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Remember The Wrestler: Michael Davis, Shenandoah HS

I do not know Michael Davis personally… In fact, putting this article together is the first time I’ve met him. However, there are a couple interesting things I’ve kind of connected the dots with since I began typing this out. Ironically, his brother, JP and my brother Justin wrestled each other in the AAU State finals when Justin was a 2nd grader. 1993. I remember the Shenandoah crew pretty well because of that and they were all great people. That was an underrated squad at multiple levels. They were underrated at the youth level and they were underrated when we got to high school, IMO. At least that’s how it came off to me sometimes. I don’t think people realized how good that squad was. And from what I’ve heard, the future is looking bright for them. Much respect, Shenandoah wrestling! You guys are great. 

 


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

I wrestled for Saint Alberts and Shenandoah as a youth. I also practiced with the panthers in Council Bluffs often. In high school I wrestled for Shenandoah.

 

What year did you graduate?

2004

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My older brother was already in wrestling so in Kindergarten I started myself.

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

My dad wrestled in high school, my older brother (JP) wrestled, and my younger cousin (Anthony Davis) wrestled.

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I had a lot of success in youth wrestling. 4x AAU state champion, 2x Tulsa nationals champion, several random national championships in folkstyle, freestyle, and greco roman. We moved to Texas for one wrestling season and I was able to win Texas state as well. I wouldn’t call them rivals but I had a lot of fun matches with Gabe Rostermundt and Henry Wahle.

What was your record in HS?

Like 130-25

How did you place at state every year?

Sophomore-6th Junior-3rd

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

Having a lot of success as a youth then going into my Freshman year as a 152 pounder was a learning curve for me. I had an average season and it wasn’t how people thought I would do. I also started to experience burnout my 8th grade year. I didn’t have the best support system and wrestling was always an up and down experience for me. I chose to have a bad attitude and walked away from wrestling my Senior year.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Aggressive but also technical. I was very one dimensional with a double leg and arm bar but it worked!

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

The two that come to mind are Heath Lamp (AHST) and Brock Swisher (Harlan)

Who was your most influential coach?

Blanchard Johnson Jr. (St. Alberts) was an amazing coach for me when I was younger. When we moved to Texas I also had an amazing coach in Henry Harmony.

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

We were not a state powerhouse but my Junior year (2003) we were very competitive for SW Iowa.

 

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

Watching Iowa wrestling on IPTV was a must in my household. I remember watching Lincoln McIlravy and Mark Ironside

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Jeff McGinnis or TJ Sebolt

Are there any wrestlers you’ve seen, past or present that you would compare your style to?

Not that I can think of. I think each wrestler has their own unique style.

What are some interesting hypothetical matchups between guys from different eras that you would have been interesting in seeing?

I’m sure there would be a lot of fun matchups to see between different eras but I also think there would have been a lot of fun matchups to see within the different divisions each year. I always remember saying Id love to see this 1A state champ wrestle this 3A state champ. There would be too many fun matchups to see.

Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?

I think in general most wrestlers respect each other. Mike Wells (Clarinda) and Willie Harris (Creston) are a couple I really respected just to name a few.

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

I havent paid a lot of attention to wrestling the past 10 years. I do like how Spencer Lee is a go getter.

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

Let the bodies hit the floor by Drowning Pool and oddly enough listening to the national anthem always pumped me up.

 

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

Sophomore year in the quarterfinals to Matt Adreon or Junior year at the hawkeye 10 to Brock Swisher. I was looking forward to wrestling Brandon Mason in the finals but that didn’t get to happen.

 

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

I would change my attitude. I would learn to be okay with getting beat and work my hardest each day during the season and offseason. I wouldn’t have walked away from my teammates my Senior year.

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

As a kid just traveling around and building so many wrestling friendships on a state and national level. Running around the 5 Seasons hotel all weekend for AAU state brings back a lot of memories too!

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

My junior year I had several good matches with Heath Lamb and Brock Swisher. I also had fun wrestling Chris Downing because I was close with the Creston wrestlers and they always tried to psych me out when I wrestled Chris.

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

All year since I was in 1st grade.

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

I haven’t paid close attention to wrestling today but I think everyone always thinks their era is the best.

Did you wrestle after high school?

No

What other sports did you play?

Football in high school, powerlifting post high school

What are your favorite sports teams?

Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Yankees, LSU Tigers

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Going on runs, watching sports, practicing my faith each day.

 

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

Wrestling has taught me to have a lot of discipline in my daily life. Its also helped me self-evaluate myself and learn from my mistakes.

What do you do now?

I am married with 3 kids and a set of twins on the way. For work I am a mental health therapist that enjoys working with teenagers/young adults.

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Not currently

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Win/Loses doesn’t matter. Work as hard as you can but also realize you have a life outside of wrestling. Don’t pay attention to any negativity.

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

Absolutely. I’d love to run it back with Heath Lamb.

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

Reflecting back I’d love to give a big shout out to coach Blanchard Johnston. I wish he could have coached me longer. As far as wrestlers I was close with the Creston Crew so shout out to Hayes, Loudon, Harris, Downing. Also shout out to Emmett Hughes and Mike Wells. Shout out to the Lewis Central crew as well. From my days in Texas shout out to Chas Skelly and Brandon Strong. Both ended up being great wrestlers. I also have to give a big shout out to Robert Baxter who was in my class so we spent a lot of time wrestling together.

 

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

I think we could all share some interesting stories but that might get us in trouble with our fellow wrestlers. One funny story I always remember is after I think my sophomore year I did an after season tournament and wrestled Kirk Artist (Glenwood). It was a close match and I picked down in the 3rd period. I didn’t think he would get his infamous cradle on me but sure enough he did. I was in no danger of getting pinned, but he wasn’t going to let go. We both knew this so we just ended up having like a minute and a half conversation to pass the time.

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One of my best friends and roommates for a couple years at Loras College was a guy who won state for Dubuque Hempstead in 2003. His name is Adam Gottschalk. For frame of reference, Adam was the 2003 3A 112 State Champion as a Junior.

Anyways, one time Adam, a huge metal-head, said that he wanted to show me a music clip that he thought I would like. I figured that it’d be one of the metal bands that he had recently gotten into, which was fine, I listen to that genre here and there, but he assured me that it was something from a band that was “more up my alley.” So he started playing this clip of a low-quality concert of the band Tool. I immediately knew who this band was and was like, “dude I already know and like Tool. And I love A Perfect Circle just as much or more.” A Perfect Circle is the name of the band that lead singer of Tool, Maynard James Keenan also fronts. Adam told me to just shut up and watch.  After a few seconds of watching this clip, you notice that this huge Tool fanatic who was in attendance had somehow managed to jump the gates, get by security and join the stage with the band where he began walking towards Maynard James Keenan with his arms outstretched, wanting a hug. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tool, they seem to have that effect on some of their fans. At shows or in general, their fans become enamored and excited to the point where you’ll see big, masculine men weeping and carrying on like teenage girls at a New Kids On The Block or Backstreet Boys concert. I’ve never seen anything like it, and yes, I’ve been to both, a Tool and A Perfect Circle show and have witnessed it firsthand.  Maynard James Keenan’s response to this fan is one that the guy likely didn’t expect, but should have considering he rudely interrupted the show. When this fan reached Keenan, Keenan acted like he was going to reciprocate the hug, but then proceeded to grab his arm and lateral him to his back. And when he got him here, he put his leg in and locked him up and held him there… and here is the thing that ices this situation as being just epic… HE DIDN’T STOP SINGING. He lit this guy up with a lateral drop and put the legs in and didn’t even miss a beat. He held this fan there while he finished the song and hopefully taught this crazy fan a lesson to not interfere with an artist’s show in the process.

It should be noted, that while Keenan’s wrestling background was very noticeable while watching him execute the throw in this clip, that his background in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was also on display for the influence of BJJ on Maynard James Keenan is just as much or more prevalent than wrestling. The video clip took place at least prior to 2002 and Keenan started training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the mid-90’s under Rickson Gracie. Gracie is a Brazilian 9th-degree red belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and a retired mixed martial artist. Most of us who have followed MMA to even a minimal extent have likely heard of the last name, “Gracie” and are likely aware of the influence they have had on the MMA scene. Rickson is a member of that family. He is the 3rd oldest son of Helio Gracie, and his siblings include Rorion and Relson Gracie as well as half-siblings, Rolker, Royce, Robin and Royler. The Gracie family is MMA royalty and that’s who Maynard James Keenan studied Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under. BJJ has been and continues to be so prominent in Keenan’s life that it’d be disrespectful to all the work he has put in over the years training as well as the individuals who helped him train if I were to leave it out of this story.

HERE IS THE CLIP TO THAT:

When I saw this happen, I laughed and screamed, “holy cow! Maynard James Keenan was a wrestler!!?!” I mean it was uncanny. Perfect technique. Perfectly executed. The only way he would have the instinct to do that would be if he had a wrestling background or at the very least, a background in a related martial art. You can just tell. And Adam confirmed, yes Maynard James Keenan was indeed a wrestler in high school. I already was a fan of everything Keenan was part of in the field of music, but of course, this made me like him even more on multiple levels.

So of course, I dug into it a little further.

Maynard James Keenan was a 1982 graduate from Mason County Central in Michigan. This was where he wrestled. His father, Mike was the wrestling coach at Mason County Central from the 70’s until 1982. After becoming a rock star, Maynard did not lose touch with the sport of wrestling and some of the skills, values and life lessons he accumulated from his experience with the sport. He has since, continued to give back to the sport of wrestling by means of monetary donations and has even helped coach in the Mason County Central wrestling room.  One of the coolest things I’ve ever heard about any celebrity, let alone celebrities who wrestled, was that Keenan offered to pay for 16 wrestlers to attend an Olivet wrestling camp, but on one condition… He made it a requirement that each kid wrote an essay detailing what wrestling means to them and why it was important for them to go to the camp. How about that?! As we all could likely assume, there is a large percentage of celebrities who were athletes in high school, in which giving back to the activities/sports that instilled within them the life skills and lessons that undoubtedly contributed to their success, would not even think to give back to the sport(s) or the youth who participates in them today. Wrestling, on the other hand , produced an athlete who became a rock star who never lost sight of the influence the sport had on him and further yet, gave back to the sport in a manner that would help the youth in terms of affordability to participate in it as well as tapping into their thoughtful, creative sides in the process. More wrestling coaches should have their athletes partake in these sorts of lessons/activities.

If Maynard James Keenan is not a perfect example of the leadership, determination and selflessness that the sport of wrestling promotes, I don’t know what is. He makes the wrestling community proud in the manner he continues to work hard, lead by example and give back to a sport that did so much for him.

 Maynard James Keenan also co-founded Verde Valley Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with first degree black belt, Chris Burns. Classes are held in Old Town Cottonwood, Arizona and they operate under the following mission statement: 

OUR MISSION HERE AT VERDE VALLEY BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU IS THE PRESERVATION AND DISSEMINATION OF THE FUNDAMENTALS OF BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU FOR SELF DEFENSE AS DEVELOPED AND TAUGHT BY MASTERS HELIO AND RICKSON GRACIE. SELF PRESERVATION IN AN UNFORESEEN CONFLICT IS THE GOAL. BY BUILDING A SOLID FOUNDATION OF CONNECTION, BALANCE, LEVERAGE, AND SITUATIONAL AWARENESS, WE CAN GIVE OUR STUDENTS AN ADVANTAGE OVER AN UNTRAINED OPPONENT WHO MAY BE LARGER AND STRONGER. BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU, LIKE LIFE IN GENERAL, IS A JOURNEY FILLED WITH OBSTACLES WORTH  NAVIGATING.IT’S A JOURNEY OF SELF DISCOVERY.VERDE VALLEY BJJ WAS ESTABLISHED TO SERVE AS A STARTING POINT TOWARDS EACH OF THOSE PERSONAL DISCOVERIES. YOU JUST NEED TO TAKE THE FIRST STEP.FOR SELF DEFENSE. FOR SPORT. FOR PHYSICAL, MENTAL, AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH. FOR LIFE.

Mr. Keenan, if you are reading this, please contact me, for I would love for you to partake in a series we have called “Remember The Wrestler.” I believe your participation could help us with our mission to promote growth in wrestling as well as provide valuable insight that current, future and past wrestlers could utilize to become successful on and off the mat. Please email me at thepindoctors@gmail.com if this is something that interests you. THANK YOU!

“I got involved with the team last year after I found out that Jim Allen was coaching. Jim and I wrestled together and I knew that he would give the kids the type of work ethic and pride that we grew up with. I knew they would have the drive under Jim’s leadership.”

-Maynard James Keenan

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One of my favorite bands of all time is a band called Blind Melon. Blind Melon was popular in the 90’s. They were an alternative rock band with their own distinct sound. Most of you probably know them from their mega-hit, “No Rain.” You know, it’s that catchy song that has a singer with a high voice who wails the quirky lyric, “all I can say is that my life is pretty plain. I like watching the puddles gather rain. And all I can do is just pour some tea for two and speak my point of view, but it’s not sane.” I like this song so much to this day that the band actually retweeted/shared a video to their social media of my daughters and I singing it in the car last year. It was one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me, lol.

 

Anyways, the lead singer of the band was a guy named Shannon Hoon. And this guy was a helluva wrestler in high school, which automatically made me like him and Blind Melon even more.

Most people associate rock stars and who they were before they became one as being antisocial with no direction and nothing going for them other than music. This may be the case for some, but it wasn’t for Shannon Hoon. Hoon was a jock. He was a great athlete who excelled at the pole-vault, football and on the wrestling mat. He also became a black belt in karate at age 9. He was a tough and athletic kid. Shannon was pushed pretty hard by his parents and most notably his dad, for he was an accomplished athlete in his day. Shannon undoubtedly felt the pressure to be as good at sports as his dad and this meant winning was what was expected of him in wrestling. Wrestling was presumably a huge source of pressure for him due to the expectations his family and community had for him. The pressure accumulated in time and Hoon began rebelling when he was in his late teens and developed a lifestyle that included drugs, alcohol, fighting, mischief, you name it. This lifestyle he chose continued to become more and more risky and dangerous as time passed and it eventually led to tragedy. At age 28, he passed away from a cocaine overdose.

 

Shannon’s mother, Nel Hoon has suspected that the pressure put on him to win may have contributed to Shannon’s rebellious and destructive behavior which led him to his untimely death.


NEL HOON: “All he was really required to do in high school was stay on top of things in sports. When he would lose at any sport, his dad had a hard time with that, and it would end up being a family fight. He really wasn’t allowed to lose. It makes me cry when I think back about how hard it must have been on him to be pushed into those things. I honestly believe that the things he did, he did for us. That may have been the reason he just totally exploded after he got out of high school.”

I don’t think it’d be a bad idea for parents of wrestlers to read that and think hard about what she said there.

Here are a few interesting things that I’ve found:

Shannon won a trophy for being awarded outstanding wrestler of a tournament he competed in. I do not know what tournament it was.

Here are some results from the Indiana HS Wrestling Sectional and Regional tournaments that he competed in… It appears he was always in the mix!!!

1982-83 sectionals results

83-84 Sectionals

84-85 sectionals

84-85 regionals

He was described by his mother as being very good at it, hard-working and an extremely competitive guy who would do anything to win, even if it meant being excessively rough on the opponent he was facing. His mom discussed a match he had where he caught this guy on his back and in order to secure the pin, he put his hand on the other guy’s mouth to prevent him from being able to breathe and hopefully force him to quit…which he did. There was another story where he refused to let injury or pain derail him from competing. When he was an underclassmen, he hurt his foot in a match he won and the next match was going to be against a guy who was undefeated and older than him. His foot was apparently hurt so bad that some advised him to not wrestle the match, but he insisted on competing… and he ended up beating the guy. She described Shannon as going into what appeared to be a “trance” when he warmed up and mentally prepared for wrestling matches.

Here is an interview with Nel Hoon about Shannon’s wrestling career:

 

When he became a rock star, he developed a bit of a reputation as being a type that you did not want to mess with. He got into his share of fights and what-not when he would drink alcohol and the reports seem to indicate that the outcome of these fights always went in his favor. Not that I condone fighting or anything, but I’m sure Shannon’s wrestling background helped him become the tough dude he was rumored to be while fighting. Even Axl Rose from Guns N’ Roses respected Shannon Hoon… and Axl has a reputation for being hot-headed himself, especially when mingling with musicians who were part of the grunge genre considering the rise of grunge kind of put an end to the Guns N’ Roses era. But he liked and respected Shannon Hoon…the lead singer of a band who is considered by many as a grunge band.

Shannon’s lifestyle eventually reached the level of straight-up dangerous/unhealthy. Dan Gable has a famous quote, “wrestling makes everything else in life easier.” This quote is true and in Shannon’s case, some of what he learned about hard work in his experience with wrestling may have contributed to his success…however, it is important to keep in mind that while wrestling does make everything else in life easier, it does not make you invincible. Just because you wrestled it does not make you more likely to survive a tumultuous lifestyle. I have seen multiple wrestlers fall victim to this mindset. I have come close to it myself.


Blind Melon was a huge success as a band. They sold a ton of records, did well on the rock charts, routinely sold out shows at large venues and were well-received by critics. If Shannon hadn’t died at a young age, there’s no telling just how much more success that band would have had. If you haven’t ever listened to Blind Melon, but would like to, especially now that you know that their frontman was a wrestler, I would recommend checking out the songs; “No Rain,” “Change,” “I Wonder,” and “Galaxie” first and if those songs don’t make you want to dive in to the rest of their collection, then I don’t know what else to tell you.

 

 

I am hell-bent set on doing a “Remember The Wrestler” article on him via interviewing his mom about his wrestling career, but have come up short in my efforts at contacting her. Hopefully I can make this work someday.

“When you feel life ain’t worth living, You’ve got to stand up and take a look around, look up way to the sky,hell yeah. And when your deepest thoughts are broken. Keep on dreamin’ boy, when you stop dreamin’ it’s time to die And I don’t want to die.”

-Lyrics from Blind Melon’s song, “Change”

 

This live version of the song, “Change” is absolutely perfect. This song is a life-changer:

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There have been 6 times total in Iowa HS State Wrestling History where someone recorded a fall in :10 or less. Here are the guys who did it:

:05 Brian Hessenius, Le Mars ‘00

:07 Justin Koethe, IC West in 2010

:08 Cody Thompson of Graettinger

:08 Matt Purdy of Cedar Falls ‘91

:10 Rocky Lombardi of Valley WDM ‘17

:10 Jeff Schwarz of Sheldon ‘84

 

A few interesting things about 5 of these guys:

* Jeff Schwarz recorded his 10 second fall in the state finals. He also recorded a fall at state in :12 along with that one.

 

JUSTIN KOETHE

* Justin Koethe was explosive off the whistle and scored his quick pin in the consolations and the only reason he was even on the consolation side of the bracket was because he got called for a bogus slam on the winner’s side. That was one of 2 times that happened to him at state. Bogus. He’s one of the best guys ever to not win a state title. People literally feared him. No seriously, with my own ears, I used to hear wrestlers around his age talk about being scared to wrestle him, approach him or try to talk to him because of how intimidating his style was on the mat as well as how intense he was when he competed. Off the mat he’s a really cool dude like the rest of the Koethe’s that I’ve met.

 

ROCKY LOMBARDI


* Rocky Lombardi recorded a 2 or 3 second fall not long before he recorded his :10 fall at state. He’s also one of the state’s best ever HS quarterbacks. He still plays at the D1 level. Played for Michigan State at first and is now at Northern Illinois. 

 

* Brian Hessenius has been looking for video footage of his pin since it happened so if anyone can help him with this, pm me. He had this to say about his record-setting quick pin:

BRIAN HESSENIUS: : “:05 seconds and it is still a record!!! 20 years now! What I did was I snapped his head and then grabbed his wrist and then over-hooked his head and under-hooked his other side/arm and popped him and he went straight to his back. Was able to follow through and finish quickly.”

 

MATT PURDY OF CEDAR FALLS… HAD A :09 SECOND PIN

 

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Jeff Gibbons is the youngest of 4 brothers who are considered, by many, the best ever wrestling family to be produced by the state of Iowa. The Gibbons family is wrestling royalty in Iowa, if such a thing exists. And they attained this status by being great in multiple roles of the sport and at multiple levels. Of course they were great competitors, but have also excelled in other areas of the sport, such as coaching and media coverage. They are all positive role models to the wrestling community and if a wrestling family collectively decides they want to be as respectable and successful of a family as possible, they could learn a couple thousand things from how the Gibbons family has carried themselves on and off the mat throughout the years.

This one was done a little differently. Jeff completed his questionnaire, worked his tail off and put everything together via Power Point. Unfortunately, I could not get Power Point to format correctly, so I decided the best route to take for his would be by means of screen shots. This may  say style I may utilize more in the future.

 

Here is the Jeff Gibbons story, as told by Jeff Gibbons!

 

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The 1985 2A 138 State Championship Finals Between Shawn Voigt of Mt. Vernon and Steve Rogers of Iowa City Regina 

PLACERS:

1. Shawn Voigt, Jr., Mount Vernon
2. Steve Rogers, Sr., Iowa City Regina
3. Monty Andreson, Sr., Audubon
4. Craig Lyons, Sr., Atlantic
5. Shawn Ellingson, Sr., Nevada
6. Scott Aitchison, Sr., Cascade

It’s pretty tough to think of any matches in Iowa HS State wrestling finals history where the chances of winning (on paper) seemed like more of a long shot than it did for Shawn Voigt in this match, despite finishing 3rd the year before. Shawn Voigt stepped on the mat with 8 losses to his name on the season. Steve Rogers stepped on the mat as a guy who had been there-done that, for he was the returning state champion, was undefeated on the season and most importantly, was responsible for 3 of Voigt’s 8 losses on the year.

Steve Rogers did get a 3-0 lead at one point, but Voigt kept plucking away throughout the match and stayed after him until he got momentum in his favor and capitalized on that.

The go-ahead takedown was scored with about 13 seconds left and was off of a shot that Rogers got real deep on and it appeared that the match was going to be won by Rogers at this point, but somehow, Voigt found a way to stop this shot before falling to his butt and did some funky stuff with his hips to secure his own takedown. Voigt rode him out the last few seconds and the state championship was his.

I don’t know what Rogers did after HS, but Voigt went on to become a 4X D3 AA and 1X champ for Cornell after HS and he is now in the D3 HOF.

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In college, I wrestled at a D3 college named Loras College. My head coach was a man named Randy Steward who was originally from Dewitt-Central and coincidentally, he was in my dad’s bracket at HS state way back in the horse and buggy days of 1978. Steward did a great job as the HC of the Loras College wrestling program. He was fair and instilled positive, hard-working attitudes amongst the warriors on the team. When word got around that Steward was stepping down as HC at Loras, naturally I hoped for someone good to take his place despite not being there along with the fact that I was not necessarily a good influence to have on the team in my college days. When I heard the person to take the reins would be TJ, it made me happy, for I knew that it is likely that he picked some coaching philosophies and tactics up from his father, Jim Miller, who happens to be one of the best and most decorated coaches to ever coach any sport at any level in the state of Iowa. A full-fledged legend. 

Around the time I began wrestling at Loras, TJ Miller was placing at the Iowa HS state wrestling tournament… During my upperclassmen years at Loras, he was starting to make himself known on the D3 scene, wrestling for Wartburg. He was an impressive high school wrestler, no doubt about it, but man did he bring his game up a level at Wartburg…A 2008 graduate of Wartburg College, Miller wrestled for his father at that level, the legendary Jim Miller, for four seasons and compiled an overall record of 131-9, which included a national championship in 2007 at 197 pounds. His wrestling accomplishments include being honored as a three-time NCAA Division III All-American and a three-time Iowa Conference Champion. Miller was a part of three national championship teams in 2004, 2006 and 2008 as an athlete. His 131 wins rank eighth all-time at Wartburg.

After his competitive career concluded, TJ initially coached at Wartburg as an assistant before accepting the head coaching position at Loras.  2020-21 wrestling season marked the fifth year there. As the leader of the wrestling program, Miller and the Duhawks are coming off the top-two most successful seasons in program history in back to back seasons. In 2019, Loras captured the National Runner-Up trophy at the NCAA Division III Tournament in Roanoke, Va., the first top-four finish in program history. In 2020, Loras won its first ever American Rivers Conference Championship, snapping a 27 year streak held by Coach Miller’s alma mater, Wartburg College.

(Prior to the 2020-2021 season) In four years as a head coach, Miller has coached 17 All-Americans and 13 Scholar All-Americans. As a result, Miller has been named the Iowa Conference Coach of the Year once, the A-R-C Coach of the Year twice, the Regional Coach of the Year three times, NWCA Rookie Coach of the Year and NWCA National Coach of the Year.

I’d say it’s fair to assume that TJ DID in fact pick some valuable things up from his father… In fact, it appears the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree with Jim and TJ Miller. 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

I would have to say my father was probably the first person that encouraged me to try wrestling. I think my first competition was in the West Gym. I think I got second place. Won one and lost one.

 

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

I have two older brothers. They wrestled a little in their youth and one wrestled a little in high school but they never took to the sport much. My parents put us in every youth sport and didn’t push one or the other on us. I grew up in a wrestling room and my first memories were watching my father coach at UNI and then onto Wartburg. He was a 2x National champion for UNI and coached 10 National Championship teams while he was coaching at Wartburg.

 

What were your youth results?

