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All the 4Xers are done, which makes me happy, for now I can quit leaving out the bigger guys. When the big guys noticed that we were doing this series, they probably groaned, for they always get left out of these discussions…. for it is immensely more difficult to become a 4X state champion as a big guy than it is as a lighter guy. A lot of big guys are just straight up out-manned their underclassmen seasons due to not hitting puberty yet and wrestling a large percentage of guys who already have chest hair….

It wouldn’t be fair to leave these guys out. Middleweight, Upper-middle, Heavy… They all have a pass for not winning 4. They are still in this debate despite not winning 4.

Mark Sindlinger from Charles City is one of the most prolific multi-sport athletes to come out of the state of Iowa. He wrestled at the HWT Division all 4 years in HS and won state titles in 1981, 1982 and 1983. He went on to play football for the Hawkeyes AS WELL as wrestled for them. He was a 2X Big 10 Champ wrestler and placed 4th and 6th at NCAA Nats. He only had one full season of wrestling to work with, the other two seasons were shortened from football where he was a 3-year starter and a member of a Hawks football team that went to 4 Bowl games.

On top of this, he was successful in high school at the national level by winning both a Junior Freestyle National Championship and a Junior Greco Freestyle National Championship… So he won state in folkstyle and won nationals in freestyle and greco. He was elite at not only folkstyle wrestling, but every form of wrestling there is. This displays his versatility and is another feather in his cap in terms of comparing him to the rest of the guys who have cases for GOAT consideration.

Does Mark Sindlinger have a case for being the Iowa HS wrestling GOAT?!!! Shoot, I’ll take it a step further. Mark Sindlinger has a case for being Iowa’s GOAT all-around athlete!!!




Remember The Wrestler: Zach Light, Lisbon HS

If you’ve been following the site the past year, you may recall that I posted Remember The Wrestler articles for Lisbon brothers; Ike and Shane Light a few months ago. For those of you who know the Light family, you may have felt as if things were still pretty far from being complete in regards to the Light brothers because another Light brother with an equally impressive resume equipped with a hot temper as well as a reputation of being a fierce competitor, excellent wrestler, explosive athlete and a charismatic person had not been covered yet.  This was the middle brother, Zach Light. A 3X state finalist and 2X state champion. I’d say it took about 2 days after posting the 2nd Light bro’s article (can’t remember if it were Ike or Shane) before the first Lisbon fan inquired with something along the lines of, “you are going to do Zach Light for one of these as well, right? I can’t wait for his.” There has been 2-3 inquiries about him from Lisbon fans since that initial request. As a wrestler and as a guy who came from a family of 4 brothers myself, I was absolutely planning on doing one for Zach considering he wanted to…I’d consider it a “jerk-move” on my end not to do so. But there are some Lisbon fans looking forward to this one, for sure!

Lisbon is a wrestling community that every wrestling community should strive to be like in the sense where they follow, support and genuinely love every one of the athletes that go through the works with them. Lisbon wrestling goes so deep and has been going on for so long that there are wrestlers who have both grown up with Lisbon wrestling heroes they looked up to and have become Lisbon wrestling heroes that future Lions looked up to themselves. It’s gone full-circle with so many of these guys and Zach Light (as well as his brothers) is a perfect example of this. Zach was born into a well-known Lisbon wrestling family and grew up idolizing some of the Lions that surfed the initial waves of Lisbon wrestling dominance before him… And when it was his time to shine, well hell… would you expect anyone with the last name “Light” to not shine? Zach became one of the best himself and in turn, inspired several future Lisbon wrestlers. It’s the “circle of life” made famous by Disney’s The Lion King. It’s become the Lisbon Lion way. Or hey, how about “the circle of Light?” How’s that for fitting?

Still gotta get their cousin Vance and who knows, maybe my uncle Kevin Swafford can write one on one of the “Baxter generation” Light brothers? 

Think about how much joy the Light family experienced at Vets Auditorium from 1987 when oldest brother, Shane was a Freshman, to 1993 when the youngest, Ike graduated.  Shane won 4 state titles in from 87-90. Zach won titles in 1991 and 1992 and wrestled in the finals in 1990. Ike won 3 titles in 1990-1992. That is 9 titles in 5-6 years for just one family of wrestlers. The Light family… That must have been one happy wrestling family in their era. And that’s not including their cousin, Vance Light who was a couple-few years older than Shane… He also won multiple titles. What an experience that must have been for them.



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

Lisbon was it in HS. We usually would have to travel for Freestyle partners though.


What year did you graduate?



Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

I literally don’t remember. My Dad encouraged me by having us brothers wrestle in the living room and my brother Shane would rip my face through the carpet and go on beatin’ the shit out of me…This started when I could barely walk, for we were the same size when we were little kids. That’s when I ultimately decided to become a fighter (MMA), for I could throw punches at him after gettin’ worked by him in wrestling. My Dad would always let my fights with Shane go…haha.


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

Dad & My Uncle (Uncle George was my corner man as a kid). They Both wrestled in HS. They both wrestled for Al Baxter, so they became badass mentally and physically from them. They just handed that right down to us boy’s & cousins.

Cousin Vance was a 2X State Champ and wrestled in the NCAA Tournament his final year at Drake. It was a dream of mine to compete in that Tournament so FKN proud to be associated with him.

Brother Shane was a 4X State Champ.

Brother Ike was a 3X State Champ.


