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Mitchell’s Jack Theeler to be Inducted into SD Sports Hall of Fame
Mitchell’s Jack Theeler to be Inducted into SD Sports Hall of Fame

SD Sports Hall of Fame To Induct Nine In April 2014

Ted Kessinger and Mel Tjeerdsma, two of the nation’s greatest small-college football coaches, are among nine people selected for induction into the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame.

Also chosen were three former South Dakota State athletes: Jay Dirksen, Herb Bartling and Arnold “Nig” Johnson. Other honorees are football player Dick Callahan, basketball player Jack Theeler, baseball player Doug Stanford and softball pitcher Paul Ferrie.

The nine will be inducted at a banquet April 12 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. Ticket information will be released at a later date. With this class of inductees, the hall will boast a membership of 245.

Kessinger lives in Lindsborg, Kan.; Tjeerdsma in Maryville, Mo.; Dirksen in Hot Springs Village, Ark.; Bartling in San Antonio, Texas; Johnson in Cottage Grove, Minn.; Callahan in Denver; Theeler in Mitchell; and Stanford in Deadwood. Ferrie is being honored posthumously.

Kessinger, a Sioux Falls native who was a 1959 Washington High and 1963 Augustana grad, was the coach at Bethany (Kan.) College for 28 years (1976-2003), compiling a 219-57-1 record with 16 conference championships. Kessinger was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2003, the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

He was named Coach of the Year in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference 11 times. He was the winningest active NAIA football coach at the time of his retirement. Twenty times the Swedes were nationally ranked in the season-ending NAIA top 25. Kessinger started coaching as an assistant at USD, went to Augustana (Ill.) as a football assistant and head wrestling coach (winning five conference wrestling titles in five years), then returned to Augustana (S.D.) for six years before coming to Bethany.

He was an all-state football player in high school and an all-conference player in college (he was a center and linebacker). Kessinger played briefly in the CFL in 1963.

Tjeerdsma, a Springfield High and 1967 Southern State grad, coached NW Missouri State to a 183-43 record and three NCAA Division II titles in 17 seasons. Northwest was 0-11 in Tjeerdsma’s first season in 1994, then went 183-32 the next 16 years. The Bearcats won back-to-back national titles in 1998 and ’99 and added a third title in 2009 that capped an unprecedented run of five national championship game appearances that began in 2005. The 1998 team was the first NCAA Division II team ever to go 15-0. The Bearcats won 12 conference titles in Tjeerdsma’s last 15 seasons and they went to the playoffs 13 of the last 15 seasons.

The winningest coach in NWMS history, he had more postseason wins than any coach in Division II (32-10 record) at the time of his retirement. He has been the school’s athletic director since April.

Before NWMS, Tjeerdsma coached Austin College to three Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles and became the winningest coach in the program’s history. He was 59-38-4 in 10 seasons and made two trips to the NAIA Division II playoffs.

Tjeerdsma was the offensive coordinator at Northwestern (Iowa) for eight years. He also was the head track coach there – his teams won three Tri-State Conference titles and five consecutive NAIA District 15 indoor titles.

Before that, he was an Iowa prep coach at Denison and Sioux Center. He guided Sioux Center to the 1972 state title.

Bartling, a 1947 Brookings High grad, was an All-America quarterback on an unbeaten SDSU football team. Bartling lettered four times in both football and basketball and was named Most Valuable Player in the North Central Conference after guiding the Jackrabbits to a 9-0-1 season in 1950 and a league championship – the only unbeaten team in school history. He also quarterbacked the 1949 team to a share of the title.

Bartling was SDSU’s best passing quarterback to that date, and quarterbacked the team that also had SDSU’s first 1,000 yard rusher, Warren Williamson. He was all-NCC in football in 1949 and 1950, and was all-NCC in basketball in 1950 and 1951. He was inducted into the SDSU Hall of Fame in 1979.

At Brookings, he was one of the greatest all-around athletes in school history. The Bobcats were 20-4-2 in football with Bartling as passer, runner and punter. In basketball, he was all-state three years and helped BHS win the 1946 state “A” title and finish third in 1947. In track, he was a key performer in the discus, high jump and relays as BHS was the state runner-up in 1947.

Johnson, a 1953 Brookings grad, was named the High School Football Player of the Year for 1952 by SoDak Sports and also the Athlete of the Year for the 1952-53 school year. The 147-pounder was a high school All-American in football and set an ESD scoring record (102 points in seven games) in 1952. He was a four-year starter in football and basketball at Brookings. He was all-state in basketball in 1952 and 1953, and led BHS to the 1952 state title. He won three events at the 1953 state track meet (broad jump, in a meet-record 21-10.75, 100-yard dash in 10.1 and 220 in 23.0) and anchored the runner-up 880 relay. His best long jump of 22-9 was a school record for more than 50 years.

