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Neysa Villa



Known to most people simply as Neysa, Villa raised 10 children in Freeman, and in her efforts to provide sports activities for her children, she created an amazing legacy of volunteerism in amateur sports in South Dakota, especially in the AAU, from the 1960s to the early 1980s.

Villa, a registered nurse, was instrumental in creating sports opportunities for thousands of youths of all abilities and circumstance in South Dakota and beyond, allowing young athletes the chance to compete in and travel to local, regional and national competitions. Beginning in 1968, Villa served as long-term secretary of the state AAU and in many other capacities. She also was the secretary for the four-state AAU region (SD, ND, MT, WY). She represented the state several times as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and traveled to the USA National AAU conventions many times as the S.D. representative.

While she was committee chairperson for S.D. AAU wrestling, South Dakota registered 7,000 boy and two girl wrestlers – more than any other state at the time. During this time she helped produce some of the first wrestling clinics – and the first international meet – in the state. As a volunteer chaperone, she traveled thousands of miles accompanying state athletes to numerous regional and seven national AAU championships and one national Special Olympics.

With the aid of Rich Greeno, Villa helped produce the first AAU cross country meets in the state for age-group boys and girls. She founded the Freeman Athletic Club, which produced outstanding athletes in many sports, including regional and national Junior Olympic champs.

She also organized and/or directed AAU swimming, track and wrestling competitions in Freeman. She helped initiate a number of small town swimming and cross country teams.

She was inducted into the state AAU Hall of Fame. She received the Ernie Gunderson Award, for outstanding contribution to the advancement of competitive swimming in South Dakota; the Jefferson Award, a national award for community and public service; and the South Dakota Women in Sports Leadership Award. Her volunteer time in sports came to a close as she returned to school, eventually earning a doctorate in education administration at USD.

Villa grew up in Creve Coeur, Ill.






















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