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Pretty damn good. Won A bunch of Kids freestyle & Northern Plains Regional meets. I think the 1st AAU State meet was my 8th Grade year and I beat my biggest rival that day, Kirk Crawford. Felt like we traded wins every time we would wrestle. He and I wrestled from age 10 until we were freshmen in college.


What was your record in HS?

Won a bunch. My most memorable HS win was against Travis Allen from Mt Vernon. Guy was insane when at his best.

9th Grade: 9L’s. 3 Simmering Pleasant Valley/ Howell Maq. / Phil Morgan Maple Valley

10th Grade: 4L’s.  Matt Hatcher from CR Prarie and a kid from Maquoketa were probably my biggest upset losses in HS. Wrestled Daryl Weber from Don Bosco in the finals. 1-2 against him that year.

11th Grade: 1 L. Lost to a kid from West Des Moines Dowling. I lost 16 lbs. in 24 hrs when I wrestled him. It was my 1st heavy pressure weight cut.

12th Grade: 1loss to Matt Hatcher of Prairie.


How did you place at state every year?

9th Qualified for state… – No true wrestle back that year.
10th 2nd
11th 1st
12th 1st


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

Wrestling my brother Shane when I wasn’t old enough to enter a tournament & my Dad snuck me in. It was the Solon tourney. I made it to the finals in an 8-man bracket. I had every single person in my corner. He pinned me in 10 seconds. My 1st freakout as a kid.

Also, making weight at NJCAA tournament, I lost 24 lbs in 72 hrs and lost 18 in the last 24 hours and almost got DQ’d for stalling in the 1st match because I literally couldn’t move. I have a crazy story about finals weight cut. Save that for another day. What I learned from those as an MMA athlete, I really figured out nutrition from guys like Mike Dolce and many other MMA athletes. It was probably the best thing I did in MMA.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

Wide Open Until my SR year then I started wrestling with Chris Lembeck and I believe my level of wrestling sky-rocketed. He truly calmed me down and brought finesse to my game. Became one of the best in the country that year.


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

Matt Hatcher had my # I was 1-4 against him. Didn’t Beat him until the All Star meet our Senior Year.

Mike Uker… don’t remember losing to him in folk or freestyle, but couldn’t touch him in Greco. He was a hell of a competitor.

Rick Moreno… He was always bigger as kids. We became friends and it was easier to associate with opponents when you were not competing against each other. We were fierce competitors when we did wrestle freestyle in HS.


Who was your most influential coach?

Brad Smith Hands Down I live by his methods in training for competition. Because of him I helped my Daughter obtain a Full Ride scholarship in D1 program as a Sprinter in Track.

Dean Happel (Dawn) really helped me more than on the mat. I owe them a lot for being Great people. Dean thought me how to wrestle on top.

Collin Oyama MMA wish I had more years with him. Guy is still rocking the best fighters today.


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yes the stats are there we won multiple titles and had lots of wars against Clarksville in my day vs. the Kroeze bros. and a Sterling Kielman guy… they were FKN tough


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

Greg Butteris was like a God to me I idolized him and his style. Him as a training partner I don’t think I would have lost a match in HS.

Lincoln Mcllravy wrestled him a few times.Went at it for an hour straight in the Iowa room our Senior year. That guy was Brilliant wrestler.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

If we’re just talking HS only:

Dan Knight is my all time great.
Have to put Jeff McGinness in there.
Royce Alger World Champ his Senior year.


Personality-wise, how would you compare Shane, Ike and yourself?

Those fuckers were always teaming up. We played football in our yard… me against those 2. Then I recruited Josh Jones on my team. We fk’d them up. Shane is pretty relaxed always takes everything in stride. Ike is more emotional, but a super good guy Very family oriented. I’m passionate about winning very competitive.


What is your experience with MMA? How has wrestling and the people you met in it impacted your MMA journey?

It was a game changer my wrestling ability literally carried me into my fighting career because when you can take everybody down, at that time in MMA your stock as a training partner was through the roof.


How did your wrestling style compare and contrast to your brothers Ike and Shane and your cousin, Vance?

Vance led the way. He was soo FKN strong and fast for his size. Really good football player.

Shane didn’t really seem to excel at other sports, but he played everything. Guy wasn’t even ranked #1 in state until his Senior year.

Ike was such a great mix lacked a little strength but had amazing penetration on his shots. Was a pretty damn good football player. That 1993 team needed him his Senior year when he didn’t play.


Which sport is more difficult? MMA or wrestling?

Wrestling was more difficult because MMA was so fun. In MMA, I got to travel the world and entertain people. Some Losses I took pretty hard, but they didn’t affect me like in my youth. I learned so much with every loss.


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

Myself vs Doug Lord… he sounded like a fuckin Legend

Shane Light vs Scott Morningstar

Ike Light vs Robert Avila JR.

I could rattle off hundreds of matches, but I’ll save that the next time I’m at Bill’s Tap.


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

Sean Scarborough
Matt Hatcher
Mike Uker
Rick Moreno
Mark & Matt Ironside
Jeff McGinness
Brent Paulson


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Robert Avila, Lisbon
Cael Happel,, Lisbon-UNI
Justin Thomas, Oklahoma
Spencer Lee, Iowa
Carter Happel, Iowa

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

Tom Petty / ZZTop / 2Livecrew


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

My 1st ever loss to Rob Olney at Prairie kids meet. I had nightmares about it for almost a whole year… sleepwalking and everything. Funny story carried wood in below zero weather half naked in my sleep cuz I thought my dad was mad at me for losing. Also, 1990 State Finals was a serious meltdown. That loss against Daryl Weber really fucked my life up for a while, bad.


