When South Dakota State fans talk about their favorite all-time players, those who were around in 1970 will invariably single out Dennis Womeldorf.
Nicknamed “The Worm” by Jackrabbit play-by-play announcer Norm Hilson, Womeldorf excited fans with his all-around play — known as well for his defense as his offense. And his offense wasn’t bad, averaging 13 points per game for his career.
For much of his career, Womeldorf played on team with other stars. A three-year starting guard for the Jacks, he played on North Central Conference championship teams as a sophomore and junior. But when the Jackrabbits graduated a talented senior class following the North Central Conference championship in 1969, many wondered what would happen in 1970.
With Womeldorf leading the way, the Jacks had one of their best seasons ever, finishing 22-4 overall, and posting a 13-1 NCC record en route to another NCC title.
Womeldorf averaged 19.1 points per game and was named the Most Valuable Player in the league. He followed that by earning all-tournament honors at the Midwest Regional, and earned The Associated Press All-America honors.
Womeldorf finished third in the NCC scoring race that season, but led the league in field goal shooting and was a dominating defensive player. One of his most memorable performances came against Augustana at the Barn during his senior year. He set a Jackrabbit record by making all 13 of his field goal attempts -- an SDSU record that still stands today -- en route to a 29-point performance.
One game earlier, he hit 16 field goals and scored 33 points against North Dakota State. That was one of three games in which he scored 30 or more points that season, topped by a 35-point outburst against Minnesota-Morris.
Womeldorf shot 57 percent from the field his senior season (195-of-342) and 52.7 percent for his career.
Playing before freshmen were eligible for varsity competition, he was a three-year starter, appeared in 77 games for the Jacks and reached the 1,000-point plateau in his final game, finishing with 1,006 points for an average of 13.1 points per game for his career.
Right from the start, however, it was his defensive presence which attracted attention. After his sophomore season, SDSU coach Jim Marking credited Womeldorf with forcing “at least 225 turnovers by opposing guards.”
The Jacks qualified for the NCAA playoffs all three seasons Womeldorf played, facing Indiana State and DePauw in 1968, Lincoln University and Southwest Missouri in 1969, and Southwest Missouri, Central Missouri and Tennessee State in 1970. The 1968 team was regional runner-up while the 1970 team won the regional title, at the Barn, before losing a thrilling game to Tennessee State 92-89 at the national championships in Evansville, Indiana.
A 1966 graduate of Wessington Springs High School, Womeldorf earned his pharmacy degree at SDSU in 1971. He served in the military after graduating from SDSU, then was a pharmacist at various drug stores in the Black Hills, and was in the real estate business. In 1990 he went back into pharmacy at one of the most recognizable places in South Dakota -- at Wall Drug.
His wife, Florence, is a school counselor at Wall. Womeldorf has a son Brett and daughter Tera in Rapid City, plus a stepson, Austin, in Rapid City and stepson, Adam, at Northern State in Aberdeen.