At SDSU, he played quarterback and halfback, was all-conference once, led the NCC in total offense once and set several school passing records. He also lettered in basketball and track.

Dirksen, a 1963 Madison High grad, was the state prep Class B mile champ in 1963. At SDSU, he was an NCC champ in the 2-mile and 3-mile and was an All-American in the steeplechase. He qualified for the 1968 U.S. Olympic trials in the marathon. His best marathon time was 2:21:53, in 1969 (which was third best in the U.S. that year).

He began his coaching career as the men’s cross country and track coach at SDSU in 1969. In 1975, he started SDSU’s women’s cross country program. He coached six Division II champs and 34 Division II All-Americans during his eight years at SDSU. In eight years as SDSU men’s cross country coach, the Jackrabbits were NCC champs four times and runners-up four times. His 1973 team won the Division II national title. His men’s track teams won four NCC titles (2 outdoors, 2 indoors).

In 1977, he started a five-year stint as assistant men’s track coach at Illinois. He was the head women’s track coach at Missouri for one year (1983) before coming to Nebraska.

He coached the Cornhuskers for 28 seasons before retiring in December 2011 following heart surgery. At Nebraska he was the head cross country coach and assistant head track coach in charge of distance runners.

Callahan, a 1961 Washington High and 1965 Nebraska grad, was the right end on the 1963 Nebraska team that was ranked sixth in the nation, went 10-1 and was the Big Eight and Orange Bowl champion. The 5-11, 185-pound Callahan had eight receptions for a team-high 157 yards during the regular season.

He lettered three years at Nebraska (1961-63). The Huskers were 3-6-1 in 1961 and 9-2 in 1962. Callahan caught four passes for 47 yards in a 36-34 win over Miami in the Gotham Bowl at Yankee Stadium after the ’62 season, the first bowl win ever for the Huskers, who were coached by Bob Devaney.

In high school, Callahan was a member of three state championship track teams. He was all-state first team in football and second team in basketball. In football, he tied a school record his senior year by scoring 103 points. In track, he won the 880 at the 1958 and 1960 state meets.

Ferrie joins his brother Roger in the Hall of Fame. The Sioux Falls man was perhaps the state’s greatest fastpitch pitcher. He started pitching in 1939. From 1946 to 1954 his record was 487-31 with 43 no-hitters. He pitched Hilltop Tavern to state titles in 1950-53 and ’56. Ferrie pitched for 25 years, 20 of those in South Dakota.

He pitched 80 no-hitters in all, including five in a row, two of which were back-to-back perfect games. In all, he pitched 11 perfect games. In one 15-inning game, he struck out 30 batters. In another he fanned 21. In the 1952 state tourney, he threw three no-hitters in one day. He pitched an exhibition against Chicago’s famous Hottentots in 1953 in Sioux Falls, striking out every batter in the four innings he pitched. He also was a fine hitter.

Theeler, a Sisseton grad, was one of the University of South Dakota’s all-time great basketball players. He was just the sixth player all-time to earn all-NCC honors during three consecutive seasons (1966-68). Theeler, who transferred to USD from the University of Minnesota, held 12 school records and two conference marks when he left USD. He scored 1,573 points during his career (21.5 per game), which was the best mark in school history at the time. Theeler had three games over 40 points (49, 48, 41) and five games of at least 30 points. He held the record for most points in a season with 608 during the 1966-67 season and the average of 26.53 per game is also a school record. He was inducted into the USD Hall of Fame in 1982.

Theeler starred on the 1963 Sisseton High team, which his father, Jack Theeler Sr., directed to the state Class A championship. The Redmen were unbeaten in 63 after losing just twice en-route to a third place finish in the state tournament in ’62.

Stanford, a 1962 Rapid City Central and 1967 Black Hills State grad, was one of the state’s greatest amateur baseball players. The pitcher-outfielder was a two-time state tourney MVP and he hit 26 home runs in 1976 to tie the single-season state record. In 1976, he was named to the all-tourney team at the National Baseball Congress Midwest Regional (future MLB Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith also was all-tourney that year).

He’s a member of the following halls of fame: S.D. Amateur Baseball, S.D. Amateur Basketball, Black Hills State and Rapid City Area Sports. He was the state’s Independent Athlete of the Year in 1972, when he helped Lemmon to the state amateur basketball title and was MVP of the state amateur baseball tourney.

At BHSU in 1965, he was a second-team NAIA All-American outfielder and was second-team all-SDIC in basketball.

At RC Central, he lettered two years each in basketball, football and track. In Legion baseball, he pitched the final game as Rapid City Post 22 won its first state title in 1961.

He was a teacher and coach for 33 years, coaching girls and boys basketball, track, golf and football.

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Renee Robbins and Tim Smith, together with News Director Bill Lurken, host the KMIT morning show, with an entertaining combination of information, music, contests, special guests, news and weather.

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