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NWU to Induct Seven to its Athletic Hall of Fame

By: Courtesy: Nebraska Wesleyan University Athletics
By: Courtesy: Nebraska Wesleyan University Athletics

The Athletic Hall of Fame at Nebraska Wesleyan University will induct seven new members as a part of Homecoming festivities on Saturday, Oct. 23.

The ceremony will be part of an induction breakfast, which starts at 9 a.m., in the Patio Dining Room of the Roy G. Story Student Center. Six former athletes and one Spirit of the Plainsmen award winners will be inducted this year. This year’s class includes: Jenny Blenderman Kissinger (women’s basketball, track & field), Kipp Kissinger (men’s basketball), Ryan Knispel (men’s golf), Kim Koelling Planansky (volleyball), Jeff Sieck (football), Andre Watts (men’s soccer) and Tom Hertzel (Spirit of Plainsmen).

Since 1970, NWU’s Athletic Hall of Fame has recognized the outstanding contributions of former student-athletes by inducting teams and individuals, as well as other strong supporters of the athletic program. Profiles on the Class of 2010 follow:

Jenny (Blenderman) Kissinger ‘97
One of the top female two-sport athletes to compete at Nebraska Wesleyan, Jenny Blenderman was a standout on the basketball court and on the track. Combining her hurdle and sprint talent while serving as the starting point guard in basketball, she was named the 1997 NWU Female Athlete-of-the-Year.

In track & field she was a nine-time NCAA All-American, which is the fourth highest total in NWU history. As a junior in 1996 she anchored the National Champion 4x400 relay team at the NCAA III Indoor Championships. Her best individual event was the 400 hurdles where she earned three All-America honors and still holds the school record in the event. Her best finish was a second place finish at the 1996 NCAA III Outdoor championship. Her name still appears on 10 different NWU track & field top ten charts.

The Elkhorn native was a three-year letterwinner in basketball in the NWU backcourt. She earned All-NIAC as a point guard during her senior season. Blenderman still holds the NWU career record for steals and is second in assists. Her single season assist and steal totals are both school records.

Kipp Kissinger ‘98
Kipp Kissinger, who played guard from 1994-98, was a key part of one of the most successful runs in Nebraska Wesleyan basketball history. NWU compiled 85 wins, made three NCAA III Tournament appearances and won two NIAC titles during Kissinger’s run in a NWU uniform. He guided the Plainsmen to the 1997 NCAA III National Championship game, and led the No. 1 ranked NWU team to 23 straight wins to start his senior season.

The four-year letterwinner from Sandy Creek H.S. started every season in the NWU backcourt. He was a prolific shooter who still holds the NWU school record with 294 made 3-pointers in his career. Kissinger was a three-time First-Team All-NIAC performer and a two-time NCAA Division III All-West Region selection.

Kissinger finished his career with 1,709 career points, which still ranks third in NWU history. He was also a standout in the classroom where he was a three-time GTE Academic All-American, making him the only NWU basketball player to earn Academic All-America honors three times.

Ryan Knispel ‘94
As a member of the men’s golf team in the mid-1990’s, Ryan Knispel led the Nebraska Wesleyan golf team to their highest team finish in school history. He was a part of four NIAC Conference team championships and as a senior he helped NWU to a fifth place finish at the 1994 NCAA Division III Championships.

Knispel becomes just the second men’s golfer to be inducted in the NWU Athletic Hall of Fame. The Fairbury, Neb., native was a two-time All-American. In 1992 he was an honorable mention All-American, then closed his career by placing eighth overall to earn All-America honors at the 1994 NCAA Division III Championships. He had great success at the conference level winning two NIAC individual championships and finishing as runner-up his other two seasons.

In four seasons, Knispel won four tournaments and was runner-up at seven other meets. In all, he placed in the top 10 in 25 career tournaments and competed in four different NCAA III National Tournaments.

Kim (Koelling) Planansky ‘98
The only two-time All-American in Nebraska Wesleyan volleyball history, Kim Koelling is arguably the best setter to ever wear a NWU uniform. Koelling was an AVCA Second-Team All-American as a junior in 1997 then earned First-Team AVCA All-America honors as a senior. She remains the only volleyball player in NWU history to be a First-Team All-American.

A native of Norfolk, Neb., Koelling holds the Nebraska Wesleyan career record for assists with 4,040 for her career. When she graduated she had the top two single season assist totals on the NWU all-time charts. She was a two-time First-Team All-NIAC selection and also earned Second-Team All-NIAC as a sophomore. Koelling was also twice named to the AVCA All-Central Region team.

She also is the only Nebrska Wesleyan volleyball player to be named an Academic All-American, an award she earned twice. As a junior she was a Third-Team Academic All-America selection. She closed out her career by earning GTE First-Team Academic All-America recognition in 1997.

Jeff Sieck ‘91
Earning four letters on the offensive line, Jeff Sieck helped pave the way for some very successful Nebraska Wesleyan football teams from 1987-90. He was a part of three NIAC Championship teams from 1988-90.

Sieck, a native of Pleasant Dale, Neb., who played at Seward High School, is one of just 11 players in the history of Nebraska Wesleyan football to be named a First-Team NAIA All-American. He was the anchor of the offensive line at tackle as a senior in 1990 when he earned the All-American recognition. He remains the only offensive tackle at NWU to earn First-Team All-America honors.

He took over starting tackle duties midway through the 1989 season and helped the Plainsmen advance to the NAIA Playoffs where they earned the only postseason victory in school history. Sieck earned honorable mention All-NIAC honors as a junior. During his senior season he was First-Team All-NIAC and named All-Nebraska First-Team by the Omaha World Herald. Off the field, Sieck was a two-time NAIA All-America Scholar Athlete.

Andre Watts ‘02
The most decorated player in school history, Andre Watts becomes the first men’s soccer player to be inducted into the Nebraska Wesleyan Hall of Fame. He was the most prolific goal scorer ever for NWU, competing for the Plainsmen from 1997-99. His 59 career goals are still the school record and he still has the top two single season goal scoring totals.

Watts was a two-time NIAC Player-of-the-Year, earning the award during his junior and senior seasons. In 1998 he was named the Great Plains Region Player-of-the-Year. At the conference level, Watts was an All-NIAC selection all three seasons in a NWU uniform.

The Omaha native was a major part of the best single season in school history during his senior season. Watts helped NWU finish a perfect 19-0 in 1999, marking the only undefeated season in soccer history. He finished the year ninth in the country in points. Watts also was First-Team Academic All-District and an Arthur Ashe Sports Scholars First-Team pick as a senior.

Tom Hertzel
Spirit of the Plainsman Award

Baseball is one sport where as much pride is taken in the playing field as the action that takes place on the field. At Nebraska Wesleyan that pride is taken to a whole new level under the direction of Tom Hertzel. Few small college baseball fields get as much care and attention as Nebraska Wesleyan Field located at Woods Park. Tom spends tireless hours of work making sure the Prairie Wolves have an outstanding playing surface to compete on.

Despite the always changing spring weather in Nebraska, the Prairie Wolves know that if there is a chance to get on the field, Tom will have the field ready.

“Tom Hertzel has been very important to the NWU Baseball program,” remarked Head Baseball Coach Bill Fagler. “He has been in charge of the development of our field since it was built. Tom takes great care of athletic facilities. He works hard because he takes pride in his work and gives us the best possible facility.”

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