Hayden’s Hunter Planansky inks with Dakota Wesleyan
HAYDEN — In seventh grade, Hayden athlete Hunter Planansky told his father, Nick, and his wrestling coach, Chad Jones, that he had three goals. One, he wanted to be a running back on the high school football team. Two, he wanted to win a state championship, and three, he wanted to wrestle in college.
“Coach (Jones), he was super blunt with kids,” said Nick. “He flat told him, ‘It’ll never happen. You got to get better footwork, you got to do that, you got to do this.’ Hunter stomped off. He was pissed. That’s when he really started putting in the extra work.”
Planansky, now a senior, is just one state championship away from accomplishing all three of those goals.
As running back, he led the Tigers football team to a 4-5 season this fall and on Monday, Jan. 6, he signed his letter of intent to wrestle at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota.
Nick took over the Hayden high school wrestling team when Jones passed away in 2018, but has been involved in coaching Hunter since his son was four. He saw him evolve from an awkward grappler in elementary school to a more confident middle schooler and a second-place finish at state in high school.
In seventh grade, before setting his three goals, Planansky earned his first-ever first place finish, an achievement that prevented him from quitting the sport. Once he started having success, he started to love the sport.
“I love how it’s independent. If you mess up, it’s actually you,” he said. “You can’t point fingers at somebody else. Someone can’t point fingers at you. Football, if you’re going as hard as you can, that still can’t decide the game. With this, it’s all you.”
This fall, the Plananskys drove overnight to South Dakota to tour Dakota Wesleyan, followed by a few other schools, including Morningside College and Briar Cliff University in Iowa and Hastings College in Nebraska. Planansky also received a generous offer from Morningside, which is one of the strongest wrestling programs in the NAIA, but found the people and the program at Dakota Wesleyan more appealing.
Growing up in a small town, Planansky wanted a small school. Planansky wants to be a police officer, and he liked what he saw of the criminal justice program while touring Dakota Wesleyan.
“I wanted a change in scenery,” he explained. “I was born in Texas and lived there for like two years, moved to Soroco, then here. This is really all I remember is mountains and mountains and more mountains. I wanted to get away from home.”
Planansky first started communicating with colleges and Casey Mouw, the head coach at Dakota Wesleyan, last wrestling season. During the summer, they met for the first time at a national tournament in Fargo, North Dakota, then Mouw drove down to Hayden to spend a day with the Plananskys.
“Meeting his parents and getting to know about where he’s from and his story, it was just a really good fit,” said Mouw.
During the first tournament of the season, Planansky was distracted by his decision. Planansky said signing has relieved so much pressure. Now, he can focus on wrestling and work towards completing his final goal: a state championship.
“I don’t have any doubts at all,” said Hunter’s mom, Christene. “He’s determined and dedicated. When someone puts that much work in, there’s really no giving up. No matter how it ends, I couldn’t be more proud of how hard he works.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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