Rocky Burkett will be returning to the coaching staff at the newly reinstated Northern State University wrestling program as head coach, the Aberdeen, S.D. school announced Monday.
Burkett, who had served as a graduate assistant at NSU from 2005-07 and an assistant coach from 2007-11, helped coach ten wrestlers to NCAA Division II National Tournament appearances, two NCAA All-Americans, and one NCAA National Champion. Since his last stint coaching the Wolves, Burkett has spent the last three season as the head wrestling coach at Aberdeen Central High School, where he led the Golden Eagles to two Eastern South Dakota Conference titles (2014 and 2015), two Region 3 titles (2014 and 2015), and the 2014 South Dakota State Wrestling Tournament team title. Burkett coached 28 state place winners, most notably four state champions. For all these accomplishments, Burkett was named the 2014 and 2015 South Dakota Region 3 Wrestling Coach of the Year, and the 2014 South Dakota High School Coaches Association Coach of the Year.
“We are very excited to welcome Rocky Burkett to the NSU Athletics family,” said Josh Moon, NSU Director of Athletics. “Rocky has a very clear plan to elevate NSU wrestling and has a high level of passion and energy that will transform this program. Rocky has proven that he can build champions in the classroom, on the mat, and in life. We received a lot of interest from a number of talented candidates nationally, but Rocky stood out due to his dynamic leadership skills and experience and the respect of high school coaches throughout the state of South Dakota.”
“I am very excited to be named the head wrestling coach at NSU” said Burkett. “I would like to thank (President) Dr. Jim Smith and (Director of Athletics) Josh Moon for giving me this opportunity to lead Wolves wrestling. This is my dream job and this program is ready to reach new heights and I can’t wait to get started.”
“I am grateful to the wrestling community, both in Aberdeen and across the country” added Burkett. “The outpouring of support we have received in raising the funds needed to reinstate the program is tremendous. I specifically am excited to be a part of that community and continue a strong tradition of wrestling here in South Dakota.”
Burkett’s wrestling roots are in the state of Indiana. He began his coaching career at Rochester High School in Rochester, Ind., where he coached three Zebras to the IHSAA State Tournament, with two place winners. As a collegiate wrestler at Manchester College (now Manchester University) in North Manchester, Ind., Burkett earned two Mid-States Wrestling Conference Championships (2002 and 2003), two NCAA Division III Academic All-American honors (2003 and 2004), and was a qualifier for the 2003 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships.
On April 8, Northern State University announced it was reinstating its Wolves wrestling program, less than a month after revealing plans to suspend it for two seasons — 2015-16, and 2016-17 – to evaluate its future, and conduct a comprehensive review. The school said it received commitments of financial support, including pledges which will go directly into the wrestling program to support scholarships, operating budget and the hiring of an assistant coach.
Located in Aberdeen, S.D., Northern State University was founded in 1901. According to the school website, NSU has a total enrollment of approximately 4,000 students.