The first person to be named the state’s High School Athlete of the Year and the College Athlete of the Year, the multi-talented Heirigs was one of South Dakota’s brightest stars in the 1960s.
He earned the prep honor in 1963 at Irene and the college honor in 1966 at Yankton College. Both honors were from the South Dakota Sportswriters Association.
At Irene, the 5-foot-9, 167-pounder scored 39 touchdowns as a senior and had 518 career points – both state records. He averaged 12 yards a carry as a senior. That year Irene was the state 8-man champion as selected by the Argus Leader. He was the sixth man on a state-tourney basketball team as a junior and averaged 12 points a game as the Cardinals placed third in state as a senior. In track, he was second in the long jump and 100, helping Irene to the 1964 state title.
At Yankton College, the 180-pounder was an honorable mention All-American running back in football each of his last three seasons and averaged better than 6 yards a carry. In 1966, he scored 19 TDs for the Greyhounds, ranking him fourth in all of the NAIA. YC was 1-8 the year before Heirigs arrived, then went 5-4, 7-2, 8-1, 8-1 in his four seasons. As a shortstop, he led the baseball team to three Tri-State Conference titles.
He led Yankton to state Teener baseball titles in 1959 and ’61, and Yankton played in the national tourney both years.
Heirigs played two years for Winner in the Basin League. He was the only South Dakotan playing regularly in the league, which featured the top collegians in the country. He signed with the Minnesota Twins and played one season for their rookie league team. He played amateur ball for many years for the Yankton Lakers (including the 1969 state championship team). During the state’s centennial, Heirigs was selected by the Argus Leader as one of the top baseball players in state history.
He coached wrestling and football in Rockwell City, Iowa, from 1968-79 and he was an assistant football, wrestling and track coach at Vermillion from 1979-2008. He was the South Dakota Football Coaches Association assistant coach of the year twice and South Dakota High School Coaches Association assistant coach of the year for all sports in 2000-01.
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