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AJ Halbach


Joe Knows Strength...

Joe Ciardelli's life goal is to help others achieve their dreams – and that's not just lip service. A NSCA Certified and Registered Strength and Training Coach with more than 14 years experience, Joe has worked with some of the most elite athletes in the biz—NHL, NFL, MLB, NBA players, and Olympic athletes, just to name a few. But, don't think he'll go easy on you if you don't plan to go pro. Joe's philosophy on training: Hard work pays off.

As Takedown's Director of Strength and Conditioning, Joe leads beginning, intermediate, and advanced group exercise sessions. You better believe he will help you take down your goals – whether your sights are set on an NHL contract, a higher vertical, or a smaller waist size.

Joe holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology-Exercise Management from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and a Masters in Sports Management from St. Cloud State University.

After hitting it hard at the gym, Joe likes to play hockey as well as coach youth hockey, fish, and spend time with family and friends. He lives in Nisswa with his wife, Sarah, and their two children, Logan and Samantha.

Haley Cunningham


Whether you’re looking to get your body in shape or your nutrition in check, Haley is here to help.

Haley joined the Takedown team in September 2017. She graduated from the University of North Dakota in 2016 with a Bachelors Degree in Dietetics and previously worked at a gym in the Twin Cities. 

"My biggest passion in life is to help others learn how to live a healthier lifestyle whether that’s through exercise or eating healthier. I am creative and caring when it comes to working with individuals on getting them to their nutrition and personal goals. I always want to bring a fun and positive energy while training my clients. I believe creating a positive, yet challenging, training session with my clients will help them feel confident learning how to exercise correctly while reaching their personal goals." 

When she’s not helping others at Takedown, Haley is working practicing what she preaches in the gym or exploring her culinary interests by getting creative in the kitchen.

Al Smith


Experienced from fitness to fueling your body, Takedown’s newest Trainer Al Smith is ready to help you reach (if not surpass) your goals.

Al has worked in both local and corporate fitness facilities everywhere from Wisconsin to Tennessee over the past eight years while completing her undergraduate and graduate degrees in dietetics and exercise and nutritional sciences. As a former Nutrition Program Manager, Sports Nutritionist, and Personal Trainer, she has effectively driven and implemented sports nutrition and weight loss programs in gyms, colleges, and weight loss clinics.

"My love for nutrition and fitness first developed at a young age through my years spent as a competitive dancer and only grew more after competing in multiple bodybuilding competitions and running half marathons," Al said. "I learned how food can fuel performance in all aspects of exercise. My diverse experience in weight loss and sports nutrition has helped me coach clients and athletes to achieve their optimal health goals."

Kelly Kramer


Kelly's passion for giving her clients the best spin workout possible is contagious. She tailors Takedown's spin classes to all levels of fitness ability from beginner to advanced, while pumping fun, enthusiasm, and motivation into every session. As a NETA certified spin instructor, one of Kelly's favorite things about her job is to watch her clients' fitness and weight loss transformations as they continue to takedown their goals. Music is also key in a fun and challenging class. She is Beat Boss certified and ready to rock any workout!

Outside of Takedown Gym, Kelly stays busy with husband Sean and two children, Colton and Josie. She enjoys all fitness activities (including the wide variety of classes at Takedown), spending time at the lake, boating, paddle boarding, cooking, spending time outdoors, and most of all, quality time with her family and dogs.

Jenny Holmes


Paying it forward is what it’s all about.

Over a year ago, Jenny Holmes never would’ve guessed she’d someday be in front of others leading group exercise. But after a wake up call, she made health her priority and – through a combination of nutrition and fitness – lost over 50 pounds. But what she lost in weight, she gained in strength and inspiration. After becoming a member of Takedown Gym, she was encouraged to consider becoming certified in group instruction. She is now NETA Indoor Cycling certified and Beat Boss certified.

"I was truly blessed by so many in my weight loss journey that I feel called to help others find the courage and confidence to take the first step in their own,” Jenny said. “If I’m able to help at least one person change their lives for the better, I’ve served a purpose."



Ready to sweat? Meet Laureen!

Laureen is a NETA Certified Spin Instructor, as well as a NETA Certified Group Class Instructor. She offers a variety of challenging and rewarding classes at the Gym, from Bulgarian Bags to Kettle Bells and more.

When not teaching classes, she is usually attending our classes at Takedown or busy with her family. Her husband Mike, and all four of her children, Laura, Luke, Max and Mark are all heavily involved with athletics in the Brainerd area and beyond.



Movement is Ellen Fussy’s super power!

Ellen has been active in sports and fitness her entire life. She is a native of the Brainerd Lakes Area, mother of three adult children, and wife to husband John. Ellen has been employed with the Brainerd School District as a Physical Education Instructor since 1992. She received her Undergraduate work from the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, and a Masters degree from Southwest State in 2000.

