Growing up as the son of a coach and participating in athletics combined with an interest in the health and medical field led Ryan into athletic training. After receiving his undergraduate degree in Athletic Training and Health Promotion at South Dakota State University followed by a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Northern Colorado, he also became a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.
Ryan provides outreach to schools in Iowa and Minnesota. He spent 17 years as the head athletic trainer for the Sioux Falls Storm indoor football team. He also loves the diversity of being an athletic trainer in a clinical setting as well as working closely with the physicians at Orthopedic Institute.
Outside of his time at Orthopedic Institute, he loves hunting, fishing, and spending time with his family.
Aaron Conklin, ATC
His entire life, Aaron had wanted a job in a field where he could work with an athletic population and be able to help people as much as possible. Which is why, after he graduated with a Bachelor of Science from South Dakota State University, he pursued a career in athletic training and has continued that career to this day.
Aaron works with athletes ranging from high schoolers to minor league teams. For him, the best thing about working in the field is seeing the athletes he works with recover from injury and regain their full strength and well-being, no matter what the activity may be. Outside of athletic training, he likes to spend whatever time he can outdoors, including golfing, hunting, and biking.
Jackson Diede, MAT, ATC
When Jackson was younger, he sustained an injury. He did his physical therapy and rehab at Orthopedic Institute. After his treatment at OI, he was able to return to play at a high level. Seeing his significant improvement made Jackson want to be involved with athletic training. Jackson obtained a Master’s degree in Athletic Training from Dakota Wesleyan University in 2021.
Jackson will be working with McGovern Middle School and provide outreach care to Baltic High School. He is excited to be a part of team OI and provide quality care to area athletes and patients. Outside of work, he enjoys staying active, hunting, fishing, and spending time with his family.
Megan Ekern, MS, ATC
“Helping people and sports are two interests that fuel Megan’s passion for athletic training. Her favorite part about the athletic training profession is building relationships with athletes, coaches, and other medical professionals that allow a teamwork mentality when dealing with injuries. This inspired her to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and also, a master’s degree from South Dakota State University in Exercise Science.
Megan works with Lennox and Centerville High Schools providing outreach care to their student-athletes. She is excited to join the OI team and be able to provide patient-based care. When she is not in the clinic or at her schools, she enjoys staying active, crafting, and spending time with her family.”
Gina Fritz, MS, ATC
When Gina was younger, she had an injury that required her to perform physical therapy and rehab at the Orthopedic Institute. “I was here at 6 a.m. almost every morning trying to recover,” said Gina. Fast forward over a decade, after completing her degree in Athletic Training from South Dakota State University and working on finishing up her master’s thesis, she is now an athletic trainer working for the doctor that helped her recover so many years ago.
Gina is the full-time athletic trainer at Madison Central High School. She works with both high school and middle school athletes in a variety of sports including, football, volleyball, cross country, tennis, golf, basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, and track. Her time at schools helped her realize that being an athletic trainer is not limited to treating just the physical injuries of students. Often, trainers are there to be a listening ear and guide athletes through situations that may be mentally tough. “The relationships athletic trainers build with student-athletes are ones that last a lifetime,” Gina said.
Jodi Fuerstenberg, MS, ATC
After a lifelong involvement in sports and a desire to help people feel their best, Jodi became an Athletic Trainer. Her goal was accomplished after completing her bachelor’s in Athletic Training from Buena Vista University. She spent 16 years at Southwest Minnesota State University before this position. While at SMSU, she completed her master’s degree in education with an emphasis in sport leadership. At SMSU, she provided healthcare coverage for student-athletes and spent time teaching in the classroom as an adjunct faculty member. As an athletic trainer, Jodi has a solid commitment to providing excellent care and the desire to help people feel their best. She is excited to be part of this team at OI, under the leadership of many physicians and ATs, providing quality care to patients of all ages.
Jodi provides outreach athletic training coverage to area schools around the Brookings area, including Sioux Valley, Arlington, and Elkton/Lake Benton.
While not working in the clinic or with outreach teams, she enjoys spending time with her family, outdoor adventures, traveling, and puzzle competitions with her mom and sisters.
