Villnow signs to wrestle at Minnesota State Mankato
By John Kemmeter
In front of a crowded Tomorrow River School District Board Room, Amherst High School senior Max Villnow made his college decision official Friday, April 13.
The three-time State Qualifier and WIAA Division 3 State Runner-up at 285 pounds signed a National Letter of Intent to wrestle at NCAA Division II Minnesota State University, Mankato (MSUM).
“I’m getting a great opportunity to wrestle at Minnesota State, and I’m very excited for it and for the future,” said Villnow. “It’s been a big goal of mine for a while, and I’m just really happy to get the opportunity.”
“It’s a good story of what hard work and being a blue-collar kid will get you,” said Amherst wrestling head coach Charlie Wanty. “No complaints, first one at practice, last one gone.
“In middle school, everybody didn’t look at Max and go, ‘yep, that kid’s going somewhere in four or five years,’” he said. “And not that he wasn’t good, but he just got it done in the classroom, and every year just has gotten so much better and so much better. And if you work for it, good things happen.”
A three-year starter on the offensive line and at linebacker for the three-time defending WIAA Division 5 State Champion Amherst football team, Villnow was also a standout on the mat for the Falcons.
A three-time Central Wisconsin Conference (CWC) Champion and three-time WIAA Regional Champion, Villnow placed fifth at state at 195 pounds as a sophomore and was ranked third at 220 as a junior when he suffered a season-ending injury in the State Quarterfinals.
As a senior, he advanced to the State Championship Match, where he fell 4-2 in overtime to finish 44-2 overall.
“As good as he is right now, I think he’s still got a ton of room to grow,” said Wanty. “So I’m just excited for him, just getting to the next level with great coaches, who this is what they do, take young guys like Max and turn them into champs.
“And that’s rare to be that good, yet at the same time, have so much more potential,” he said.
While looking at colleges, Villnow also considered NCAA Division II Minot State (ND), NCAA Division II Lindenwood (Mo.) and NCAA Division II Notre Dame (Ohio), before he chose MSUM.
Villnow plans to studay mechanical engineering at MSUM, where he will wrestle at 285, and have a chance to crack the lineup as a freshman next season.
“It’s a great team at Minnesota State,” said Villnow, who was also a six-year member of the Wisconsin Freestyle/Greco National Team and a UWW Cadet Greco-Roman All-American. “I went there and visited and met the coach and some of the guys, and I just felt like it was a really great environment.
“The campus was nice and the coach was awesome, I liked all of the guys on the team, so I felt like it was a great fit,” he said.
During his career at Amherst, Villnow was a three-year captain and three-time Most Valuable Wrestler, while set school records for career wins (162) and career pins (80), and thanked Amherst coaches Wanty and Dave Peterson for their help along the way.
“It’s been great, because when I was younger in middle school, I was not very good,” said Villnow, who also served as a youth wrestling coach and youth wrestling referee for Amherst. “But they never gave up on me and they just gave me an opportunity to work hard and keep getting better.
“And eventually I started achieving my goals,” he said. “And a lot of it is thanks to them.”
Villnow also thanked his father Gary, who was one of his coaches since youth football and is an assistant coach for the Amherst football team, as well as his mother Jill, who was on the sidelines for football and on the side of the mat for wrestling as a team photographer throughout the last four years of his high school career.
“My dad’s always supported me, his high school actually didn’t have wrestling, so he never really knew much about wrestling, and he kind of learned along with me,” said Villnow. “He was always there for me, he always coached me in football, but then he would help me get in the weight room and he’d drive me all over the place so I could wrestle, and take me up to Point for Dennis Hall’s club, so he was definitely really supportive.
“And then my mom’s always there supporting me too, with all of the pictures, and just being a mom,” he said.