PARKSTON -- Dan Bonte is in the position he always envisioned.
After spending the past seven years coaching Parkston’s AAU youth program, Bonte took over as Parkston High School’s head wrestling coach this year. He’s reunited with wrestlers he coached in their youth, and as a former standout himself, it’s been a perfect fit heading a program with a rich tradition like Parkston.
“It’s always been a dream job of mine to be a high school coach,” Bonte said. “As much as I love the youth, when the position opened, I decided to throw my name in the hat because I wanted to work with those athletes, as well.”
Bonte originally moved to Mitchell to work at Dakota Wesleyan University out of college. But four years ago, he took a job in Parkston selling insurance at Wenzel Insurance Agency.
Still, he is well aware of the Trojans’ successful history on the mat. And while that past success helps numbers in the youth program and garners community support, it also adds self-pressure with the desire to get them back to the top of Class B wrestling.
The Trojans won three consecutive Class B state championships from 2013-2015, and then took second place in 2016. Not many know what it takes to return to those levels better than Bonte, though.
Before his time at South Dakota State University, which further fueled his passion to become a high school coach, Bonte won four state titles (2001, 2003-2005) across four weight classes and set the national record for career wins (268) at Garretson. He also owned a 130-match winning streak.
“You don’t want to be the guy who comes in and loses that tradition,” Bonte said. “That’s constantly in the back of my mind to keep it where it’s always been and to grow it. I also want to grow it. You definitely don’t want to be content with where you’re at.”
He inherits a program which took 15th place at the state tournament last year, which also needs to replace its only state champion Riley Weber. It does return sophomore Porter Neugebauer, who took third at 106 pounds last year.
To continue building Parkston, Bonte preaches the basic fundamentals. It’s not about flashy moves in his eyes, rather improving on the skills he taught many of the same wrestlers at the AAU youth level.
“You see different varying techniques throughout all the levels, but at the end of the day, as funny as it sounds, the basics are what’s going to win you matches at all levels,” Bonte said. “The basic fundamentals that you learn as a young kid in youth wrestling is the same stuff you’re using through high school, in college.”
Having coached many of these wrestlers before has been beneficial for the first-year coach. There’s a mutual respect and understanding of expectations. As Bonte hopes to grow his program, it’s the groundwork for a strong foundation.
“Obviously they’ve all matured and become young men now, and that’s fun to see,” Bonte said. “They know my expectations are, and I know what their expectations are and what they want out of it.”