My youth results were not very good. I would get 2nd or 3rd in 4 man brackets a lot growing up. I think I might have won one tournament in 6th grade in New Hampton. I only made it to AAU state one time and don’t think I won a match there in 6th grade. I went to districts a few times which seemed to always be held at Wartburg. All the table workers were Wartburg wrestlers each year. It was kind of embarrassing.

 

Any rivals there?

I would say in high school our rivals were West Waterloo. I probably competed against Danny Dunning the most in high school. He got the best of me probably more than I did of him. We had a few crazy matches in 2002-03.

 

What was your record in HS?

I don’t know my exact record. I never came close to winning 100 matches or anything. I was jv my freshman year at 119 and don’t think I lost that year on junior varsity. I believe I won around 60-70 varsity matches in high school. I had a couple injuries my junior and senior year. One year at state I think I was 15-3 going into the tournament.

 

How did you place at state every year?

In 2002 I was 4th at 160lbs
In 2003 I was 6th at 171lbs.

 

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 biggest challenges I had to overcome was in youth wrestling. I always thought I was supposed to be good just because of who my father was. It got better the older I got, but that hurdle probably was a battle even into my first couple of years of college.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was kind of all over the place growing up. Somewhere around 8th grade I really started to like legging on top. Top was probably my best position. I liked rolling around on bottom and getting reversals. 90% of my offensive takedowns were probably one of three things in college. 1. Slide by. 2. Low single. 3. Go behind. It really was about all I had and the ability to a little.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

In youth, I would say it was Doug Jensen. I became friends with Brock Jensen in elementary school. He would take us to most of the youth tournaments I have ever been to. When Nick Beuter moved to Cedar Falls, his father Jon (All-American at BVU) would take us a lot of places on the weekend in Junior High.

In high school I had a bunch of good coaches but the one that really made an impact when I really needed it was Brian Roberts. He made me fall in love with lifting weights my junior year of high school. I had a knee surgery my junior year and coming back I was petrified with shooting on it. I think he made me hit a slide by 10,000 times that second semester.

In College I was 184 (for a year) and 197lbs. I would have to say Chris Ortner had the biggest impact on my wrestling in those years. My father made a huge impact on every athlete he had in the room but for me it was Coach Ortner.

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

My last college match I took 2nd. That was really tough for me. Honestly, I still think about that one from time to time. For about 5 years it was daily and now it’s something I think about here and there. Probably something I will never get over completely but I think it’s something that has honestly helped me the most in coaching moving forward.

 

Was your team competitive in HS / college?

Cedar Falls was pretty good when I was there. We won quite a few duals and made state duals my junior year. I would say we hung around or near the top 10-15 during the state tournament in 3A.

 

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

I had a lot of them but I will name a few. Zane Braggs is the first guy that I remember being my favorite wrestler to watch. He was 118lb explosive wrestler for Wartburg. Tom Smith, Jamal Fox, Ben Shane and Zac Weglein. I had a lot of heroes that wrestled for my father. Obviously who didn’t like the Gable era growing up in the state of Iowa? When I got to high school I really became a huge Joe Heskett and Cael Sanderson fan. Those two were a lot of fun to watch.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Anyone wearing a Loras singlet. I really like watching Spencer Lee. I’m always in disbelief by the strength that guy must have every time I watch him.

 

Are people real excited about wrestling at Loras these days?

People are really excited about Loras. I have a lot of communication with alumni from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s calling and emailing with enthusiasm. We have had a couple banner seasons the last couple of years. The people and community has really got onboard with what we are doing at Loras. It’s been incredible and a lot of fun to watch it grow into what it is today the last 4 seasons.

 

Are you able to detect “Dubuquian” accents?

I haven’t detected any of those yet. I came from New Orleans before arriving in Dubuque, so I have heard every accent in the book.

 

If so, isn’t it funny that there is an accent that seems like a combination of Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota?

Dubuque is interesting because we are literally on 3 borders here. Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. A lot of those states have residents in Dubuque, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there was an accent.

 

Are you as blown away by the city of Dubuque as I was? I feel it’s one of the most underrated cities in Iowa.

I have always loved Dubuque. My fondest memories are in this city. The ambience of the city is unmatched in Iowa. I won a National Title here in 2007. I got married here in 2012. It’s hands down one of my favorite places in Iowa. There isn’t another city in Iowa like it.

 

What brings you more joy? Coaching or wrestling yourself?

Coaching. I have never felt anything like seeing one of your athletes accomplish their goals. It’s truly an amazing feeling like no other. It’s an all-time adrenaline rush. I loved competing but helping kids accomplish their goals on the mat, getting them their degree and helping them after graduation is what I like the most about coaching. It’s not just for 4 years, it’s for life.

 

How did the influence of your wrestling coaches prepare you for coaching?

I have been around some good ones. Obviously, like most of Jim Miller’s ex-wrestlers that are in coaching have taken a lot from him. I would say the foundation of my coaching style comes from my father. A lot of times, I feel like I’m impersonating my old man (which I’m good at). I think any of his ex-wrestlers would probably say they use a lot of my father’s style.

Nick Mitchell once told me to steal as much I can and make it your own. So I steal some of his stuff from time to time. He’s got a lot of good stuff he preaches.

 

When you began coaching, were you able to relate to all different kinds of kids and the coaching methods they respond to or was it a learning process?

When I began coaching, I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t even think I could make that big of impact. Then you really start investing into some guys and sure enough you realize you are making an impact.

I think a lot of young coaches will make mistakes and it’s just a process like anything. You learn from them and keep moving forward with enthusiasm.

 

How would you compare and contrast you and your dad’s coaching styles?

I’m guessing there are some similarities. I don’t know if I got it down to where he simplified things so well that they would make sense to everyone. Nothing was too complicated and it all made perfect sense when he said it. I got to see him a lot of his coaching towards the tail end of his career. I wish I could have seen him in the younger days to be able to give a fair comparison. He had a lot of fire. Like a lot of fire.

 

What are some of your proudest moments in coaching?

To be honest, it’s always during graduation. There is something about it that really makes me reflect when each that walks across the stage. It brings a flood of memories from when it’s move in weekend to graduation. I would say graduation is my proudest moments in coaching that I have had.

 

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

Listen to my father earlier. Other than that I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

What was your best wrestling memory / accomplishment?

Winning a National Title with my father in my corner. Not many Father-Sons have done that in college.

 

How hard did you work?

In youth and high school i didn’t work very hard. I really didn’t figure it out until college on how hard I needed to work.

 

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

I didn’t start wrestling year round until about my sophomore year of high school. I was actually better at freestyle then I was folkstyle in high school.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

I wrestled for my father at Wartburg.

 

What other sports did you play?

Soccer was probably my best sport until 8th grade. I also played baseball through 8th grade. I played football through 9th grade. Wrestling only from 10th grade on.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Die hard Minnesota Vikings fan.

 

What are your hobbies?

I watch a lot of movies.

 

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

Wrestling has done wonders for me. Its helped me the best at dealing with adversity. Anyone who knows wrestling knows it comes at any given time in our sport. I think the same is in life as well. Being able to confront adversity and overcome it.

 

What do you do now?

Head Coach at Loras College

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Big Time.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Have fun. Do your best. Take it one day at a time.

 

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

Who else is entering? There are a few old timers’ I wouldn’t mind wrestling.

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

You did one of these on one of my best friends/best man in my wedding (Nick Beuter). That dude raised my level big time in high school. The other would be Blake Gillis. That’s another guys that raised my level big time in college for wrestling. Those are two teammates that made a profound impact on my wrestling life. I should probably give my Wife (Allison) a shout out. I wouldn’t be where I am without her support and love for wrestling.

Last thing I would add… If you are a coach, don’t ever give up on any of your athletes. You never know how they can help you down the road and when it’s going to all going click for them.

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After that matchup in the quarterfinals in 8th grade, I know Mack beat Justin in freestyle at least once at the IC High tournament, but I am about 80% sure Justin took 3 out of the final 4 meetings. All freestyle matches. Two of them were at freestyle state duals, but in different years (Freshman and Junior years I believe) and the other win Justin notched was at this tournament (sorry Justin, film for your W’s could not be found):

Interestingly enough, about a half year later Reiter and Pollard won state as Freshmen. Reiter in 1A, Pollard in 2A.  Justin got beat by Pollard in the finals at state that year.  

So these guys continued to meet in high school and I don’t think they ever had a match that disappointed the crowd. Every match was intense, close and hard-fought.  While Justin certainly expressed his low-point as the 8th grade quarterfinals match in terms of how upset he was over a loss, there was one that seems to bug Mack more than some of the other losses as well and that was the last match they ever wrestled against each other… at Freestyle State Duals as Juniors in HS. 

Mack Reiter: I never really took losses well! Wasn’t a skill set I developed! I think the one I struggled with the most was the one at junior freestyle duals at Marion High School. After that I had to do a bit of soul searching. I was at that age where I was starting to take interest in girls and I think I had a girl friend at the time. Anyway, again I don’t think I wrestled to the best of my ability and I think a large part of it was that I wasn’t focused on my wrestling as much as I needed to be at the time. I made some life adjustments after that!

 

And of course, while that loss brought an array of negative vibes to Mack, Justin, as expected couldn’t have been any more satisfied. Mack and Justin are two guys who have some of the most ferocious appetites for winning…

 

How did you feel when you won against him?

Mack Reiter: Usually that meant I was going to win another state title so I felt pretty good! At that time in my life that was about the only thing that mattered to me!

Justin Swafford: Oh so sweet. Felt great to get that redemption no matter how many times we wrestled, especially the first win against him after my loss at AAU to him in 8th grade – which was at State Duals held at Blackhawk Arena while wrestling for Monster USA. This would have been my Freshman or Sophomore year. In my mind he had robbed me of 2 state championships my 7th and 8th grade year, so I always had something to prove against him which made beating him all the sweeter. I was happy to win the last match against him when we were Juniors and as usual, that match was crazy too and came down to the last 1-2 seconds, but this time it was in my favor.

 

Mack and Justin went on to have very successful wrestling careers. Mack is widely considered one of the best ever, for he won 4 titles and was a 4X AA for Minnesota.  Justin had his hiccups, but also had his shining moments and was a 3X finalist in HS and a 1X state champ. His college experience was a negative one, mostly due to the shoulder injuries he succumbed, which shattered his heart for years.  

These two were so intense that if you would have told me back then that I would be writing this, I would have called you crazy.  

To conclude this article, Mack and Justin answered questionnaires based on their rivalry and gave some very interesting answers.  There is certainly a mutual respect there, which is just awesome to see.  I’d love to get these two together sometime, for holy cow did they ever accumulate some memories together doing what they loved to do and were great at it. 

 

Out of all the guys you had ongoing competition with, where does Justin/Mack rank as far as significance to your career? Was he one of your biggest rivals?

Mack Reiter: I think my biggest in state rival would probably have been Corey Kalina. I would imagine that him and I probably wrestled 50-60 times in our careers. That being said, Justin is probably a close second. We didn’t wrestle nearly as many times, but I probably had more losses to Justin from 2nd grade to senior year than anyone else.

Justin Swafford: That’s a tough one. We never really stood in each other’s way as far as winning a high school state championship because we were in different classes, but that sting of that first loss to him carried with me through the years and we wrestled a lot in the freestyle season and every meeting was fiercely competitive. He was one of my biggest rivals up there with Moza Fay, and Jacob Naig.

 

Would you consider the rivalry between you guys as being friendly or heated?

Mack Reiter: I would say now that it was friendly, but I’ve also significantly mellowed out in the last 10 years! I imagine if you asked junior in high school Mack that same question he might have a different answer!

Justin Swafford: Probably heated, based off my first loss to him and the response from the side that was pulling for him to win. That led to a monumental meeting and beginning of a friendship between our dads that everyone thought was going to be a fight between them. We were both fiercely competitive and we both hated to lose so it led to a more heated rivalry at times.  Mack and I became friends, but when we were on the mat, it was pretty heated. There was no love on the mat. The way I looked at it, he was trying to take something that I felt very strongly was mine and I didn’t want to give that up, so it was game on on the mat.  Off the mat, we were great.

 

When you practiced during the season, did you have times where you were practicing to beat Justin Swafford/Mack Reiter  or was it always just to win state?

Mack Reiter: For me it was always just to win state. I didn’t change my style for anyone. I wanted to impose my style of wrestling on my opponent so I never really pictured any one person.

Justin Swafford:  My 8th grade year I did a lot of specific drills and worked on techniques specifically to beat Mack. It was always a mind set of winning state, but I knew that particular year he was one of my biggest competitors and wanted to prepare myself the best I could, all while wrestling my match. When meeting in freestyle, if I knew I was likely to wrestle him, I’d work on defense to low singles and working out of a sucker drag position, but other than that it was just working on good freestyle techniques like tough guts, leg-laces, sealing my hips on finishes to takedowns, and more big move throws and positioning.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Mack Reiter: My senior year I was cutting a lot of weight and I was going through a real tough time. J Robinson brought me into his office and showed me a picture of myself after a win in college where I was displaying a particularly large amount of emotion. He said I needed to get back to that guy. I remember in that meeting he described my style as “wreckless abandonment”. I always liked that description. Going into something wholeheartedly, with no concern for consequences or danger. I was always trying to score, always trying to do more.

Justin Swafford: It is hard to describe your own style, but I’d say slick technical aggression with a side of funk. On top I was mostly an arm bar wrestler who was always looking for the pin. I also had a motor and made sure no one out-worked me in the practice room so my conditioning was always a factor to my style, I kept good positioning throughout the match and always worked to score points.

 

How would you describe Justin/Mack’s wrestling style? Can you compare his style to any other wrestlers?

Mack Reiter: From what I remember Justin was extremely technical and had a length advantage on most people. He was very hard to finish on from leg attacks because of that length and his scrambling ability.

Justin Swafford: Explosive in-and-out style with solid positioning. His style changed through the years, as I’m sure mine did too. Early on it was a lot of dropping to his knees and doing low singles, as he got older it developed more of a style in-line with solid collegiate wrestling skills on his feet; solid positioning and quick explosive high crotches. He wrestled a lot like his brother Joe Reiter with a few more leg attacks, as opposed to Joe who scored a lot more from front headlocks. And of course he had that nearly unstoppable cradle on top – he was always looking for the pin.

Mark Swafford (Justin’s Dad): Mack was an absolute grinder who had an unbelievable sense for always maintaining great positioning. He was smart and was the best situational wrestler in the state.  He was a ferocious warrior in literally any situation you can find yourself in on a wrestling mat. He is one of the greatest wrestlers I have ever seen go through the state of Iowa in my decades of experience.

 

What was your game plan against him when you met up?

Mack Reiter: Win, I guess. I know thats a pretty simple statement, but as I said before, I never tried to change my style to fit the person I was wrestling. I would try to make myself aware if they had a dangerous move to watch out for, but I approached every match the exact same. Impose my style and win.

Justin Swafford: On my feet it was a lot of shot and reshot work as he liked to stay low and beating him with angles as he had a tendency to have short lapses where he tended to be straight forward with low single attacks and high crotches and a difficult to penetrate defense. I felt this was a display of his confidence. He was very confident. So there was that as well as keeping short arms in a go behind situation as he liked to get underneath and score out of a sucker drag position. He was good out of a front headlock too so you didn’t want to hang around and get beat on while underneath of him from the feet. Underneath it was head up and control of hands and never stop moving, and absolutely no stand-ups with the knee up on the side he was riding. On top it was just tough riding and working to my arm bars, tilts, Erickson ride (cross body turk), and cradles as much as possible.

Mark Swafford (Justin’s Dad): When going against Mack, if you were not on top of your game in terms of being “mat-smart,” you stood no chance. You HAD to be in good position with him, you HAD to create angles on your feet against him and you HAD to set up every offensive move that you executed against him.  If you failed to do any of these three things, he would make you pay for it.  Don’t roll with him on the mat, for he WILL bury you…period. You had to have 2-3 moves planned along with the one you hit, for he was good at stopping shots and creating scrambles and was dangerous in those positions. And keep in mind that Mack had an answer for any game plan we could write up, so when it came down to it, we just had to coach him to go out and wrestle fearless.

 

Did you respect their wrestling skills?

Mack Reiter: I absolutely respected his skills. He was extremely technical and knew how to use his length well.

Justin Swafford: Oh absolutely. He was a gamer and matched my desire and fury to win, which I didn’t encounter very often. He was so well-positioned and had a great balance of being intelligent and dangerous on the mat. You had to game plan against him.

 

How confident were you coming in to each match? Did you ever have to battle any nerves when you wrestled him?

Mack Reiter: One of my strongest attributes in wrestling was my mental approach. I never lacked confidence in myself when I put my foot on that line. I wouldn’t let myself walk out there until I had convinced myself I was going to win and I did that for every match I ever wrestled.

Justin Swafford: I was confident before every match I ever wrestled and felt no fear. I knew what I was capable of doing and I had total confidence that I’d find it in me to display the top of my game. I never went into a match with Mack with the slightest notion that I would lose. I never felt this with anyone. That type of thinking will force you to lose. It’s counterproductive.

 

So you guys were practice partners throughout JH and HS… How did it go when you practiced against each other’s Future Hawkeye WC? Still competitive?

Mack Reiter: Absolutely. I think we would roll around with each other quite a bit back at the practices at Iowa City West that Mark Reiland would organize. We had a pretty good room back then and it definitely prepared us for Fargo. We helped each other immensely, but it was very competitive in that room.

Justin Swafford: Oh yes. Reiland pushed a lot of King of the Mat drills where the winner of the takedown stays out, and those got pretty intense. It was always a mindset for me of being the guy out there the longest while dominating on the feet, same as the par terre position – it’s a mindset of “I’m going to turn everyone, and not give up any points underneath.” That was a Hawkeye mindset that I picked up while Terry Brands would be the clinician at those Sunday practices (while staying with the Paulson twins and training at a summer camp in Underwood at the Barn Ray Brinzer described wrestlers’ stubbornness as an analogy of two guys holding onto car battery terminals and whoever let go first loses, lol!). I am the kind of wrestler that always kinetically learns within the sport, which meant the more I wrestled a tough guy and got to figure their style out the better I do against them and can shut down their offense or use it to score my offense and close the gap. That being said I think it went pretty well, good days and bad days in the practice room. The weeknights I was doing track practice from 3:30-5:00pm, then driving an hour to Iowa City to practice at 6pm, so I’m sure I probably had some club practices where I came in already spent, but it made me tougher. I mostly remember Mack being at club practice on Sundays though as it was a haul from Gilbertville to go to Iowa City West high school.

 

Do you know each other well off the mat? Were you guys friends?

Mack Reiter: I never really got to know Justin that well off the mat. I’ve lived in Minnesota for almost 18 years now and haven’t stayed in touch with some of the people I grew up with in Iowa as I probably should have. You (Josh) recently shared a picture with me that I never knew existed of Justin and I from a restaurant I believe in Fargo, ND. Judging by the fun we were having in that picture I’d say we were friends.

Justin Swafford: Eventually got to know him off the mat mostly during training camps for Fargo or though the Future Hawkeye Wrestling Club. Think he let me borrow the self-titled Godsmack album once which was my introduction to songs outside of their radio singles, that was always fun (sharing albums pre smartphone and streaming days). The summer leading into my Freshman year of college at UNI I was working the summer camps and staying with the Ettelson’s off and on through the summer while training for Fargo. Mack and I would see each other around, killing time doing the typical things any 18/19 year old was doing, at places like Club Shagnasty’s in Cedar Falls, hanging out, or golfing/disc golfing with CJ and Charlie, it was always amiable solid hangs at that point. For a brief time there our Senior year I’d say yes we were legit friends. I do recall going to his high school graduation party at the farm just before Highway 20 near the Gilbertville exit and doing more stuff that summer before college. It is hard to wrestle for the same wrestling club for years and not become friends, unless you’re just a difficult person to get along with or you can learn to shut your ego off the mat off lol!

 

When did you first wrestle each other? When you first wrestled against each other, did you know you had someone good, or was it just another guy to you?

Justin Swafford: The first time I ever wrestled him was at the State freestyle tournament in 6th grade, I beat him 6-1. I was told of his success at the AAU state tournament in weight classes below me by my brother at the time, but I was never a wrestler to get too worked up or psyched out by how good another wrestler was – I would focus on going out there and doing my stuff trusting my hard work at practice would pay off.

Mack Reiter:  The first time we ever wrestled was in 6th grade at Freestyle state. Gilbertville and Mediapolis aren’t exactly close so we wouldn’t usually see each other on the Saturday 4 man tournament circuits. The wrestling world is a lot different now then it was back then. There wasn’t Trackwrestling where you could look up someones stats. Amazingly we would almost always win AAU state titles one weight apart, but I didn’t really know a lot about Justin. Obviously that changed quickly because he won the first time we wrestled. 

 

With you being a 4X state champ, you are forever in history as one of the best ever and well deserved… what do you feel the legacy for Justin should be? How should he be remembered?

Mack Reiter: The margin for error at that level is so small. I don’t see any real difference between the career I had up until and through high school and the career Justin had. In some ways, maybe I just got lucky? There is a ton that goes into being a 4 time state champion, but you would be foolish to think that luck isn’t part of it. So in that sense, I wouldn’t say he should be thought of any less than some of the other people we competed with in that era.

 

When you saw Mack at state being inducted to the HOF, were you happy for him? Did part of you want to be up there with him?

Justin Swafford: I was happy for him and it is good for the sport of wrestling. Can’t say it wasn’t painful kind of coming to the realization that I did not accomplish enough at state to ever be voted in myself. I was only a few heart-wrenchingly close losses away from getting similar recognition. I have moments where I can’t help but to think that my rather unsuccessful collegiate career that was riddled with injury, being at the wrong place and some crazy bad luck sealed the deal in terms of me never being mentioned for HOF recognition. The state of Iowa places a lot of emphasis on 4Xers for the HOF. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always my best tournament where I was wrestling my best.

 

With you guys being in different classes, you didn’t meet in HS sanctioned events, but did you follow Justin’s career? His career ended on a discouraging note his senior year… what were your thoughts about that?

Mack Reiter: I know that I followed it when we were going through high school, but I had a way of being extremely selfish through high school. When we would go to Des Moines I didn’t worry about anything other than what I needed to do and what I was doing. And as much as I was only focused on state and winning a state title, as soon as I would accomplish that I would immediately shift focus to nationals. Where can I get qualified for Fargo? What do I need to do to win Cadet/Junior nationals.

 

Mack has made comments here and there about feeling upset with himself for not accomplishing as much as he would have liked to in college… do you think he should feel this way… any words of encouragement?

Justin Swafford: I don’t think he should feel down at all! He’s in the national wrestling HOF and came out his freshman year really proving himself with 40 wins and a 4th place finish. He continued to prove he was a high caliber wrestler that is vital to the Minnesota organization (even today) as a 3x AA, even battling through a knee injury. That’s nothing to feel down about at all. I think I understand his mindset and perfectionism for being one of the best on the mat though. When you have that mindset, the goal is a national NCAA title or world championship and if you fall short it can feel like a death in your life, especially when your goal is that integral to your existence/identity. Best advice I could give Mack as cliche as it might sound is hold your head up and enjoy the success he had in a wrestling program that he really clicked with that took him in as one of their own from the beginning. That’s something special and he should know he is still looked up to among wrestlers in Iowa, Minnesota, and across the nation.

 

Justin has had moments where he has felt ashamed of his career for he felt he underachieved. Do you think he should feel this way? What advice would you give him?

Mack Reiter: I absolutely do not think that he should feel that way. This sport is so dang hard and he accomplished so much in his career. Competing on the stage that he competed on requires so much inner strength and he put it on the line just as much as anyone else.

 

Did you ever follow or hear about Mack’s younger brothers? Was it cool to see their success?

Justin Swafford: Oh yeah! I was not all that surprised to see Bart’s success because I saw him in the wrestling room for freestyle club and I knew that family lived for wrestling – it was cool seeing his success. Eddie was tough too and I enjoyed watching him as well, he had a different style than the other Reiter’s due to his length. I also watched Joe Reiter wrestle Nick Lee in the finals in 1999 while at home with my brothers watching it on IPTV channel 12, and win his title in 2000 and followed his career as well.

 

Justin’s baby brother Brennan developed a nasty cradle and a lot was based on watching your instruction video on YouTube… how does that make you feel?

Mack Reiter: I love that! I spent a lot of time working on my cradle series and I love showing it. I think there are so many small details that get missed to often, but if you do it right it works!

Brennan Swafford (Justin’s Brother): Mack Reiter? Hell yeah. He was a household name for Shea and I growing up with he and Justin’s battles. When I watched his tape/technique clips, he immediately became one of my favorites. A cradle guy like myself appreciates other cradle guys and when someone like Mack Reiter masters it and is willing to show young wrestlers like myself tips on how to do it, it’s awesome, for now my already great cradle has become almost unstoppable.

 

Should Mack be remembered as one of the best ever in Iowa HS history?

Justin Swafford: Absolutely, anyone who puts the hard work and dedication into winning 4 titles deserves to be considered among the best in Iowa History. He had a nearly unstoppable cradle that was rightfully feared by his opponents and made him pretty famous in the state for being a hammer on top.

Mark Swafford: Anyone who doesn’t classify Mack as one of the greatest is just very, very…wrong.  I’ve never seen anyone who I can say with a straight face is a better wrestler than Mack Reiter.

 

With you guys being in different classes, you didn’t meet in HS sanctioned events, but did you follow Mack’s career? Were you happy with him winning 4?

