The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 29, 2012

WEM students gather to mourn loss of classmate

By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer

WATERVILLE — Waterville-Elysian-Morristown high school students gathered Monday morning to make memorials of senior Brady “Diggy” Hruska.

The tributes were mostly made to give to Hruska’s family, going through the loss of their 17-year-old son who died Saturday on Lake Elysian after his boat capsized while duck hunting with four friends. But also, said Supt. Joel Whitehurst, the schoolwide gathering was to help the students with the grieving process.

Whitehurst said Hruska was a happy and friendly kid, and he’s missed by all at the tight-knit school.

“He was a very good basketball player, a very good football player,” Whitehurst said. “I don’t think there was a kid in school that didn’t like him. It’s been a difficult time.”

Hruska of Waterville was captain of the football team, playing the positions of wide receiver and cornerback, and his profile picture on Facebook of him catching a football during a game showed his pride in the sport. A post regarding Hruska’s death on the Minnesota State High School League Facebook page is filled with comments sending well wishes to the boy’s family.

Whitehurst said the WEM community has been grieving all weekend. Saturday night the football team decided to play the game against Medford in Hruska’s honor, wearing his favorite color lime green as a tribute. Fans packed into the stands also wore lime green and held signs.

Hruska’s father, Eric Hruska, carried his son’s jersey onto the field before the game started. He was the one to tell the players that his son would want them to play the game, giving each player a hug.

WEM teacher and football coach Jon Bakken said his players are going through a difficult time, and Saturday night was a tough game to play.

“We did the best we could to go out and play the game,” he said.

Nolan Grose, who was on the boat with Hruska Saturday, wore Hruska’s No. 2 jersey at the game. The Bucs won over Medford 34-21.

Grose told KARE 11 News: “We knew we had to play for him. The community came together and the game meant everything.”

Bakken said the team will continue this season to do things in Hruska’s honor, including carrying on with the lime green attire.

Sunday his friends and teammates gathered at the school to remember Hruska. The school also is filled with huge sheets of paper with comments written by students who miss him, Whitehurst said, who added that even the afternoon visitation Wednesday is being held at the school gym.

Clergy and counselors were available at the school Monday to speak with students who needed to talk. Some students also sought out teachers they could relate to, Whitehurst said.

“Everybody knew the young man,” he said. “We’re all banning together.”

The Waseca County Sheriff’s Office was called at 6 a.m. Saturday from a person on shore regarding five boys in the water about 200 yards from land. Hruska was the only of the five who didn’t make it to shore. His body was recovered eight hours later.

Hruska also played baseball and golf and liked to ice fish and hunt, according to an obituary from Dennis Funeral Homes. In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to the WEM football, boys basketball or baseball programs.