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Accomplished wrestling coach Denney to give Dakota Wesleyan commencement address

Apr. 15—MITCHELL — Micheal "Duke" Denney, a 1969 graduate of Dakota Wesleyan University, will be the keynote speaker at the DWU commencement at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 5, at the Corn Palace. The title of Denney's speech is "This is Holy Ground."

The Clearwater, Nebraska, native came to DWU on an athletic scholarship to play football and to wrestle. After graduating in 1969, he and his wife, Mitchell native Bonnie Gaetze, moved to Omaha, where Denney spent 10 years teaching math and coaching high school wrestling before moving to the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where he coached until 2011. He then moved to Maryville University in suburban St. Louis and started the wrestling program. Denney retired in 2023.

His record and résumé are filled with records, including multiple national NCAA Division II team championships; many NCAA Division II individual champions; hundreds of Division II All-Americans and scholar All-Americans; and academic national team championships. Denney was named 2011 InterMat Coach of the Year which recognized him as the top college wrestling coach across all NCAA divisions; was named the NCAA Division II Wrestling Coach of the Year three times and is a member of the NCAA Division II Wrestling Hall of Fame. He is a member of the DWU Athletics Hall of Fame, was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 2021 and was the DWU Alumni Coach of the Year in 1997.

The Denneys make their home in Olathe, Kansas. They have three adult children and seven grandchildren. All of the Denney children are coaches, and all grandchildren are athletes. Coach Denney is well known among his friends, athletes, classmates and family for his "Duke's Daily Dose," positive quotes and motivational quips that arrive in hundreds of email boxes every day.

As part of the ceremony, Denney will also receive an honorary doctorate, which will be conferred in recognition of Denney's 50-plus years coaching and mentoring athletes, serving his communities, achieving recognition within the sport of collegiate wrestling and continually supporting DWU.

The ceremony will be livestreamed at DWU's website. A baccalaureate service will be held prior to the commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. in the Sherman Center on the campus of Dakota Wesleyan.