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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Faculty Member Wins Two World Handball Titles

Wells, a computer information science professor, won singles, doubles titles.

2015-09-11
Shane Frederick, Mankato Free Press, 9-1-2015

Mike Wells won a world handball championship last week and didn’t have a whole lot of time to celebrate his victory.

Moments after closing out the crown in a tiring tiebreaker, the Minnesota State University, Mankato professor was behind the wheel of a car, hauling his family across Calgary for another title match, this one in doubles with his good friend John Stoffel.

(NOTE: Wells is pictured on the left in photo. Stoffel is on the right. Photo courtesy of Mike Wells.)

After that match — another win — Wells finally got to enjoy the moment.

“I had been training pretty hard since January,” Wells said. “I wanted to get in the finals in each of the two, but I really wanted to win in doubles. There’s something about sharing the experience when it’s a close friend. ... I was more excited about the doubles.”

Wells pulled off a rare “slam” at the World Handball Championships, winning singles and doubles titles in the same year. His slam came in the 45-and-over division.

Stoffel also competed in singles and after getting knocked out in the first round, stuck around to coach Wells.

Wells said Stoffel offered up some key advice for him early in the decisive tiebreaker, suggesting he change up his serve. It worked, and Wells pulled away from Eddy Scheruga of Melbourne, Australia, for the 21-14, 16-21, 11-5 victory.

“I was fortunate to have someone there,” Wells said. “Sometimes, in the heat of the battle, you don’t always think.”

The championships, which took place Aug. 14-21, included more than 700 players from around the world competing in different divisions.

Wells and Stoffel topped a duo from Limerick, Ireland, 21-19, 21-14 for their doubles title.

Stoffel’s two sons also competed at worlds. Tyler won two matches and advanced to the semifinals of the 19-and-under boys singles tournament, and Nathan competed in the 11-and-under boys singles tournament along with Wells’ son Zack. Each won one match before bowing out in the quarterfinals.

Tyler, a sophomore at Minnesota State Mankato, was the only non-Irish semifinals in any of the 10 junior divisions.

Nathan and Zack played in the 11-and-under boys doubles. They also won one match before falling in the semifinals.

“I’m really proud of those little kids,” Wells said. “The Irish kids have played a lot longer, and they did a wonderful job. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not easy, going to the world championships for the first time and playing at that level.”

Wells, whose father, Arne Wells, was a Mankato city champion in the 1970s, coaches the Minnesota State Mankato club team with John Stoffel assisting. Tyler Stoffel is a member of that team, which has become a national powerhouse, placing second in the country last season.

“There is a nice core group of (handball) players at the Y, and we have 20-30 players on the club team and another 40 who take it as a class,” Wells said.

“So in total, we have close to 80-85 active players (around Mankato). That’s really good for a town our size.”

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at www.mankatofreepress.com.

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