Wolterstorffs Leave Legacy

Wolterstorffs Leave Legacy

By: Danny Mooers, Dordt Assistant Sports Information Director

Let’s take a trip back to 1977. Dordt College was in its 22nd year of existence and the DeWitt Gymnasium was nine years young. President B.J. Haan was five years away from his retirement. “Tonight’s the Night” by Rod Stewart was the number one song on the charts and gas cost 65 cents a gallon.  

1977 marked the beginning of the Wolterstorff era at Dordt College. Kevin Wolterstorff made his way down from central Minnesota to start his four-year pursuit of an Agriculture Business degree. His older sister was at Calvin College and he was searching for a place to play basketball. Southwest Minnesota State and Dordt recruited him, but Dordt won out.

“I wanted to go to a place where I could play right away,” he said. “Dordt wasn’t too far from home and I knew some kids going so I decided to give it a shot.”

Rick Vander Berg was hired on as men’s basketball coach at the beginning of the 1977 season.

The Defenders went 10-12 in the 77-78 campaign, a four win improvement from the previous season. The next two seasons were similar with the Defenders finishing near .500.

“By the time we were juniors and seniors we were pretty good,” Wolterstorff said. “We hit our stride senior year and had a great season.”

The Defenders finished the 1980-1981 season 17-7, the best record since men’s basketball became a varsity sport in 1963. The record wouldn’t be topped until the 1985-1986 season.

During Kevin’s sophomore season (78-79), Bonnie De Boer began her one-year stint at Dordt to study nursing. She also participated in Volleyball and Track, two women’s sports that were nowhere near the powerhouses that they are today.

Kevin and Bonnie went on to be married and Bonnie gave birth to four children: Trevor, Tyler, Brooke and Abby. All four have gone to Dordt with Abby set to graduate in December.

“It’s hard to believe the Wolterstorffs won’t have a child on campus for the first time in a decade next year,” said Sports Information Director Mike Byker. “They’ve been loyal to Dordt and the Defender athletic program. The thing that really stands out for me is that there are several ‘legacy’ families like the Wolterstorff’s associated with Dordt. Their support doesn't and didn’t waiver whether teams were winning or losing or if their children were playing or not.”

Sports and competition were always in the Wolterstorff children’s blood. While all of them participated in other activities, athletics always seemed to win out. Kevin attributes the family competitive spirit to Bonnie.

“She’ll get fired up over a good game of tiddlywinks.”

The first Wolterstorff child, Trevor, owner of one of the most memorable dunks in Dordt history set the tone for the rest of the family. Starting at two years old, basketball was the thing to do.

“We bought him a little hoop, but ended up having to put it away at times he played so much,” Bonnie said.

Trevor won two state titles in basketball in high school at Western Christian. Despite being recruited from larger schools, Trevor felt at home at Dordt.

“Coach Van Soelen left the right before my freshmen year so there was a vacancy in the position,” Trevor said. “It was filled by Coach Douma and the day after he took the job he texted me and the next week he was at my kitchen table getting to know me.”

Trevor started his freshmen year in 2009. He played basketball all four years and ran track two years.

Deep down, Kevin and Bonnie wanted Trevor to go to Dordt, but ultimately left the decision up to him. The fact that Trevor and Tyler would imagine themselves as Dordt players when they would play one-on-one in the driveway as kids gave them both dreams of being Defenders one day.

When it came time for Tyler to decide on a school, most were confident that Dordt was the place. While he had the skill, he was known to be a different type of competitor than Trevor.

“Tyler had a motor on him that was so impressive,” Trevor said. “He would never back down. He was one of the most competitive people I ever played against.”

Kevin echoed Trevor’s thoughts. It didn’t matter who he was put up against, Tyler was going to beat them.

Tyler started at Dordt in 2011 and played basketball all four years.

Trevor and Tyler played a major role in helping Coach Douma create some of the best men’s basketball teams Dordt has seen. In 2012, 2013 and 2014 the Defenders made it to the NAIA National Tournament. In 2012 and 2013 the team advanced to the quarterfinals. Tyler helped keep the National Tournament tradition rolling after his brother’s graduation, but they were bounced in the first round of the 2014 tournament.

