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 21 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.


director of wrestling/coach

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 15th season of coaching  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!

Luz Wanstall

Member Services

Picture/Bio Coming Soon!


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.


FITNESS INSTRUCTOR/Certified Boxing Coach

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 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.”



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.”

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 MacLaughlin

certified cycle instructor/personal trainer (ACSM)

Kelsi is a super mom! Super busy with 3 young children that she currently home schools, yet makes time to stay active and fit. She became certified as a BeatBoss instructor over a year ago and has been instructing classes since! In her spare time, she enjoys staying active and incorporating fitness activities into her children’s routines as well. She also enjoys the outdoors, spending time with her husband and children. She is also very passionate about health, wellness and nutrition. We are super excited to have Kelsi join our team!

master rob nelson

Director of martial arts

Master Rob Nelson started his Martial Arts Training in West St. Paul in 1981 under John Longstreet and Terry Wise.

He graduated from St. Thomas Military Academy, Mendota Heights, Mn in 1986 and The University of St. Thomas, St. Paul with a BA Degree in Computer Science and Business Administration.

He started teaching classes in 1986 under Grandmaster Klaas and has operated his own schools since 1991.

1st Degree Black Belt 1986 through GM Worley, GM Franks, and Terry Wise

2nd Degree Black Belt 1993 through GM Worley and GM Franks

3rd Degree Black Belt 1997 through GM Worley and GM Franks

4th Degree Black Belt 2001 through GM Worley and GM Franks

5th Degree Black Belt 2006 through GM Worley and GM Franks

6th Degree Black Belt 2010 through GM Worley and GM Klaas

7th Degree Black Belt 2017 through GM Burleson, GM Worley and GM Franks

He also received his blue belt in Jiu-Jitsu in 2008 from Dave Camarillo and striped by Royce Gracie. He received his purple belt from Brock Larson in 2019.

He is registered at Fort Benning, GA as a US Modern Army Combative Level 1 instructor.

In the past, Master Nelson has personally trained the local Police Department, the Federal US Army Corp of Engineers, the State of MN Watercraft Inspectors, State Social Workers in police training, de-escalation and personal safety. He is continually providing self-defense training in the community through City Wide National Night Out Events, local professional groups, women’s groups and college students.

He has been recommended by the MN State Senators and MN State Representatives.

1987 Nationally ranked #7 in Karate Illustrated Magazine

1986-2007 NCKA Consistently ranked #1 in form

Has won over 100 first places in the upper midwest in form, sparring and weapons

Has won over 35 Grand Championships

2004 Inducted in USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame Competitor of the year

2005 Competed on World Tour-Diamond Nationals, China Open, US Open Orlando, Kentucky Blue Grass, Battle of Atlanta

2005 Karate world ranked #3 Fighting Light Weight (159lbs)

2005 Karate world ranked #3 Men Form Open/Creative-NASKA

2005 Karate world ranked #8 Men Form Traditional-NASKA

2006 World Martial Arts Ranking Association Certified #614

2007 MN State Karate Championships/Quadruple Grand Champion in sparring, form, mega and tag team

2008 Karate world ranked #3 Fighting Light Weight-NASKA

2010 MN State Karate Grand Champion

2008-Current Licensed Trainer/Corner Minnesota Office of Combative Sports Commission for Professional and Amateur Fighters.



molly kurtzman

certified cycle instructor

Kierra Howard

member services

Kierra joined us in February and we are so glad she did! She said she loves her Takedown family because they provide an awesome atmosphere and everyone is so positive. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, hanging with her German Shepard “Loki Fenn” and her boyfriend. She also enjoys Yoga Sculpt classes here at Takedown. Kierra says she loves that she not only gets to work here but also workout here!





Jen Lind

certified yoga instructor

The first time Jen stepped foot onto a yoga mat was in 2008 for a Hot Power Yoga class, and at that very moment, she knew yoga would be a part of her life forever!

