Waukon alums coach Estherville-Lincoln Central to Class 3A Girls Basketball State Tournament crown

State Championship bookends ... A pair of Waukon High School graduates bookend the Estherville-Lincoln Central (ELC) bench of players in the photo above during the Class 3A State Championship game at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines in early March. ELC head coach Don Martindale (standing at far right) and assistant coach Annie (Stelow) Kalous (seated at far left) coached the Midgets to the Class 3A State Championship this season, marking Martindale’s first-ever State Championship in his basketball coaching career that spans over four decades. Photo by David Swartz, Estherville News.

Winners from Waukon ... Waukon High School 1973 graduate Don Martindale (standing in photo center) and 1986 graduate Annie (Stelow) Kalous (standing at right) get ready to send their team out on the court during the recently completed 2021-2022 Estherville-Lincoln Central (ELC) girls basketball season. The two former Indians joined forces on the Midget staff to guide them to this year’s Class 3A Iowa Girls Basketball State Championship, Martindale winning his first State Championship as a head basketball coach. Photo courtesy of Estherville News.

“Gettin’ down” after winning the crown ... Waukon High School 1986 graduate Annie (Stelow) Kalous dances in front of Estherville-Lincoln Central players celebrating their Class 3A State Championship at this year’s Iowa High School Girls Basketball State Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines in early March. Kalous has been serving as an assistant coach for the Midgets under head coach Don Martindale, a 1973 Waukon High School graduate who won the first-ever State Championship of his basketball coaching career that spans over four decades. Photo by David Swartz, Estherville News.

Don Martindale wins first-ever State Championship as head coach, assisted by Annie (Stelow) Kalous

by Perry Hesse

Estherville-Lincoln Central (ELC) head girls basketball coach Don Martindale triumphantly put his right fist in the air as junior forward Brei Christoffer hugged the ball tightly while time ran out awarding Martindale and his Class 3A Midgets the State Championship title at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines March 12. For Martindale, it highlighted an already highly successful coaching career that has spanned over 40 years with his love for the game beginning as a prep in Waukon. ELC defeated Ballard, 44-30, as the Bombers attempted to repeat as State Champions after winning the Class 4A title last year.

“It was a very special feeling, really kind of hard to describe,” said Martindale, a 1973 graduate of Waukon High School and son of the late Jack and Dorothy Martindale. “The word ‘togetherness’ probably describes it best after being able to defeat so many good teams. All of our players had a real appreciation for each other. They play for each other, so it was a matter of trusting and caring. All had a never quit mentality. They were all coachable and bought into the style of basketball we wanted to play.”

Martindale came to ELC from Spencer, where he coached the Tigers for 17 years and led them to four State Tournament appearances. Retiring from teaching in 2016, Martindale came out of retirement to coach the ELC program, winning just two games his first season, but then quickly qualified for the State Tournament in just three years.

Martindale was also inducted into the Iowa Girls Coaches Hall of Fame this year at the State Tournament. Before taking over the girls program at Spencer, Martindale logged 20 years as part of the boys program in Spencer.

“It is still the love of the game that keeps me going,” said the 6’5” Martindale, who, ironically, coached his team nicknamed the Midgets. “Still love the competitiveness. The relationships made with the players and coaches in our program as well as the coaches I compete against. So many life lessons that are learned through the game of basketball that I know my players will take with them after they graduate.”

Those life lessons began for Martindale as a student in Waukon. “I learned so much from coaches like Wayne Sawyer, John Prohaski, Rich Twait and Dennis Runge, to name a few. I have always appreciated how they respected the players, both on the court and away from school. Coach Runge, who played at Iowa, taught me so much about rebounding,” said Martindale, who still ranks 10th on Waukon’s all-time rebounding list with 383 career boards.

“Sawyer taught and demonstrated offensive moves and his techniques for footwork, quickness, and offensive skills were amazing. He was way ahead of his time,” Martindale shared.

Martindale could not give enough credit to his current assistant coaches, who were so essential in the team’s success. And that staff, ironically, included yet another Waukon High School graduate, Annie Kalous, the former Annie Stelow who graduated from Waukon High School in 1986 and is the daughter of former Waukon residents Tom and Jan Stelow.

“Annie joined our program two years ago and her experience and expertise really aided our program,” said Martindale. “She played a big part in us being able to win the State Championship. She really worked with our players in skill development. She also genuinely cares about them off the court. She is very respected. I can’t stress how important she was in all of this.”

Kalous logged an impressive coaching career of her own as the head coach at Ellsworth Community College (ECC) in Iowa Falls for 15 years. After 21 total years at ECC, Kalous moved to Estherville eight years ago, where she is currently the Director of Admissions at Iowa Lakes Community College. At the time, Kalous thought her coaching days were over.

“I was definitely not looking to get back into coaching,” said Kalous. “I was asked to help coach my son’s (Krayton) basketball team, and my husband (Shane, who is currently the activities director at ELC), could see I still had the passion for coaching and mentioned it to Don. So Don asked if I would be interested in helping his program and, at first, I was hesitant because I didn’t want it to take away from my job, my family, and most importantly my son. But I have been able to volunteer coach with the girls while still coaching my son’s team and have loved every minute of it. I enjoy not only the routine aspects of coaching but also the relationships, being the motivator, the coach who brings the energy and enthusiasm and a coach the girls feel they can approach off the court in good times and bad.”

An added bonus for Kalous was her parents also moving to the Estherville area three years ago. Tom and Jan Stelow owned Stelow’s Clothing Store on Main Street in Waukon during the 1980s.

“Words can’t explain how thankful I am to have them so close,” added Kalous. “It’s nice knowing I can see them anytime I want. They not only went to my son’s games but also came to our high school games. They didn’t miss a game. It was great to give them a hug right after our State Championship win.”

The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union ended six-on-six girls basketball in 1993 with Kalous standing 14th overall on Waukon’s career scoring list with 702 points. “My coach was Harlan Heidelbauer and he started my love for the game. I continued to play at Luther and knew I wanted to make a difference in young people’s lives. I talked to my college coach, Jane Hildebrand, and that is when I knew coaching was the direction I wanted to take. It excites me to know that the girls I have worked with will have success on and off the court and will be great role models. Most importantly, I hope they had fun!”

Kalous also mentioned how rewarding it is to work with Martindale. “His knowledge of the game, development of players, and the energy he brings to practice and games is incredible. He has made so many connections with other coaches, administrators and community members. I can now say I have coached with a Hall of Fame Coach, Don Martindale!”

In addition to his induction into the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Hall of Fame, Martindale was also named as 2022 Class 3A Coach of the Year for the Northwest District and State of Iowa by the Iowa Girls Coaches Association. He was also named Coach of the Year for Class 3A Region 2 by the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association and was honored during the State Tournament for joining the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association 300 Win Club.

Martindale, who still has several friends in the area and enjoys returning to Waukon for golf tournaments in the summer, isn’t quite ready to call it a career. “We return three starters including our freshman point guard (Haylee Stokes, who was Captain of the Class 3A All-Tournament Team). I am blessed to be surrounded with great assistant coaches who are willing to help in every way. Right now, I am leaning towards coaching another year.”