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Vikings' Thielen teams up to reopen Oakdale training facility

Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (left) and trainer Ryan Englebert are opening the rebranded ETS Elite Next Level facility on Monday, May 22 in Oakdale. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia

The exterior of the Oakdale-based training facility blends in with the rest of the businesses on Hudson Boulevard near the intersection of I-94 and I-694.

But take a look inside ETS Elite Next Level, and there is a chance you could find a handful of local professional athletes carrying out the offseason training programs that keep them employed in some of the world’s most competitive sports leagues.

The Oakdale facility, located just across I-94 from Woodbury, is where founder Ryan Englebert got his start with Englebert Training Systems in 2010. With the help of business partner and Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, the facility is reopening under the name ETS Elite Next Level on Monday, May 22.

“It’s a chance for us to take the East Metro and make it into that next level facility,” Englebert said. “This is going to be the hub where all of our pro athletes train from across the metro. They will be coming out this direction. We’re going to train athletes from ages 8 all the way through.”

Thielen has been training with Englebert since before he started his career as an NFL wide receiver. Later, Thielen decided to become a business partner with Englebert when he saw their work paying off in his performance with the Vikings.

Now they operate multiple ETS training facilities, starting with a facility in Lakeville.

“I’ve got a lot of trust in Ryan, I built a really good relationship with him,” said Thielen, who lives in Woodbury with his wife and WHS grad, Caitlin Thielen. “I just wanted to get involved, because I saw what he was doing, I saw the direction that ETS was going.”

The rebranded ETS Elite Next Level facility in Oakdale is getting more than a new look and a fresh coat of paint. They have continued to deliver a message of specialized training to help each athlete reach their potential.

“Football players aren’t necessarily going to train the same way as a hockey player,” Englebert said. “So each individual athlete has a program put together based on deficiencies that they have to help them not only become less injury prone but to build as much strength, speed, power and explosiveness as possible, relevant to their sports.”

On Friday morning, East Ridge graduate and current University of Alabama offensive lineman J.C. Hassenauer was wrapping up a workout at the training facility. Hassenauer has been working out at the facility since he was an eighth-grader, and now he trains there every May during the sliver of offseason he gets before summer classes start in Tuscaloosa.

“He’s such a smart guy,” Hassenauer said about why he continues to train with Englebert. “He’s so loyal to us, and he’s loyal to my family. It’s always great to come back here. He’s kind of like a mentor to me because my major is athletic performance, so just coming back here, I like speaking to him and bouncing ideas off him.”

Thielen, a native of Detroit Lakes, is coming off a season where he more than doubled his career totals in receiving yards and touchdowns. He played in all 16 regular season games for the Vikings in 2016, catching 69 passes for 967 yards and five touchdowns.

Thielen said his offseason work at ETS has been a key to his career’s growth.

“People don’t see what you do in the offseason, they just see what you do on Sundays,” Thielen said. “I tell Ryan this every year, we sit down the day after the season is over and put a plan together. Because this is where I know I can make that next step. In this league, just like every sport, someone is coming for your job every year.”

With Thielen as a business partner, Englebert also credits his wife, Heidi Englebert, for laboring well into nights to help carry out much of the behind-the-scenes work.

While ETS trains a handful of high-profile athletes, much of its resources are spent working with youth athletes starting at age 8 through high school.

The company has trained high school teams including Maple Grove football, Lakeville South hockey, Lakeville North football and Menomonie football in Wisconsin. Local athletes from high schools including Woodbury, East Ridge, Cretin-Derham Hall and Hill-Murray also make up the company’s clientele.

“ETS is going to be at the highest level possible,” Englebert said. “We are making things bigger, better for every athlete. The experience for an eight-year-old to a professional athlete, that’s why we are branding this one as the next level facility.”

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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