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

I wouldn’t ever talk back to or disrespect my dad during a match when he was coaching me. I learned so many lessons coaching my daughter to greatness and experienced many lessons where I was in the wrong back then. He did Everything he could for me. I couldn’t imagine going through that by himself he – we had some tough years 4 of us. Thankfully he met Penny, my stepmother and he got way better. Thankful for her during my Middle school & HS years.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

All American in 1991. 8th JR Nationals a Goal that Sean Scarbrough imbedded in my brain. In 1991, I trained with him and his family that whole summer.  He was a Monster. Great memories with those guys. All American in 1992 2nd Jr Nationals. Champion was Tony Pariano OH / had Chris Bono FL / Kyle Porter CA / Roger Chandler OH / Ryan Kringle ND in my bracket.


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

Never got to wrestle Cary Kolat. Wrestled Lincoln Mcllravy at NP Regionals a couple times & at Jr Nationals my JR year. Beat Lee Fullhart my senior year in State freestyle. Beat Steve Marinetti at Northern Open when I was at Ellsworth CC and my only loss was to Troy Steiner that day.


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

I wrestled all year, but FKN loved freestyle because pressure was off and nobody really cared about winning or losing and everyone was just looking to get better.


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

The level of HS wrestling in this generation is pretty amazing, at least from what I see at my HS in Lisbon. Cael Happel didn’t get his shot at Winning a JR National Title.  Guys like that in the room changes the level of every single athlete & coach because they all have to up their game.


Did you wrestle after high school?

1993 2nd NJCAA 142


What other sports did you play?

Football – My fave sport in HS. Baseball. Track – In 1991 I won 3 Medals: 200 dash 2nd, 400 dash 4th, 4×400 5th. I really blew it for my Teammates in ’92 for we had an opportunity to win State in the 4×400 and winning a team title was a possibility. I owe big apologies to Matt Kohl, Mark Fairly and Aron Fader for we ran together since 7th grade and I really let them guys down that year.


What are your favorite sports teams?
Cal State Fullerton Women’s Track, Pittsburgh Steelers, Iowa Hawkeyes Football & Wrestling


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Salt Water Fishing for Blue Fin Tuna Tops are the hobbies right now and loved being on Cedar River fishing as a kid.


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

I have not paid back all the way yet, but am gonna help coach at Norco HS when my boy gets to HS next year.  He won’t compete, but he will practice all season. He’s a pretty damn good football player. 5’7 219 lbs. and not gonna be a freshman until next year.


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

It kept me together when things got bad as a youth it was there to save me with hard work anything is possible.


What do you do now?

I am a trophy Husband for My wife, Louise Brookes from Liverpool and I raise my 4 kids Daughter 18 Johnny 14 Zachery 7 Ruby 4.


Are you still involved with wrestling?


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Play every sport be as competitive as possible for anyone on any day can win if you really believe it and you put in the work. It’s all HARD WORK!


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

Getting a new ACL & Meniscus removal surgery Jan 4, 2021, so if I want a National Title, the 2022 Masters US Open will be my last shot. I plan on rehabbing like an animal. Plus I’m back Coaching HS next year. So let’s plan another interview for after that.


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

My Teammates All through HS.

My Top Guys:

Greg Butteris
Brian Stewart
Robby Kamerling
Small group of Alburnett kids and wrestlers I coached for a short time.


1.) Michael Wells- Clarinda

2.) Adam Grell- Dewitt-Central

3.) Maury Noonan- Emmetsburg-Armstrong-Ringstead

4.) Aaron Drain- Mediapolis

5.) Brett Karkosh- South Tama

6.) Kyle Forness- Waterloo Columbus


To this day, I can’t look at that podium picture without feeling at least a “vibe” of anxiety. This may have been one of the deepest weight classes I’ve ever seen with some district drama that was crazier than anything I’ve ever seen. Incredibly stressful for many, many people.

* So the champion was Michael Wells from Clarinda. He was one of the best and most dominant wrestlers in the 2003 class. He was just a Junior that year. He placed 2nd the year before as a Sophomore. The guy who beat him in the finals that year was also at this weight in 2002…. and it is not a guy on the podium. It was a guy named Trevor Arbegast from Davenport Assumption.

* It should be noted that Michael Wells more or less dominated his way through the tournament, which was incredible at the time and especially in hindsight. Things may have not gone the way he wanted the next year, but holy cow, he made a statement by strolling through this bracket as a Junior and nobody can ever object to it or take it away from him. A HUGE feat.