Justin Swafford: Of course, he was another top wrestler my age who I had a rivalry from middle school with. I was happy for him winning 4.  I have had times where I have felt down on myself, because that was the goal I set out to accomplish…which I had to settle for only becoming a 3x finalist and 1x state champion, which was crushing.

Mark Swafford (Justin’s Dad): I was absolutely elated for Mack after he won his 4th title. I saw how good he was and how hard he worked and noone was more deserving.  The fact that Doug Reiter was his father made it even more sweet to see. I will remember all 4 of the Reiter brothers for the great class they showed on the mat as well as their amazing wrestling skills.

 

Any chance we could see a rematch with you and your rival at an old man’s tournament?

Mack Reiter: Ha I don’t think I will be wrestling at an old timers tournament ever! I still wrestle with our guys at PINnacle, but my competitive days are done.

Justin Swafford: Very unlikely, I’m far too out of shape and don’t know how I’d ever get time to train when I’m chasing around my 2 boys and daughter(who is still a 7 month old baby). Might be fun, but I’d have to have the time to fully commit to it, because you know, I’m far too competitive to just fake it haha!

 

If you are to think back on your wrestling career, would it be the same without Justin Swafford in it?

Mack Reiter: I don’t think my career would be the same. I learned a lot from the losses I took in my life and Justin gave me a couple losses when I probably needed them the most.

 

If you are to think back on your wrestling career, would it be the same without Mack Reiter in it?

Justin Swafford: No, it wouldn’t be the same at all. As competitors we sharpened each other, gave each other the first experience of having a top notch wrestler in our sites to beat and a target on our own back. I’d like to think we left an impression on each other.

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Gary McCall was a name I heard growing up through my dad and uncles every year at the dinner table during Christmas. Discussion of all things wrestling was an inadvertent family tradition of sorts for the Swaff’s. When they discussed guys they respected and looked up to, it was almost as if they depicted these individuals as larger than life…celebrities, if you will. With that said, whenever I notice that someone I grew up hearing about and looking up to like Gary McCall  joins and interacts on The Pin Doctors social media, it gives me a surreal feeling. I can’t quite pinpoint what that feeling is, but I do know that I love seeing it. And Gary’s presence has been so positive and personable in regards to every topic or individual that is mentioned on The Pin Doctors and I just couldn’t be anymore impressed by how cool he is. On and off the mat, Gary McCall is one of the best wrestlers to go through the state of Iowa. Just an absolutely wonderful person and I’m honored to put this article together for him. 

 

This is a story that I wrote and posted just on Facebook a couple months ago. It chronicles a true story about Gary McCall that could inspire anyone to never give up at anything: 

Here is an inspirational story for ya. In 1984, Gary McCall of Cedar Rapids Washington was beaten in the semifinals at districts, 8-3 by Joe Whitters of Prairie. He needed a break to even qualify for state. To qualify, Gary first had to win his 3rd and 4th place match and hope for Whitters to defeat Rich Deutsch from Cedar Rapids Kennedy to set up a wrestle back match for true 2nd between McCall and Deutsch.

Gary McCall: “Right after the semifinals loss, I thought, ‘oh no, I blew it,’ but I went into the locker room and coach Hal Turner told me to not give up and that I still had a chance.”

And he did get that chance. Whitters defeated Deutsch, 3-2, McCall won his 3rd place match and then defeated Deutsch 4-0 to earn true 2nd and qualify for state.

To make things sweeter, McCall ended up WINNING state that year and then repeated in 1985. He was recruited by Iowa State, who he became a 3X AA for in 1988-1990.

Had McCall hung his head and given up hope at districts, who knows what would have happened with the rest of his career. He wouldn’t have qualified in 1984 to start, Iowa State may not have recruited him, his confidence may have been halted going into the 1985 season and who knows how that could have affected him that year… But things worked out for him due to an optimistic coaching approach by Hal Turner as well as Gary’s ability to be coachable and mentally tough.

So to all of you upcoming wrestlers out there, if you feel that a goal may have become out of reach following a setback, get your chin up, for you never know what could happen. Gary McCall is proof of this.

 

INTERVIEW WITH GARY MCCALL:

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

– CR McKinley Jr High and CR Washington. No clubs. I did work at Lisbon, CR Jefferson and CR Prairie each year in the summer, Xmas break and week of state tourney.

 

What year did you graduate?

– 1985

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

– My older brother Tyrone (5th in state) and my cousins Chuck Jones(2nd & 1st in state) and Glenn Jones (3rd & 1st in state).

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

– I didn’t start competing in wrestling until 6th grade. No rivals.

 

What was your record in HS?

– 72-13

 

How did you place at state every year?

– 9th graders weren’t allowed to wrestle varsity at CR Public Schools back then. Sophomore (State qualifier), Junior (state champ) senior (state champ).

 

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

– Junior yr I was #4 rate in state & #1 seed at districts. Lost in the Semi’s and had to wrestle back for true 2nd, but needed the guy I lost to beat the #2 seed in the finals. Well, he won and I won true 2nd then when on to upset the #1 seed Steve Waddle and defending state champ Mike Guthrie to win the 1984 state title.

Tore both of my groins at the beginning of my sophomore yr @ ISU and had redshirt that year. Then tore them again my senior (126 lb. weight class)after starting the season 13-0, ranked 3rd in the nation, just beat Terry Brands from Iowa at the Wisconsin open. Out for 2 months, then Dan Knight and I decided to switch weights. I went down to 118lbs and he went up to 126. At 118 I lost 13 straight matches, finished the Big 8 in 5th place and made it to NCAA’s on a wildcard (returning 2x all-American). I went into nationals unseeded with a losing record and ended up beating returning all-American Steve Martin(Iowa) 1st rd, then went on to upset #1 seed Jeff Thieler of (NC) in the quarter finals. Lost in the semifinals to Jack Griffith (Northwestern), then wrestled back to Ken Chertow and beat the #1 seed again for 3rd place! At the time it was the 1st time an unseeded wrestler defeated the #1 seed twice at the NCAA’s. It was a great ending to a rough season and to my wrestling career!

 


How would you describe your wrestling style?

– Constant leg attacks with inside tie and moving my opponent’s head. None stop movement on my feet and in the mat.

 

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

– Mike Guthrie (1984) and John Moore (Marshalltown) 1985

 

Who was your most influential coach?

– Ed Banach (college)
– Hal Turner (high school)

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

– High school team was not very competitive.
– In college we competed for National championship every year.

 

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

– My cousins Chuck & Glenn Jones and Nate Carr

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

– Tim Kreiger (Mason City)

 

Are there any wrestlers you’ve seen, past or present that you would compare your style to?

– Steve Hamilton, Eric Akin and Dwight Hinson

 

What are some interesting hypothetical matchups between guys from different eras that you would have been interesting in seeing?

– Barry Davis vs Spencer Lee

 

Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?

– Mark Schwab Osage
– Tim Kreiger
– Mike Guthrie
– Mike Van Arsdale
– Steve and Dan Knight

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

– David Carr
– Spencer Lee
– David Taylor

 

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

R&B, Hip Hop -Rap, Jazz

 

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

Getting pinned by Jack Griffith in Semifinals of NCAA 1999.

 

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

– I’d change absolutely nothing. My wrestling career made me the man I am today. I learn how use my wrestling experience to succeed in business and in life. Success is not about winning, but about working hard and enjoying the journey.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

-Winning the 1984 state championship!

 

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

– Mark Schwab
– Steve Waddell
– Steve Martin
– Terry and Tom Brands
– Jason Kelber
– Kendall Cross
– Ken Chertow
– JJ Stokes (NC State)
– Jim Martin (Penn State)
– Duane Martin (UNI)

 

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

– During the season and Spring and Summer only.

 

When you were a Junior in HS, you had a scare at districts to where you were almost eliminated and almost didn’t get the chance to wrestle at state. But you overcame that and then WON state a couple weeks later. Describe this experience. Do you i think if you didn’t qualify that it may have affected the next year for you in terms of confidence?

– It was crazy. We had 4 guys at my weight that were ranked or was ranked that year in our districts. Joe Whittier was my toughest competitor that year and he was seed 4th. It was probably 2nd most devastating loss of my career. I remember my coach telling after my loss to just focus on the things I can control and dominate your next opponent and cheer like hell for Joe! Joe was probably the 3rd toughest opponent I wrestled that year. He was big and tall and could ride and turn you. But I think he was cutting too much weight for 112. If I would’ve not qualified for state think it would have made me work even harder. But I never look back at things like that. I’m a man of faith and things happen for a reason.

 

How do we make the sport of wrestling more appealing to the African American community?

– Growing up I never saw wrestling as a black/white thing. I saw it as an opportunity to compete thing. If my cousin didn’t wrestle and if Jane Boyd Community Center in CR didn’t provide me the opportunity as a kid to try it, I don’t think I would have considered wrestling. I feel local youth clubs have a responsibility to reach outside their comfort zone and into the minority and financially disadvantaged communities and introduce them to our sport. They will find out it will make there entire club and community better.

 

Akeem Carter mentioned something interesting to me that he experienced more racism in his life before he got into wrestling…. And when he became a part of a wrestling team, it was the first time he felt a sense of unity amongst everyone on the team regardless of culture. Have you had any similar experiences? Do you feel wrestling is a good sport to promote peace?

– OMG! I agree with him. I learned so much about life being apart of a wrestling team. As a team you sacrifice so much together that you learn to appreciate one another just for who they are and not what color they are, what they wear, etc. You become a band of brothers who come from different communities and experiences.  Like I said earlier, wrestling helped mold me into the man I am today!

 

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

-Very well. When it come to winning it’s still the basic techniques that win you championships!

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

– I had a full ride scholarship at LSU, but they dropped wrestling before I was able to attend. So I followed Kevin Jackson to ISU. 3-x All-American and Team Captain.

 

What other sports did you play?

– Football and track.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

College Sports – ISU and Alabama
Pro level – Cowboys, Laker, Cubs, Yankees

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

– Some include; fitness training, biking, going to sporting events and traveling.

 

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

It is a great feeling. I owe the sport of wrestling a lot and I love sharing it with young people.

 

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

It taught me how to set goals. Work ethic. Over come adversity. Help others.

 

What do you do now?

I’m a salesman for RMH Systems. I sell Robots automation and material handling equipment 28 years.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I’m not currently coaching (but hoping to this year). I’m on the Board of Cyclones RTC wrestling club.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

– Dream big! Set you goals high! Come to practice ready to work and learn! And be a good teammate!
– Also learn to use what you’ve learned from wrestling in your daily life, not only for your self but help others.

 

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

– Absolutely not! 😂😂

 

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

– The cousins Chuck & Glynn Jones & my brother Tyrone for introducing me to wrestling.
– Mark Schwab, Mike Guthrie (RIP), Steve Waddell, John Moore, Kevin Tann, Jason Kelber, Kendall Cross, Tom&Terry Brands, Dan & Steve Knight, and Jeff Gibbons.
– All my CR Wash and ISU teammates!
– High school coaches Hal Turner and Dick Briggs
– ISU coaches Les Anderson (RIP), Ed Banach & Jim Gibbons
– My ISU big brothers Kevin Jackson, Stewart Carter, Bill Tate, Larry Jackson, Michael Carr and Mike Van Arsdale.
– my Mom (RIP) who helped instill in me that “You can achieve all things through Christ, who strengthens me”.❤️

 

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

– I was assistant high wrestling coach at 3 different IA high schools: DM East for Larry Jackson, CB Lewis Central for Keith Massey (Part of 2 state championship team and State Assistant Coach of the Year), DM Saydel for John Crippen and Jon Garvin. Helped TJ Moen become the 1st and only 2x State Champ in Saydel history.

– Made a rap song for one of my Saydel wrestlers, Nate Jones, to get him to loosen up before competitions! 😂😂😂

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If you haven’t read Part 1 to this story (Josh Budke Weighs In), you can do so by clicking here: “Inside The Rivalry, Josh Budke vs. Jesse West Part 1: The Josh Budke Perspective.”

Jesse West transferred to Iowa City High, from Kansas for his Senior season in 1997. Back then, wrestlers transferring from out of state in to Iowa was not a common occurrence and it ruffled Iowa HS wrestling fans’ feathers badly when it did happen. On the rare occurrence that this did happen at the time, fans became upset because they would perceive it as either a coach cheating by actively recruiting or they’d perceive it as if the transfer wrestler was there because they had some sort of ax to grind with Iowa wrestling. In the case of Jesse West the fans perceived his transfer in both of those ways and despite the narrative that seemed to be collectively pitched by the Iowa HS wrestling fan base, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact it was quite the opposite. Jesse West possessed an abundance of competitive fire and a desire to always improve. He felt that in order to get himself to the highest level he could, he had to work out with who he considered the best wrestlers around, which in his opinion at the time, you found the toughest guys to compare with in Iowa. Jesse had a high opinion of the passion and mental approach to wrestling that was consistently displayed in Iowa. He developed this perception whenever  he’d encounter an Iowan wrestler on the national scene or by watching interviews and inspirational speeches from the state of Iowa’s own legend, Dan Gable.  These encounters and observations were proof to him that Iowa was where he belonged, for these were people that he could relate to. He moved to Iowa because he respected the Iowa wrestling scene and wanted to be part of it.

Unfortunately, when Jesse arrived, he quickly found out that Iowa’s wrestling community did not hold him in the same high regard as he held Iowa. In fact, he was treated like a villain…and the Iowa fans did not hold back when it came to ensuring he knew they felt that way about him. Frankly,  Jesse West was treated like crap when he moved here by seemingly everyone who wasn’t from his own wrestling community of Iowa City High. And this was noticeable by most everyone in his season-long rivalry vs. Josh Budke, from Cedar Falls.

Here is a side of the Josh Budke vs. Jesse West rivalry that has, until now, been unheard. This is the Jesse West perspective!

 

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

Flint Hills Wrestling Club, Emporia Kids Wrestling Club, East Kansas Freestyle/Greco, Emporia High School, Iowa City High School, Iowa State University, University of Missouri

 

 

What year did you graduate?

1997

 

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My mother.

 

 

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

My uncle wrestled and had some decent success, I think my dad was a state placer also.

 

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I won more than I lost, 4 or 5 x youth state champ,  some great rivalries and kids (Robbie Rogers, Nathan Lawrenz, Jason Blanding, Trent Stefec, Robbie wrestled for Brown, and Nate went to UNI

 

 

What was your record in HS?

142 – 5

 

 

How did you place at state every year?

1-1-2-2

 

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

There always seemed to be someone telling me I wasn’t good enough or couldn’t achieve something, so I learned how to focus on what was in front of me, and I usually had a chip on my shoulder.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Aggressive – I like being aggressive, attacking, constant pressure.  I like scoring points!

 

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

In high school there were only 3 kids who beat me.  Beau Vest, who beat me twice my freshman year both times the score was 3-2, I beat him convincingly in the state finals that year.  He had not lost a high school match until then.  The freshman from Dodge City who beat me in the finals my junior year, I beat him 17-0 a month before the state tournament.  I am pretty sure I teched him in some freestyle events as well.  And then there was Josh Budke.  I beat Josh 3 times in the regular season, I think I beat him twice in the preseason, he beat me once in the state finals.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

My most influential coaches would be Brad Smith and Bobby Douglas.  Both were phenomenal.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yes.

 

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

Eric Akin changed my life when I was 14.  I could have listed him as a coach, but it was different.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Jeff McGinness  – Brad Smith did tell me that I was the best HS wrestler he ever coached.

 

When you decided to make the move to Iowa  your senior year, how did you perceive the wrestling atmosphere compared to Kansas?

Iowa is the mecca of wrestling.  The fans in Iowa are awesome! They are passionate about wrestling and knowledgeable.  I bet you can’t throw a rock and not hit a national champ.

 

Was the Iowa fan reception to you positive, negative or mixed?

I was the most hated man in the state of Iowa for a year!  Iowa City was awesome, and very welcoming.  All of this made for a cool, unique senior year.

 

How awesome was it wrestling for Brad Smith the year you did?

Pretty F’n Awesome! I love Brad Smith.  He is the epitome of cool, treats you like you’re his best friend, would do anything he could (twice) to help someone.  One of the best pure athletes to walk the earth.

 

Are there any wrestlers you’ve seen, past or present that you would compare your style to?

I tried to emulate and imitate many, but I doubt anyone was copying me.  I watch a lot of kids today that I wish I could wrestle like.

 

Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?

David Kjeldgaard – he was a beast… Budke … Justin Holdgrafer, Cory Connell…

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Yanni, Fix, Spencer Lee, all the senior level freestyle athletes.

 

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

Metallica, Notorious B.I.G, Tracy Chapman, Dave Mathews, Dr. Dre, Stone Temple Pilots,

 

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

I was really pissed after I lost my junior year in the finals.  Yeah, that one stung.

 

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

Nothing.  I made a lot of mistakes, a lot of bad choices, but that is how you learn and get better.  Take your lumps and your lessons and keep moving forward.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

My greatest accomplishment was being named the freshman with the hardest work ethic at Iowa State U.  There were a lot of good freshman that year.

My best memory is getting home from the state tournament after my freshman year, and all of my non wrestling friends were at my house with a lot of toilet paper, and streamers!

 

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

Stephen Abas, Teague Moore, Josh Budke, Silverstein, Jeremy Hunter.

 

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

I loved freestyle.  If I have one regret it is not finding Freestyle sooner.

 

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

The technical level is through the roof right now!  But these kids have guys from my day training them! There are only a few Brad Smith’s out there, but I think the level of coaching, training, all of it has gotten better.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes. Iowa State.

 

What other sports did you play?

Soccer, baseball.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals, K.C. Chiefs, Chelsea FC

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Hiking, Gardening, Climbing, Boating

 

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

I think the sport is still giving to me!!

 

What do you do now?

Operations Management.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Yes.  I run a youth club, a Freestyle/Greco club, and I Officiate Freestyle/Greco

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Work Harder… the answer is always WORK HARDER!!!

 

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

Maybe

 

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

Tony Brown, Paul Myers, Erik Akin, Brad Smith, CT Campbell, Jamie Sauder, so many people… I could probably start listing names and it would take up 10 pages.


What are some of your general thoughts about your Josh and the rivalry you had with this person?

I didn’t know Josh… He was a tough kid who wanted the same thing I did… tough matches…

 

When did you first wrestle him? How long did the rivalry last?

The first time I wrestled him was probably in the Hawkeye wrestling room September of 1997, I think the rivalry ended in Des Moines in Feb. of ’97.

 

When you first wrestled against each other, did you know you had someone good, or was it just another guy to you?

I expected everyone to be tough in the Hawk Club, but you always know when you grab a hold of someone that knows what’s up.

 

Out of all the guys you had ongoing competition with, where does Josh rank as far as signicance to your career? Was he one of your biggest rivals?

Josh was a tough S.O.B., one of the toughest guys I’ve wrestled.

 

Would you consider the rivalry friendly or heated?

It wasn’t friendly, but was never personal, I did enjoy beating him though.  But he was one of those guys, that when you beat them, you felt like you did something that day.

 

When you practiced, did you have times where you were practicing to beat Josh Budke or was it always just to win state and take  one  match at a time?

I don’t remember ever practicing to beat someone specific in High School ever… I’m sure Josh exposed some weaknesses that we would see on tape and try to improve on though…

 

Do you remember wrestling vs. Josh in  practice?

Nothing specific, but if he took me down, then I bet the rest of that practice was not very fun for him.

 

How confident were you coming in to each match? Did you ever have to battle any nerves when you wrestled him?

Nerves were never my thing… Normal pre-match butterflies before big matches…Always confident, knew I was going to win.

 

What was the best/closest match you and Josh had?

They were all close.  My favorite was beating him in the dual at Cedar Falls.  Standing room only, then half the crowd left after 125!!! That was pretty cool.

 

What was your game plan against him each match?

Win.

 

Do you know Josh off the mat?

Nope

 

Did you respect Josh’s wrestling skills?

Yes

 

Who were some other talented IA opponents you faced?

Bob Koenig, Kentral Galloway, I think I wrestled Juergens my freshman year of college, I probably left out several names…

 

What is your take on how the Iowa HS wrestling fans perceived and  treated you?

The Iowa High School wrestling fans did not want me to be successful… I was an outsider that was a legitimate threat to dethrone a golden boy of Iowa wrestling.  It got built into a KS Vs IA thing, and I just wanted to wrestle, prove myself against the best.

 

Do you regret the one year you spent in Iowa HS and would you change it if you could?

No regrets, wouldn’t change a thing

 

How did you feel when you won?

Like I did my job, I take pride in a job well done.

 

How did you feel when you lost?

Losing is one of the worst feelings on the planet… I do not like losing… at all… at anything…

 

If you are to ponder on your wrestling career, would it be the same without Josh  Budke in it?

No, he’s definitely a part of my story.

 

Any chance we could see a rematch with you and Josh at an old timers tournament?

I’ll do it tomorrow!  Neutral Ground… Lisbon High School!!!

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Payton Rice was born into some pretty hefty wrestling expectations. This goes without saying when your father is 3X state champion and maybe the closest 3Xer ever to being a 4X state champion, Stacey Rice of Storm Lake. Not to mention, his grandpa, Steve Rice was a 3X placer/2X finalist/1X State Champ himself.  Payton, by my standards, lived up to those hefty expectations. He was a 4X state placer who made the finals 1 year and placed in the top 3 at state 2 years and was right in the thick of some absolute savages for competition. And he was right there…every year.

The Rice family is one of Iowa HS wrestling’s greatest wrestling families. They definitely make Western Iowa wrestling proud. And he continues to give back to the sport by coaching…Check out his story, it’s a good one!

 

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

Wolf Pack (Alta), Sioux Central, Manson in high school and Upper Iowa in college

 

What year did you graduate?

2014

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

Family I guess but was just something I grew up around and loved on my own

 

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

Steve Rice (Grandpa) – DNQ, 1st, 2nd, 4th
Stacey Rice (Dad) – 1st, 5th, 1st, 1st
Skyler Rice (Uncle)- 4th, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd
Chance Rice (Brother)- DNQ, SQ, DNQ, SQ

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I won 3 state titles and 2 national titles. The 2 rivals that come to mind are Dougie Miner from Spirit Lake and Kyler Kiner from Ogden.

 

What was your record in HS?

180-16

 

How did you place at state every year?

6th, 2nd, 5th and 3rd

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Attacking with some funk…if you hadn’t seen me wrestle before, I could pin you quick and score in bunches but along with that came growing pains of taking unwarranted risks trying to score and giving up falls in matches I should have won otherwise.

 

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

The only one I had an opportunity to beat after they beat me was Ryan Hall from Jesup. My freshman year I was up 4 in the 3rd period and gave up a throw to lose by 1 which knocked me to 5th/6th. My sophomore year I wrestled him in the semifinals and pulled out a tight 5-4 decision.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

My dad was and is always in my corner.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

High school – we qualified for state duals my freshman year but fell at regionals every year after to Don Bosco my sophomore year and Clarion Goldfield my junior, senior year.

College – placed 4th if I remember right at national duals my only year there.

 

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

Richie Thacker from Sioux Central now AD at Eagle Grove.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Brandon Sorensen if I’m not bias and pick my dad.

 

Are there any wrestlers you’ve seen, past or present that you would compare your style to?

From my feet definitely my dad, but my best position was top which is more comparable to Spencer Lee style wise…obviously not to his level but I ran those types of tilts.

 

Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?

I loved watching the guys I grew up wrestling with like: Kyler Kiner, Thomas Gilman, Cash Wilcke, Brandon Sorensen.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

All my West Benders.

 

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

After my semifinals loses my junior, senior year.

 

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

I’d love to say I won a title, but only if it didn’t change where I’m at today.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

My favorite memories are definitely with my teammates and athletes I coach! Too many to list, but the one that stands out the most is after qualifying for my sophomore year for state my workout partner, Caleb Smothers, chanting “Roommates! Roommates! Roommates!” as I walked off the mat.

 

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

Logan Mulnix in the finals my sophomore year and Montel Marion at Corn Cob after my freshman year of college.

 

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

All year around.

 

How would you in your prime do against your dad in his  prime?

Not even close! Easy tech in the first, lol!

 

With your dad being Stacey, what was it like growing up  as one of Iowa HS Wrestling’s all-time greats?

Honestly didn’t feel it much…I put more pressure on myself to be the best I could be than trying to out do him.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

1 year at Upper Iowa.

 

What other sports did you play?

Football was my only other sport.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Minnesota Vikings

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Coaching wrestling and being with the family.

 

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

Awesome! Nothing better than helping great young men attempt to achieve their goals.

 

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

Made me mentally strong. Not to many things bother me when I have a full tummy, lol!

 

What do you do now?

Correctional officer.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Head coach at West Bend-Mallard.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

It’s not an easy road but embrace the grind and enjoy the little things it goes by fast.

 

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

Nope my competition days are over unless you talk to my wrestlers they still try to push me to go.

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Jesse West! I won’t lie, I am straight-up proud to put this one together. This is the first of 2 articles coming from Jesse. The second one will be an “Inside The Rivalry” article and will include his take on his rivalry with Josh Budke from Cedar Falls.

