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Varsity Coaches

Dave Nelson - 18th Year at MHS

Head Football Coach / Offensive Line Coach

Alma Mater(s): Anoka High School; University of Minnesota-Duluth

• 18th Year at Minnetonka (115-65)
• 42nd Year Overall/36th year as Head Coach (267-115)
• 2018 Record 6-5

Dave Nelson begins his 18th year as head football coach at Minnetonka and 42nd season overall. Coach Nelson helped lead the Skippers to the Minnesota 5A State Championship in 2004, Classic Lake Conference Championships in 2004, 2006 and 2009, and the Class 6A State Playoffs in 2012, 2016, 2017, and 2018. The 2017 played in the 6A State Championship.  Dave is a graduate of the University of Minnesota- Duluth, where he captained the Bulldogs in football and baseball his senior year. Nelson was inducted into the UMD Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000.

Prior to joining the Skippers, Nelson led the Blaine Bengals to 10 conference championships and eight section championships during his 18 years as head football coach. The Bengals won the 1988 State Championship in addition to making it to the Prep Bowl in 1996, 1997 and 2001. Dave was inducted into the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015.

Dave and his wife Maureen have three adult children, Sarah, Ashley and Jesse, and ten grandchildren.

Twitter: @CoachDaveNelson 

Greg Clough - 18th Year at MHS

Defensive Coordinator / Defensive Line Coach

Alma Mater(s): Augsburg College and Montana State University

Coach Clough is entering his 18th year of coaching at Minnetonka. Greg previously spent five years coaching at Minnesota State University Mankato, including the last three seasons as defensive coordinator. He also served as the head coach at Roseville Area High School for five years, as defensive line coach at Montana State University for three years, and the head coach at Southwest High School in Minneapolis for two years.  Coach Clough was named the MFCA Assistant Coach of the Year following the 2017 season.

At Minnetonka, Coach Clough serves as the defensive coordinator as well as the liaison to youth football. He and his wife Debbie have three children: Katelyn, William, and Michael.  William plays football at UMD while Michael is a junior on the varsity football team.


Mark Esch - 1st Year at MHS

Running Backs Coach

Alma Mater(s): Caledonia High School; University of Wisconsin-La Crosse; University of South Dakota

Mark Esch starts his first year with Minnetonka High School where he will be working in the Physical Education department and coaching running backs  Esch is a graduate of Caledonia High School and played one year of college football at UW-La Crosse.  He started his coaching career at UW-La Crosse and then coached for a year at White Bear Lake High School.  He then pursued college coaching at the University of South Dakota, where he spent one season before getting back into teaching and coaching at Austin High School.  Esch was the head coach at Mankato West High School from 2006-16 where he led his team to 9 state appearances in 11 seasons while winning two state championships.  Last season, Esch was the offensive coordinator at Prior Lake High School.  Mark lives in Savage, Minnesota with his wife Sarah and three daughters.


Careino Gurley - 12th Year at MHS

Outside Linebackers Coach

Alma Mater(s): Blaine High School; Minnesota State University-Mankato

Coach Gurley begins his twelfth season at Minnetonka. He has coached wide receivers, running backs and tight ends at both the varsity and sophomore levels. This season, Coach Gurley will work with the varsity outside linebackers  Coach Gurley works as a Para at Minnetonka High School.

As a former player of head coach Dave Nelson at Blaine High School ('96) Coach Gurley went on to attend Ridgewater College ('98) in Willmar, MN were he played cornerback for the Warriors.  Coach Gurley earned a bachelor degree from Minnesota State University - Mankato ('01)  The Gurley family consist of his wife Felicia, daughter Kiarian and sons Terrick, Careino Jr.,  and Carvon.  They reside in Minneapolis.


Ismail Karon - 5th Year at MHS

Inside Linebackers Coach

  Alma Mater(s): Minnetonka High School ('09); Winona State University

Coach Karon was a running back and linebacker for the Skippers before graduating from Minnetonka in 2009. He continued his education and football career at Winona State University, graduating with a degree in Physical Education. Ismail will be coaching the inside linebackers for the varsity team. Karon teaches Physical Education at Minnetonka High School.



Joe Lenahan – 3rd Year at MHS

Fullbacks / Tight Ends Coach

  Alma Mater(s): Minnetonka High School ('15); University of Minnesota-Crookston (current)

Joe Lenahan begins his third year on the varsity staff this fall. He will be in charge of the Fullbacks and Tight Ends. Joe is a 2015 graduate of Minnetonka High School where he lettered twice in football during his time there. He was the 2014 recipient of the Max McGee Scholarship. Joe is also an assistant throwers coach on the Men’s Track and Field team at the High School.