* My best friend in HS was the guy who got 4th place in this bracket. Aaron Drain. He was and always will be like a brother to me. He was Mepo’s first ever 4X state qualifier, but only placed as a Senior in 2002. Drain was a guy who peaked about a month after the season passed of he kept on it. He won at least 2, maybe 3 National Folkstyle titles in HS and each time, the brackets he would win would consist of guys who placed higher/won his brackets at state. Drain just peaked late. Simple as that. And we were so shook up at what he faced at districts that year, for naturally, all of us wanted to see him qualify for the 4th time and strike gold opposed to some catastrophe occurring at districts… and that year, a district catastrophe was more likely than most years, for it included the following guys: Trevor Arbegast (Assumption, returning state champ), Ian Alke (West Liberty, returning 6th place finisher), Adam Grell (placed 6th in 2000 and 2nd here obviously) and himself.  Just one misstep or one simple bad day and his wrestling career was over. That went for all of them, for all 4 of those guys were Seniors. We kept waiting for one of them to back out and go to a different weight, but none did… they all stayed firm and claimed the weight as their territory and they weren’t going to dodge anyone to do so… You got to respect all 4 of those guys for doing that.  Anyways, Drain best Alke at sectionals and Grell pulled what was considered an upset over Arbegast in the other sectional. This set up first round matchups of Drain vs. Arbegast and Grell vs. Alke. Drain and Grell both edged out Arbegast and Grell in hard fought matches. Grell defeated Drain in the finals to solidify his spot, which was interesting for a lot of people who didn’t know him already had him penciled in as the “odd man out.”  Alke then eliminated the returning state champ, Arbegast in the wrestle-back, setting up an “winner goes, loser stays home” matchup between Drain and Alke. Drain had defeated Alke by MD the week before, but that match was basically determined in the first 45 seconds in which Drain put him on his back twice with two outside carries. That was the only difference in the final outcome. And West Liberty was well-coached and had a week to prepare on countering that particular move…. which Drain’s biggest weapon in his arsenal. We knew that a rematch may be closer. And it was. Came down to the wire. Drain won either by a point or two in regulation or maybe OT. The emotion fueled pretty significant conflicting reactions between both squads; one heartbroken and bordering the lines of acting salty, the other overcome with glee and bordering the lines of over-celebration. A pretty huge spat erupted between Mepo and West Liberty. It was pretty clear that this weight class had weighed very heavily on the fans, coaches and family of all 4 guys that year. I went home feeling so happy for Drain, but man was it difficult to witness a couple of brilliant wrestlers like Trevor Arbegast and Ian Alke have their HS wrestling careers squashed simply because of a stacked district.

* Noonan was a real talented E-AR kid who sometimes gets overlooked when discussing that era of Eburg wrestling, for he was on a number of powerhouse Eburg teams with guys who won state or made the finals such as; the Naig brothers, Dusty Finer, Ohrtman, Travis Hinners, Justin Kerber, Mark/Ryan Sturm, Ben Strandberg, Mitch Preston, etc. Noonan was right there with all those guys. Placed 3rd twice in 2 insanely tough brackets. The other bracket he placed 3rd in was the one that my brother placed 7th in as a Senior the next year with Moza Fay, Tyler Brewer, Dan Scarberry, etc. Solid, solid kid who was tough to score on. And on a side note, he went out of his way to clear a couple spots for my brother and I at Vets so we could get a better view of Mepo’s Micah Keller winning state in ‘05. Always thought that was cool of him.


* Brett Karkosh was the one who beat Drain somewhat handily and it surprised us all when he had a couple stinker matches which resulted in him placing lower than him. Solid kid.


* Kyle Forness…. That kid was tough as hell and every year was a name that was frequently mentioned as a guy who should win state at whatever bracket he was at. This was his Freshman year, so he took a couple of big losses there, BUT the fact that a Freshman was able to place in THAT bracket was just incredible. Huge accomplishment for him.




WHO IS THE GOAT?!?! The Case For Cory Clark, SE Polk

One of my favorite movies of all time is called “Donnie Darko.” That movie was made in the early 2000’s and was one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s first ever lead roles. One of those movies that wasn’t well known when it hit theatres, but had good DVD sales. Anyways, there is this part where Donnie’s girlfriend said to him, “Donnie Darko…. What kind of name is that? Sounds like some kind of superhero.” And he responds with, “what makes you think I’m not?”  Haha, for some reason that reminds me of Cory Clark.  If I were Cory Clark and a gal I began dating said that to me, I would probably respond with the same thing Donnie said in that movie. “Cory Clark…sounds like a superhero?” “What would make you think I’m not?” I mean, he does share the same last name as Superman’s first name (Clark Kent). Not to mention, some of the stuff he was able to pull off was very comparable to the feats that only a superhero would be able to pull off. For starters, the man won a D1 national title for the Hawkeyes with the use of only one of his shoulders. I mean, that’s pretty super hero-ish, right?! That was one of those moments where I am certain that the overwhelming majority of Hawkeye wrestling fans or fans of wrestling in Iowa in general probably vividly remember the exact setting of where they watched that take place as clearly as if it just happened yesterday. Cory Clark forever etched his name as not only an all-time great Hawkeye, but as an all-time general fan favorite in that match. You’ll be hard pressed to find many Cory Clark haters in the state of Iowa.

Also for starters, that was college. This series tries to make case(s) for Iowa wrestling’s greatest of all time at the HIGH SCHOOL level. In which, I’d say the feat(s) that Cory Clark accomplished in HS that keeps him on pace with other superheroes would not only be the fact that he won 4 state titles, but who he won them against.