The thing that makes me most proud of this one is the fact of that when he wrestled in Iowa the one year he did, a large percentage of fans actively rooted against him because they didn’t approve of the fact that he was a transfer from Kansas.  This was back when this wasn’t a common thing. These guys were treated 10X worse back then. I feel that time had probably healed things with most who didn’t approve of him wrestling and our state and he has been kind enough to give us a second chance at getting to know Jesse West, the person.  Because to be honest, the state of Iowa more or less collectively refused to get to know him when he was here.  I was 14 at the time and I was certainly caught up in the villainization of him, which I regret now, for now I’ve met him and interacted with him a few times and he’s one of the nicest, down to earth and coolest people I’ve met in a long time.  PLUS! He’s a fan of the Cardinals, KC Chiefs  AND the Stone Temple Pilots…In which, In obsessed with all 3 of those as is the rest of my family. 

Here was an essay I wrote in the Intro to the Inside The Rivalry article: 

A rather big storyline of the 1997 Iowa HS State Wrestling Tournament was a highly anticipated 3A 130 lb. finals match with Iowa City High Senior, Jesse West and Cedar Falls Senior, Josh Budke.. Budke was not only the returning state champion, but he had won it the previous two years coming into that tournament. However, West was also a returning state champion and had beaten Budke 3 times over the course of the regular season. This provoked collective and mostly shared feelings of anger amongst wrestling fans across the state of Iowa, for West wasn’t Iowa’s returning state champ….he was a transfer from Kansas. These days, people don’t get as worked up as they used to about guys who moved into the state or transferred there, but back in 1997, the act of someone transferring for wrestling seemed like such an uncommon, foreign idea that the transfers weren’t treated like the rest of the Iowan wrestlers by the general spectators, but treated like…well, foreigners. With Jesse West, some people were so dramatic about it that it was like we were being invaded by the evil Russian from Rocky 4, Ivan Drago and it gave a lot of people who weren’t used to it a feeling of, “why did THAT GUY move to OUR state to compete in OUR sport! He must be booed!!!” People got ugly with it. Transfers received very cold unwelcomes back then and in retrospect, it wasn’t fair to them. Not to sound holier than thou, for I have been guilty of being overly unwelcoming of transfers myself until about 5-6 years ago, when something that changed my mind about it. 

 

 

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

Flint Hills Wrestling Club, Emporia Kids Wrestling Club, East Kansas Freestyle/Greco, Emporia High School, Iowa City High School, Iowa State University, University of Missouri

 

 

What year did you graduate?

1997

 

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My mother.

 

 

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

My uncle wrestled and had some decent success, I think my dad was a state placer also.

 

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I won more than I lost, 4 or 5 x youth state champ,  some great rivalries and kids (Robbie Rogers, Nathan Lawrenz, Jason Blanding, Trent Stefec, Robbie wrestled for Brown, and Nate went to UNI

 

 

What was your record in HS?

142 – 5

 

 

How did you place at state every year?

1-1-2-2

 

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

There always seemed to be someone telling me I wasn’t good enough or couldn’t achieve something, so I learned how to focus on what was in front of me, and I usually had a chip on my shoulder.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Aggressive – I like being aggressive, attacking, constant pressure.  I like scoring points!

 

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

In high school there were only 3 kids who beat me.  Beau Vest, who beat me twice my freshman year both times the score was 3-2, I beat him convincingly in the state finals that year.  He had not lost a high school match until then.  The freshman from Dodge City who beat me in the finals my junior year, I beat him 17-0 a month before the state tournament.  I am pretty sure I teched him in some freestyle events as well.  And then there was Josh Budke.  I beat Josh 3 times in the regular season, I think I beat him twice in the preseason, he beat me once in the state finals.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

My most influential coaches would be Brad Smith and Bobby Douglas.  Both were phenomenal.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yes.

 

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

Eric Akin changed my life when I was 14.  I could have listed him as a coach, but it was different.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Jeff McGinness  – Brad Smith did tell me that I was the best HS wrestler he ever coached.

 

When you decided to make the move to Iowa  your senior year, how did you perceive the wrestling atmosphere compared to Kansas?

Iowa is the mecca of wrestling.  The fans in Iowa are awesome! They are passionate about wrestling and knowledgeable.  I bet you can’t throw a rock and not hit a national champ.

 

Was the Iowa fan reception to you positive, negative or mixed?

I was the most hated man in the state of Iowa for a year!  Iowa City was awesome, and very welcoming.  All of this made for a cool, unique senior year.

 

How awesome was it wrestling for Brad Smith the year you did?

Pretty F’n Awesome! I love Brad Smith.  He is the epitome of cool, treats you like you’re his best friend, would do anything he could (twice) to help someone.  One of the best pure athletes to walk the earth.

 

Are there any wrestlers you’ve seen, past or present that you would compare your style to?

I tried to emulate and imitate many, but I doubt anyone was copying me.  I watch a lot of kids today that I wish I could wrestle like.

 

Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?

David Kjeldgaard – he was a beast… Budke … Justin Holdgrafer, Cory Connell…

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Yanni, Fix, Spencer Lee, all the senior level freestyle athletes.

 

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

Metallica, Notorious B.I.G, Tracy Chapman, Dave Mathews, Dr. Dre, Stone Temple Pilots,

 

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

I was really pissed after I lost my junior year in the finals.  Yeah, that one stung.

 

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

Nothing.  I made a lot of mistakes, a lot of bad choices, but that is how you learn and get better.  Take your lumps and your lessons and keep moving forward.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

My greatest accomplishment was being named the freshman with the hardest work ethic at Iowa State U.  There were a lot of good freshman that year.

My best memory is getting home from the state tournament after my freshman year, and all of my non wrestling friends were at my house with a lot of toilet paper, and streamers!

 

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

Stephen Abas, Teague Moore, Josh Budke, Silverstein, Jeremy Hunter.

 

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

I loved freestyle.  If I have one regret it is not finding Freestyle sooner.

 

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

The technical level is through the roof right now!  But these kids have guys from my day training them! There are only a few Brad Smith’s out there, but I think the level of coaching, training, all of it has gotten better.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes. Iowa State.

 

What other sports did you play?

Soccer, baseball.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals, K.C. Chiefs, Chelsea FC

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Hiking, Gardening, Climbing, Boating

 

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

I think the sport is still giving to me!!

 

What do you do now?

Operations Management.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Yes.  I run a youth club, a Freestyle/Greco club, and I Officiate Freestyle/Greco

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Work Harder… the answer is always WORK HARDER!!!

 

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

Maybe

 

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

Tony Brown, Paul Myers, Erik Akin, Brad Smith, CT Campbell, Jamie Sauder, so many people… I could probably start listing names and it would take up 10 pages.

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Senior Spotlight: Aime Mukiza of Des Moines North-Hoover

Aime Mukiza of DM North-Hoover finished off his wrestling career as a 4X state qualifier/2X Placer. He placed 4th at state this year, which was a nice step up from finishing 8th last year.

In the past couple years, while conducting interviews with wrestlers at conference, districts, state, wherever, I’d be lying through my teeth if I were to say that I didn’t develop some favorites after getting to know them. If a wrestling media guy ever says they DON’T have their favorites after they get to know some of these guys a bit, they are either lying through their teeth or are better people than me. With that said, Aime Mukiza was one of my favorites I ever interviewed, without a doubt.

Aime wrestled for Des Moines North-Hoover. You wouldn’t believe the excitement and enthusiasm you are greeted with when you ask to interview a guy from a squad like DM North-Hoover that doesn’t regularly receive much media attention. They are always so appreciative of it. I have a soft spot for squads like these. When you are down on the floor and you see some of these squads hanging around in the area, you catch vibes real quickly in terms of which guys are used to receiving media attention, which guys like the attention, which guys would rather avoid it, etc. And it’s natural for a media person to gravitate towards some of these cats who seem to like opening up to the media, for they are easier to approach when you know your inquiries to interview them are wanted. The squads that are sometimes the most easy to forget are the ones guys who are never approached by the media and are routinely disregarded at tournaments. When you see guys from these squads down on the floor, they tend to stick to themselves at times and may not acknowledge the presence of the media, for they are not expecting to be approached by them anyways.  This was how the squad from DM North-Hoover came off to me the first time I met them in 2019 at the CIML Tournament. They were huddled in their own little crew in their designated area and didn’t seem to pay much attention to the stereotypical media guy walking around with a notepad that I was that day. My rule of thumb before I decide to cover ANY wrestling event is that I do my homework on every guy from every squad who will be wrestling at whatever event I am at and will try to get interviews from AT LEAST 1-2 guys from EVERY squad, regardless if they have an above average guy in their lineup or not. With that said, I’ll never forget how surprised the two guys I interviewed from DM North-Hoover that day were when I approached them and how much it meant to them to not only be acknowledged, but that I knew exactly who they were and the great things they had accomplished leading to the tournament that season and in years prior. It was clarity to them that all of their hard work and the strides they made from it did not go unnoticed. It was clear that it meant the world to them. 

DM North-Hoover wrestlers, Mike Moore and Aime Mukiza

The two guys I chose to interview were Senior (2019) Mike Moore who was a 2X state qualifier and Aime Mukiza, a Sophomore who was a returning qualifier at the time.  Both guys treated me with the utmost respect and it was clear almost immediately that Moore was a good leader on that squad and looked out for Aime like he was a little brother. Mike was interviewed first and afterwards, he asked me if he could stand near Aime when he was being interviewed and I thought that was incredibly impressive of him, for it told me one of two things (if not both): 1.) That Mike wanted to ensure Aime was in his comfort zone and around people he trusted when the interview took place and 2.) That the interview was conducted in professional fashion and whatever was reported, would be done so accurately, for two guys were present for the interview opposed to one. This was so impressive to me because not only did it show Mike’s positive effect on Aime as a leader, but it was also a smart move, for let’s face it… the media in general can be dishonest and not have the best of intentions at times and they have the capability to slander a person’s reputation if they have some sort of ax to grind. This was not going happen to Mike Moore or any of his wrestling family while on his watch and I just thought it was one of the most commendable things I noticed from anyone I interviewed that whole season. 

Former DM North-Hoover coach, Cody Swim, who was a 4X placer for Indianola (placed 3-2-3-3) and a 2X National Qualifier for Grand View had this to say about the DM North-Hoover squad:

Cody Swim

CODY SWIM: “Coaching at DM North-Hoover was a life changing experience I’ll never regret. Those are some of the best kids I’ve ever met. They all have a story and have overcame a lot.”

Aime’s life story is different than any wrestler I’ve ever met.  And he was gracious enough to fill us all in on his amazing life/wrestling journey!

(Photo cred to Cam Kramer from IAwrestle).

 

Where were you from before moving to Des Moines? What was the situation there?

Before Des Moines, I lived in North Carolina for 6 months. The reason we came to Iowa was because the sponsor family that was assigned to us did very little for us and my parents weren’t able to get a job so we were basically living by a friend, which is not a way anyone wants to live. But prior to North Carolina, we lived in a refugee camp in Tanzania.

 

Was the atmosphere you were raised in the first 5 years of your life a dangerous one? Do you remember any of it?

I remember, and no it was not dangerous. The refugee camp was really safe, and I lived rather a comfortable life as a child. My dad was a respected teacher and mechanic in the area and made good money from it. I never had to deal with the hardship of hunger or worry about where ill sleep or how ill get by as a child in Africa. But of course, that is what I remember and might not be 100% what occurred, I could’ve been too naïve to notice any real danger around me.

 

Has your multicultural experiences shaped you in ways people may not know about?

I think so. Me being an immigrant has meant that America is a land of opportunities, and I’ve been taught to take those opportunities, the biggest one being education. I’ve challenged myself and have taken advanced or AP classes because they are difficult and will make me a better student in the long run whether I pass or fail because I’ll have an idea of what to expect out of the classes I will be taking in college. Along with that, anyone that actually knows me knows how busy I am, I usually tend to take on more than I can handle because of everything being an opportunity. I see sports as an opportunity to stay healthy, learn a new skill, be apart of something greater than myself, and a chance to connect. I will join clubs such as breakdancing because I will get the chance to connect to others. I have joined C.O.R.E. (Community Of Racial Equity) which is a student led program that evolves around creating an equal and welcoming environment for all students. To raise the plain of minoritized individuals and make them equal to the majority. I’m involved in band. Concert band, marching band, and wind ensemble. Science Bound, which is an Iowa State University scholarship program for blacks and Latin community students. Those who participate and graduate in the program and commit to ISU are rewarded a full tuition scholarship.

Long story short, I am involved in all of these activities and more because I know that doors aren’t open forever and you may never know about the connection you make today and how helpful they can become to you tomorrow when you most need them. The last thing I want on my mind is regret because I never did something that I wish I did. Because I’ll never regret doing something trying something new, but I will regret giving up and avoiding an opportunity.

 

How did you get started with wrestling? Did you like it immediately?

Started 7th grade year, did horrible, but I fell in love with it for some reason. 2 weeks into the middle school season I got a concussion and was forced to sit out for the rest of the season, but I attended every practice and meet to support and continue to learn even though I couldn’t wrestle… and mostly because I didn’t want to go home and do nothing for another month.

 

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

I’ve never done club, I have only wrestle in school seasons. That means since my first day of wrestling I have only wrestled 2 weeks in 7th grade, a month and a half 8th grade, 3 months for my freshmen, sophomore, and junior years, and another month and a half for my senior year. That’s a total of 1 year and 2 weeks of legit practice of wrestling.

I started wrestling at Harding Middle school and continued at North High for the North-Hoover team.

 

 Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do? If not, how do they feel about it?

I have older cousins who have wrestled, but they aren’t much older, the oldest being 22. They were not as successful as I have, but I didn’t know they wrestled until I was a freshman/ sophomore in high school. I also have a younger brother who is planning on wrestling his high school years and has wrestled his 7th grade year. Currently in 8th grade right now.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

 8th grade year was a solid year I went almost undefeated with 20 + wins in the metro and I had 4 losses to 4 Southeast Polk kids in one night at a middle school meet at Roosevelt High school. But I do not remember them. (middle school season only).

 

What was your record in HS?

 90-40 total of 130 matches

Fr. 18-13

So. 26-11

Jr. 27-9

Sr. 19-7

 

How did you place at state every year?

 Fr, So. SQ but DNP

Jr. 8th @ 113

Sr. 4th @ 113

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

Adversity I have come across a lot comes across with referees where I FEEL that they are deliberately miscalling things or not giving me my calls just because of my name, school, and background. I’ve seen it in basketball and football games against my team.

 

Did the adversity you faced growing up help you for wrestling?

 Very. Coming across adversity every day just becomes normal, almost like you build an immunity to it.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

 My style is very Unorthodox. Because I don’t really have a style, I know very little compared to the guys I compete against at state. I don’t even know how to tilt properly. I have the basics, determination, speed, and the ability to be coached. I just haven’t had the time to actually master the art of wrestling, which I plan to do in college.

 

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

 Not very many. I have never lost to a guy that I beat the first time we meat, but I know I have beaten guys whom I’ve lost to the first time we met, but I don’t remember names because I never cared to know who my opponent was. If they weren’t a “big” name at the weight, I probably didn’t know who I was wrestling up against.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

 Trevor Hixon. Coach Hixon was my 8th grade coach, was there for the actual start of my career to this point. Has helped me tremendously over the years.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

 Not really. We’ve never really had a team while I was at north. This year (my Sr. year) was the first time we’ve had more than 6 student finish out the season.

 

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

 I didn’t look up to anyone until sophomore year. I know very little about the history of wrestling and sophomore year was the first time I actually started introducing myself to wrestling outside of high school and I saw Jordan Burroughs and he became my idol because of how similar I move to him and because he was the very first and current black wrestler I saw. I even called myself the son of Burroughs.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

I’m going to go the current rout and say Drake Ayala. He is going to make noise in college.

 

Are there any wrestlers you’ve seen, past or present that you would compare your style to?

Jordan Burroughs, a bit of James Green, and a bit of John Meeks

 

How would you describe the DM North-Hoover squads you were part of?

Family. The guys that stuck it out to the end were like family to me. They want to be there just as much as I want to, and we work hard but have fun at the same time.

 

Did you ever feel like DM North-Hoover was looked past or not given enough credit?

100% but what doesn’t help is knowing that DMPS has become more about football and basketball only. Not a lot of people care about wrestling in Des Moines.

 

What are some interesting hypothetical matchups between guys from different eras that you would have been interesting in seeing?

I want to see Dan Gable go at it against Cael Sanderson

 

Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?

Lane Cowell of Fort Dodge. He has beat me every time we have wrestled, but he reminds me so much of myself. He moves like me, is strong, quick, smart, and I honestly believe he could be one of the very best. Now, I don’t know him nor his story but from how I see it, I just don’t think he is into it as much as I think he could be. He has the resources and the athleticism, but I feel he lacks the derive that I have. I believe with no doubt he could be a mean machine. But I respect how hard he goes on the mat and just attacks.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

 Jordan Burroughs, James Green, Daton Fix, Nick Suriano, and Gable Steveson

 

What music do you listen to?

Rap!

 

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

This year (Sr. season) at the Perry Tournament. I wrestled 120 4 days after coming off of COVID, still recovering of course, haven’t been on a mat competitively for folk style since state 2020, almost 11 months. And for some reason I expected to perform at my peek performance, which did not occur. I got beat out of the tournament and completely underperformed what I would’ve been capable of had I had a full season and had I not caught COVID. I was really upset because I knew I was better than that performance, but I felt like I couldn’t do anything about it.

 

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

I would’ve pushed and found a way to wrestle all year round from the start.

 

 

Where do you feel your era stacks up to other Iowa HS wrestling eras?

 Were not the best era but, Id say average or “normal”. I don’t really know how to put it.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

 Accomplishing 4th place at the state tournament this year with less than half a season.

 

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

 Lane, Trevor Anderson, Drake Ayala, and more of course but my mind is drawing blank.

 

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

seasonal

 

How would the guys from the past woulda stack up against the guys today?

I think competition was a bit tougher back then compared to now. We have too many constant rule changes.

 

What other sports did you play?

 Football, Cross country, Soccer, and Baseball. Breakdance if it counts.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

 Funny thing… I don’t really watch sports.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

 Working out, CrossFit, running, and sleeping.

 

How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport and help others pick it up?

 I feel great, I means I am helping someone else feel as good as I did when I first learned this art.

 

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

I has allowed me to feel brave, strong, and independent. I know I am capable of tackling anything in life if I can last 6 minutes on a mat fighting a battle against another human. What doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger.

 

Are you still going to be involved with wrestling?

For the rest of my life, until I retire.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you are determined to learn and allow yourself to be coachable.

And recording matches, and watching your film over and over while comparing yourself to guys who are considered great seeing the mistakes you are making helped me fix what I need fixed and pick up things that helped me in matches.

I sucked as a freshman, I couldn’t tell you how I made it to state, but over the years I have allowed my coaches to coach me and break down film with me until I understood what I did wrong, then I worked on it.

 

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with?

 Asante Gordon, my partner freshmen year, a bit of Junior year, and Senior year. He has so much potential but never got the chance to shine. Had a complete season with me freshman year, was pulled from wrestling sophomore year, had a late start and an early end to his season junior year do to an injury, and had a late start this year do to COVID. But he has been a great reason for the wrestler I am today, as he has always supported me, hyped me up, and wrestled me in the room to make me better and make me work.

And I want to shout out Michael Moore, he kicked my butt everyday sophomore year since I didn’t have anyone else near my weight to wrestle, so I had to practice with a 132 pounder as a 106 lbs wrestler. But, that led me to getting so much better from freshman year to sophomore year. I jumped to many levels. And that gave me so much more derive and determination that lead me to get even better. And he has been in my corner since he met me. Told me I was a better wrestler than him and that I will do better than he ever did. I believed it and achieved it.

 

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

Fun fact… I was voted best shoulder to cry on from my class of 2021! Another fun fact… I stood on the podium at state this year with Mr. Incredible in my hands.. you can see him in a zoomed picture. I think I made history in that sense, I don’t think that has ever been done before, but I may be wrong.

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Remember The Wrestler: Bryan Blake, Linn-Mar

 

About time I got someone from Linn-Mar. Home of huge wrestling names such as; Jay Borschel, Matt McDonough, The Engelken’s, the Kray’s, The Wempen’s, Noah Ajram, Shea Hartzler, Alijah Jeffrey, Alex Streicher, Ross Lembeck, etc…I’m leaving out many. Such a solid program with a solid staff in place and they do things the right way…from the youth program up. I know firsthand how scrappy their “Little Lions Youth Wrestling Club” was in my day given the battles I had with both Kray brothers (Jared and Nick) growing up. And Bryan’s dad coached those guys! They had something great going on back then and they maintained it well, for I got to see the younger generation of Lions who were in my younger brothers’ age group as well. Linn-Mar has always generated hammers from their program…some of the best, in fact. And this awesome program wouldn’t be where it is now if it weren’t for guys like Bryan making their marks in their HS wrestling careers. 

Here is the STACKED bracket that Bryan was in at state. 2000 3A 130…. He wrestled 2 close matches against two great wrestlers. He may not have placed like he may have wanted to, but I can tell by the match scores and who he wrestled that he most certainly was right there.

* On a sidenote, this one cracks the top 2-3 for the most well-written rough drafts I’ve ever received from anyone for a RTW article. I can tell that Bryan is a very intelligent dude and I can’t begin to explain how nice it is for me not having to proofread much of what he wrote. A great writer/storyteller along with being a great wrestler!

 

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

Little Lions Wrestling Club (Linn-Mar).  I started going when I was a baby, quite literally.  My dad created the club while he was coaching at Linn-Mar.  He would organize a crew of club boys to go to tournaments and then take/coach us all.  He coached until I hit junior high, and then stepped down so I would have a non-parent coaching.  I was hitting the early stage of my rebellious phase, and I think he knew that I needed a coach that I’d listen to despite my pre-teen attitude.

 

What year did you graduate?

Linn-Mar (Marion), class of 2000.

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My dad taking me to practices probably sparked my interest.  But it was the team/friends that kept me coming back.  Even the years that I lost interest, they dragged me back in.  I was very much drawn to the social aspect of being on a team.  My closest friends today are the guys that I wrestled with throughout the years, but mostly my high school teammates.

 

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

My dad wrestled for Marshalltown.  He was a very talented athlete but had many physical/health issues that prevented higher-level achievements.  His high school record was 55-5, but he never made it to State due to late-season illnesses.  He’s also a great golfer.  If you ask him, wrestling was his way of getting in shape for golf season. I beat him in wrestling when I was a sophomore… I’ve still yet to beat him in golf.

I have one sibling, an older sister.  I kind of wish she would’ve wrestled, but female wrestling wasn’t as prevalent back then.  I think she would have done well.  She was a physical beast but didn’t really succeed in many other sports because she was just too physical.  

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I started out my first little kids tournament with a bang, 8thout of 8.  Apparently, I still had fun because I stuck with it.  Over time, and many losses, I got better.  Right around middle school, I recall finishing in first place more often than not.  

There was a kid my age/weight from Vinton, Jay Bridgewater.  I remember him most.  I don’t think we had much of a rivalry because he never beat me.  He justhappened to be at every tournament that I went to for several years.  One of my favorite Jay memories is when my dad took me to a tournament 2 hours away, instead of the Vinton tournament which was 30 minutes away.  We figured Jay would be at his home tournament and wanted to give him a break from seeing me.  There I was, standing on the scale in the cafeteria, and I hear Jay’s voice behind me say “No…way… dang it!”.  He had also traveled 2-hours out of his way to avoid me, and there we were together again.

 

What was your record in HS?

I’m not sure my exact record, they didn’t keep good records my freshman/sophomore years.  If I had to guess, I’d say I finished my high school career somewhere above .600.  I remember my freshman year being the worst (8-8), and senior year was best (18-10).  

 

How did you place at state every year?

I qualified for state my senior year.  I went 0-2, wrestling two very tough and quick opponents.  My bracket could arguably be considered on of the most loaded: Cory Connell, Adam Olaby, Brett Stedman, Jim Tripp, Travis Paulson, Josh Petersen, Ryan Sallis, and Travis Claussen.  

Ryan was my first-round draw, and a rematch from a loss earlier in the season.  Our first match was a blowout, 16-4, he dominated me on our feet and in the top position.  State was a far better showing for me though, despite still losing 10-6.  I was down 8-6 with a few seconds left; I went for broke and busted.  Travis was my consolation match.  All I remember is that he was a physical hammer and struggling to get past his head and hands defense.

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

During my sophomore year, I had an issue making weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas (shocker).  I wasn’t managing my weight whatsoever.  And, rather than working hard and getting back down to weight, I decided to go up a weight.  In retrospect, I took the easy way out and it hurt the team lineup.  It was a very selfish move.  After that, I started picking weights I could manage, and keeping my weight under control the right ways.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

If you ask my practice partners, they’d probably say “annoying”.  But I’d say “deceitful”.  I liked to bait and switch, lull them into a false-comfort and then burst into a move.  I was fast on my feet, and a leech on top.  High-crotches, fireman’s carry, leg-rides and tilts.  I rarely used leg-riding to stall, I was all about wrapping someone up and tilting for back points.

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

I didn’t have many exchanges; it was either always beat or always beaten.  There were less than a handful of guys that I saw numerous times.  It was usually Cedar Rapids Washington; we saw them a lot.  Guys like Kane Richardson as freshmen and Edgar Haynes as a senior.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

In terms of coaching, my dad.  I learned the most from him; he’s a very cerebral man and coach.  I caught myself, as a coach, teaching kids the exact same lessons he’d taught me decades prior.  This came as a great shock to him when he was observing me coach, because “I could swear you weren’t even listening to me back then”.

