Two area men were inducted into the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday. Ken Ruml and Kevin Leighton are members of the 2020 class that will be inducted at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.
The 2020 ceremony wasn’t held due to COVID-19.
Other 2020 inductees were Bruce Conley, Laverne Diede, Doug Eggers, Randy Fletcher, Ron Miller,Darwin Robinson, Heather (Sieler) Goehner and Steve Whithorne.
Ruml graduated from Letcher High School in 1967 and attended Dakota Wesleyan University 1968-1971. While at DWU, Ruml competed in football, wrestling and track all four years and lettered in all three sports for four years.
He coached wrestling at Howard High School from 1976-2011. His teams won the state “B” championship in 1996, 1997 and 2000; in 2001, the Tigers won the Dual Team Championship.
His 35-year dual record was 436 and 37. He coached the Tigers to a 51 dual win streak in the 1990s. He coached 18 state champions, 26 runners-up, 17 third-place finishers, 17 fourth-place finishers, 15 fifth-place finishers, 18 sixth-place finishers, 17 seventh-place finishers, 12 eighth-place finishers and 129 other state qualifiers in his 35 seasons.
His teams had 12 undefeated seasons, and he won 17 district titles and 13 regional titles.
Ruml had the opportunity to coach Team USA in a junior international wrestling tournament in Belgium in 1996. His team got 10 golds, 10 silvers and eight bronze medals at the tournament. He also had the opportunity to coach Team S.D. at the Disney Duals in 2000 in Florida. His team placed third out of 68 teams.
Ruml was a four-time region wrestling coach of the year, seven-time district wrestling coach of the year and the S.D. wrestling coach of the year five times. In 1998, the S.D. High School Coaches Association presented him with a lifetime membership card for his success.
He wrestled at the 1996 National AAU master tournament in Tulsa, Okla. He won first place and also placed third at St. Louis in 1998 and fifth at Detroit in 1999.
Since retiring from coaching in the high school ranks in 2011, he took on a new challenge. Ruml entered and attended the USA National Coaches Education Programs and completed his copper, bronze, silver and gold level wrestling programs. He completed all four levels in 2012 at Colorado Springs at the Olympic training center. He was one of only 40 gold level wrestling coaches in the U.S. as of 2017.
The Gold Level Certification Course contains 154 contact hours, 156 hours of technical certification including over sea travel with coaches apprentice program or selection as a National team coach, two hours of teaching at a silver level coaches college and 12 required task submissions, consisting of an essential eight hours of research and preparation per task. Topics covered are determined in a written study plan, designed by the coach and approved by the USA wrestling NCEP manager.
One of the craziest things he has done was wrestle a 750-pound brown bear at the S.D. State Fair in 1980.
The highlight of his career was going to the 2012 Olympics in London with Team USA. USA had two gold medal winners, Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner.
Wrestling has been his life; he was on the mats from 1968-2018.
On July 19, 2018, S.D. made a proclamation designating Ken Ruml Day.
He was National Wrestling Coach of the Year in 2000. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in July 2002 by the S.D. High Coaches Association. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in July 2018 by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association.
The motto he lives up to is: “If you wrestled in your life, you can do anything in your life you want to.” — Dan Gable
Leighton played amateur baseball for 34 years with the Madison Broncos, Madison Cobras and Canova Gang.
“I really enjoyed my time playing for Madison and Canova,” he said.
Leighton ended his stellar career with 501 home runs. He holds the career record for most home runs at the State Tournament with 24.
He clubbed 24 home runs in 1980 and 22 in 1998 and 2000.
“I probably averaged between 14 and 20 home runs a season,” he said.
In an extra-inning game against Salem in 1998 while playing for the Cobras, Leighton recorded six round-trippers.
“Madison won the game like 30-29, not much pitching by either team,” he said. “I think I batted nine or 10 times in the contest.”
He also had two home runs in one inning twice, in 1985 and 1994.
During his playing days, Leighton played in 15 State Tournament championship games. He was on 10 championship teams and five runner-up teams.
Leighton played the outfield and first base during his career.
Leighton was inducted into the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010.
Leighton still plays some baseball as he goes to Florida to play in the Roy Hobbs Tournament. He has hit a home run at the Boston Red Sox spring training facility.