In 2010, she made the decision to put her dreams of being a yoga instructor on hold to grow her family. Jump to 2016, she was reunited with her yoga mat where her love and passion for yoga were stronger than ever. In the spring of 2018, she became certified as a Yoga Sculpt Instructor through CorePower Yoga in Minnetonka. She joined Takedown in the fall of 2019 and she is honored to be part of such an extraordinary team. She looks forward to growing as a yoga instructor here and expanding her certifications with the intentions of bringing more options for hot yoga classes to Takedown Gym.

Jen has a yoga mat with her almost all the time. She loves to crank up the heat and sweat it out on her mat, cleansing her body and mind. When she’s not at the gym, she enjoys hanging with her husband Jason, bonus daughter Nessa, and her two busy boys, Brayden and Carson. In the summer, her family enjoys spending time at their camper and on the lake. In the cooler months, she spends most of her time in the Takedown Gym yoga room where it’s nice and warm all year long!

“The feeling I get every time I step onto my mat are somewhat indescribable. I know that I can show up without any expectations or judgments and the energy that fills the room is amazing. I am bless to be able to share my passion for Yoga Sculpt and overall love of fitness with our community and I am excited to make Takedown my home!”


Mandy Melby

certified cycle instructor and 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/Member services

Sydnee is a busy teenager from the Brainerd Lakes Area. Sydnee  loves to play softball, going to the lake, and of course sleeping! She’s on several softball leagues to occupy her time. In her spare time, she helps us in the daycare a few days a week. She loves playing with kids and enjoys her experience here at Takedown Gym.

Courtney O’Hotto

Member Services

Picture/Bio Coming Soon!

Jay Gould

brazilian jiu jitsu instructor

Matt Taylor

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Matt has been training in Martial Arts for more than 25 years. He received his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blackbelt from Professor Rafael Lima, under Professor Brock Larson in January, 2019. We are excited to add Matt’s expertise and talents to Takedown Gym!

Michelle Rodahl

certified cycle instructor

Michelle has lived in the Brainerd Lakes for the last 26 years with her husband Mike and her three kids Ariana, Elijah and Evan. She became a certified Beatboss instructor because she absolutely fell in love with with indoor cycling. She loves to help and motivate people to reach their fitness goals with the fun atmosphere in the Beatboss classes. She has a background in dance and a love for music.

When she’s not at Takedown taking amazing fitness classes you can find her selling homes in the Brainerd Lakes Area. She is a full-time real estate agent with Realty Group LLC. For fun she loves spending time with her children and husband, boating on the area lakes, cooking, traveling, hanging out with friends and family and enjoying all the Brainerd Lakes has to offer.


Rachel Mann

member services

Rachel says she’s “just a worn out mom trying to social distance from her family a few nights a week!” But in all seriousness, we love that Rachel has joined our team. Her family has worked out here for a long time so maybe she will enjoy passing them in the gym! In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with these same people! 😉

Jake Immel

brazilian Jiu Jitsu


Kickboxing Instructor

Martial Arts as been a part of her life since age 15. Through High School and College, she participated in Tae Kwon Do earning her purple stripe belt. After college, her focus turned to her job and family but her love for Martial Arts went away. In 2005, she was reunited in the Martial Arts world with Women’s Kickboxing and she has been on the mat almost everyday ever since then! When she steps on the mat, all that was off in the world for the day is forgotten. This is her time to focus, ground herself, set her intentions and get to work. Coaching kickboxing has become a strong passion of Brea’s and has given her the opportunity to share her passion and love for this sport with others.

When Brea isn’t coaching kickboxing, you will find her at home spending time with her husband and 3 kids. You can find her most weekend in the summer enjoying time on Gull Lake. In the winter, they are avid downhill skiers and spend many weekends at Ski Gull as well as taking family ski trips to new destinations. Brea is also a kindergarten teacher by day spending her time teaching her amazing students at Baxter Elementary School. She feels fortunate to be able to teach students by day and coach kickboxing in her free time. Two of her favorite things besides her family! We are so excited for Brea to join us at Takedown Gym!