On the mat, it’d have to be Dave Dunning.  He was my 7thgrade coach; the first coach I had after my dad.  Dave was deceptively strong, physically manipulative, and psychologically masterful.  I learned so much about the psychology of wrestling from him; how to win before the match even starts, and make a guy want to get off the mat fast by administering “intense legal pain”.  I was undefeated in junior high, and I credit much of that to him.

 

Was your team competitive in HS?

In the first two years, we could barely field a team.  And the team we had would lose horribly.  I can recall being the lone win at many meets.

We got a new coach, Doug Streicher, my junior year.  Things really turned around from there.  He incorporated many impactful changes like weight training, cardio workouts, and morning practices. It felt like hell, but he really changed the physicality of the team, and the program took off from there.  My senior year, we took 5 qualifiers to state.  Prior to that, we hadn’t had a qualifier since the 80s.

 

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

Lincoln McIlravy.  He was at Iowa while I was in jh/hs.  Watching him on tv and at Carver was awe-inspiring.  I got some one-on-one time with him at a Gable camp one year.  He taught me the boot scoot.  That was a specialmemory.  Plus, who doesn’t love a mullet!

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

I want to go with a less traditional answer, as well as pick someone from my generation, and say Trent Paulson.  192-2 career record.  2x class 3A champion.  He just struck me as physically dominating in all positions.  

Are there any wrestlers you’ve seen, past or present that you would compare your style to?

If you ordered Spencer Lee from Wish.com, I’m what’d show up at your doorstep.  You’d be unhappy and call customer service.  He’s fast(er) on his feet and a (great) tilter.

What are some interesting hypothetical matchups between guys from different eras that you would have been interesting in seeing?

Why not just have an all-decades champions tournament?  The best at their best.  Hypothetically, they’d all be the high school version of themselves.

I’d also love to start a dialog and get the State Tournament to do an All-Classes Champions bracket: 1A Champ, 2A Champ, and 3A Champ; round-robin for best of the best.

Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?

Cory Connell.  He was the 2000 Class 3A 130lb champ.  Hands like a vice grip!  You could tell that he put in the hard work in the gym.  He’d beat you up, and then tell you about the good things you did.  Respect garners respect.

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Max Murin.  He’s not the best, but you can tell he’s giving it all he has.  I respect the heck out of that guy.  Ice Ice Baby!

 

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

Metallica, Godsmack, Megadeth, and basically anything with a fast pace.  Joe Carver was the wrestling room DJ.

 

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

There’s only two losses that I recall bothering me.  Most losses never got to me though.  I didn’t have that animal instinct or competitors’ edge.  I loved wrestling for the fun, so that’s what I focused on.  

The first one was because the referee raised the wrong hand.  I won, quite handily, but he raised the wrong hand and my coach didn’t fight to clear it up.  

The second time was at districts my senior year.  I nailed a last second takedown to break the tie/take the lead in the championship match, but the ref called it off.  We went into overtime and I got what I’d consider a takedown.  My opponent quickly reached back and did a neck whip, getting what I’d consider a reversal.  The referee called it no takedown/reversal, and instead a takedown for him.  It felt like a blown call and cost me the better seed at State.

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

Effort.  I did just enough.  Wrestling was fun, and I never took it too seriously.  I regret that.  I wish I cared enough to put in the effort to be better than what was naturally gifted to me.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Accomplishment: Qualifying for state my senior year.  I was the first person from my school in over a decade to qualify, and the only one from my grade.  We started as 12 freshmen, and I was the only one that ever made it to state.  We qualified 5 weights that day, but I was the first. It felt more special because of that.

 

Memory: After losing the finals match at districts, I sat on my mat and watched the 3rd/4th place match to see if I’d end up having to wrestle again later to determine a true 2ndplace.  They must have had an injury timeout or something because they still had an entire period left to wrestle.  I watched and waited for what felt like an eternity.  As soon as Edgar won, I knew my trip to state was solidified.  I sprang up and ran right past my coach and blast-doubled my sister, who was waiting mat side.  I remember her screaming for me, as she made the same realization.  She has always been my #1 supporter and the loudest scream in the gym.  I then went into the stands to see my parents.  All the parents were so excited for me.  It was truly my greatest wrestling moment.

 

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

I really got lucky during the regular season. All the studs were at the weights above or below me.  I had good laughs at my teammates’ expense because they always went up against the returning champs while I got guys more my level.  

I wrestled and beat Edgar Haynes probably half a dozen times my senior year.  He was a freshman.  Despite the age gap, he was a solid competitor.  I have no doubts that he would have been a 4-time qualifier if it weren’t for us being on the same side of the bracket at districts.  He finished runner-up his senior year.  I’m just glad I got to face him while he was younger, because I’m sure him as a senior would have beaten me as a senior.

 

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

I wrestled almost year-round up until junior high, and then it was just in season.  I don’t know why I stopped, but I wish I hadn’t.  I did a few camps, including the Gable.

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

Of course, I’m biased.  I think boys from my day were stronger and more mentally tough.  Kids now seem to be more technical.  I’d put money on my generation though.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

I joined the Navy after high school.  I tried for the first three years to join the Navy team.  

The first year, I pinned my way through tryouts, was offered a spot, but found out that I would have had to give up my rate (job) in order to be a part of the team.  I joined the Navy to make a career out of it and wasn’t on board with giving up my trade-school for wrestling.  The coach told me that the next year, once my schooling was complete, that I could join the team and not lose my rating in the process.  

I showed up to tryouts the second year grossly out of shape but managed to still dominate tryouts.  For the first time in my life, a coach managed to ignite a fire; he told me that I was too out of shape to join his team, and to come back next year ready to not waste either of our time.  That struck me deep, my apathy was impacting others.  So, I trained my ass off for the entire next year.  

I was coming back the third year in the best shape of my life; better conditioned and stronger than I was in high school.  Unfortunately, I tore two ligaments in my left knee three weeks before tryouts.  Because I’m stubborn and stupid, I threw on a monstrous knee brace and showed up to compete.  Despite winning all my matches, everyone could tell that I was debilitated beyond actual competition. It was disappointing to work so hard (for once) and come up short.  But at least I went undefeated in 3 years of tryouts *shrug*.

 

What other sports did you play?

I pretty much played them all.  Baseball, football, basketball, wrestling, golf, track, soccer, etc.  I wrestled all 4 years of high school.  I also golfed (9th and 10th) and ran cross-country (11th and 12th).

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Iowa wrestling, football, and basketball (in that order of course).  I accidentally became a Seahawks fan while living out near Seattle.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

I’m a total foodie.  I love to cook, plan and prep meals, and grocery shop.  It’s my happy time.

I also play chess daily.  I have an ongoing series against Nic (Schultz), we’ve been playing for almost 7 years.  He beats me at least 80% of the time.

 

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

I do just about everything I can to keep this sport thriving.  My dad and I volunteer at the high school and little kids’tournaments.  It’s one of the many things that bonds us to the school and each other.

I don’t know what I’d do without wrestling.  I fear the day it goes away.  I used to set my dvr to record wrestling.  I’d even leave my tv on when I went out, if there was a dual that night, just so the ratings saw one extra viewer.

 

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

Wrestling shaped my mind around how to deal with difficulty and things not going as planned.  Wrestling really made life in the military so much easier.  Those two combined, I can pretty much deal with any conflict and manage all stressors.

 

What do you do now?

I’m currently a Compliance Manager with Collins Aerospace.  It’s mostly just paperwork and making sure we’re following government regulations.  It’s detail-oriented work, which I kind of enjoy.  Prior to this, I was in quality assurance roles for about 15+ years.  The Navy was my kickstart into aerospace, electronic engineering, and quality assurance.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Not as much as I’d like to be.  I keep telling myself that I’m going to get certified to referee… I keep saying that next year will be the year.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Do what makes you happy.  I never pressured myself to be better and made it clear that I wrestled just for the fun.  If at any time it stopped being fun, I would’ve quit. I knew it, parents knew it, and the coaches knew it.

For the ones that want to be the best: Sacrifice what others won’t.  Get as much experience as possible.  Watch training videos, go to camps, examine your match films, and pay attention to what’s making others successful.  Start going to the State tournament long before you’re old enough to be there yourself, soak in the ambiance and get comfortable with the size of the crowd.  And, when you get your turn at the tournament, don’t change your winning formula.

 

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

Why not?  I’m twice the size that I used to be, so don’t expect to see me taking lightweight shots against the heavyweights.

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

My brothers from other mothers:  Matt Kluesner, Nick Kelly, Andrew Engelken, Pat Neilly, and Jared Kray.  They were all the grade below me.

Nic Schultz.  He was two grades above me… he went from being the hazing upperclassman to my coworker, chess nemesis, and close friend now.

I’d love to see if Edgar Haynes hears word of this.  We wrestled probably half a dozen times his freshman/my senior year.  He was a little beast that I quickly learned not to tie up with.  I beat him every time and was the sole reason that he didn’t go to state all four years.  It’s great to see that he made it to state the following years.  I remember him being very talented, as well as humble in defeat.  We would dogfight like madmen, and then sit and chat after the meet like it never happened.

 

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

I heard my neighbor’s name on one of the Pin Doctors videos as a placer and before that point, I didn’t know that he wrestled. His name is Bill Bollman from West Union. He placed 5th at 2A 112 in 1985.

My senior year, I broke the school record for reversals and escapes in a season.  As Matt likes to remind me, that just means that I got taken down a lot.  The records were mine for a whopping 3 years.  A kid that I coached, and basically gave away all my secrets to, broke them both by one.  20 years later, he is still the record holder… and I’mstill salty.

Mom of the Year Award:  I’m in high-school, junior or senior year.  I’m scrapping hard with this guy and, mid-action, the ref blows the whistle.  At the time, I had no clue why we’re being stopped.  Something… someonecaught the corner of my eye, and I looked over to the side of the mat.  It’s my mom.  She was standing at the edge of the gymnasium floor, outstretched on one leg, reaching out onto the mat.  It hit me; she was trying to hand the referee her glasses.  I heard her say: “Here!  You need these more than I do!”.  She got kicked out of the tournament, rightfully so.  We still tease her about it.  That woman is an absolute lunatic, but also the best wrestling mom (loud, supportive, and packed the best coolers).  Her and Sue (Nick’s mom) were quite the dynamic duo… when they stayed parked in the bleachers

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Preface: I want to start this article off with a statement I realized even more (much more) after researching and writing this article… Holy COW the NCAA messed up these allocations. There are many conferences that simply do not have enough allocations because of it, so there will be many ranked guys hoping for a wildcard no matter how you slice it. Look at Big 12’s 133. Literally all 12 guys are ranked in the top 33, but there are 5 spots in all. 5 spots for 12 “should-be” qualifiers. And only 6 wildcard spots open for the weight. PAC-12 of the same weight has 4 guys ranked for only 1 spot. Just like that, that’s at least 10 ranked guys fighting for 6 wildcards, and that’s not including guys from the Big 10 and crazy good guys that are going to be upset hoping for a wildcard. So ranked guys will for sure be staying home – it’s inevitable. Meanwhile, other conferences certainly benefited from this… (cough-cough EIWA). The NCAA’s method really just made zero sense here (using data from the last 5 years even though teams have completely different wrestlers), as opposed to allocating based off of coaches’ rankings like usual. Either way, here’s my projections for who I believe will qualify in 2021 for the D1 Championships. A final note, please take no offense to these projections; nothing is personal at all, so please prove me wrong! 

 

Welcome as I take a guess at who I think will perform best at each conference championship and thus qualify for the NCAA D1 Championships, as well as guess at who I think will receive wild cards. Enjoy!

 

* Automatic Qualifier Allocations are indicated in parenthesis for each conference. 

 

* Line-ups are subject to change per team’s discretion, which might throw some projections off. 

 

* Order does not necessarily indicate projected placements.


* Remember, if I went by straight rankings/seeds, that would be no fun. I try to make some bold choices here and there. Every year we see some crazy stuff go down. What upsets will happen this year?

 

125

ACC (3): Sam Latona (Virginia Tech), Jakob Camacho (NC State), Pat McCormick (Virginia)

 

Big 12 (5): Brody Teske (Northern Iowa), Cody Phippen (Air Force), Killian Cardinale (West Virginia), Taylor Lamont (Utah Valley), Kysen Terukina (Iowa State)

 

Big Ten (8): Spencer Lee (Iowa), Dylan Ragusin/Jack Medley (Michigan), Devin Schroeder (Purdue), Malik Heinselman (Ohio State), Michael DeAugustino (Northwestern), Eric Barnett (Wisconsin), Rayvon Foley (Michigan State), Robert Howard (Penn State)

 

EIWA (3): Jaret Lane (Lehigh), Gage Curry (American), Dylan Ryder (Hofstra)

 

MAC (4): Drew Hildebrandt (Central Michigan), Connor Brown (Missouri), Jake Ferri (Kent State), Luke Werner (Lock Haven)

 

Pac-12 (2): Brandon Courtney (Arizona State), Jackson DiSario (Stanford)

 

SoCon (1): Codi Russell (App. State)

 

Wildcards (7): Pat McKee (Minnesota), Liam Cronin (Nebraska), Trevor Mastrogiovanni (OK State), Logan Treaster (Navy), Danny Vega (South Dakota State), Fabian Gutierrez (Chattanooga), Justin Cardani (Illinois) 

 

Others with a chance: Brandon Kaylor (Oregon State), Micah Roes (Binghamton), Colton Camacho (Pitt), Brock Hudkins (Indiana), Jon Tropea (Rider), Lucas Rodriguez (Edinboro), Zurich Storm (Campbell), Benny Gomez (Presbyterian) 

 

133

ACC (4): Mickey Phillipi (Pitt), Korbin Meyers (Virginia Tech), Jarrett Trombley (NC State), Louie Hayes (Virginia)

 

Big 12 (5): Daton Fix (OK State), Zach Price (South Dakota State), Kyle Biscoglia (Northern Iowa), Mosha Schwartz (Northern Colorado), Ty Smith (Utah Valley)

 

Big Ten (8):, Austin DeSanto (Iowa), Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State), Sammy Alvarez (Rutgers), Chris Cannon (Northwestern), Lucas Byrd (Illinois), Boo Dryden (Minnesota), Alex Thomsen (Nebraska), Jack Medley/Dylan Ragusin (Michigan)

 

EIWA (3): Malyke Hines (Lehigh), Jacob Allen (Navy), Darren Miller (Bucknell)

 

MAC (5): Matt Schmitt (Missouri), Mario Guillen (Ohio), Drew Marten (Central Michigan), Bryce West (Northern Illinois), Aaron Schulist (SIUE)

 

Pac-12 (1): Michael McGee (Arizona State)

 

SoCon (1): Jake Rotunda (The Citadel)

 

Wildcards (6): Ryan Sullivan (West Virginia), Zach Redding (Iowa State), Joe Heilmann (North Carolina), Paul Bianchi (Little Rock), Job Greenwood (Wyoming), Jared Van Vleet (Air Force)

 

Others with a chance: Devan Turner (Oregon State), Brandon Fenton (Kent State), Jordan Decatur (Ohio State), Kellyn March (North Dakota State), Colten Landers (Chattanooga), Justin Patrick (Cleveland State), Chandler Olson (Drexel), Tye Varndell (Edinboro), Kyle Burwick (Wisconsin), Gabe Hixenbaugh (Campbell), Jason Miranda (Stanford), Haiden Drury (Fresno State), Garrett Lambert (Hofstra), Anthony Madrigal (Oklahoma)

 

* a lot of names for this weight, but 133 was probably the deepest weight as is, and a lot of good guys will be staying home because of faulty allocations. Some conferences are also very wide open.

 

141

ACC (3): Tariq Wilson (NC State), Zach Sherman (North Carolina), Sammy Hillegas (Virginia Tech)

 

Big 12 (4): Ian Parker (Iowa State), Dom Demas (Oklahoma), Dusty Hone (OK State), Durbin Lloren (Fresno State)

 

Big Ten (8): Jaydin Eierman (Iowa), Nick Lee (Penn State), Chad Red (Nebraska), Sebastian Rivera (Rutgers), Dylan Duncan (Illinois), Dylan D’Emilio (Ohio State), Drew Mattin (Michigan), Parker Filius (Purdue)

 

EIWA (5): Cody Trybus (Navy), Julian Flores (Drexel), Lane Peters (Army), Connor McGonagle (Lehigh), Kurt Phipps (Bucknell)

 

MAC (4): Allan Hart (Missouri), Dresden Simon (Central Michigan), Derek Spann (Buffalo), Saul Ervin (SIUE)

 

Pac-12 (2): , Lawrence Saenz (Cal Poly), Real Woods (Stanford)

 

SoCon (1): Franco Valdes (Chattanooga)

 

Wildcards (6): Cole Matthews (Pitt), Clay Carlson (South Dakota State), Marcus Polanco (Minnesota), Brian Courtney (Virginia), Grant Willits (Oregon State), Anthony Brito (App. State)

 

Others with a chance: Jake Spiess (Michigan State), McKenzie Bell (Rider), Trevon Majette (Gardner-Webb), Chris Sandoval (Northern Colorado), Chase Zollman (Wyoming), Julian Chlebove (Arizona State)

 

 

149

ACC (3): Austin O’Connor (North Carolina), Bryce Andonian (Virginia Tech), Josh Finesilver (Duke)

 

Big 12 (5): Andrew Alirez (Northern Colorado), Boo Lewallen (OK State), Mitch Moore (Oklahoma), Jarrett Degen (Iowa State), Triston Lara (Northern Iowa)

 

Big Ten (7): Sammy Sasso (Ohio State), Michael Carr (Illinois), Max Murin (Iowa), Kanen Storr (Michigan), Yayha Thomas (Northwestern), Michael Blockhus (Minnesota), Ridge Lovett/Brock Hardy (Nebraska)

 

EIWA (4): Kizhan Clarke (American), PJ Ogunsanya (Army), Jimmy Hoffman (Lehigh), Greg Gaxiola (Hofstra)

 

MAC (4): Brock Mauller (MIssouri), Anthony Cheloni (Northern Illinois), Ben Freeman (Buffalo), Cardionte Wilson (SIUE)

 

Pac-12 (2): Legend Lamer (Cal Poly), Cory Crooks (Arizona State)

 

SoCon (2): Josh Heil (Campbell), John Millner (App. State)

 

Wildcards (6): Griffin Parriott (Purdue), Jaden Abas (Stanford), Casey Cobb (Navy), Peyton Omania (Michigan State), Mike Van Brill (Rutgers), Tyler Vath (Edinboro)

 

Others with a chance: Ed Scott (NC State), Beau Bartlett (Penn State), Denton Spencer (Virginia), Jaden Van Maanen (North Dakota State), Hunter Marko (South Dakota State), Dylan Martinez (Air Force), Graham Rooks (Indiana), Jobe Chishko (VMI), Chon Porter (The Citadel), Kody Komara (Kent State), Cameron Hunsaker (Utah Valley), Matt Kolonia (Bucknell)

 

157

ACC (4): Hayden Hidlay (NC State), Conner Brady (Virginia Tech), Josh McClure (North Carolina), Justin McCoy (Virginia)

 

Big 12 (3): David Carr (Iowa State), Cade DeVos (South Dakota State), Wyatt Sheets (OK State)

 

Big Ten (8): Ryan Deakin (Northwestern), Kaleb Young (Iowa), Kendall Coleman (Purdue), Brady Berge (Penn State), Brayton Lee (Minnesota), Elijah Cleary (Ohio State), Caleb Licking (Nebraska), Will Lewan (Michigan)

 

EIWA (5): Markus Hartman (Army), Holden Heller (Hofstra), Parker Kropman (Drexel), Andrew Cerniglia (Navy), Nick Palumbo (Sacred Heart) 

 

MAC (4): Jesse Dellavecchia (Rider), Jarrett Jacques (Missouri), Justin Ruffin (SIUE), Michael Petite (Buffalo)

 

Pac-12 (2): Hunter Willits (Oregon State), Jacori Teemer (Arizona State)

 

SoCon (1): Weston Wichman (Chattanooga)

 

Wildcards (6): Justin Thomas (Oklahoma), Requir van der Merwe (Stanford), Jared Franek (North Dakota State), Jacob Wright (Wyoming), Benjamin Barton (Campbell), Chase Saldate (Michigan State) 

 

Others with a chance: Brawley Lamer (Cal Poly), Alex Carida (Bloomsburg), Luca Frinzi (Lehigh), Robert Kanniard (Rutgers), Cody Bond (App. State)

 

165

ACC (3): Mehki Lewis (Virginia Tech), Jake Wentzel (Pitt), Kennedy Monday (North Carolina)

 

Big 12 (5): Travis Wittlake (OK State), Luke Weber (North Dakota State), Cole Moody (Wyoming), Peyton Hall (West Virginia), Jordan Robison/Johnny Blankenship (N. Colorado) 

 

Big Ten (8): Alex Marinelli (Iowa), Ethan Smith (Ohio State), Andrew Sparks (Minnesota), Danny Braunagel (Illinois), Joe Lee (Penn State), Peyton Robb (Nebraska), Cameron Amine (Michigan), Jake Tucker (Michigan State)

 

EIWA (5): Zach Hartman (Bucknell), Tanner Skidgel (Navy), Evan Barczak (Drexel), Brian Meyer (Lehigh), Brevon Casella (Binghamton)

 

MAC (2): Keegan O’Toole (Missouri), Colt Yinger (Ohio)

 

Pac-12 (2): Shane Griffith (Stanford), Anthony Valencia (Arizona State)

 

SoCon (1): Rodrick Mosely (Gardner-Webb)

 

Wildcards (7): Tommy Bullard (NC State), Will Formato (App. State), Jake Keating (Virginia), Izzak Olejnik (N. Illinois), Jake Silverstein (Rider), Gerrit Nijenhuis (Purdue), Ricky Stamm (Hofstra) 

 

Others with a chance: Adam Kemp (Cal Poly), Nick South (Indiana), Dazjon Casto (The Citadel), Isaac Judge (Iowa State), Pat Schoenfelder (Northern Iowa), Kolby Ho (Clarion), Ryan Ferro (Long Island), Vincent Dolce (Air Force), Bilal Bailey (Campbell)

 

174

ACC (3): Cody Howard (Virginia Tech), Clay Lautt (North Carolina), Daniel Bullard (NC State)

 

Big 12 (4): Demetrius Romero (Utah Valley), Hayden Hastings (Wyoming), Jackson Hemauer (Northern Colorado), Lance Runyon (Northern Iowa)

 

Big Ten (8): Michael Kemerer (Iowa), Logan Massa (MIchigan), Carter Starocci (Penn State), Kaleb Romero (Ohio State), Michael Labriola (Nebraska), Drew Hughes (MIchigan State), DJ Shannon (Illinois), Jackson Turley (Rutgers)

 

EIWA (5): Michael O’Malley (Drexel), Ben Pasiuk (Army), Jake Logan (Lehigh), Tim Fizpatrick (American), Dean Caravela (Navy)

 

MAC (3): Andrew McNally (Kent State), Jacob Oliver (Edinboro), Peyton Mocco (Missouri)

 

Pac-12 (2): Bernie Truax (Cal Poly), Trey Munoz (Arizona State)

 

SoCon (1): Austin Murphy (Campbell)

 

Wildcards (7): Donnell Washington (Indiana), Dustin Plott (OK State), Jake Allar (Minnesota), Thomas Flitz (App. State), Cody Surratt (Air Force), Mason Kauffman (Northern Illinois), Jared Krattiger (Wisconsin)

 

Others with a chance: Anthony Mantanona (Oklahoma), Phillip Spadafora (Maryland), Tyler Eischens (Stanford), Julien Broderson (Iowa State), Victor Marcelli (Virginia), Ross McFarland (Hofstra), Angel Garcia (Rider), Emil Soehnlen (Purdue)

 

184

ACC (3): Trent Hidlay (NC State), Hunter Bolen (Virginia Tech), Gregg Harvey (Pitt)

 

Big 12 (4): Tate Samuelson (Wyoming), Parker Keckeisen (Northern Iowa), Dakota Geer (OK State), Sammy Colbray (Iowa State)

 

Big Ten (8): Aaron Brooks (Penn State), Taylor Venz (Nebraska), Nelson Brands (Iowa), Max Lyon (Purdue), Zach Braunagel (Illinois), John Poznanski (Rutgers), Layne Malczewski (Michigan State), Rocky Jordan (Ohio State)

 

EIWA (6): David Key (Navy), Louie DePrez (Binghamton), Charles Small (Hofstra), Taylor Brown (Army), Josh Stillings (Drexel), Dylan Ammerman (Lehigh)

 

MAC (3): Kyle Davis (George Mason), Jeremiah Kent (Missouri), Brit Wilson (N. Illinois)

 

Pac-12 (1): Dom Ducharme (Cal. State-Bakersfield)

 

SoCon (2): Caleb Hopkins (Campbell), Matthew Waddell (Chattanooga)

 

Wildcards (6): Devin Kane (North Carolina), Chris Weiler (Wisconsin), Alan Clothier (Northern Colorado), Owen Webster (Minnesota), Michael Battista (Virginia), George Walton (Rider)

 

Others with a chance: Ryan Reyes (Oregon State), Cade Belshay (Arizona State), Frankie Guida (Bucknell), Jha’Quan Anderson (Gardner-Webb), Deandre Nassar (Cleveland State), Jelani Embree (Michigan), Jack Jessen (Northwestern) 

 

