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Former South Dakota State, Mitchell High School football head coach dies

BROOKINGS -- Former Mitchell and South Dakota State University head football coach Wayne Haensel died Thursday in Brookings. He was 76.

Haensel was born in 1936 and lettered in five sports while at Walnut Grove High School in Minnesota.

After a standout high school career, in which he played in the Minnesota football all-star game, Haensel decided to attend South Dakota State University.

While he was a player at SDSU, Haensel was a member of the 1957 Jackrabbits team that won the now defunct NCAA Division II North Central Conference.

The next year, Haensel was drafted by the New York Giants in the 25th round of the NFL draft; however, he never played a down in the league. Despite not playing NFL football, Haensel did play professionally in Canada for one year before suffering injury and deciding to call it quits.

Even though his playing days were over, Haensel had plenty more days of football left in him. He went on to coach at three different high schools, including Beresford High School, Mitchell High School and North High School in Sioux City, Iowa.

Haensel finished with an 82-37-3 career record as a high school coach. In 1991, Haensel was elected to the South Dakota High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the South Dakota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2000.

After coaching high school football, Haensel turned his attention to college and became an assistant coach in 1974 at his alma mater for then head coach John Gregory.

In 1982, Haensel was hired to take over as the head coach for the Jackrabbits. Despite recording three winning seasons, Haensel finished his SDSU coaching career with 45 wins and 52 losses in a nine year span.

Haensel continued to teach physical education and coach weight-event athletes for the SDSU track and field team. Under his tutelage, the Jackrabbits produced 41 conference champions in throwing events and 36 All-Americans.

Funeral services for Haensel will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the First United Methodist Church in Brookings. Vistitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday at Rude's Funeral Home in Brookings.

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