Emilee Mae struss

certified yoga instructor

Emilee is a writer, yoga teacher, rock climber and free thinker. She grew up in the Brainerd Lakes Area and attended college in Minnesota State University, Mankato where she graduated with a degree in creative writing. In 2015 she moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, where she got her 200hr YTT and became a certified yoga instructor. Emilee still longs for the mountains, but has returned to her hometown to enjoy the lakes, the rivers and the hearty people that only the state of Minnesota can attract.

Emilee’s entrepreneurial spirit gets her into a plethora of interesting situations. She is the editor of Lake Country Journal, a bi-monthly magazine celebrating the culture of central and north central Minnesota, and works as a freelance writer. She loves chatting creative business start-ups, drinking coffee, and secretly wishes she was cool enough to be a BeatBoss instructor! 😉


Beth Wolf

member services

Beth joined us so she could have an opportunity to get away from her husband and 5 children! But in all seriousness, she does enjoy getting away to help and serve other people than just her children. In her free time, she enjoys doting on those beautiful children. She also enjoys being outdoors, going for walks, running and going antiquing.

Beth Schmitz

member services

Tristan warwas

child care representative

Picture/Bio Coming Soon!

Keelie Shafer

member services

Keelie is a very busy teenager. She will be playing volleyball this fall while attending CLC and then plans to head to UMD for her Bachelors in Chemical Engineering. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, volleyball and anything fitness related. She is the perfect fit at Takedown Gym!

Faith Kassulker

member services

Faith has been a member of Takedown Gym since 2018. She is a super busy person having recently graduated from Bemidji State University with her  Elementary Education degree. She currently works as a preschool/school readiness teacher in the school year and works as a nanny in the summer. She has always enjoyed being active and played volleyball and softball since middle school. She joined our member services because she loves Takedown. For her, it has built a solid foundation of an active lifestyle and has only continued to strengthen it throughout the years. TD has also brought many relationships into her life that she feels very fortunate to have. It has helped her become the best version of herself both physically and mentally. She loves always feeling refreshed and accomplished. She joined our team because it’s that important to her!

In Faith’s spare time, she enjoys spending time with friends, family, being active (see above), being in the kitchen, photography, interior design and being on the lake in the sun.

Her favorite Takedown classes are BeatBoss 45 with Cassie and Cardio Combat with Chris.

Melissa Simons

certified cycle instructor

Picture/Bio Coming Soon!

Gracie Rakauskas

member services and child care representative

Gracie joined us in February, 2021. We keep her busy here at Takedown Gym with Child care and front desk duties. She joined our staff because she enjoys the relationships she has built here at the Gym. Her favorite classes at Takedown are Gentle Yoga with Michelle and Vinyasa with Jen. She also stays busy working at Grandview with boats and guests. In her spare time, she enjoys golfing, boating and tennis.

Hunter Furstenberg

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu law enforcement instructor

Hunter is a blue belt in BJJ and has been training since in 2017. He graduated from the CLC law enforcement program in 2019.

Alexandra Mann

member services

Picture/Bio Coming Soon!

Ellie Allen

Child Care Representative/Member services

Ellie is new to the area and excited to meet great people! She has worked with kids at summer camps, elementary school programs, and at church in the past. Taking breaks from chasing her puppy everyday, Ellie is now chasing kids around the day care!

Ellie enjoys hiking, lifting, and taking her puppy on walks. She recently received her Certification in Personal Training and hope so to expand her role in the gym someday, inspiring kids and adults alike!

Corbin Bentz

Certified personal trainer/strength and condition coach, CSCS from nsca

Meet Corbin, he is new to the BLA and is excited to work with you! His previous experience is from Altius Sports Performance as a Strength and Condition coach in Stillwater, Mn.

He was a hockey and baseball player in high school and a rugby player in college.

In his free time, he enjoys pickleball, lifting weights, golfing, road cycling and any other activities that keep him active.

jess cahoon

member services

Jess grew up in the Brainerd Lakes Area, but spent a number of recent years in Florida and Georgia. She moved back and can’t believe she didn’t do it sooner! She’s loving reconnecting with family and living at a little slower pace. Jess enjoys taking classes at the gym, kayaking, and renovating her house.

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