by Norm Newell
Photography by Thru Him Photography
In days gone by you could walk into your local post office and see a bulletin board full of “wanted” posters. Those posters depicted some of the most famous criminals in the area. Fast forward to today and to new kind of “wanted” posters on college coaches’ bulletin boards, seeking the best high school athletes to join their college teams. Tosten Mann, who graduated this spring from Kennedy Secondary School in Fergus Falls, is on several of those poster boards. Not because he’s done anything bad, but quite the opposite, because he has done so well in all three of his high school sports.
Tosten, named after his great-great grandfather Tosten Ostenson who emigrated from Norway, is a gifted athlete who has excelled in football, hockey and baseball. That was recently evidenced when he was named the Fergus Falls High School Male Athlete of the Year. He’s been receiving letters, phone calls and texts from college coaches and junior hockey clubs for some time now.
Why, you ask? Well, thanks for asking. First I’ll tell you why and then we’ll talk about the “wanted” posters.
For the last two years, Tosten has been terrorizing defensive backfields in football as a wide receiver for the Fergus Falls Otters. As a junior, he had 13 receptions for 196 yards and two touchdowns on a mostly run-focused team. His senior year, he broke out big time with 31 receptions for 590 yards and 11 TD’s. He and good friend Isaiah Lemke, the quarterback, had a special bond fueled by friendship off the field, but heightened by a lot of pass pattern practice in the summer making that break-out year possible. Football coach Steve Olson said there were lots of colleges interested in Mann and the “wanted” contacts started flowing in.
“Tosten was a match-up nightmare for most of the teams we played. He has always had plenty of natural ability but he came into his senior season with more confidence that put him at another level,” says Olson. “He was a great teammate and had the respect of his teammates because they noticed his work ethic during the off-season. When an athlete like Tosten adds the weight room work and extra practice to his natural ability he becomes a leader by example.”
Mann was selected to the All Midwest District team and named the Most Valuable Wide Receiver for the Midwest District for his outstanding season. “It was a great senior year in football (the team was 7-2), I enjoyed playing with all my friends on the team. Receiver coach Kevin Pearson worked with me a lot on running routes, breaking it down into the major parts so I could really improve my moves. He gave good advice for on and off the field, like don’t get too high or too low, play within yourself, play with confidence but stay humble and be a good teammate.”
Choosing to play football came naturally for Tosten. His grandfather, Randy Mann and Randy’s brother Errol Mann both played college football at UND. You may have heard of Errol Mann, he went on to play professionally for the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders, winning a Super Bowl with the Raiders as a kicker. His father, Tom Mann, also played high school football and got Tosten into the youth football program, started by legendary youth coach Dan Prischmann just as Tosten was getting into 3rd grade.
In hockey, Mann was a three year starter playing the defenseman position. In that position your job is to stop goals and leave the scoring to the front line players. But Tosten still managed to score 21 career goals and have 50 assists on goals, good stats for his position. He was recognized for his efforts as an All-Conference Honorable Mention his junior year, helping the team to an 18-6-3 record. “It was a group I had played with all through youth hockey, we had great leaders, good team chemistry and everyone knew their role,” said Mann. “We all came to work every day in practice and it showed in our game results.” His senior year, he missed the first seven games due to a hip injury suffered in his final football game and the team went 1-6 through those games. They went 10-6-2 after he came back. A reflection of what a difference maker he is on the ice.
Mann participated in an elite prep development league his sophomore and junior years, which along with his high school play created more “wanted” notices from coaches. His senior year, he was nominated for the Reed Larson Award as a state top defenseman, was selected All-Conference, was selected Section 6-A First Team, received the Lee Franklin Hockey Scholarship, and participated in the Ted Brill Great 8 Tournament featuring the top seniors from each section.
“Tosten is a dedicated three-sport athlete and has been an excellent player in our hockey program,” noted Fergus Falls coach Mike Donaghue. “There are many qualities that make him stand out. He’s a great teammate, he practices extremely hard, he works on the aspects of his game he needs to make better and he’s a real student of the game. His greatest asset is his skating ability which allows him to maneuver easily, take chances and recover quickly and get up the ice into offensive positions when needed. He has had several teams in the North American Hockey League (the ‘juniors’ hockey league used as development for top colleges and/or the pros) interested in him.”
Hockey also came naturally to Tosten. Mother, Tria Mann, herself a three-sport athlete in high school, says, “He was a very precocious kid, very coordinated right away, and at age 2 he would put on my rollerblades, about twice his size, and skate around the driveway. He had great balance, learning to ride a bike in two weeks, also at age 2.” The elder Mann played high school and college hockey, and along with his brother, Tim, won a Division 2 National Hockey Championship at Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The hockey bloodlines are definitely present.
