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WOLF Coaching Staff

David Bentz

Head Coach

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Zack Anthony Strumbell

Senior Coach

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John Thomas

Head Age Group Coach

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Great Wolf Swim Team is honored to have a swim coach who began his career before the popularization of swimming goggles and the 25-yard competition pool, Coach John. Starting his career in the swimming world at St. Paul Highland Park High School, John learned of the elation standing on a podium can bring when he qualified and placed at the state meet.

John went on the swim with Gustavus Adolphus College, in one of the few remaining 20-yard pools and still with no goggles. Nevertheless, by the time John left with his degree in health and physical education, he had also earned the title of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) champion in the 50 free.

Success followed John into his coaching career. At Burnsville High School, he led his swimmers to state finals and coached the first high school swimmer to break two minutes in the 200 Individual Medley. At Mounds View Swim Club, John coached our very own Dave Bentz. After a respite from the swimming world, John returned to coach at the Bloomington Aquatic Club with the now Coach Dave. John also lent his talents to the Edina High School girls swimming, achieving: three state championships in five years, four consecutive 100 butterfly state championships, national high school record in 100 breast stroke, and aptly earning Coach of the Year. John then coached the Marauder Aquatic Club with similar success.

After a venture at the Saint Paul Hotel and the University Club in St. Paul, John found his way back to coaching alongside Dave with the Great Wolf Swim Team. With insistence on proper technique, race strategy, and “finding a way no one ever imagined,” John helps coach all of his swimmers to insurmountable success.

Chip Fechter

Age Group Coach

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Blair Eckstrom

Age Group Coach

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Growing up in Marshall, MN Blair was a part of the Marshall Meters Swim Club where his mother was a coach. He has been swimming and coaching ever since.

Before coaching for Great Wolf, Blair coached at Mounds View Swim Club, where he helped many age group swimmers reach state finals. He then moved to Northern Lights and Tsunami Swim Clubs. During this time, he had many swimmer win state titles and participate in Junior and Senior Nationals. Many of his swimmers have gone on to achieve division 1 college scholarships at top name universities.

Blair came to the Great Wolf Swim Team and loves to correct stroke mechanics and has a passion for teaching his swimmers to swim correctly. Blair loves to combine his knowledge and experience with his wit and humor.

Lana Yackel

Age Group Coach

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Lana started swimming at the age of 10 1/2 for the Bloomington Aquatic Club. She started on the novice team and quickly moved up the ladder to the A team in less than a year. Her first Champ times were in the 50 free and the mile. Coach Dave came along when she was 13 and made her swim miles upon miles upon miles. She had mostly Zone times throughout her age group experience and was ranked top 16 in the nation in her distant events. 

Lana qualified for the State Meet all 3 years swimming for Burnsville High School back in 1981-1984. She placed in the top 8 in each event and swam the butterfly leg, her junior year, on the 200 Medley Relay with her sister, Lisa, breaking the record for a championship win. Lana also achieved All American Status. Her swimming career continued at Saint Catherine's for one year, and a season at Oral Roberts University. She began teaching private swimming lessons at the age of 21, worked for Flagship Athletic Club in Eden Prairie, Council Oaks Learning Center in Oklahoma and LifeTime Fitness in Champlin and Fridley. She also assisted the Bloomington Aquatic Club, Northern Lights Aquatics and the Maple Grove Muskies. 

Lana coached the Pups and Trackers from 2004-2008 and returned in 2015 after her kids graduated from High School. She is a wife, mom of five adult children, grandma and a group fitness instructor/personal trainer for the past 31 years. She loves working with the Pups and Trackers and says, "It's bitter sweet when I have to let my swimmers move to the Hunters group because I feel like they're my own!"

Amy Reed-Hall

Age Group Coach

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Amy started swimming competitive at age 10 for the Saint Paul Swim Club.  Prior to joining the team, she had never swum a lap or even passed beginner level swimming lessons.  After an interesting first year, she began to master the four strokes.  As her swimming progressed she became a nationally ranked swimmer in multiple events, won many age group titles and broke several state records.  As a club swimmer she qualified for junior nationals, senior nationals and went to the Olympic trials in 1984 in Indianapolis Indiana. 

Amy’s high school career began in eight grade when she joined Johnson High School’s swim team and went to state in the 50 freestyle placing 2nd in finals.  From 9th grade through 12th she won the 100 butterfly state titles and held the state record for over a decade.   Overall, she achieved 5 first place finishes, 4 second place finishes and was a high school All-American.

After graduating high school Amy attended Arizona State University on a swimming scholarship.  There she specialized in the 100 and 200 butterfly and freestyle sprints.  While at ASU she qualified for NCAA’s in both individual events and relays. 

In January 2013, her daughter joined the Great Wolf Swim Team and Amy eventually made her way onto the pool deck to coach.  She is excited about the energy the age group swimmers have and is thrilled to be working alongside some of the best coaches in USA swimming.  

Nicole Hedman

Age Group Coach

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Nicole has be involved in swimming for over 35 years as a club swimmer, high school swimmer, college swimmer and coach.  She has extensive coaching experience with a number of metro area clubs (ABC swim club, MVSC, Jetstream Aquatics, and Edina swim club) and also high schools (Elk River, Champlin Park, Skyview in Montana, Anoka and Centennial).  Nicole has had the honor of being a Team Minnesota Zone coach for 11 years working with the 10 & under girls, 11-12 girls, 15 & over girls and 3 years as the co-head coach. 

As a swimmer, her personal accomplishments include being captain for her high school and college teams.  She was a high school state qualifier and 2 time NCAA qualifier.  Coach Nicole’s career coaching accomplishments include:

*25 + state champions ages 8 & under to senior level

*50 +zone qualifiers

* 5 junior national qualifiers

*3 state championships

Nicole loves seeing the faces of swimmers when they have an “I get it moment” or when they surprise themselves with their swims.  She will be working with the Alpha group.

Nicole is married to Mark and has 3 children, who all grew up swimming competitively.  She grew up in Ramsey and graduated from Anoka High School and then graduated from the College of St. Catherine with a degree in Elementary Education and middle school math.  She currently teaches Minnesota history at Northdale Middle School.