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Remember The Wrestler: Levi Wolfensper; Denver-Tripoli, UNI

I am always harshly critical of myself… I generally don’t read past articles that I wrote, for I always cringe when doing so and pick it completely apart and what-not. It’s pretty rare for me to post a story or a quote within the story that I become genuinely proud of… however, I DID write something in Brandon Sorensen’s GOAT article a few weeks ago that I admit… I was proud of it. It was this quote:

“There was something intimidating about those Denver-Tripoli guys. You had Dylan Peters burying people like he was a hired Wells Fargo undertaker, Brandon Sorensen offering no opportunity for his opponents to even breathe, the systematic destruction of Levi Wolfensperger and the quiet confidence they all seemed to step on the mat with.”

I hate to brag, but I felt like that one came out perfectly. Usually when I’m writing anything, I type very fast and usually what I come up with is written in a manner that chronicles almost word for word, what I’m thinking as I’m thinking it. And after that quote, I gave myself a rare, “damn Josh! That is actually a perfect way to describe them.” And with Levi Wolfensperger, that is exactly how he came off to me when I watched him. The definition of systematic is: done or acting according to a fixed plan or system; methodical. The definition of “destruction” is : the action or process of causing so much damage to something that it no longer exists or cannot be repaired. And Levi couldn’t fit that description any better. When Levi wrestled he had a fixed plan/fixed system. And that fixed plan/fixed system was to cause so much damage to his opponent’s wills/souls on the mat that they no longer existed nor could they be repaired, for even guys who were known to be really good looked out-classed by Levi Wolfensperger. I saw guys walk off the mat appearing to be just…befuddled following a Levi Wolfensperger beating.

I always thought that Denver-Tripoli team was badass. The type of team that could step up to any team in the nation and create waves. For real, they didn’t seem to have many if any weak spots in their lineup and all of their guys seemed to be capable of shifting to a higher gear of speed out there if they wanted to. I always wondered what some members of the team thought about the team itself… You will find out in Levi’s story.

And I always wanted to know what happened to his younger brother, Ivan. The last time I saw Ivan, he wrestled one of Cedar Valley Mat Club’s Youth Duals team and he pinned one of Mepo’s best wrestlers ever… Drew Foster.

 

Where did you start wrestling?

Cedar Valley Mat Club, Denver High School and University of Northern Iowa

 

What year did you graduate?

2010 HS 2015 UNI

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My whole family was a big influence.

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

My dad and uncle Rod wrestled for Denver back in the day. I grew up wrestling with my cousins Oz and Gunnar and my younger brother Ivan. We’ve all hung the shoes up now.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Pretty successful youth, was just having fun with it mostly. Getting to travel every weekend with my buddies. Have to say Joe Colon for the rival. No bad blood now. Pretty cool to be on a team with him in college.

 

What was your record in HS?

194-4 I think

 

How did you place at state every year?

2-2-1-1

What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?

Wrestling a college season with a torn shoulder was a big one for me.

How would you describe your wrestling style?

In your face, don’t go out of the second because I might get tired.

How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?

Joe Colon, ¾ losses were from that guy

Who was your most influential coach?

My dad, he was a hardass when he needed to be and he talked me through things when my head wasn’t straight.

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

We were average.

 

Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?

I was a big Dan Dennis fan. I liked his style and always wanted to sit down and have a beer with the guy.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Brandon Sorensen


What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?

I listened to a lot of Red Hot Chili peppers warming up.


What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?

Blood round Sophomore of college.

 

If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?

Not a thing, hang your hat and be proud of it.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Went out to VA Beach for JR Nationals, won the tournament and OW. Joe Colon picked up my OW trophy for me.

 

How proud are you to have been such a huge part of that awesome Denver-Tripoli run?

It was a good time.

 

How would you describe the Denver-Tripoli squad in comparison to the other squads you faced?

I would put that team up against any of the best teams in the state.

 

How do you think Ivan would have done if he would have stayed out?

Kid was a hammer, no doubt. Give him enough liquid encouragement and he’ll still do takedowns like hes in the national finals.

 

What was your mindset like when wrestling?

This is my weight and this is how things are going to go.

 

Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

It was pretty cool to get my hands on big names guys like Mark Kist or JJ Krustinger (spelling) when I got into college. I used to watch those guys from the stands.

 

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

Year round.

 

How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?

I’d put that team/guys up against anyone.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes UNI


What other sports did you play?

Used to race motocross (I wasn’t that good, went back to wrestling).


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

I like to hunt, fish and trap quite a bit.

 

How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?

Taught me a lot of life lessons about adversity and how I handle the challenges I’m going to face.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Have fun with it. Enjoy it. It goes by fast.

 

Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?

I don’t remember where I put my wrestling shoes.

 

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

Shout out to the coach from New York who let me borrow his spandex to let me make weight in my last college open.

 

Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.

Ask Tolly Thompson how I saved him from getting beat up once.

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Remember The Wrestler: Jeremy Meyer, Newton HS/UNI

Jeremy Meyer… He was one of the best to ever do it. You won’t convince me otherwise and in fact, if one were to try, they are likely uninformed about some of the outstanding things he did.

Jeremy Meyer is one of these guys who would have maybe benefited from Trackwrestling if we had it back then. You know how Track makes it easy to find “notable wins” because they group them all together? If Jeremy Meyer would have had this, it would have been SHINY! Because he routinely beat a lot of great wrestlers. More than people realized. Not to mention, he won state as a Sophomore and Senior and placed 3rd as a Junior. So his results were proof that he was one of the best in the grade. So it’s not like fans didn’t get the memo that Jeremy Meyer was an amazing wrestler. I just don’t think people realize HOW amazing, which is saying a lot considering he was broadly held in extremely high regard by fans.

When you write down some of the most notable names of guys from that age and weight range who were notorious for winning, there’s a good chance that they had a loss on their resume to Jeremy Meyer. He was able to beat certain guys who were teeter-tottering on a fan perception of “unbeatable.” Guys who seriously no one else, besides Meyer ever seemed to defeat. And he’d do so convincingly… dominating from every position and controlling the direction of the match from start to finish… and some of the scores of these matches reflected this. I don’t think people fully realized what he was doing on the mat on a consistent basis, for it always seemed like there were other heated match-ups and rivalries that were bogarting all of the discussion on the forums and newspapers and what-not… It was like he dominated good guys consistently and quietly. Maybe it came off this way because there wasn’t ever any fireworks in his matches. He was about the most opposite of cocky as a wrestler can be. He just went out there, took care of business and won and was never in a guy’s face after winning a match. If he was excited about the win, you’d get a big smile from him usually… No show-boating. He acted like he had been there before… because well, he generally had been there before.  

And he was quietly a force to be reckoned with from a young age. He and my brother, Justin were in the same grade and they wrestled, I believe twice, but maybe once in youth wrestling. I believe they wrestled as 4th and 5th graders and had close battles. Then AAU state would come and it was almost a certainty every year that Jeremy would place in the top 3-4 in the bracket 5 lbs above Justin. I don’t remember a year where he was not a logical contender to win the bracket he was in.

The one match of Justin and Jeremy wrestling in youth that I remember vividly was at the Columbus Jct. youth wrestling tournament. Columbus Jct. is local to us, but that was at least a 4 hour drive for Newton back then, especially without some of the interstates that we have now.  And we would see them a lot, really… in various geographical locations of the state. Usually we met up with one of Jeremy’s tough practice partners, Aaron Daniels at these tournaments. And at these same tournaments, I would encounter Jeremy’s older teammate, Jamie Hotchkin…He was a guy in the grade above me who had a reputation for being one of the best overall guys in that entire class… And then he got into HS and no one knew what happened to him.  One thing that all 3 of these guys had in common was that win or lose, there was no celebrating, there was no arguing, there were no tantrums, there was no poor sportsmanship at all from them. Everything was handled in a classy and respectful manner. And when you got to know some of the parents from Newton, it wasn’t difficult to see where they learned this. The parents from Newton were some of the nicest people we ran into at these tournaments. In fact, I would say that they were probably my dad’s favorite fanbase other than our own back then. Dad didn’t go out of his way with everyone to be overly chatty, but when he saw the Newton crew, he was excited to see them and they appeared excited to run into him as well. Those Newton guys were a tight-knit crew that was well-coached and taught to have a great grasp of how to conduct themselves, in which they all implemented as of it were second nature to them. A deceptively talented wrestling team.

And if you ever got the chance to meet Jeremy back then, you’d quickly notice  that he was very nice and polite and spoke in a manner that indicated a higher level of professionalism and intelligence than the average guy. You could just tell that he was going to succeed in life. And it turns out, he is very successful… and a large part of his success, he would likely credit to what he learned from the wrestling family he grew up with in Newton. 

Jeremy Meyer is one of the greatest wrestlers to compete in the state of Iowa, not only in his own grade, but of all time. The variety and amount of great wrestlers he defeated is unbelievable when you sit down and look at his results. He would lose a match here and there, but who cares, he’s human and it didn’t happen often. If he did lose, it was always to someone good and usually always in a close match. He’s one of these guys where you can think of all kinds of different “dream match” hypothetical scenarios with him and it’d be risky to bet against him no matter who he was wrestling.  Pick any guy past and present at the weight classes Jeremy occupied from any era and it would be guaranteed that they will always have their hands full with Jeremy Meyer. I don’t care who you mention. You could mention a 4Xer who never lost a match in HS and I know that Jeremy would come at them with everything he had. I mean, seriously…take a look at some of the guys he beat in his HS career: Jacob Naig (Emmetsburg), Brandon Graham (Osky), Mike Foster (Osky), Chad Czerwiec (Muscatine), Edgar Haynes (CR Washington), Wade Satern (Humboldt), Jared Creason (Indianola), Colby Goetsch (Ankeny), Josh Marker (Ames), Topher Ewing (Ankeny),  and the list goes on… I mean, for real. I don’t know if many people who routinely slayed more dragons than that!

What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?

I started wrestling when I was 4 and wrestled for the Newton kids wrestling club through middle school, then Newton High School, and finally two years at UNI.

 

What year did you graduate?

I graduated high school in 2003.

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My dad originally started both me and my brother in wrestling, probably because we were 11 months apart (he’s older) and we were always wrestling or fighting with each other anyway.

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

My brother was a two time state qualifier for newton and wrestled at Simpson for 3 years.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

My youth results were so long ago that I’m not entirely sure. I know I placed 4th in second grade going against 3rd and 4th graders. I placed 3rd twice in 4th and 6th grade and then second in 8th grade. Interestingly, the only time I have ever been pinned in my life was against Gabe Rostermundt at a regular season tournament. I wrestled him in the finals my 8th grade year and he somehow got me in a cradle with both legs. I’m sure I was stuck but they didn’t call it and I ended up losing by a couple to him. I wrestled so many matches in my youth that it is difficult to remember too many rivals, but I know for sure Nick Beuter and Mack Reiter were two guys I wrestled several times throughout my youth. Probably had a few wins and few losses against each of those guys.


What was your record in HS?

My high school record was 155-7. I lost 4 matches my freshman year (twice to Steve young of ankeny who placed second and won my district.) and twice the first two weekends of my sophomore year. My only other loss was in the semifinals of state my junior year.

 

How did you place at state every year?

I did not qualify for state my freshman year despite going 38-4. I lost to Brandon Graham at districts and he lost to Steve young. I won state my sophomore year at 125 and my senior year at 135, and placed third my junior year.

 

What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?

I would say the hardest thing I went through in wrestling was losing my semifinal match my junior year. I was on a 78 match win streak until that point. Ben Moss wrestled a fantastic match against me and beat me in double overtime. It is hard to come back and get excited for your next match after that big of a letdown. I ended up placing third, but when your dreams of being a 3-timer get dashed like that, it is a hard thing to get over and focus on the remaining matches.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

My wrestling style was very much a loose, scrambling type. I was always good from the top and bottom, but wrestling from my feet I depended more on my scramble ability.

 

How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?

I guess there were only 2 guys in high school that I lost to and beat. Brandon Graham was in my district every year and at my weight 3 of the years. He beat me at districts my freshman year and then at a tournament at the beginning of my sophomore year. I beat him at districts the next 2 years and a state my junior year. I also lost to a kid from Lincoln high school at the beginning of my sophomore year, but then I beat him by tech fall later that year and pinned him at districts.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I would say that I had 2 coaches that were very influential to me. John Patterson was my kids club coach and coached for the middle school, and Bill Reed was my high school coach. They both had a profound influence on me in distinct ways. Coach Patterson taught me the technical side of wrestling brought out the competitive nature in me. Coach Reed instilled a desire to continually be better-not just as a wrestler but in life. I can’t say enough great things about either of these coaches and how they helped me achieve everything that I have in life.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

My team in high school was fairly middle of the road-we had the most talent my freshman year where we made it to the state duals. We had several talented individuals at UNI, I think we had the fourth best recruiting class in the nation my freshman year. College is a different beast than high school though, and we lost several great wrestlers through injury, attrition, etc.


Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?

I think the person that stands out the most in terms of influence when I was growing up was Mark Ironside. Man that guy was a beast. Too bad I never picked up his style of wrestling, but he really was fun to watch when I was young.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

I won’t get into the GOAT because you have different weights, classes, etc. I will say that possibly the most impressive four-timer to me is Jay Borschel because he did it over such a vast array of weights. Everyone knows that quickness rules the lighter weights and technique and strength are more important at heavier weights. You really have to be the total package to do what he did.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

I don’t really have any favorite wrestlers at the moment.

 


What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?

The only thing I needed to pump me up in terms of music was some Thunderstruck by AC/DC. That was our intro song at home meets in high school and it still gets me energized when I listen to it today.

What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?

The most upset I’ve ever felt after a loss would definitely have to be to Ben Moss in the semifinals my junior year. It was devastating on several fronts- I hadn’t lost in 78 matches. I wrestled poorly for the expectations that I had for myself. It also was upsetting to me over the next several days because that year I started the year at 135 and eventually dropped to 130 after Christmas. I beat the top 4 placewinners in 3A at 135 that year and I beat Jacob Naig who was a state champ at in 2A I believe. I felt like I was at the top of my game that year, and Ben really brought me crashing back to reality.


If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?

Maybe it my age getting to me, but looking back I’m not sure I would change anything about my wrestling career. I learned so much about myself because of the sport, and certainly more in defeat than I ever did in victory. Some days I do wish that I would’ve continued my career at UNI to see where I could’ve made it, but I am ultimately happy with the path that I took.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

The best accomplishment that I had personally was placing 8th at Senior nationals my senior year. Out of 12 Iowans (and two four-timers) to go that year, only myself and Eric Pedretti were all-Americans. It really was the cherry on top of my high school career.


Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

Probably the most notable competitor that I had was Brandon Graham, since he was in my district every year and at a dual tourney every year that we hosted. I was glad that he chose to wrestle at 140 my senior year.

 

The Newton squad was probably my dad’s personal favorite squad to encounter and talk to at tournaments because you were always so respectful. Did the Newton coaches prioritize teaching you guys how to be respectful, sportsmanlike individuals as well as competitors?

The Newton program itself was more of a loose affiliate where kids went to learn wrestling, not necessarily going as a large squad to compete each weekend. Coach Patterson certainly ran a tight ship. From the time I was little through high school, both coaches preached about respect and sportsmanship and would not tolerate a lack of either. I’m not sure if I would call it a priority so much as I would an expectation.


Since you were in youth, we used to see you Newton guys at several of our local tournaments in Southeast Iowa. Did you guys travel the state quite a bit to wrestle as much new competition as you could?

I’m not sure how other kids clubs worked, but our club didn’t necessarily always have all the wrestlers going to the same tournaments. I traveled all over the state with my brother and usually Aaron Daniels trying to always get the best competition. The three of us even won a team title at a tourney in Nebraska where the smallest teams consisted of 5 wrestlers. So Daniels and myself wrestled in the 5th/6th grade division and also in the 7th/8th grade division. My dad would always be in the bracket room telling the people making the brackets that we didn’t drive 3 hours so his kids could pin everyone in 30 seconds, so we were always seeking the best competition wherever we went.

 

How many battles did you and Aaron Daniels have over the years?

Speaking of Aaron Daniels, we had battles daily probably from the time we were 5. It got to a point in high school where it probably became boring to watch us wrestle because we knew each other so well.

 

Do you still follow Newton wrestling? If so, how bout Destin Schroder and Gage Linahon these last couple years?! They really represented Newton wrestling well!

I don’t follow high school wrestling as closely as I used to, but I have gotten to see a couple matches of Destin and Gage. Congrats to both of them, they certainly represent Newton wrestling the right way!


What ever happened to Jamie Hotchkin? Was he, among others one of the older Newton wrestlers that you learned from?

Jamie Hotchkin was a stud back in little kids club. He was a couple years older than me, but we went to a few tournaments together over the years. He was fun to watch. He moved away before high school and I’m not sure what happened to him or even where he moved to. I do believe that I learned little bits and pieces from everyone that was older. I had a chance to watch Aaron Groves and Andy Bollhoefer wrestle in state championships. I probably learned the most from my brother. He was always heavier and stronger, so I had to learn how to be a better scrambler because I wasn’t going to stand a chance against him otherwise.

 

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

Wrestling was a seasonal sport for me, although once I got to high school I did do several freestyle tournaments during soccer season.

How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?

I’m not sure how guys today would stack up against guys from my day. I think that wrestling is one of those great sports where if you are on your game, no matter what generation you come from, you can beat anyone. I am a bit biased but I feel like the breadth of talent at the 112-140 weight classes while I was in high school was incredible. I remember Dominick Moyer placing 5th or 6th after being a two time state champ.


Did you wrestle after high school?

I wrestled for two years at UNI after high school at 133. I redshirted my freshman year and then battled Ryan Osgood my sophomore year. After I stopped wrestling, I coached middle school wrestling at Hudson for 2 years. After college, I went to chiropractic school in St. Louis.

What other sports did you play?

I’m not even sure that wrestling was my best sport. I was also a second team all-state soccer player. I also was an all-conference corner my senior year in football, and we had WDM valley among other large schools in our conference. After I quit wrestling, I played club soccer at UNI and continued to play soccer competitively throughout chiropractic school. Even played in an old mans league for the Iowa games a couple years ago.


What are your favorite sports teams?

I guess my favorite sports teams are the hawkeyes, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Kansas City Chiefs.


What do you do now?

These days, I am a chiropractor in Nevada, Iowa. I just had my first child, a daughter, two weeks ago.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

I really am not involved in wrestling as much as I would like. I would love to get back into coaching if I could find the time.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

My advice for wrestlers of all skill levels would be to work your ass off. Even if you don’t have some of the natural wrestling skills of others, you can still work your way to success. Don’t ever be satisfied that you are good enough.


How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?

I truly feel like the old saying is true, once you have wrestled, everything else is easy. Wrestling made me a more disciplined person. It made me more competitive in all aspects of my life.


Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

Shout-outs? All my old UNI teammates, all my high school teammates. Especially Aaron Daniels and Joe Meyer. Never would’ve had the success that I did without them always pushing me.

 

 

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Remember The Wrestler: Cole Welter, Don Bosco/Wartburg College

So I decided to list all of the Don Bosco wrestling state champions’ last names in alphabetical order! Here it is!


Becker (Todd)

Bedard (Tony)

Brenda (Jim)

Even (Tommy)

Fox (Gable and Ray)

Francis (Al)

Hogan (Mike, Tom, Pat)

Kettman (Taylor)

Kimball (Daniel)

Mangrich (Mark, Scott)

Mills (Corey)

O’Laughlin (David, Phil)

Pecenka (Troy)

Purdy (Troy)

Reiter (Joe, Mack, Bart)

Schmitz (Jeff)

Thome (Irv, Steve, Jake)

Weber (Daryl, Lee, Mark)

AND THAT’S IT!!! Very impressive wrestling in Don Bosco, but even more impressive pinpoint accuracy on my part!

Just kidding. I left out one of the best last names to ever wrestle in the state of Iowa. 

Welter (Clay, Cole)

You can’t discuss Don Bosco without mentioning the Welter family! The Welter’s are last in alphabetical order on the ever-growing list of Don Bosco state champions, but were 1st on the podium at the Iowa HS State Tournament 5 times, with Cole Welter winning 3 and his cousin, Clay winning 2 of them. Can’t forget Brandon Welter, Cole’s brother… he placed 4 times and was in the running to win it each year. He was top 3 every year!

Also crazy that guys’ whose last name ends with “ter” at Don Bosco account for 14 individual state titles and 26 state placings in 26 tries… Reiter-Welter. If I am not mistaken, no Reiter brother (Joe, Mack, Eddie, Bart) or Welter brother/cousin (Cole, Clay, Brandon) was ever eliminated from the state tournament. They were 26/26 in their state appearances in terms of bringing home hardware.

Cole Welter… the last in alphabetical order for Don Bosco’s wrestling state champions, but possibly the first and only wrestler in the entire state of Iowa to ever be: A HS state champion, an individual national champion in college, a member of a Don Bosco HS squad that won 4 traditional state titles and 4 state dual titles, a member of a Wartburg College wrestling squad that won 4 national team dual titles and 4 national traditional team titles. That is 20 championship titles for Cole Welter! Is there anyone else in the history of HS wrestling who has done this?!?! I don’t think so…?

W is for Welter, wrestling and win… Coincidence? I don’t think so… because in wrestling, winning was all that Cole Welter did!

Big thanks to Don Bosco wrestling… they’ve always been supportive of a large percentage of what I’ve posted in the past. Don Bosco is what every wrestling community should strive to be… Wrestlers at Don Bosco are treated in the same high regard by their community that football players from prestigious squads in Texas are treated by their community. If every HS wrestling community were like them, then wrestlers would be paid athletes at the professional level for decades now.

 

 

What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?

Team Bosco as a grade schooler/middle schooler.

Don Bosco HS

Wartburg College 

 

What year did you graduate?

High School 2010

College 2014


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My mom and dad said I wasn’t going to sit around in the Winter and do nothing and I was too small to play basketball so since its Gilbertville, they told me to give wrestling a try.  

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.?

My brother Brandon, my cousin Clay and my cousin Dillon.

 

How did they do?

Brandon was 2,2,3,3 at state

Clay did not make the team at a freshman then went 1,1,6

Dillon is currently still in high school

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

4th as a 6th grader and 3rd as an 8th grader. No real rivals. Probably my best win as a youth that comes to mind is Tanner Weatherman and then he beat me the same year for 3rd and 4th at state. Wrestled Elijah Sullivan a few times as well and we traded wins I believe.

 

What was your record in HS?

162-14 I believe

 

How did you place at state every year?

1,5,1,1

 

What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?

Freshman year of high school I wrestled Bart Reiter basically every single day. I think I got like MAYBE 5 takedowns all year. I got my ass kicked everyday basically. It sucked. But, I got so much better because of it.

Another would be after losing in the semi-finals my sophomore year. We had an afternoon session I think and later that night was the consolation semi-finals. A few hours go by and I am still pouting, being a little baby and coaches are trying to get my mind right and I am letting it go in one ear and out the other. I get beat in a close match again that round and that loss sticks out so much to me because it was probably the only time in my career I had the, “I don’t care” attitude.

Probably the best one I can think of was my Junior year at districts. I was sicker than a dog but I had a pretty good district bracket. Won easy first round,  but in the finals I get beaten by Mulnix pretty handily and have a wrestle back vs Procter (won state the next year). He reverses me with about 10 seconds left and we go out of bounds. I reverse him as time expires to make it to state. I remember being so drained while we were shaking hands that if it went to OT, that outcome probably wouldn’t have happened. So I am feeling pretty good and like I would get back to 100% by state and we’d make a run at this thing. Well the pairings came out later that night and I drew Jake Demmon who was ranked 1st and I was ranked 2nd. Demmon had beaten Bart Reiter the Summer before and like I said earlier, I had about 8 takedowns total against Bart in my high school career. So you can imagine where my mind was at. Well, I shut off the bad vibes and my coaches helped me get my mind right and made me believe I was the better guy and I ended up winning that match and winning state that year.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I would say that changed a lot over the years. At first I would shoot a lot and never tie up and was always in the open, then it changed to scrambling all the time and a lot of leg passes but that was a lot of work J so my coaches at Wartburg kind of put that all together to form a balanced style I guess you could call it.

 

How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?

Derric Thomas, Nick Sand, Logan Mulnix. Almost half my losses in high school were at The Clash so I didn’t get to wrestle those guys again.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Man, there are a lot of them. So many coaches have played a role in my success in so many ways. Tom Kettman, Ray Fox, Tom Hogan, Jeff Bradley, Brian Frost, Cory Christensen, Jim Miller, Chris Ortner, Eric Keller, Chris Smith, Carrington Banks.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Luckily, very competitive.

4x state dual champs/4x traditional state champs in high school

4x national dual champs/4x traditional national champs in college

 

Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?

Mack Reiter was probably the main one. He was chasing four titles while I was starting to get serious about wrestling and I remember always wanting to cradle everybody because that’s what he did. I always remember how intense and competitive he was as well and I have always been a competitive person, but the intensity he brought to big matches was something I picked up on and instilled in myself. I also remember being a huge Mark Perry fan in high school because of his style on top and his scrambling  abilities.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Mark Schwab

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

All of my Don Bosco wrestlers. I don’t have a favorite per say. Anyone who is willing to go to battle and lay it on the line is a bad dude to me.

 

What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?

Never been a guy to get hyped up because of music or a certain song, but, I remember the song When You Were Young by The Killers played at Wells Fargo my freshman year when I won state so every year after that I played that song on my walk over to Wells Fargo before the sessions to get my mind where it needed to be.

 

What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?

Soph. year of high school.  Losing in the semifinals was upsetting and disappointing. Also, Sophomore year of college I lost in the blood round to place in a close match and that was also a very tough pill to swallow.

 

If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?

A few things come to mind when I read this question. I would have thought more about getting better every day in the wrestling room than about how much weight I needed to lose my sophomore year of high school. I wish I would have bought in earlier in college. I kind of just went with the flow my first year and a half at least and thought my time would come instead of making it happen. Once I bought in, I got a lot better in a hurry. I also wish I would have given freestyle a chance.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Winning a national title for Wartburg in 2014

 

Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

Cody Caldwell, Levi Wolfensberger, Nazar Kulchytskyy

 

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

Pretty seasonal. I wouldn’t wrestle much at all during the Summers because I was busy with baseball and that was something I put a lot of time into as well. I would start rolling around and getting serious in the fall while football was going on.

 

How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?

This is a big question and answer for me. Do you know how many arguments have been had over this question? I think the team I was on in 2009 (and probably 2008) was better than the DB 79 team. My guys now think they are better than the 2009 team. I think overall wrestling is getting better though and always evolving. The club theme that wasn’t really around back in my day, I think is a big reason for everyone making strides because they can go there and wrestle the top guys from other schools and make each other better.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes, wrestled for Wartburg College.

 

What other sports did you play?

Baseball in high school.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Atlanta Braves (Chop-On) is the main professional sports team I follow. I also like the Steelers.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

I play a lot of slow pitch softball in the Summer traveling around the Midwest. I also enjoy golfing and boating.

 

How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?

I get more satisfaction out of my guys achievements than my own. Watching them get better and work hard to achieve a goal is something special.

 

How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?

The phrase Once you have wrestled, everything else in life is easy” is pretty accurate. Sure there are tough days at my job or news I don’t like to hear, but nothing compares to the day to day grind that wrestling gives you.

 

What do you do now?

I am an Sr. OnSite specialist for Stryker Endoscopy.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I am an assistant coach for Don Bosco.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Be coachable and have fun with the sport. People wont remember what you did in wrestling as a pee-wee and will hardly remember what you did in grade school so do not burn yourself out when high school, college and even after are the most important years of competing. Also, how you deal with fatigue and feeling uncomfortable is going to dictate a lot on your results. It’s literally inevitable that youre going to get tired in a wrestling match. How you deal with it is on you.

