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Versatile Koln Oppold leads Dakota Wesleyan men in his final run as a Tiger

The senior is averaging 14.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game, leading DWU in all three categories.

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Koln Oppold (1) goes around the defense of University of Jamestown's John Argue during a Great Plains Athletic Conference game on Wednesday, February 2, 2022 at the Corn Palace.
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — Koln Oppold has had to do a little bit of everything this season for the Dakota Wesleyan men’s basketball team.

For a team that has been struggling offensively more than any other DWU men’s team in the last decade, Dakota Wesleyan still managed to make the Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament, giving themselves a chance at some postseason magic starting Wednesday at top-seeded Briar Cliff.

One of the key reasons why is the Sioux Falls native Oppold is having his best season as a Tiger is his versatility. Not only does the senior lead the team in minutes played per game, but he leads the team in points, rebounds and assists. DWU head coach Matt Wilber said this season would look much different if Oppold wasn’t in a Tiger uniform playing the way he’s playing.

“We play through him a lot and the way our offense is designed, it’s going to allow for a player to be involved in all stats,” Wilber said. “Everybody touches the ball and everybody’s moving, but with him as a versatile offensive player, which is in the post or on the perimeter, most times when our offense is going well it's usually because he’s playing well.”

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Koln Oppold (1) is defended by a pair of University of Jamestown defenders during a Great Plains Athletic Conference game on Wednesday, February 2, 2022 at the Corn Palace.
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic

Throughout his senior season, Oppold has continued to rise to the occasion to help lead Dakota Wesleyan to a win.

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In a road win against No. 25-ranked Briar Cliff, the No. 1 seed in the GPAC that the Tigers will play in the first round of the playoffs, Oppold scored 22 points, making that his sixth game of the season with at least 20 points on better than 47 percent from the field.

Two games later, he had a career-night from behind the arc in a shootout win against Northwestern. Oppold made eight of his 13 3-point attempts to seal a 92-86 victory for the Tigers. The following game after that on Feb. 12, he notched a career-high 33 points in a road win against Midland, calling it his most memorable road game in a DWU uniform.

Even though Oppold has had some great performances this season on the road, he’s numbers have been slightly better at home. After Senior Night against Concordia on Feb. 19, he said he had mixed emotions playing his final game at the Corn Palace.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling. It was good to reflect on the career I’ve had here before the game,” Oppold said. “There were some unreal memories and experiences I’ve had in this place. I’ve gotten to play with some amazing players over the years and there’s a lot of history in this building. It was sad playing my last game here.”

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Koln Oppold (1) is recognized for senior day ahead of a Great Plains Athletic Conference game against Concordia University on Saturday, February 19, 2022 at the Corn Palace.
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic

Oppold said his most fondest moments of being with the Dakota Wesleyan program came off the court, when he was enjoying time being with his teammates. On the court, his favorite moment in his four-year run came at the Corn Palace on Feb. 8, 2020, when Dakota Wesleyan upset No. 1-ranked Morningside 78-75.

“My favorite moment was beating Morningside in the Palace when they were the No. 1 team in the nation,” Oppold said. “That was one of those memories I’ll never forget in the Palace, but a lot of my favorite memories are outside the jersey. Just hanging out with the team, getting to know the guys, traveling together and joking in the hotel rooms. … I’m going to miss the guys the most.”

The Tigers have a steep hill to climb if they want to create more memories with a senior group that not only includes Oppold, but Jeffrey Schuch, Mason Larson, Gary White III and Ace Zorr. They will be on the road for the entirety of the GPAC tournament, which first requires a win at Briar Cliff.

As the No. 8 seed in the GPAC standings, Dakota Wesleyan will enter this postseason game against No. 1 seeded Briar Cliff with much more confidence than some would expect. Both teams split the season series this year, but the Tigers most recently beat Briar Cliff in Iowa on Jan. 29, 75-68. Even though DWU is confident for its third matchup against the Chargers, they aren’t letting anything in the past, good or bad, affect how they approach this game.

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Dakota Wesleyan University's Koln Oppold (1) and Teegan Evers (2) celebrate the Tigers 79-76 win over Midland University on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 at the Corn Palace.
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic

“We look at the playoffs like it’s 0-0 for us and we try not to think about anything outside of that,” Oppold said. “If you get into the mindset that we just beat them, then we’ll walk in there expecting that to happen again and that’s something that we’re not going to do. They’re the No. 1 team in the GPAC for a reason and we have to approach it like that.”

Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at bhull@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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