Jesse Nelson - 9th Year at MHS

Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks Coach

  Alma Mater(s): Minnetonka High School ('05), Concordia College Moorhead, University of Minnesota

Jesse Nelson begins his ninth year as a physical education teacher and coach at Minnetonka. Nelson is a graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead, where he earned a BA in Physical Education and Health. During his playing career for the Cobbers, Nelson was the quarterback and captain. After graduation, Nelson became a graduate assistant football coach at the University of South Dakota and the University of Minnesota, where he completed his Masters in Applied Kinesiology. Coach Nelson and his wife Sarah live in Excelsior with their daughter Charlie (3) and Stanford (1).


Jason Opsal - 5th Year at MHS

Wide Receivers Coach

Alma Mater(s): Buffalo High School, Gustavus Adolphus College

Coach Opsal enters his fifth year on the staff and is in charge of varsity receivers. Prior to joining Minnetonka, Opsal spent five seasons at Thousand Oaks High School (California) and three seasons coaching college football at Pacific Lutheran (Washington), California Lutheran and Gustavus Adolphus. He is a 2004 graduate of Gustavus and a 1999 graduate of Buffalo High School. Along with his coaching duties, Opsal serves as a Physical Education teacher at Minnetonka High School.


Dave Shoemaker – 17th Year at MHS

Safeties Coach

Alma Maters: Checotah High School (Oklahoma), University of Minnesota

Dave is entering his seventeenth season coaching at Minnetonka High School. Prior to that, he coached at Hopkins High School for eight years, including four seasons as a defensive line coach and four seasons as a linebackers coach. He also coached at St. Louis Park High School for three years as defensive co- coordinator coaching linebackers and defensive ends. Coach Shoemaker was awarded the Butch Nash Award this past season from the MFCA. The Butch Nash Award is awarded to the top ten assistant coaches in Minnesota each year.

Dave graduated from the University of Minnesota, where he played for the Gophers for a year after transferring from the University of Oklahoma. At Oklahoma, he played defensive tackle for four years and was on the 1985 national championship team under coach Barry Switzer.

Dave worked in law enforcement for 14 years before retiring to pursue a career in education. He currently teaches Special Education at Minnetonka High School. Dave and his wife Alison live in the Minnetonka School District and have three children: Nate, Erin and Anna.


Josh Stephan - 12th Year at MHS

Defensive Line Coach

Alma Mater(s): Blaine High School; South Dakota State (B.S,) St. Cloud Sate (M.S,) & Concordia St. Paul (Ed.S.) 

Josh Stephan will be returning for his 12th season with the Skippers and has served as both an assistant and head coach in Minnetonka Athletics. Coach Stephan is a graduate of South Dakota State University where he was a three-time letter winner at Defensive Tackle. As an assistant coach Stephan has served at South Dakota State, St. Cloud State, and Chaska High School. 

 As a lifelong learner and advocate for all-students Josh currently serves as Dean of Students at Minnetonka High School. Coach Stephan and Wife Sarah are both educators in the Minnetonka Schools and have four children Caroline, Henry, Mae, and George. 


Rodrick Tolen – 1st Year at MHS


Alma Mater(s): Alcovy High School (GA), Point University (GA)

Rod is entering his first year at Minnetonka high school as a volunteer coach. Rod is employed by the local organization TreeHouse. Prior to Rod moving to Minnesota from Georgia, he coached at a Division 2 HBCU by the name of Fort Valley State University. Rod coached the defensive backs and was also the Player Development coach on staff. 

Rod graduated from Point University, where he was a part of the inaugural football team in 2011. Rod played football for 3 years at Point University. 

Rod and his wife Lilly live in Minneapolis and is expecting their first child this fall. 

Steve Tuthill – 13th Year at MHS

Video Coordinator & Equipment Manager

Alma Mater(s):  Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Mary’s University

Steve Tuthill is in his thirteenth year working with the Minnetonka Football program. He serves as the Technology Coordinator and Equipment Manager. Steve has a degree in Mathematics from Gustavus Adolphus College and earned a Master's Degree in Education from St. Mary's University. He has been teaching math at Minnetonka for 20 years.

Steve enjoys fishing, golfing, and spending time with his family.  His wife Katie teaches 4th grade at Scenic Heights Elementary.  Steve has two children, a daughter McKenna and a son Drew.


Josh Wagner - 5th Year at MHS

Outside Linebackers Coach

Alma Mater(s):  Waconia High School, Augsburg College

Josh Wagner is entering his fifth season on the Minnetonka staff as the outside linebacker coach.  His previous roles have been 9th grade defensive coordinator and inside line backer coach.

Josh graduated from Augsburg College with a major in business management. In 2017 he worked as a para as he continues his education at Augsburg College for his Master's in Education. He is currently a special education teacher at Minnetonka High School. Coach Wagner also coaches pole vault for men's and women's track and field teams. He resides in Waconia and has three sons Cooper, Jackson, and Bennett.