The St. Thomas More to Chadron State College pipeline continued in a big way with four Cavaliers signing letters of intent with the Eagles and six players overall committing to play college football during Wednesday’s National Signing Day.
The four will be joining five former STM players currently on the Chadron State roster.
Every time this year longtime STM head football coach Wayne Sullivan is like a proud papa. These six make it 24 of his former players to sign to play college football in the last five years.
“They (Chadron) treat our boys very well and they actively recruit them,” Sullivan said Wednesday after a signing ceremony in the STM gymnasium. “It’s a good fit for them and we’re just very excited that they have a chance to play at such a high level in the RMAC (Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference).”
Signing to compete as student-athletes from STM were Ryan Ahrenstorff (Chadron State), Jake Larson (Chadron State), Jake Bonenkamp (South Dakota School of Mines), Kobe Whipple (Chadron State), Thomas Rafferty (Chadron State) and Jordan Graper (Northern State).
Sullivan said for them as a program and a coaching staff, they feel very good about what their players know and their knowledge of the game.
“We’re very, very excited to what that says about our assistant coaches, they do such a phenomenal job working with them,” he said. “As a program, we want them to have that opportunity and we want them to come here loving the game, and be able to play at the next level if they so chose.”
It was a busy day in Rapid City, with seven Raiders signing to play college athletics from Stevens and three Cobblers from Central. Both schools also held signing ceremonies in front of family and friends.
Signing to compete as student-athletes from Rapid City Stevens were: Jamin Wurtz (University of Sioux Falls), Kale Weis (Central College), Carter Stonecipher (Bismarck State), Dawson Penticoff (Bismarck State), Mya Hendry (Briar Cliff), Emma Burns (University of Minnesota) and Molly McCloud (Mount Marty).
Signing to compete as student-athletes from Rapid City Central were: Sarra Gutknecht (Newman University), Ty Olson (Dakota Wesleyan University) and Kyle Elder (University of Mary).
St. Thomas More
Ahrenstorff said he is looking to play either linebacker or defensive end for the Chadron State football team.
“They started recruiting me the beginning of my junior season, and they are the first ones. We had Cole and Chase Thurness go there and I wanted to follow in their footsteps,” Ahrenstorff said. “I really enjoyed the campus, their football team. They are a great D-2 school. I just love it.”
Larson indicated that he would play running back for the Chadron State football team.
“I’ve had a couple of buddies go to Chadron and they have had great success," Larson said. “I’m really excited and ready for the grind. Hopefully I can succeed in their program.”
Bonenkamp looks to play wide receiver or slot receiver for the South Dakota School of Mines football team.
“I was looking at education first because that is the most important thing to me, but also their football program is also very important to me,” Bonenkamp said. “I thought it was the perfect fit for me athletically and academically.”
Whipple is going to play defensive tackle for the Chadron State football team.
“They are a winning program and they like to play football. I thought it was the best fit for me,” Whipple said.
Rafferty will play wide receiver for the Chadron State football team.
“I have been down there a few times and I really liked the atmosphere that they are putting on and I really like the coaching staff,” Rafferty said. “I also have a bunch of friends there, alumni, and these teammates that will be there with me. It will be fun to be part of the team again with them.”
Graper will play safety or any other defensive back position for the Northern State football team.
“I wanted to go somewhere where they showed an interest in me, not just the other way around,” Graper said. “They need defensive backs, which is the position I play. I love all of the guys down there; the coaches are down to earth. Their type of play fits mine, and that is physical.”
Rapid City Stevens
Wurtz will play wide receiver for the Sioux Falls University football team.
“I chose Sioux Falls because it seemed like the best fit for me,” Wurtz said. “Their football team has been doing really good and I’m just ready to get started."
Weis will play center/back for Central College soccer team
“One of the main reasons I want to go to Central is their academics,” Weis said. “They really encouraged me to stay undecided on my major. Because they were so encouraging, it seemed like a good fit for me.”
Stonecipher will play first base and pitch for the Bismarck State College baseball team.
“They have a really good program, and my cousin (Connor Burgess) already goes there, so I kind of know what it is like,” Stonecipher said. “They gave me a good scholarship and I liked the facility and the coaches.”
Penticoff will play corner infield and pitch for the Bismarck State College baseball team.
“I felt like it was a good fir for me. I know a couple of guys up there that played with us (Post 320 Stars), so I felt it would be a good year for me,” Penticoff said.
Hendry will play the post for the Briar Cliff basketball team
“I went up there and hung out with the girls and got to know them. I fell in love with the school and the area,” Hendry said. “I’m really excited.”
Burns will play shortstop and catcher for the University of Minnesota softball team
“It’s a huge step for me. It is something that I did not think would ever be a part of my life, but I am completely excited that it is. I’m looking forward to the opportunities as a Division I softball player.”
McCloud is looking to play in the infield for the Mount Marty softball team
“Playing college softball has been a dream of mine since I started playing softball when I was 6,” McCloud said. “I knew Mount Marty was the place for me when I went for a visit. It really felt like a home. I met some of my future teammates and I really enjoyed those girls. I’m really excited for what my coach has in store for my team.”
Rapid City Central
Elder will play defensive back for the University of Mary football team
“I went up there for a visit and I really liked the atmosphere,” Elder said. “I liked the coaches and all of the players. It was a really good fit academically, so I am really excited about that.”
Gutknecht said she might play outside back for the Newman University soccer team
“I played in a tournament there my junior year and they emailed me and I checked out the curriculum and what they were all about, so I went down and toured the school,” Gutknecht said. “It just felt right and everything was good about it.”
Olson said he will play either offensive guard or center for the Dakota Wesleyan football team.
“It is a real small school and real personable,” Olson said. “They have excellent players there and the coaching staff was pretty excited to have me on. It made my decision easier.”