 

Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?

Kind of a funny answer to that. The short answer is hopefully not. The longer answer is I am in a fantasy wrestling league, and one of the punishments for getting last that we have thrown around for the last few years is to enter and wrestle into an old timer’s tournament. I don’t plan on getting last, so probably not going to happen!

 

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

All my past teammates at Wartburg and Don Bosco, my coaches (thank you again), the DB Faithful, my wife (just to see if she reads this).

 

Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.

Has there ever been another wrestler in the state of Iowa to be on teams that went 8/8 in state and state duals and then went 8/8 in college for nationals and national duals?

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In the last Who Is The Iowa HS GOAT article, I wrote that we only had one more 4Xer to go and that is Cory Clark from SE Polk. I wrote that after Cory’s, I would start in on some of the guys who did not win 4. A week and a half later it hit me that I was forgetting one 4Xer… Josh Ramirez from Dubuque Wahlert and Archbishop Rummel HS in Louisiana.

Ok, so I understand what the reaction/response may be after some of you read that, for many people do not and will not ever consider Ramirez to be a 4X state champion, to represent Iowa anyways because he won 3 of his titles in Louisiana and his 4th title in Iowa. I remember some of the Iowa HS wrestling fans in 2018 making a collective “groan” and posting a bunch of comments on twitter and the forums and what-not about how they were upset that Ramirez held up 4 fingers after winning state as a Senior. The Iowa HS wrestling fan base has never really been overly accepting of guys who transfer in from other states… Jesse West from IC High, Topher Carton from Davenport Assumption, the Portillo brothers, etc… it took more time than necessary for any of them to be welcomed as “Iowa guys.” And don’t think for a second that I am trying to come off as holier than thou by making that statement… I have been more guilty than anyone in this aspect. I vocally rooted against Topher Carton, Jesse West both Portillo brothers when they were rivals with the West twins, etc. and it took a number of humbling experiences to change my outlook on that and in turn, the tone in which I would discuss wrestlers who transferred to Iowa. The last few years, I have come to regret the way I wrote about all of those guys and will acknowledge that I was 100% wrong in my outlook with that. 

Joshua Ramirez is a 4X state champion and no one can ever take that from him. What did people expect from him after he won his 4th? To not be excited? To make sure that he did not hold up 4 fingers to indicate 4 titles that he won? Because it was exactly what he just accomplished in that moment… he had just won his 4th HS state title. When he has kids someday and they ask him about his wrestling career, what do you expect him to tell them? “Your daddy was a 3X Louisiana state champion and was also a 1X Iowa state champion?” Heck no… that’s more complicated than it needs to be. He should feel completely justified in proudly telling them, “Daddy was a 4X state champion, kids.” Simple as that. 

Ramirez won state at 160 as a Freshman and 170 as a Sophomore and Junior for Archbishop Rummel HS in Louisiana. He won state on an injured MCL as a Freshman and teched and/or pinned virtually anyone who crossed paths with him in his Sophomore and Junior campaigns. He wrestled the majority of his matches at 182-195 as a Sophomore and Junior, but cut down to 170 to seek competition both years, for there were a lot of guys who dodged him in Louisiana at 182-195. Think about that… Josh Ramirez was considered so good in Louisiana, that he had to actively CHASE competition because almost everyone tried dodging him.

As a Senior, he moved to Iowa and wrestled for Dubuque Wahlert, in which he won the 2A 160 lb. class, pinning his way to the finals. Wahlert also won the team title that year and he was a huge part of it. Not only was he an obviously  huge point-getter for them, but he also helped his practice partners improve their skills, most notably, Kolton Bartow. Bartow was great as a Junior, don’t get me wrong…I mean, he placed 3rd at state as a Junior, but the improvement that kid made from his Junior to Senior year in HS was noticeable to anyone watching him. It was night and day how much he improved. He placed 2nd at state as a Senior, but he was a more technical wrestler than he was the year before without question and I am sure that Ramirez and Bartow were mutually beneficial for each other’s development as Seniors. I’ve heard several people refer to how good of a teammate Ramirez was at Wahlert.

Coming into the 2018 season, basically what we knew about Ramirez was this: He was a 2X Fargo AA (I can list multiple 4Xers from Iowa who never placed at Fargo in multiple tries) and he had wins over Iowa HAMMERS; Ben Sarasin of CR Kennedy and Taylan Entriken from Hudson. Both those guys were state champions in Iowa… Ben Sarasin is an absolute force at the D3 level already and Entriken is still “kickin’ it” at Iowa State, I believe. Josh Ramirez teched them (I believe in Freestyle/Greco) both prior to competing in Iowa. This was the jist of what was known about him coming into the 2017-2018 season by most Iowans. In the regular season, Ramirez did take a couple losses to IC West’s Nelson Brands, but so did several other elite guys that year. Brands was a 3X state champion in his own right and had he made the leap he did at the end of his Sophomore the year before, we may be discussing him as a 4Xer with a case for GOAT consideration. They weren’t bad losses for Ramirez despite the outcomes, in which he was pinned in one match while attempting a throw when tied 2-2 in the 2nd period and lost just 6-5 in the other. Nelson Brands is one of the best Iowa HS wrestlers to be produced and most certainly the best in his family at the HS level…Everyone knows the post-HS accolades of legends, Tom (uncle) and Terry (father) Brands…. Nelson at the high school level is leaps and bounds ahead of where his dad and uncle were at when they were at the HS level. What happens at the college level for Nelson remains to be seen, but you can’t perceive two regular season losses to Nelson Brands as some sort of a knock on Josh Ramirez‘s resume. Same thing could have happened to many historical Iowa wrestling legends vs. Nelson Brands. 


The results of Josh Ramirez’s Senior year looked like this:


2018 2A 160

1 Josh Ramirez (Sr.) Dubuque Wahlert

2 Luke Hageman (Sr.) Dyersville Beckman

3 Tate Battani (Sr.) Ballard

4 Wes Cummings (Jr.) PCM

5 Zach Williams (So.) Osage

6 Cavin Malloy (Sr.) Williamsburg

7 Colter Bye (Jr.) Crestwood

8 Payton Pelke (Sr.) Union

It was one of the most deceptively tough brackets in the state that year. This is coming from a guy who watched all of these kids from the time they were competing at Super Pee-Wee State, for my brother Brennan was also an ‘18 graduate and was at that very weight that year, but in 1A. We ran into almost all of those guys at one point or another. To start, he had a HAMMER in the finals. Luke Hageman was the most underrated guy in the state when he was a Senior and people didn’t realize it because his Senior year was the first year he even qualified. Luke and my brother were club teammates growing up and coming into HS, Luke Hageman was known as one of the best kids overall in the entire grade because… he was one of the best kids overall in the entire grade. He won several youth titles and was one of the most reliable guys for that DC Elite Dual Team to beat anyone thrown his way, year-in, year-out. The DC Elite team could be up against a Pennsylvania team with a National champ at Luke’s weight, and everyone knew they had a shot to win, for Luke beat those types of guys routinely. He was a monster and that never changed in HS. He didn’t get any worse. Hell, he got even better! It’s just that for whatever reason, in HS, he was one of these guys who would rock it during the regular season and something terrible or heartbreaking would happen to him at districts and he would fall JUST short of qualifying for state. If you would have told anyone at the 8th grade state tourney that Luke Hageman would not win a title in HS, they would have probably laughed at you. And you would have deserved it, for it would be a very bad, yet somehow accurate prediction at the time. And Luke would have won state in his 1 trip if he didn’t have a huge talent like Josh Ramirez swimming in the same waters as he was… Josh beat Luke 3 times that year. He beat him 15-13 at sectionals. He pinned him at districts. Then he beat him 11-7 in the finals. 3 HUGE wins. Ramirez also pinned Tate Battani from Ballard in like a minute in the semifinals. It seemed like Battani placed almost every year from the time he was a 1st grader until he was a Senior year…Placed at least twice in HS. Battani gave a ton of elite guys fits. He is now at Iowa State and was 20-10 as a Freshman and 9-2 as a redshirt Freshman, so Iowa State was obviously on to the potential that kid had. Wes Cummings from PCM was an overall athletic freak of nature who was a standout wrestler for years as well. Zach Williams from Osage placed in the top 6 every year in HS. Colter Bye was an animal. Placed 2-3 times. You get the picture. That bracket was deep, and Ramirez won it. And he deserves a ton of props for that.

Does Josh Ramirez have a case for being Iowa HS Wrestling’s GOAT? Listen, you will be hard-pressed find someone from the Iowa wrestling fanbase who adamantly insists that he is the GOAT because of the fact that 3 of his titles were in Louisiana, but if you asked a bunch of Louisiana guys who the Iowa GOAT is, they’d probably claim that he’s one of the best to ever do it. He’s a legend there and for legit reasons. If you don’t consider Josh Ramirez as being a legit competitor to discuss in this series, can you at least give this kid the props he deserves of being the phenomenal wrestler he was and still is regardless of what your personal opinion may be of transfers? Because he most certainly was a phenom in his one year in Iowa and I don’t think the kid has ever been given enough credit. Everyone has their opinion(s) on transfer cases and many are vocal with these opinions, but can we at least agree that the fact that when elite kids from other states like Ramirez WANT to wrestle in the state of Iowa in hopes of showcasing their ability to gain notoriety and recognition from college recruiters, that it’s a compliment to our state’s high quality of wrestling? A lot of transfer guys aren’t given a warm welcome for years after they arrive, but they sure as heck respected Iowa wrestling enough to want to be part of it to begin with! Too bad the respect isn’t always mutual when they first arrive.  And to reiterate, I’ve been more guilty than anyone in being overly cynical of transfer wrestlers…

There is a man named Mark Schultz who is originally from Glenbard North in Illinois (where he was a standout) and now coaches in the Dubuque region and has for over a decade. A Dubuque Wrestling Club O.G. He has been “key” to a lot of the success that several of the guys from that region have had these past few years and has been an incredibly effective influence for the Iowa wrestling community at multiple levels. I have talked wrestling with him several times and I have disagreed and cordially argued with him a couple-few times over the years… Usually Iowa vs. Illinois type debates. I can tell you now, that any time I have ever disagreed with Mark about anything, he has proven me wrong. What can I say, the guy knows his stuff better than I do!? The last time I spoke to him was in 2018, in which he told me just how unbelievably gifted Josh Ramirez was. I’ll take his word for it. I’ve learned to not disagree with him on these takes, for I have never heard him make a claim that was incorrect.

Respect to Josh Ramirez! 4X State Champ!

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Remember The Wrestler: Trent Hardin, Van Buren HS

Growing up in Mediapolis and wrestling for Mepo back in the mid to late 1970’s, we only traveled to 2 tournaments outside our SEI Conference a year… not counting sectionals, districts and state.  One of them was at Pekin, and the other was at Van Buren HS, at Keosaukua. It was one of my favorite tournaments because it was billed at the time as “The Wrestling Classic of Southeast Iowa” and for the number of state qualifiers and placers in individual weight classes that participated every year. Everyone was hungry to test themselves there because it gave you a preview of tougher competition and based on results, still lots of time to make adjustments and improve before the state tournament.

That’s where I was introduced to a Van Buren wrestler named Clint Hardin and his twin brother Cliff… I was told they were distant relatives somehow (my mom was a Hardin), and being a twin myself, it was only natural that I paid some attention to how this burly and slightly brash upper middle weight Van Buren Warrior handled himself among the likes of Sigourney, Pekin, Mepo and Morning Sun, who all had tough teams at the 167 and 185 weight classes.  Clint did alright and held his own, and I kind of lost track of “Tub” – his nickname, till a few years later when we ran into each other at a non-stop all weekend 64 team slow-pitch softball tournament in Stockport, IA.  He was the pitcher on a team called “The Nads” and it was a sight to behold at the beginning of one of their games to watch them gather around and put their hands together and yell “GO NADS!!” with all the women in the stands laughing and giggling to themselves… It was their constant battle cry. LOL

Clint Hardin went on to coach wrestling at Van Buren and was the assistant with head coach Jirak, and then later head coach of the subject of this RTW profile – Trent Hardin.

I recently reached out to Trent about doing an interview for us and enjoyed my conversations with Trent and found him to be just as humorous and engaging as his uncle – yes… Trent’s dad Randy Hardin, is Clint’s brother. Along with this rough band of Hardin boys, it was probably their dad Hugh Hardin that was the glue that held them together. Hugh was an Iowa State Trooper when I first met him and was introduced to him by my mom at the VB tournament my sophomore year in 1975. Hugh looked to be a fairly large man to me as a 15 year old 119 pounder. He was dressed in his uni and trooper hat, and a gun big enough to make Ted Nugent smile and I mean the stern sober look he had when he said hello and extended his bear paw hand was enough to set me on my best behavior wondering what I was in trouble for… till he grinned and started laughing!  Yeah he had me going, and it seemed all the Hardin’s had that ornery sense of humor.

Trent Hardin was part of the next generation of Hardin wrestlers at Van Buren. One of the things that became of instant interest to me regarding Trent’s career was the fact that he wrestled at the upper weights (215/HWT his freshman year while only weighing 193lbs, then wrestling at 215 his sophomore/junior years, and HWT his senior year) while competing at a height of only 5’6″ or so… and had great success wrestling against those giants. Being undersized, he was easy to underestimate as well, appearing to be the small fish in that deep pond at weigh in time, yet he was able to vanquish his share of Goliath’s when he stepped out on the mat.

My dad who stood at 5’4″ tall, used to tell us 3 boys that quote – “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s size of the fight in the dog”… and that was certainly true for Trent Hardin.

Trent told me that “my Dad’s most exciting win for him was when I beat Jacob Combs in the blood round my sophomore year at state to place, and that when I pointed at him and the crowd he got goosebumps all the way up his neck, because he never thought it was going to happen. Side note, before the tournament I made a deal with dad if I placed I could get a tattoo.” Even then, he was making believers out of a lot of folks in SE Iowa and throughout the state.

Hardin vs Combs at 215 Blood Round in 2004


Trent’s life story was interesting to me because I love those RUDY moments where the underdog comes through when it seems all the odds are stacked against him. He was battle tested. He was not what anyone would describe as an imposing figure for a 215/HWT wrestler but ask his or other coaches back then and they’d described him as having a tremendous motor and was a competitor with tons of heart and never quit effort. Those are attributes of a winner. That’s what helped him become a 3x state place winner and landed him in the 2006 Saturday night state finals and narrowly missing out on a title with a double overtime loss to Donovan Grove of Southeast Webster. It was his only loss of the season which ended with a record of 44-1 and finishing his career with the school record in wins at 162. That’s a solid resume for a high school wrestler today and something to be very proud of, and a bar set for some future Van Buren wrestlers to try and eclipse those school record marks.

Trent Hardin’s a great guy, bright yet humble and hilarious to talk to, a caring dad, family man, and friend. You can see by his effort in the responses from our questionnaire that he’s thoughtful and not bashful about giving credit to those who helped him along on his way.

So, without further ado – here’s remembering the wrestler, Trent Hardin of Van Buren HS in Keosauqua, IA (2003-2006) and his RTW interview!

 


What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?

I started out at the Van Buren Mat Club, Then Stars and Stripes wrestling club out of Fairfield. I went to Van Buren High school in Keosauqua, and one summer I would travel up to Monster USA at L&M. After High School, I went to Loras College where I competed off and on, and once competing was over, I helped recruit and coach.

What year did you graduate?

High School 2006 and College 2011 (I was a slow learner)

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My dad, Randy Hardin told me that every time someone would come through the door I was instantly attacking them, so he wanted to channel my energy into a positive manner. So, my parents definitely encouraged me to give it a try, along with encouraging me to stick with it during the learning curves. (you know, the times you cry and hold your throat because the other kid who just got done whooping up on you “choked” you. Haha)

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

My Uncle Clint “Tub” Hardin wrestled for Van Buren and I believe was the first SQ for VB, My Brother Trey Hardin who is 2 years younger than me wrestled. Some of my favorite memories were traveling around Southeast Iowa together collecting Trophies. I would argue he was ONE of the best wrestlers to never qualify to State. (The list of guys he lost to is one of the most impressive lists I have seen) Maybe I will do some thinking and come up with the list. Trey had almost 100 wins and never won a tournament in high school, he QF for Districts 3 years.  My son Philip and I wrestle around on the living room floor and really anytime he says shake hands, then he shoots the right side, head on the inside while driving and circling, works his way up looking for the half as I am falling down. He gets so excited when we go to watch the Hawkeyes, only because they have snack and popcorn though.  I am excited for my boys to start wrestling when they are ready, until then, we will travel around watching it.

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I had pretty decent youth career, I think my first year I was 3-11. I got 2nd at AAU state my 6th grade year, was hurt my 7th grade year, and finished 5th; my 8th grade year at AAU I was  1st at USA and 2nd at the Topeka National Tournament.

What was your record in HS?

162- 24 with 96 pins

Freshman (35-9 with 29 pins)

Sophomore (40-6)

Junior (43-8)

Senior (44-1)

How did you place at state every year?

DNQ, 4TH, 4TH, 2ND

What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?

I would say in high school would be coming in as a freshman and having a lot of hungry upper classman that wanted to whoop up on me, I was nervous at first. But getting beat up on day after day made a huge impact on my freshman season. Not understanding it at the time, but that room of upper classman helped so much.

Another challenge I faced was being an undersized (mostly height) upper weight and learning how to wrestle upper weights with me having a weight and height disadvantage.  My uncle Clint who was the assistant coach 3 years and my head coach my senior year, always said that I won half my matches at weigh ins because I was a short little “rollie pollie”… and I truly believe I was looked over a bunch, and especially my freshman year and having the season I did, it opened my eyes that I could compete.

Once in a while I would intimidate myself by sizing up who I was going to wrestle. I know my sophomore year, 2 of my losses came from Todd Van Syoc from NL, maybe even 3, but going in to the super conference tournament, I prepared and prepared to keep in good position and be patient, I ended up beating him in OT for my first SEISC title – then proceeded to get my butt kicked by him the next two weeks at Sectionals and Districts, I followed him to State

When the brackets came out for state my sophomore year, I was told if I lost my first one, and won my wrestle back, I would either face the Number 1 (Dane Pape) or the Number 2 ( Jacob Combs)  That is all I could think about, and to be honest I was satisfied with just Qualifying to the State tournament. Once we got to vets, Coach Kurt Jirak pulled me aside down on the mats and told me to look around. He told me I was going to have a great tournament and I thrive off of crowds and putting on shows. “and what better place to do it than here?”

When the whistle went in the first match, I went blank and got ankle picked to my ass for 5, not sure what the score ended up being, maybe 9 to 6. I won my next match and waited to watch the quarters between Pape and Combs. If I remember correctly I believe Pape won the match in OT, thus giving Combs his first loss of the year. Combs was HUGE, and I was a 15yo rollie pollie who was preparing to take a whooping. Coach Jirak came and found me and told me I Could win this match, he told me his dream of becoming a state champ just ended and his overlooking you. I stayed in good position and waited to score, and I ended up winning the match 3-2. I then won my next 2 matches and lost for 3rd place. Loss-won-won-won-won-loss.

Another quick little story was my Junior year at sectionals, and districts. I followed Jon Mcloughlin to State. Jon was one of the strongest guys I had ever wrestled, it was difficult to grab onto chiseled granite. He stayed in good position, was in pretty good shape, and strong as hell. We get to state and of course DRAW Ben Lehman ( 05 state champ, 06 runner up) and Kyle Slifka ( 3rd in 05 and State champ in 06 at Hwt 2A) I had the pleasure of wrestling Ben for my 1st round match getting man handled and then doing what I did the year before winning 4 straight matches to wrestle for 3rd again, this time I wrestled  Kyle Slifka and lost badly. I want to say 21-7. Both Ben and Kyle were men amongst boys, and I believe both went on to play college football, as did Jon.

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I could usually wrestle and adapt to any style I needed to, I didn’t like banging it out as much as some guys, but I enjoyed hitting slick take downs and using my quickness and athleticism to score. I liked to control the pace of the match, I liked to score points, and look for the pin. However, I wish I would have ended a few matches when I had my opponent on their back. I liked to create movement and get my opponents out of position, scrambles!!

How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?

My freshman year I believe 3 of my losses came From L&M standout Hwt Jacob Paul, and I finally got him at conference our Freshman year. I believe I lost to him first round of the SIESC, and then we met up for 3rd place. I wrestled him for the SEISC Title my senior year too. I think I was 2-3 against him. Todd Van Syoc, I was 1-3 against; Thomas Hess who was a 2-timer… I was 1-1 against him. Jon McLaughlin and I had some back and forth matches and I think I was 1-3 against him as well. These are really the only ones I can think of right now.

Who was your most influential coach?  And can you expand on how they inspired you?

During youth it would have been Coach Burgraff, Jeff Courtwright, and Troy Sealy from Star and Stripes. They all were patient and took their time in their own way to help me develop. In high school Coach Kurt was my head coach and he was able to get into my head and help me believe I could beat anyone, help me with game plans, he knew how to get the most out of me. And I owe my College Education and coaching opportunities to Hall of Fame Coach and Legendary Coach Randy Steward. He coached at Loras College for 23 years and now is the head Coach down in Georgia at Sonoraville  High School, where he has coached the Phoenix’s to 3 State Championships the last 3 years. Coach STU made sure I went to class, did my work, was doing ok, and was my dad away from home. He truly cared about us, made sure we were learning about life, learning more techniques. A few things I will always remember from coach was to trust the process, to BUY IN, and it’s all about the grind. I owe him so much for helping me become the man I am today. Love ya, Coach.

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

My freshman year of High school we had a good dual team. In College we had some good wins, but we did struggle a lot. The DUHAWKS are on top of the rankings now though!

Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?

Honestly, I don’t remember who I actually looked up too growing up besides the High School guys. I would like to give all the upper classman from my freshman year a shout out, you guys made me better. After the initial beatings I took, I was fully accepted as one of the guys. You guys pushed me to do a little more each day. I would like to give a special shout out to Van Buren stand out Niles Mercer, He held me accountable and took me under his wing. When I was having a rough time in my personal life my sophomore year, he stepped in like a big brother. Would come wake me up in the morning and we would get a lift or a run in, made sure my head was on straight. I had a great year, and a lot of it was to do with Niles. When we got up to Vets that year, (he had taken 3rd the year before and I believe his only loss was against Mack Reiter). He helped me get focused and in a routine, to plan out the day.

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Jay Borschel – lots of talented wrestlers to pick from!

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

I enjoy watching Spencer Lee compete and how he carries himself.  My son has been saying for 2 years now that Batman would beat Spencer Lee. So, I am thinking we need to set this up.  I LOVE watching the current and recent Duhawks wrestle. Guy Patron, Clink Lembeck, Eddie Smith to name a few. These gentlemen were the foundation over the last 4 years to help the Duhawks become a national contender with the leadership of T.J. Miller and Trever Kittleson.  I think the D3 National Tourney is the best, so many student athletes doing it for the love of it, I truly believe the Duhawks would have won the damn thing this year.

What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?

Lincoln Park and Eminem haha

What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?

State Finals in double overtime. Ended up 44-1 that season. Donavon Grove wrestled an incredible match, and ended up riding me out in the 1st 30 second go to Win his first State Title. The rule changed the year after this.

I have only ever watched the entire match 1 time from 14 years ago. From time to time my mind will wonder and go back to that February night in Des Moines. I truly believe this was one of the most important lessons I learned.  I had a lot of heart ache and an empty feeling, but had to take time to work through it, my life goals at the time was over. This helped me to learn how to regroup and work through failures and being disappointed.  I truly believe losing my state finals match pushed me to go to college and look further into my future.

If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?

I would get in better shape, wrestle year around, lift, and not be as relaxed as I was. I would have not taking my time on the mat and in the room for granted. Now if I would have only been on board with my parents moving and holding me back, I would have had another year. (Only joking, kind of…)

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

I have a few that stick out, two of them come from my sophomore year. Winning my first SEISC Championship and accidentally placing at state by beating the Number 2 guy during the Blood round.

Wrestling on Saturday night at the state tournament and being a part of the Grand March 3 times was one of my favorite memories.

Having 29 pins as freshman

Being the only 3x place winner – Placing 4th 4th 2nd and having the ‘career wins’ record for Van Buren

How was it or what was it like wrestling at the upper weights while giving up so much height?

I think it was an advantage most of the time, being a smaller athletic upper weight I could force most of my opponents to come to my level and wear them out. I was lower than most, so it was easier to hit my shots and get them off balance. If I didn’t score early and the match went late it was a disadvantage. I usually weighed a lot less than my opponents, especially when I was at Hwt. I think I weighed 215 my senior year the day of the state finals and my opponent was 265 and at least a half foot taller, I ended up losing in double OT. The taller the opponent was, the harder it was to get out from bottom and tie ups to get to my set ups were near impossible if they stood tall and stayed in good position.

Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

Donavon Grove (2timer)

Thomas Hess  (2 timer)

Ben Lehman ( 1st, 2nd )

Kyle Slifka  (3rd, 1st)

Jon McLaughlin (5th,4th) I believe

Adam Robards (5th) Maybe more

Nick Olson (3rd)

Mark Root ( Place winner Illinois)

These are the guys who gave me 10 of my 24 loses, and I think all of my other losses but 1, maybe 2 were by State qualifiers. These are the guys that stand out, I never have really looked back to see who I beat and what their credentials were.

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

I only wrestled one summer and went to Fargo – 1 point away from being an AA in cadets. I wish I could have stuck with it and wrestled at least in the summer. Thanks Coach Tom Mashek for having me as Monster USA.

I also played football, baseball, Golf and ran (not fast) track.

How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?

I think it would just depend on who it was and what weight. I haven’t had an opportunity to watch much high school wrestling the past decade.

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes, Loras College. I helped coach as well. I really regret not putting more focus into the lifestyle in college.  However, I did really expand my wrestling knowledge and made some lifelong friends and brothers and wouldn’t change it.

What other sports did you play?

Lettered in football 4 year and was all district, lettered in baseball 3 years and was all conference. I also golfed and ran slow in track and threw.

What are your favorite sports teams?

Growing up it was the Miami Dolphins and Cubs, I don’t follow much now. So it would be the Hawkeyes and The Duhawks now.

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

I enjoy cooking, doing laundry, and Dishes for my Girlfriend Lex (just kidding she keeps an awesome house and makes it home for us and our two boys Philip and Liam). I do enjoy cooking/grilling, I use to play a lot of golf and fantasy football. I enjoy mushroom hunting and fishing when I can, and traveling around Iowa and wherever else I can go to watch the Duhawks. Recently, Lex and I have been buying and flipping things to save up for something special. We have been rocking it, well, mostly her and her ability to hustle. I am just the numbers guy and the laborer.

How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?

When I was helping with youth programs I absolutely loved it, it was awesome to see the little’s eyes lite right up when they would get something or something would click. I am working every day to hopefully one day be able to coach again or at least be in the position to take the boys around the country competing.

How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?

To get up every day and grind things out, it taught me how to love and hate, it taught me how to be humble when winning and to appreciate losing and to always learn something. We can learn from winning and losing, we can learn from ups and downs, and to attack adversity. To set many small goals that build into medium goals, and use them medium goals to achieve the big goals. The most important thing wrestling has done to shape me is meeting all of my brothers and sisters along the way, each and every one of you hold a place in my heart, we have had some wonderful times and built a bond only wrestlers would understand, it’s a brother and sister hood. This is what has shaped me the most, meeting all of the incredible people and their families.

What do you do now?

I have been an activities specialist at the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility for the last 2 years, before that I was a Correctional Officer for 5.5 years. I would like to give a shout out to all my brothers, sisters, and girlfriend as we all work together through this Covid pandemic here at the prison. I am proud of all of you for coming together and facing this.