2009: 3A 103

1. Cory Clark, Fr., Southeast Polk

2. Connor Ryan, Fr., North Scott

3. Jack Hathaway, Fr., Iowa City West

4. Greg Keating, Sr., Linn-Mar

5. Anthony Vaughn, Sr., Des Moines Lincoln

6. Tyler Willers, Fr., Pleasant Valley

7. Devon Feltus, Sr., Burlington

8. Johnny Jaeger, Fr., Dowling Catholic



2010: 3A 112

1st: Cory Clark, Southeast Polk SO 41- 0

2nd: Connor Ryan, North Scott Eldridge SO 34- 3

3rd: Jack Hathaway, Iowa City West SO 45- 3

4th: Brandon Thomas, Valley West Des Moines JR 38- 7

5th: Tanner Werner, Waverly-Shell Rock JR 36- 6

6th: Stephen Shaffer, Johnston SR 31- 14

7th: Jake Agnitsch, Ames JR 37- 9

8th: Nick Sulentic, Lewis Central FR 37- 9


2011: 3A 119

1st: Cory Clark, Southeast Polk JR 45- 0

2nd: Kegan Wakefield, Iowa City West SO 39- 6

3rd: Eric DeVos, Waverly-Shell Rock JR 46- 1

4th: John Christopherson, Spencer SO 37- 5

5th: Bryce Lynn, Dubuque Senior SR 36- 9

6th: Ben Bonin, Dowling Catholic W Des Moines SR 26- 17

7th: Ronald Genco III, Clinton SR 33- 8

8th: Jacob Howard, Indianola SO 35- 11


2012: 3A 126

1st: Cory Clark of Southeast Polk 46-1, Sr.

2nd: Eric DeVos of Waverly-Shell Rock 44-4, Sr

3rd: Jack Hathaway of Iowa City, West 51-4, Sr.

4th: Tyler McWilliams of Sioux City, East 45-8, Sr.

5th: John Christopherson of Spencer 28-3, Jr.

6th: Trey Blaha of Prairie, Cedar Rapids 35-8, So

7th: Jacob Woodard of Bettendorf 28-14, Fr.

8th: Miles Bostic of Davenport Central 33-12, Sr


Ok, so just off the top of my head and please correct me if I’m wrong in the comment section, but here are some fellow state champions Cory Clark had in his bracket who were on the awards stand with him as placers:



As a Freshman, Cory won a bracket that also included state champions Jack Hathaway (IC West, 3rd) and Tyler Willers (Pleasant Valley, 7th). Both those two would win state in later years. I believe Willers won 2. Hathaway won state the one year he was not in Clark’s bracket and was the only person to put a blemish on Clark’s HS resume when he defeated him during the regular season when they were Seniors. Cory defeated Connor Ryan in the finals that year. Connor Ryan was not a state champion, but he may be the best ever to not win state. He placed 2nd all 4 years and wrestled the following guys in the finals: Clark, Clark, Hathaway, John Meeks. So in 3 out of those 4 years he lost to a 4Xer in the finals (Clark, Meeks) and in the one year that he didn’t win it, he lost to the one guy to EVER defeat Clark in his high school career (Hathaway). That’s insane. A total of 13 state championships if you tally all of Connor’s finals’ opponents together. In any other era, Connor Ryan probably wins 2-3 championships. Cory won a dynamite bracket as a Freshman.



Cory won a bracket with Hathaway and Ryan again. As mentioned, Hathaway was a state champion and the only one to ever beat him and Ryan was better than a large percentage of the state champions that have come out of Iowa.



The closest that Clark ever was to taking a loss at Wells-Fargo was when he won a crowd-pleasing 7-6 decision over Eric DeVos from Waverly-Shell Rock. That match was and still is discussed when the topic of  “best match to ever take place at the state tournament” is brought up. You just simply can not forget that one. A scramble-happy, back and forth 7-6 match between two of Iowa’s elite HS wrestlers at the time. They were both Juniors that year. Coming into that matchup, both had a lot on the line. Clark, as we know already was a 2 time state champion going for his third. Eric DeVos had already won 2 state titles in MN as a 7th/8th grader, placed 2nd his Freshman year in his first HS season as an Iowan and followed this by winning a 3rd state championship as a Sophomore for Waverly-Shell Rock in 2010.  That matchup alone determined that Clark had to slay dragons as usual to win state as a Junior.



As a Senior, Clark won a bracket with both Hathaway and DeVos again. He defeated Hathaway in the quarterfinals by a score of 3-0, avenging a loss from earlier that season (and the only one of his HS career) and won relatively handily over DeVos in the finals en route to secure his 4th state championship…. Also in that bracket was Freshman, Jacob Woodard of Bettendorf who placed 7th. Woodard would go on to win state the following year as a Sophomore.


With all that said, Cory Clark became one of the best ever by consistently competing against and defeating the best the state had to offer, year in and year out. He firmly established himself as the “face” of another of Iowa wrestling’s elite gangs…. The Killa Cory’s… In order to join this exclusive group, you must be: 1.) a badass wrestler from Iowa and 2.) have the name “Cory” with that exact spelling… And Iowa has a lot of them. The cold blooded Killa Cory’s of the Iowa wrestling universe run about as rampant and chaotically at Vets/Wells Fargo as the Crips do in Compton, CA. For real, Iowa has had an outrageous amount of crazy-good wrestler “Cory’s” with THAT specific spelling. Off the top of my head:  There’s 3X state champion, Cory Christensen from Winterset. 2X state champion, Cory Beckman of New Hampton. 1X state champion and in my opinion, possibly the best pound for pound guy in the entire 2000 class, Cory Connell of IC High. State champ Cory Davis of Wapsie Valley. Can’t forget finalists/placers such as Cory Yoder of Belmond, Cory Tarchinski of CR Prairie, Cory Chapin of Denver-Tripoli, Cory Becker of Don Bosco, etc. Throw the Cory brothers; Tim and Adam Cory of Bondurant-Farrar in there to further pad the “Cory resume” for Iowa HS wrestling. I’d be willing to make the bold statement that the state of Iowa has had the best wrestling Cory’s in the nation and whoever would be deemed “face” of the Killa Cory’s would automatically be granted Iowa HS GOAT consideration… Even if Cory Clark were not a “Cory,” he’d have one helluva case for being the GOAT. He may very well be the GOAT.