Ellen created and implemented yoga at Brainerd High School where she continues to teach. She has been a long time tennis coach for both the boys’ and girls’ program. She has a wide range of interests, and has competed in many road races, marathons, half-marathons and triathlons. 

In 2013, Ellen completed her first 100-hour yoga teacher training in Tulum, Mexico, and is currently completing a 200-hour RYT year-long training with Center Yoga of Minneapolis. 

Whether you are an experienced Yogi or a newbie, come experience Ellen’s Yoga Flow classes.



Katie is here to eliminate ‘gymtimidation’ from your vocabulary.

Katie Forland joined the Takedown instructional staff in October 2017, leading a variety of strength classes. She is a busy mom of two boys and loves to share her fitness and nutrition knowledge with them and others.

"I started as a runner and fell in love with weightlifting, which is where my passion lies. I still love a good run and riding bikes with my kids. I am very excited to share and help others learn about proper form and how to not be so intimidated by the weight room."



Michelle McMahon is rejoining Takedown Gym after a 2017 sabbatical in San Francisco.

While there, she worked at the prestigious Equinox and Fuse Fitness gyms as a Group Fitness Instructor teaching all of their signature formats. During this time, she learned the newest innovative and cutting edge techniques to enhance your physical prowess; using motivational coaching and succinct physical cues. 

She has also volunteered for the National Diabetes Prevention Program, conducted a local Health Study, created an athletic fundraiser to raise money for Alzheimer’s, along with having the honor of mentoring Equinox's prodigy. 

Michelle currently specializes in strength and conditioning, injury prevention, endurance training, behavioral health in your diet, positive body image and weight loss. 

Michelle's enthusiasm, positive attitude and genuine care for her clients is contagious. She will empower you to achieve the best in physical fitness while making fitness fun! Let her be your cheerleader and you will win the game of life!

Chris Bunnis


Chris Bunnis has loved boxing since he was young boy. He grew up boxing Golden Gloves in Detroit Lakes, and is now a certified boxing coach and avid fitness and sports fan. 

Chris moved with his family to Baxter three years ago and began teaching Cardio Combat at Takedown in October 2018. His love of boxing, fitness and motivating others is something he is very passionate about and is excited to teach at Takedown Gym. 

When Chris isn’t teaching classes or working out, you’ll find him running his business Vision Underground, wakeboarding, camping, hiking or spending time with his family.

Mike Holtan


Mike grew up in Moorhead and attended college at both Concordia and Minnesota State University Moorhead. At MSUM, he received his Exercise Science degree with a minor in strength and conditioning. Later, he returned to school to earn his Life Science teaching degree, and taught a year of middle school science before he and his wife moved to Brainerd during the summer of 2017.  

"Growing up, I played every sport available because I loved the competition and making myself a better athlete. To this day, I still play hockey year-round and love to push myself to be stronger and faster in the gym, as well; because, when it comes to sports, speed kills and strength dominates."

Mike looks forward to using his experience to benefit members of all ages and abilities.

"Sharing my experience and knowledge with others to make them more successful is what it’s all about. I’m excited to work at Takedown because I will be able to do and teach what I love with other people who love fitness too."



Jessica Longhurst is an upbeat, fun-loving, fitness instructor who has returned to her roots and has made Takedown her new home.

Jess is a certified Sports Performance Coach, personal trainer, and certified in TRX. With 10 years of personal training and fitness instructing under her belt, Jess has taught circuit training, boot camps, mommies and me programs, core, TRX, speed and agility, kettle bells, cycling, and HIIT classes; as well as organizing programs for sports specific training such as ice hockey, soccer and dance.

She has traveled to over 40 countries, and enjoys hiking, soccer, hockey, fishing, one wheeling, surfing, and everything outdoors.

"I am so pumped to be back in Brainerd and to be able to train out of Takedown Gym."



Fun, fit and fabulous. Those are just three words that describe this little dynamo! Cassandra (Cassie) has been with Takedown Gym since 2016 and wants to ensure each and every member leaves happy and healthy.

Cassandra graduated with a degree in Elementary Education from the University of North Dakota. She works as an elementary school teacher in the area, in addition to working and working out at Takedown. She also enjoys doing anything on the lake or in the sunshine.

"I always leave this gym happier, more inspired and more motivated than when I came in," Cassandra said. "The atmosphere here gets me so pumped up and drives me to become the best version of me."

AJ Halbach


Shaylee is one of the newest staff at Takedown and is excited to be a part of the team!

She graduated from North Dakota State University & Valley City State University in the spring of 2016. In addition to working at Takedown, Shaylee is a kindergarten Teacher at Nisswa Elementary. In her spare time, you can find her enjoying the outdoors or attending fun events such as concerts, races and sporting events.

""The atmosphere at Takedown Gym is unlike any place else. Its friendly staff, updated facility and inspiring trainers make it a great place to be!"

Deb Franklin

Deb Franklin

Takedown Gym is proud to announce the addition of Deb to our staff! With a variety of experience in customer service and the medical industry, she is a wonderful asset to the Gym.