197

ACC (3): Nino Bonaccorsi (Pitt), Jay Aiello (Virginia), Nick Reenan (NC State)

 

Big 12 (5): Tanner Sloan (South Dakota State), Noah Adams (West Virginia), Jake Woodley (Oklahoma), Keegan Moore (Northern Iowa), Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming)

 

Big Ten (6): Eric Schultz (Nebraska), Jacob Warner (Iowa), Myles Amine (Michigan), Cam Caffey (Michigan State), Thomas Penola (Purdue), Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State)

 

EIWA (5): JT Brown (Army), Jacob Koser (Navy), John Jakobsen (Lehigh), Bryan McLaughlin (Drexel), Trey Rogers (Hofstra)

 

MAC (3): Rocky Elam (Missouri), Greg Bulsak (Clarion), Ben Smith (Cleveland State)

 

Pac-12 (3): Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State), JJ Dixon (Oregon State), Josh Loomer (Bakersfield) 

 

SoCon (1): Tyler Mousaw (VMI)

 

Wildcards (7): Lucas Davison (Northwestern), Albert Ferrari (OK State), Michael Beard (Penn State), Marcus Coleman/Yonger Bastida (Iowa State), Max Shaw (North Carolina), Collin McCracken (Kent State), Billy Janzer (Rutgers)  

 

Others with a chance: Chris Kober (Campbell), Stanley Smeltzer (Virginia Tech), Landon Pelham (Central Michigan), Jaron Smith (Maryland), Kaden Russell (Duke), Cody Mulligan (Edinboro), Gage Braun (N. Illinois) 

 

285

ACC (4): Deonte Wilson (NC State), John Borst (Virginia Tech), Quinn Miller (Virginia), Andrew Gunning (North Carolina)

 

Big 12 (5): Gannon Gremmel (Iowa State), Carter Isley (Northern Iowa), Brian Andrews (Wyoming), Brandon Metz (North Dakota State), Dalton Robertson (Northern Colorado)

 

Big Ten (7): Gable Steveson (Minnesota), Mason Parris (Michigan), Greg Kerklviet (Penn State), Anthony Cassioppi (Iowa), Christian Lance (Nebraska), Luke Luffman (Illinois), Boone McDermott/Christian Colucci (Rutgers), 

 

EIWA (4): Jordan Wood (Lehigh), John Birchmeier (Navy), Joe Doyle (Binghamton), Zachary Knighton-Ward (Hofstra)

 

MAC (3): Matt Stencel (Central Michigan), Ethan Laird (Rider), Zach Elam (Missouri)

 

Pac-12 (2): Nathan Traxler (Stanford), Cohlton Schultz (Arizona State)

 

SoCon (2): Michael McAleavey (The Citadel), Anthony Perrine (Gardner-Webb)

 

Wildcards (6): Trent Hillger (Wisconsin), Tate Orndorff/Gary Traub (Ohio State), Josh Heindselman (Oklahoma), Austin Harris (OK State), Wyatt Hendrickson (Air Force), Colton McKiernan (SIUE) 

 

Others with a chance: Jon Spaulding (Edinboro), Robert Heald (Army), Sam Schuyler (Buffalo), Chase Trussell (Utah Valley), Max Ihry (Northern Illinois), Jamarcus Grant (Purdue)

 

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2016 2A 138

1 Ryan Leisure (Jr.) Clear Lake

2 Wyatt Thompson (Sr.) Creston-OM

3 Austin Staudt (Sr.) Charles City

4 Kyler Rieck (Fr.) Spirit Lake Park

5 Brennan Swafford (So.) Mediapolis

6 Tanner Abbas (So.) Clarion-Goldfield-Dows

7 Lucas Roland (Fr.) PCM

8 Kirk Mommsen (Sr.) Assumption 

This match/bracket was epic for a variety of reasons. For one, it was a close, OT match that took place between two absolute hammers. Secondly, the bracket was deep, especially when you look at what some of the other guys in the bracket went on to do in following years. Lucas Roland won state 2 years later. Kyler Rieck won it 3 years later. Brennan Swafford would finish 2nd twice and won an NAIA title last year. Tanner Abbas is an NAIA AA and has a great chance of winning it this year. Pretty deep. Those guys were all underclassmen in this particular year though and when the 3 top spots were all officially occupied they were represented by upperclassmen; 1st: Ryan Leisure (Jr.) of Clear Lake, 2nd: Wyatt Thompson (Sr.) of Creston and 3rd: Austin Staudt (Sr.) of Charles City.

The finals match was also epic because of how goofy some of the shenanigans were following it… In which you can’t expect anything less than finding yourself laughing about something if Ryan Leisure is a part of the equation. Leisure was a 3X state champion, so he’s an all-time great Iowa HS wrestler…. And in my book, he’s one of the all-time funniest wrestlers, to boot. Maybe the funniest ever. My first impression of this guy was when he and my brother, Shea were in the same bracket at a big tourney when they were 8 or 9 years old. Shea was going through a phase where he was throwing ridiculous fits after losing. After a loss at this tourney, Shea went on this big kick about how he lost because the referee was “terrible” and the ref called him “stupid” after the match. The referee most certainly did NOT say this…Shea was just being dramatic, and it was annoying me to no end. Just when I was about to lose it and scream at Shea for acting that way, little 8 year old Ryan Leisure walks up with a huge grin on his face, patted Shea on the back and said, “don’t be upset, buddy! He said you did SUPER! He didn’t call you stupid!”  I died laughing. Even Shea tried not to laugh despite knowing dang well that Ryan was razzing him. And this funny little kid went on to win the bracket, so apparently along with being funny, he was really good at wrestling.  The kid won countless youth titles through the years. He was one of, if not THE best guy in that entire 2017 class all the way from youth through his HS career. And along the way, he never lost his sense of humor, which was on full display after this finals match.

So at state in 2016, Ryan Leisure was working for his 2nd of what turned out to be 3 titles. Wyatt Thompson from Creston was a Senior who had been on the podium just once before, and was looking to climb to the top of it in his final year. I sold the kid short all year. I watched him a few times the season before and thought that if my brother met up with him, we would be fine, based on the few times I watched him (freestyle events), and not being necessarily blown away. But Creston….holy cow that Creston program gets the most out of their guys every year and Thompson was the poster-child for this. Wyatt Thompson as a Junior was not even in the same ballpark as Wyatt Thompson the Senior. It was night and day. He was ranked 2nd the entire season and it was easy to understand why when you watched him in the early rounds at state. Not only did he look great, but he looked like he had a logical shot at giving Leisure a run for his money…which says a great deal, for there weren’t a lot of guys who were legitimate threats to Leisure at the time. And holy cow, did Wyatt Thompson ever threaten Leisure.

Ryan Leisure looked great in the matches leading to the finals and had obviously been in a major battle of some sort before the tournament even began, for he was missing at least one of his front teeth. He looked like a hockey player out there. It was super funny…because it was him and you just knew he would get the most out of his missing teeth at some point. Wyatt Thompson had a great tourney leading to the finals match as well and was wrestling his best match yet in the first 6-7 minutes of the finals match vs. Leisure. He was seriously having the match of his life and the momentum seemed to be shifting in his favor the more the match went on…. and the match went on a while. All the way to double OT where Thompson started down with Leisure on top. Just when you thought, “wow, I think Thompson might actually pull off an upset here,” Ryan Leisure woke up from what seemed to be a coma at that point of the match and struck with something deadly that ended the match before  you could even figure out what happened. He hit a spladle off the whistle and pinned Thompson in a matter of seconds after that OT period began. From Thompson’s point of view, it probably seemed like a cruel joke. He was out there battling one of the best pound for pound guys in the state and appeared to be on his way to winning the match when BOOM…a spladle ended his run.

So the match ended and it was time for the guys to stand on the podium. Two things happened in a matter of a second or two that resulted in the entire crowd collectively laughing in their seats. The first thing wasn’t noticed by everyone, but those who did notice it seemed to laugh. There was a kid (who needs to be identified so I can give him props) who was sitting behind the podium and was photo-bombing in the background every time he got the chance… And he never  bombed more perfectly than he did when Leisure was given his medal. When Leisure crouched down to be given his gold medal, this kid timed everything PERFECTLY and it resulted in this:

Just masterful photo-bombing if I’ve ever seen it… And he pulled out what appears to be Borat, to boot! 😂😂😂 Seriously, to whoever that kid is, GREAT JOB!!! Man that was funny… I laughed immediately when I saw it… 1 second later, I was laughing to the point where I was wheezing, for something even funnier happened… When they announced Ryan Leisure’s name as the state champion, he took full advantage of his missing teeth and he gave the camera the world’s most cheesy, toothless, homeless-looking smile…

The entire crowd laughed when they saw this. Thank God for guys like Ryan Leisure who take wrestling ultra-seriously on the mat, but don’t let this interfere with them maintaining a sense of humor off of it.

And I can’t reiterate enough how good of a tournament Wyatt Thompson had that week. He really opened my eyes with how much he improved from the year before and how quickly he jumped from a placer to the level of  “stone cold stud” who could go with anyone out there.

 

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To start, Georgi is a former Olympian from Bulgaria who moved to the United States and started something incredibly unique in the wrestling community.  He and his father facilitate a wrestling club called “The Best Wrestler,” which promotes balance and diversification of a wrestler’s skillset by means of implementing elements of wrestling technique, preparation, etc. from multiple cultures/countries.  The Best Wrestler: http://thebestwrestler.com

I first became aware of Georgi when I watched an episode of wrestling podcast, Hager’s Happy Hour a couple months ago.  He called into the show when a man named Willie Saylor was the guest. Mr. Saylor yelled something like, “we have an Olympian on the show!”  This caught my attention. Georgi discussed some of his thoughts on wrestling and what his vision is in terms of growing it on a worldwide scale. I really liked what he was saying.  He then discussed his wrestling club, “The Best Wrestler,” and I thought it was brilliant… To reiterate from the first paragraph, it is a sociologically aware approach that implements factors of various wrestling tactics and strategy from multiple wrestling cultures/countries.  Right up my alley. I am big on emphasizing the importance of multi-cultural perspectives in anything that is important to me and someone like Georgi presents perfect and valuable opportunities for someone to expand their knowledge of the sport.  I feel in order to make your wrestling game as efficient as possible, you need to have a fairly large amount of versatility and open-mindedness to styles/approaches to the sport that may not be consistent with the wrestling atmosphere you were raised in.  This approach to wrestling is 100% consistent with what Georgi stands for. 

 

Georgi concluded his call to Hager’s Happy Hour by expressing his gratitude to the hosts for them taking the time to listen to him and help him in his ongoing mission to promote the sport. He was genuinely thankful for all of the support the individuals on that podcast had given him in his mission.  I was very impressed with him and could tell that he cared deeply about everything he mentioned to the hosts/guest.  I had to reach out to him. I’m all about “wrestlers supporting wrestlers” and felt urge to do my part in terms of helping Georgi spread his valuable message.  I’m glad I did, for I feel like we all could learn so much from him in regards to wrestling and life in general. 

 

Here is some advice to upcoming wrestlers: If you are a person who takes wrestling seriously and claim to be willing to do anything in your power to improve your skillset, when you encounter a wrestler like Georgi who competed at the high level he did and in a different country, try to talk to them about wrestling and listen to everything they have to say! You are doing yourself a disservice if you fail to do this, for I guarantee they will have a ton of unique advice for you that you may have never heard before, for every country with wrestling has their unique way of approaching the sport.  Take these opportunities ANY TIME you get the opportunity, for the opportunities may be scarce and the potential attainable knowledge to accumulate from them could be limitless.

 

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

 

Answer: In this order: Peshtostroi in Bulgaria, Litex in Bulgaria, Lewis Central HS in Iowa, University of Nebraska Omaha, Boise State University, Bulgarian National Team.

 

 

What styles of wrestling have you competed in? Which are your favorites?

 

Answer: Freestyle, Greco, and Folkstyle. Freestyle is my favorite.

 

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

 

Answer: My father, Ivan D. Ivanov.

 

 

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

 

Answer: Yes, my father wrestled in Bulgaria. He was a 5 x Bulgarian National Champion.

 

 

Is wrestling popular in Bulgaria?

 

Answer: Yes, it is very popular and it has a rich history in the sport.

 

 

How are the wrestling cultures of Bulgaria and the USA alike?

 

Answer: They are quite different. Bulgaria has Sports Schools – for athletes specifically and the students focus on one sport primarily. Training is also different… A lot more time spent on developing technique and kids will have up to 9 practices per week.

 

 

How are the wrestling cultures of Bulgaria and the USA different?

 

Answer: Kids do not pay to be in a club in Bulgaria… which is good for the kids, but bad for the development of the sport. They have a lot fewer tournaments and a lot more training time.

 

 

Are there things that wrestling culture in Bulgaria and wrestling culture in USA could learn from each other to improve things?

 

Answer: Yes, absolutely. I believe a nice balance of it all would be great. Which, actually that is exactly what my father and I are doing at our club in Iowa… The Best Wrestler.

 

 

Please tell me about your wrestling club. What is your coaching philosophy? Is it something anyone can attend?

 

Answer: We consider ourselves the only full-time club around and we are results driven. My father has produced 7 Olympians and over 20 world team members so far in his coaching career. We have 6 practices per week and 2 morning workouts, for a total of 8 practices per week. Of course, we have our part-time options as well where kids can train anywhere from 1-8 workouts per week. We have a 100% ratio of full-time members going to college on a scholarship.

 

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

 

Answer: In Bulgaria you can’t compete until you are in 5th grade, so there was a lot of training with no competition. I won my first Bulgarian national title when I was a freshman in HS.

 

 

What is your record?

Answer: Honestly, I have no idea. Who keeps track of that 🙂

 

 

What are your thoughts on folk style wrestling?

 

Answer: Again, pros and cons. I don’t love it, but I didn’t grow up training folkstyle either. I believe that it teaches you to keep wrestling and it improves conditioning. I also believe that it allows for sloppier wrestling and it is a lot more forgiving of mistakes made during the match. Freestyle and Greco force you to master cleaner finishes. If the NCAA were to be Freestyle and Greco… the US would undoubtedly be the best country in the world.

 

 

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

 

Answer: I had just become a 3 x National Champ in Bulgaria and I experienced a major injury in my lower back. My club coach at the time kicked me off the club because apparently I was a liability and wasn’t worth much to him since I can’t wrestle. 5 Months later I won my 4th National title for another club. Then, shortly after that I came to the US.

 

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

 

Answer: Discipline, Techniqle, and Gritty.

 

 

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

Answer: Honestly, I don’t remember. Probably my biggest back and forth rivalry was with RJ Pena from Oregon State back in my college days.

 

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Answer: My father, Ivan Delchev Ivanov.

 

 

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

Answer: Valentin Jordanov (Bulgaria), John Smith (USA), and Buvaisar Saitiev (Russia).

 

 

Who would you consider the GOAT wrestler?

Answer: Buvaisar Saitiev (Russia)

 

What was your experience like at the Olympics?

 

Answer: It was amazing and once-in-a-lifetime for me.

 

 

Are there any wrestlers you’ve seen, past or present that you would compare your style to?

 

Answer: Not that I am aware of. I would say I have a hybrid style of wrestling.

 

 

What are some interesting hypothetical matchups between guys from different eras that you would have been interesting in seeing?

Answer: Great question. Jordan Burroughs vs Buvaisar Saitiev would be a great one.

 

 

Who are some wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?

Answer: Jordan Burroughs, Kyle Dake, Vladimir Khinchegashvili, Spencer Lee, and many more.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Answer: I can’t pinpoint one. I appreciate technical wrestlers. You know the ones… they make scoring seem effortless.

 

 

What music do you like to listen to? What are some cool Bulgarian songs I should download?

Answer: I don’t really listen to much of Bulgarian music. I listen to Tropical House Music and Chill Music.

 

 

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

Answer: All of the loses. I hate losing, but I always try to learn from them.

 

 

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

Answer: Nothing. I left it all on the mat.

 

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Answer: Placing 2nd at the World Olympic Qualifier in Mongolia.

 

 

How do you think guys in past eras could match up with the guys today?

Answer: Wrestling has evolved a lot. I don’t believe they would do well. Just go and watch an old wrestling match and compare it with todays wrestlers… huge difference in my opinion.

 

 

What other sports did you play?

Answer: Soccer for a few months. I’ve wrestled since I was 3.

 

 

Do you like American Football? If so, who are your favorite teams? If not, why?

Answer: I am indifferent. I would watch every once in awhile but I am not a huge fan of a given team. Maybe because I’ve never actually played it.

 

Are you able to notice variations of American culture and wrestling based on where you are geographically? How would you compare and contrast some of these?

Answer: I am not sure I understand this question clearly so I will pass it.

 

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Answer: Honestly… I am such a bad sports fan. I don’t follow much. 🙂

 

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Answer: I like to golf and spend time with my family.

 

 

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

Answer: It’s the best. It’s very fulfilling to see the change and impact you can have on kids.

 

 

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

Answer: I owe it all to wrestling. All of the success, on and off the mat, is because of the values I learned from wrestling.

 

 

What do you do now?

Answer: I am the Executive Director for Nebraska USA Wrestling. I am the owner of Top Tier Performance (GRIT – ttpnutrition.com). I am the owner of The Best Wrestler (Club and the Lightest Weigh-in Singlet in the world… Feather Singlet – thebestwrestler.com). I am a partner in a team management software called ZUPTU – Zuptu.com)

 

 

 Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

 

Answer: Focus on progress and find a reason for WHY you are in the sport in the first place. The WHY will drive you to keep pushing and progress will encourage you.

 

 

Any chance we see you wrestle again some time soon?

Answer: Maybe… we can always have some fun wrestling in the Masters Division 🙂

 

 

What’s the most exciting wrestling atmosphere you’ve ever experienced?

 

Answer: The NCAA’s. In Mongolia and the Olympics.

 

 

 

Is there potential for wrestling to become appealing to the masses to the point where a pro league can be formed? What can we do to contribute to this?

 

Answer: Absolutely… Promote and Market the athletes. Create a storyline and tell the athletes unique stories. Obviously there is much more to go into this, but I believe we are headed in the right direction.

 

 

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

 

Answer: My coaches… Ivan D. Ivanov, Trevor Carritt, Michael Denney, Chris Owens.

 

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

 

Answer: Please follow me on IG and Twitter @bul_nightmare … Thanks, guys!

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Remember The Wrestler: Lee Schweer, Tripoli

 

The Schweer’s are a HELLUVA wrestling family in Iowa.  I had heard of them for years, but never met one until I was in a group text with the fantasy wrestling league that I was part of… Lee’s nephew, Ben was in it and he was fun as hell to have in there.  When it was time to convert the 1985 State Finals matches, my attention was fully sparked when I heard the announcer mention Lee Schweer’s name, for I assumed this was the badass uncle of Ben’s that I had heard about. I didn’t expect to see one of the biggest rip-jobs I’ve ever witnessed in a wrestling match in my entire life.

Lee wrestled Dan Stephani from Northwood-Kensett in the finals…a 2X state champion Super HWT.  The official in this match made one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen. At the end of the match, he did not award Lee a takedown that he HAD and it directly affected the outcome, for Lee was trailing by 1 point at the time and if Lee would have been awarded the 2 point takedown, he would have won the match by one point, for there were only a few seconds left on the clock.  Instead, they were called out of bounds and had to restart on their feet with a few measly seconds left, in which Lee almost took Stephani down again, but couldn’t quite secure his hips on time.  It was a terrible way to lose a match.  No disrespect intended to Danny Stephani…He was a phenomenal Hwt. in that era, one of the best and by all accounts, was an incredibly nice person, but I just felt Lee Schweer was on the receiving end of a terrible call in their Senior year state finals match.  

I mean, come on… you make the call… In what universe is this not a takedown?!?!

 

Lee Schweer was not standing on top of the podium at the conclusion of the 1985 Iowa HS State Tournament, but he was the state champion of that bracket in my eyes and I doubt very many people will disagree with that statement.  A popular and very good philosophy in wrestling is that you should alleviate all doubt when wrestling, so the outcome can not be decided by the official.  Well, I thought he alleviated ALL doubt in this one…That was a takedown 100 times out of 100 and he just happened to be unlucky enough that the official of that match scored a ranking of 0 out of 1,000,000 in terms of wrestling officiating competence.  I would have a hard time getting over this one, if I were Lee.  

And man was he good.  

 

 

 

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

Tripoli  Wrestling. 

 

What year did you graduate?

 1985

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

 I got started because I had 2 brothers that wrestled.

 

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

 My two brothers. Gene did well. Al got 2nd and 5th at the state tournament. My oldest son, Wes injured his knee and qualified for districts. My son Craig also qualified for districts. 

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

We didn’t do a lot of youth wrestling back then.

  

How did you place at state every year?

 Qualified as a Freshman, 4th as a Sophomore, 2nd as a Junior/Senior.

 

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

 Senior year state finals. Lost the match. Also tried out for the Iowa HS wrestling team…

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Old school and physical.

 

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

Mainly Dan Stephani. I won districts, he won at the state finals.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Greg Eschweder and John Samuelson.

 

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

 My brothers.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Brandon Sorenson

 

I will just be honest, I felt you were ripped off in your Senior state finals match about as badly as I’ve ever seen anyone ripped off before.  I consider you to be a state champion. If I were to tell you that I felt you deserved that gold medal, would you disagree with me?

No. I worked hard to try to accomplish my goal of winning state that year.  It just didn’t work out that way.

 

Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?

Rich Greenlee of Waverly-Shell Rock and Watt Vering of Janesville.

 

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

70’s and 80’s rock and roll.

 

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

Definitely after the state finals my Senior year. That was a long drive home.

 

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

State finals 1985.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Just going out there and being able to compete in high school, I’d say. Also watching my sons wrestle and being competitive themselves.

 

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

The club scene wasn’t as big back then. It was just seasonal for me.

 

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

I think we could hold our own.  The technique has gotten good, but we were hard-nosed and tough and they wouldn’t stop the matches for ya if you felt hurt. We were physical.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

No.

 

What other sports did you play?

 I didn’t play other sports.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

 Iowa State Cyclones

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Restoring tractors, camping, fishing.

 

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

It feels good and it’s always neat to see young ones starting up in the sport and doing well.

 

How has wrestling shaped you as a person today?

We were taught that it takes hard work to be successful and it was true. The guys who were successful, put in the work and I think that applies to many areas of life.

 

What do you do now?

My brother and I own a repair business. I also farm.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

No, but I was when my sons were wrestling.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

It takes hard work to be successful and anymore, it seems like you need to do it year round to succeed.

 

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

Nope. I got the heart, just don’t got the knees for it anymore.

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“Winning state titles is always fun.”  -Brent Jennings

Brent Jennings.  Man, what a guy he is. When you read the quote I posted above, it’s pretty obvious to anyone with or without a wrestling background that it came from a source who has become very, very familiar with winning.  If this man has any weaknesses in not only wrestling, but life….then I’m not sure what on Earth those weaknesses could possibly be.  On the wrestling mat, he excelled.  As a coach, he is undeniably one of the best ever and will be in the Hall Of Fame some day.  As a father, he raised a couple of great people in his two sons who also happen to be just absolute hammers on the mat.  He also seems to be a universally respected individual by any individual in the wrestling community with a legit opinion. Although I’m sure there are people out there who envy him….due to his CONSISTENT success in wrestling. He’s not cocky, but professional. He’s respected in his own community, which also happens to be a historically good wrestling one. He really comes off to me as a real standup guy and an excellent role model that up and comers in the wrestling community should look up to.  He does so many things the right way, and as alluded to, his track record would indicate that he does so on a consistent basis…which is so respectable given the fact that consistent success on a long-term scale is so difficult to achieve for the ordinary squad.  Every squad seems to have “down” years or “rebuilding” phases.  Brent Jennings brings a tough squad that is always ready to roll, every single year.  And that expands beyond the wrestlers who compete for him. 

The Osage fan base is one of the most rabid fanbases in the state. The community avidly supports their wrestlers.  They bring tons of fans to the state wrestling tournament and these fans cheer loud for their guys.  And they all generally wear green.  I remember the first time I ever observed the Osage crowd at state….I was in awe, for it looked like there was a “Sea of Green” in the stands.  It’s quite a cool site for the neutral spectator.  Intimidating to the opposition. 

Coming into HS, I thought Osage was having a “down” phase, for we never seemed to see them at AAU state growing up.  Boy…was I incorrect there. At the HS level, us Mepo guys noticed the presence of fellow 2A squad, Osage almost immediately in most cases.  Never had to deal with them as youth wrestlers residing on the opposite side of the state, but boy did we have to in High School…. and these were guys that we hadn’t factored in to our HS expectations, for we had no idea who they were due to never encountering them.  The moment we all experienced wrestling in our first state wrestling tourney, most of us were familiarized with Osage wrestling and usually it wasn’t a pleasant introduction. We had Chad Hutchinson getting spanked viciously by Trent Goodale, my brother Justin Swafford losing in the finals his Freshman year to Dusty Pollard, Aaron Drain having the battle of his life against Jayden Olson, etc.  Heck, I ran into one of their studs at a freestyle tournament and had one of the hardest fought matches of my life… it was against a guy named Joe Uker, and he edged me out in that match.  He was unbelievably gritty. And the odd thing was, as mentioned….we generally had no idea who these guys were until they hit HS. It’s true that Osage guys were not avid participants at AAU State around that time, but I found out just this past year that this was because their youth tourney was held on the same weekend.  The existence of all of these Osage wrestling hammers in our age group was one of the most unpleasant surprises to us at Mepo being a fellow 2A school, for a lot of us literally would have placed higher at state in multiple years if we just didn’t have to deal with the pesky Osage hammers. 