Also, here is how he did in HS at the national level:

1st 2012 USAW Junior | 4th 2011 USAW Junior | 5th 2010 USAW Junior | 3rd 2010 FILA Cadet

GIRL: “Cory Clark… what kinda name is that?! Sounds like the name of a superhero or something.”



So the youth wrestling club my brother Justin and I grew up in was a Burlington-Mediapolis hybrid youth club, coached by my dad (Mark Swafford), Jim Drain and Mike Sayre. In earlier years, the majority of practices took place at Burlington with there being maybe one Mepo practice per week and after a few years that switched around. And then the club kind of gravitated to West Burlington and Mepo. One thing that remained consistent though was that the club always had a combination of guys who would compete in HS for Mepo, Burlington and West Burlington. The split in HS was devastating to some of us. It was like our brothers became our enemies/rivals in a millisecond. Anyways, another thing that remained consistent is that every single year we brought one of the deepest and one of the most hardware-hungry squads to the AAU state tournament. Our team was one of the best in the state, easily. And every year we rebuilt. It was a pretty consistent flow of talent in that club. And I don’t think I was ever introduced to as much raw talent on the initial meeting like I was the first time I saw little Brad Lower at practice. Brad joined our squad as a Kindergartner or 1st grader, when I was a 6th or 7th grader and it took him and another kid named Caleb Martin just a mere week before they seemed like they knew what they were doing and already seemed more advanced than some of the guys who had been wrestling for 2-3 years already. Brad especially. His talent was unmistakable. The only thing that I didn’t have an idea on yet was his work ethic and attitude… I didn’t have a large enough sample size, but I knew that if he had those intangibles to boot, he could be very good for us.

I was able to make up my mind about Brad’s work ethic and attitude the first time he ran finish-ups with us. This was at a Burlington practice. Burlington had these finish-ups that were just grueling.  You had to run across the gym, run down two flights of stairs, run across the hallway at the bottom of the stairs, and then run up two flights of stairs and when you reached the point where you began, that counted as one lap. And we had to do roughly 30 of these laps per practice.  I kid you not, tiny little Bradley Lower pushed himself so hard in those finish-ups, that he lapped about everyone not named Justin Swafford or Chris Johnson.  I was 6 years older than Brad and way bigger…. he lapped me among others at least 6-7 times every time we did these. And when the little guys like Brad would show up the older kids, the older kids had to pay the price via running extra laps….actually, the whole team would have to. When the squad was ordered to run extra laps because of the little guys like Brad were out-running everyone, this would upset Brad as well, but not at the coaches…He wanted his teammates to keep up with him. 1st grade Brad would give some of the older guys a look of contempt like, “come on, guys! Get going!” And to the other kids around his age group who were dogging it, he literally would bark at them to get their butts moving. All while maintaining his own high pace. 1st grade Brad Lower was already a stone cold stud in his first year of wrestling in every facet of the game. I knew that we had an absolute hammer on our hands with this kid. And he became one of the most talented guys to ever wrestle in Southeast Iowa. One of my absolute favorite wrestlers of all time.


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

Growing up I moved around to a couple different clubs depending on where my Dad thought I would get the best work outs at. I started out at the Burlington Youth Club then transitioned into the Mepo Kids Club and then West Burlington. As I got into middle school and up my dad would also drive me anywhere with in a hour of Burlington if he thought it would help and I wrestled at the Monster-USA club in LM, New London and even up at Iowa City West.

What year did you graduate?

I graduated High School in 2007


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My Dads best friend Mike Kissinger who was a 2-time State Runner up at Burlington talked my dad into letting me wrestle when I was 4 and it all started there.


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

My parents never wrestled, and my older brother did a little bit but never really got into it much. Then, I have two little girls now that are 3 and 6 and haven’t show interest yet in wrestling but with girl’s wrestling growing so much right now you never know!

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

This question is making me feel old because without digging up all my old medals and results I don’t remember exactly what years I place what haha. I know I won State my 6th and 8th grade years and then had some 3rd, 4th and 5th place finishes sprinkled in throughout the other years. All I remember is the only year I didn’t place was my 7th grade year.

What was your record in HS?

I couldn’t tell you exactly how many wins I have but I believe I had around 7 losses my freshman year, 2 my sophomore year and then got in some trouble and didn’t get to wrestle in HS sanctioned events my junior or senior year.

 How did you place at state every year?

I got 6th my freshman year and then won state my sophomore year. Like I said before I didn’t get to wrestle HS events the next two years, so I spent those year traveling around the country with my dad wrestling in national high school tournaments and then a lot of college opens my senior year.

