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CL-B senior named Minnesota American Indian Athlete of the Year

Cass Lake-Bena High School senior Michael Staples was recently named Minnesota American Indian Male Athlete of the Year. (Submitted photo)

CASS LAKE -- Putting time and effort into three sports as a high school student, Cass Lake-Bena senior Michael Staples’ efforts were recently rewarded when he was named Minnesota American Indian Male Athlete of the Year.

“My older brother, Daven, won it his senior year, too,” Staples said. “I remember back then, I just told myself if I work hard enough I can be in that spot, too.

“Being, I guess, the best athlete of my culture in the state, it’s a blessing and an honor.”

As a member of the Panthers’ football, wrestling and baseball teams, Staples has not only been key in the team lineups, but he’s also been a valuable leader off the field and away from the mat.

“His family has been active in athletics here for many years, and he’s had a chance to learn from family members,” CL-B head football coach Bryan “Beef” Sathre said. “But he’s created his own path. A couple years ago, he decided to buckle down. When we had times in the weight room, he was there. When he could do things to help out other student athletes, he did that.

“He stepped up. He took ownership, he took leadership of his teams he’s been involved in, and it’s a perfect example of how a student-athlete should be. When you think of Cass Lake, you think of Michael Staples.”

This fall, Staples also won the Northwest District Offensive Player of the Year award and received All-Section 8A honors. He had 874 rushing yards on 125 carries (7 yards per carry) and 221 receiving yards on 11 catches.

On defense, he finished with a team-leading 93 tackles and two interceptions.

Going into the season, Staples said he wanted to change the way the Panthers team was perceived.

“It was mainly the way people looked at us,” he said. “People looked at us like, ‘that’s Cass Lake-Bena football. They’re no good. They’re just gonna have winless seasons for years.’ And I just kind of took that and wanted to put Cass Lake-Bena football back on the map and show people that we’re for real and we’re no joke anymore.”

In this winter’s wrestling season, Staples hopes to contend for a section title in the 132-pound weight class.

“I had a tough last season,” he said. “I had to deal with injuries and stuff, and my mindset wasn’t there. I just want to come out and show people the real me. I want to go to the state tournament. My brother was top three ranked in the state his senior year. I’m not even ranked and I just want to prove people wrong.”

Staples will receive his Athlete of the Year award Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Minnesota Indian Education Association’s 33rd Annual Conference at Treasure Island Resort and Casino in Welch.

“I wouldn’t have gotten these awards if it weren’t for my teammates,” Staples said. “Them guys were the ones who pushed me and kept me on my feet when I was down. I wouldn’t be nothing if it weren’t for them.”