Dave has loved to swim as long as he can remember. As a young child, Dave grew up 2 blocks away from the Charles Horn pool in Anoka and spent many a summer day swimming and laying in the sun. He began competitive swimming when he was in the ninth grade, swimming for the Anoka High School team. During Dave’s senior year, he set school and pool records in the 200 and 500 free. Then, Dave swam for two years at the University of Minnesota Duluth and one year at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities.
Dave began coaching between his freshman and sophomore year in high school, when together with his parents and other interested families, they began the ABC Aquatic Club which later became Northern Lights Aquatics (NLA). In 1979, Dave left NLA to become an assistant coach and manager at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs where several world record holders and Olympians came to train. Then, in 1980, Dave had the good fortune to coach with The Head Olympic Coach George Haines at his club team.
Dave had his first head coaching job at the Bloomington Aquatic Club where he rebuilt the program winning several state championships and qualifying many swimmers to swim in both Junior and Senior Nationals. Next, Dave took over the reigns of a coach owned program called the Marauder Aquatic Club where, again, they won the state age group championships and had swimmers qualify for Junior Nationals, Senior Nationals and Olympic Trials. After several years, Dave retired from coaching to concentrate on his printing business until he was hired in 1991 to coach the Gopher Swim Club at the new University of Minnesota pool. Once again, Dave had numerous swimmers qualify and swim at various Nationals including one swimmer who went from Junior Nationals to being world ranked in one season. In the spring of 1999, Dave went back home to Northern Lights Aquatics, the team he helped start in 1976, to work with the distance swimmers. In the five years Dave coached at NLA, swimmers he worked with set numerous state records, qualified for and swam in Junior Nationals, Senior Nationals and the 2004 Olympic Trials. In 2004, Dave began the last coaching job he will ever hold here at The Great Wolf Swim Team. He looks forward to building a team that is strong from top to bottom with swimmers setting new records, swimming at Nationals and one day qualifying for the USA Olympic Team.
Chip is one of the top developmental swimming coaches in the United States. Over the past 40 years, he has been able to identify and developed some of the best swimmer in the country. Many of the swimmers on teams chip has coached started out at the Pups level. With a progressive nurturing style, his swimmers learn the basics of competitive strokes and develop a love for the sport that have produced numerous national age-group champions, junior national champions and swimmers, senior national swimmers and Olympic Trial qualifiers. Cop has also coached at the high school level with many swimmers achieving All-American status.
Blair Evan Eckstrom
Coach- Columbia Heights
Growing up in Marshall, MN Blair was a part of the Marshall Meters swim Club where is mother was a coach. He has been swimming and coaching ever since. Before coaching for Great Wolf Blair coached at Northern Lights Aquatics, where he helped many age group swimmers to reach state finals. He then moved on to coach Mounds View Swim Club and Tsunami swim club during this time he had many swimmer win state titles, participate in junior and senior nationals. Many of his swimmers have done on to achieve division 1 college scholarships at top name universities. He then moved on to the Great Wolf Swim Team. Blair loves to correct stroke mechanics and has a passion for teaching his swimmers to swim correctly. Blair loves to combine his knowledge and experience with his wit and humor
Zack Anthony Strumbell
Zack grew up in Eveleth Minnesota. He learned to swim because his parents could not. He started taking lessons at the local YMCA, and then after watching his sister join the school swim team, he and his twin brother decided they would give it a try. He swam for Eveleth Gilbert High School under the direction of Minnesota Hall of Fame coach Gordy Rodby. While swimming in high school Zack earned 4 individual Minnesota state titles, was a 3 time Scholastic All-American, and a 2 time All-American. He also broke many high school records (which are still there today), the high school class A state record in the 200 freestyle, and his senior year was named Minnesota Swimmer of the Year.
Zack started his club swimming journey as a 13-14 year old for Dave Bentz at the Great Wolf Swim Team. While swimming for Great Wolf Zack was top 16 in the 50 free in the 13-14 age group, and along with his teammates also broke 2 national age group records for relays and re-wrote the record books for Minnesota club swimming in numerous relays for 13-14 and 15-16. He qualified for Junior Nationals as a 15 year old, and had the chance to travel around the country going to many national and international level meets. Zack went on to swim for California Polytechnic State University where he broke 3 school relay records and also the 100 butterfly record, and qualified for the U.S. Open the summer after freshman year.
