Chances are most high school athletes have dreamt on occasion about reliving a moment or two of athletic glory on the playing fields of their youth. On Sunday afternoon, Nate Rotert will have a chance to relive some of those glory days when the Dakota Showcase featuring the four South Dakota college wrestling squads take to the mat in the Spearfish High School Gymnasium.
“It will be pretty amazing to go full circle from where my wrestling career first started and now to go there when it is coming to an end,” said Rotert, a former Spearfish football and state wrestling champion, currently wrapping up his final year of eligibility in Coach Chris Bono’s South Dakota State wrestling program. “It will be an absolutely amazing experience, and I really appreciate the people who have made this happen by Spearfish high school and Coach Bono.”
Bono pointed out in a phone conversation on Wednesday that the Dakota Showcase coming to Spearfish after a three-year run at the Pentagon in Sioux Falls is part of a long term agreement by SDSU, Augustana, Northern State and Dakota Wesleyan to highlight South Dakota college wrestling to state youth.
“The four colleges mutually agreed that our plan for the future is to move the showcase around the state each year to highlight all of the opportunities for South Dakota kids to compete in college wrestling at a number of levels,” Bono said.
That Spearfish High School was selected as the site for the initial statewide offering served an additional purpose as well: a commitment made true.
“When I first got the job here at SDSU, Nate was the first kid we went after. Nate is one of the best athletes I had ever seen and I wanted him in my program,” Bono explained. “I promised when we recruited him that we would bring a match out to Spearfish, and fortunately I am now able to bring our team to Spearfish and reward him for all that he has done for our program.”
Bono's judgement has been well-rewarded: Rotert is a three time NCAA qualifier (197), as well as an All-Big 12 Academic team selectee the past two years.
"Nate is the kind of kid we want in our program. Kids who want to work hard and want to do the right thing off the mat as well, and Nate fits every single one of those criteria," Bono said. "Everything you want in a recruit Nate is.”
Rotert is quick to point out that his decision to attend South Dakota State to pursue his athletic and academic endeavors worked out perfectly.
“South Dakota State has exceeded my expectations. SDSU has a small school feel that really makes you feel appreciated, and to be able to enjoy that while still competing at the Division I level has been awesome,” Rotert said. “And being able to stay in state was a big part of my decision. I wanted to stay in South Dakota and wrestle in South Dakota, and that’s a big reason why I take so much pride in the school."
Rotert won’t be the only Black Hills area athlete in the house on Sunday. Teammate Martin Mueller will be on the mat for the Jackrabbits while Augustana College will be represented by Rapid City Central’s Aero Amo, a NCAA Division II qualifier last season. The Vikings will also be represented by Custer junior Clayton Wahlstrom, Sturgis freshman Tanner Brengle, and Gillette sophomore Lukas Polonic. Dakota Wesleyan will be represented by Custer freshman Forrest Lewis, and Gillette senior Tanner Olson will be on hand for Northern State University.