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I am not, my work schedule and time with my son Philip is my priority right now, hopefully both with get better and I can branch out and get into a room somewhere close. We are living outside of Danville right now, so if there are any coaches reading this that could use some help, I would be more than willing to help when I can.

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

The advice I received was to stay the course and get a little better each day, there will be ups and downs just like life, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves, we need to get up and keep grinding it out and make our own success. Good things will happen if you show up and put the work in. I wish I would have hit the weight room harder and wrestled more throughout the year, if you have that opportunity do it, do it… if you don’t, then find a way. It will all pay off in one way or another. Be humble and make friends, they will be there for you the rest of your life. Us wrestlers are unlike anything else.

How would you like to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered as a kind, fun loving guy who loved to compete and put on a show. Someone who would help when he could and as an under sized upper weight who could move, create scrambles, and score from anywhere.

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

First and foremost, my parents Randy Hardin and Christie Sweat, from the bottom of my heart thank you for always supporting me, taking me and Trey all over to our events, practices, camps, making sure we had snnnnnaaaaaacccckkk money, proper equipment, and making sure we stuck it out and absorbed the lessons from all of our activities. To my sister Kalli, thank you for always being Trey and I’s biggest fan, you made sure you came to everything and having you there was a blessing and I will always cherish it. My Grandma Zina for literally keeping every newspaper article and picture and making scrapbooks and blankets, your support and love was one of a kind. The rest of our family always were there to support us and help with anything we needed. To all my Coaches and especially Coach Jirak and Steward, thank you, without you guys, I would have not only become the wrestler I was, and the man I am today. I will always be grateful for you guys.

Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.

I remember one winter Saturday my brother Trey was wrestling in a youth Tournament and he was riding his opponent and kept shaking his head in the middle of the kids back. My dad asked me, “what in the heck is he doing” and I replied, he is chinning him. I still have the visual of maybe a 7 or 8-yo just grinding his boney ass chin in the middle of a spin.

I have many stories and a ton of memories thanks to the sport (not a sport, it’s a lifestyle) of wrestling. And I encourage anyone reading this to start writing down their memories or things that happen with their kids. It will be a great gift to everyone in the future to look back and remember some of the best times. I would like to thank Pin Doctors and Kevin for taking the time to learn a little about me and what they are doing for the “sport” of wrestling. You guys are creating awareness, keeping the history alive, and building a brighter future for tomorrow.

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What if NCAA D1 moved to the Super Regional Format?

The collegiate wrestling season this coming year may be like nothing we have ever seen.  With many fall sports being pushed back, it would not surprise me at all to see the wrestling season shortened, and perhaps even limited to only in-conference matches.  This could create a serious problem when it comes to gaining bids and compiling national rankings.  I watched a video made by Fanco Wrestling (go ahead and subscribe to him immediately) and he proposed the idea of moving to regions separated by location and doing away with the current system we have to get our NCAA qualifiers.  While all of this is completely hypothetical, I know wrestling fans love the hypotheticals! So let’s get into the pros and cons of this system, and take a dive into what the regions could look like if NCAA Division 1 moved to a super regional format. 

How it works.

Each of 4 regions takes the top 7 to nationals.  It’s that simple.  My justification for 7 qualifying and not 8 is that it eliminates the need for a true 8th bracket.  If top 8 went, we would have to wrestle a 4-man bracket out of the bloodround losers to see who gets the chance for that final spot, and that is just too much extra work, in my opinion. The 7th and 8th place matches in most brackets are considered boring, but this will make for an electric final round of the tournament with the winner moving on to nationals, and the loser’s path to glory coming to a tumultuous end.  No wild cards, end of story.  The 8th-place finishers will be the alternates in case someone doesn’t make weight or *gasp* gets the coronavirus. 

This also makes seeding pretty easy as the champions of each region would start off with a bye, while the 2nd place winners will face off against the 7th, 3rd against 6th, and 4th against 5th. 1st will then get the winner of 4th vs. 5th, while the winners of 2nd/7th will get to face the victor of 3rd/6th.

Pros:

This takes the guesswork out of qualifying for nationals.  We don’t have to worry about rankings so much.  Given the potential landscape of the season going into next year, this is a good thing.  

The other divisions already do this.  D2 and D3 both take the top 3 from 6 different regions, and uniformity between different NCAA divisions is certainly not a bad thing.

This makes the national tournament truly a national tournament.  We will get an equal amount of representatives from different regions of the country.

The case against wildcards: you need to earn your spot by winning the matches to get there.  Yes, the rest of the season is important.  But if you don’t show up ready to fight for your berth to the national tournament, and other guys do, they need to be rewarded.  

Many people might argue that the super regional format takes away the need to compete earlier in the season, as there is no search for bids to the national tournament. Keep in mind, however, that the super regional brackets will need to be seeded, and that seeding can of course make all of the difference.  Intra-region and conference matches thus become all the more important. 

Cons:

The big one is that we won’t necessarily be getting all of the best guys at the national tournament.  As you will see below, certain regions such as the Central region and Northeast Region seem admittedly tougher and deeper than other regions, despite sending the same number of guys to the next stage.

No wild cards.  Wild cards are good for many reasons.  If a really good wrestler is battling an injury or just has the worst tournament of their life, should he be punished that severely?  One of the main reasons the NCAA D1 tournament is so tough is because they can use wildcards to get every last hammer they desire into the bracket.  With the super regional format, that option is lost.

 

I attempted to divide the 78 NCAA Division 1 wrestling programs into four super regionals that made sense geographically and also as talent-balanced as possible.  Also, I made the host site of each region from a different conference.  Western is PAC-12’s Arizona State, Central is BIG 10’s Iowa, Northeast is EIWA’s Cornell, while Southeast is the ACC’s North Carolina State.

Western Region (18) - Host: Arizona State

Teams: Oregon State, Fresno State, Cal Poly, Cal State-Bakersfield, Arizona State, Utah Valley, Wyoming, Northern Colorado, Air Force, NDSU, SDSU, Nebraska-Lincoln, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State,  Iowa State, UNI, Mizzou, Arkansas-Little Rock

The big-hitters in this region include Arizona State, Oklahoma State, and Nebraska, as well as Iowa State and Mizzou.  After that, the depth in this region is insane, with only 2 or 3 teams that I would consider weak.

Due to lack of wrestling programs out west, this region covers a ton of ground and even includes much more central schools such as UNI, Iowa State, and Nebraska-Lincoln. This is basically PAC-12 and BIG-12.

Central Region (17) - Host: Iowa

Teams: Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Illinois, SIUE, Northwestern, Indiana, Purdue, Central Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Cleveland State, Kent State, Edinboro, Clarion

This region has a lot of the best BIG 10 schools in it, being led by Iowa, Ohio State, and Michigan, as well as about 5 other tough BIG 10 universities. In addition to the BIG 10, MAC makes a decent-sized splash here.

Due to the high concentration of talent in this region, the number of teams was kept lower.  I am personally very interested to see how teams like Clarion and Central Michigan can stack up against their BIG opponents.

Northeast Region (18) - Host: Cornell

Teams: Harvard, Brown, Sacred Heart, Army West Point, Binghamton, Cornell, Buffalo, Hofstra, Columbia, Long Island, Rutgers, Princeton, Lehigh, Franklin & Marshall, Bloomsburg, Penn State, Lock Haven, Bucknell

Here we have a good EIWA/BIG 10 mixture.  The top teams here appear to be Penn State and Cornell, along with rivals Rutgers and Princeton.  Many of the other tough Pennsylvania teams like Lock Haven and Lehigh make a really tough top 6.  With only one spot for qualification left after that, the balance works well here as the rest of these teams seem to be a bit lesser compared to those 6, with Army easily being the next best.

Having Princeton and Rutgers in the same region could make for some really dramatic qualification matches.  On top of being the smartest region with all of the Ivy league schools, the finals matchups in this region will be the best out of them all, in my mind.

Southeast Region (23) - Host: NC State

Teams: The Citadel, Presbysterian, Gardner-Webb, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Davidson, App State, Campbell, North Carolina, NC State, Duke, Virginia Tech, Virginia, VMI, George Mason, American, Maryland, Navy, Drexel, Penn, West Virginia, Ohio, Pitt,  Rider

The two best teams leading this pack seem to be the Wolfpack and the Hokies, followed by about 5 other above average teams.  Due to the lack of higher level wrestling institutions in this region, it has quite a few more teams than the other super regionals. 

Location-wise, this region makes a lot of sense.  Ohio and Rider could reside in other regions, but I figured the depth they could provide to the Southeast was worth moving them out of the tougher regions.  Pitt competes in the ACC with all of the other Southeast teams, so I threw them in, as well.

A team like Maryland, which went 0-20 in the Big Ten main brackets (1-25 if you count the true 9th brackets), could really have a chance to shine in this region.

I know many people might seem sceptical about this plan, but some serious thinking needs to be done moving into this next season to determine what is best for the athletes, and if we want to avoid cancellation of yet another national tournament.  D2 and D3 have already proved that this model works.

Of course this is all hypothetical, but having host sites and limiting the number of qualification tournaments from 7 conferences to 4 regions can only be a good thing.  If we are unable to have a full season and compete to earn bids to the national tournament, a cut-and-dry system like this works.  Want to go to nationals? Simple: place top-7 at your super regional.

Where does your favorite team end up in this format? Are the regions well-balanced? Could something like this work? Let us know down in the comments!

 

This is my first big article on this site.  I would love to hear your feedback and comments! Feel free to email me Justin41698@gmail.com or contact me on Twitter/Instagram with the username @Justin41698.  Thank you for reading this far, hope you enjoyed!

Follow more work by Justin and Joshua Portillo by following Portillo Productions. 
Click the social media icons below to be taken to their pages. 

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Cole Welter: Don Bosco, Class Of 2013

The Welter family is one of the best wrestling families to come out of one of the best ever HS wrestling programs in the state of Iowa.  Don Bosco! Cole Welter won 3 state titles for the Dons in 2007, 2009 and 2010. He placed 1-5-1-1…  He had a career record of 162-15 and was named the 1A Outstanding Wrestler of 2010.  He was also an accomplished baseball player in HS and went on to wrestle at Wartburg where he won a national title.  Cole’s brother, Brandon was a 4X placer/2X finalist and his cousin, Clay was a 2X state champion as well for the Dons. The one season that he did not win state was his Sophomore year, in which he placed 5th. He was put on the consolation side in a loss to Adam Hight from Nodaway Valley.

 

Cory Christensen, Winterset, Class Of 1993

Christensen won titles as a Sophomore, Junior and Senior and beat some HAMMERS in the finals. As a Sophomore, he defeated Adam Hutchinson from West Delware in the finals. As a Junior, he defeated Brian Fuhrmeister of West Liberty in the finals and as a Senior, he defeated Brad Horton from Norwalk in the finals.  Cory’s father is widely respected and highly decorated wrestling coach for Winterset, Gary Christensen. Cory went on to win a national title for Simpson College at the D3 level. The only year he did not win state was his Freshman season, although he did qualify.

 

 

Christopher Halblom, Center Point-Urbana in 2008 and Alburnett in 2009-2011

Chris Halblom won his first state title for Alburnett as a Sophomore in 2009 and it was the beginning of something huge at Alburnett.  With my brothers in the youth scene at the time, I was well-aware that Alburnett had a powerhouse in the works and the moment Chris won his first title, I remember thinking, “wow, this is the beginning of something that’s going to be HUGE for Alburnett HS wrestling.” I knew that Alburnett run was coming… it was just a matter of when. And Halblom was who made me officially decide that Alburnett had officially arrived. He went on to win 2 more titles in 2010 and 2011. He compiled an amazing record of 167-4. He was a 4X finalist and the only year he did not win state was his Freshman year For Center Point Urbana, in which he placed 2nd at 2A 103 to Tanner Schmidt of Charles City.  Halblom and Alburnett teammate Tyler Shulista were one of the best 1-2 punch combos in the Alburnett lineup for a couple years there.  His brother, Drake Halblom was also a stud wrestler for Alburnett…He placed 4th twice, I believe.  Chris Halblom went on to wrestle for UNI after HS.

 

Derric Thomas, Mason City Newman, Class of 2010

Derric Thomas was a big deal. The best wrestler to ever come out of Mason City Newman. He was a 4X state finalist, placing 2-1-1-1. He had tough competition every single year and in 2 out of the 4 years he wrestled in the finals, he faced a fellow state champion.  Thomas went on to wrestle at North Iowa Area Lakes Community College. He was defeated by Cole Welter from Don Bosco as a Freshman in the state finals…the only year he did not win state.

 

Interesting Connections Between These 4 Guys:

  • In 2009, Halblom, Thomas and Welter all won state in 1A and at consecutive weights; 112, 119, 125.

 

  • Both Cory Christensen and Cole Welter went on to become D3 national champions. Christensen for Simpson, Welter for Wartburg.
  • Both Halblom and Thomas wrestled Ben McMahon from Don Bosco in the finals in one of their 3 championship wins.  Both of them wrestled not only a Don Bosco wrestler in 2 finals matches, but a Welter.  Halblom defeated McMahon and Cole Welter’s brother, Brandon Welter in the finals while Thomas defeated McMahon, but suffered his only loss at the state tournament as a Freshman in the state finals vs. Cole Welter.
  • Cory Christensen became an assistant coach for Don Bosco when Cole Welter was in high school.  According to Don Bosco standout, Bryce Schares and Cole Welter himself, nobody realized how good Cory was for a little while after he arrived and they soon found out once the practice grind began.  By all accounts, he is very well-liked by that DB wrestling squad.
  • Derric Thomas and Cole Welter had one of the most interesting rivalries this state has ever seen.  The one year Thomas did not win state, Welter brought home the wall chart. The one year Welter did not win, Thomas brought home the wall chart.  They wrestled all 4 years in high school. As Freshmen, Welter pinned Thomas in the district and state finals.  As Sophomores, Thomas defeated Welter with a last second takedown and went on to win state the following week while Welter placed 5th. As Juniors, Thomas defeated Welter by 5 or so points at the Catholic Duals. As Seniors, they wrestled at the Catholic Duals again and Welter won 3-1.  This rivalry would be PERFECT for my Inside The Rivalry series, so guys if you are interested in doing one of those, please hit me up!
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Remember The Wrestler: Nick Beuter; Cedar Falls HS, Boise State

Nick Beuter… A few things that stick out to me when I think of him is that 1.) he was one of the best overall wrestlers in the 2003 class; 2.) that he comes from an amazing wrestling family and 3.) that he was a guy who was universally respected by anyone and everyone you talked to at the time, whether it be on or off the mat… No one had anything negative to say about Nick Beuter and a couple of the most shining examples of this were reflected in the high regard that the two 4Xers of that grade, Mack Reiter from Don Bosco and CJ Ettelson from Hudson seemed to hold him in when interviewed or simply in casual conversation.  Especially with CJ. I remember CJ having an interview where he made it a point to give Nick props for being an outstanding wrestler, practice partner and friend. I feel like he did this multiple times and even when you talk to him now, he will fill you in on how great of a wrestler Nick was. This was the general consensus with everyone.

We had a kid in our club who was at the same weight as Beuter a couple years when they were at AAU State (youth). His name was Christopher Johnson from West Burlington and he was one of the best guys on our squad. Beuter was one of the guys at their weight range that Chris had a genuine respect for and knew he had to be sharp of and when they’d ever meet up. And that was really the only thing I remember about Nick prior to high school.  When he got into HS, he kind of became my brother, Justin’s wrestling counterpart from the 3A division. Justin was also a 2003 graduate, but was in the 2A division.  Both those two wrestled 103 and 112 their first two years in high school, both placed 2nd at state and both lost in the finals in frustratingly close finals matches. As a Freshman, Justin was tied with 30 seconds left in the 3rd when he got caught on his back and pinned by Dusty Pollard from Osage and as a Sophomore was tied 4-4 with 5 seconds left in the 3rd period when he got caught for nearfall to lose vs. Jacob Naig of Emmetsburg. Beuter lost in the finals by a close score of 3-1 both years. His Freshman year vs. returning state champion, Dominick Moyer of Oskaloosa and his Sophomore year vs. Ryan Osgood of Mason City. He redeemed his loss vs. Moyer at state the following year, which ended Moyer’s quest for becoming a 4X state champion.

So Justin and Nick weighed the same and wrestled a lot of the same competition and had similar results and state finishes, but never actually met up in competition. We weren’t from the same area, so they didn’t compete at the same events other than state.  After both of them finished 2nd as Sophomores, they were probably more frustrated than anyone, for they were the only 2X runner-ups in their grade going into their Junior year. When they were Juniors, both were at 125, except Justin won it finally and Nick fell just short of making the finals when he lost in OT to eventual state champion, Travis Snover or DM Lincoln. He fought back to get 3rd place. After Justin won, my family and the Mepo fans were obviously elated and ran to the gate near the podium so we could all hug him the moment he stepped off the podium. While we were waiting, Nick did something that we always thought was so cool of him. 2A stepped off the podium and Justin was talking to Moza (Fay) a little bit while he slowly made his way to us and while approaching us, Nick (3A) finished up and immediately after Nick stepped off the podium for the 3A 125 awards, he did a bee-line to Justin and reached him shortly before he got to us, patted him on the back, shook his hand, gave him a big smile and said, “congratulations man! I’m happy for you!” Justin smiled back and nodded and a few seconds later was mobbed by us. Nick Beuter was the first person to congratulate Justin after winning state (after awards)… and he did so after having his own dreams crushed that weekend. He could have stepped off the podium and quickly found the nearest hole to sulk in, but nope… He congratulated Justin. It was pretty clear to us at that point that Nick’s character as well as his incredible wrestling were factors in him being so well-liked and respected by the wrestling community.

On the way home from Des Moines, my family did the regular “reminisce about the tourney” thing and it didn’t take long before I mentioned, “hey did you guys see Nick Beuter go out of his way to congratulate Justin after they got off the podium?! That was cool of him… Justin, I didn’t realize you knew him that well?” Justin replied, “I don’t know him that well at all, but that was awesome of him. If there’s anyone here who knows how frustrated I was coming into the tournament and how badly I wanted this, it’s him considering how similar our careers have been. I can’t wait to congratulate him next year!” And I don’t know if he got the chance to congratulate Nick or not the next year, but Nick finally took home the gold his Senior season after defeating Josh Marker of Ames in the finals in a close match. I can’t imagine how great it felt for someone like Nick who had such immense pressure to win a state title as he did due to being so close the 3 previous years along with the fact that his uncles, Greg and Steve Randall were a couple of the best HS wrestlers to ever step on a mat in the state of Iowa and won 6 titles between the two of them. Not to mention, his father, John Beuter was a decorated wrestler for Buena Vista… Nick naturally had some huge expectations before he even began wrestling and he lived up to them when he added a 7th title to the family with his state title. We didn’t know Nick personally at all, but my entire family was very happy for him. One of the highlights of that entire 2003 tournament for us.

 

FRESHMAN FINALS MATCH:

 

SOPHOMORE FINALS MATCH:

 

Ok, so he fell barely short in those first two videos, but still wrestling well… but knowing that, it puts things in perspective in terms of how badly he wanted to get that title as a Senior… Here is the video for that year and make sure to watch him on the podium at the end… You won’t ever see a happier person than Nick Beuter was in that moment! So cool.

SENIOR YEAR STATE CHAMPIONSHIP:

 

 


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

I was born into a wrestling family.  My uncles, Greg and Steve Randall, wrestled for Iowa when I was young (about 4-5 yrs old.)  At the time, we lived close to the University and I still have fond memories of running around the Iowa wrestling room, watching practices, and hanging out with Dan Gable and the other wrestlers.

I think I was 4 yrs old when I went to my first tournament.    

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

Wrestling runs deep on both sides of my family.  My dad, Jon Beuter, was an All-American at Buena Vista.  My uncle through marriage on my Dad’s side, Gary Bentrim, was a 3x National champ for UNI when they were D2.  My two uncles on my Mother’s side, Greg and Steve Randall.  Greg was a 4x Iowa state champ, Steve was a 2x champ.  Both went on to wrestle at Univ of Iowa.  Greg was a 3x All-American, (2x runner-up) wrestling under Dan Gable.  Also, shout out to my Mom, growing up as the older sister of 2 stud brothers, she knew her way around the wrestling mat as well.  Funny side story on that.  Apparently, after my uncle Greg won his 1st state title, my Mom challenged him to a match back at the hotel the night of the state finals.  She was a cheerleader for the team at the time.  Long story short, in front the whole team, she took him down in OT, still in her cheerleading uniform.  Greg still can’t live this one down for those who have heard. – sorry Greg…

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I do not really remember any real rivals in competition, but I will never forget the training partners I had growing up in the Wahawk Wrestling Club.  At the time, this was the premiere wrestling club to go to in the area.  Many H.S state titles were produced from the Wahawk club during that time.  

Up until 7th grade, I lived in Hudson, IA, where I grew up as best friends and neighbors with CJ and Charlie Ettelson.  The three of us grew up as brothers really.  On a daily basis, we had the battles and competitions as brothers do, in pretty much anything we could think of, not just wrestling.  I give that relationship with that whole family a lot of credit to the success and development I had with wrestling.

Another notable wrestling family I had the privilege of growing up training with was the Reiter’s.  That whole extended family was spread out in every which way of neighboring towns, and they were all tough as nails.  Mack and I were the same age so we trained a lot together.  Aside from training together at the Wahawk club, I can remember going to their farm in Gilbertville where they had a whole wrestling room built in a small barn.   Man, I can remember the battles there and balling my eyes out in that room – in a good way.  

 

What was your record in HS?

140(something) – 7.  Not sure of the total wins, but the 7 losses I do remember, and can probably name all of them still.

 

How did you do at state?

Freshman – 2nd at 103

Sophomore- 2nd at 112

Junior – 3rd at 125

Senior – 1st at 130

 

What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?

Definitely the injury my senior year.  It happened in our conference tournament, just 2 weeks before districts.  I was wrestling in the semis against a super tough kid from Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Justin Hauge.  We got in to a flurry towards the side of the mat, I went to post, and dislocated my shoulder.  Trainers came out and tugged the shoulder back into place on the mat, I attempted to continue, but seconds later, it came out again and I was forced to injury default.  

After seeing a specialist the following week, they determined I blew out many of the ligaments in my shoulder and I needed surgery right away.  They said there was no way I could wrestle, and my season was over.  Being my senior year, and so dang close to that gold medal all three years prior, and just a few weeks away from state tourney, I was completely devastated.

We decided to sleep on it and hold off on the surgery for a few days.  It wasn’t until a phone call I had with my uncle Steve, that I still remember to this day, that I made up my mind.  He pretty much just told me that if I don’t at least try, or make an attempt, that I would have to live with that decision my whole life.  He said, “if you show up and try to wrestle through it, even if you lose or are forced to default, you can at least look back and say that you made the attempt.”  He explained there was absolutely nothing to lose, and that just having the courage to show up and try your best, that in itself is a win and something to be proud of.  So with that, we decided to just go for it and see what happened.

After the decision to wrestle through it, my whole mentality really changed.  Any pressure I had felt to win was gone and any fear of losing kind of escaped me.  For the following weeks up until districts, I let the shoulder heal the best I could and just tried to stay off the mat.  I got through districts on one working arm, barely.  Come state tourney, I can remember I just tried to keep the mindset that I was grateful to be there and whatever the outcome, I was just happy to be able to compete.  Match after match, I literally squeaked by with wins (especially in the semi final match.)  Going into the finals I remember I was not nervous at all. I really did not care what happened. I wanted to just do the best I could.  Luckily enough, I won the match and finally got that state title.

Looking back, the whole experience taught me a lot of lessons about adversity and overcoming obstacles.  It was a great lesson on just making an attempt, doing your best, even if you think you may fail.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I had many great coaches throughout my wrestling career.  But the most influential, I would have to say would be my HS assistant coach Jeff Gaard.  Coach Gaard was the kind of coach that believed that the greatest attribute a wrestler can have is his mindset.  He wasn’t the most technical coach I have had, but he was the one that really made me believe in myself.  

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

In H.S, we had did have a competitive team, but we never really did produce the all the results of expectation.  

In college, with the 5 years at Boise State, we had multiple competitive teams.  We won the Pac-10s twice, had multiple all americans, and one National champ, Ben Cherrington.

 

Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?

Growing up, I looked up to my uncles, Greg and Steve Randall, as idols.  I enjoyed watching many of the Iowa wrestlers at the time, Lincoln Mcllravy, Mark Ironside, Eric Juergens, just to name a few.  But the most influential or greatest impact on me, would definitely have to be my Dad.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

I really like what Cael Sanderson has done at Penn State.  To me, he has kind of shaped a different style to college wrestling.  His guys have a way of bringing a new excitement to the sport where they can, and are always looking, to score from any position.  They just wrestle free and seems like they are almost making stuff up as they go.  I love to see the innovation they bring to the sport.    

 

What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?

That’s a tough one to answer, because I was upset after every loss.  But if I had to narrow down one, it would have to be in the semi-finals at the state tournament my junior year.  Going in, I was undefeated on the year, and had gotten 2nd the two years prior, so I felt a lot was riding on that alone.  I had a lot of momentum going into the tournament that year, and felt I was wrestling my best.   I lost a close match to the eventual champ, Travis Snover.  It took a lot for me to rebound my mindset and come back in the wrestle-backs and get 3rd.

 

What was your best wrestling memory/accomplishment?

Aside from the adverse challenge my senior year, as mentioned before, I think the best memory or win I had was the very first round at the state tournament my sophomore year.  The match was against a notable name, Dominick Moyer.  To make this match what it was, I had wrestled against Moyer the year prior, in the state finals.  I can remember staying up after the district tournament, waiting for the district matchups to be drawn.  I had gotten 2nd in districts that year, so I knew first rd. of state I would be matched against whoever got 1st at districts.  Our district randomly drew the Oskaloosa district and I knew Moyer had won it.  I can remember how excited I was for the chance to avenge not only my state finals loss the year before, but also my very last loss at the state tournament.  Plus, Moyer was 2 for 2 in state titles going in (he was on track for 4), so all the hype going in to that match gave me a lot of motivation.  I can remember after I had won that match, I felt like, at the time, it was the best match I had wrestled in my life.

 

Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

My biggest rival in HS was Ryan Osgood.  He accounted for 3 of the 7 total losses.  Every match we had was very close.  My sophomore year, we wrestled in the finals at districts and at state – he beat me both times.  In college, my most notable competitor was whoever I was against in the practice room that day.  Wrestling at the D1 level, every guy is tough.  I had to compete to the very fullest on a daily basis.  I did beat Jacob Naig in a college tournament one year, I think he won a national title or two at Wartburg.    

 

Who was the fiercest competitor you ever faced?

That’s a tough one to narrow to one.  But probably the “fiercest” competitor I wrestled I would have to say Brent Metcalf.  I wrestled him in HS at a freestyle regional tournament.  The guy just had a different feel of speed and strength to him, that I had not ever felt before.  I think “fierce” would be a perfect way to describe him.  

 

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

I wrestled all year.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

After High School, I moved away to wrestle for my uncle Greg, who was the head coach at Boise State University in Idaho.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I would describe my wrestling style as controlled and technical.  I was never too much of the high flying, high risk, score as many points as possible type you see a lot in current wrestling.  I seemed to keep the match score close (sorry Mom).  

 

 What other sports did you play?

I played soccer growing up, football in junior high and freshman year.  I played baseball competitively all through youth and into my sophomore year in HS. I loved baseball, but with the season being in the summer, it conflicted with the freestyle and greco season.  So after my sophomore year, I decided to focus solely on wrestling year round.

 

Did you have good practice partners to help push you in the room?

Absolutely!  All the way from youth to college wrestling, I had great practice partners.  