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

I would say not getting to compete in HS sports my last 2 years was tough on me then, but it all worked out for the better in the long run because I ended up going to Iowa City West my senior year. Even though I didn’t get to wrestle in the high school tournament’s that year I got to practice and wrestle in one of the toughest rooms in the country at that time.

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I always had a little bit of funk and was tough on top, but I would say hard work and grind is what usually ended up setting me apart.


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

Just a couple my freshman year.

Who was your most influential coach?

This is a hard question because every coach I have ever had has influenced me in a good way somehow. All the way from Jim Drain in kids club who I spent so much time traveling all over the country with to wrestle at different national tournaments, to my high school coaches Mike Richart who was a technique dictionary and then Mark Reiland who treated me like a son and took me in my senior year. After that I learned how to just grind with Moffit at Iowa Central. But if I had to pick one specific coach though it would be Nick Mitchell at Grand View and not just because I got better at wrestling over those years but mostly that he taught me so many lessons about life in general and I don’t think I would be the man or even the father I am today without him.

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Burlington wasn’t really competitive when I was there. There were only 2 of us that made it to State my freshmen year and then I was the only one that made it the next year. In college though we won nationals both years I was at Iowa Central and set the point record my 2nd year. Then my senior year at Grand View we won the first national title and they have won every one since then going on 9 in a row!

How would you describe the Burlington-West Burlington-Mepo hybrid youth club that we were both in? If all those guys would have stayed together on the same team in HS, could we have won a team state championship?

The Burlington-West Burlington- Mepo club was awesome and was where I think my gritty style of wrestling started at. I think I was a little too young and would of missed the boat but if all of the guys from that club that were a little older than me could of went to the same high school, I think you for sure could of competed for a state title. There were a lot of studs that came out of that club.

So the finish ups that BHS is notorious for where you run across the gym, down the stairs, across the hallway and up the stairs and that’s one lap just destroyed a lot of people, but you handled it with ease, lapping 8th graders such as myself when you were in 1st or 2nd grade… do you remember putting all the older kids to shame in finish ups?

Haha I remember those laps all too well but as far as lapping people you might remember that more than me.

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

I really looked up to the guys that were a little older than me that came up through the Burlington – Mepo- West Burlington Club. Guys like you (Joshua Swafford), your brother Justin, Aaron Drain and Chris Johnson are some that come to mind.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

It is hard to say who the absolute GOAT is because like I say below wrestling has changed and evolved over the years a lot but in my biased opinion, I would say Nick Moore. He was a freshman my senior year that I went to Iowa City West and he was a hammer along with the rest of the studs on that team. He was a 4 timer and believe only had 1 loss during high school.

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

I am a Hawkeye fan, so I enjoy watching Spencer Lee, Desanto and Marinelli.

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

My 2 go to songs back in the day were Headstrong by Trapt and Can’t Stop by Red Hot Chili Peppers. Used to play them on repeat on my CD Walkman at every tournament haha.


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

I lost in the national finals my freshman and senior year in college. Those were both hard but mostly because I had beaten both of those guys pretty soundly earlier those years.

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

You would think with missing my junior and senior year of HS wrestling and the other trouble I got in when I was younger that there would be a lot I would change but everything that happened got me to where I am now so it would be hard to say I would change any of that.

 What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Helping Grand View win the first team national title my senior year. Even though I personally came in 2nd I felt like I did everything I possibly could inside and outside the wrestling room that year and it was still a great accomplishment.


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

I started wrestling all year around in middle school I believe but didn’t take freestyle and Greco that serious until my junior year.

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

That is a good question. I think with how much wrestling has evolved in just the last 10 years with scrambling and different techniques that if you took someone from my day and put them in a match with someone today without having any time to adapt then they would have a tough time.

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes, I wrestled at Iowa Central and then Grand View University.

What other sports did you play?

Baseball and Football up until my Sophomore year

What are your favorite sports teams?

Honestly, the only sports I really watch are MMA and wrestling.


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Mostly hanging out with my kids and family, I like to work out, then watching MMA and grilling or BBQing up good food.

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

With how my work schedules have been since I got out of college I haven’t given back as much as I would like to. Hopefully that can change.

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

A lot, I think the work ethic that wrestling helped instill in me at a young age has helped me be successful today.

What do you do now?

I am a Sales Executive for a Technology Job Board called Dice.com

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

There are a couple different interviews that Nick Mitchell has done this year and in the past and he talks about the “Championship Lifestyle” which is essentially trying to be the best at everything you do every day not just in the wrestling room. So being the best student, the best son or daughter or trying to be the best at every aspect of your life. This is something that I didn’t 100% buy into until my senior year at Grand View and it not only helped me be a better person over all but helped in the wrestling room as well. Because I knew that I was doing everything else in my life right it made working hard at practice everyday that much easier. So, if there is one piece of advice I could give it would be to try and be great at every aspect of life not just wrestling because they do all bleed into each other.

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

Haha probably not.

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

The biggest shot out I could give would be to my ol man, Scott Lower. He coached me since I was 4 up to about high school and spent so much time and money taking me to tournaments all over the country and then rarely ever missed a tournament once I got to college. He was always there to keep pushing me through all the ups and downs and I know I would have never got to where I was without him.



Cliff Moore was a standout from his years in youth wrestling. He was a 3X state champion for Dubuque Hempstead in HS and won a D1 national title for the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2004.  In High School he placed 2–1-1-1. In college he was a 3X AA and as mentioned, won a D1 National Title in 2004 at 141 lbs. The only year he did not win state was his Freshman season at 3A 103 lbs. He was defeated by Joe Lucchi from IC High in the finals of that tournament.





