Sports

Blankenbaker named to DSU Hall of Fame with 1999-2000 team

Wade Blankenbaker (R) stands with his college wrestling coach Thadd O’Donnell after Blankenbaker received his induction into the DSU Hall of Fame as part of the 1999-2000 wrestling team. (Courtesy Photo)

Bowman resident, and Buffalo, S.D. native, Wade Blankenbaker was recently inducted into the Dickinson State University Hall of Fame as a member of the 1999-2000 wrestling team.
Of the 30 members of that team, 21 were present at the ceremony that was held on Friday, Oct. 13 in Dickinson.
By COLE BENZ
Pioneer Editor
The 1999-2000 team was the highest placing team in the program’s history when they finished fourth at the national tournament. The team also featured eight All-American wrestlers.
“I knew it was a special season, but I didn’t realize [it] until later in life,” Blankenbaker said.
The team beat the No. 1, 2, and 3 national placers that year at their home tournament.
“So it was that close,” he said.
Some years after his wrestling career had finished, he always wondered if that team would make it to the hall of fame at DSU. And in August of this year he got the call.
Blankenbaker wrestled five years after taking a redshirt season. He was varsity for four full years and qualified for the national tournament each year.
He was recruited out of high school in Buffalo, and said there were some Division II schools offering a spot on their team. But ultimately he went to DSU, and said it was a great decision.
“I knew I had more of an opportunity to get mat time, and get some time as a young athlete [at DSU],” he said. “It was the right decision for me.”
The increased mat time and the head coach was a big decider for Blankenbaker.
As an individual wrestler he won roughly 77 percent of his matches. He also won his first college tournament during the 1999-2000 season at the North Country Open in St. Johns, Minn.
“That was probably the most memorable tournaments, just to get that first win under your belt,” he said.
One of his most memorable moments came when he beat NDSU wrestler Jeff Carlson in double overtime at their home dual. Next season Carlson when on to win a Division II national title.
“You remember some of those things that happen,” he said. “It still makes me smile years later.”
But two other big accomplishments happened off the mat; Blankenbaker was voted Outstanding Wrestler two years in a row, and was voted as a captain his final two years.
“Those were big accomplishments because those were voted on by my peers,” he said.
Blankenbaker said that it showed what his teammates thought about him as an athlete and as a person.
He got close, but fell short of his ultimate goal of winning a national tournament. But looking back, he was always close.
“At the end of the day, I look back and realized that I was on the edge every year that I was in there, and had the opportunities, the cards just didn’t fall into place for me,” Blankenbaker said.
Blankenbaker still frequents DSU wrestling matches, and keeps in close contact with the program. He’s good friends with the current head coach and still has a relationship with his former head coach, who now serves as DSU’s golfing coach.
“I make it up, and keep in close contact with most of the coaches up there still,” he said.
He had some advice for young wrestlers: set your goals high and pursue them.
“In a sport like wrestling, the opportunity is there for small town kids,” Blankenbaker said. “I came from a town of 450 people and I had opportunities that were given to me, I’ve been blessed with many opportunities.”
Some final words from Blankenbaker included many words of appreciation, for his family and his community.
“I’m so grateful to have such a support group here, I couldn’t have been a part of this opportunity without my family growing up, and supporting me in everything I did,” he said. “And then my wife [for] throwing this party, she didn’t need to throw a party…I’m very, very blessed to have this support group around me and the community that we live in in Bowman is just outstanding, [I] would never want to live anywhere else.”
Blankenbaker is slated to assist with the wrestling team in Bowman County this upcoming season.