Doing the Most(er): Elizabeth Oster juggling hockey, wrestling during winter season

Jan. 28—BEMIDJI — Elizabeth Oster has played four sports — volleyball, hockey, wrestling and softball — at Bemidji High School. Juggling isn't one of them.

But it might as well be. Currently, Oster balances school, hockey and wrestling — all at the same time, and all during the same winter sports season at BHS. It's been said that it can be hard to find things to do during the frigid winter months — Oster certainly doesn't have that problem.

"I had one more year left, so why not make the most of it and just do it?" the senior said of her dual-sport endeavor. "I enjoyed it last year. So I was like, 'Why not just do it again?'"

She's definitely doing the most this season. Her days start with 6 a.m. wrestling practices and sometimes conclude with hockey contests commencing at 7 p.m. or later. It's a lot for one person to handle, and Oster has been emptying the tank for both sports.

"It wears your body down a lot," Oster said. "Especially the early mornings, and then sometimes we have late-night games. And it's just — it's a lot, but it's not too much."

That's a good thing for both groups. On the ice, Oster plays a key role among the Lumberjacks' forwards, most recently putting up a goal and an assist in Bemidji's

6-2 win at East Grand Forks

on Thursday. On the wrestling mat, Oster is looking to defend and surpass her

third-place individual finish

at the first-ever girls wrestling state tournament in 2022.

Trying to participate in both sports in full isn't without its challenges. Sometimes, Oster must decide between events, something that's become more challenging this year as girls wrestling has grown across the state of Minnesota.

"It was a little bit easier last year because it was the first year of girls wrestling, so there weren't as many opportunities as there are this year," Oster said. "There weren't as many things I had to work around. But it's still worked out really well (this year)."

Cooperation between her two head coaches has also been essential. Girls hockey head coach Mike Johnson and wrestling head coach Rance Bahr have left it up to Oster to set her own schedule and praised her for the efficacy with which she has done so.

"She's very mature and very responsible," Bahr said. "So we just set a goal of how many practices we'd like to see her at in a week, and generally she practices in the mornings. ... She shows up to every practice she can, and we make it work. Coach Johnson has been great to work with. There's never been a problem, and it's been a good experience.

"And I think it's good that she's able to enjoy that experience. I mean, he very easily could have just said, 'No, it's not going to work, and we're not going to do it.' But he's given her an opportunity to expand and grow as a person, and kudos and hats off to him for allowing her that experience and opportunity."

"She's here most of the time," Johnson said. "She's missed one game, and she may have missed one practice. I mean, it's amazing that she's a dual-sport athlete in the same season and excelling in both sports. That's just a thing of beauty."

A collision course is coming, though, that could make it difficult for Oster to fulfill her obligations to both teams. On Feb. 11, both the opening round of the Section 8AA girls hockey tournament and the girls wrestling individual section tournament will take place. How does Oster plan to solve that riddle?

"Depending on where it is, I think I can make both," she said. "We'll see."

Wrestling is scheduled to take place in Sartell, while Bemidji girls hockey could very well open its playoff slate on the road at Alexandria. The two schools are situated 70 miles apart, and the route between them takes about an hour and 15 minutes, mostly along Interstate 94. If that is indeed the scenario, Oster's parents will have a vehicle on standby, ready to transport her across the state.

Despite the unknowns, one thing is certain — Oster will do whatever she can to show up for both her squads, just as she's done all season long. But she's not naive to how wild such an intensive multi-sport, single-day marathon could be.

"That would be crazy," she declared.