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

I do have preferences on pro sports teams, but honestly, I just like to see good games.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

After I graduated college and was done competing in wrestling, I was introduced to jiu-jitsu.  There were a few guys I wrestled with at Boise State that immediately moved on full into the MMA scene so they brought me in to train with them to keep their wrestling game up.  Jiu jitsu and wrestling are somewhat similar, so it was pretty easy for me to pick it up fairly quickly and it was something I could stay competitive with after wrestling.  At first it was just a fun way to stay in shape, but for the last 7 or so years, I started to take it pretty seriously.  I have competed in some local tournaments, also a few national and World tournaments.  2 years ago, I received my black belt.  

Other hobbies include anything outdoors; Mountain biking, snowboarding, camping, fishing, hiking/backpacking, golfing and traveling with my fiancé.        

 

How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?

Wrestling has had a huge impact on who I am today.  Wrestling has taught me a lot about discipline, hard work, and how to rely on yourself to accomplish whatever you set out to do.

 

What do you do now?

I work for a transportation and logistics company.  We broker and facilitate transportation for commercial freight.

 

How fun is wrestling history to you?

I still follow current wrestling at all levels, and I probably always will.  

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I am still involved in wrestling.  I teach wrestling classes at my jiu-jitsu academy.

This last year I have started coaching at a local High School here in Boise, ID.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

My best advice for young wrestlers, is to enjoy the journey and remember to have fun.  Do not focus wrestling just on winning and losing.  Try to focus on and find the many lessons learned through the process.  Focus on always trying to learn from every experience to better yourself as a wrestler and a person.  The rest will fall into place.   Also – don’t cut weight! 

 

Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?

There are not really any old timer wrestling tournaments here in Idaho, unfortunately.  But if there was, I’d give it a shot!

But, I still plan on continuing to compete in jiu-jitsu tournaments.  

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WBF, TF, TF, TF, TF, WBF, WBF, TF, TF, WBF, TF, 14-0, TF, TF, WBF, WBF… These are the match results of the 16 matches that Cael Happel from Lisbon won at state en route to becoming a 4X State champion.

Cael Happel… The 2nd of the 5 Happel brothers and as of 2020, the 2nd 4X state champion of the family. If you throw his dad in the mix, so far the Happel clan has won 11 state championships! Insane… Dean Happel won 3 titles for Lisbon in the early 80’s.

Here and there, some dingleberry will come along and try to claim that Cael has never had competition at the state tournament, which I believe to be completely asinine and blatant disrespect for not only Cael, but 1A in general… Take a look at some of these guys in his bracket. Logan James, Blake Thomsen, The Meeker cousins from Wapello (Devon and Daniel), Nolan Noonan, Josh Tibbets (check out some of his incredible regular season wins over the years), Easton Larson, Gabe Lewis, Jacob Ragsdale, etc… ALL legit wrestlers who may have won state in other brackets in other years themselves and Cael pinned or teched everyone he faced at the state tournament with an exception of a 14-0 MD over Logan James of Underwood in the finals his Junior year.


2017 1A 113

1 Cael Happel (Fr.) Lisbon

2 Devon Meeker (Sr.) Wapello

3 Jacob Ragsdale (Sr.) Dike-New Hartford

4 Logan James (Fr.) Underwood

5 Nathan Phillips (Sr.) I35

6 Kurtis Krager (Jr.) OABCIG

7 Easton Larson (Fr.) Don Bosco

8 Tyler Helgeson (Fr.) Lake Mills

 

2019 1A 120

1 Cael Happel (So.) Lisbon

2 Daniel Meeker (So.) Wapello

3 Blake Thomsen (So.) Underwood

4 Casey Baker (Jr.) I35

5 Cael Frost (Fr.) Don Bosco

6 Tyler Helgeson (So.) Lake Mills

7 Dillon Lynott (So.) West Sioux

8 Uvaldo Camarillo (Sr.) Postville

 

2019 1A 132

1 Cael Happel of Lisbon

2 Logan James of Underwood

3 Joshua Tibbits of Martensdale, St. Mary`s

4 Easton Larson of Don Bosco

5 Nolan Noonan of Cascade

6 Gabriel Lewis of Denver

7 Jacob McBride of Newman Catholic

8 Dillon Lynott of West Sioux, Hawarden

 

2020 1A 138

1 Cael Happel (Sr) Lisbon

2 Logan James (Sr) Underwood

3 Heath Moyer (Sr) North Linn – Troy Mills

4 Dominic Lopez (Fr) New London

5 Jace Mulder (Fr) Western Christian – Hull

6 Karter Krapfl (So) Hudson

7 Trae Ehlen (Jr) Mount Ayr

8 Jordan Khommanyvong (Jr) South Central Calhoun

He took 3 losses in the regular season as a Freshman. All to top-tier kids. He took two losses as a Sophomore. Again, top tier guys. It was smooth-sailing his Junior and Senior seasons though, and had huge wins over some studs on the national level such as Caleb Rathjen (3A Ankeny, Hawkeyes commit), Ryan Sokol (Simley), Hayden Taylor (Solon), etc. He is a Junior Fargo AA in his own right. And I feel the kid is still in progression. Every year his skill set is more refined from a technical standpoint… He has been elite in terms of his athleticism and mental toughness for as long as I can remember, but when he came into HS his Freshman year, his technique was a bit raw, as the case for any Freshman. He has made HUGE strides since then. And when you start thinking that he couldn’t possibly get better than the crazy high level he is at, he does something so impressive to make you rethink it. He is making fine-tune, intrinsic strides with his technique every…single…year. UNI fans are going to have a blast watching him.

Does Cael have a case for being the GOAT?!? YES! He does.

SIDENOTE: I copied this from a post written by Cael’s HC, Brad Smith on his Facebook… Brad started doing something really cool where he started stories of every one of the guys he class coached in his career who won state and it has been awesome. I think he got through the State Champs, I hope he decides to start doing the placers and qualifiers now because every single one of them are fun reads. Anyways, in Dean Happel’s entry, he wrote the following quote(s):

“It happened the day after Valentines Day. Dale and Dean Happel started at Lisbon Community School in February of 1979 as 7th graders. I was in my first season as the Head Coach and heard there were 2 boys that had  just started school at Lisbon and their 2nd day I had coaxed them into the wrestling room.  It turned out to be one of the best coaching moves I ever made.  Unfortunately Dale was unable to compete because of his knees, but it was a start of an awesome career for Dean. Dean has to be one of the most coachable wrestlers I’ve had. I would show a technique and Dean would be using the move the next day in practice. Man he picked up things quickly. Going into high school Dean placed 4th in State as a freshmen as Lisbon finished as State Runner-ups and then from there became Lisbon’s 3rd three time State Champion winning at 98 in 1982, 112 in 1983, and 119 in 1984.” – Lisbon HC, Brad Smith

Holy cow it’s crazy to think just how much Brad’s decision to talk to Dale and Dean Happel about joining the Lisbon wrestling team has influenced Iowa HS wrestling history with what has unraveled as a result. Anyone who has aspirations of becoming a wrestling coach should take note of that… keep track of any and every prospective wrestler that you can… You never know what will come of it…

SIDENOTE #2: Cael and Carter aren’t the only potential Iowa HS GOAT’s in the family… If this series were called “Who Is The Iowa HS Wrestling GOAT Mat Maid/Manager,” it’d consist of one article because I have already determined who that would be. It’d be their mom, Dawn Happel. 2 reasons: 1.) Duh, she’s a Happel and 2.) Mepo!!! Dawn was a huge wrestling fan and manager for the Mepo wrestling team in her day. I grew up at a farmhouse in the boonies in the country outside of Mepo and have very, very few neighbors. Ironically, one of my few families that lived in my neck of the woods growing up was the Durr family. Dawn was one of the Durr siblings. They were a bit older than me, but I remember them a little bit from riding the bus when I was a little kid. They cracked my brother and I up laughing a couple times because they were so funny. That bus route did and to this day picks up kids in the Mepo school district who live close to the Mississippi River, and oddly enough along with my family and Dawn’s, the Erickson boys (4X placer and D3 AA Cole and state champ Luke) and Foster boys (3X placer and D1 NCAA Champ Drew and Clay) rode that same bus route years later. Small world.

 

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Jesse Sundell, Ogden, Class of ‘01. There hasn’t been anything quite like him to go through the Iowa HS wrestling scene. When Jesse stepped on the accelerator of his wrestling growth, he stepped hard and never let up. He did things that defied logic. In fact, to this day, one of the most astonishing things I’ve ever witnessed anyone accomplish on a wrestling mat was something he did at the state tournament his junior year. He won his third state title in dominating fashion in a bracket that included the likes of Galanakis and future state champs, Aaron Helmrich of North Linn and Dustin Hinschberger of Belle Plain. An impressive feat in itself, but unexplainable when considering the fact that he did this with a broken leg that he suffered in a bull riding accident… It should be mentioned that Jesse was an accomplished bull-rider off the mat. His brother, Wade Sundell (Ogden ‘03) continues to be a force in the bull-riding scene.

Entering the postseason of his Senior year, Jesse was in the process of putting together a high school wrestling career  that was flawless. With three weeks left to go in his entire high school career, not only had he won state the previous three years, but he had yet to lose a match. And nothing indicated that he was in jeopardy of not becoming an undefeated four time state champion, for he beat everyone he faced soundly. No one really seemed to come close to beating Sundell until Mario Galanakis defeated him in the Sectional finals Sundell’s Senior year, a result that was reversed a week later at districts. He remained unbeaten from there and had a come-from-behind fall in the finals vs. Chris Helgeson of Lake Mills to secure his 4th title. Take it from me, that bracket was one of the most loaded ones that we have seen at the Iowa HS State wrestling tournament.

By his Freshman year of high school, Sundell was well on his way to making a tremendous splash in Iowa wrestling history. A 103 1A state championship came back with Sundell in 1998. The 112 1A state championship was his in 1999 and 2000. He put his stamp on Ogden and Iowa wrestling history in 2001 by winning the 119 1A championship, becoming just the 12th four-time state champion in Iowa history and second four-time state champion in Ogden history, joining Jason Keenan.

Battle tested every…single…year. Every bracket had fellow elite guys/state champs in their own right:

2001 1A 103

  1. Jesse Sundell, Fr., Ogden
  2. Joe Reiter, Fr., Gilbertville (Don Bosco)
  3. Nick Lee, Jr., Columbus Junction
  4. Josh Christensen, Jr., Nodaway Valley, Greenfield
  5. Justin Weiland, Fr., Stanwood, North Cedar
  6. Brett Shields, So., Mount Ayr


2002 1A 112

  1. Jesse Sundell, So., Ogden
  2. Keith Simmons, Sr., Sidney
  3. Brian Frost, Sr., Gilbertville (Don Bosco)
  4. Jake Cline, Sr., Wilton
  5. Jason Utter, Sr., Columbus Junction
  6. Justin Weiland, So., North Cedar, Stanwood

 

2001 1A 112

  1. Jesse Sundell, Jr., Ogden
  2. Justin McClintock, Sr., Eagle Grove
  3. Mario Galanakis, So., Nodaway Valley
  4. Dustin Hinschberger, So., Belle Plaine
  5. Luke Foor, Sr., Wapello
  6. Aaron Helmrich, Jr., North Linn


2001 1A 119

  1. Jesse Sundell, Sr., Ogden
  2. Chris Helgeson, Sr., Lake Mills
  3. Mario Galanakis, Jr., Nodaway Valley
  4. Aaron Wernimont, Fr., Pocahontas
  5. Keefer Jensen, Sr., Missouri Valley
  6. Rhino Cox, Sr., Wapsie Valley

 

 


Does Jesse have a case for being Iowa’s GOAT HS wrestler? Indeed, he did things that indicated incredible intangibles that he possessed in which hadn’t been shown by anyone else in history… winning state on a broken leg? 4 titles? Finishing career with one loss… So close to being flawless. Yes, he has a case. Makes me proud to be a part of the 2001 class myself. 

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  • To start, I think I’m gonna start a new series that is “Remember The Wrestler-esque,” but based on Seniors in HS. The name of the series at this point is “Senior Moments,” but I’m not set on that quite yet. If any of you have any other suggestions on names for this series, hit me up with them!

So I finished a new reel and it was 16 minutes long.  And it was on Aidan Noonan in his past two undefeated state championship seasons… Check it out!!!

Ok, so this article is obviously about Cascade’s 2X state champion and current Senior, Aidan Noonan. I’ve heard about this kid for a long time, for his coaches were teammates/practice partners/friends of mine at Loras College. They’ve been excited about this kid for a while.

To kick things off, I am going to address the elephant in the room that will be ever-present with Noonan, probably forever… And that’s Adam Allard from West Sioux.  Most of you likely heard that Noonan defeated Allard in the finals last year as a Junior in which Allard was a Senior going for his 4th title. And he did it by turning Allard to his back for near fall in the last seconds of the 3rd period. A Senior going for 4 and falling short in his last finals match is something that had never happened before unless you count Topher Carton, from Assumption.  Carton won 2 of his titles in Illinois before moving to Iowa as a Junior and winning state that year and losing a close finals match to Brandon Sorensen in the finals as a Senior.  A lot of people don’t count that… I do. I live right across the bridge from Illinois and we wrestled our share of Illinois competition when I was in high school.  Winning the Illinois HS State tourney is a big deal. There are tough dudes scattered all over that state. In my mind, Allard was not the first person this happened to…Carton was. Regardless, I wanted the dust to settle a bit before even mentioning Allard’s 2020 state tournament anywhere on the site or social media. I met Adam Allard when I wrote his Senior Spotlight article for The Predicament. Incredibly nice person and is much more mature and determined compared to the average kid his age.  And I’ve had one encounter with his family…This was in 2018 when my youngest brother, Brennan was wrestling in the semifinals at state and we were trying to find a good spot where we could actually see the match, but there was some log-jammage with people in that section at that time and we couldn’t see anything…that is until Adam Allard’s mom went out of her way to help clear a path for us to find a spot where we could see his match with no interference.  A random act of kindness was the one experience I had with the Allard family….

So I decided to wait until it appeared that Allard bounced back from it and judging by the intensity the kid has shown in clips of offseason competition this summer, he seems to be on his way to bouncing back in a big way. I think he will do well at the next level. The one finals match he had vs. Aidan Noonan in 2020 should not define his legacy, but if anyone is capable of derailing that from happening, it is him. Best of luck to him.

And there are several other interesting things about Aidan’s last two championship seasons besides just the Allard match. Take a look:

  • Aidan’s father, Jason, wrestled for Cascade when he was in high school.  His coach was Dale Andrews. Dale is the father of Travis, Tom and Tim Andrews. Travis is Aidan’s head coach.
  • Head Assistant Coach, Alex Ressler is a former placer for Cascade in the early 2000’s.  He’s been Aidan’s coach since youth. Alex gave Aidan the nickname, “The Bernard Bulldog” when Aidan was in youth wrestling because Aidan is from a tiny community that is part of Cascade’s school district called Bernard, IA.  He called him a bulldog because he is “tough and will never back down from a fight.”
  • Aidan’s brother, Nolan Noonan graduated in 2019 and placed 6th and 5th at state for Cascade.
  • Aidan is Cascade’s first ever state champion. And now he has done it twice.
  • Aidan was Cascade’s first state finalist since 1985 when Roger Koppes placed 2nd.
  • In Aidan’s two state championship seasons, every guy he has wrestled at state, went on to fight back and place, indicating that Aidan hasn’t been gifted by any bracketing Gods. All 8 matches at state vs. state placers… battle-tested.
  • Aidan defeated Beau Klingensmith from Woodbury Central 4-2 in the finals in 2019 and defeated Allard by the same score.  Those 4 points are the only ones he has given up at the state tournament.  Noone has scored a mere point in the other 6 matches.
  • In Aidan’s Sophomore year he wrestled guys from; West Sioux, Logan Magnolia, Woodbury Central and Denver…. In Aidan’s Junior year, he wrestled guys from West Sioux, Logan Magnolia and Woodbury Central again. Instead of a Denver opponent, he wrestled someone from Mepo.
  •  As you all know, Aidan won his finals match by scoring Nearfall points in the last seconds of the match, but he ALSO won his semifinals match by doing this as well.  He defeated Beau Klingensmith from Woodbury Central 2-0 by scoring nearfall with only a few seconds remaining. I don’t know if this has ever happened before.
  • Aidan defeated Beau Klingensmith in the finals in 2019 and in the semifinals in 2020.  These two go way back. A few years ago, Klingensmith defeated Noonan in the semifinals at USA State and for 3rd and 4th place at AAU State.  These two have a nice little rivalry going.
  • When Aidan won state as a Sophomore, a lot of people kind of seemed to think he came out of nowhere, but Aidan placed 4 times at AAU State and won it once… and that’s without being able to wrestle in the tournament as an 8th grader due to injury.

To go with this, I interviewed headcoach Travis Andrews and he provided some great insight about Aidan Noonan and Cascade wrestling.

 

1.) How long did you know that you had a potential state champion in the works with Aidan?

Coach Andrews: Coach Alex Ressler was a physical education teacher at Cascade Elementary and said that the Noonan boys coming up would be solid if they kept working hard. I don’t remember when Aidan said it, but he said it back in elementary school sometime that he was going to be Cascade’s first State Champion. Coach Ressler spent a lot of time with Aidan when he was in the youth program coming up and coaching him.

 

2.) Aidan was considered an underdog coming into the match with Allard… How did you feel coming in?

Coach Andrews: At the start of the season, Aidan decided to wrestle 126 and knew that Allard would be at that weight and that he is one of the best in the state. There’s no denying what Adam has been able to do in the sport of wrestling. Aidan wanted to wrestle 126 so he could wrestle Allard in the finals at state. Fans from other teams at tournaments early in the season would say, “that’s too bad he’s at 126, Allard is there.” We would respond, “that’s why Aidan is wrestling at 126, so he can wrestle Allard.” However, Aidan did have an injury during the month of December with his lower back. He was off the mat for about a month during the season and didn’t know what the season would exactly look like for him. During that time Aidan would travel north to Dyersville and meet with Jenny Arnold at Intelligent Movements early in the mornings before school. Jenny saw him and began working with Aidan on strengthening his core with Pilates. As coaches, we knew Aidan would do everything he would have to in order to get back onto the mat and he did. Going into the tournament after the brackets came out and saw where everyone was seeded, we just told Aidan that he needed to take it one match at a time. Focus on the one match in front of him and not to be looking ahead. Personally, we were more nervous about his semifinals match than his finals match. Aidan and Beau had a good finals match from the year before and it would be another hard fought match. Aidan has respect for all the kids he’s wrestled and has developed some relationships with them. For instance, Damon Huston and Aidan have become close over the last two years. They wrestled each other a lot when they were freshman at 106, but now they are at different weights and warmed each other up at the districts and state this past year. Coach Ressler and I didn’t look at any of Allards matches with Aidan until after he was done Friday night. Even though we knew Aidan was watching ALL the matches in his bracket at state, even the consolation side. That’s his routine, he come’s back to the hotel, his mom washes his wrestling gear, he’ll relax in his room and watch matches from state. Since Aidan was relaxed before the finals we were relaxed, we told him to go out wrestle hard and have fun.

 

3.) How would you describe Aidan’s style? Is his ability to ride and turn guys consistent with Cascade wrestling?

Coach Andrews: Aidan has his own style of wrestling, but his brother also has the ability to ride. Aidan is kind of rewriting the myth that short guys can’t ride with legs. I know Eric Juergens has worked with him on his riding and spent one whole camp just in the top position with the Noonan boys.

 

4.) How excited are you that Cascade landed its first state champion? How much did it mean to your dad? Is there a possibility we may see your dad coaching in the finals next year?

Coach Andrews: Two years ago, it was really exciting for the Cascade Wrestling fans to have their first state champion. I was more excited for Aidan and what he has been able to accomplish, it’s a testament for all the work he puts in that people don’t see. Having Aidan and Nolan both wrestling in the semifinals together, doing it together that year is a memory they will have the rest of their lives. They’ve been doing it together since day 1. When my brother Tim had his first state champion at Maquoketa Valley, my dad was really excited for Tim and their program. I think it’s safe to say that he was even more excited for Aidan and Cascade Wrestling. It’s something he has wanted for the program since the late 1980’s when he first started coaching at Cascade. The last two years my dad has been right behind the coaches on the mat and that is about as close as I think Aidan will let him get. LOL. Aidan has his routine and it’s something that we haven’t messed with the last two years and are not planning to mess with. We shall see how this season all shakes out and what happen.

 

5.) Has Aidan’s state championship run sparked some excitement and enthusiasm that may lead to more Cascade kids wanting to join the youth program?

Coach Andrews: The last two years the younger wrestlers in Cascade have become more excited about wrestling. Aidan has broken through the glass ceiling here at Cascade shows that it can be done. He has shown them what hard work is and what it takes. Aidan knows he can always get better and improve, he’s been doing that since all summer, working during the day and wrestling at night. There is a small group of kids that have been going out to their barn to have Aidan work with them this summer. It’s great seeing Aidan walk the halls at the elementary school and all the kids are giving him high fives. I would definitely say his run has sparked some excitement in the Cascade youth program.

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That Denver-Tripoli wrestling run of the late 2000’s/early 2010’s was one that I think will probably stick with a lot of people for years to come.  Coming from a guy who’s squad was in the team title race most every year around that time, it was kind of a bummer having to deal with those guys.  They were solid, up and down that lineup and if you can narrow down the top 5 guys from that team in that era, it is crazy that they all ended up on the same team at the same time the way they did for DT. There was something very intimidating about those guys. Not only in the fact that they were good, but it was in the way they were beating guys… Dylan Peters burying guys like he was a Wells Fargo undertaker, Brandon Sorensen offering absolutely no opportunity for his opponents to even breathe, the systematic destruction of Levi Wolfensperger and the quiet confidence they all seemed to step on and step off the mat with. When you watched one of their hammers beating up on one of our hammers, you got the feeling that their parents could do the same to our parents if we had any objection to the beatings handed out by the Denver-Tripoli wrestling squad around that time. So the vibe indicated that there should be no misunderstandings…to say the least. And their names were tough.  What sane person would ever WANT to wrestle someone with the last name, “Wolfensperger?” And to think that Oz, Gunnar and Levi all exceeded the lofty expectations laid down to them on account of their tough-sounding names. Crazy.   If that squad had a house, I am sure that they probably handed out beatdowns for Halloween opposed to candy. Or maybe caramel-covered onions. And if you were to pick one guy to be the “face” of that squad from that era, who would you choose?  Well, there was only one 4X state champion for Denver-Tripoli in that era and his name was Brandon Sorensen.

Brandon Sorensen… The most decorated wrestler to come from that rugged Denver-Tripoli squad of the late 2000’s-early 2010’s.  Such an honor in itself, let alone being in the discussion for GOAT Iowa HS wrestler.  I don’t remember there being a year where Brandon Sorensen was not the best in his age group/weight-range.  For real, on top of winning HS titles in 2010-2013, he also won AAU state every year.  Not very many kids have done that.  Even fewer won 6 AAU titles AND 4 HS titles.  Every year for 10 years straight, Brandon beat anything and everything that crossed paths with him… This carried over to college and post-college. I mean, the kid even beat cancer! Tough, tough kid.

With his consistency, he was one of the biggest “no-brainer” recruits to ever come from the state of Iowa.  He was for sure going to do something at the next level.

So other than the Denver-Tripoli coaching staff, who else contributed to producing these man-children that Denver-Tripoli produced around that time?  Most of them were products of the Cedar Valley Mat Club… One of the most interesting stories that has ever been posted on this site was called Remember The Wrestling Club: Cedar Valley Mat Club and it was made possible with the help of founders; Bill Thompson, Brett Wrage and Dwight and Duane Sorensen. You can read that article by clicking here.  Some of the names that came from that program include; Brock Sorensen, Blake Sorensen, Brandon Sorensen, Craig Sorensen, David Sorensen, Eric Thompson, Logan and Ryan Mulnix, Spike Welter, Garrett Smith, Levi, Ivan, Oz and Gunnar Wolfensperger,  Dylan Peters, Brennan Pruisner, Blake Pruisner, Chase and Izaak Shedenhelm, Anthony Hable, Cole Deike, John Simons, Sean Weber, Gary Urban, Terry Stover, Dylan Wrage, Bubba Hilmer,  Jordie Rinken, etc.

I am getting off track a bit here.  This article is about Brandon Sorensen.  It’s just difficult to not point out how instrumental the Sorensen family has been for the sport of wrestling in Iowa and it’s wild to think about the impact that they have all had on so many high-caliber wrestlers and individuals.  It is not surprising that a Sorensen has a very solid argument for consideration of Iowa HS wrestling’s GOAT.

So Brandon Sorensen was a four-time Iowa high school state champion from 2010-13. He finished his career tied for the most career wins in the history of the Iowa High School Athletic Association. He led Denver High School to team titles at the 2010 and 2012 state tournament… He was a 2013 USA Wrestling Folkstyle National runner-up… He placed fifth at 2013 USA Wrestling freestyle nationals… He was a 2012 USA Wrestling high school preseason national champion.

He committed to the University Of Iowa and it should have come as a surprise to no one that he had success there.  He was a 4X AA for the Hawkeyes, placing 4, 2, 3, 5.

He was also battle-tested.  He had a fellow state champion in each of the 4 brackets that he won.

As a Freshman, he had 2 other state champions in his bracket: Logan Thomsen (Union) and Jacob Colon (Clear Lake)

As a Sophomore he had at least two other state champions in his bracket: Logan Thomsen (Union) and JC Vercande (Williamsburg).

As a Junior, he defeated 2X Illionois/1X Iowa state champion, Topher Carton (Assumption) in the finals which prevented Carton from securing his status as a 4X state champion.

As a Senior, he had Chase Straw (Indee) and Jacob Holschlag (Union) in his bracket. Holschlag actually won 2 titles.

119
1st: Brandon Sorensen, Denver-Tripoli FR 51- 0
2nd: Logan Thomsen, Union LaPorte City FR 36- 7
3rd: Jacob Colon, Clear Lake JR 26- 3
4th: Bradley McDermott, Assumption Davenport SR 37- 3
5th: Cole Anderson, Forest City JR 39- 5
6th: Zach Henning, Decorah SO 21- 10
7th: Tyler Raygor, Webster City SR 38- 5
8th: Hunter Langley, Sergeant Bluff-Luton SO 42- 8

130
1st: Brandon Sorensen, Denver-Tripoli SO 47- 2
2nd: Josh Perkins, Atlantic SR 38- 9
3rd: Logan Thomsen, Union LaPorte City SO 45- 3
4th: Jared Hoefer, West Delaware Manchester SR 40- 12
5th: Brandon Silbaugh, JSPCEG JR 36- 3
6th: JC Vercande, Williamsburg JR 47- 7
7th: Jordan Roths, New Hampton JR 34- 14
8th: Dylan Bryce, Spirit Lake Park JR 31- 13

132
1st: Brandon Sorensen of Denver-Tripoli 49-1, Jr.
2nd: Topher Carton of Assumption, Davenport 49-2, Sr.
3rd: Jordan Roths of New Hampton 42-4, Sr.
4th: Zach Mueller of West Delaware, Manchester 29-13, Jr.
5th: Walker Marshall of Missouri Valley 50-3, Sr.
6th: Jason Bowers of Anamosa 41-8, Sr
7th: Alan Perry of Bondurant-Farrar 42-10, Jr.
8th: Seth Stetzel of Perry 44-10, So.

145
1st Place – Brandon Sorensen of Denver-Tripoli 57-0, Sr.
2nd Place – Zach Muller of West Delaware, Manchester 36-10, Sr.
3rd Place – Chase Straw of Independence 46-2, So.
4th Place – Jacob Holschlag of Union, LaPorte City 44-8, So.
5th Place – Tionte Parks of Assumption, Davenport 37-18, Jr.
6th Place – Drew Buster of Mediapolis 45-6, Jr.
7th Place – Patrick Rooney of Bondurant-Farrar 42-4, Sr.
8th Place – Jeremy Scheuermann of Greene County 41-8, Jr.