Osage wrestling is the epiphany of what every wrestling community should strive to be… from the wrestlers, to the fans, to the youth club, to the cheerleaders, to the managers, to the staff.  They do things the right way…and they are led by Brent Jennings…a true legend.  Be thankful, Osage crew! You are a great wrestling community that has been blessed with some of the state’s all-time most influential wrestlers, coaches and fans. 

“Kids and parents need to be patient for results and understand that success isn’t always defined as a state title or a state medal.” – Brent Jennings

 

 

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

Clarinda High School

 

What year did you graduate?

1986

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My High School Coach Paul Honnold started the program in Clarinda. They didn’t have a program until around 1976-77. He came from Winterset and was trying to get things going. I started wrestling in 5th grade however my first matches were a couple years before that when I entered a local youth tournament put on by the local community college basketball team. I knew absolutely nothing about wrestling and actually won a match or two, which is why I gave it a try when they started offering practices.

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently?

My two boys Brady- Iowa State (graduated) and Brock- Air Force Academy(Senior).

 

How did they do?

In High School both were 4x place winners and State Champs as Seniors. Brady 6th, 5th, 2nd, 1st. Brock 5th, 7th, 4th, 1st. In College Brady started for ISU some his Sophomore year and Junior year until he was injured. Brock is still working on it.

 

What were your youth results?

Didn’t wrestle much until 8th grade. I think I got 3rd at state freestyle. They didn’t have a folkstyle state back then that I’m aware of.

 

Any rivals there?

Not really, but had a few guys I wrestled several times. Jack Stewart – Perry, Mike Malcolm – Glenwood

 

What was your record in HS?

90-13

 

How did you place at state every year?

Qualified in 10th and 11th grade and a Runner-up as a senior. I was only the 2nd person to place at the state tournament from Clarinda with teammate Josh Lisle being the first two years earlier when he placed 6th.

 

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

I had an elbow dislocation at the beginning of my Junior year. Missed most of the year but came back right at the end of the year and qualified for the state meet. It was a rough year in many ways. Making weight was a tough deal that year. We didn’t do things the right way back then. I think I drove my coach over the edge that year.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was defiantly a mat wrestler. I liked to leg a lot. I used a lot of different technique but looking back at matches I did a lot of basic things wrong. As a coach I would be yelling at myself to fix a lot of things.

 

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

I lost 7 times as a freshman and weighed about 95# I didn’t lose much after that. Back in those days you didn’t leave the neighborhood much like we do today. I think my senior year I wrestle Mike Malcolm from Glenwood 5-6 times.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

My only coach was Paul Honnold. He took and developed a program at Clarinda by developing a feeder program and starting a wrestling club for support. He picked us up every morning to lift weights before we could drive. We would have 13-15 kids in a regular cab type truck. You wanted to be early on the route so you could score the front seat or it was a cold ride.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Clarinda being a young program was known for landing at the tail end of the Hawkeye 10 prior to my sophomore year. That year we tied for the dual title with I think 6-7 Sophomores in the line-up. We had 6 state qualifiers my senior year but we were all seniors.

 

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

I went to the JRob camp in 8th grade at Wartburg when he was at Iowa. There were several Hawkeye wrestlers I thought were pretty awesome at the time. Lou Banach was one who kind of put his thumb on me for the 12 days. Prior to that all college wrestlers were all larger than life characters. I can still remember Jay Robinson getting on me and telling me as a 90# kid to quit feeling sorry for myself and toughen up. It made going to NCAA Nationals so much cooler after that knowing the guys that were wrestling. I also went to some Saturday morning clinics in Creston and Chris Campbell was the clinician a couple times. He left a big impression on me at that time.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

There have been many but I still have to go with someone from my era. Mark Schwab just dominated and was such a fierce competitor. Getting to wrestle with him on Iowa Greco teams in high school was a great boost for me to know I could compete at a higher level. Not anywhere close to his level but it was fun trying.

 

What were some of your favorite moments in your coaching career?

Winning state titles is always fun. I was an Asst. Coach for Clarinda in 1994 with Moreno when we snuck in and won a title with 5 guys and a lot of bonus points. That was fun more so because I worked with a lot of those kids when I was in high school and they were young. 2020’s title was special and so much fun with the kids and great coaching staff we have. They made it a lot of fun to bring back to Osage. It was something I’ve been working towards for 25 years.

 

What are some of your favorite success stories for your guys?

There are too many in a 29 year coaching career to single some out. You just never know where a kids going to land from beginning to end. One thing I figured out early in my coaching career was to never count anyone out when they are young. I’ve had several kids that lost a lot through middle school but turned into studs once they developed in high school years. Kids and parents just need to be patient and trust the process.

 

What are your strengths as a coach?

You would have to ask my athletes. How would you describe the Osage wrestling community? Supportive Diehards! They love the sport as much as I do which is saying a lot. They love their wrestling!

 

How fun was it coaching your sons especially considering how well they did?

I wouldn’t change anything but it was very challenging from time to time. They didn’t always want to listen to their dad. The fact that they were about the same size made every practice a fistfight ready to breakout and they were determined to wrestle each other. As far as coaching them at meets it was fun. They were tough competitors and were smart wrestlers. The biggest challenge was at the state tournament when they wrestled at the same time.

 

Did you get more nervous for them than you did your own matches?

Definitely, I was never very nervous when I was wrestling. I always felt like I was in control when I was wrestling which wasn’t the case when the boys were wrestling big matches.

 

Were there any coaches you looked up to, learned from and implemented some of their coaching tactics into your own?

I stole from every coach I worked with and several others I didn’t. I tried to take what I liked and leave what I didn’t. I think working as an assistant before becoming a head coach is essential in growth as a Head Coach. The more people you can study the better. My high school coach Paul Honnold was probably the most influential as far as a role model. I got to see how a program should work from the bottom up. I watched him develop a youth program that didn’t exist previously and turn Clarinda into a powerhouse in the 90’s with those kids. He wasn’t there as the coach when that happened as he went on to be an Administrator after I graduated in 1986. The success wouldn’t have happened without him and the many volunteers that worked hard to make it happen. I learned a lot technically from Mike Moreno the two years I coached with him and Dave Daughton at Wayne HS the year I was there before coming to Osage.

 

When did you notice yourself making huge strides and bumping up a level in your game?

Wasn’t until the end of my 2nd year as a head coach. I was really questioning myself and if what I was doing was right until after the state tournament that year. We had a majority of freshmen that year in the varsity line-up. But those guys were a tough bunch and there were more behind them. We were a force over the 5-7 years.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

The Osage ones of course. I do like watching Drake Ayala compete, he’s a pretty slick dude.

 

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

The same stuff I make my guys listen to today. 70’s and 80’s Rock

 

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

Probably losing in the state finals as a senior although my wrestlers would tell you I don’t take very many losses well.

 

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

#1 I would cut less weight and lift more. I really enjoyed wrestling and the sport but it became a negative when you can’t manage your weight correctly. We just didn’t do things the right way when it came to weight management then. My senior year I went that route and really enjoyed the season.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Winning as a team title as a coach and coaching both my sons to state titles were pretty special moments. Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you? I wrestled all year or at least spring and summer. I was on 3-4 Iowa Greco Teams. We only had Junior level stuff back then, no Cadets.

 

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

I think wrestling has evolved a lot over the years. There are a lot of things that have changed in 30 years. As far as the athleticism and grit I think the guys from my time would have no problem holding their own. But I think the advanced technique in the sport would make it difficult.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

One year at Iowa Central and then went to the Army. I wrestled a little bit in the Army as well. What other sports did you play? I ran XC but I wasn’t much of a runner.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

I’m a college fan. ISU and UNI. I can’t help but to be a Air Force Academy fan as well.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Woodworking and running my engraving business. I like playing golf too but haven’t done it much since becoming so busy as Junior Director for Iowa USA Wrestling in the summers.

 

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

It gave me purpose. I found something I was good at and enjoyed doing. Not sure what I would be doing if I didn’t have it as a focus.

 

What do you do now?

Shop teacher and still coaching Any advice for upcoming wrestlers? It takes focused time and effort to be good. To be great that has to happen over a long period of time. So repetitive good habits over a long period of time will bring you success. Like I said earlier kids and parents need to be patient for results and understand that success isn’t always defined as a state title or a state medal.

 

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

Not a chance!

 

Do you have anything to add?

I’ve made many great friends from all over the country officials, coaches, wrestlers and even parents. I can’t seem to go anywhere where I don’t run into someone I’ve met through the sport of wrestling. It can be a tough sport at times but at the end of the day I wouldn’t have done it any different. Not sure how many more years I will be doing this but I can say working with kids has been a lot of fun in all the sports I’ve coached. It hasn’t always been easy but it’s been a great 30 years. Working with kids has always easily been by far the best part. Without kids willing to put in the time we wouldn’t have had any of the success we’ve had.

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One of the deepest brackets in terms of talent in the history of the Iowa High School State Wrestling Tournament took place in 1982. Specifically in the 3A 105 lb. bracket. This is nuts. Check it out… these are the placers for 1982, 3A 105….

1982 2A 105
1. Steve Knight, Jr., Clinton
2. Jeff Gibbons, So., Ames
3. Brian Waddell, Sr., Bettendorf
4. Chuck Pearson, So., Waterloo East
5. Alan Paradise, Sr., Iowa City West
6. Tim Caquelin, So., Spencer

Tough bracket, eh? Heck yeah it is. The top 5 guys went on to compete at the D1 level and put together highly decorated careers. A couple of them are widely considered amongst the greatest Iowa HS wrestlers ever…

Steve Knight won his first of 2 titles in this tournament. He was also accomplished in the Freco scene. He had a year where he was named OW of both the Freestyle and Greco National Tournaments. He was an AA for Iowa State and even coached there as an assistant to HC Jim Gibbons…the brother of the man he met in the finals, Jeff Gibbons.  Jeff was a 3X finalist in HS, 2X champion. Jeff was also a Freco National Champ and was a 2X AA at Iowa State. He is the younger brother to 4X state champion, Joe Gibbons (as well as Jim and Tim) and Steve Knight is the older brother of 4X state champion, Dan Knight (younger brother of Jeff). Chuck Pearson was 4th here & a state champ in 1984. He was a DII qualifier for Morgan State. Knight had him 1st round here in ’82. Chuck made the Iowa Jr. team a couple years. Alan Paradise of IC West was 5th here & a PAC 10 champ in ’87 or ’88 for Cal State Bakersfield. Brian Waddell was 2nd string at UNI to Pat Pickford one season & then was a 3 year starter for the U. of Montana. He was 2nd twice in the Big Sky Conference & 3rd once…he just missed being an NCAA Qualifier twice by one wild card vote. Back then the DI Western Wrestling Conferences weren’t allowed many qualifiers. 8 teams & the 10 champs went & just 2 qualifiers..Brian & a lot of good guys shoulda been competing at NCAAs. Derrick Woods was runner-up to Pearson in 1984.

This bracket had it all. It had 5+ guys who went on to wrestle at the D1 level. It had two guys who were brothers of 4X state champions (Steve Knight and Jeff Gibbons) and by the time them and their brothers completed their careers, they solidified their spots as being members of a couple of Iowa HS wrestling’s most accomplished siblings ever. Those two happened to meet in the finals. It had upsets. It had multiple offseason world-beaters clashing against each other. It had comeback from behind wins.  It had several OT matches. It had everything you could ask for.

AND IT DIDN’T BEGIN AT STATE! A couple of the toughest guys in the bracket met each other at districts…. The eventual State Champ of the bracket, Steve Knight and 3rd place finisher, Brian Waddell met at districts. . Steve placed 6-SQ-1-1 at state. Waddell went SQ-4-3 at state…And it had a scenario prior to the tournament taking place in which one of the best guys at the weight (and returning placer) did not even make it out of districts because of being defeated by Knight and Waddell… His name was Jack Engelken and he was a returning state placer.  Jack didn’t go out quietly, either… In fact, the guys who placed 1st and 3rd in this bracket were damn lucky to not be beaten out by him, for he had both of them on the ropes… Read what 3rd place finisher (at state), Brian Waddell had to say about that:

Brian Waddell: Me and Knight almost didn’t qualify for state in ’82. We had a guy named Jack Engleken in our bracket. He was something like 26-0 and was 5th the year before at 98. I had him in the semifinals. He was beating me 6-2 with less than 20 seconds left in a row the match. I hit a five point Granby cradle and won 7-6. I upset number one seed Knight in the finals 9-6. That gave Engelken a shot at true second. The match went down to the wire with Knight winning by a point or two. He was a top guy in state who didn’t qualify his senior year.

Sidenote: Brian Waddell beat Steve Knight at the Bett Holiday Classic in Dec. 1981 9-5. Knight beat him in the dual 8-6, & then Waddell beat him again at the Clinton District 9-5 again!!

1. Brian Waddell, Bettendorf       2. Steve Knight, Clinton         3. Jack Engelken

 

Here is a picture of the granby Waddell executed to win the match at the end:

 

Here is a picture of Brian Waddell from Bettendorf and Steve Knight from Clinton wrestling in the finals at districts:

 

 

So after districts, it was on to state, and here is how the bracket looked:

 

As you can see, Waddell was edged out in the semis by Gibbons and finished in 3rd place… which set up an epic finals match-up between Jeff Gibbons and Steve Knight…two guys whose careers would end up having parallels with each other in the future. It’s only fitting that their match was one of the best shows ever put on by 2 wrestlers at Vets Auditorium. This is one of the best matches you will ever witness and it’s between two of the best HS wrestlers to ever come out of Iowa!

 

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Remember The Wrestler, Rob Hoback of Columbus Jct.

Rob Hoback… he’s a legend in Southeast Iowa. One of the best athletes to ever come out of the region. 

His 1998 Senior Year State Championship:

 

This is his Junior year finals loss vs. Frank Marchant, but I felt like both these guys had moments where they displayed crazy athleticism in this match:

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My parents were always encouraging me to try every sport. My Dad might even tell you that I learned to wrestle from watching the movie Vision Quest. LOL

 

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

Wrestling family. My oldest son is in his senior year and just won districts. Making another run a state. My brother Andy Hoback qualified a couple times and placed 4th his senior year.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals?

Made it to state a couple times but never placed. Not really.

 

What was your record in HS?

148-24. Wrestled some hammers my freshman year!!

 

How did you place at state every year?

Qualified sophomore year, 2nd junior year, 1st senior year.

 

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

Moment: Freshman year, Sectionals and I am in overtime with Drew Achenbach from North English Valley. Couple stalemates and we are down to about 15 seconds left. I hit a takedown and he fights it off at first but then I start to gain the upper hand. I get what I think was the takedown and jump up and start back to the middle of the mat. I then get tackled from behind and then hear the whistle. We meet in the center, shake hands and I go to raise my hand and the ref holds it down and raises Drew’s. The crowd went nuts!!! The ref turned to me and said, “ Don’t stop wrestling until I blow the whistle.” I was crushed! No wrestle back either. Drew got caught and pinned in the finals. I got to redeem myself at state duels and came away with a couple wins.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Greased Lightening!! LOL I am not sure what you would call it. I know that I loved being on my feet and I loved finding new ways to take people down.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I can’t pick just one because they all had skin in the game. They were the best!!

 

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

Sophomore year at state and I had to win this match to solidify becoming a place winner. I had wrestled this dude in sectionals and districts and could not beat him. Brian Ewing from Moravia. It was always close as was this match. I lost 5-4. I still think about that match. Oh yeah and when I lost in the finals my junior year. Crazy disappointed!

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yes!! Beyond competitive.

 

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

When I got to the junior high/high school years, it was Randy Pugh. He set the bar high!! But there are a lot more guys out there that definitely helped me along the way.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

The whole Hawkeye Lineup.

 

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

Junior year, state finals was pretty upsetting!! LOL

 

What sports did you play?

Football, Wrestling, Baseball, Track and Field.

 

How did you do in each of them?

Four year letter winner in every sport in high school. All state honors in all four. Would have to look at the record books. LOL

 

Who were some athletes that you looked up to growing up?

Too many to name.

 

How has your skills you picked up wrestling helped your game in other sports? How did other sports help your wrestling game?

Wrestling taught you to be in good position all the time to accomplish your objective. That helps in other sports and all walks of life.

 

What are some of your favorite memories of every sport you play?

Playing at the Unidome in football, Giving Mr. Purdy a hard time on the way to Dickinson relays for Track, and so many more.

 

What accolades are you most proud of from every sport?

Getting awarded The Hawkeye Athlete of the Year in 1998, Placed 4 times at State Track and Field meet.

 

Is your entire family athletic?

I would have to say yes. Both parents were very athletic. It was also something that drove me personally. I had some of the same teachers and coaches that my parents did when they were in school. I had to listen to stories about them and how it wasn’t going to be easy filling their shoes. My brother and sister were also amazing athletes!

 

Would you consider being a multi sport athlete as becoming more and more discouraged as time goes on for people who want to play a sport in college? What would you say to a HS athlete who is considering not going out for a sport they love because they feel like it’ll be held against them for not dedicating that time to the one sport they plan on playing in college?

Absolutely becoming more discouraged now-a-days. I believe not only is it discouraged, but it can also hinder an athlete from getting accepted into a college/program that they are more then qualified to attend and compete at.
To an athlete that is thinking about not going out for a sport they love: Don’t worry too much about it. You as an athlete will know your limitations and will make the right decisions. No one intentionally sets themselves up for failure.

 

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

Not sure what I would change. Maybe could have won more of the close ones.

 

What was your best wrestling memory/accomplishment? How hard did you work?

Senior year, 48-0, State Champ, Team duel Champs. We had a highly successful season. We worked our butts off.

 

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

From freshman to senior year. Here are a few in no particular order: Josh Dorothy, Justin Jeffs, Ryan Stevens, Tommy Hahn, Ben Scorpil and the list goes on.

 

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

Seasonal

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes

 

What other sports did you play?

Football, Baseball, Track & Field

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Anything Hawkeye!!!

 

What are your hobbies?

Crossfit!!! Anything outdoors hunting, fishing etc. Spending time with family and hanging out with friends. Love watching me some wrestling!! Can’t wait to be able to go watch in person again.

 

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

It has definitely made me a competitor in all aspects of life and has giving me the mindset of, “there’s nothing you can do to keep me from accomplishing my goals. I will find a way to succeed!”

 

What do you do now?

Power Plant Controls & Instrumentation Technician 1. I work for the Best Damn Utility Company!! Muscatine Power & Water

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Yes

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Nail the basics the other stuff will come. Have fun!

 

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

Probably not.

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Remember The Wrestler: Eric Schares, Don Bosco

 

Out of all wrestling media, past and present, if I were to list my top 5-10 favorite wrestling media writers, personalities, announcers, etc. may surprise people, but it’s heavily influenced by those I grew up reading and/or looking up to.  Some of these come to mind immediately…

Tim Johnson is far and away my favorite individual in wrestling media…actually, he may be up there with Jack Buck as my favorite in all of sports.  Tim is a born and raised Southeast Iowan like myself and has lived a life and accomplished things I could only dream of achieving.  And he reached his success by being true to himself.  The passion he has for the sport of wrestling is detectible to anyone who takes a second to listen to him for a few seconds and his takes are always spot-on and from a variety of angles, for he has worn a lot of wrestling “hats” in his day….wrestler, coach, commentator, advocate…. He is the wrestling media GOAT, to me and likely always will be.  

Jim Thompson is a man who compiled the 1A/2A rankings for The Predicament for decades and when I initially began writing about wrestling on forums in HS, he was someone I always really looked up to.  

So many people associate me with the late Dan McCool due to our shared love for wrestling history (and really, that’s basically the one thing he and I have in common), but to be honest, I never read much of his work. That’s not written with intentions of slighting or disrespecting Mr. McCool at all… He was great and I love his book, “Reach For The Stars.”  I use that book as a reference at times. He’s just not who I grew up reading… He wrote for The Des Moines Register. We rarely ever even encountered a Des Moines Register in my area.  In Southeast Iowa, we get a newspaper called The Hawkeye and 1 in 10 or so will buy a CR Gazette or QC Times. I can’t recall ever seeing a DM Register newspaper laying around my house…so I didn’t read much McCool.  The Hawkeye is based out of Burlington. With this situation, I was spoiled, for I grew up reading a couple of the state’s best ever wrestling journalists in Craig Sesker and Matt Levins.  So they are up there for me.  

There is a man named Todd Conner who used to have a wrestling newspaper and it was awesome.  

Of course, The Predicament staff, past and present…Wyatt…

I really like reading or following anything KJ Pilcher publishes.  He’s got an intriguing writing style and he was a good wrestler himself, so he receives bonus points for that. 

Lars Underbakke from IAwrestle is great and very knowledgeable.

In certain ways, Tony Hager from IAwrestle has been better to me than pretty much anyone else in wrestling media has been, which is ironic considering he and I had a rough patch there. He has given me opportunities to reach his audience, which is much larger than mine… that was pretty cool of him. He’s up there. 

In a nutshell, that is the jist of some of my personal favorites and something that those guys with an exception of Tony and Lars all have in common is that they are people I looked up to BEFORE I began covering wrestling.  Even Lars was “Fulsaas Fan” on the forums when I began. However, if I were to make a list of my favorite wrestling media personalities, it’d be incomplete if I were to leave out one of my all-time favorites who started covering wrestling AFTER I did… And that’s Eric Schares from Don Bosco. He covers wrestling for Iowa wrestling media outlet, IAwrestle.com  He is one of the most knowledgeable people you will ever talk to in regards to wrestling at multiple levels (you won’t find anyone more knowledgeable about 1A HS wrestling in IA). Even if you disagree with any take he may have, he has his own logic/reasoning to back up it up and he’s consistent with it.  And to make him a borderline intimidating presence in the wrestling media world is his cunning ability to display unbelievable wit in his responses to those who may disagree with him…. I am good at this myself and generally never shy away from a good old fashioned “flame war,” if necessary and I rarely ever encounter anyone who I would feel inclined to avoid said “flame wars” if they did in fact, unravel. I win 99% of them.  Schares is an exception. He’s a dude I won’t mess with.  Probably the only one.  I’ve seen people try to contest his takes in disrespectful fashion several times before and he just rips them to shreds.  That’s another thing I like about him. He will not hold back or paint a prettier picture for you than necessary to ensure you don’t get your feelings hurt.  He will argue with you….and he is able to push a person’s buttons and get them frazzled in doing so and 9 times out of 10, he is right about whatever topic it may be to begin with…or at the very least, has his own logic for it.  If wrestling ever grows to a point where ESPN/Fox Sports/etc. analysts are sought out, discovered and hired to cover the sport, Eric Schares should be one of the first ones contacted. He’s good. And he’s entertaining. Even if someone doesn’t like him, they can’t deny that he brings some excitement to the equation just out of his willingness to unapologetically be himself… 

And as unpleasant as he may come off to someone who disagrees with him, the man has got a heart of gold and that is observable by the way he discusses some of the individuals in wrestling who influenced him. Most notably with Don Bosco people… You’ll never find someone who genuinely loves their squad moreso than Eric Schares genuinely loves and appreciates the wrestlers/coaches to come through the Don Bosco program.  He will be loyal to Don Bosco for life and I couldn’t respect him more for it.  

I’ve observed several disputes that fans/wrestlers have had with IAwrestle in the past.  In fact, I am notorious for being part of a fairly highly publicized beef with them myself, something I am happy to have put behind me by now. A lot of times, when someone is upset with an IAwrestle take, people will resort to calling their staff out for not having a wrestling background, when in reality, these people failed to do their homework with them. The staff at IAwrestle is tougher than people realize. To start, the owner, Tony Hager was a phenomenal wrestler in HS… He was a 3X placer/2X finalist.  Lars Underbakke wrestled for Cresco, a downright wrestling history hotbed. And of course, Eric Schares. He was a state place-winner for Don Bosco in his day. A great wrestler.  So for anyone reading, keep that in mind if you want to get snippy with those guys….the IAwrestle guys have some very impressive wrestling accolades on their resumes and they DO know the in’s and out’s of the sport.  So be prepared if you are brave enough to cyber-scrap with someone like Eric Schares. He is a super bright individual who grew up in a community in which wrestling is part of the culture.  Wrestling is a second language to him and he can speak it fluently and with the speed of that guy who used to “speed talk” on the old Micro Machines commercials. The wrestlers who grew up in Gilbertville should feel proud to have grown up in the rich wrestling atmosphere they did and further, should feel proud that it’s home to passionate people like Eric Schares.  A guy I really look up to. 

And some advice for you all.  If you ever find yourself in the middle of an intense internet battle with Eric, keep in mind….he is probably laughing at how ticked off he is making you….  🙂

 

 

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

It was Bosco my whole life. Wrestled in the kids club there all the way through high school. In the summers we would practice with La Porte and Columbus a lot.

 

What year did you graduate?

2005

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

I don’t really recall what got me into it. I think maybe I saw my good buddy Joe Girsch doing it, so I decided to give it a try. I know I first started going to peewee practice in 1st grade and wrestled my first tournament in 2nd grade. I just liked going and hanging out with my friends, my dad and brother, and all of his friends at the weekend tournaments. My mom was always there supporting me too.