“I’ve been lucky to have a lot of good coaching help along the way,” says Tosten. “My Dad and Larry Goos coached a lot of our youth hockey, then Mike Donaghue and Mike Alt along with Tim Lill have all added their advice and expertise to help me along the way. Brian Franklin helped a number of us at Athletic Republic where we used a skating treadmill to improve our skating stride and posture.”
“The hockey involvement has been a wonderful experience for Tom and me,” says Tria Mann. “Tom spent a lot of quality time with Tosten coaching his youth teams and we’ve met so many wonderful parents along the way, including some from other towns when Tosten played with the elite development league. His nickname around Fergus Falls is T-Mann, but his first development league coach mispronounced his name as ‘Toasten’ so his nickname to all those players and parents is ‘Toast’.”
Third sport up is baseball, where T-Mann started the usual way, in T-ball. When he was kindergarten age, he won a hit, throw and run contest, taking all three categories. He played all through youth and then traveling teams, coached and mentored by Trevor Larson, who is still a mentor today. He started high school varsity as a junior and immediately made a big impact, leading the team in hitting with a .467 batting average, which won him the Team Offensive Player of the Year award. He is finishing his senior year at the time of this writing and is again leading the team in hitting with a .405 average. He has been nominated for both All-Conference and All-State and coach Mark Aho believes he has a very good chance at being accepted for both.
“Tosten is a very gifted athlete, a leader for us at the plate, but also a very good defensive player,” notes coach Aho. “He plays multiple positions for us, wherever we need him for that day. I believe he can play any one of his three sports at a high level in college.”
With all his three-sport recognition you would expect that’s all Tosten has to focus on. But he’s a 3.3 GPA student, he sings in the school choir, and he likes to hunt and fish with his dad, Grandpa Randy and Uncle Tim. Mostly you can find him with his buddies, boating at the lake, playing video games, enjoying bonfires, or maybe swimming in the river.
“Tosten has always loved his sports,” says Tria, “Which Tom and I supported because we grew up playing sports and feel strongly that it teaches many life lessons. It also makes you an integral part of the community and you make life-long friends. All the supportive coaches and parents Tosten has met along the way have been right there with us helping Tosten grow into a good player, but more importantly a good teammate and friend, and we are proud of him for that.”
Now for those college coaches’ “wanted” posters.
First football, where college coaches felt Tosten had the size, excellent pass catching hands, and route running ability that would make him a good college football player. Several colleges contacted him (Minnesota-Moorhead, Bemidji State, UM-Duluth) with Minnesota-Crookston offering him a scholarship. “I was most interested in an offer to be a ‘preferred walk-on” with North Dakota State and join their five-time national championship program,” said Tosten, “But I had to decide whether I wanted to put my body through five more years of football contact.” He visited the NDSU campus and gave very serious consideration to going there.
In baseball, again several colleges were interested and Tosten visited UM-Duluth. “I was impressed with the coaching staff, the players I met, and the Duluth campus. I was very close to signing with them the day I visited, but wanted to go back home and think through all the sports”
In hockey, several teams in the North American Hockey League, referred to as the “juniors”, contacted Tosten. There are three tiers in the junior leagues, Tier I down to Tier III. Tosten had actually played a few games with the Alexandria Tier III team, where he was noticed by other junior league coaches. The Brookings (SD) Blizzard Tier II team offered him a tender to play with them, and he is scheduled to try out with the Tier I Dubuque Fighting Saints.
So after being wanted by all the coaches in all three of his sports, what was the decision?
In Tosten’s words, “It was a lot to think about and I knew it was going to be a hard decision. My mom and dad sat down with me and asked the question that really made up my mind. What sport can you not get along without playing next year? That was when it became clear to me that hockey has always been my passion, I guess ever since I was 2 years old.”
So Tosten has signed a tender to play with the Tier II Brookings Blizzard next year. But you can always override that and accept a higher tier offer, so he will have an early June try-out with the Dubuque Fighting Saints and if he makes that team, he would likely go there to play. At his age, Tosten can only play in juniors a maximum of two years. Usually from juniors, a player goes to a college hockey program or an exceptional player may get a pro offer. Tosten has every intention of going to college and hopes the juniors will help him get a college scholarship offer.
Even after his hockey playing decision, the UM-Duluth baseball coach has told Tosten he’s always welcome to come there for baseball if the hockey route doesn’t meet his expectations.
He’s still a wanted Mann, seems college coaches all want a piece of ‘Toast’.