 

Does Brandon Sorensen have a case for being the Iowa HS wrestling GOAT?!?  Damn straight, he does.

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Quintin Moreno was a grade below me and seemingly at the same weight as I was every year. He and I were very, very close to wrestling… As in, I lost a match at districts 5-4 my sophomore year in which 4 of the points I gave up were stalling points, with the last “ding” being a 2-pointer with 5 seconds left in the 3rd period… If that official decided to not call me for stalling with 5 seconds left (he made the right call, I was gassed), I would have gone on to state that year and would have faced Quintin Moreno.  That close.  Weird way to lose a match…at districts.  There was an off-season tourney where something fluke-ish happened to him, in which if it hadn’t, he would have faced me.  That was a match-up that was apparently just not meant to be and I was totally fine with that! 

I considered Quintin to be one of the best guys in the entire 2002 class.  In fact, think about the 2002 class, in particular the 2A guys… Here is a random list of 2A guys who graduated in 2002:  Andre Avila (Assumption), Wade Satern (Humboldt), JD Naig (Emmetsburg), Aaron Drain (Mepo), Ian Alke (West Liberty), Danny Elsbury (South Tama), Cody Downing (Creston), Reid Baack (Clear Lake), Trevor Arbegast (Assumption), Adam Grell (Dewitt-Central), Brett Karkosh (South Tama), Kent Reams (Charles City), Ryan Oldham (PCM), Justin Wygle (Iowa Falls), Joe Uker (Osage), Curt Zinnell (Humboldt), Kirk Artist (Glenwood), James Lange (Centerville), Ryan Dunbar (Clarke-Osceola), Chris Harrison (South Tama), Clint Sellers (Chariton), Clint Sellers, Ben Strandberg (Emmetsburg/Armstrong-Ringsted), Rodney Grap (Glenwood), Nate Buys (Western Christian), Jerrad Bourne (Webster City), Jase Clark (Union), Ryan Ohrtmann (Emmetsburg). Reed Kuper (Osage), Brent Schumacher (Harlan), Mitch Zmolek (South Tama), Judd Wagner (Dyersville-Beckman), Tom Rodman (Sgt. Bluff), Michael Billings (Clear Lake), etc.  The list goes on.

I don’t think there were any 2A 4X placers that graduated in 2002. Those guys just took turns beating each other. Coming into the 2002 season, I BELIEVE there was only one guy in 2A who had placed their first 3 years in high school… And that was Quintin Moreno from Glenwood. I considered him a borderline lock to win it that year and after reading his responses, an 18 year old question was answered for me… which was, “what happened to Quintin his Senior season?”  Because he was just simply too good not to place that year.  Now that what I always suspected has been confirmed, it makes me feel thankful for not having many run-ins with the untimely injury bug. 

One of the best wrestlers from the 2002 graduating class who so happens to be from one of the best ever wrestling families in Iowa wrestling history…

I mentioned this in Quintin’s brother, Rick’s RTW, but the Moreno’s have THE best taste in music and movies. 

 

What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?

 I wrested for Glenwood growing up.  As I got older, I wrestled with every club in Southwest IA that would let me in; Council Bluffs Panthers, Golden Eagles, Aztec WC (Clarinda), etc.

 

What year did you graduate?

2002

 

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

 I grew up in a wrestling family and my two brothers already had a lot of success in the sport when I was a kid.  I wanted to be just like them.

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently?

 My nephew, Israel Moreno, is doing big things in Montana right now.  He will be a sophomore next year at Big Sky, in Missoula, MT.  He has all the potential and skill to win multiple state titles.  I’m really excited to watch his career unfold.

 My son, Kane, is 12 yrs old and wrestles for Beaver Creek WC.  He is one of the leaders of our club and has had a lot of success up to this point.  Kane loves sports and is involved in all of them so it will be interesting to see what he fully commits too.  He has the potential to great in any of them.

 

Parents, children, brothers, etc.?

 Mike Moreno

Rick Moreno

Michael Moreno

Gabriel Moreno

 

How did they do?

 Mike Moreno – Multiple state place and Champ.  1992 D1 All American

Rick Moreno – 2X Jucco All Amerian, NAIA National Champ

Michael Moreno – Multiple state placer and Champ. 2X D1 All Ameriacn

Gabriel Moreno AKA Buff – Multiple state placer and Champ. 2x D1 NCCA Qualifier.  (might have been the best one of all of us if not for injuries)

Israel Moreno – 5th at State as a freshman

Kane Mahler-Moreno – TBD

 

 What were your youth results?

 I really struggled at the beginning.  My dad tells stories all the time about how I did not win a match my first two years.  I am not completely sure that is true, but it’s not too far off.  Around 5th grade I started to get more success, but nothing spectacular.  I placed at Tulsa once and my highest AAU finish was 3rd my 8th grade year. (Which ended up being an impressive bracket that you wrote about earlier this year).

 

Any rivals there?

 I do not think I had any specific rivals as a kid. but definitely had some extremely competitive relationships with my work out partners/team mates.  There were so many good wrestlers in the Southwestern Iowa area at this time and we all wrestled with each other.

 

What was your record in HS?

 I think it’s in the ballpark of 125-25 but, could a few off on either side of that.

 

How did you place at state every year?

 Freshman – 6th

Sophomore – 4th

Junior – 3rd

Senior – DNP

 

What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?

 I had a few but without a doubt, my senior year sticks out.  The summer going into my senior year I won freestyle state and there was some really good kids in the bracket.  I was feeling good about my skills and definitely DID NOT want to be the first Moreno not win a high school state title.

On the first day of practice my senior year I tore my ACL and meniscus.  It took me a couple of weeks to muster up the courage to admit something was wrong and sure enough, it did not take the Dr. long to tell me I needed surgery.  My mom was with me at the time and I remember driving back to Glenwood in tears the whole way.  I ultimately ended up in Clarinda to ask my brother Mike what to do.  As always, he was cool, calm, and collected and got in touch with a friend of his to give me a second opinion.  The news was not great, but I was told it was possible to wrestle on it injured.  I took the second option.

My coaches and family helped me develop and plan for the season.  At the time it was like my whole world was crumbling every day as I was trying to navigate the challenges of competing with an injury like that.  I was able to get my wrestling flow close to where it was before the injury, but it was tough.  During the season, I beat the eventual state champion, but was also having inconsistent performances.

Ultimately, I lost in the state quarterfinals and was beaten out in the blood round.  Those two days of wrestling were the hardest days of my life to that point..  My high school career ended with me not winning a high school state title and for the first time I did not even medal.

Although it was an extremely tragic experience at the time, it eventually it turned into one of my most valuable experiences. It taught me not to feel sorry for myself when times were tough.  It taught me how deal with failure, and it helped me put the sport in perspective. It made me stronger.

 

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

 I really liked to wrestle on my feet.  My style was mostly focused around duck-unders and underhooks. I definitely did not enjoy picking bottom and looked for side-lifts on top.

 

How many people in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?

 Clint Manny (Winterset) – We wrestled so many times over the course of two seasons with 50/50 results.  One of our meetings was in the blood round at state, which I won, but he beat me the last time we wrestled.  I have great memories from those matches! Clint was such a tough competitor.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

 Bob Dyer! You should really do a story on him! To this day, I have so much respect for him.  Bob and his assistant, Bob Glenn, produced so many good high school wrestlers during the 80s and 90s.  He may have not been the most technical coach in the state, but Bob took a “no-nonsense” approach to the sport and was a master motivator.  One of the best coaches I have ever been around.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

 Glenwood was a top 5-10 team during my time. North Idaho and Dana both won national titles while I was there.

 

Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?

 Mike Moreno and Rick Moreno.  I watched so much film on both of them as a kid. Both of their styles influenced my wrestling.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

 David Kjeldgaard

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

 Yanni D

Frank Chamizo

 

What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?

Reggae – All Types

Nirvana, Sublime, Metallica

Early mid 90s rap – A Tripe called Quest, Wu Tang Clan, Pharcyde, etc..

 

 

What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?

 They all felt bad.

 

If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?

 Focus more on strength training and less on making weight.

 

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

 My best wrestling memories to this point are watching Michael and Gabriel Moreno compete at Iowa State. I was so proud of them for making it to such a high level.  I was their biggest fan!

 

An accomplishment that sticks out was my freshman year in college at the Las Vegas invite. It was one of the first tournaments where I did not have someone from my family with me.  It was also the first major competition after recovering from my injury.  I beat some good D1 and D2 kids before losing in the blood round. That tournament is so tough.  It was a great experience proving to myself that I could wrestle at that level.  My season did not end the way I wanted it too, but that weekend was definitely a highlight looking back.

 

Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

 Clint Manny and the other Winterset kids and Kirk Artist, teammate at Glenwood. I mentioned Clint earlier and Kirk was a great wrestler as well.  We such good training throughout the years at Glenwood.

 

How close are you, Rick and Mike?

 Close. They have mentored me in wrestling and life.

 

 Did you feel a lot of expectations being a Moreno?

 Yes, but wrestling comes with so many mixed emotions that it becomes hard to know which is which.  Being a Moreno meant I had the best supports a kid could ask for.

 

What are your favorite movies?

 First three that come to mind in no specific order: The Big Lebowski, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch

 

Who were some of your workout partners from your area?

 Jeff Newby – Glenwood

Jason Black – Glenwood

Kirk Artist – Glenwood

Mike Wells – Clarinda

 

 

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

 All year.

 

How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?

 Its all the same in my opinion.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

 Yes. I went to North Idaho College out of high school and later transferred to Dana College.

 

 

What other sports did you play?

 I was active as a kid.  Played all sports.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

 Nebraska

Iowa State

Oakland Raiders

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

 I recently got into bass fishing and I love it! There are many similarities between wrestling and fishing.  Its very technical and you have to take the good days with the bad days.  So much fun though.

 

How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?

 Really good.  I was so fortunate to be around so many great coaches as a kid.  Its important to me to give back what was given to me.

 

How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?

 Its definitely given me a unique attitude and world view.  I don’t think there is a sport that prepares you more  for life than wrestling.

 

What do you do now?

 I work with at risk youth.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

 Yes, I am the head coach at Beaver Creek WC

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

 Fundamentals before advanced skill.  Learn how to make boarding training/drilling interesting and competitive.

 

Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?

 No.

 

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

 I would like the give a shout out to the Beaver Creek WC parents and supporters.  It is such a great community to be a part of and everyone has treated me and my family great since we joined.. Also, our coaches, Dwyane Harney, Rick Sloss, Tom Atkinson, Quinten Danner and Matt Brown. Last year we had close to 150 boys and girls come out which was a crazy number for small town Iowa.  I could not ask a better team to coach with and our kids are on the right track to do BIG things in high school!

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JOSH BUDKE, Cedar Falls 1994-1997

Josh Budke won state titles for Cedar Falls HS as a Sophomore, Junior and Senior. He beat Gabe Capps from Indianola in the finals in his first two championship years (1995-1996) at 103 and 112 and defeated Jesse West from IC High in the finals as a Senior in 1997 at 3A 125…avenging multiple regular season losses in which West, who was previously from Kansas, was the victor. The only year he did not win state was his Freshman season. That was in the bracket: 1994 3A 103… Budke placed 4th. The guy who won that bracket was Mark Rial from Fort Dodge. Budke finished with a 155-11 career record.

MARK KIST, Eagle Grove 2003-2006

Mark Kist won state titles as a Sophomore, Junior and Senior in 2004-2006. He won them 1A 103 once and 1A 112 twice. Mark was also accomplished on the freestyle scene and was a 2005 Junior National Champion as well as a 2006 Northern Plains Champion. He finished with a record of 151-8 and wrestled 2 years for The Iowa State Cyclones and 3 years for the Wartburg Knights. He finished with a career record of 151-8. The only year he did not win it was his Freshman year, in which he placed 6th at 1A 103 and was very undersized that year.

MATT MCDONOUGH, Linn-Mar 2005-2008

Matt McDonough won state titles as a Sophomore, Junior and Senior in 2006-2008. He finished with a career record of 151-15 and was very accomplished on the Freestyle scene in high school, for he was a Cadet National champion and 2X Junior AA. McDonough wrestled for the Iowa Hawkeyes and was a 3X NCAA Finalist/2X Champ. The only year he did not win state was his Freshman season in which he placed 6th. Mark Ballweg of Waverly-Shell Rock defeated Nate Moore of IC West in the finals that year and McDonough won the 3A 113 bracket in which Ballweg was in the following year.

JACK WAGNER, Bettendorf, 2013-2016

Jack Wagner won 3 state titles for Bettendorf in 2014-2016. I remember his first Varsity wrestling tournament as a Freshman. He was in the same bracket as my brother, Shea at the Jeremy Fulk Classic in New London, Iowa. This tournament accepted JV and Varsity participants.  Shea was a Freshman that season himself and had recently lost his “tie-breaker” challenge match to eventual 4X placer from Mepo, Mason Buster who was also a Freshman that season. This was prior to Shea making the decision to wrestle up a weight to solidify a spot in the Mepo varsity lineup. Wagner defeated Shea in this finals match, rather handily. Both guys went on to place their final 3 years in high school, with Wagner winning those 3 years… both JV and in the finals of a varsity tournament that first week… kinda crazy. Wagner was in a log-jam as a Freshman behind Jake Schwarm at 106 who went on to place 2nd at state that season.  Bumping up wasn’t an option either, for Paul Glynn had the 113 spot. Wagner was already very undersized at 106 as it was. The combo of 3A guys in that age/weight range with Wagner, Brendan Baker (CR Jefferson), Nate Lendt (SE Polk) and Triston Lara (Fort Dodge) clashing with each other every year was pretty fun, to be honest. All 4 of those guys were competitive as hell with each other and they all seemed to know how to push each other’s buttons, for you knew that you could see some tempers flare up if any combo of those 4 took place. Wagner was a Fargo AA with a 3rd place finish in 2013.


KYLE BISCOGLIA, Waukee 2015-2018

Kyle Biscoglia won state titles as a Sophomore, Junior and Senior in 2016-2018. Kyle defeated future state champ Nick Oldham (Valley) in the finals as a Sophomore, Jay Schipper (North Scott) as a Junior and Ben Monroe (Ankeny Centennial) as a Senior. He was a 2X USA Folkstyle National Champion in HS and a 2X Fargo AA. The only year he did not win state was his Freshman year… He was a very small 106 lber that year and was stuck behind full-sized 106 lber, Jakob Allison in the lineup who went on to finish 2nd behind Brody Teske from Fort Dodge that year. I believe Biscoglia did bump up to wrestle 113 at districts, but was probably 25-30 lbs. lighter than those guys by the time they took the mat with each other. Biscoglia finished with a record of 191-11. I’ll always remember Biscoglia for his career-long rivalry with Fort Dodge Dodgers; Drew Bennett and Brody Teske.

SOME INTERESTING CONNECTIONS BETWEEN THESE GUYS:

* All 5 won titles in their last 3 years of HS.

* All 5 started out their HS careers at the lightest weight (103/106). 

* All 5 would have benefited from a 98 lb. division if it were not taken out in the early 90s.

* All 5 were active and accomplished on the freestyle/offseason scene.

* Mark Kist and Matt McDonough both placed 6-1-1-1 in HS and both finished with 151 career wins with Kist finishing 151-8 and McDonough 151-15. Budke was pretty close to that, finishing with a career record of 155-11 and placing 4-1-1-1.

* In both Biscoglia and Budke’s Freshmen seasons, their weight was won by a Fort Dodge wrestler. For Budke, Mark Rial won 3A 103 in 1994. For Biscoglia, Brody Teske won 3A 106 in 2015. Both Budke and Biscoglia finished with 11 career losses, most of those coming their Freshmen seasons.

* McDonough and Budke wrestled their entire collegiate careers for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Wagner also wrestled a year at Iowa.

* Wagner and Biscoglia were both undersized at 3A 106 lbs as Freshmen and both were behind “Jake’s” in their team’s lineup that year. Wagner was behind Jacob Schwarm and Biscoglia behind Jakob Allison. Both those “Jake’s” were runner-up at state in those years, with Schwarm placing 2nd to Henry Pohlmeyer of Johnston in 2013 and Allison placing 2nd to Brody Teske of Fort Dodge in 2015. Biscoglia did give 3A 113 lbs a shot at districts as a 90-something pound Freshman, but was beaten out of districts. Jack Wagner won that bracket at state the next week. Both guys are currently at UNI now. Wagner has been wrestling 133 and Biscoglia has been at 125 so far wrestling behind now longtime Panthers starter, Jake Schwarm.

 

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Adam Allard of West Sioux

To make this series more interesting, I try to group guys that are either connected in interesting ways or have something in common with each other. In most articles, 4-5 guys are discussed, but just two for this one.

With that said, most of us know what happened with Adam Allard this year and immediately after it happened, the Ike Light (Lisbon) comparisons were brought up by several fans on social media. Reason being, prior to Allard this year, Ike Light was the only guy ever to be beaten at the state tournament his Senior year when wrestling for his 4th title when he lost in the semifinals to Dan Gabrielson of Belmond-Klemme. I see how people draw the comparison between Allard and Light, but I see more comparisons between Allard and another wrestler in terms of how close they were to winning 4 titles. That man’s name is Kent Streicher and he wrestled for Starmont. He (as well as Allard) is one of the best wrestlers to go through the state of Iowa and they literally couldn’t have been closer to winning 4 titles.


Kent Streicher, Starmont: 

I had no idea how close Kent Streicher was to being a 4X state champion until I began putting those old state tournament videos together. Holy…canoli.

Streicher was pretty fun to watch. He had tons of energy. It could be 5 minutes into a hard-fought match and he would be pacing around like the match hadn’t begun yet. With his hair and the way he walked around the mat, I couldn’t help, but ask myself if WWE’s The Ultimate Warrior had a “minime.” On top he would go from a tilt and if that wasn’t working, would switch right to an arm-bar and if he turned the guy, but didn’t pin him, he’d hook up that same arm-bar and if the arm-bar didn’t work, he’d try to use a tilt from it. And he was comfortable in crab ride positions and a variety of other positions that other guys try to avoid, but he didn’t because he was Kent Streicher and he was really good there. He would scramble with anyone. He seemed to like being there. He was the type of guy who would take risks to earn high rewards. Would give up 2 points if he thought it’d put him in a better position to score 5. A gunslinger-type mentality. Like the Brett Favre of Iowa High School wrestling. This approach pays greatly at times, but can have drastic consequences. My brother, Justin could be like that. He lost a couple state finals matches because he had those tendencies. And it kind of got Streicher into a bit of trouble the one year he lost in the finals.

Streicher was a Junior the one season he did not win state. At that state tournament, he lost in OT in the finals to returning state champion from Centerville and future 3X NCAA Finalist for the Hawkeyes, Chad Zaputil. And get this, Streicher was actually leading, 5-2 with 18 seconds to go in the 3rd period. They had a restart due to a potentially dangerous situation and Streicher was going to be in the top position. He gave up a point immediately because he was cautioned for starting before the whistle. That was his 3rd or 4th caution, so the official awarded Zaputil a point. 5-3. In the remaining seconds of the 3rd period, Zaputil was bucking like a bronco, trying anything he could to get out and Streicher was successful in riding him out for the win all the way until the last couple seconds when Zaputil “hipped out” and scored a reversal in which it appeared Streicher would have been tilted and put on his back for near fall if there was any more time on the clock.  This sent them to OT. 5-5. This match took place in 1988 and OT was a little different back then. To my understanding, they basically wrestled three 1 minute periods and the guy who was leading at the end of the 3rd OT was declared the winner. If they finished on a tie again, they would use a criteria in which the manner(s) in which they scored their points would determine the outcome. For example, a near fall had criteria over a takedown, a takedown more criteria over a reversal and a reversal had criteria over an escape. Zaputil took Streicher down in the first OT and Streicher reversed  Zaputil right away. They headed into the 2nd OT tied, but with Zaputil having criteria over Streicher because Zaputil’s takedown had criteria over Streicher’s reversal. Streicher chose down and Zaputil rode him out… which didn’t happen much with Streicher. They headed into the 3rd period and Zaputil chose to wrestle on bottom. Streicher tried to turn Zaputil for the majority of the period and just barely fell short. In the final seconds of that period, Streicher had to make a choice. Either keep trying to turn Zaputil to take a lead and win, but risk finishing with a tied score in which Zaputil would be declared the winner via criteria. Or he could let Zaputil up and give up the 1 point for the escape, but put him in a situation where he could score 2 points via takedown. Streicher let Zaputil up and came after him hard and opened himself up in the process and almost gave up another TD at the end. Zaputil won the match. Streicher’s quest for 4 titles came to an end.

Streicher finished his career with a 140-3 record. His 140th win was in his Senior year finals match and was the career wins record-setter at the time. I believe he went on to wrestle for the Iowa Hawkeyes after high school.

 

Adam Allard, West Sioux:

This one is still pretty fresh and I am guessing that 90% of you know what went down here. Adam Allard was a 3X state champ on his quest for 4 and on track to doing so until the final seconds of his state finals match of his Senior season. He was up 2-1 against returning state champion from Cascade, Aidan Noonan with short time in the 3rd period and was in the bottom position (not a good place to be with Noonan…Noonan is one of the best riders to ever go through the state of Iowa). While time was running out, Noonan tilted Allard to his back and scored a 3 point near fall to win 4-2. It was terribly heartbreaking for Allard and in the age of social media, we were able to view a lot of it in terms of different camera angles and what not. For anyone who did follow it, it would take a pretty cold heart to not feel bad for the kid, even if you don’t know him personally. Allard committed to wrestle for Doug Schwab at UNI and it was pretty cool to see the picture taken of Doug consoling and talking with Adam in the stands after he received his silver medal. I obviously don’t know what was said between the two, but Schwab obviously has a good way of handling these situations, for Adam was smiling in the picture with him. That was a very cool move on Schwab’s part, for he had several committed Panthers wrestling that weekend and one of them had won his 4th title (Cael Happel). He could have been spending his time in a more upbeat setting if he was selfish. It’s good to see that Schwab seems to understand the importance of being there for his guys when they experience heartbreaking situations where they need it most.

Allard finished having only 2 losses in his career. 206-2. He was on a 201 match winning streak coming into his Senior finals match. 2 of the guys he beat in the finals were state champions themselves; Daniel Kimball of Don Bosco and Cole Siebrecht of Lisbon. As mentioned, he is going to wrestle in college for Doug Schwab at UNI and he seems to have bounced back a bit, for he had an outstanding win in a freestyle dual tournament against a kid named Drake Ayala from Fort Dodge. Ayala is one of the best wrestlers I have ever seen go through the state of Iowa. Allard teched Ayala in the first period by taking him down with an ankle pick and gut wrenching him a few times.  I do realize that there is only so much you can take from an off-season match, for no one knows what’s going on with everyone considering injuries, weight, training regimens, etc. and it varies a lot. But no one can watch that match and deny that the ankle pick Allard hit on Ayala to take him down was just absolutely sick. I think it’s safe to say that Allard is on a redemption tour and he just may succeed in this quest. Don’t sleep on Adam Allard right now. He appears to be in a good place on the mat right now and is still improving. UNI fans should be happy with him.

 

SOME INTERESTING SIMILARITIES BETWEEN ADAM ALLARD AND KENT STREICHER:

* Both were upperclassmen the one year they lost in the finals. Streicher a Junior, Allard a Senior.

* Both had leads with just a few seconds left in the 3rd period in the one finals match they lost.

* Both were the 2nd state champions in their program’s history.

* Both were the 1st 3X state champions in their program’s history.

* In the finals match they lost, both of them were beaten by a returning state champion that won their 2nd title by beating them.

* Both guys rocked sweet mullets.

 

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Max Thomsen… I probably watched him wrestle at least 200 matches from youth wrestling on up. Max and his brothers Jack and Logan, who are state champions themselves, wrestled in the same club as my brothers (DC Elite), so we were often at the same events as them. Man, that is one great wrestling family.

The first time I saw Max wrestle was against Cole Erickson in the USA State finals when they were kids. I had always heard Max’s name before that day though, just from listening to the Erickson family talk about how talented he was. When I read on the wall chart that Cole and Max were going to meet up in the finals, I had to see what he was all about, so I went out of my way to ensure that I was able to watch it matside. The match was a physical barn-burner that became somewhat chippy at times between the wrestlers and the fans who were watching and screaming for who they were rooting for. A very intense match. I think Cole had a 1-2 point lead going into the 3rd period. The moment I started thinking that Cole may pull it off against this borderline unbeatable Max Thomsen kid, BOOM! Max hit Cole in an explosive outside carry straight to a kelly and put Cole right to his back. Max hung on and won the match.

This opened my eyes for a couple reasons. For one, it was very rare to see something like that happen to Cole. Cole was just always in such great position, it was rare for him to go to his back. Secondly, I was a huge outside carry guy myself and was blown away by how explosive and fluent Max’s carry was. He executed it PERFECTLY and from that point on, I witnessed Max nailing hundreds of flawless outside carries just like it. It works for him at the D1 level still. He is a perfect example of just how effective that move can be if you learn it the right way and practice it correctly. My dad was adamant on coaching all 4 of us brothers to have a good outside carry in our arsenals to always be ready for use as one of our primary weapons. When teaching us the outside carry, Dad always emphasized that it’s just as important to learn the “counters to the counters” as it is to learn the move itself, for if you are able to become fluent with those and your opponent stops your shot, you don’t have to resort to being stuck on your elbow and knees.

 

Max was extremely good at properly controlling what my dad would refer to as “the lifeline,” which is the opponents near arm. If you let “the lifeline” go mid-move, you better go to a single-leg quick, or else your face may hit the mat.  Max was also good at using both his upper body and hips to pull the guy’s arm and shoulder straight to the mat while his hips never ceased from having forward momentum. It became instinctive to him to always catch that arm if it was there so he could put his opponents to their backs. Max is a pinner, so he was always looking to go for the kill, if given the chance. If a guy countered Max’s carry, that’s fine. He would either go to a Kelly or go to a single-leg. He was safe here, for he was very efficient at sensing his opponent’s momentum and knew how to use it against them. In fact, I’ve never seen anyone better at sensing and using momentum as an advantage like Max Thomsen. He is the absolute best I have ever seen at that. I witnessed several smart wrestlers who usually stayed in good position and generally had great mat sense fall flat on their faces because Max was able to quickly sense where their momentum was going while in mid-motion and was able to stop himself on the dime and quickly change directions, resulting in his opponent hitting the mat with their face. It was unbelievable that he could even stop himself, considering how explosive he was when he hit the shot to begin with. And it was all one fluent, multi-step move that became like muscle-memory to him. Max’s outside carry was so powerful that it made him resemble a tidal wave when he’d hit it and his opponent was an unlucky surfer.

Don’t get me wrong, Max did more than just the outside carry series. He could do it all. The carry series was just his bread and butter.

So Max Thomsen won 4 state titles in high school. He finished on a record-breaking winning streak of 199 wins in a row and with a  career record of 210-1. He was a Super 32 runner-up and a NHCSA Nationals Champion. He was also a Northern Plains champion.  By the time he finished his Senior year campaign, he was considered to be the #2 recruit in the nation. It was the University of Northern Iowa that was fortunate enough to land him and so far, he is a 3X NCAA qualifier and was an AA as a Freshman. His resume is incredible. It’s been top tier since he started wrestling.