He started his coaching journey in October of 2011 under the direction of Dave Bentz. He now is the assistant national coach. Zack has taken part in coaching swimmers who have ranked the top in the nation, set Minnesota club state records, achieved multiple Minnesota state titles, qualified for Junior Nationals, and was ranked number one in the country. Zack is fortunate enough to say he coaches for the team that taught him so much, not only about swimming, but about life. Zack is lucky to have such a great group of kids to work with and looks forward to what is possible in the future. “The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible”
Elizabeth L Starke
Director of Communications
She started swimming in 1st grade when she brought home a flyer from school. Originally she started swimming with the former Northern Lights Aquatics. During her age group career she achieved many state podium finishes, including multiple first place finishes and a highpoint awards. As a senior swimmer she followed Coach Dave from Northern Lights to the Great Wolf Swim Team in 2004. She swam on Great Wolf from 2004-2008. During that time she achieved high school All-American status, multiple high school records, Great Wolf Records, and participated in many Jr. Nationals. After graduating high school in 2008 she went to Florida Atlantic University on a division one scholarship. During her time on the FAU swim team she achieved senior national times, as well as broke a school record in the 100 butterfly. She obtained degrees in international business & trade as well as marketing, and minored in business law. After graduating college she moved back to Minnesota and eventually found her way back to the Great Wolf Swim Team!
Age Group Coach
Amy started swimming competitive at age 10 for the Saint Paul Swim Club. Prior to joining the team, she had never swum a lap or even passed beginner level swimming lessons. After an interesting first year, she began to master the four strokes. As her swimming progressed she became a nationally ranked swimmer in multiple events, won many age group titles and broke several state records. As a club swimmer she qualified for junior nationals, senior nationals and went to the Olympic trials in 1984 in Indianapolis Indiana.
Amy’s high school career began in eight grade when she joined Johnson High School’s swim team and went to state in the 50 freestyle placing 2nd in finals. From 9th grade through 12th she won the 100 butterfly state titles and held the state record for over a decade. Overall, she achieved 5 first place finishes, 4 second place finishes and was a high school All-American.
After graduating high school Amy attended Arizona State University on a swimming scholarship. There she specialized in the 100 and 200 butterfly and freestyle sprints. While at ASU she qualified for NCAA’s in both individual events and relays.
In January 2013, her daughter joined the Great Wolf Swim Team and Amy eventually made her way onto the pool deck to coach. She is excited about the energy the age group swimmers have and is thrilled to be working alongside some of the best coaches in USA swimming.
Age Group Coach
Coach John began swimming at St. Paul Highland Park High School. In the short time there he qualified and placed in the state meet. Upon graduation he attended Gustavus Adolphus College, where he practiced in one of the last 20 yard pool in the state (with no goggles because they had not been invented). In his junior year he became the MIAC champion in the 50 free. Graduating with a degree in health and physical education, he went on to teach and coach at Burnsville High School and work with the local AAU team. During his first season, one of his high school boys finaled in the 50 and 100 free at the state meet. A few years later one of the boys on his club team became the first high school swimmer to break 2 minutes in the 200 IM. Deciding it was time to move on, he went to the Mounds View Swim Club where he coached Dave Bentz(Coach Dave). After a couple of years, John retired from swimming to pursue other endeavors and raise a family. A short time later he got bit by the coaching bug, getting back into it at the Bloomington Aquatic Club with Coach Dave. While there he returned to high school coaching with Edina Girls team. During his 5 year tenure, they won the state meet 3 times, he was named coach of the year, one of his swimmer won 4 consecutive 100 butterfly championships, and another broke the national high school record in the 100 breast. After Bloomington he moved to the Marauder Aquatic Club where he helped that team win a state age group championship. (Shortly after his departure one of his boys broke the high school butterfly record that still stands). John went to work at the Saint Paul Hotel, as a concierge, where he met many incredible people including Bill Murray, Margaret Thatcher and Meryl Streep, to name a few. In 2010 John became the summer program director and head swimming coach of the University Club in St. Paul. Shortly after, he and Dave, once again connected, becoming a coach on the Great Wolf Swim Team.
John’s looking forward to taking all the swimmers to a place they never thought possible. It's all about finding a way no one ever imagined. He builds great confidence in his swimmers through insistence on proper technique and race strategy.
Age Group Coach
She began swimming competitively in fifth grade when she joined a local age group team in Iowa. After moving to Minnesota she started working for our swim lesson program Swim America. In the fall of 2010 she started coaching our Pups group. In the spring of 2011 she became a site supervisor for Swim America, and moved up to coaching our trackers team. She is currently pursing a degree in elementary education at St. Cloud State. She is excited to help her kids improve, be competitive and get excited to swim
Age Group Coach
Coach Bethany started swimming competitively at age seven with the Burnsville Swim Club. She moved with her family at thirteen to Monticello where she swam for the Monticello Swim Club and then the Monticello High School Girls Team. Her favorite event was the 500 Free in high school. In college, Coach Bethany swam with Hamline University as a long distance swimmer.
Bethany started coaching in the summer of 2009 with the North Suburban Makos where she focused on stroke technique and endurance training. For the past two years Bethany has been the assistant coach of the Spring Lake Park High school teams working extensively with the JV group.