Mitch Wood was faced with a decision no high school senior should have to make.
Unfortunately, many student athletes in the Crosby-Ironton School District have been forced to choose between a parent's stand and love for a sport because of a teachers' strike that reached one month Wednesday.
First it was members of the Crosby-Ironton/Aitkin boys' hockey team that had to choose between coach and sport, parent and hockey. Players from C-I chose coach and parents, ending their season with a forfeit loss to the Little Falls Flyers in the Section 4, Class 1A quarterfinals.
Crosby-Ironton senior Mitch Wood received encouragement from coach Harland Rothwell Saturday in a 53-51 victory over Aitkin. Wood decided to play in the Section 7, Class 2A playoffs despite his mother and 86 other teachers striking in the C-I School District.
Next was the C-I girls' basketball team and co-captains Angie and Becca Gaviglio. Both seniors chose not to play in a show of support for what their mother, Mary Gaviglio, and 86 other striking teachers were fighting for. That decision prompted the rest of the Ranger girls to support their teammates and not play, ending their season with a forfeit loss to Blackduck in the first round of the Section 7, Class 2A tournament.
The cascade of winter sports playoffs finally fell upon the Ranger boys' basketball team. With seven seniors, the team decided to play. They did so knowing two of their teammates would have to make the same decision as others before them. Freshman forward Bryce Tesdahl decided he, too, would support his parents, both of whom are teachers, and not play.
For Wood, though, whose mother, Brenda, is a first-grade teacher, this was his senior year. He wanted to play the game he's played ever since he can remember, but he too wanted to support his mother.
"There was a little bit of uncertainty because my mom is a teacher," the starting forward said. "We talked about it. She said it was up to me. She said being a senior and being 18 years old, I was old enough to make my own decision. She said she wanted me to do what I wanted to because it was my senior year.
"If I wouldn't have been a senior there is no way I would have played."
Rangers vs. Moose Lake-Willow River
What: Section 7, Class 2A semifinal
When: 7:45 p.m. Thursday
Where: Grand Rapids High School
At stake: A spot in the championship game vs. the winner of Deer River/Virginia game, 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Wood wanted to play and he is. He has no regrets about his decision. Nor should he. Each player who was forced to make this tough decision made his or her own decision. Each player is right in his or her decision.
"All the talk has been supportive," said Wood. "Everyone has been really good about it and has been encouraging.
"It was hard at first wondering if I was going to play. After (Brenda) told me I could choose, I knew I wanted to play. It wasn't a hard decision after that."
Wood has made the most of his decision. In a 67-40 opening-round victory over Blackduck March 3, he scored 10 points. In the section quarterfinal victory over Aitkin, Wood's steal with less than two minutes left ignited a 7-0 run and helped C-I beat its rival 53-51.
"We knew we can play together," said Wood. "We just had to make sure we actually did it and didn't turn on each other during the game.
"We play pretty well together. I'm not surprised. I think we can do a little better with (head coach Dave) Galovich because of his coaching ability.
Mitch Wood's layin with less than two minutes remaining in Saturday's Section 7, Class 2A quarterfinals helped push the Crosby-Ironton Rangers to a 53-51 victory over Aitkin.
"He's an excellent coach. It's hard playing without him. He's been a coach forever. We miss him. He does all the scouting. He knows exactly what the other team is going to do and he can place us within a foot of where they're going to be. It would be nice to have him there, but we're going to have to work hard without him and hopefully he'll be back."
The top-seeded C-I boys square off against third-seeded Moose Lake-Willow River 7:45 p.m. Thursday. If the Rangers win, they advance to the section final 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
"People who haven't gone to a game in 20 years are showing up," said Wood. "People I don't even know, but know me somehow, come up to me and congratulate me. I just say thank you and keep moving. At first I didn't think there would be so much support. More people are going to the games. We have fan buses that are full. There's been a lot of support and it's really nice."
But Wood has been more thankful for the support his parents have shown him.
"My dad (Jerry) has always said, 'Go out and play as hard as you can,' and he's always supported me," said Wood. "My mom, she's always been behind whatever I do. She's said whatever I decide she'll support. I've learned from them and now I just try to impress them because they're my parents. I try my best."
JEREMY MILLSOP, sports writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.