'Nobody could touch me': Burke/Gregory’s Owen Hansen is the Mitchell Republic’s 2023 wrestler of the year

For completing a 43-0 senior season in his chase for a third-straight state championship — the second-straight at 132 pounds — Hansen was chosen as the 2023 Mitchell Republic wrestler of the year.

Burke/Gregory's Owen Hansen, the Mitchell Republic's boys wrestler of the year for 2023, is pictured on Monday, March 27, 2023 in Gregory.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

GREGORY, S.D. — Owen Hansen believes he was born to be a warrior.

Coming from a family of wrestlers, Hansen channels that energy on the mat.

With the wrestling room effectively serving as a second home, Hansen has been involved with wrestling as far back as he can remember, striving to be the family’s next standout practically the whole way.

It’s safe to say he’s lived up to that legacy. In fact, he might be the best of the bunch.

During his prep career competing for Burke/Gregory, Hansen accumulated 238 wins to 31 losses, qualifying for the state tournament six times. Over Hansen’s final three seasons, which each featured a state championship, that record is 128 wins and four losses. To cap his run, Hansen finished on a 59-match winning streak.


“I didn't think I was going lose this year; I knew I wasn't going to lose this year,” Hansen said. “It was how bad can I dominate this guy? If I was ever nervous, it was am I going to perform to where people are entertained? That's what I just want to do. I want to entertain people, and I want to dominate everybody.”

For completing a 43-0 senior season in his chase for a third-straight state championship — the second-straight at 132 pounds — Hansen was chosen as the 2023 Mitchell Republic wrestler of the year, receiving two of three first-place votes. The award is selected by the newspaper's sports staff via a point-based voting system that awards five points to the top wrestler, four points to the second on the ballot and so on.

Other wrestlers receiving consideration were Chamberlain’s Noah Hutmacher (the other first-place vote recipient), McCook Central/Montrose’s Jackson Remmers, Mitchell’s Jagger Tyler, Winner Area’s Riley Orel and Wagner’s Karstyn Lhotak.

Burke/Gregory's Owen Hansen, the Mitchell Republic's boys wrestler of the year for 2023, is pictured on Monday, March 27, 2023 in Gregory.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

In his blood

Owen Hansen’s athletic lineage is impossible to overlook.

His grandfather, John, was a longtime wrestling coach in Gregory. His father, Chad, and three uncles — Matt, Nate and Nick — were all standouts during their time with the program. Further, his mother, Jenny (Slade), was a Division I gymnast at the University of Nebraska.

When Hansen was young, he gravitated toward his uncle Nate, himself a three-peat state champion for Gregory (2001-03). Nate Hansen’s first memories of his nephew related to wrestling didn’t take place on a mat but rather on the carpet of Owen’s childhood home in Hastings, Nebraska, more than a decade ago. It wasn’t so much wrestling as it was rough-housing, but Nate took notice that Owen “couldn’t get enough of it, and just kept coming back for more.”

That was indicative of a larger trend. As Owen Hansen got into competing, he kept getting better. As he improved, his drive to maximize his abilities grew, too. He was hooked.


And the cycle hasn’t stopped yet.

“Any kid that finishes four years of high school wrestling, all of them work hard. It's just the sport, you're not able to go through the motions,” Nate Hansen, who went on to win a Division III national championship at Luther College (Iowa), explained. “But there's something different in guys that want to really find out how good they can get. [Owen]'s one of those kids.”

Though their wrestling styles differ greatly, according to Nate Hansen, one area where he’s been able to provide the most guidance for Owen has been the psychological side of the sport.

It’s an aspect with an impact that Nate Hansen feels many young athletes don’t fully comprehend, which is why it provides an advantage in head-to-head competition. According to Nate Hansen, it centers around being with positive people, making sure “the lows aren't too low and the highs aren’t too high” and accepting that there are always elements to improve upon.

“When you get to a point where you're talking about really separating yourself and being dominant, it’s more about the mindset,” Nate Hansen said. “You go into all areas of athletic performance, and that's a big one that at a higher level, you can improve in.”

It’s not difficult to observe how Owen Hansen has leaned into those ideas. On the mat, he possesses a certain palpable confidence, and he doesn’t often think an in-state competitor can hang with him for six minutes. Of his 43 matches this season, 10 went to a decision — six major and four minor, none closer than five points.

“The mental part of wrestling is so important, and I feel like [Nate] was the one that molded me to have confidence in myself,” Owen Hansen said. “I feel like once I started believing in myself, I elevated my game, and I can jump levels with that.”

Burke/Gregory's Owen Hansen, the Mitchell Republic's boys wrestler of the year for 2023, is pictured on Monday, March 27, 2023 in Gregory.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic


Five years of force

Owen Hansen arrived in Gregory by way of Hastings, Nebraska, when he was in the sixth grade.

Thinking back to the first time he watched Hansen compete, Burke/Gregory wrestling coach Seth Webster was impressed. According to Webster, even early on, Hansen’s development didn’t require much fundamental teaching or coaching. Instead, the focus was on sharpening finer skills, giving Hansen yet another head start on many of his peers.

“His work ethic is second to none,” Webster said of Hansen. “He'll come in the mornings and work out, and he'll find an extra workout during the weekend if he has a day off. He's very self-driven, and he's got higher aspirations than just high school.”

Those aspirations paid dividends for Hansen, who was also a 2022 Class 9A football state champion and all-state selection for Gregory, during his prep career.

After a seventh-grade season that ended with a respectable 29-21 record but off the podium, Hansen took a major leap into the conversation of South Dakota’s elite and stayed there for five straight seasons.

