Detroit Lakes senior Isaiah Thompson’s junior athletic year is unmatched in the modern era of Detroit Lakes athletics and likely all-time. That left a full year in 2020 to add to school records and state championships.
Thompson finished his junior year as the single-season career rushing record holder in football, he repeated for a second state wrestling championship and polished off the spring with a 13th place hurdles finish at state.
“It was a whole different environment with the best runners,” Thompson said. “It was fun to see that I was with them.”
He was unbelievable all year.
Then the unthinkable happened last October.
Undefeated Detroit Lakes had a week seven matchup at rivals Fergus Falls.
Thompson had 165 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns in a little over a quarter of play. The Lakers were on the way to a 55-14 pounding of the Otters. He was 190 yards shy of Corey Brogren’s all-time rushing record of 3,933 yards with a final regular season game and the playoffs to go.
Early in the second quarter, the Lakers faced third-and-13 at its 30-yard line and quarterback Max Gunderson handed the ball to Thompson on a draw play up the middle. “As soon as I got the ball, I was running and a guy was holding me up while I got hit and another guy came in and hit my legs and I heard a huge pop,” Thompson said.
The Lakers were stopped on an offensive drive for the first time in the game.
Otter Stadium went dead quiet.
The next 20 minutes for Thompson were difficult.
“Pain, tears - I was really sad,” he said.
While the Lakers were a formidable club there simply is no replacing a guy who can score from anywhere on the field at any time.
It took time for Thompson to come to grips with the injury.
“It took me a couple weeks to get over it; there was nothing I could do,” he said.
That was Thompson’s final carry as a Laker - one of 356 for 3,743 career yards.
A week later after a MRI visit he was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
The Lakes went on to pound Perham 40-12 in the season finale and got revenge on Willmar for a 2018 section final loss to advance to the 8-4A championship game - a slugfest marred by DL turnovers that ended in a 14-7 loss to eventual state champions ROCORI.
That game and the state playoffs with a healthy Thompson and it could have been the Lakers running the table, each win punctuated by a Thompson backflip into a huddle of his cheering teammates.
It was tough for fans and more for Thompson. Football is his first love.
“The work that me and my teammates put in and going out on Friday nights at Mollberg Field or anywhere else,” he said.
Thompson’s favorite DL football moment isn’t the records or touchdowns. It was cracking the lineup.
“It was my 10th grade year,” he said. “I was only a special teams player. I worked my way up to being in the starting lineup. That was the biggest highlight.”
Rolling at state wrestling
Before two consecutive annual sweeps at the MSHSL state wrestling tournament, Thompson opened with a 9th grade-and-under state title and just missed a state trip finishing third in the section as a freshman.
In 2018, he qualified as the 8AA runner-up to Perham’s Dawson Kellogg, but when Thompson got his shot at state he made the most of it.
“After my first match I won and after the second match, wow, I’m placing,’ he said. “It just kind of hit me in the face. Then I won my third match and placing top two.”
One better: “I won it all; that’s insane,” he said.
Thompson was cool on the mat. He controlled four straight matches scoring 31 points and only giving up 10 to own the run to his first state title.
“I didn’t show a lot of excitement, but I was really happy,” he said.
He returned in 2019 as the top seed at 170 pounds expecting to win and excited.
“My main goal was to go down there and compete at the highest level again,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Four straight wins again, including a 5-3 decision in the final over Simley’s Nolan Wanzek made it two consecutive championships and this one ended in a backflip to a roar from the crowd.
The knee injury took away the possibility to three-peat and imagine this year’s third place Class AA Lakers with a healthy Thompson in the lineup. Yikes.
He took younger wrestlers under his wing his senior season riding along with the exciting Lakers.
“I coached JV kids and helped them out, showing them the right way,” he said.
Back to full speed
Thompson’s rehab is nearing the final stages and he trains at the Sanford Power Center: home of activity-specific training that incorporates the latest in strength development, speed, agility, plyometrics and explosive power.
“They have me almost going all-out, 100 percent sprinting,” he said.
With spring sports seasons finally put to rest this week due to the continuation of distance learning only, Laker fans were denied a possible comeback on the track.
“It’s kind of hard to say; it was a maybe,” said Thompson.
The virus and the knee have Thompson’s athletic future up in the air.
“I’ve been waiting to see what the knee does,” he said. “Some coaches still have been in contact with me and asking how the recruiting process is going and if I’ve made my decision yet.”
He had to figure out which sport first.
“For the longest time I was back-and-forth on whether I should wrestle or run track or play football,” he said. “It took me forever and I ended up deciding to play football.”
Where remains a mystery for now.
“I can’t really make that decision either with the COVID thing and the season might be canceled,” he said.