So does Max Thomsen have a case for being considered the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler? Put it this way… I have received probably 100 responses from people for various articles in which they are asked who they thing the GOAT is and it just floors me that no one has mentioned Max yet. I need to find an outside carry-kelly guy to interview…like my brother, Brennan. I always wonder how I would answer that question myself if I were to complete one of the Remember The Wrestler articles and despite the fact that I don’t really think there is a possible way of ever knowing who the GOAT actually is, I may just have to go with Max. Because why not? He has the resume FOR SURE and of course being a “carry guy” myself, I want to see another “carry guy” get some much deserved love. Max Thomsen may very well be the GOAT. I hope we get another season to watch him.


Here are the state  placing results for when Max was in high school:

2012: 2A 113

1st: Max Thomsen of Union – LaPorte City 47-1, Fr.

2nd: Shadow Leshen of Albia 44-6, So.

3rd: Leighton Gaul of New Hampton 39-3, Jr.

4th: Landon Felton of Monticello 42-8, Sr.

5th: Zach Less of West Delaware, Manchester 39-11, So.

6th: Brady Jennings of Osage 40-8, Fr.

7th: Jared Eischeid of Kuemper Catholic, Carroll 42-2, So.

8th: Keegan Witbeck of Louisa Muscatine, Letts 36-6, Jr.

 

2013: 2A 126

1st Place – Max Thomsen of Union, LaPorte City 49-0, So

2nd Place – Kyle White of Central Springs 52-2, Sr

3rd Place – John Christopherson of Spencer 50-2, Sr

4th Place – Tanner Cowan of Centerville 9-4, Sr

5th Place – Bryce Leshen of Albia 45-5, Fr

6th Place – James Wenzel of Mount Vernon 37-14, Sr.

7th Place – Tony Devriese of Assumption, Davenport 38-11, Sr.

8th Place – Cole Race of Clarinda 36-9, Sr.


2014 2A 138

1st Place – Max Thomsen of Union, LaPorte City 49-0, Jr.

2nd Place – Andres Gonzalez of Clear Lake 38-1, Sr.

3rd Place – Christian Fox of Osage 47-5, Sr.

4th Place – Cody Naber of Beckman Catholic,Dyersville 44-5, Sr.

5th Place – Elijah Dahl of MOC-Floyd Valley 43-3, Sr.

6th Place – Grant Sherman of Saydel 39-7, Jr.

7th Place – Wyatt Forsyth of Charles City 30-8, Sr.

8th Place – Bradley Conley of Mediapolis 44-9, Jr.

 

2015 2A 145

1st Place – Max Thomsen of Union 56-0, Sr.

2nd Place – Caleb Coleman of Bondurant-Farrar 43-3, Sr.

3rd Place – Tyler Thomas of Crestwood 44-3, Sr.

4th Place – Tanner Mertz of Red Oak 42-9, Sr.

5th Place – Jake Niichel of Charles City 39-13, Sr.

6th Place – Adam Benzing of Waukon 32-12, Sr.

7th Place – Blake Lawless of Albia 41-8, Jr.

8th Place – Wyatt Rhoads of Gilbert 42-12, Sr.

You guys remember this match? I’ve spoken to several people who consider Stroker the GOAT. Welp…. they must have forgotten this match. Big thanks to IAWrestle for allowing us to use this. This video is nostalgic, for I think it was the first video they had that received a ton of attention/views.

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“Fun fact about my brother, Shane Light. He won 4 titles and was ranked first only his Senior year. People would predict him to lose and Shane always proved them wrong.”

-Ike Light (Shane’s younger brother).

KEVIN SWAFFORD: We are continuing our series on “Who is Iowa’s High School Wrestling GOAT”, and our initial focus has been on the 4-Timer state champions… as that countdown continues, we only have a few left to go so bear with us and keep in mind that all the members of this elite group are unique and “very special”, deserving of our admiration, appreciation and consideration for that title.

With that said, the number 4 has figured prominently in our quest for the GOAT, and I was thinking about that number as I was putting my thoughts down on paper over this excellent adventure… 4 state titles in 4 years is like the perfect number. It’s like that in other sports too!

There are 4 bases on a baseball field (technically 3 plus a home plate), and when someone hits a homer they touch all four in their trip around those bases with one hit that flies over the fence; it takes 4 wins in a world series for a team to be crowned world champion. There’s 4 quarters of play in football as well as 4 offensive plays to make a first down, etc. as the list goes on. There are all kinds of ways and means that the number 4 has played a part in sports and in sports history in particular.

In track there’s 4 members on a relay team, and arguably man’s greatest track running event that measures both speed and endurance is the English Mile, better known now simply as the “Mile”… It’s a race that is normally run on an outdoors quarter mile track, travelling 4 laps to reach the finish. At one time the greatest miler’s were measured by how close they came to that insurmountable barrier of the 4-minute mark, which was thought to be humanly impossible for more than 5 decades when the modern Olympics was reformed in 1894 and the first official Olympic Games started back up in Athens, Greece in 1896.

Just as man conquering space seemed beyond rational reason, the 4-minute mile was believed out of man’s reach, beyond the limits of his physical abilities or achievement.

That invisible wall, or impossible barrier as some viewed it, was eventually broken though because someone dared to believe, or in this case, dared to disbelieve what the naysayers were saying… the impossible was finally accomplished in May of 1954 when Englishman Roger Bannister broke that barrier in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds!

Since then that barrier has been broken continually… as a matter of fact, Bannister’s World Record time lasted a mere 46 days when his rival Australia’s John Landy, lowered the new mark by more than a second (official time of 3:58.00). Both runners would meet up a month and a half later going head to head for the first time in August of 1954 in the race billed as “The Miracle Mile”, since both men were the only humans on earth to have conquered the 4-minute barrier. The race was won by Bannister in the last turn when Landy turned to look back over his left shoulder while Bannister overtook him on his right, and to the euphoric delight of all who witnessed the event, both men finished under the 4-minute mark in the race.

This barrier that was thought to be impossible by man to achieve has been lowered to a time of 3 minutes and 43.13 seconds, in an astounding feat of will and stamina, and now that threshold has remained frozen since 1993. It’s much like how Iowa high school wrestlers have continued their assaults on record books once that high bar of winning 4 straight championships was achieved, and have been raising the competitive bar of quality and greatness, while breaking new barriers most athletes only dream about… has now become a staging plateau for everyone else to shoot for because of the inspirational efforts of those who have conquered and gone before them.

Decades ago, wrestlers with over 50 career wins were considered very good and kids with over 100 wins were elite. Today there’s at least 20 Iowa HS wrestlers with over 200 career wins! That’s nearly 4x’s the number of career wins the elite wrestlers of the 1960’s. The bar for the undefeated mark has remained frozen since 1993 when Jeff McGinness set that bar with a 172-0 career record. Who will step up and break that mark?

Here’s a version of the “Wrestling Mile”… running stairs and laps BEFORE wrestling practice begins! How many remember running stairs piggyback… Hello?

This is where I segue to our GOAT profile subject – Shane Light of Lisbon. He was the eighth member of that elite “Quad Squad” list of 4-Time Iowa state champions in Iowa High School Wrestling history. Nailing down that 4th straight state title is a once in a lifetime achievement and he made the most of his opportunities. Light was the 2nd Lisbon wrestler to win 4 state titles, the school has produced 4 total… that’s a “Quad x Quad Squad” or a 4 x 4 in heavy duty terms!  I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead, LOL.

I told you 4 was an awesome number!

Light began wrestling as a toddler… as the Light family became deeply entrenched in Lisbon’s wrestling tradition, starting with his father who wrestled for Coach Al Baxter. “Mom says when I was a toddler I would wrestle with my stuffed animals and tear them up,” Light recalls. With his brothers and cousins to wrestle and a wrestling room loaded with top caliber kids (including previous, current, and future state champs), the Lisbon practices were a gauntlet for preparing kids to bring their best every time their number was called.

Keep in mind that old axiom – “Champions aren’t born, they’re made”… That’s a motto that’s lived in Lisbon. You can have pedigree, great family genes, but the bottom line is every competitor still has to go out and toe the line and prove it!

And as far as bringing their best? Shane Light went out and did just that, and remained humble throughout, giving credit for his success to his family for all their help and support, all of the previous Lisbon champions and the pride Lisbon has in its wrestling history as key factors as well as his celebrated high school coach Brad Smith.

Not everything comes easy, even for a four-time state champion. In the sport of wrestling there’s always adversity or obstacles to overcome. With just 14 days before sectionals his junior year Light injured a knee, which required surgery to repair. And while injured and out of the lineup, Lisbon hardly missed a beat with future state champion Brian Stuart filling in at 125 (Stuart won the 1A 130 pound class finals the following year in 1990). Long story short, before he could get back in the Lisbon lineup and wrestle at sectionals, Light – the 2x returning state champion, had to win his weight class back via a challenge match in the Lisbon wrestling room. (This is why wrestling is such a great sport and so appealing to me – no favoritism… everything is proven on the mat and earned)

Coach Smith kicked all the wrestlers out of the room. Light won a hard-fought 14-9 decision over Stewart to win back his 125 pound spot, despite tearing some of the stitches in his knee. “Brian was tough as nails and before the match Brad even told me that if you can get past this then you can accomplish anything. That really stuck with me.” Light recalled.

Things didn’t get any easier!

At districts Light was beaten in the finals, and had to earn his way back to the state tournament the hard way with a wrestle back match. Light was tossed out of bounds onto his head, hitting the gym floor, getting knocked out in that match. Lisbon’s coach Brad Smith distracted the referee long enough for Light to come to, and win the match with a big 5-point move started by a headlock. “That’s what they tell me, I don’t remember,” Light said later. That was an incident that very well could have changed history in Shane Light’s wrestling career if it had happened today with sports concussion protocols in place. Yet that’s just a momentary flash when looking at the entirety of his high school career, and having survived that almost disastrous district tournament, Light went on to prove his metal with a tremendous performance at state by winning a stacked 125 Lbs weight class, where every one of those top 5 kids had the ability to win it.

Let’s take a brief look at Light’s fabulous HS wrestling career at Lisbon in which he finished with a record of 130 wins and 9 losses. According to Shane Light, the biggest highlight of his career came his senior year when Light’s two younger brothers also wrestled in the state finals. It’s the only time in the state’s history that three brothers wrestled in the state finals in the same year.

It was a wish that almost came true as Shane’s younger brother Ike Light won the 1A 98 pound state title by decision 10-6, but brother Zach Light lost his finals match in the 1A 135 Lbs class against future Iowa Hawkeye wrestler Daryl Weber of Don Bosco (Gilbertsville) in an exciting 8-6 decision.

Having 2 brothers of my own that wrestled and being only 18 months apart, I can certainly relate to that dream… but the Light family actually lived it! They came about as close as they could get – just 3 points separated them in one match from achieving that once in a lifetime opportunity, but hey – that’s wrestling!

Shane Light is definitely one of Iowa’s greatest HS wrestlers. And he’s one of four Lisbon 4-Timer’s. With including all the other exceptional 4-Timers in this discussion, Shane’s probably not Iowa’s GOAT in HS wrestling. But think about this, at the time when he took the mat and toed the line there was nobody as fearless. He wrestled with tremendous heart and intensity, a huge motor and an unstoppable will to win on the biggest stage of Iowa wrestling. He got the job done and helped bring all that gold back home to Lisbon as part of 3 team state titles and a 3rd place team finish his freshman year. The “force” was definitely strong with this one, folks!

Along with his 4-Time state champion achievement, Shane Light was also a 4-time junior freestyle champion, a 2-time Asics Tiger All-American, a 2-time USA All-American, an American Wrestling News All-American and Runner-up in the 1990 Freestyle World Team Trials. Light was a NJCAA National Qualifier at Ellsworth Community College.

Shane Light was inducted 2002 National Wrestling Hall of Fame, and later inducted into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018 along with Steve Hamilton, Kirk Myers and Lennie Zalesky.

We have some great video of Shane’s state finals matches – specifically his sophomore and senior seasons which just happened to be the featured matches on the IPTV Iowa State tournament broadcasts, but we also included the full 1988 and 1989 state tournaments as well (time marked so that you can go directly to his weight class), you can watch and enjoy them while making your own informed decisions on his individual wrestling talent.

Here is Shane Light in action at the IA HS State Tournament in chronological order, along with some notes from the non-featured matches that he participated in. Enjoy!

1987 IA HS State Tournament FinalsShane Light (Lisbon) vs. Ward Buster of Wapello at the 0:30:00 minute mark the 98 pound class starts the wrestling with the 3A featured classes. Buster would lead their match 2-1 till the final 24 seconds of the 3rd period, where he gave up a stalling point to tie things at 2-2 and send it into overtime with Light using his superior conditioning to cinch up a 5-0 OT victory for his first state title and launch his HS career towards that elite “Quad Squad” list of achievers!

Interestingly enough in the 3A featured match at 98 pounds, Dan Osborn of CR Prairie gave up 4 stalling points in the last minute and a half to allow his opponent Doug Black of Fort Dodge to tie their match 5-5 and send that match into OT (where Osborn would squeak out a 1-0 OT win)… Osborn had the misfortune of trying to cling to a 5-1 lead with Referee of the Year – Mike Allen who never allowed inactivity to dictate a match!

One of the takeaways that you instantly see from watching Shane Light in this video below is his tremendous “motor”. He just had absolutely no quit or slack time in his game. Constantly pressuring his opponents and wearing them down.

1988 1A 112 IA HS State Finals: Shane Light (Lisbon) vs. Matt Otten of Manley, North Central – Light’s 2nd Title! This was a huge win for Light as Otten was going for his 3rd state title, and was a 4x finalist…

 

1989 IA HS State Tournament Finals – 125 Lbs Shane Light (Lisbon) vs. unbeaten Tim Griffin of Laurens-Marathon at the 1:19:30 mark (not the featured match – that was Kent Streicher of Starmont in 2A going for his 3rd title and the state HS career wins record of 140… likewise was Shane Light going for his 3rd title who used 2 takedowns in the last minute to come from behind to win a close 8-7 match after Griffin had built up a 6-2 second period lead). Lots of great wrestling in this video!

Notes: This 1989 1A class of 125 pounders was just absolutely stacked… in that podium group you had state runner up – Tim Griffin of Laurens-Marathon (whose twin brother Todd won a title that night at 130) was 2x runnerup and state champ; Daryl Weber of Don Bosco placing 3rd; a very tough 2x state placer Shane Arnold of New London coming in at 4th; Tony Norton of Clarksville placing 5th; and Brent Lawrenson of West Harrison placing 6th…

Norton, Light, and Griffin were all 3 state champions the previous year in 1988 1A at consecutive weights (105, 112, 119 respectively). Norton would go on to place 4th the next year in 1990 at 135 as a senior. Weber would go on to win 2 state titles of his own in 1990 and 1991, and then head off to Iowa for a successful college career as a Hawkeye. Shane Arnold of New London was the wrestler who defeated Light in the district finals match 13-7 sending Light into that qualifying wild wrestleback match, Arnold would go on later to place 4th at 140 in 1991 after qualifying but not placing in 1990 due to an elbow fracture injury just 3 days prior to state. Arnold managed to win a match at state with that broken elbow before bowing out. Brent Lawrenson of West Harrison who placed 6th in this 1989 bracket as a sophomore would go on to place 3rd in 1990 at the 135 class that was won by Daryl Weber, and placed 6th again in 1991 at 140 in the class won by Zach Light of Lisbon (that class featured runner up Tim Novak of CR La Salle and New London’s Shane Arnold who finished 4th).

This 3rd state title run in 1989 might’ve been Shane Light’s greatest display of guts and shear will and effort shown throughout his high school career in regards to his performances! I remember there were a lot of folks that thought Tim Griffin would win that 125 state finals match as he was dominating kids that year and throughout the state tournament with his aggressive style. But Shane Light never panicked, used that great motor of his to advantage, kept attacking and by the third period, Light owned that last 90 seconds to seal the deal!

1990 1A 125 IA HS State Finals: Shane Light (Lisbon) vs. Matt Lundquist (Corning) – Light’s 4th Title! This video speaks for itself,,,

Shane Light’s Iowa Wrestling State Tournament Results

1987 1A 98 (freshman year)

  1. Shane Light, Fr., Lisbon
  2. Ward Buster, Jr., Wapello
  3. Matt Sampson, Sr., Avoca
  4. Jon Gilgen, Jr., Mondamin-West Harrison
  5. Bret McKinney, So., Belle Plaine
  6. Alex Malcom, Fr., Tabor-Fremont Mills

1988 1A 112 (prevented Otten from winning his 3rd state title)

  1. Shane Light, Lisbon
  2. Matt Otten, Manly, North Central
  3. Phil Morgan, Maple Valley
  4. Derek Decker, Maynard
  5. Alex Malcom, Tabor
  6. Jason Lang, Ackley-Geneva

1989 1A 125 (major stacked weight class)

  1. Shane Light, Lisbon
  2. Tim Griffin, Laurens-Marathon
  3. Daryl Weber, Don Bosco
  4. Shane Arnold, New London
  5. Tony Norton, Clarksville
  6. Brent Lawrenson, West Harrison

1990 1A 125

  1. Shane Light, Sr., Lisbon *** 4 Time State Champion ***
  2. Matt Lundquist, Sr., Corning
  3. David Stirling, Jr., Clarksville
  4. Doug Readshaw, Sr., North Mahaska, New Sharon
  5. Bill Seuntjens, Sr., Kingsley-Pierson
  6. Mark Hood, Jr., Westwood (Sloan)

Here is Shane Light’s interview from “Wrestling with Iowa

 

Here’s the link to our RTW profile interview with Shane Light of Lisbon at the Pin Doctors that was done with Shane by Joshua Swafford back in March 2020 for your further enjoyment.

 

JOSHUA SWAFFORD: It has been so fun for me to finally be able to put a “wrestler to the name” with the Light brothers. Sometimes it’s difficult to get a real grip on what someone was actually like off the mat or what their wrestling style was like on it, for anytime you hear anything about anyone, you have to consider the source. I was very young when the Light brothers were shining on the mat, but vaguely remember them. I remember my dad and uncles thought they were just incredible. If it’s one thing that I was too young too understand when I was watching wrestling when I was a little kid it was that Lisbon had a lot of haters around that time…because they were a consistent powerhouse in 1A. Therefore, it’s difficult to get an accurate grip on how things were back then by word of mouth for a guy who wrestled for a team like Lisbon, for the chances that a bias (good or bad) may influence the perspective of whoever is talking about them is much more likely.  Before kicking this site off, my impression of the Light brothers (and cousin) were that they were all undeniably awesome wrestlers and that they were these big bruiser type dudes who you didn’t want to run into off the mat out of apprehension that they would want to start some sort of a conflict with you or something. I heard these tales from fans of rival schools who never actually met any of them. I also heard an array of glowing opinions from Lisbon fans that they are some of the greatest people on Earth. When you are winning consistently, you are going to affect people’s emotions, good or bad. If you are winning consistently for a team that is also a consistent winner, this will multiply. Lisbon wrestlers at that time had both the most vocal haters in the state and some of the most supportive fans in the state. Not much middle ground.

WITH ALL THAT SAID… the main question I have after putting a bunch of Shane Light videos and articles together and by having brief interactions with him here and there is this: “I wonder if there were any closeted Shane Light fans in 1987-1990?” You know, fans that hated anything and everything Lisbon wrestling, but couldn’t help themselves from secretly rooting for Shane Light… Because seriously, after watching him wrestle as well as listening to his interviews and hearing his story about defying logic and overcoming adversity every year, how can you not like or at least respect the hell out of the guy?! He reached the pinnacle of Iowa HS wrestling when he won his 4th state title and was not predicted to win by the pundits in 3 of those years. Heck, his varsity spot was in jeopardy just a couple weeks before state when he was a Junior due to having to win the spot via challenge match against a guy named Brian Stewart who was a state champion himself the next year. So if you go by the outlook and opinions of the rankers, who generally do a pretty decent job at putting their lists together, Shane Light was technically an “underdog” in 3 out of the 4 years he won state. He was a gamer on the mat who could put people away in scrambles and had smooth technique to boot. His style was fun to watch. He was as intense as anyone when he stepped on the mat. He was all smiles and happy when he would pull off the “upsets” every year on his way to winning titles. He was polite and very nice in interviews and you could just tell that he was living his dream at the time and he knew it and was cherishing every second of it. He was also very respectful to his opponents. One of the most likable wrestlers the state of Iowa has produced.

Does Shane Light have a case for being the Iowa HS wrestling GOAT? Well of course he does, for he won 4 titles, but really it all depends on how you look at it. If you really study it closely and watch him in the flurries where he got into some hardcore scrambles with tough opponents, he was amazing. When he got in these modes where he was just flowing and letting loose, he was unbelievable. He left a nice mark on the timeline of Iowa HS wrestling history and when you add his uncles, brothers and cousin, that mark becomes a full-fledged Lions’ den. Iowa wrestling would not be what it is if we didn’t have the Light family competing in our state.

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2001 was a pretty eventful year with an array of memorable feats, accomplishments, matches, etc.  that people talk about to this day.  Jesse Sundell winning his 4th title and the Sundell-Chris Helgeson-Mario Galanakis rivalry that came close to derailing Jesse from winning 4, Josh Watts from Davenport Assumption breaking the career wins record, Cody Koenig from Underwood tying the career wins record that Watts broke, Mack Reiter vs. Dan Davila, Akeem Carter’s insane athleticism starting to reach its peak, Terry Vesey from Assumption winning state in his second year of wrestling, Trent Goodale from Osage looking like a machine, etc.  After the state tournament concluded, people had a lot of new stuff to talk about due to it being so eventful. While some of these more publicized stories were widely discussed and are to this day, there were a few more subtle and obscure stories of the season as well that never seemed to be discussed as much. One of these stories in 2001 was the emergence of the McNeil brothers, Adam and Albert from Northeast Gooselake… What a year the McNeil family had that year! Think about it… Two brothers… Albert, a sophomore and Adam, a senior. Both brothers wrestled at state for the first time that year, both were in loaded 2A brackets and both won some huge matches to finish in the top 3 at state in their respective weight classes… That had to have been HUGE not only for the McNeil family, but for Northeast Gooselake wrestling as well! Northeast Gooselake has always had talented guys on their squad and at the time, they needed a couple guys to make some noise and stir some attention to some of their talented athletes… and the McNeil brothers went above and beyond in accomplishing that! Those two really opened some eyes that week.

I’ve wondered about the McNeil family’s wrestling story since I was a Senior in high school which just so happened to be 2001. Albert McNeil was a Sophomore at 2A 103 that year. His older brother, Adam McNeil placed 3rd at 2A 160 that year. He was a Senior that year, therefore he was in the same grade as me and since I was a placer at 2A 152 that year, he and I were obviously in the same weight range. This confused me because generally speaking, I know a large percentage of the wrestlers who I see taking the mat and always have… doesn’t matter the class or the weight…I try to follow as much as I can. I know their stats, their tournament finishes from years prior, etc. I am a straight-up nerd with it and for whatever reason, I don’t forget most of what I read or witness…ever. Wrestling has managed to somehow simultaneously bring the ever-present meathead in me as well as the dorky stats geek. I’ve followed multiple sports closely since I was 5 years old or so and usually knew my stuff. With that said, when I read the final placing round results and upcoming finals matches after closing out my own HS wrestling career at Vets that week, I was boggled as to how on Earth I had never heard of the two McNeil brothers before..I mean, I was hearing of all kinds of guys who had decent records and after looking back, I found that they were just destroyed by McNeil brothers. It was also odd, considering if there were two weight ranges I studied hard and went through with a fine-tooth comb that year, it was 2A 103 (Albert) and 2A 160 (Adam). Reason being, my brother Justin was a light 112 and the returning runner-up at 2A 103 at the time who ended up placing 2nd that year just like Albert. We kept our eye on 103 all year just in case he decided to cut down and even being one weight apart, they were wrestling some of the same competition. Albert and Justin were at the same weight (2A 103) the year before and likely had many common opponents. Also, I was a heavy 152 lber as a Senior who considered bumping up to 160 that entire year, so I studied that weight heavily as well. I wrestled a lot of 160 lb. guys… Adam and I had several common opponents as well. Add on to that the fact that Mepo wrestled NE Gooselake off and on at districts quite a bit in those days, so I was always very familiar with that team in general. It confuses me to this day how a couple of hammers and potential future opponents like them zipped past my radar until that point. It was like being in school and turning in a History test that you studied hard for and after finishing it, thinking that you aced it easily…and then finding out later that you missed two points because you accidentally skipped two questions that were about something you should have known without even studying… Needless to say, I was aware of them from that point on. 

The first time I saw Albert McNeil wrestle was in his state finals match at 2A 103 in 2001 vs. Dusty Finer from Emmetsburg. I was front row for it, for one of my buddies was working security at Vets Auditorium that year and he hooked me up with a close spot to watch the finals, so I could have a mat side view when my brother Justin wrestled in his finals match vs. Jacob Naig from Emmetsburg, which was to take place immediately following Albert’s finals match. I happened to be talking to a guy named Jay Simon from West Liberty who placed 3rd at 2A 145 that year at the same exact time that I flagged down my security guard buddy, so Jay was also allowed to watch the finals where I was, so that’s who I watched the state finals with that year until it was time for us to receive our own awards and stand on the podium. We talked a lot of wrestling. When Albert was wresting, I remember saying something along the lines of this to Jay, “man, keep me talking and thinking about other things other than this upcoming match with my brother and Naig because I think I may pass out from nerves.”  He laughed and agreed to accept this task and one of the first topics we discussed was the McNeil brothers. Simon knew all about both Albert and Adam.. Quite possibly from the rivalry Albert had with Jay’s teammate, Robbie McIntire. It was Jay who filled me in on how good of a season Adam and Albert had that year. As Albert wrestled, Jay told me about a couple matches that he had prior to the finals in which he looked tough. Albert ultimately fell short to Finer in the finals, but he certainly made a statement in that tourney and for what it’s worth, there was definitely some buzz going around about he had a breakout tournament.

I don’t know if the story of both McNeil brothers having their breakout seasons/tournaments at state in 2001 was ever specifically written about in the QC Times or Dubuque Telegraph Herald or not, but take my word for it, it was impressive.

Albert continued to be a hammer and it was fun to follow from that point on! To this day, Albert holds 4 NE Gooselake wrestling records (career wins, near falls season and career and pins). It is becoming more and more rare for someone in Albert’s age group to remain as a record holder at ANY high school in Iowa because today, high school wrestlers are flourished with approximately 5468 more matches than we wrestled back then… 

Below is Albert’s 2001 state finals match. He had several matches that did him more justice than this match, for the outcome did not go his way, but keep in mind that he at least made it that far, which is more than the overwhelming majority of former HS wrestlers can say and also keep in mind that he beat a couple of the best guys at his weight that year (Dane Reiter from Hudson, Pete Stroh from Waterloo Columbus and Robbie McIntire from West Liberty) to make it there…. Stroh and McIntire fought back to place that year after losing to McNeil and all 3 placed at state 3 or more times in their HS careers… So Albert was VERY battle-tested coming into that finals match!

 

What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?

Northeast High School Goose Lake, Dana College


What year did you graduate?

2003

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My brother Adam came home with a flyer for the Dewitt tournament when I was in 1st grade and that was how I got started. Later in elementary, I played basketball also and eventually realized that there were only 10 guys on the team and I was second string and the only thing in basketball I was good at was fouling… therefore I decided wrestling was probably my sport.

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

My brother Adam McNeil got 3rd and wrestled at Coe College. My son Archie is 4 and he likes to wrestle. He is a tough little boy, but youth clubs here don’t start till 5, so one more year! My daughter Zooey likes to wrestle her dad and brother, but prefers to be a ballerina.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I wasn’t great starting out I’d get 2nd or 3rd at local tournaments, but if I wrestled in Illinois they grouped guys by age. I was younger for my grade so I won more tournaments there. I did AAU state one year… I think 6th grade. I got 3rd out of 3 guys at districts, so I qualified for state without winning a match. My rivals would be the same reason I got 3rd… seemed like every tournament it was me, Jace Kuhlman and Keenan Meinecke in a bracket together and they always beat me until junior high. Both were from Maquoketa. I never lost to anyone from Maquoketa again in high school.


