Coaches and Directors

Coaches and Directors
Coaching Staff
David Bentz Head Coach

Even though most know Dave as a swimming coach, he began his relationship with the swimming world in the water. Swimming in high school, Dave found success in the 200 and 500 yard freestyle that took him to the University of Minnesota. Before graduating with a degree in physical education and child psychology, Dave had already started making his mark as a coach. He not only helped start the ABC Aquatic Club (Anoka, Blaine, and Coon Rapids), Dave also became manager and assistant coach at the Olympic Training Center (OTC). While working at the OTC, he gained invaluable experience working with multiple Olympians and Olympic coaches – notably George Haines, a seven-time coach of the Olympic team.

Dave took his knowledge of swimming and became head coach of the Bloomington Aquatic Club, and within his six-years turned the Bloomington Aquatic Club around from a struggling club to a championship program. Next, Dave teamed up with John Thomas to run the first ever coach owned club in Minnesota: Marauder Aquatic Club, winning age group titles, sending athletes to junior nationals, senior nationals, and the Olympic trials. With that level of success, it’s no surprise that Dave was recruited to coach at the newly opened University of Minnesota Natatorium with the Gopher Swim Club; his success continued with him sending swimmers to senior nationals, and taking one athlete from the state to the world level.

After an attempted retirement from the swimming world, the siren song of swimming brought Dave back to once again coach at Northern Lights Aquatics (formerly ABC Aquatic). Dave went on to found our Great Wolf Swim Team in 2004 and once again found himself master of rapid success, coaching athletes to achieve: state records, national records, Olympic trial qualifiers, NCAA individual titles, and a 13-year old NCAA record.

We are honored to have David Bentz as our founder, head coach, and living testimony of our mission to help all swimmers maximize their potential.

 

John Thomas Jr. Elite Coach

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.

Lana Yackel Hunters Coach

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. She also achieved All American Status.

 

Her swimming career continued at Saint Catherine's for one year and one 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 Hunters and says, "It's bitter sweet when I have to let my swimmers move to the Alpha Leaders group because I feel like they're my own!"

 

We are happy to have had Lana as a coach for so many years! Her coaching style is loved by all her swimmers!

Jason Smith Alpha Leaders Coach

This will be Jason’s 11th year coaching club and High School swimming. As a swimmer, he found national level success where he swam Backstroke, Breaststroke and IM events. Some of his highlights include winning USA Junior Nationals in the 200 backstroke, placing top 16 at US Nationals in both backstroke events, selected to multiple US Olympic Developmental Camps at Colorado Springs, 4-time Oregon High School state record holder in the 100 back, as well as back to back state champion in both 100 Back and 100 Breast in his Junior and Senior years (the first in the country to complete this combo). Jason swam for the University of Florida and then later transferred to the University of Minnesota where he graduated with a BS in Sport Management. He has been trained and mentored by some of the world’s best swim coaches.

Some of Jason’s coaching highlights include: 

  • 15 National Age Group Top 10 times 
  • 2 USA Junior National Qualifiers both at the age of 13
  • MSHSL 5AA Section Coach of the Year
  • 3 High School All American Times
  • Several State and Central Zone Champions as well as state record holders.  
  • Has coached 4 swimmers selected to attend USA Swimming Central Zone Select Camp
  • 4-time lead coach for the Minnesota Zone Team

Jason’s coaching philosophy is based on providing meaningful experiences to his athletes while enhancing their skills and values in life through sports. He emphasizes kicking, technique and IM training which allows individuals to develop into well rounded athletes. He believes that in order for an athlete to realize their full potential, they must master both the mental and physical sides of the sport. We're glad he's part of our team! Go WOLF!

Jessica Magnuson Hunters / Alpha Coach

Jessica started swimming at a young age and made it through swim lessons kind of fast. She started her swimming career at the age of 5 years old and continued until she was 20 years old. Jessica started swimming with a small team out of the Centennial pool called Tsunamis. When she was 8, her coach told her it was time to move to a bigger swim team, so she ended up moving to NLA (Northern Lights Aquatics) and that’s where she spent the remainder of her time with club swimming.  

When Jessica was in 7th grade, she joined the Centennial High School Swim Team and was able to go to the HS State Championship Meets every year through her senior year, which was her biggest goal. Jessica was honored to be the captain of her swim team and as a senior, was chosen as a top athlete who showed leadership (only 1 female and 1 male were chosen each year). Jessica mainly focused on distance free until she was in 9th grade and then moved to distance fly and IM.

After all her years in school, Jessica’s full time work is in the financial world as a Compliance Manager.

Jessica has been a great addition to the WOLF coaching staff!

Nicole Wahl Pups and Trackers Coach
Board of Directors