“Trevor and Tyler were instrumental in taking the men’s basketball program to a higher level and were also responsible for moving the Defender athletic program forward,” said Dordt athletic Director Ross Douma. “Both had the ability to impact those around them due to the standards of excellence they possessed in all spheres of their life. Reflecting back, the thing that was so impressive about Trevor and Tyler was their ability to compete each and every day in practice. Their competitive nature was contagious and was a significant factor to the successes of our teams.”

When Trevor graduated in 2013, he was replaced by his sister Brooke. From a young age, she was similar to Trevor. She was a natural athlete and didn’t need any encouragement to join sports teams.

“Brooke would go to her brother’s track practices and jog along with the boys and easily keep up,” Bonnie said. “She had that gift.”

Brooke had offers from other schools besides Dordt for athletics, but there was never a desire to look elsewhere.

“I wanted to go to Dordt because it was local and I was very familiar with it,” Brooke said. “I knew that I probably wanted to get married in college and Dordt had everything I needed.”

Brooke played volleyball all four years at Dordt as well as one season of outdoor track. She helped the Dordt Volleyball team to its first National Championship appearance in 2016, the year after Tyler graduated. Despite being up two sets to zero, the Defenders lost 3-2 to Hastings.

“Losing that game was my biggest regret at Dordt,” Brooke said. “It clearly wasn’t meant to be, but we all wanted that so badly.”

Abby began her freshmen year in 2015. Being the youngest, Abby didn’t even bother considering a different school. Growing up around Dordt athletics and having friends attend all made it a simple decision.

Abby spent much of her growing up years developing a strong mental toughness. She had spent her whole life watching her siblings play and succeed and used it as motivation. She came into Dordt with the intention of playing both basketball and soccer, but after two years soccer won out.  

“None of my family played soccer,” Abby said. “I played it in high school and decided to try it my freshmen year. I fell in love with it and it was an easy decision to stick with it all four years.”

The Defender women’s soccer team recently finished up their season with a loss against Midland in the GPAC quarterfinals. It will be the last time a Wolterstorff name is mentioned over the PA system at a Dordt athletic event for the extended future.

Anyone familiar with Dordt would say the Wolterstorff’s created a strong legacy over the years. Their off the playing surface contributions are recognized just as much as their time in Dordt uniforms.

You can find the Wolterstorff name all over Dordt record books. Trevor, a three-time GPAC first team recipient, is the second all-time leading scorer and fourth all-time leading rebounder in Dordt men’s basketball history. He also has his name in the top twenty of career assists and steals.

Kevin Wolterstorff is still in the top twenty for rebounds in Dordt men’s basketball history. Tyler holds the record for 10th most free throws made in a season and is 34th on Dordt’s all-time scoring list.

Brooke was voted the AVCA NAIA Freshmen of the year in volleyball and First Team All-American twice. She is top-five all time in career kills.

Ask the Wolterstorff’s where they stand in the record book and they’ll likely have no idea. The Wolterstorff’s fondest memories at Dordt don’t come from specific games or seasons.

“As cliché as it sounds, I remember the friends I made,” Abby said. “I honestly don’t remember the majority of the games we played. Those didn’t matter. I just enjoyed being with my teammates.”

On top of athletics, the educational experience at Dordt proved to be vital for their success. Trevor and Abby both studied Psychology. Abby tacked on an HHP-Exercise Science major as well. Tyler majored in accounting and Brooke in education.

“I chose Dordt because I wanted more than basketball,” Trevor said. “I knew a degree from Dordt would carry quite a bit of weight and it’s helped me a lot post-graduation.”

The family has gone in different directions to pursue their professional careers. Trevor is earning another degree in Virginia and Tyler is in St. Louis working as an accountant. Brooke is teaching in the area and has a child with her husband. Abby is planning on working at Sioux Pharm in Sioux Center.  

It will be a time of transition for Kevin and Bonnie as they wait for their grandkids to find their way to Dordt. The one thing that won’t change is their love for Dordt athletics.

“I’ve bought a couple new fishing poles and we like to bike,” Kevin said. “But I can guarantee we will be at Dordt sporting events. We may just skip the road trips to Hastings.”