Bonnstetter among the elite

Mitch Bonnstetter wasn’t necessarily expecting to follow this particular career path when he arrived at Iowa Central two years ago.

Looking back now, the 2012 West Bend-Mallard graduate considers himself fortunate for taking the road less traveled.

Bonnstetter has blossomed into an All-American punter for the Triton football program, which secured a bowl bid for the 15th time in 17 seasons this past weekend.

Bonnstetter came to the Fort Dodge campus with an open mind after a decorated prep career with the Wolverines. He punted in high school, but was also a standout quarterback and defensive back.

Iowa Central head coach Kevin Twait tried Bonnstetter at multiple positions before letting him take over the full-time punting duties. The sophomore hasn’t looked back since.

”I was just kind of classified as an ‘athlete’ out of high school,” Bonnstetter said. ”The coaches tried me at quarterback, receiver and punter last year as a freshman. I really got comfortable doing the punting, and by the end of the season, I had done so well that I decided this is what I wanted to do (collegiately) as a football player. At that point, I just wanted to keep working hard at it and improving.

”Stat-wise, I had a good year and made (the first team NJCAA All-America list), but I wanted to get better. I feel like I’ve been able to do that.”

Bonnstetter ranked first in the country last fall at 41.4 yards per punt. That number has ballooned to 46.1 yards per attempt this season for the Tritons (5-5 overall), who will play in the Graphic Edge Bowl at the UNI-Dome on Dec. 8.

”I gained a lot of confidence (in 2012) and started to feel like this could be my shot,” said Bonnstetter, a three-time all-state selection at WB-M. ”My form and technique is much better now than it was (a year ago).

”Our special teams have been very important to our success. (Kicker Nathan) Criswell had eight field goals in the last two games, which was huge. Cody Brigham, our long snapper, is outstanding. We all just want to play our part.”

Twait called Bonnstetter and Criswell ”the best punting-kicking combination in junior college football, hands down.”

”Mitch is a tremendous all-around athlete – not just a good punter,” Twait said. ”This is a kid who runs a 4.5 40-yard dash and can bench over 300 pounds. We knew we had to get him on the field in some capacity, and we also wanted to put him in a position that would be beneficial for him down the road (after junior college).

”I couldn’t be more proud of him. Mitch is a very competitive kid and a tremendous student-athlete (Bonnstetter has a cumulative 3.9 grade-point average). He’s a great representative for our program.”

Bonnstetter’s plans beyond Iowa Central are still up in the air, though he ”definitely wants to continue to punt somewhere.”

”I’m still in the process of looking and trying to find the best fit for me,” Bonnstetter said. ”I’m just fortunate to be in a position to (extend) my career (beyond the junior college level). Was this what I expected to be doing when I started (with the Tritons)? Maybe not exactly. But I’m happy with it. I love it.”

Bonnstetter credited his high school coaches, Pete Kapustynski and Mark Wenzel, as well as Twait and Triton assistant Koy Goodchild – a coaching legend at WB-M – for his development.

”They’ve all been there for me at different times and stages,” Bonnstetter said. ”You have a lot of pride coming from a smaller school (in the area) and you want to do your best playing for Iowa Central and continuing the tradition of being (a Triton).”