Dedicated to helping you

Our team of coaches & staff have the knowledge, expertise, experience, passion, and willingness to help others achieve their goals.



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.



Kelly’s passion for giving her clients the best cycle workout possible is contagious. She tailors Takedown’s cycle 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, 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.



You could say wrestling is in Eric Kramer’s blood.

It’s only fitting Eric is Takedown’s lead coach.

While attending Staples-Motley High School, Eric compiled a high school career record of 149-12, placing fifth, third and first in the Minnesota State High School wrestling tournament, and seventh in high school folkstyle nationals – earning all American honors.

Eric is in his eighth season coaching middle school wresting for Brainerd/Pillager and 13th season of coaching youth wrestling. He is a father of three, with two wrestlers of his own. Eric has a passion not only for teaching wrestling, but also for continuing to learn new wrestling and coaching techniques. His goal is to help wrestlers of all ages reach their goals.


FITNESS INSTRUCTOR/certified yoga instructor

Michelle McMahon is rejoining Takedown 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!



con·cierge – A French word, meaning caretaker.

As Takedown Concierge, Angie Kramer hopes to make your gym experience epic!

Angie has been a member of Takedown since our very first day, and is passionate about helping others. Giving up her job of working with middle school students, Angie will be a valuable resource for Takedown members.

As a previous competitive cheer coach, she brings her cheery personality and can’t wait to help you with any of your gym needs. Angie also enjoys the sport of wrestling and is very enthusiastic about the Takedown Wrestling program. When not helping others, she enjoys spending time with her family, the outdoors and watching her boys wrestle! Her husband, Eric, is also an active member of Takedown and coaches the wrestling program.

bronson shepherd

director of personal training

Bronson grew up in the Brainerd Lakes Area and graduated from Brainerd High School in 2008. He was a three sport athlete for the Warriors where he played hockey, football and baseball.

He attended Concordia College in Moorhead, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Exercise Science. Bronson was also a two sport athlete at Concordia playing hockey and football.

After graduating from college he moved down to the Twin Cities and worked as a personal trainer at Discover Strength for 7 years. During his time at Discover Strength he was the Director of Operations where he managed two facilities in Plymouth and Chanhassen. Along with managing, Bronson’s main priority was to help his clients reach their goals through continuous, tough, efficient, workouts.

Bronson has his American College of Sports Medicine Exercise Physiologist certification.

During Bronson’s free time he likes to spend time with his wife, Melissa  and his daughter Fallon. He enjoys all sports, especially a good round of golf, boating, fishing and refereeing hockey in the winter!



Ready to sweat? Meet Laureen!

Laureen is a NETA Certified Spin Instructor, a BeatBoss cycle 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.


FITNESS INSTRUCTOR/certified yoga instructor

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.



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.

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.


FITNESS & RECREATION ADVISOR/building champions instructor

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.”


certified cycle INSTRUCTOR/certified TRX instructor

Fun, fit and fabulous. Those are just three words that describe this little dynamo! Cassandra (Cassie) has been with Takedown 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.”

Lisa alexander






Deb has a variety of experience in customer service and the medical industry, she is a wonderful asset to the Gym.

She enjoys walking, biking and spending time with family and friends.

“We have great clients and team members here at Takedown Gym. It’s fun to see the health benefits of working out and learning more about the motivation behind why they work so hard.”



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

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.”


CHILD CARE REPRESENTATIVE/future champions instructor

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

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.


MEMBER SERVICES/registered dietitian

Not only new to Takedown, 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.”

Emily hansen


Emily first started coming to Takedown to work out and have a little “ME” time knowing how important it is for moms to take care of themselves. She loved it so much that she decided this would be a great work environment! Emily grew up in Aitkin and has been in the BLA all her life. In her spare time, she likes to bake. She also loves being outside and spending time with her two children, Aubrie and Jourdan and her dog and cat.

DanielLa Sutin

certified Cycle Instructor/yoga instructor/owner of sweet life bakery

You can have your cake and eat it too! Daniella (Dani) believes everything can be enjoyed in moderation. As a certified yoga and cycle instructor, she should know!

Dani was born and raised in Santiago, Chile. She graduated from culinary school in 2006 and moved to the United States that same year to accept an internship in Vail, Colorado. A year later, Dani made the move to the Brainerd Lakes Area where she worked in the resort industry as a pastry chef as well as began her own baking business.

Dani has always enjoyed group fitness classes. She became certified in yoga in 2002, prenatal yoga certified in 2011, 200 hour yoga certified in 2012/2013 and BeatBoss cycle certified in 2019. She is the creator and Co Owner of Nisswa Yoga. In 2016 Dani decided to step back from the  yoga business to dedicate more time to her expanding bakery shop and became a member of Takedown Gym. When not at the gym or baking cakes she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids, being on the lake, wakeboarding, snowboarding or hanging with family and friends.

Danielle Shaw

certified cycle instructor

Danielle is a lifelong resident of the BLA. She is a busy business owner, mom of 2 kids and 2 fur babies and married to the love of her life. But she also loves fitness and makes it a priority to take care of herself.  She fell in love with Beat Boss at Takedown Gym and that’s what drove her to get certified 2 years ago. In her spare time, she enjoys anything outdoors, volunteering and spending time with family and friends.

Kelsi McLaughlin

certified cycle instructor


kate kurtzman

certified cycle instructor

molly kurtzman

certified cycle instructor

Kierra Howard

member services





Jen Lind

certified yoga instructor

Lindsay Martin

Member services/child care

Lindsay was born and raised in the Brainerd Lakes Area. She is a mom to three active and adventurous boys. Henry (7), Emmett (3) and Lincoln (1). She loves spending time outdoors going hunting, fishing, camping and biking. Lindsay has worked in childcare since 2008 and enjoys working at Takedown Gym because this is the kind of place that shows families and kids both the importance and fun of fitness!

Bethany Riley

Member Services

Vanessa Lane

Member Services

Mandy Melby

Member Services

We have been trying to get Mandy to work here for a long time. We finally twisted her arm hard enough to convince her to help us out in member services! Mandy graduated from NDSU with her degree in Human Development and Family Science. She worked for 11 years as a Child Life Specialist before moving to the BLA. In her spare time she enjoys running, biking, working out, taking Takedown classes, training for marathons and anything outdoors. We are so excited to add this ball of energy to our Takedown Staff!

Sydnee johnson

Child care representative

Courtney O’Hotto

Member Services

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