 

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

My younger brother (Who is much bigger than me) finished 5th in 2007 and got 2nd in 2008. My first cousin Bryce was a 2x state qualifier a few years ago for Bosco. My 6 year old son Graham just started competing a little this year. We have been to 2 tournaments so far and it makes me so happy just seeing him having fun with his buddies while spiking some dudes on the mat. My 3 year old daughter, Sloane, also participates in practice. They are both very feisty little red heads.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I qualified for AAU State my 6th grade year but went 0-2, Finished 4th at AAU my 8th grade year. I cant say as I ever really had a rival. A lot of good guys that would hand me a monthly beating maybe. Probably the closest was Trevor Kittelson. I beat him a couple of times in freestyle and Greco early in my high school career then he got the better of me later on. I must have showed him the key to being a great wrestler.

 

What was your record in HS?

75ish and 25ish. I could probably look it up but it was pretty close to that. I missed almost my entire senior year with a broken hand from football. I came back the week before sectionals.

 

How did you place at state every year?

Finished 5th place my senior year. I was ranked around 7th my junior year, but lost at sectionals and never got a wrestleback because Charlie Ettelson was also in that bracket. Would I like to have that match back? Of course, but I just flat out got beat. I just didn’t force the action. Although, I don’t feel being a 2x placer winner over just doing it once would have changed my life in any meaningful way. It probably made me appreciate things a little more my senior year down at state.

 

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

One of my biggest battles was always just finding a spot in the lineup. Mack Reiter was at the weight that would have been the most optimal for me my freshman and sophomore year. Both the weights above that each year had a state placewinner for us at them also. I tried cutting a ton of weight each year to make the next lowest weight class. My freshman year, the weight just was not there to lose to make 103 so I went up to 125. My sophomore year I actually made 119 twice, but I was a shell of myself. I took a few losses those first two weeks to kids I had no business losing to. I made the decision to go up to 135, I won my first try out but lost the spot to Phil O’Loughlin who would go on to qualify that year and then win state 2 years later. My junior year I was at a good weight, had a great season beating a lot of guys that would go on to place, I just took that one loss at sectionals and all of the sudden I was sitting back crying my eyes out knowing that 3 quarters of my high school career were gone. I was in a pretty dark place then and wrestling was not really fun anymore. I broke my hand in football before the start of my senior wrestling season. To this day I still think that breaking my hand was the best thing that ever could have happened to me. It allowed me to still work on my conditioning, but just watch wrestling for a few months again and fall back in love with it.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I felt like I was always in better shape than everyone I wrestled. I probably didn’t use that to the best of my ability in my style though. I like to go upper body a lot, but I scored a lot of takedowns with my quickness from anklepicks and ducks. I think the best way to describe my style was probably a strategist. If I had a lead late, it was over. I scored a lot at the end of periods, knew how to work the edge, could ride well enough to keep guys from scoring. I call it a strategist, you might call it a staller!

 

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

Honestly not many. The Bosco crew would always travel around to find the best competition so that usually kept us from seeing the same people too much. I think Doug Reiter made a lot of calls ahead to kids tournament directors and made sure all of our brackets were loaded. I felt like we had a truck load of great wrestlers coming home with 3rd and 4th place trophies a lot.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

That’s a tough one. Most of the coaches at Bosco now either came after I left or were just starting towards the end of my career. I would have to go with Doug Reiter though. I don’t think I ever learned a bit of technique from the guy, but he was a master with the mental aspect. The best I can put it into words was he had a way of pumping you up while calming you down simultaneously. I think the mental side of wrestling is talked about a lot and still not enough. It is absolutely everything. That’s another thing I really like to study when I watch wrestling and talk about it. I like watching and hearing about what different wrestlers mentalities are. I don’t think there is a one size fits all mental approach. My junior year I was at my best as far as technique and conditioning went and that season didn’t end how I wanted. My senior year, I probably traded in a little conditioning and technique for a huge improvement in my mentality and it paid off for me.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

We won state duals by freshman and senior years. We finished 2nd my sophomore year. It was a lot of fun winning state titles with guys I grew up with riding bikes across Gilbertville and getting into trouble just being knuckle head little kids.

 

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

I followed everyone. I knew all the Bosco guys and who their biggest rivals were. I was winning money of older guys in state champion pick ‘em tournaments back in grade school, so it is hard to put my finger on just one guy. I loved watching them all.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

It’s always going to be Mack Reiter for me. I learned a lot from him on his work ethic. That was always my goal in conditioning was to match how hard he was working or top it. I tried to beat him in every crawl, sprint, or 3 man rolls.

 

You’ve covered wrestling for IAwrestle for a few years now, how has the experience been for you?

Been a lot of fun. It is a lot of work constantly trolling Tony Hager. I just love having fun with it. I’m always looking for the perfect joke. I have fun with some of the behind the scenes access it gives me to events. I just love watching how wrestlers take big wins and losses in the bowels of an arena while nobody is watching. It something I have always studied. Not necessarily study as in sit down at a desk and breakdown film, but I just like watching it. There is something that I have never really been able to put into words about it. I love big matches that have huge consequences for the winner and also the loser. It brings out the best in people or even just who they really are. I think I can kind of feel for guys that don’t get what they want because a lot of times I didn’t get what I wanted. To me the best part is trying to figure out why it did or didn’t go well for someone.  I ask the question “why” a lot when it comes to decisions made on the mat or in training to other coaches an athletes. Sometimes it gets perceived as me second guessing, but it’s really just me trying to figure out what makes people successful.

 

In order to grow wrestling, what are some things we could do to make it happen?

Do away with the “Good Ole Boys” mentality and open up to new ideas.

 

What is a crazy or funny experience you’ve had so far in your time covering the rankings?

How mid to low ranked Western Iowa 1a guys love trading losses back and forth to make my life hell when trying to put together a top 12.

 

Do you like doing rankings or do you have a love-hate relationship with it? What is your philosophy on how you do yours?

It is a lot of work filling all of Tony’s demands. I don’t do rankings like most other people. Some of it is the same like if wrestler A beats B then A is ranked higher, but I also put a lot of my predictions in there more so than other people. At the end of the day when all the dust has settled at state, nobody will remember how I came to the conclusion of ranking a guy first instead of second. They will just remember that I had the guy at #1 who won the tournament.

 

What are some interesting hypothetical matchups between guys from different eras that you would have been interesting in seeing?

Generally, I think the top end guys get better from era to era. I’m not a big fan of the back in my day stories and how much tougher they had it. Selfishly I’d always like to see how that 2005 class from my senior year stacked up against other eras though.

 

Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?

A lot of guys from that 2005 class. I knew how hard I worked to get where I got so it was a constant struggle I had trying to figure out if those guys really put that much more work in than me or if it was all back to that mentality. I worked out with a 4xer everyday for more of my career than I didn’t and I felt I held my own in the work department. That’s what keeps me up at nights is trying to figure out what separates those two people.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Can we switch this to favorite current high school athlete? For me that would be Cael Frost. I just love his mentality when it comes to sports. I think to be successful on the mat or the field you have to have a level of naïve confidence as Mack Reiter calls it. Some people think they are good, but Cael knows it. When the smack talk starts from the other team, he gets better.

 

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

Rock 108 was what the radio was always on in the wrestling room. Disturbed, Saliva, Godsmack, Metallica. Any music similar to that. I still listen to that on my long runs, it just sets the tone mentally for me. Even to this day certain songs take me back to some of the battles I had in the practice room with Todd Becker, Nick Weber, and Adam Weber. It didn’t hurt having a state champ, 3rd place finisher, and D3 all American to wrestle with everyday.

 

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

It’s that sectional loss my junior year and nothing else is even close.

 

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

Probably the one I mentioned 2-3 times already my junior year, but just for fun lets throw another one in. The summer after my freshman year at Fargo I was 3-0 in Greco and wrestling a kid from Oklahoma. He launched me for 5 early, but I threw him to his back late in the match. Was millimeter from pinning him as time ran out. I lost my next match too and I was done. Had I won that match I would’ve AAed at Fargo.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Probably my win first round at state my senior year, I beat the #2 ranked wrestler in the tiebreakers. I remember my Dad and Doug Reiter in the front row of the seats at Vets just going crazy.I could hear everything they were saying. Another memory that goes with that is after I pinned my guy in the wrestleback to place, I had a “Ricky Bobby, I don’t know what to do with my hands” moment. I just kind of ran off the mat past my coaches and there was my dad right there probably ready to hug me and I just ran right by him, it didn’t really fully register until I was down in the basement of Vets that I just ran right by him without acknowledging him. I didn’t know where I was running I just kind of ran with no end game.

 

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

I was a 4 sport athlete so not year round.Most of the way through high school we would get 50+ Freco matches in a summer.

 

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

Jay Borschel, Joey Slaton, Dan LeClere, Mitch Mueller, Chad Beatty, Matt Fields, etc………….you tell me

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

I am undefeated post high school. Won a match in OT at a Don Bosco alumni meet. One of my biggest regrets was not going to a smaller college and wrestling after high school.

 

What other sports did you play?

Baseball was my favorite sport and still probably is. That was the sport I was best at. I played baseball in college at NIACC.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Atlanta Braves and Iowa Hawkeyes. I am can be a very irrational fan at times.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Hanging out with family. We are always doing something together.

 

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

I think it is what makes Bosco so great. You have 10 coaches that are basically donating their time to keep Bosco at the top. Not many if any teams have as many accolades as the Bosco coaching staff and they are doing it not for the money, but because they love doing it.

 

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

I think wrestling helps people elevate when times get tough in life or at work. In my profession there are a lot of times where a dangerous part of a tree needs to be removed, and I feel like I thrive in those situations because you are so use to people looking at you expecting you to perform when it’s only you and your opponent under the spotlight. I like that pressure of being the go to guy in the toughest situations, there is a lot of pride that goes with that.

 

What do you do now?

Troll people on the internet mostly.

I work for the City of Waverly. In my position, I am the City Forester as well as in charge of conservation efforts through maintaining the towns prairies and natural areas.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I do what I can at IAwrestle although it is less now with a family. I helped Joe Reiter out coaching the 3rd-8th graders in Gilbertville for 5 or so years. Now I help Isaiah Corbin at practices with the Preschool-2nd graders which mostly consists of drilling them with dodgeballs.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Don’t ever look at a loss and use it as a measuring stick for where you think you stack up compared to anyone else. Don’t allow it to be a measure stick.

 

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

Absolutely not. I felt my conditioning was what gave me an edge when I wrestled. Since I don’t have that anymore, I’d probably get worked.

 

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

I want to give a shoutout to my wife. I feel like all my answers were geared towards my high school days before I met my wife so she never came up in them. Jacki loves wrestling too, we regularly go to wrestling meets and tournaments from Bosco to UI meets. We always make the trip to the state tournament too. I enjoy watching wrestling and spending time with her.

 

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

I imagine this is that last Remember The Wrestler you will be doing since I am easily the least accomplished person to do this so you must be scraping the bottom of the barrel.

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Cullan Schriever… One of my favorite wrestlers….EVER. A technical wizard on the mat. I’ve never seen someone so efficiently utilize a spectrum of set-ups to score a plethora of takedowns each match quite like Cullan Schriever.  When he’s on and healthy, his game is systematic and borderline flawless and if you know what you are looking at when you watch him, it is quite the show.

So Cullan CAN’T have a case for the GOAT since he only won 3 titles, right?  WRONG. I refuse to put much stock in the one year that he did not win state.  It was his Junior year and he was terribly injured. A broken ankle, I believe.  And he STILL managed to place at state.  Unbelievable. On full-health, Cullan is nothing less than a legit comparison to undefeated 4X state champion and 2X national champion Hawkeye, Eric Juergens of Maquoketa. In fact, he reminds me a lot of Eric. He’s THAT good.

Cullan was able to accomplish some things that only the elite of the elite in the NATION were able to achieve.  Take a look at this resume:

  • 3X State Champion, 4x placer.
  • Fargo cadet freestyle champion in 2016…
  • Fargo junior freestyle champion in 2018…
  • 2017 Super 32 champion
  • Folkstyle cadet national champion in 2016
  • Two-time UWW Cadet All-American

Try to think of some other Iowa HS guys who Schriever’s accolades aren’t on par with…. I’m waiting.  I mean, the kid won Super 32…Who else has done that? Fredy Stroker?

Schriever is a product of Sebolt Wrestling Academy… So is current Fort Dodge Senior, Drake Ayala.  Drake is one of the Iowa HS GOAT’s in his own right and is trying to become a 3X state champion this year himself… The one year he didn’t win state, who stopped him? You guessed it, Cullan Schriever.

Does Cullan Schriever have a case as Iowa HS wrestling’s GOAT?  If you don’t think so, you are wrong… plain and simply.  In fact, he very well could be the best I’ve ever witnessed on the Iowa HS wrestling scene.  I’d love to see how he would do in some hypothetical matchups against other Iowa HS greats…. I am 100% Cullan would handle himself just fine against anyone you throw out there with him.

And my respect for him exceeds the wrestling mat, for a couple years ago when I covered 3A wrestling for The Predicament, the Mason City trio of Cullan, his twin brother Colby and 285 lber. Troy Monahan were some of the most impressive athletes I met all year.  All three were polite, well-spoken and showed patience with me when I had some technical issues. You seriously just couldn’t ask for a better trio of guys to represent your team in the manner those three did on and off the mat. RESPECT to Mason City’s wrestling community!!!!

I’m a huge fan of this kid… He is my favorite Hawkeye right now.

 


2017 3A 106

  • 1st Place – Cullan Schriever of Mason City
  • 2nd Place – Ben Monroe of Ankeny Centennial
  • 3rd Place – Cody Anderson of Waukee
  • 4th Place – Conrad Braswell of Prairie, Cedar Rapids
  • 5th Place – Nick Oldham of Valley, WDM
  • 6th Place – Evan Yant of Waverly-Shell Rock
  • 7th Place – Nathan Kahoe of Des Moines Lincoln
  • 8th Place – Hans vonRabenau of Iowa City, West

2018 3A 106

  • 1st Place – Cullan Schriever of Mason City
  • 2nd Place – Drake Ayala of Fort Dodge
  • 3rd Place – Lucas Uliano of Waukee
  • 4th Place – Devin Harmison of Southeast Polk
  • 5th Place – Ethan Wood-Finley of Iowa City, City High
  • 6th Place – Aiden Evans of Bettendorf
  • 7th Place – Rheiner Stahlbaum of Johnston

 

2019 3A 120

  • 1st Place – Carson Taylor of Fort Dodge
  • 2nd Place – Hunter Garvin of Iowa City, West
  • 3rd Place – Aiden Evans of Bettendorf
  • 4th Place – Keaton Moret of Norwalk
  • 5th Place – Thomas Edwards of Johnston
  • 6th Place – Cullan Schriever of Mason City
  • 7th Place – Nick Miller of Waukee
  • 8th Place – Nick Walters of Sioux City, North

 

2020 3A 126

  • 1st Place – Cullan Schriever of Mason City
  • 2nd Place – Carson Taylor of Fort Dodge
  • 3rd Place – Ayden Kingery of Southeast Polk
  • 4th Place – Thomas Edwards of Johnston
  • 5th Place – Bryce Parke of Linn-Mar – Marion
  • 6th Place – Grant Harbour of Norwalk
  • 7th Place – Connor Kelley of Waukee
  • 8th Place – Jackson Helmkamp of Ankeny Centennial
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Remember The Wrestler: Wes Pargeon, Montezuma HS

A lot of you have been following The Pin Doctors and what I’ve been  up to with it since the day I started it a little over a year ago. I don’t feel like I’m going out on too much of a limb when I say that many of you have had a lot of fun in your time spent here, which makes me feel proud beyond words. My brother, Shea discovered how much fun people on a wide scale level have had on the site a few months ago. He was pretty proud of what I am doing after a conversation he had with someone while coaching a football game…and he can be a bit of an tough sell for me. If he likes or dislikes something I’m doing, he’s not afraid to hurt my feelings about it. And if you do something well in his eyes, you earned it, for he will not flourish you with even the most microscopic of compliments unless he means it.  So you can about imagine my excitement when he got ahold of me one night, noticeably excited. He indicated to me that he couldn’t wait to tell me whatever it was he had to tell me. When I got him on the phone, he said that someone he had just met that night at the football game had some nice things to say about the site and about me. The way he described it, during a break, he was having a routine conversation about wrestling with the officiating crew when he mentioned that his brother launched a wrestling website. Shea isn’t necessarily an avid reader or follower of the site, so I don’t think he expected anyone to know what it was. When the crew asked him what it was called, he told them it was The Pin Doctors and to his surprise, every one of their faces lit up and it became apparent to him that not only did they all know what it was, but they all really liked it. It was one of the first signs for Shea that the site had actually been getting somewhere in terms of it becoming widespread and received well amongst the wrestling community… That there may be something to this wrestling site I was always babbling about.

When I asked him who these people were, he told me 3 names, but pointed out that one of them seemed to be a more avid reader/follower than the other two. His name was Wes Pargeon from Montezuma. Ironically, I had just become familiarized with Wes’s name within the 2-3 weeks leading to that evening, for I had recently uploaded his state finals match. Also, I almost bought a truck from a man named Zac Whitehead, who told my dad and I when we met with him that he was related to the Pargeon’s from Montezuma. So I thought this was cool.

Shea told me he was proud of me. That doesn’t happen all that often and it made my day…thanks to Wes Pargeon.

 

 

What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle?

​No clubs.  Montezuma High School.

 

What year did you graduate?

​1989

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

​It was just another sport my parents got us brothers into.

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? How did they do?

​Brothers ​Mike 1985 state qualifier

​​​Curt 1991 district qualifier

​​​Daryl 1992 didn’t compete junior/senior year due to kidney issues

 

What were your youth results?  Any rivals there?

I don’t recall recording my record. Delson Knowler from Bloomfield and Sage Dalstrom from Pekin were 2 individuals I remember.  Delson would get the win and Sage and I would go back and forth.

 

What was your record in HS?

​I don’t recall exactly, somewhere around 80 wins and 20 loses.

 

How did you place at state every year?

​Senior year 2nd place.

 

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

Notable to myself was losing 21 lbs. my freshman year. It was definitely a learning experience for my next 3 years.  Also not wrestling sectionals my junior year due to back injury and not being able to wrestle till after Christmas my senior year due to tonsillitis and mono.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

It really depended on who I was wrestling at that time.  Sometimes I was the aggressor and sometime I just waited for the opponent to make a mistake.

 

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

My senior year I wrestled Phil Grimm from English Valley.  I won our first encounter and he won the next two.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Jim Bond taught me as a youth and was my assistant coach in HS.  Gary Stroble was my JH and HS head coach.  Coach Stroble started our Montezuma wrestling program in 1981.  Montezuma didn’t even have mats to practice on when they had their 1st meet with 6 wrestlers.  Montezuma never won a dual meet until 1982. He got his 1st dual shut out in 1983. And his 1st state qualifier in 1985 (my brother Mike).  Some of you reading this will understand when a coach and student click, good things happen.  I was fortunate to click with 2 coaches.

 

Was your team competitive in HS?

​We had a good team in HS. Of course, there were better teams out there.

 

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

Having an older brother and 2 younger brothers I can’t just pick one.  Along with our sibling fighting at home, watching all 3 brothers practice and compete helped me become a better wrestler.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

​I can’t just say 1 wrestler. There are several that meet the requirements of a GOAT.

 

How would you describe Montezuma wrestling, past and present?

I would describe it as a struggling program past and present.  Spectators, overall, would rather watch a game not a match.

 

Would you consider a strength of yours to be your ability to scramble well and be able to hit some funky technique that works well?

​A strength of mine was being able to scramble. But as far as funky technique, no.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

​Spencer Lee for his dominance and Austin Desanto for his attitude.

 

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

​About whatever I could get reception for?

 

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

I would have to say my senior final match at state. It wasn’t the fact that I lost but because the season was over.

 

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

I would have lifted weights.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Having my parents at every tournament and meet is a great memory I will never forget. Winning my 1st wrestle off as a freshman and finishing 2nd place at the state tournament as a senior.

 

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

I met Shawn Pippert at the Louisa Muscatine tournament in the finals every year.  Unfortunately, he was victorious every time.

 

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

​Only wrestled during the season.

 

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

I would hope the guys today would kick our butts due to the excessive time they spend on the mat.  There are a lot of kids going to clubs and tournaments year-round today.

 

Did you wrestle after HS?

My second year of college I went to Buena Vista and wrestle for ½ year. My mind set and extracurricular activities outscored my college wrestling career.

 

What other sports did you play?

​Football, cross country, wrestling, golf, and baseball.

 

What are your favorite sport teams?

​All Iowa Hawkeyes and Tennessee Titans

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

​Hunting/fishing

 

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

​I taught our little kid program for about 3 yrs. It was a thrill at that time.

 

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

​One word (confidence).

 

What do you do now?

​Tool & Die Maker

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

​Just wrestling with my kids on the living room floor.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

I would start off telling them about my senior tournament results. I wrestled in 7 tournaments starting after Christmas. I only won 2 of them and placed 2nd at the other 5(sectionals, districts and state were all 2nd place).  Believe you belong with the best of them. Set your goal high but achievable. Don’t forget to have fun.

 

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

Not a chance (lol). I don’t bend like I used to.

 

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

To the late Troy Rohret from Clear Creek. I never knew him personally, but I’m sure he was a great guy. He beat me in the state finals 4-2. Rest in peace, Champ.

 

Do you have anything to add?

​One thing I want to say is thanks to you Joshua Swafford.  What you have created here brings back a lot of great memories. Thanks again.

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Remember The Wrestler: Ryan Valline, East Marshall/GMG

 

Ryan Valline wrestled for East Marshall/GMG and graduated in 2011. He was the first State Champ for EM/GMG and holy cow did he ever win a deep bracket and holy cow did he ever win an exciting match in the finals. His  wrestling story is a great one! A great wrestler who did an awesome job getting things rolling for his HS program.

 

What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle? 

I wrestled at South Tama club until my 5th or 6th grade year. Then I went to East Marshall for a year before going to Cedar Rapids Hammerin Hawks. Then I transferred schools to East Marshall my 8th grade year until I graduated. In college I went to Iowa Central for a semester and spent two years at Itasca Community College in Minnesota.

 

What year did you graduate? 

I graduated in 2011.

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try? 

My dad is the one who encouraged me to give wrestling a try.

 

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

My dad wrestled only a couple years when he was in high school. My brother wrestled from the time he was young until his senior year. I’m not quite sure how my dad did but my brother had an average career.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there? 

My youth results were not great. I lost a lot of matches when I was younger. I believe it was roughly my 6th grade year is when I started winning matches and tournaments. I finally placed at AAU state my 8th grade year. I took third.

 

What was your record in HS? 

I believe it was a 154-27.

 

How did you place at state every year? 

Soph 6th at 160

Jr 5th at 152

Sr 1st at 152

 

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

I would have to say wrestling in the finals. The guy had beaten me twice at in the prior weeks. I was down 4-3 with 13 seconds lefts. After a couple shot attempts my opponent got hit with stalling and it was his 3rd stall call which tied up the match and I didn’t know it. I took a shot and got a takedown with 1 second left on the clock.

 

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

I would have to say Chase Skoneczka from Benton. Throughout high school I beat him every time but the scores kept getting closer and closer. Then our senior year, he beat me at sectionals and districts. We both went on to make the finals and once again it came down to the end with me scoring a last second takedown to win 6-4.

 

Who was your most influential coach? 

Todd Hinegardner

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college? 

East Marshall was a very competitive team. We took 7th 3 years in a row at traditional state. My junior year we finally were able to make it to dual state after losing to Dallas Center Grimes and Denver Tripoli the previous years at regional duals. We finished 4th.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers? 

Spencer Lee and Kyle Dake

 

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

In the practice room in high school, we listened to a lot of classic rock. In college my teammates were more into the rap music.

 

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

My freshman year in high school. I won sectionals and was the heavy favorite to win districts and my first match I wrestled sloppy and it went into sudden victory and I had to ride him out. The guy stood up and I was about to bring him back to the mat and I tripped and lost my grip. Then the guy I beat in the finals at sectionals went on to place at state. I told myself I would never put myself in that situation again.

 

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

I would go back and start lifting in high school.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment? 

Being the first state champion for East Marshall/GMG. There are many wrestlers that I thought would be the first for EM/GMG. A couple that comes to mind is Brett Rosedale and Sam Upah. They both were great wrestlers.

 

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

Tanner Weatherman and Blake Soresenson

 

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

I wrestled all year.

 

Did you wrestle after high school? 

I wrestled at Iowa Central for a semester before joining the military. I didn’t compete there. Then I wrestled up at Itasca Community College in Minnesota for Dan Lovell who coached me in freestyle and greco.

 

What other sports did you play? 

Football

 

What are your favorite sports teams? 

Iowa Hawkeyes and Minnesota Vikings

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling? 

Hunt, fish, and lift weights.

 

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

Wrestling has taught me to be a hard worker at everything I do.

 

What do you do now? 

I am currently a Lineman Apprentice.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling? 

Sadly no. I was a coach for a freestyle club up north and I was a freestyle and ref for a few years.

 

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

It’s possible.

 

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

I would have to shout out to coaches Todd Hinegardner, Kelly Madison, Dan Lovell. Also shout out to a couple wrestlers that kicked my butt every day in practice, Sam Upah and Jase Schossow.

 

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

After I won state, I walked back into the locker room and on my bag was a one dollar bill with the words State Champ on it. To this day, I still do not know who did that.

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