Benjamin Gannon, MA, ATC, NREMT
Ben joins OI after serving the University of Sioux Falls as their Head Football/Cheer Athletic Trainer for the past two seasons. Before that, he served as the Head Athletic Trainer for Sioux Falls Canaries Baseball, where he worked with professional and Olympic baseball players. In Ben’s new role, he will represent OI as the Head Athletic Trainer for the Sioux Falls Storm professional indoor football team.
A native of Richmond, CA, graduating from Richmond High School in 2014, Ben earned a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training from Dakota Wesleyan University (DWU) in Mitchell, SD, in 2018. In 2020 he attained a MA in Educational Policy and Administration from DWU. While at DWU, Ben played on the offensive line for the football team.
Ben is a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC), a Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technician (NREMT), licensed in South Dakota (LAT), and a member of the National Athletic Training Association. He currently serves with the South Dakota National Guard.
Ben lives in Tea, SD, with his two dogs.
Chad Grotewold, MA, ATC, CSCS
Chad received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of South Dakota, he continued his education and obtained certifications in athletic training and strength and conditioning. After graduation, he was excited to start his career at Orthopedic Institute. “They are the leaders in sports medicine and have outstanding physicians that care for the well-being of patients from start to finish,” said Chad, “I was excited to start my career at OI!”
Chad does outreach to multiple high schools in Iowa in addition to working with patients and athletes in the clinic. “I love being a part of helping them rehabilitate from injuries and return to activities,” Chad said. In the summer, Chad also helps run OI’s strength and conditioning programs. Though he dedicates a majority of his time to being the best athletic trainer possible, he also enjoys hunting and spending time with his family and friends.
David Hopper, CSCS
David walked into a weight room during his freshmen year of high school and was hooked. He loved seeing the body adapt and perform tasks it was never able to do and how it instilled camaraderie among teammates. For the last ten years, David has been working in the athletic performance field and has been able to turn his passion into a profession. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Recreation and Exercise Science, he obtained a master’s degree in Kinesiology and Sports Science from the University of South Dakota.
David worked with athletes in small group settings then transitioned to a team setting. He was the Strength and Conditioning Coach at Washington High School for over five years and an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the University of Sioux Falls for three years. He is excited to join the new Jefferson High School as the head Strength and Conditioning Specialist.
Outside of work, David enjoys training, spending time with family, wife, and soon-to-be-born son.
Master’s of Kinesiology & Sports Science
NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
USA Weightlifting Certified
Tyra Jons, MS, LAT, ATC
I grew up as a coach’s kid and was always in the gym, which helped create my love for sports. As I started to learn about anatomy and physiology, I knew athletic training was the perfect career for me. In my senior year of high school at Bon Homme, I suffered an injury that took me out of competition for the remainder of the year. My injury deepened my desire to become an athletic trainer to help other athletes overcome these difficulties and return to play.
From 2014-2018 I attended Dakota Wesleyan University, earning my Bachelor of Science in athletic training while competing on the track team. After graduating, I served as the athletic trainer for Custer High School while studying for my Master’s degree. In May of 2023, I graduated with my Master of Science in applied exercise science from Concordia University Chicago.
I enjoy being an athletic trainer because it enables me to create meaningful relationships with the community, coaches, parents, and athletes. It is so fulfilling to see an athlete work hard to return to their sport after an injury and know I helped them along the way. I am excited to join the OI team and provide care for Baltic High School!
Outside work, I enjoy spending time with my dog, husband Curt, family, and friends.
Darred Nelson, MS, ATC
Darred graduated with a Bachelor of Science from South Dakota State University and a Master of Science in Physical Ed from NW Missouri State University. He enjoys athletics and was intrigued by athletic injuries and recovery. He joined Orthopedic Institute because of the outstanding reputation of the doctors and sports medicine program. He works with Lennox and Centerville High Schools. Darred likes working with patients to help them return to activities that they enjoy and being a part of a cohesive team providing services at OI.
Outside of work, he co-leads the youth group at his church, spends time with family and friends, and stays active with exercise.
