn't one of them.Hedstrom will sign a national letter of intent today to play men's soccer at Northern Michigan, which begins its first season this ...

While some athletes would shy away from joining a new program, Hermantown senior Daniel Hedstrom isn’t one of them.
Hedstrom will sign a national letter of intent today to play men’s soccer at Northern Michigan, which begins its first season this fall.
The Wildcats, of the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, are coached by David Poggi, who brings almost 30 years of coaching experience at the professional, collegiate and club levels.
“I kind of looked at this opportunity as a way to make an instant impact,” Hedstrom said. “I’ve had enough of a soccer background where I’ve played with multiple teams, and the coach has a good track record of starting up teams before. He’s bringing in guys from across the country and internationally. He is doing a good job of starting this program up, so I’m excited for it.”
Hedstrom, Minnesota’s 2015 Mr. Soccer and the News Tribune’s All-Area Player of the Year, helped guide the Hawks to a Section 7A championship. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound midfielder had 13 goals and 15 assists. He also is a center on Hermantown’s boys basketball team.

Hedstrom said he narrowed his college choices to Northern Michigan and NCAA Division III schools St. Scholastica and North Park University in Chicago.
Hedstrom, who has a 3.5 grade-point average, took his college visit to Marquette, Mich., in mid-January.
“I’ve been in Duluth my whole life, and I was kind of looking for a fresh start, and Northern Michigan offered that,” Hedstrom said. “Marquette felt like a smaller version of Duluth. It’s a smaller campus with a lot of outdoor activities. I got a chance to sit and talk with some of the guys who are already there, and they said the student life there is super nice. People get along well. I just felt athletically and socially, this was the best fit for me.”
Hedstrom, who was invited to train with West Ham United’s youth academy in London later this month, expects the Northern Michigan program to have some growing pains the first season. While he is used to winning, he knows what it’s like to lose, too. When he was a freshman, Hermantown went 2-15-1 with a young team.
“It’s not like another team, where you’ve got like five or six guys coming in. We’ve got a new roster coming in,” Hedstrom said. “It’s going to be a learning season, but as tough as it may be, that will only help us get to where we want to be at the end. We’re all there for the same things, playing soccer and getting our education. Coach Poggi didn’t take this job just to start something. He took it because he wants to be successful. He wants to win championships. He is pretty driven to do his job, and I’m excited to be part of that.”

Spartan Power
Most Northland football programs are happy when they can land one player an athletic scholarship.
Superior has five - count ’em, five - seniors signing letters of intent to play college football at 3:15 p.m. today at Superior High School’s Performing Arts Center.
“It’s indicative of how hard the kids have worked, on and off the field,” Superior coach Bob DeMeyer said. “They’ve put a lot of time in, putting in the sacrifices and making the commitments that are necessary to play at that level. They’ll have to continue to do so, but I think each of them is going to a place where they’ll fit in nicely.”
Defensive back Mitch Anderson and outside linebacker Beau Reder are bound for Minnesota Duluth, lineman Keegan Stanley is headed to Minnesota State-Mankato, the versatile Beau Girard is off to Bemidji State and linebacker Ross Kennelly is off to North Dakota State, the five-time defending Football Championship Subdivision champions.
When was the last time a Northland program could say that?
Those five helped the Spartans go 24-8 with three playoff appearances the past three seasons. Three former Superior players, linebacker Anthony Valentine, quarterback Nick Mehlum and WR/DB Jake Libal are already at Bemidji State.
“We’ve had a lot of people work tirelessly to improve our football program,” DeMeyer said. “We want to give our players the best possible experience and help them achieve their goals, not just on the football field, but academically. That’s part of our job as coaches and teachers. We want to help them reach their full potential.”

Best of the rest
UMD will have a news conference at Malosky Stadium at 4 p.m. today to announce its signing class.
Besides Superior’s Reder and Stanley, the class also will include the likes of Rosemount (Minn.) tight end Dan Monson and Braham quarterback John Larson, both of whom tweeted about their commitments to the Bulldogs.
Northwestern’s Nate Pearson (UMD) and Tim Schultz (Michigan Tech) are headed to Division II colleges, while Esko senior Jaxson Turner will ink his commitment to FCS program North Dakota in a signing at the high school at 9 a.m. today.
Hermantown’s Thomas Madison, the 2015 News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year in football, is looking at playing college basketball.
Grand Rapids lineman Dylan Gessell will walk on at UMD; Thunderhawks quarterback Eric Soderberg has committed to St. Scholastica; Hibbing lineman Jake Flaten will play at Wisconsin-Stevens Point; and Ely running back Spencer Gaulke plans on playing at Hamline University in St. Paul.

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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