Paul Konechne didn’t intend to carve out a hall of fame career at South Dakota State University.
But that’s exactly what he did.
“Every day I walked past that hall of fame on the way to the wrestling room in Frost Arena before they remodeled it and saw all those faces,” Konechne said. “It was not a specific goal, but definitely something I wanted someday even then. It’s a great honor.”
The Kimball native will be one of six inductees into the Jackrabbit Sports Hall of Fame today at Club 71 of Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. He was inducted into the NCAA Division II Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2016, but today’s honor means a little more.
“That’s even a higher honor than just the hall of fame in the wrestling world, just to be considered one of the greats amongst all the athletes from all the different athletic programs,” Konechne said.
Konechne, 41, authored one of the best wrestling careers in SDSU’s history during his time in the blue and yellow. Konechne won back-to-back NCAA Division II individual wrestling titles at 141 pounds en route to becoming the SDSU career leader in victories, compiling a 137-30 record from 1998-2001.
The two national titles validated his wrestling career, which did not include a state high school wrestling title during his time at Kimball.
“I waited a long time to end a season with a title and so that moment was building for a long time and it was a long time coming,” Konechne said. “That one was really, really special getting the first one. But being able to walk away knowing that I backed it up and got that second title — those two were obviously the biggest accolades that I am most proud of.”
A four-time All-American, Konechne also posted back-to-back 40-win seasons during his junior and senior years. Konechne was also a CoSIDA Academic All-America selection in both 2000 and 2001, and a three-time member of the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Academic Team.
But he’ll remember the relationships established over any individual accolade.
“There’s so many different stories you could tell and so many different aspects of it,” Konechne said. “Whether it just be the grind of practicing and learning to compete at that next level when you first got there and all the relationships with the coaches and the athletes. But really just the whole process of being able to compete at that level. It just a great experience to have been apart of that.”
Konechne and his wife, Brooke, have five children and they live in Rock Rapids, Iowa. Konechne works as an electrical engineer at a consulting firm.
He is also an assistant wrestling coach for Central Lyon/George-Little Rock and is still spreading his lessons learned with the Jackrabbits.
“It’s definitely rewarding for me,” Konechne said. “I really enjoy being around kids and watching them develop and trying to help them get the most out of this sport. Because I really think the sport is more than just wrestling and competing. There’s a lot of life lessons that can be learned with it. So I hope I am a good role model for them and a good resource for them to help them improve their self. Not only on the mat, but in life in general.”