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DWU names Wagner native Cimpl new football coach

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sports Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Dakota Wesleyan University announced Ross Cimpl as its head football coach Monday afternoon.

Cimpl, a Wagner native, was introduced by Athletic Director Curt Hart at a press conference at the Sherman Center on the DWU campus in Mitchell.

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He's the 32nd head football coach at Dakota Wesleyan and said he was notified of his hiring over the weekend.

"This is an exciting time at Dakota Wesleyan, especially for the football program," said Cimpl, who's 27 years old and was the defensive coordinator for Dakota Wesleyan each of the past two seasons. "I am very excited about the opportunity to be the head coach at DWU. There are a lot of great things happening here, and I am excited and thankful to be a part of it."

The DWU football job opened in December when then-coach Brad Pole announced his resignation. Cimpl was named the interim head coach when Pole left. Hart said that during the hiring process, he contacted current DWU players and coaches and former coaches who worked with Cimpl.

"Our decision was made based on strong ties to the area, solid football background and a winning tradition," Hart said.

Hart said the school never officially opened the position, but he received at least 50 applicants for the job.

Cimpl takes over a team that finished 6-4 overall and 5-4 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference last year. He became the Tigers' defensive coordinator in March 2010 after stints as a player and a coach with the University of Sioux Falls.

Cimpl was a coach on USF's NAIA national championships in 2008 and 2009 and during their runner-up finish in 2007. He coached defensive backs, special teams, tight ends, wide receivers and running backs. From 2002 to 2006, he was a player for the Cougars.

In his first year coaching at DWU, Cimpl helped the football team to its first conference shutout in league history, when the Tigers defeated Concordia 56-0 at Joe Quintal Field in the 2010 home-opener. Last year, DWU's pass defense was ranked second in the league and 21st in the NAIA. Cimpl said he will retain defensive play-calling duties.

After Cimpl was named the new head coach during Monday's press conference, the DWU football team gave Cimpl a standing ovation.

"It was a little overwhelming," he said of the team's reaction.

Cimpl discussed recruiting at the press conference, explaining that he's interested in local talent and adding he's been working on recruiting incoming players since Pole left.

"We feel real good about our recruiting efforts," said Cimpl, who announced Winner High School 6-foot-6 senior tight end Austin Schroeder has committed to play at DWU next year.

Cimpl said he is keeping all of the other coaches who were on last year's staff with him, but the team is still searching for an offensive coordinator. Last year, Pole called plays.

Hart said Cimpl will be in charge of finding an offensive coordinator.

"I know (Indianapolis Colts) quarterback Peyton Manning was out of a job this last year," Cimpl joked.

Next year, Cimpl said the team's top goal will be to win a GPAC championship and qualify for postseason play. The Tigers won their first five games last season, but faltered in the second half of the season, losing four of their final five. Three of the losses were by single-digit margins.

"We have proved ourselves that we can compete in the big games," Cimpl said. "We're not at that level right now to win those (close) games last year, but it was one play here or one play there. There's some things we need to change and things we need to adjust, and we need to work.

"We're going to be here to win a conference championship, and that starts yesterday."

Anthony Muilenburg, a wideout who will be a senior on the football team next year, said he was pleased Cimpl received the job despite Muilenburg's good relationship with Pole.

"With him coming from USF, he knows a winning program," Muilenburg said. "We all know he's going to be in this 100 percent. He's going to believe in us."

Craig Henglefelt, a defensive end from Alexandria who will be a junior next year, was also pleased with Cimpl's hiring.

"He gets guys to work hard for him, and you know what your expectations are," Henglefelt said. "We've improved a lot in our defense the last couple of years with coach Cimpl."

Cimpl and his wife, Linda, live in Mitchell and are expecting a child on Friday, Jan. 13.

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