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Dec. 1: The Will Rogers Stampede in Claremore, OK, was named small rodeo of the year by the pro rodeo cowboys and cowgirls associations in Las Vegas ahead of the National Finals Rodeo. The Dacotah Stampede in Aberdeen was one of five finalists. Meanwhile, Rodeo Rapid City won the large indoor rodeo of the year national award for the second year in a row. Both South Dakota rodeos are produced by the Sutton Rodeo family of Onida. Also, one of Sutton Rodeo’s team members, Brent Sutton, was one of five national finalists for pickup man of the year. Another South Dakota winner during the night was the Burke Stampede Rodeo which won the Hesston Sowing Good Deeds award for the rodeo’s charitable giving, civic involvement and educational activities. Finally, the 102-year-old Black Hills Roundup in Belle Fourche was named medium rodeo of the year for the fourth straight year (2018-2021).
Dec. 3: In their second season, the Lakota Tech High School girls’ basketball team played their first home game in Pine Ridge. During their inaugural 2020-21 season, the Tatanka had to play all their games on the road as the Pine Ridge Reservation was closed due to Covid-19. Lakota Tech opened its season at its big, beautiful home gym with an 86-21 win over Cheyenne-Eagle Butte led by Tobi Carlow (17 points, five steals and three assists).
Dec. 3: The University of South Dakota volleyball season came to an end with a 3-0 loss to Minnesota in the first round of the NCAA DI national tournament. It was a memorable 2021 for the Coyotes, who went 35-17 over two seasons in one calendar year thanks to Covid with two Summit League Tournament championships, two appearances in the NCAA tourney and a 28-6 conference record.
Dec. 4: South Dakota State junior Clay Carlson won the 141-pound title at the prestigious 39th annual Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas. More than 70 nationally-rated wrestlers competed in the two-day event. Carlson (Willmar, MN) is the first SDSU wrestler to win a title at the Keen Invite and was named the Big 12 Conference wrestler of the week for his effort.
Dec. 5: Minnesota Twin teammates Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and will be inducted July 24. Both men are 83. Oliva played 15 MLB seasons (1962-76), all with the Twins, was a .304 career hitter and was a three-time American League batting champion. Kaat was a left-handed pitcher for 25 seasons (1959-1983) — 15 with the Twins, and he won 283 games (190 with Twins) with an earned-run average of 3.45 with 2,461 strikeouts. Oliva has been married to Gordette (DuBois) of Hitchcock for 54 years. They were married Jan. 6, 1968, in the United Methodist Church in Hitchcock.
Dec. 5: Former Britton-Hecla and South Dakota State standout Dallas Goedert promoted a hometown cause on national TV. The Philadelphia Eagles’ tight end wore Britton-Hecla school colors white and red cleats with the message “Pass it on #ForTrevor” in the Eagles game against the New York Jets during “My Cause, My Cleats” week in the NFL. The cleats honor Trevor Zuehlke, a former quarterback and linebacker at Britton-Hecla who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a 2019 game. Zuehlke’s family started the “Pass it on #ForTrevor” charity in honor of Trevor, who continues to recover. Zuehlke was a student manager for Britton-Hecla when Goedert was a player.
Dec. 7: South Dakota’s Nov. 13 game-winning Hail Mary, now known as the “Vermiracle,” against South Dakota State earned the Play of the Year award at The Sports Illustrated Awards in Hollywood, FL. USD’s Jeremiah Webb hauled in a 57-yard pass from Carson Camp on the final play of the game to give the Coyotes a 23-20 victory over SDSU in the DakotaDome in front of 9,068 fans. The ball landed at the five-yard line and was batted around twice by SDSU defenders before Webb grabbed it. Webb and Camp represented USD in receiving the award from presentor Shaquille O’Neal.
Dec. 7: A 19-year-old South Dakota woman is a rodeo world champion with her horses Hollywood and Roger. Breakaway roper Sawyer Gilbert of Buffalo won her title over two days at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas during the National Finals Rodeo. It is only the second year the breakaway roping world title has been won in conjunction with the NFR, which is being held at Vegas’ Thomas & Mack Center. Gilbert earned $19,532 in Vegas for a season total of $71,654. Her total was just $2,197 more than world runner-up Shelby Boisjoli of Texas. Boisjoli and Gilbert were the last two contestants to rope in the last of 10 rounds, and Gilbert held only an $86 lead over Boisjoli. Gilbert’s NFR title was the 36 th world championship won by a South Dakotan since the event started in 1929.
Dec. 9. Dakota Wesleyan sophomore Aby Dwight of Langford became her school’s first-ever NAIA first-team All-American volleyball player. She would later be named the South Dakota college women’s athlete of the year by the South Dakota Sportswriters Association.
Dec. 10: The Pierre boys opened their season with a 68-38 win over Rapid City Stevens. Pierre is coached by 24-year-old Aberdeen Central and Northern State graduate Brianna Kusler, the first woman in state history to coach a Class AA boys’ basketball team.
Dec. 11: Rarely in the athletic history of SDSU has its biggest three attendance draws playing at the same time on the same day. On this day, not only did its football and both basketball teams play, they played in big-time games across the country. The Jackrabbit football team rallied from a 21-14 halftime deficit to outscore host Villanova (PA) 21-0 in the second half for a 35-21 win to advance to the FCS semifinals. Across the country in Spokane, WA, the SDSU men’s basketball team defeated PAC-12 member Washington State 77-74 on a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Baylor Scheierman. Back in Brookings, the SDSU women overcame a 18-3 deficit to Kansas State to take an eight-point lead in the second half. However, the Big 12 Wildcats rallied to beat the Jacks 79-73. Aberdeen native Paiton Burckhard led the Jacks with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Dec. 11: The storied, prestigious Black Hills Conference gained a new member this basketball season, and both the Rapid City Christian girls and boys started their BHC eras in fine fashion. The RC Christian girls defeated Douglas 77-45 behind 24 points from Olivia Kieffer. Meanwhile, Jackson DiBona of the Christian boys scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Comets to a 59-50 win over Douglas.