What was your record in HS?

143-29

 

How did you place at state every year?

2nd sophomore and 5th senior

 

What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?

Well first would say I almost quit wrestling my freshman year and Coach Lueders rode me about that since he knew I was better than I considered myself to be. I was not mentally tough yet and once I realized he was trying to help me, we got along great from that point. At the end of freshman year I broke my hand and made sure to get a splint and not a cast so I could still wrestle at sectionals.

I cut a lot of weight my sophomore and junior year, it turned out good one year and not so great the next. I was in the best shape of my life on the amount of extra running I had to do. Also the morning headed to state my sophomore year I was 3 pounds overweight. I put sweats on and it took 20 minutes of running to even start sweating at that point. The school suburban was blasting heat full blast for the next 3 hour drive and I sat in middle-front seat between 2 coaches rocking back and forth chewing bubble gum spitting into a bottle. I managed to fill a 20 oz bottle. We got to Vets and I was right on weight and I believe coach Meyermann said he lost 10 pounds just driving. Then the whole tournament I couldn’t even drink water after my matches I’d put sweats right back on and start running to make weight for the next day. They would bring me up to watch my brother and he had 3 or 4 overtime matches which made me nervous, but helped with sweating to lose weight. After that I was on weight for the next day.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Well, I was in the great shape, so there was just always enough gas in the tank to go longer and out work your opponent. If anything described me best, I’d say I was like a spider monkey. I tended to be taller, so I was big leg rider and just mobbed a guy by going legs turns to cradle or my favorite: The double chicken wing opened up to finish.

 

How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?

Never really had any back and forth. Only one really is Robbie McIntire, for he beat me 3 times. However, I won when it mattered the absolute most in the state semifinals my Sophomore season. The stakes were generally high with he and I though. One of of those losses to him came my junior year to end my season. My senior year I lost to Ted Stopulus by one point after I just lost to Earl Robinson by a point or two so my head wasn’t in it. Because when it came to Sectionals I pinned him in 40 seconds to make up for a dumb loss.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I really only had one coach JD Lueders he was junior high and high school coach.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Northeast wasn’t great when my brother was a freshman. I’m not sure they won any duels. By my senior year we were 11-1. My sophomore year with just Adam and I at state, we placed 19th as a team which is the highest the school ever placed at state. Dana College won the National championship the year after I joined the Coast Guard.

 

Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?

Adam McNeil, my brother. I mean, what younger brother doesn’t want to be like his older brother. Also I always wanted to be a state champ like coach Lueders.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

This is a tough one, but since I grew up in Preston, some close-by names would be Eric Juergens or Dan Knight. Knight wrestled with my coach and was coaching at Mt. Saint Claire at the time so we went to a couple of his camps. Other one would be a guy I wrestled at my first ever freestyle tournament in 8th grade. It was me and one other guy. This kid said he hadn’t done much freestyle. Well, I got into a roll situation with him and he got the tech-fall in maybe 30 seconds or so. I never did freestyle again after that, but that inexperienced freestyle wrestler turned out to be Mack Reiter, so I don’t feel as bad about now. He is one of the best. Also saw what he did to my buddy Craig Trampe at the UNO Open. He made him look silly and Craig was a 2 time Nebraska state champ in his own right.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

I feel like everyone says it but I got to say Spencer Lee.

 

What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?

Well in the wrestling room coach had a Queen CD that pretty much played on repeat. But of course I was a white farm boy from Iowa who listened to rap like; Dr. Dre, Ja Rule, 50 cent, Nelly.


What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?

My junior year I lost at districts to Robbie McIntire.  It was a close match, but then he lost to Andre Avila in the finals who went on to win it all that year, so my year was over. I took my loss real well the next night on Sunday for I already weighed 16 pounds more than I did at weigh-ins!

 

If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?

I wouldn’t change much. Don’t get me wrong, there are some matches where I think if I would have just done this maybe I would have won. The only thing that I may change would be wrestling all 4 years at a different college.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Most definitely it was beating Robbie McIntyre 10-5 in the semi-finals to make the state finals. And anyone who has ever been in the grand march knows that is a cool feeling when the entire stadium is standing clapping. It is definitely better when you’re about to wrestle then when you’re not, though.

 

Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

Justin Peterson, Andre Avila, Robbie McIntyre, Earl Robinson, Mark Jensen, I can say it’s hard to see Robert Struthers I pinned and Adam Kurimski I beat 10-2 both win a state title the next year.

 

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

Just seasonal until I got to college and found out the first week that they weren’t joking about guys getting driven 10 miles in country and being told to run back.

 

How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?

I’ve not been in Iowa much in last 17 years. I will say from the years I coached in Seattle, those kids in WA couldn’t hang with the eastern Iowa competition. With a lot of new weight measures in place  they probably aren’t as hungry and angry all the time as we were.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

I wrestled 2 years at Dana College in Blair, Nebraska before I quit school and joined the Coast Guard.

 

What other sports did you play?

I played football, and did cross country my sophomore year instead of football.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Anything Iowa Hawkeyes and Buffalo Bills.

Here is Albert carrying the flag in opening ceremonies for a Buffalo Bills game!

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

I like to do woodworking or build things like a ball pit for kids. My job ensures I’m near water which is good because I’m a fan of the beach. I work on my Chevelle. I snowboard with the 20 year olds from work. And like any former athlete, I like to watch sports and yell at the tv about how I could do it better than them, of course.

He made this for his kids…

This is a table he is working on currently!

These are the legs to the table…


How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?

I coached for a few years in Seattle before I had kids. It was good to hear from parents thanks for your influence on my son that makes you feel good. One of my former wrestlers is actually now a pilot in the Coast Guard.

 

How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?

It was one of the best things in my life. It teaches you the work ethic that I use in my work to this day. When I went to boot camp, I thought the physical part was a joke after just getting out of college wrestling. The other part is Coast Guard is very mental, but that mental toughness I learned my freshman year from Coach Lueders ensures that I had no problem with that and ended up being top grad in boot camp. I’m sure any wrestler can tell you that we don’t do it for a participation ribbon… we do it to win, it’s just that mind set you learn from wrestling that helps so much.

 

What do you do now?

I joined the Coast Guard in 2005 I’m still active duty. I’m a Damage Controlman Chief Petty officer E7.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

At this point just wrestle with my kids.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Never give up what you think you can achieve because it is probably lower than what you can actually do… You just need to push and do that little extra and it will add up. Some do the minimum just to get by, but you need to be the one doing all the extra stuff that no one else is doing because that determines the outcome between winning and losing sometimes.

 

Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?

I did one in Washington after my daughter was born. I was the only adult, so one of my high school kids wrestled me so I could feel like I earned my medal. There is a tournament in November down in Pennsylvania that I want to go to just to see for myself if Pennsylvania is THAT tough. I want to see if I still got it. I just hope the corona doesn’t get it canceled.

 

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc?

I think I mentioned about everything, but thanks to my brother Adam all the years beating on me because it toughened me up. And thanks to Coach Lueders for pushing me and getting me to where I was. Also my parents were a huge support, for they never missed a match of mine in junior high or high school. And dragging my mom every Saturday somewhere when I was in 4th through 8th grade needs to be acknowledged… I understand that sitting there all day as a spectator can be boring, so to my mom, big thanks for letting me go all over place and never complaining!

 

Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.

Maybe interesting… After growing up in same house in Iowa for 18 years. I lived in Nebraska, Minnesota, Hawaii, Washington, Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia, Massachusetts, England and now New York.

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When looking at the history of 4-time state champions, it’s interesting to see the impact on the next group of wrestlers. For instance, when Jeff Kerber of Emmetsburg won his 4th title on February 24, 1979… it was the same night that Greg Randall won his 1st state title and he witnessed the sell-out crowd pay reverence and homage to that achievement with 2 rousing standing ovations.

“I thought it was the coolest thing when I witnessed that… I thought to myself, I’m going to get one of those,” Randall said to himself that night.

That was like the passing of the torch, a defining moment in one’s own mind visualizing that experience, much like a baton exchange from one athlete to another in a race. History says it was not a unique experience. As a matter of fact, it’s happened numerous times in the past to future 4-timer’s.

When Randall experienced his triumph and the ovation that followed for winning his 4th straight state championship in 1982, it was Mark Schwab of Osage watching the standing ‘O’ moment for Randall after having won his own first title. When Dan Knight of Clinton won his 4th title in 1987, it was Shane Light of Lisbon that was watching the standing ovations paid to Knight after Light had won his own first title.

In 1990 when Light finished his achievement of winning his 4th individual gold medal, it was a young and talented Jeff McGinnes of Iowa City High that watched history unfold after claiming his very 1st state title as Light was closing out his 4x HS career. When McGinnes won his 4th straight title 1993, it was Eric Juergens of Maquoketa that was watching on after winning his own first title that night and would later go on to receive his wrestling fan appreciation with those long standing ovations at both the raising of his arm at center mat and at the podium in 1996.

T.J. Sebolt of Centerville got a double bonus dose of that imagery and majesty in 2003 when he won his first title and then watched Mack Reiter of Don Bosco of Gilbertville and C. J. Ettelson of Hudson win their 4th straight state championships. It was the first time there were multiple 4-timer’s winning on the same night. The night Sebolt captured his 4th straight title in 2006, it was Mack’s brother Bart Reiter that was watching on after having won his own first state title.

* Interestingly enough, Randall’s sister had a son who graduated in that 2003 grade. His name was Nick Beuter and he wrestled for Cedar Falls. He was CJ and Charlie Ettelson’s longtime club practice partner and was closer than people realize to winning 4 himself as CJ did, placing 2-2-4-1 in high school. Randall was surely influential to Nick and likely to the Ettelson brothers as well!

Going back to that original “coolest moment”, Greg Randall followed through on his treasured thoughts and won his fourth state title in 1982, becoming the 5th member of the “Quad-Squad,” the elite group of 4-Time Iowa wrestling state champions. At the time, it was the fourth year in a row that a wrestler won his fourth state title. Randall was a trend-setter in high school, becoming famous for the now-popular takedown, release, takedown, release, wrestling style.

It was actually his Coach Tim Johnson who came up with that game plan in Randall’s 1979 semi-finals match at 2A 98 lbs against Waukon’s Keith Colsch as a way to avoid his dangerous cradle. Johnson suggested that Randall stay on his feet and use takedowns, cutting Colsch loose and getting more takedowns. It turned out to be a pretty good strategy as Randall won 25-5 and became a finalist for that Saturday night’s IA State Wrestling Tournament finals on IPTV (where Randall’s coach Tim Johnson would host a few years later as an analyst and wrestling commentator).

It was a match that stunned Colsch from Waukon who was top rated at that weight class and everyone else that watched. Colsch had finished 5th place the prior year, would go on to a 3rd place finish in 1979, and then continue his wrestling career at NAIA Loras College (Iowa) with a college career record of 121-31, and was a four-time NAIA qualifier and two-time NAIA All-American, winning the 126-lb. national championship in 1983 and placing 5th in 1984. So yeah, it was a shocker… to everyone but Randall and Johnson!

Mount Vernon’s coach Tim Johnson, who was a Morning Sun alum and protégé as a wrestler under the tutelage of Hall of Fame coach Bob Darrah, noted that there wasn’t video back then to watch but they had some scouting info and knew what opponents various strengths and weaknesses were. Because of Randall’s coach-ability and talent, he was able to follow through on every facet of that “game plan.”

In the finals match, the team of Johnson and Randall stuck with the same plan against a tough opponent, John Thorn of Algona, who was also known for his cradle and talent on top, and Randall pulled out a wild 13-11 victory to capture his first state title and finishing his freshman season with a 29-2-2 record.

Randall didn’t exactly come into that state tournament on a roll though… He just came off a rough district finals match where he got pinned by Solon’s Jay Votroubek, a senior who ended up placing 5th in 1979’s state tournament. Tim Johnson recalled that “Greg got caught a couple of times as a freshman because he was small, and because Votrobek was a senior. When you’re a senior 98-pounder you’re a different animal.”

“My coach, Tim Johnson, was good at scouting and when I met someone who was good on the mat he would tell me to do that,” recalls Randall. “My strength was wrestling from my feet so we took advantage of it.”

Randall followed up his freshman 1979 state title by winning his first Junior Nationals freestyle title at 105.5 pounds… Not too shabby!

In 1980 it was a repeat of the 98 lbs. finals combatants from the year before with another matchup against Algona’s John Thorn. This time bumped up two weight classes to the 112 lbs. class… the senior from Algona proved to be a ‘thorn’ (pun intended) in Randall’s side earlier in the year by giving Randall his only loss of the season, a 4-2 decision at the Hudson Invitational finals. It would be the last time Randall would lose in high school as Randall got his revenge in the Class 2A 112 lbs. state finals match with a convincing 5-3 victory to seize his second straight state championship, closing out his sophomore season with a 33-1 record.

Randall’s junior season saw him impose his will on the competition by capping off the 1981 wrestling season by winning a state title at the 2A 126 lbs weight class, notching a 4-3 decision over junior Erik Strawn of CR Jefferson and finishing things out with his first undefeated season at 33-0. The runner up Strawn, would go on to capture a state title of his own at this weight class the next year finishing (31-0) and his career with a 109-13-1 record.

Randall also had a tough semi-finals match that year with senior Mike Schimp of Belmond, a state champion himself in 1978. Randall won that match 10-4 to advance to the finals.

The late sports writer Dan McCool tracked Schimp down after their matchup and wrote about it in his classic book ‘Reach For The Stars’, where Schimp remembers Randall as being ‘slick’… “He was slick. If I had to say one word about Greg Randall, he was slick. He was great on his feet. I’m not saying he was the most overpowering wrestler, he was just slick, his technique was awesome. Probably one of the best technicians I ever wrestled. He had an outside kelly, I felt it coming but there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t plant, I couldn’t post, I couldn’t sprawl. I think he took me down with it two or three times. It amazed me.”

For Greg Randall’s senior year wrestling campaign, he remained undefeated at 28-0 and was crowned the 1982 state champion at 2A 132 lbs. after a 21-5 beating of junior Doug Stumberg of Grundy Center (a 4th place finisher at 119 in 1981), and then took center stage to be recognized with that double bonus ovation he had dreamed about and watched in awe and amazement 4 years earlier… all of it poured out from an excited and appreciative crowd of wrestling fans throughout the entire state of Iowa that was in attendance. Strumberg would go on to become a state champion at 2A 145 lbs the next year, capping off his career as 3x place winner and 2x finalist.

So what advice does a coach give his wrestler just prior to taking the mat to make an assault on the record books? Coach Tim Johnson was quoted by the Des Moines Register, as telling Randall – “I just told him to go out and make history!” and with his technical talent and coach-ability level measuring off the scale, Randall stayed in character and brought home that 4th gold medal and made his own history!

Following his 1982 state championship and capturing that 4th consecutive title, Randall went on to win his second Junior Nationals freestyle title at 132 pounds.

Obviously, with the notoriety that comes with the mat success that Greg Randall achieved in high school you would expect a ton of college recruitment, and Randall did get his fair share of colleges knocking at his door. One of the interesting stories about Greg Randall was his recruitment to Iowa and the challenges that lay ahead of him. There was a loaded weight class where Randall was going come in at, and at that level it was more about staying healthy, being mentally strong and maintaining confidence throughout all of those practice room beat downs that were to come while learning to improve.

Randall remembers Iowa Hawkeye’s Coach Dan Gable telling him “that the program didn’t really need me”… to which Randall responded internally to that challenge by not only making the team, but going on to becoming a three time all-American and two time NCAA finalist for the Iowa Hawkeye’s, placing 2nd as the NCAA runner-up at 134 pounds in 1984 and 1986, while also placing fifth as a junior. He compiled a 109-26-3 career record while at Iowa.

Randall also competed at the international level in 1989, capturing the gold medal at the Pan American games. He was also a runner-up at the U.S. Open Nationals, and placed second at the 1989 U.S. Olympic Festival.

Greg Randall was inducted into the Iowa Wrestling HOF in 2008 along with Mark Schwab, Scott Morningstar, and Kevin Evans.

So what does Greg Randall attribute his success to?

Randall credits his parents for the success he enjoyed as he recalled starting wrestling in second grade at a Mt. Vernon club tournament. “My dad taught me to give it 110% all the time. That was the way I was brought up. He would take me to tournaments no matter where and he told me to have fun and give 110%… and Mom was the one who did the driving.”

One of those earlier little kid matches also helped shape the character of Randall. “I was eight years old and had to wrestle a kid from Cedar Rapids who was a year older. I was nervous but I pinned him. He jumped up after the fall and gave me a hug and said ‘great job.’ He showed me sportsmanship is number one and to handle losing just like winning.”

Randall recalls feeling the pressure of being the fifth wrestler in the state’s history to win four state titles. “I used the pressure to my advantage. I thrived on pressure… the more pressure the harder I worked,” he said.

There is a lot to take note of in the high school wrestling career of Greg Randall, not just the on mat success.

The things that stick out to me are the love that he had for the sport of wrestling, even at a young age and his maturity in his view of sportsmanship. He looked at obstacles in his path as merely objects that needed overcome instead of personal attacks. He was a very technical wrestler, an absolute beast on his feet, and was very mat smart… and as his coach Tim Johnson noted, his coach-ability was off the charts.

So what is the legacy of Greg Randall of Mount Vernon as it pertains to Iowa’s High School Wrestling GOAT?

There is so much to like and appreciate and so little to criticize but for the valid but slightly petty arguments regarding what weight classes he started his high school career… On the road to winning those 4 state titles, he had to beat 3 former or future state champions so his path to that pinnacle was no picnic!

Randall deserves consideration and demonstrated at the top level – the best of Iowa wrestling competitiveness and sportsmanship, along with showcasing a stellar resume that began as a 98 pound freshman to an international competitor to 24 years as a D1 college coach. His career reflects all the necessary attributes one would expect of the GOAT at one of the most exciting periods in Iowa wrestling history. He checks a lot of those “boxes” that matter in this GOAT conversation. He had a phenomenal HS career and was one of the most exciting wrestlers to watch in person, and literally changed how many wrestlers and coaches approached attacking great mat wrestlers if you were great or had a kid that was great on their feet. It became a very potent weapon and strategy.

The thing is… I don’t have to choose, I just present the facts and let you experts decide!

Greg Randall interview from “Wrestling with Iowa”

 

Here is Greg Randall of Mount Vernon’s Iowa State Wrestling Tournament results…

1979:

98 lbs

  1. Greg Randall, Fr., Mount Vernon
  2. John Thorn, Jr., Algona
  3. Keith Colsch, Jr., Waukon
  4. Bob Deskin, So., Carlisle
  5. Jay Votroubek, Sr., Solon
  6. Terry Cooper, So., Creston

1980:

112 lbs

  1. Greg Randall, So., Mount Vernon
  2. John Thorn, Sr., Algona
  3. John Thompson, Jr., Decorah
  4. Lee Weston, Sr., Griswold
  5. Todd Staats, Sr., Wapello
  6. Curt Stumberg, Jr., Grundy Center

1981:

126 lbs

  1. Greg Randall, Jr., Mount Vernon
  2. Erik Strawn, Jr., Jefferson
  3. Mike Schimp, Sr., Belmond
  4. Larry Vorwald, Sr., Monona-MFL
  5. Rusty Horn, Jr., Independence
  6. Jeff Brown, Jr., Centerville

1982:

132 lbs

  1. Greg Randall, Sr., Mount Vernon
  2. Doug Stumberg, Jr., Grundy Center
  3. Curt Mills, Denver
  4. Paul Van Oosbree, Sr., Emmetsburg
  5. Kurt Shedenheim, Jr., Belle Plaine
  6. 6. John Lockard, Sr., Johnston
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Joe Gibbons won his fourth state title in 1981, becoming the 4th member of the elite 4-Time Iowa wrestling state champions. At the time, this crowning achievement was the third year in a row that a wrestler won his fourth state title. You could refer to Joe Gibbons as the “Cleanup Hitter” of the 4-Peat lineup.

He was preceded in joining that illustrious lineup by Jeff Kerber of Emmetsburg in 1979, and then Scott Morningstar of Lisbon in 1980. The leadoff hitter Bob Steenlage of Britt who had been left stranded as the lone 4-timer for 17 years prior.

Are the baseball references too much? Sorry… summer has always been my baseball season, my outlet to escape, mentally regroup, refocus, reflect and set new goals… and because of the crazy times we’re living in I’m having some minor withdrawals! Still, it’s opened up new opportunities for me to grow in other areas. Thinking about summers spent and how productive or unproductive my time was managed has given me a deeper appreciation for how kids bought into the “whatever it takes” pursuit of achieving their dreams.

The opportunities that are available now compared to what was available in the era of Joe Gibbons and this GOAT discussion is apples and oranges because you really had to be driven and motivated to achieve at the highest levels to do what they did – and at that time (in the 1970’s) the youth programs were really just beginning to take hold and make their presence felt at the high school level.

So what am I trying to say? Well, as I’ve been researching these great wrestlers for the GOAT series (mainly the early 4x-champs)… I’m seeing a pattern that all of them had in common that was generally uncommon back then. That’s the year round dedication and commitment to their own athletic development by getting the best instruction and learning to apply it. Sounds simplistic right? But small things matter in this sport, and every choice or non-choice is a decision made and plays an incremental role in what dividends those decisions pay in an athlete’s success and development.

And while I’m not saying that mult-sport athletes are at a disadvantage here, because obviously athleticism is an advantage in sports… but maybe a more narrowed approach, let’s define it as a more focused approach to training was really starting to take root in the wrestling communities at that time.

I guess that’s one of the things that separated me from these elite individuals like Joe Gibbons, because he spent his summers in wrestling camps and travelling and competing nationally in tournaments. There are levels of commitment and sacrifice that are rarely appreciated unless one dares to go down that path. That’s where wrestlers like Joe Gibbons excelled. It’s what all of the GOAT caliber wrestlers have in common.

I liked what 4x’er, Dan Knight of Clinton said after he won his fourth state title finishing his high school career as 7th member of the four timers and only the 2nd undefeated four time state champion in Iowa HS wrestling history… When asked what advice he would give for young men just starting out in their wrestling careers? – “you have to pretty much wrestle all year round to catch up on anybody… it can’t be just 3 months out of the year, you’ve got to dedicate a little more time to it…”

Jeff Kerber of Emmetsburg, the 1st undefeated four time state champion in Iowa HS wrestling history said pretty much the same thing – “Youth wrestling and wrestling all year around gives you the experience to have a leg up on the competition when you hit high school and makes a big difference in your success once you get there!!!

It only makes sense to me that after an extensive youth wrestling background and tournament experience, Joe Gibbons would come onto the high school state wrestling stage in 1978 and made a big splash as he won the 98 pound title as a freshman and in doing so, avenged his only two losses on the season with a 3-1 finals win over Tim Schultz of Charles City.

Gibbons, wrestled for Waterloo Columbus his freshman and sophomore years, and won the 105 pound title as a sophomore with a hard fought 1-0 victory in the finals over Phil Callahan of Clinton to preserve his perfect 26-0 season.

After moving to Ames for his junior and senior years, Joe made huge waves by winning the 126 pound title with a 9-3 decision over Kevin Brown of Cedar Rapids Prairie and finishing with a 23-3 record. Then followed that up with a perfect 28-0 record his senior year on his way to capturing the 132 pound title by beating Russ Graves of Webster City, 13-0 in that state finals match. Joe did not allow a single takedown during his senior season and was not scored upon in the state tournament.

Back in 1981, Joe Gibbons was among only a hand-full of wrestlers to ever win four Iowa titles – he was the fourth… His high school record was an impressive 105-5… and he left a major wake in the path behind him and set higher goals for the wrestlers that would follow. Gibbons was the first and still the only four time state champion to split his titles at two schools.

What makes the Joe Gibbons career story so incredible to me is he actually won 12 state titles during his high school career, as he also won four state freestyle titles and four Greco-Roman state titles. He was named the number one recruit in the country his senior year; was captain of the Dream team and named outstanding wrestler of the 1981 USWF tournament.

Post high school notes:

Joe Gibbons went on to compete at the college level for Iowa State and was an NCAA champion (1985) and a four-time All-American (1982, 1984-86) for the Cyclones. Joe Gibbons wasted little time proving his mettle  at that level, going 25-5-2 in his freshman season (1982) at 126 pounds. He won his first Big Eight Conference title and earned All-America honors by placing fourth at the NCAA Championships, where the Cyclones placed second as a team. He was honored as the nation’s best freshman by the Amateur Wrestling News.

Gibbons redshirted in 1982-83, and then moved up to the 142-pound weight class for his sophomore season in 1983-84 in which he posted a 27-8 overall record and finished fourth at the NCAA Championships.

Gibbons’ junior season (1984-85) was his best year of his college career (53-3). He racked up an ISU single-season record in wins en route to his second Big Eight title and his first NCAA crown at 142 pounds. Gibbons defeated Princeton’s John Orr, 4-3, in that 1985 NCAA title match to give the retiring head coach Dr. Harold Nichols his 38th NCAA champion.

After Dr. Nichols stepped down after the 1985 wrestling season, Gibbons’ older brother, Jim, took over as ISU’s fourth head coach for his younger brother’s senior season. The younger Gibbons earned All-America honors for the fourth time, finishing third at the 1986 NCAA Championships. At that time, only 10 Cyclones had earned All-America status four times. In all, Joe Gibbons won 11 tournament titles, including a Midlands crown in 1982, and was victorious in 124 career college matches (124-20-3).

I’ve mentioned this before, I love how family plays a special role in the sport of wrestling, and the Gibbons family are no different as their parents Bill and Bea Gibbons established an Iowa wrestling legacy, and with their children – 4 sons Jim, Joe, Jeff, and Tim… and all the brothers wrestled, with 10 HS state championships between them. It was also Bill Gibbons and John Kerber (Jeff’s dad) who rented a gym and held a state AAU tournament so that wrestlers from Iowa could qualify for the national tournament and helped bring Iowa youth wrestling to national prominence…

  • Jim, was a 3x state wrestling champion for Ames High School (1975-77), and was a 3x All-American (1980-82) for Iowa State, which included an individual NCAA championship in 1981. Jim was the head wrestling coach at Iowa State from 1986 through 1992. He coached the Cyclones to an NCAA team title in 1987.
  • Jeff was a state champion for Ames High School in 1983 and 1984, and a second place finisher in 1982. He was a two-time All-American for Iowa State, placing third at the 1987 NCAA tournament and sixth at the 1988 NCAA tournament.
  • Tim was a state champion for Ames in 1976. He wrestled at Iowa State for one season before becoming an orthopedic surgeon.

