WDC 2010 graduates return to coach at high school
As Zack Kelderman, Ryan Nelson and Kevin Tumberg page through their 2009-2010 Wadena-Deer Creek High School yearbook, they reminisce about their high school days — eating at the same lunch table every day, competing in sports, and going to movies at the Cozy Theatre.
These Wadena-Deer Creek High School graduates have a great deal in common, so it’s easy to see why they’re best friends yet today and why these three have now returned to coach at Wadena-Deer Creek High School.
In high school, all three played baseball, while Tumberg and Nelson played basketball, and Kelderman, football.
WDC High School physical education teacher Tom Van Erp coached all three in football and basketball. He said they were the kind of student-athletes a coach wants on the team.
“These guys practiced hard, played hard, understood the game, played the game the right way, and were very coachable. We had competitive teams, not great teams in terms of wins and losses, but I remember we were competitive, had a lot of fun, and we worked hard,” said Van Erp.
“Ryan Nelson is the best 'short corner' player I ever coached in basketball. Kevin was like another coach on the basketball court, and it’s fitting he is now the Wolverines’ head coach. Zack was an under-sized linebacker who didn’t know the word quit.”
After high school, the road would lead to Fergus Falls Community College, where all three attended and, yes, roomed together.
“Being together made for an easy transition to college,” said Tumberg. “We still would meet new people, but when you have the same friends to fall back on, always to be with, it’s like having family around.”
At Fergus, Kelderman played football for the Spartans, Tumberg was on the baseball team, and Nelson should have played basketball, according to Kelderman and Tumberg. Nelson decided not to participate in basketball; but instead, he cheered on his best friends at games.
The good-natured ribbing is constant between them. But it’s the shared laughter that bonds these three like brothers. When asked to describe one another, Kelderman pipes up.
“If there’s a joker in the group, it’s definitely Tumberg,” said Kelderman. While Nelson, they said, is the more serious of the three, as well as the “best dressed.”
“I feel like the old one,” laughed Kelderman. He and his wife, Avery (a 2012 WDC graduate), have a 1-year-old son, Tucker, and another baby on the way. Both Nelson and Tumberg were groomsmen in their wedding too. (Note: The Kelderman's second child, Parker Robert, was born on April 16, 2017.)
Love of sports, coaching
This past football season, Kelderman coached the WDC varsity linebackers and JV team. His dad, Darren, had served as a volunteer coach with the junior high football program for several years. Being a coach seemed like a logical step for the younger Kelderman.
“I really enjoyed it. It was the most fun I’d had in a long time,” said Kelderman. “Football is my favorite sport. I find a lot of value in it. Teaching kids how to win, that isn’t easy. But learning from Coach Kangas was great… He’s full of knowledge that not only pertains to football or sports or teaching, but basic life skills. That’s what I want to learn more about.”
For Nelson, returning to the basketball court as an assistant varsity coach this season was a way of giving back to a program he truly loved in high school. Furthermore, it was an opportunity to coach alongside his best friend.
“I wanted to give back to a program that benefited me. I find it pretty rewarding and thank Coach Tumberg for giving me the opportunity to do that. It’s been a blast being around the guys this year too,” said Nelson.
Tumberg just finished his second year as WDC’s head boys’ basketball coach, with the Wolverines making the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. He’s also an assistant football and baseball coach.
“It means something to us to be back here, wanting to help out and be a part of it because we were part of the same programs. Even though we’re not in the same gym because of the tornado, we’re at the same football field, baseball field, same school campus.”
Kelderman added, “It’s not all about what we can get out of coaching. It’s about what we can give back to the kids, what knowledge we can give.”
But what’s most remarkable about these young men is how they’ve returned to their hometown to work and get involved in their school.
Nelson said he was fortunate enough to find a job after graduating from Bemidji State University with a business degree. He is a financial planning assistant at Ameriprise Financial, where being a hometown boy means knowing a lot of people who come through the door. “Yes, it’s been helpful, for sure. I really like what I’m doing,” he said.
For Kelderman, working in his family’s business, Pizza Ranch, was his plan after college. He now manages the Pizza Ranch in Wadena.
“I think it was fortunate for all of us [to be back in Wadena]. The chips fell down about perfect,” said Kelderman.
When Tumberg was student teaching at Sebeka while earning his elementary education degree from Bemidji State, his hope was to land a teaching job in Wadena. After graduating from BSU in 2014, he was offered a teaching job at WDC Elementary that fall.
“Goal no. 1 for me was coming back here. Obviously, it worked out,” Tumberg said with a smile, adding, “It feels right because it’s home. People always say, ‘I can’t wait to get out of here, move as far away as possible.’ I have no desire to be in a big city. When you have family and friends here, it makes life easier.”
Van Erp said Kelderman, Nelson and Tumberg are wonderful examples of how young people can come back to their hometown and be successful.
“Our area needs more of our young professional people to move back and become the face of our community for the next generation,” he said.