• Hours: Mon-Thu 5a-9p • Fri 5a-7p • Sat 7a-3p • Sun 8a-5p


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.

AJ Halbach


Jake’s resume is as impressive as his skills.

Jake has had extensive experience in wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu, including a nine-time US National Champion, two-time Olympic Alternate (2004 & 2016), four-time US World Team Member, 11-time Armed Forces Gold Medalist, World Cup Champion, Pan-Am Silver Medals, World Military Bronze Medalist, multiple time Grappling and Jiu-Jitsu Champion, and has trained and competed in over 30 countries.

Traveling is his Jake’s main hobby. Through his nine years in the military, the sport of wrestling, and being a tourist combined, he has been to 46 US States and 60 countries. Outside of growing up in Minnesota, Jake has lived in Washington D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Japan, and Micronesia. In 2013, he took a "world cruise" for 116 days, starting in Florida, heading westward, and ending in Venice, Italy. He also enjoys playing cribbage, card games like Skip-Bo, studying languages and cultures, and spending time with family and friends.

Jake has been with Takedown Gym since June 2016.

"I've lived at our US Olympic Training Center (Colorado Springs), trained at several Olympic Training Centers around the world, and Takedown Gym is the nicest facility built around wrestling I've ever seen,” Jake said. “It's a dream to work in a facility like this!"

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."

Chad O'Shea


Whether you’re a current member or someone interested in exploring a membership at Takedown Gym, Chad is your guy!

Chad graduated from the University of Minnesota Crookston in May 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Recreation Management. At Takedown, Chad is focused on reaching out to current and future members, as well as growing the Takedown Gym community as much as possible. 

"I love working at Takedown, because every day I see people putting in the hard work to improve their lives and become the best version of themselves possible. Everyone has an idea of who they want to be, and Takedown provides them an environment to use that motivation to positively impact their lives."

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.

Michelle Andres


"I’m passionate about health and wellness and the latest research in training methods and nutrition. I believe everyone is capable of much more than they think. I’m fascinated by the mind/body connection and want to help others find their passion and help them live a healthy life no matter where they are now. There are no limits!"

Michelle is a mother to five boys and has earned a master’s degree in physical education and health. She is an elite runner and world-class triathlete that has qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon five times. She has competed in eight Ironman distance triathlons and holds course records around the state of Minnesota in sprint distance to IM distance races and half marathons and full marathons. Michelle set the course record at the Ironman Wisconsin in 2012 and the Minnesota female CR at the Hawaii Ironman World Championships in 2013. In 2015, Michelle went on to win the overall female title at Ironman Wisconsin.

Michelle is a fitness instructor, sports nutrition consultant, and a triathlon/running consultant and coach. Currently she is seeking her yoga sculpt certification through Core Power Yoga

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."

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."


Denise has been a member at Takedown for a year and enjoys a variety of classes; however, her favorite class is Medicine Balls! She has her Bachelor's Degree in Dietetics and Master's degree in Safety. Besides working at Takedown, Denise is a lifestyle coach for the Crow Wing Energized Lifestyle Change Program helping others develop skills for a healthier lifestyle. Denise is exited to share her enthusiasm for an active lifestyle and healthy eating with Takedown members.



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.”

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!"



You could say we’re 'flipping out' over the addition of Kristi Amelung to our Takedown team!

Kristi is a former gymnast with 30 years of coaching experience – including leading athletes from USA Gymnastics to state, regional, western and national titles. She is USAG and Safety Certified, as well as a former member of the US Elite Coaches Association and the National Association of Women’s Gymnastics Judges. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Juvenile Delinquency and Developmental Psychology of Children from the University of Kansas (Go Jayhawks!).

Kristi recently relocated to Baxter from Kansas City. She enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and cooking.


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.