Eric Page, MAT, ATC
Eric’s passion for athletic training started at a young age. As an athlete, he was injured and received treatment at Orthopedic Institute.
From that experience, he determined he would help others return to full strength and activity. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Sioux Falls in Exercise Science and his master’s degree in Athletic training from Texas Tech University Health Science Center.
Eric is a full-time athletic trainer at Sioux Falls Jefferson High School and is excited to join the Orthopedic Institute team to provide care to the Sioux Falls and Jefferson communities.
When he is not at work, he enjoys being outdoors and going to sporting events.
Brad Pfeifle, VP, MS, ATC – VP of Sports Medicine & Rehab Services
Brad was introduced to athletic training after he was injured in college, which filled an interest in his passion for athletics, medicine, and how the body worked. Once he was introduced to the profession, he was blessed with great role models and mentors that helped him graduated with both an bachelor’s and master’s degree from South Dakota State University.
Brad was introduced to a number of the physicians early in his career when he was the Head Athletic Trainer at Augustana College. From there, he built relationships with them and valued the level of expertise they had. He always wanted to work with them and for them. When the opportunity was offered to him, he didn’t look back and is now fortunate enough to work with coaches, parents, and athletes from the entire region.
Natalie Rihanek, MS, AT
Growing up in Lynch, NE (pop. 194), Natalie began playing sports at a very young age. This passion and love of playing sports led her to a career in Athletic Training.
After graduating from Lynch High School, she enrolled at South Dakota State University, earning her undergraduate degree in Health Education and her Master’s degree in Athletic Training in 2020.
Today she serves as one of OI’s athletic trainers at Sioux Falls Jefferson High School. Natalie enjoys the relationships and friendships made with both student-athletes and coaches. But her greatest reward comes from helping athletes during their journey to return to their sport after an injury.
When she is not working at Jefferson, Natalie enjoys being outside with her dog Ash and spending time with family and friends.
John Shape, ATC
John has always been around sports growing up, which inspired him to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training from South Dakota State University. His passion for the Athletic Training profession came at an early age when the ATCs from Orthopedic Institute helped him and his fellow athletes recover from injuries in both Middle and High School. He also enjoys being around sports and helping athletes because of his coaches who encouraged his love for sports.
John’s favorite part of his job is helping athletes return to participation at the same competition level, if not higher than before. Another highlight of being an Athletic Trainer is having the ability to push athletes and help them to perform to their highest ability.
Outside of work, he loves spending time outdoors and being with his wife, family, and friends.
Patrick Starr, MAT, ATC
Throughout Patrick’s life, sports have played a key role in his development and finding his passion for helping others. This passion led him to pursue a Master of Athletic Training from Dakota Wesleyan University, from which he graduated in 2022. He approaches injuries like a puzzle. Each injury creates challenges, but the goal is to get back to performing better than before.
Patrick works with Dell Rapids High School and Dell Rapids St. Mary’s High School, providing athletic training support for their student-athletes. He enjoys being a part of the OI team. He looks forward to building a solid relationship with the parents, coaches, and student-athletes in the community of Dell Rapids. Outside of Athletic Training, Patrick enjoys spending time with family, playing amateur baseball, hunting, and staying active.
Jordan Whitsell, MS, LAT, ATC
My entire athletic career began with watching the Sioux Falls Stampede. I was introduced to athletic training after being injured in college, it filled an opportunity to combine athletics and medicine. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training from Northwestern College (IA) and continued my education at A.T. Still University receiving a master’s degree in Kinesiology with a focus in Sports Psychology.
Once introduced to the profession, I was blessed with many great role models and mentors from around the United States who encouraged learning and drove me to advance in the profession. My passion for athletics and medicine began to increase my interest in injury prevention and biomechanics. I began working at the high school level, increasing to the club level, until I was given an incredible opportunity to work with the NCAA Division 1 men’s hockey team at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Shortly after, Orthopedic Institute and the Sioux Falls Stampede allowed a chance to come full-circle in my career with the additional benefit of returning home. I’m honored and excited to work with two outstanding groups.
When not at work, you will find me outside golfing, playing beach volleyball, hiking, fishing, or hunting.