Dec. 11: West Central defeated top-ranked Sioux Falls Christian 85-74 behind 25 points from Grafton Stroup and a combined 39 from Mubarak Ibrahim, Brandon Dierickx and Jack Linneman. It is the first time the West Central boys have defeated SFC since the Trojans topped the Chargers 77-64 on Dec. 15, 2007.
Dec. 13: One of the state’s most successful football cooperatives has come to an end. The Canistota School Board voted to end its co-op with Freeman. The two school joined forces in 2017 as the Canistota-Freeman Pride and won nine-man state titles in 2018, 2019, 2020 and were state runners-up in 2021.
Dec. 13: Selby native and SDSU football coach John Stiegelmeier has signed a two-year contract extension through 2025 that will keep the 64-year-old in charge of the Jackrabbits until he is 68. Details of the new contract were not disclosed, but he earns $306,000 annually from his current contract. Stiegelmeier, an SDSU graduate, has been on the football staff since 1988, and is in his 25th season as the head coach with a 184-110 record.
Dec. 15: The Aberdeen Christian girls’ basketball team had a historic week. The Knights were ranked for the first time ever and they beat Warner for the first time in school history as well. Aberdeen Christian High School was established in 1996.
Dec. 17: In four days, Kalen Garry of the defending State B champion De Smet Bulldogs scored 89 points in three games, made national headlines and got his first Division I basketball offer. He started the stretch by making two three-pointers in the final eight seconds to tie and then win a game against Clark/Willow Lake. Garry ended it by scoring 35 points against a nationally ranked team from Arizona, Dream City Christian, a team full of DI recruits. De Smet lost to Dream City 61-57.
Dec. 18: SDSU lost in the FCS national semifinals 31-17 to Montana State in Bozeman. The Jacks played an incredible 25 football games over two seasons in 2021, the last four in four different time zones. In 2021, the Jacks traveled 19,594 miles, played in front of 231,553 fans and had 201 practices.
Dec. 18: Aberdeen Central senior Brock Martin became the first Golden Eagle to win a championship at the prestigious Lakota Nation Invitational. Martin won the 132-pound title, pinning all four of his opponents.
Dec. 20: The Aberdeen Roncalli and Aberdeen Christian girls’ basketball teams are 4-0 as is the Aberdeen Central boys’ team. The Aberdeen Christian boys are 3-0.
Dec. 22: SDSU junior and Aberdeen native Paiton Burckhard recorded her 500th rebound in the Jacks’ 71-51 win over Oral Roberts.
Dec. 26: At the beginning of the college football season, USA Today ranked the 2021 coaching hires. They ranked Aberdeen native Josh Heupel hiring at Tennessee as the 11th best hire. Today, they reranked their list, and the national publication moved Heupel to the top of their list as the best hire of 2021. He guided the Volunteers to a 7-6 season.
Dec. 27: Amy (Gusso) Williams is the ESPN national coach of the week. The Spearfish native has guided Nebraska to a 12-0 start to the women’s basketball season. The former USD coach is her sixth season with the Cornhuskers. Meanwhile Williams’ oldest daughter, sophomore Kennadi Williams and her Lincoln Southwest high school basketball team is 6-0 as well. And finally, Williams’ sister, Minnesota State-Mankato women’s basketball head coach Emilee Thiesse, is off to an 11-0 start with the Mavericks.
Dec. 28: White River defeated Aberdeen Christian 58-48 to give coach Eldon Marshall his 400th career win.
Dec. 29: A 19-year Rapid City native won his professional debut against his hometown team on the same day as he signed on as an emergency goaltender in the ECHL. The Utah Grizzlies found themselves short of goalies in the middle of an ECHL series against the host Rapid City Rush. Former Rushmore Thunder high school goalie Brady Devries was home in Rapid City on Christmas break from Grand Canyon University. Utah signed him, Devries started and helped the Grizzlies defeat the Rush 4-3 in overtime by stopping 18 of 21 shots. It was only Devries fourth hockey game of the fall as he had played in three games for his Arizona university’s club team in his first semester in college.
Dec. 29: Two volleyball powerhouses went at it in girls’ basketball at the Huron Classic. Colman-Egan defeated Warner 52-41. Last month in Rapid City, Warner defeated Colman-Egan 3-0 to win the State B volleyball championship.
Dec. 31: The 28th annual Michael J. Entringer Scholarship Classic was held in Brookings, and the 24th annual girls’ classic was held Dec. 18 in Colman. From an initial $500 donation in 1994, the 20-team events surpassed the $1 million mark this year in money raised. In the first year, one boy and one girl were awarded $250 each in scholarships from the classic. Now, the classic awards $1,000 scholarships to more than 50 South Dakota high school seniors annually. Mike Entringer, who died in 1980, was a well-known and well-respected official in the Brookings area.
Dec. 31: Rapid City native Becky Hammon has been hired as the head coach of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces. She became the NBA’s first woman coach as an assistant to the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. She will finish the season with the Spurs and then take over the Aces, who open the WNBA season May 6. In 2015, Hammon was the head coach who directed the Spurs to the NBA Summer League title. She has been interviewed for several head coach openings in the NBA in her time in the league. Hammon was one of the greatest WNBA players in history for 16 seasons (1999-2014).
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