Deb is originally from central Minnesota and has family in Mankato. She enjoys walking, biking and spending time with family and friends.

"I like seeing and greeting the members at Takedown,” Deb said. “It’s fun to see the health benefits of working out and learning more about the motivation behind why they’re here. The staff is also great!"

Suzette Jevning

Suzette Jevning

Members take comfort in leaving their children in the capable and loving hands of Suzette while they’re working out at Takedown Gym.

Suzette has her Bachelor of Art’s Degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Early Childhood Psychology. She has directed and taught children in care settings for the past 37 years and is CPR certified. But the real proof comes when you see her interact with the children in her care.

“I love children and enjoy their amazing personalities and honesty,” she said. “They are like little sponges and it’s so exciting to be part of their ‘light bulb’ moments. I am truly blessed to be involved at such an important age.”

Nicole Rassmussen

Nicole Rassmussen

With a passion for children and working out, Nicole Rassmussen has found the best of both worlds as a Child Care Representative at Takedown Gym.

Nicole is the mom to three children: Easton, 8; Quinn, 5; and Reid, 2. Despite the rigors of raising three busy children, Nicole is still excited to come to work where she helps care for members’ children while they work out.

Nicole has also been in the child care field for over eight years, bringing nearly a decade of experience to the position.

Bennett Smed


Fore! Takedown now has a golf pro in its midst. Meet Bennett.

When not at the gym, Bennett is the assistant professional at the Pines at Grand View Lodge. He’s also currently working to gain his PGA credentials. Bennett joined the Takedown team in November 2017 and said he has enjoyed meeting and getting to know the gym’s great members and staff. He graduated from Bethel University with a degree in journalism and media communication, where he was also captain of the men’s golf team.

"I enjoy being active and being outside, whether it’s on the golf course, basketball court, or on the lake," Bennett said. "Fitness has a huge impact on the how a golfer’s body performs and holds up over time, so Takedown is a perfect place to improve when I’m not on the course!"

Emily Bitter


Not only new to Takedown Gym, but new to the area; Emily Bitter is someone you definitely want to meet!

Emily moved to the Lakes Area from Grand Forks, North Dakota where she was pursuing a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of North Dakota.

Emily says nutrition and fitness are an important part of her lifestyle. During high school, she was active in golf and basketball and then had the opportunity to play a year of college golf. She still enjoys many activities outside, especially hiking and biking.

"The team at Takedown was some of the first people I met since moving to the area and instantly I felt welcomed! The atmosphere is so energetic and motivating. I am so excited to be part of the team and work in an area that supports a healthy lifestyle."

Ben Newman


After recently embracing a healthier lifestyle, Ben Newman is fully committed to making Takedown members feel welcome and encouraged.

Ben grew up in Little Falls and attended St. John’s University, earning a major in Global Business Leadership. He currently works full time at Ridgeline Manufacturing in Pillager, focusing his time in outside sales and every day business functions. Ben said his goal is to someday own his own business. However, he is excited to be part of the Takedown team and looks forward to all his position entails.

“This gym is incredible with state of the art equipment, which really drove my interest in joining,” Ben said. “As of late, I have embraced a healthier lifestyle; not only in fitness, but the nutrition part as well. I know I can learn a lot from working with the knowledgeable staff here, along with the members that choose to come to this incredible facility. I look forward to meeting all of the existing members, and the new customers to come.” 

Carlie Plantenberg


With enthusiasm and a great smile, Carlie is eager to welcome everyone to Takedown Gym.

Carlie earned her Associate in Arts degree at Central Lakes College and has intentions in the near future to return to school and further a career in fitness and nutrition.

“Nutrition and fitness are two of my obsessions, which makes me more than happy to work with people and see others come in and out of the Takedown doors with the same interests. I enjoy socializing with others and helping everyone see something from a more positive outlook. I like to see others succeed and am always willing to lend a helping hand!”

Outside of the gym, Carlie enjoys spending time with friends and family, coming up with new recipes in the kitchen, and inventing a new craft or DIY project.

“I am more than excited to hop on board with this adventure at Takedown!” 


Helping others is second-nature to Alex Lucken. After growing up in a small town that revolved around sports and helping the community, Alex knows the importance of caring for others.

“As I grow, the more I love to be involved in the community and being healthy,” Alex said.

Alex moved to the area when she began attending Central Lakes College in 2014.

“I’m excited to be at Takedown because of the atmosphere and opportunities it brings me in - and outside - of the gym. This is home to me and I would love to be more involved in the community!”

Alex enjoys being outdoors, coaching/playing volleyball, and spending time with her family.


The Takedown Gym philosophy encompasses drive, intensity, personal goals, and fitness strength. Where determination and commitment meet attitude and motivation to exceed your expectations. We believe in providing the highest quality of wrestling training and a clean, industry leading facility designed to develop and build your individual fitness level and athletic goals.