Mike Denny ‘69
Mike Denney was an outstanding football player and wrestler at Dakota Wesleyan University. Denney was a four-year starter and one of the most feared linemen in the South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference during his career. He received both All-Conference and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics District 12 honors his junior and senior years. Denney wrestled heavyweight all four years at DWU and never finished lower than third in the SDIC conference meet. Denney was a two-time NAIA national qualifier. Following graduation Denny became one of the premiere wrestling coaches in NCAA Division II and won conference and national honors. Denney is a member of the Nebraska Wrestling Hall of Fame and was named Dakota Wesleyan’s Alumni Coach of the Year in 1997.
Ed Melcher ‘68
Ed Melcher was a two-sport athlete and lettered all four years in football and wrestling. Melcher was the second member of the heralded backfield of 1965 to be inducted into the hall of fame. Melcher is considered by to be one of the most talented fullbacks of that era for his skills in gaining necessary short yardage for the 7-2 team that had an outstanding running attack. Melcher also was noted for his superior play as a defensive tackle and was selected as a two-time South Dakota Intercollegiate All-Conference performer and named to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-District 12 team his senior year. Melcher also was an outstanding wrestler and placed in most of his matches his entire career.
Justin Portenier holds the distinction of being the first and only Dakota Wesleyan University athlete to win a national title in any sport. The 2003 DWU graduate was one of the best wrestlers to come through the Tiger program. He competed at the NAIA Wrestling National Championships three straight years and placed in the top four all three years, including his national title at 125 pounds in 2002. He also finished second at 125 pounds in 2003 and fourth in the same weight class in 2001. Portenier also finished in the top five at the region meet all four years, including first-place finishes in 2001 and 2002. Portenier set 11 school records, including wins in a season (31) and career (94), and still holds nine of those records. He still holds single-season records for falls (19) and tournament championships (4) and career records for winning percentage (.734), falls (55), tech falls (5), reversals (36), near falls (76), team points earned (249.5) and tournament championships (9). He is still second on the school’s all-time wins list. Portenier helped the Tigers to a 12th-place finish at the 2001 national championships, the highest finish in school history. DWU finished in the top 20 at the national meet in each of his four seasons on the team. After graduating from DWU, Portenier joined the U.S. Army and has served in Iraq.
John Rice ‘66
John Rice made his football presence known as a starting offensive guard during his freshman year at Dakota Wesleyan University in 1962. Rice’s “presence” continued throughout his career, climaxing in 1965. Along the way Rice attained four letters and two South Dakota Intercollegiate All-Conference selections. Also in 1965, Rice helped lead the Tigers to a 7-2 season, the most wins by a DWU football team in 49 years. Rice had a unique blocking ability that was instrumental in gaining necessary yardage and touchdowns. However, it was not only Rice’s athletic ability that made him so valuable, but also his great attitude and tremendous leadership skills will always be remembered by his coach and teammates. Rice’s coach Gordon Zapp credits Rice, a team co-captain, as being one of the main reasons for the success of the 1965 team. Zapp singles Rice out as one of the best blocking lineman he ever coached, as well as the premiere lineman in the SDIC during the 1960’s. Rice also was one of DWU’s first wrestlers, earing three letters.
John Weber ‘70
John Weber was raised on a farm near Lesterville, South Dakota, and enrolled at Dakota Wesleyan University in 1966. Weber became a two-year letterman in football and one of DWU’s most outstanding wrestlers. In four years as an All-Conference wrestler. Weber never placed below fourth in any of his matches, finishing his four years with a 15-1 record. Weber was a South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference champion in 1969 and 1970 and competed in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national wrestling championships both years. After he graduated in 1970, Weber continued his dedication to athletics and the ministry. He became affiliated with Athletes in Action and served as chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League. Weber has helped hundreds of professional athletes lead more spiritually fulfilling lives.