Joe Gibbons was outstanding in his high school wrestling career – one of the best, which is why he was inducted into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2003, and is one of Iowa’s GOAT’s…

Here is Joe Gibbons Iowa State Wrestling Tournament results…

1978 – 3A 98:

  1. Joe Gibbons, Waterloo Columbus
  2. Tim Schultz, Charles City
  3. Matt Egeland, WDM Dowling
  4. Art Hartin, Cedar Rapids Prairie
  5. Scott Jenkins, Burlington
  6. Gary Cooper, Linn Mar, Marion

 

1979 – 3A 105:

  1. Joe Gibbons, So., Waterloo Columbus
  2. Phil Callahan, So., Clinton
  3. Joe Pratt, Sr., Waterloo West
  4. Rick DeBartolo, So., WDM Dowling
  5. Steve Thomas, Sr., Charles City
  6. Jim Cornick, Jr., Mason City

 

1980 – 3A 126:

  1. Joe Gibbons, Jr., Ames
  2. Kevin Brown, Sr., Cedar Rapids Prairie
  3. Mike Fox, Sr., Marshalltown
  4. Kurt Ranshaw, Jr., Iowa City West
  5. Dan Majewski, Jr., Waterloo Columbus
  6. Brent Norgaard, Sr., Harlan

 

1981 – 3A 132:

  1. Joe Gibbons, Sr., Ames *** 4 Time State Champion ***
  2. Russ Graves, Sr., Webster City
  3. Tim Draper, Sr., CB Abe Lincoln
  4. Jerry Kellogg, Sr., Sioux City North
  5. Mike Stover, Sr., Charles City
  6. Kris Wallace, Jr., West Delaware

Joe Gibbons discussing his Iowa HS career in “Wrestling with Iowa” interview…

 

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Here is a CJ Ettelson quote from the late Dan McCool’s book, “Reach For The Stars:” “A funny, funny story, but when I was about 4 or 5, Danny Knight went on some Saturday tournament that my dad took him to and he left his pillow. I slept on his pillow for many years. That was the thing I was always conscious about it because my dad was always like, ‘you know who’s pillow that is, right? That’s Danny Knight’s pillow.”   With that said, it’s crazy to think that Dan Knight was so good, that his greatness seemed to be contagious, for CJ ended up becoming a 4X State champion in 2003 just like Knight  did in 1987. I am assuming that CJ acquired “Mad GOAT Disease” from using Knight’s pillow. Not a bad disease to acquire!

I remember going to a big Clinton youth tourney when I was 10 years old and Knight did a clinic before the tournament began and it was there that I learned that he had never lost a match in high school. He was 128-0 in high school along with being a 4X State champion for Clinton. I had no idea that a person had ever gone undefeated before, let alone 3 at that time if you include Kerber and Gable. I decided then and there that I was going to become a 4X undefeated state champ myself someday.  I fell short of that… to say the least. I would have done it if I were lucky enough to get one of his magic pillows! I picked up a “shoulder to ear” tip when running a chicken-wing on top from Knight’s clinic that day. I pinned 3 guys in the first period and got first that day… used that chicken-wing tactic every time. Knight has been cool in my book since.

So Dan Knight sported a red singlet in his matches because he was from Clinton and that is their primary school color. He was essentially “The Red Knight” in the coliseum and when he won his first two state finals matches, his opponents stepped on the mat looking like this:

 

5 seconds after the whistle blew, they looked like this:

 

Naturally, since he was winning so frequently and so ferociously, he developed some haters. One of these haters was so bad, that I would classify it as adversity that most other 4 Timers didn’t have to deal with… This heckler was loud, obnoxious and crazy and if he was granted one wish by a genie, he’d wish for The Red Knight to be demolished. 

This is the insanity he had to put up with this crazy hater he had when he won state as a Junior:

 

How did Knight respond?! He responded by taking his opponent down. Dan Knight took him down….down, down, down!

 

That was a pretty big statement he made there. You’d think that it would have silenced the hater a little bit…but it didn’t… In Knight’s Senior season state finals match when he was going for his 4th title, he still had to deal with shade being thrown his way from the crazy hater in the stands:

The red knight sucks the big one! You're going down, red knight!

 

Dan Knight wanted to silence this guy and he wanted to do it as soon as possible. So he did:

 

So Knight was able to dominate in the state finals in multiple ways. He could run a takedown clinic on you and tech ya, or he could pin you in 20 seconds as if you were a guy who showed up at open wrestling tourneys wearing a t shirt and shorts instead of a singlet. Dan Knight destroyed you in multiple ways and if you were his opponent, the manner in which you were destroyed all depended on his mood.

Does Dan Knight have a case for being the Iowa HS wrestling GOAT?!!? Well, why don’t you ask the Black Knight!

“YES, DAN KNIGHT HAS A STRONG CASE FOR THE IOWA HS GOAT!” -Says The Black Knight

 

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TRENT GOODALE, OSAGE, ‘01

Trent Goodale… He has always looked like someone who resided in the mountains and fought mountain lions for fun, considering most humans weren’t able to force him to do much more than move his pinky finger without getting pinned by him. He was good… really, really good. One of the best of that early 2000’s era. You can’t think of Osage wrestling without thinking of the Goodales. Trent finished with a HS record of 159-6 and won 3 titles in 1999, 2000 and 2001. You can watch those here:

The only year he did not win state wasn’t his Freshman season in 1998. He lost in the state finals against a wrestler from Assumption named Josh Watts who also became a 3X State Champ. That match was back and forth and was so close that I would consider Goodale along with Kent Streicher, Adam Allard and Ike Light as the 3Xers that were closest to winning 4 titles, but fell barely short. You can watch Trent Goodale vs. Josh Watts here:

 

JOSH WATTS, ASSUMPTION, ‘01

Josh was a pretty big deal in my grade. He was in my grade and my region and was always a weight range lower than me, so we never met up, but I remember well who and how rare it was for him to run into anyone who ever gave him fits since the time we were in 3rd grade. From 3rd grade all the way through high school, I remember Chris Wernimont from Pocahontas  giving him trouble when we were real young and Keith Peyton from Wapsie Valley besting him at AAU another year… that was about it. He won titles in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and finished his career with a record of 190-4 which broke the career wins record at the time.

I don’t know who the 4 people that beat him were, but I know they all took place when he was a Sophomore in 1999. That season, he battled a severely injured ankle and the injury was at it’s peak at the state tournament. I know that he lost to Dustin Dunton from South Tama and he placed behind Dave Dyke from Eddyville-Blakesburg for 3rd and 4th, but I don’t know if they wrestled. He was on crutches on the podium. He was hurt bad.

119

  1. Adam Kramer, Sr., New Hampton
  2. Dustin Dunton, Sr., South Tama
  3. Dave Dyke, Sr., Eddyville-Blakesburg
  4. Josh Watts, Sr., Davenport Assumption
  5. Kirk Artist, Fr., Glenwood
  6. Josh Atwell, Jr., Perry

Watts became Davenport Assumption’s first 3X State champion and he was the only one in the school’s history until Julien Broderson joined him in 2019.

JULIEN BRODERSON, ASSUMPTION ‘19

Julien Broderson won his first state title as a Sophomore in 2017. His season finished in a cool way, for he had two losses that season early on and avenged both. He avenged his loss to Dyersville-Beckman’s like Hageman in the district finals and avenged his loss to New Hampton’s Luke Gorman in the finals at state… so he got them when the stakes were highest. His Junior and Senior seasons consisted of just…dominance. He just seemed to kill everyone. He finished his career with a record of 171-18. 2 of those losses were in his Sophomore year, the other 16 took place when he was a Freshman, in which he competed at 170 that year…a notoriously difficult weight to compete at for a Freshman. That was the only year he didn’t win it. He was a district qualifier though. The last 3X State champion who began his career at 170’as a Freshman was a guy from Union who graduated in 2000. His name was Trey Clark, and back then, the weight was 171, but same difference.

 

*Note: I made this highlight reel for Julien last year. If you want one of these done or know someone who might want one, get at me because they are my favorite thing to do. What sets them apart from other highlight reels are the intros, parodies and stories I try to tie into them. I am currently working on one for possible 3X State Champ if he wins it next year, Aidan Norman from Cascade.

 

TREY CLARK, UNION ‘00

Wrestlers can talk all the smack they want about basketball players, but you what they have on us? Their athletes would undeniably be better at wrestling than our athletes would be at basketball. Our guys are typically short. You got a lotta these dudes who win their 4th titles at 126 lbs, but if you put them into a basketball game, the 6’4 dudes will block every brick they try to put up. And their 6’4 dudes, if they wrestled would resemble 6’4 Trey Clark from Union. Trey won 171 lbs as a Freshman in high school, which is a rare feat. He finished with a record of 126-3. H won state in 1997, 1999 and 2000. The only year he didn’t win state was his Sophomore year… he was eliminated from state that year. He was injured…therefore he and Watts have that in common.  If we were to pick a basketball team as we only had the group of Iowa HS wrestlers past and present to choose from, I’d pick Trey Clark first. I think he could compete on the basketball court.

 

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Remember The Wrestler: Derick Ball, Columbus Jct.

Usually first impressions last to some extent. Even if you slowly start to realize that the first impression that you have or had of someone was incorrect, it is tough to change that perception you have of them because first impressions can just be so hard to shake. It’s like they have a tendency to stick.  I remember one of the first parties that I went to my Junior year at Loras College, there was this stumbling, drunken mess of a guy who was hardly able to speak, but when he did it would be a combination of swear words and alcohol-induced jibberish and after an hour so of being at that party, let’s just say that he tried to do something in which a toilet was needed, but failed miserably and he made a huge mess… I never saw him at another party or bar again. I still saw him a lot though, for I I had a lot of classes with that guy and I couldn’t believe how much different he acted when he was not under the influence of alcohol. I mean that literally. I couldn’t get my mind to believe it was the same guy. He was well-spoken, professional and very intelligent and had a lot of that interesting takes on certain topics that we’d cover in class that he was always willing to discuss with anyone there and he would do so with the utmost clarity. However, whenever I had class with him, I always had it in my mind that I needed to be aware of where the nearest toilet was, just in case I needed to direct this guy to it so he didn’t make a mess on the floor. I couldn’t shake that first impression I had of him.

There are exceptions though. And for me, Derick Ball is one of those. My perception of Derick Ball as a wrestler took a complete 180 from the perception I had of him when I first saw him wrestle as like a 4th or 5th grader and the 2 years following that. No offense to Derick, but he wasn’t one of these guys that wrestling just clicked for immediately. He was always put in the same bracket as my brother, Justin at youth tourneys and it seemed like those first couple years that he wrestled, the focus seemed to be to not trip over his own feet… I mean, to his defense, my brother was an animal since he was a 2nd grader and he made a lot of people look worse than they actually were over the years, but Ball seemed to be somewhat of a shoe-in for 4th place at most of the youth tourneys that I saw him at. In retrospect, it was probably kind of a bad deal for him because at most tourneys, they try to pair the kids by skill-level. So they always at least attempted to put Justin with the best guys in the weight range and most of the time there were 2-3 good guys per weight range at every tournament and from the time Derik started, he seemed to be the unlucky guy that occupied the open 4th slot in all of my brother’s brackets, so he was fed to the wolves from the time he started, pretty much. I always expected to be a matter of time before he quit because a lot of kids do quit when they have a difficult time that spans years… Derick did not quit, though. In fact, by the time he hit Junior High and High School, he began taking out some pretty big names. And it was a steady progression, too. Like in his first jump he may have beaten some guy who almost made it to state once. Next jump, he beat a guy with a winning record who qualified for state one time. Next jump he’s pinning those guys who merely had winning records and he is getting beaten in good matches vs. state placers. Next jump, he is taking out some of these state placers. And before I knew it, Derick Ball was placing at state himself and was one of the legit top guys at his weight class that consisted of several talented wrestlers. His Senior year, for example. That weight would have returning runner-up at state, Tony Hager, who was really, really good (and my first impression of him was him taking Mack Reiter into OT, and I’ve never been able to shake that impression of Hager), Andy Roush from Wilton who was really good and a thorn in the side to a lot of guys, Josh Knipfer from New London, Mark Kist from Eagle Grove and Patrick Makey from Logan-Magnolia who actually won the bracket. Those were the guys at that weight when Derick Ball was a Senior and by that time, Derick had impressed me so much with his wrestling skills that I thought he had just as good of a shot to win it as anyone. It was as if the years where I would see his name on a bracket and advise my brother Justin “not to hurt him” never existed. My impression of Derick Ball completely changed due to the vast and consistent improvements I observed from him. I was very happy for him. He was always a real nice guy to us and it was cool to see nice things happen to a nice kid who obviously worked his ass off to get where he was. And he continues to coach wrestling and I don’t think it’s a reach to assume that Ball is probably very good and patient with these guys who are not world-beaters from the instant they begin. Anyone who wrestles for Derick Ball is in good hands, I guarantee it. 

 

What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?

Believe it or not both my brother and I lived in the L-M school district and open enrolled to Columbus. I wrestled for the Columbus Junction Youth Club under Doug Pugh and Andy Milder. Wrestled for Columbus in High School and a year at Coe College in Cedar Rapids.

 

What year did you graduate?

I graduated from Columbus in 2003.

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My cousin, Justin Scheef would have been the one who got us going. He placed 4th for Columbus in 95. Myself, my brother Brandon, Seth Pugh, and Zack Pugh are all first cousins and we were raised like brothers. It is something that we did together and shared. My mom took me to youth tournaments. It took some time for my Dad to become a fan. He was a basketball player. He evolved and is now a wrestling nut. I had a good support system. At that time it wasn’t hard to get excited about the CJ wrestling program. Doug Pugh had a good thing going with the youth program and the groundwork was being laid for years of success. Had it not been for Doug Pugh, my Uncle Lanny Pugh, and Andy Milder, I would not have stuck with wrestling.

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestle currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

Brother Brandon Ball-Placed 7th and 1st in high school. All-American at Coe (4th)

Cousins: Seth Pugh-Placed 4th, 5th, and 1st. Wrestled at UNI and Coe

Zack Pugh-Placed 8th

Adam and Paul Reid-Placewinners at Fort Madison

Justin Scheef-Placed 4th for CJ in 95 (Wrestled at Ellsworth)

I have two daughters. They like to go to wrestling meets for the concession stands and candy. They are both into dance. Not interested in wrestling. I can see them as cheerleaders or statisticians.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Not good. No rivalries because I didn’t win much. If you would have thrown a wet paper bag on my head I may have suffocated before fighting free. I didn’t have much for natural ability. I got to take beatings from Justin Swafford about every weekend. Also took beatdowns from Robbie McIntyre, Mack Reiter, and many many others. I never qualified for AAU and I am not sure that I ever won a match at AAU Districts. I went about every year. I remember one year I had five kids in my bracket at Districts. Just needed one win. Didn’t happen. My mom took me to all the youth tournaments. Through countless disappointments, she kept me going. I learned a ton about perseverance through my youth career.

 

What was your record in HS?

135-37

 

How did you place at state every year?

Qualified as a Soph

Placed 4th as a Junior and Senior

 

What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?

I wasn’t a gifted athlete. I had to work for everything. I came into middle school with no confidence and just doing it because my friends and family expected me too. During 8th grade something clicked. Andy Milder is someone that I owe so much to.

I remember beating Jared Pierce from Wapello my freshman year after losing to him over and over in youth and then again that year in high school. That may have been my turning point.

As a sophomore I improved a ton. Had some battles with Spencer Manning and that year started the Roush battles. We wrestled Wilton that year in regionals. I remember Joe Storm and Dustin Bliven coming to me and telling me to not get pinned. I was pissed. Roush came out and took me down and cradled me in about 15 seconds. I fought off and ended up winning 14-11 or something like that. The reaction I got from the upperclassman was something I won’t forget.

My junior year was great until I got upset in the first round of state. I wrestled back to 3rd and 4th and lost to Roush for the first time in high school. I felt like I paved the way for a state championship run. Not the case.

My senior year was rough. I cut some weight and lost my confidence. It started with cross country. I ran a terrible race at Districts and didn’t qualify. After winning about every race that season. I went into wrestling and cut back to 103. Caleb Martin was an incoming freshman and I felt it was best for the team. He and I were best friends that year and ended up wrestling off for 103. It put some strain on our friendship but we worked through it. I love and miss that dude.

I did an okay job with my weight but the constant battle messed with my head. I was a mess. Without Plein, Siegel, and Milder, no way I would have placed that year. So many ups and downs. Those guys held me together. Looking back at my high school career, I never got what I wanted. I remember walking down to the basement after losing in the semis. Complete devastation. Looking back, I wanted to win a title, but I never believed I could. I put in the work. No one out worked me. My mind was the problem. I wanted it, but didn’t truly believe I could win it all. I watched guys like Randy Pugh, JD, Nick Lee, Jason Payne, etc win state titles. I wanted that. It never happened. I wrestled with that for a lot of years. Most were impressed with all that I accomplished because they remember what I was as a kid and were shocked at the improvement. Not me. I still have a bad taste in my mouth. I am extremely hard on myself. As a coach I have figured out a way to turn my experiences into lessons for my team. Everything that I experienced as an athlete has made me a better person. I have no regrets, I just didn’t get what I wanted.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Methodical and controlling. No flash. I was a grinder. I had to use my brain because I wasn’t going to out muscle and I wasn’t quick. I had a good switch that I used to create scrambles and when I got on top I had an arm bar.

I remember wrestling Justin Brown from Centerville at Mepo my junior year. He was stronger, faster, and better at wrestling. He was better on his feet and on the mat. I knew my shot was to keep things tight and win with one move at the end. I created a snooze fest and reversed him with 5 seconds left. When all else failed, I tried to use my brain to help overcome some of my other deficiencies.

 

How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?

I mentioned Jared Pierce from Wapello. Spencer Manning from Mepo. Justin Brown from Centerville. Then of course Roush. We had a heck of a rivalry. I think I won the series in high school 4-3. I could be wrong. Bottom line, he won when it mattered. He beat me for 3rd and 4th both my junior and senior years. I remember hearing from my family a story about walking through the sky walk and hearing Wilton fans whisper “Roush” as they went back and forth to the arena. It was intense.

I didn’t go back and forth with Hager but he was someone I always really prepared for. I remember after my junior year I knew he would be ranked number one. Hager was the runner up Junior year. I had notes all over the place to be used for preparing me and motivating me for wrestling him. We ended up wrestling in the semis at state our Senior year and he won.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I had so many good ones. Mike Jay was an incredible cross country coach. Then you had Siegel and Milder. Today those guys are still impacting my life in a positive way. That is the thing about being a part of the Columbus wrestling program. You are family for life.

I have to say my most influential is Plein. He made me the man I am today. The coach I am today. When I need advice, I call him. I can’t put into words what he has done for me in my life.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

We were a good team in high school. We qualified for regionals every year but one. Lost to Tri-County my freshman year and Wilton my sophomore year. I don’t remember what happened my junior year. I hate wording things like this but we should have made duals my senior year. We were upset by L-M at sectionals. They ended up making it and placing 3rd I believe.

 

Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?

Randy Pugh started it all. He was dominant. Nick Lee was a close second. I drilled with him at practice a few times his senior year. I will never forget that. Dustin Bliven came to CJ my sophomore year. He took me under his wing and was like a big brother. He has had a huge impact on my life.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

I would have to say TJ Sebolt. In part because I felt the wrath. The dude was a machine. He might be a better coach than wrestler. That is scary to think about.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

I have gotten to know Alex Marinelli through camps. He is an absolute stand up dude and I love the way he competes.

 

What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?

I can’t even remember. I was a Chevelle fan. Definitely rock.

 

What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?

Losing to Tony Hager in the semis my senior year was the most upset I was. Walking off the mat, all I could think about was that my dream was dead. I am not an Uncle Rico (Napoleon Dynamite reference), but it took me a long time to come to grips with not winning a title. Back then you had to turn around and wrestle again during that same session. I had about an hour to pout then it was back on the mat.

 

If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?

At one time I would have changed so much. Looking back, everything I experienced was such a blessing. Although I didn’t accomplish what I wanted, my career shaped me into the father, husband, and coach that I am today. I met so many great people and being a part of the CJ wrestling family and CJ wrestling tradition is something I cherish. I would change nothing.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Best memory would be watching Seth and Brandon win their titles. Best accomplishment would coaching Fletcher Green to a title while working at Washington. Nothing better than seeing a kid that did everything right, accomplish his dream.

For me as a competitor, beating Justin Brown at the Mepo tournament my junior year was a big win and a good memory.

 

Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

Justin Brown. Russell Weakley. Andy Roush. Josh Knipfer. Mitch Peterson. Doyle Bohr. Robbie McIntyre. Justin Swafford. Jay Borschel. Sebolt. Tony Hager. Gannon Hjerleid.

 

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

All year. Never went to Fargo but did lots of Freestyle Tournaments.

 

How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?

Kids are coming into high school seasoned. It is a new age. I don’t feel like we had the same club opportunities back in the day. However, there were some TOUGH dudes. Weight cutting was a different deal for us too. It would be interesting.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

I wrestled for one year at Coe.

 

What other sports did you play?

I ran cross country, track, and played baseball.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Chicago Cubs and the Iowa Hawkeyes.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Spending time with my family. I also have my own lawn care business. It’s a business but kind of a hobby. I also enjoy time on the river.

 

How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?

No better feeling. Wrestling has given me so much. Now I get to repay the sport that I love.

 

How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?

Wrestling in everything to me. I started out coaching for the wins and losses. It was about me. That is a shallow way of doing things. A conversation with a parent (Brian Hora) changed everything for me. It is not that I am living vicariously through my kids, I just love to see them succeed. That is not limited to the wrestling mat. People watch me coach and I am sure they think I am a jack wagon. I am passionate and I am going to fight tooth and nail for my athletes. When they graduate, I will continue to be there for them. Fight for me and I will fight for you. I am living my dream. I get to give back to the sport that gave everything to me. I get to teach kids how this sport can impact your life.  I tell the Zach Walgren story often. He had some challenges off the mat. He worked his tail off and did everything we asked. Ended up qualifying and winning a match in Des Moines. He now lives close to me and is kicking butt in the real world. He has a good job and is a good father. That’s what I love to see!

 

What do you do now?

I am a school counselor and the head wrestling coach at Highland.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I will never not be involved. Anyone that has concerns about having their child wrestle, get a hold of me. I have been through the low points. The sport is a prep course for how to be successful in life.

 

How much of an honor is it to have such an integral role at a respectable program like Highland?

It means everything. The goal to give the program back to the community. To the Highland wrestling families! There are so many passionate wrestling people in this community. I want them to be proud of what we are building. We have a good thing going right now. I came in with a vision. The seniors of 2019 got things rolling. Then Cael Yeggy kept things rolling. That kid only wrestled three years in high school and qualified for the state tournament. He is a great example of what buying in can do. Our youth program has numbers and I have lots of great people contributing. Even though I am not a Highland graduate I have been welcomed with open arms and I get to coach with some great people. I can’t say enough about all of the guys I coach with and those that help out with the youth stuff. We are poised to do some special things in the coming years. It is going to be FUN!

 

How was your experience at Washington? What are some of the memories that stick out to you in coaching there?

I loved my time in Washington. The people I met there are still some of my closest friends. WE did it right. All home grown. This might ruffle feathers but I feel we were poised to challenge for a dual title in 2017. Unfortunately, and I am not trying to stir the pot, kids transferred schools, and it didn’t work out. All of the kids in our lineup came up through our youth program. You want to understand how to build from the ground up, Brent VW knows. He has the blueprint. We had the same coaching staff for ten years. It’s hard to keep a band together that long.

There is nothing better than coaching on Saturday night. Best memories are definitely coaching Fletcher Green, Brad Skubal, and Trey VW on Saturday night. 2017 was an amazing ride. Those seniors had a ton of mileage. They put Washington on the map. Watching Brent and Trey embrace after his win in the semis is something I will never forget. Such a cool moment. Not many know the challenges those two went through with the sport of wrestling.

Austin Hazelett’s blood round match still sends my blood pressure through the roof. He got reversed late and was dead to rights on the edge of the mat. I screamed and screamed for him to get out of bounds. He built up to his belly and got a restart. He ended up reversing the kid to his back as time expired. Lots of blood, sweat, and tears went into that kid. He paid the price. Multiple surgeries. Seeing him get a medal was so special.

Finally watching Zach Walgren qualify for state was a great memory for me. He was one of the most coachable kids I had at Wash.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Obviously I have a bias. Wrestling is more than a sport. It teaches accountability, discipline, respect, and so much more. At Highland we talk about drinking the Kool-Aid (no cult ties/affiliation). Drinking the Kool-Aid means you are committed to doing the right things on and off the mat. We want our kids to get it done in the classroom. We want them to be good sons/daughters and brothers/sisters. We focus on what it takes to be a good leader. We focus on the importance of the impression you leave on others. We want the kids that go through our program to be better wrestlers, but also better men and women. We want them to graduate ready for success in the real world and with an understanding of how to treat others. If you want to learn the lessons you need to be successful, wrestling is where it’s at.

 

Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?

No. That ship has sailed. It’s not about me anymore. I am involved in the sport for the kids I coach. Plus I am fat and out of shape. Way better chance you see me shoveling popcorn at one of my kid’s dance recitals or dominating the father/daughter dance circuit.

 

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

Definitely a shout out to Andy Roush. We had some knock down drag outs.

Shout out to Dan Burton as he trains to be a Marine. Love that dude. He drank the Kool-Aid. Shout out to the whole Highland Class of 2019. They did a ton to bring attention back to the program.

I learned more from Fletcher Green than he did from me. He is a stand up dude.

I want to say a special thanks to my wife. The sacrifices that spouses of coaches make typically goes unnoticed. She is a rock star and that allows me to do what I love.

 

Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.

I remember wrestling Mepo at home my sophomore year. It was a heated dual and it was going to be close. I was told before the dual to get things started the right way. Get the crowd into it. I took that literally. I was losing the whole match and ended up coming back in the third period to win. I stood up and did some hand gestures to fire up the crowd. Acted like a moron. Bad idea. I spent the next five minutes in the locker room with Coach Siegel. I never celebrated a win for the rest of my career in anything. Be respectful and act like you deserve to win and act as if you have been there before. That was a huge learning experience for me. That moment taught me to respect my opponent and respect the sport. I didn’t regain the ability to hear out of my left ear for a couple days. I will never forget that.

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Bart Chelesvig was the son of Tom Chelesvig, who was a state champ himself a couple decades earlier. Bart won state in 1985, 1986 and 1987. It is thought that he only gave up 4 offensive points total in his entire 1985 season. He went on to wrestle for the Hawkeyes and was an AA for them.

The only year he did not win it was his Freshman year in 1984. I don’t know what happened that year, but it appears he didn’t place.

In 1985, the guy he beat in the finals was Tim Weatherman from Ballard. Tim had a son who would win 3 state championships of his own in 2009-2011. His name was Tanner Weatherman.

 

Tanner Weatherman from Ballard won state 3 times in 2009, 2010 and 2011.  He finished with a record of 173-9. He wrestled for Iowa State in college and was a 4X National qualifier for them.

The only year he didn’t win state was his Freshman year when he took 2nd at 2A 125 to 3X State champion, Andrew Long of Creston.

Andrew Long of Creston was a 3 time Iowa HS State Champion in 2006-2008. He compiled a record of 175-13 in high school and was a Junior Greco and Freestyle National Champion. He was a runner-up at the NCAA D1 Championships in college for the Cyclones. He also wrestled for Penn State and Grand View. The only year he did not win state was his Freshman season in 2005. He placed 8th at 103 lbs.

Andrew was Creston’s first 3X State Champ and since then they have added a 4Xer (Jake Marlin) and another 3Xer named Chase Shiltz.

 

Chase Shiltz getting his picture taken with fellow Iowa HS 3X State champ, Dan Gable

Chase Shiltz won state championships for Creston in 2015-2017. He finished with a career record of 189-7. The only year he did not win it was his Freshman season when he was defeated in the state finals by Zach Skopec by a score of 5-2. Shiltz chose to play football in college for North Dakota State University.

Chase’s father is a man named John Shiltz. I don’t know if it’s him or not, but in 1987, a wrestler named John Shiltz from Sioux City East placed 4th at 3A 167… The wrestler to win that bracket was none other than Bart Chelesvig.

3A 167

1. Bart Chelesvig, Sr., Webster City
2. Steve Sparbel, Sr., Muscatine
3. Wade Lamont, Sr., Eldridge-North Scott
4. John Shiltz, Sr., Sioux City East
5. Tim Lewis, Sr., Oskaloosa
6. Greg Fitzharris, Sr., Cedar Rapids Kennedy

 

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