As an eighth-grader, Hansen went 40-5 and claimed third place at 106 pounds. The next year at 120 pounds, Hansen was clipped in the state title match, his lone defeat in a 41-1 campaign.

It was the last time Hansen was denied gold.

At 126 pounds as a sophomore, Hansen went 39-3, avenging two prior defeats in the title match for his first state championship. His second championship came during a 46-1 junior campaign at 132 pounds, as Hansen avenged his lone loss in the state semifinals en route to title No. 2.


Remaining at 132 pounds, title No. 3 was hardly ever in doubt.

Hansen steamrolled his way to 43-0, winning 28 matches by pin, one by technical fall and four by forfeit. He was not taken down one time all season.

Hansen, the Class B most outstanding wrestler, won three of four state tournament matches by fall, including the championship against Webster Area's Haeden Jorgenson.

All told, over his final five seasons as a high school wrestler, Hansen was 209-10, a winning percentage upward of 95%. In postseason region or state tournament matches, he was 34-3 over that span and 21-0 during his championship seasons.

“This year, I wrote down my goals every day before practice, and one of those goals was to wrestle on a college level,” Hansen said. “I knew that if I did that this year, nobody could touch me. I wanted to build for what's in the future, so I didn't stop and I kept getting better. I feel like I worked the hardest out of anybody in the state, and that showed.”

Burke/Gregory's Owen Hansen, the Mitchell Republic's boys wrestler of the year for 2023, is pictured on Monday, March 27, 2023 in Gregory.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

'Bring it on'

Owen Hansen never got caught looking ahead, yet at the same time, his sights have been set much higher than being a three-time South Dakota state champion for some time now.

Though a major chapter in Hansen’s career has concluded, the story is nowhere near complete, as he prepares for a collegiate career at Augustana.

Hansen, his uncle Nate and Burke/Gregory coach Seth Webster all agree: With his physical gifts and uncompromising mentality, Hansen can make an instant impact for the Vikings, perhaps even challenging for Division II All-American status as a freshman.


As Nate Hansen puts it, his nephew is constantly in search of the perfect match, the best he’s ever performed.

“I don't think he's going stop working. Next year, I'm sure he's going to make a big jump from just being in a college room, and he'll be better than he was this year,” Nate Hansen said. “He's just not going to be satisfied with where he's at. He'll continue to look and find ways to make that next 1% jump.”

“He's got all the technique for wrestling, and now he has the physicality, too,” Webster added. “I think he’ll match the college level when he first gets there.”

Owen Hansen is well aware that NCAA D-II wrestling is a major step up in competition level from South Dakota Class B, but that doesn’t phase him. For years, Hansen has wrestled top competition from across the region and country at various summer tournaments and placed well, and as a competitor, he welcomes a new challenge.

“I've been ready to move on; it's been time to move on,” Hansen said. “I'm excited for what the future holds, and I don't care what it is, I love a challenge. Bring it on. I like it.”

Members Only
Hellmann has been one of the state’s top wrestlers since the adoption of girls wrestling as a sanctioned sport, and she’s seen it grow tremendously even just during her three seasons.

Others receiving consideration

Here’s a look at the other wrestlers who received consideration, with their vote-point totals in parentheses:

Noah Hutmacher, Chamberlain (12): Hutmacher, wrestling at 220 pounds in Class A, finished with a record of 38-1 and won the state title with a 79-second fall over Sturgis’ Zak Juelfs. Thirty-five of his wins came via pin during the season, including three wins in 11 seconds or less and 17 falls in 60 seconds or less. His only loss came to Brandon Valley’s Navarro Schunke during the regular season, with Hutmacher moving up to the 285 weight class to wrestle the four-time state champion.


Jackson Remmers, McCook Central/Montrose (9): Remmers, a junior, completed an undefeated season at 51-0 for his second state championship as a Fighting Cougar. This one came at 152 pounds, capped with a 7-3 decision in the championship over Parkston’s Porter Neugebauer, which was selected as the Class B spotlight match. Remmers led the state in technical falls with 26.

Jagger Tyler, Mitchell (6): Wrestling at Class A’s 152 pounds, Tyler recorded a 3-1 decision over Harrisburg's Logan O’Connor in the championship match to finish his senior season 42-3. Tyler capped his prep career with back-to-back state titles at 145 and 152 pounds, finishing with a 79-5 record across his final two seasons. He’s the first Kernel to win back-to-back titles since Brent Havlik (2010-12).

Riley Orel, Winner Area (3): Orel cashed in his No. 1 seed to win the 160-pound title in Class B. By the end of the Class B state dual competition, Orel finished with a record of 57-2, the most wins of anyone in the state, including 29 pins. In the state title match, Orel won via a 2-1 tiebreaker victory over Custer’s Jonathan Lewis.

Karstyn Lhotak, Wagner (1): The junior Lhotak earned his first state championship with a 48-3 season, capped with a 3-1 win over a 2022 state champion in Kimball/White Lake/Platte-Geddes’ Gavin Braun in the 120-pound bracket in Class B. It was a bracket that included two past state champions and four state finalists from 2022.

Dierks covers prep and collegiate athletics across the Mitchell Republic's coverage region area, focusing on Mitchell High School football and boys basketball and area high school football, volleyball and basketball, as well as Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Gridiron Spotlight, producing video and providing live play-by-play for the traveling weekly prep football broadcast during its first season in the fall of 2021. Dierks is a Mitchell native who graduated from South Dakota State University with his bachelor's degree in journalism in May 2020. He joined the Mitchell Republic sports staff in August 2021. He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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