Eric Ehlen won state titles for Belle Plaine HS at 1A 103 in 1988 and 1989 as a Sophomore and Junior and solidified his 3rd state title by winning 1A 112 in 1990. The only year he did not win state was in 1987. I do not know what happened, for it does not appear he placed that year, but I am guessing he was undersized. Shane Light from Lisbon won that bracket.




Johnny Galloway won 3 state titles for IC High in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He won 3 pretty loaded brackets that included an array of future D3 All Americans. He won them at 3A 145, 3A 152 and 3A 160. The only year he did not win state was his Freshman year at 3A 135. He placed 4th. David Brown from Le Mars won that bracket. Johnny wrestled for Waterloo East as a Freshman before transferring to IC High as a Sophomore where he began his reign of dominance.




Doug Miner from Spirit Lake Park won state titles at 2A 106 as a Sophomore and Junior and won 2A 120 as a Senior. The only year he did not place at state was his Freshman season in which he placed 7th. Dylan Peters from Denver-Tripoli won that bracket that year.


Remember The Wrestler: Cole Deike, Hampton-Dumont


For the Remember The Wrestler series, I have tried to encourage readers as much as possible to send over suggestions of wrestlers that they would like to read about and/or feel that their journey and insight will be interesting, for I will write about anyone whether I know them or not. Quite a few of the wrestlers covered in these articles have been selected in this fashion and they have always gone well, so I would like to reiterate, please send me suggestions on guys who you’d like to read about for this series. Because with this one, I had never met Cole Deike before sending him a message about partaking in one of these articles. I just knew of him as a good wrestler who I always kind of associated with a local legend, Brandon Ball from Columbus Junction whose wrestling career I followed throughout High School. Cole and Brandon were at the same weight class as Seniors. And his responses just blew me away. I’ve never received a set of responses that were more interesting, well thought-out and genuine as Cole’s. This is a great person with an interesting wrestling journey who is very forthcoming with valuable life insight in multiple aspects of life. I would highly recommend that everyone reads his responses, for something can be learned by everyone from Cole Deike. 

A big shout-out to Coach Matt Wonderlin at Bondurant-Farrar… He was the one who recommended Cole to me for one of these articles for he felt he would make a good one and holy cow, he was spot on about that!


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

I wrestled for Hampton-Dumont. Throughout my childhood, I wrestled for probably 15-20 different wrestling clubs, spanning from CVMC to Waverly-Shellrock to Waterloo and everything around those clubs.


What year did you graduate?

I graduated in 2007. Apparently that was almost fifteen years ago, and that gives me a headache to think about!


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

Nobody really encouraged me to give wrestling a try, because not wrestling wasn’t an option that ever crossed my mind growing up. I really mean that. My dad was a state champ for Nashua Plainfield, a 3x All-American for Wartburg, and he was the head coach for Hampton-Dumont high school for my entire childhood. So, naturally, I grew up in the wrestling room. Some of my most vivid memories as a child were in the wrestling room and, as a child, I would always sit against the wall and watch my dad’s practices wide-eyed because it felt like a different world: it felt like it was one-hundred degrees, the “big kids” were always scrapping, there was yelling, there was laughing, there was bonding. The wrestling world made more sense to me than the rest of the world.

So when I was born, legend has it that there were baby wrestling shoes hanging on my crib when I got home from the hospital.


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I placed at both national & regional Freestyle, Greco and Folkstyle tournaments. But everybody likes to ask about AAU: I placed 6th, 2nd, and 1st.


How did you place at state every year?

My freshman year, the weekend before the high school wrestling season began, I broke my leg in the semi-finals at Topeka nationals, so my freshman year was a crapshoot.

My sophomore year I placed 7th, my Junior year I placed 4th, and my senior year I placed 3rd at state.


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

Breaking my leg my freshman year turned out to be a recurring challenge that really tested my moxy. I missed most of my freshman year and even after that year, not an entire year would go by without a sprained ankle or re-injury of that leg. It was always frustrating. I have always enjoyed pushing myself and chasing after my goals as fast and hard as I possibly can, and that leg always seemed to get in the way.

But the story is actually kind of funny and gives you a good glimpse into the wrestling mentality. When I broke the leg at nationals before the high school year began, we thought it was just a sprained ankle so we didn’t even get x-rays of the leg. After two weeks of hobbling around, my dad took the crutches away from me. He told me, and I quote, “you’re not going to get any tougher relying on those crutches.”

So I learned to walk on the leg and tough it out. After another week or two of limping around on my leg, my dad said, and again I quote, “you’re not going to get any tougher unless you find a way to run on it.”

So I went into the wrestling room and tried to run on it. I could get about a half of a lap around the room before the pain got too bad, and then I would limp the other half of the lap. I did about ten or fifteen of those laps before I told my coach that I felt like my leg wasn’t getting any better. Finally, we got an x-ray of the leg.

Turns out, it had been broken all along. My family still gives my dad hell for pushing me like that, but it gives you a great glimpse into the mind of a wrestler and how wrestlers think that “gutting it out” is the solution to everything!


How would you describe your wrestling style?

Iowa style. All the way.

Growing up in the sport, I had a pretty big bag of tricks in my back pocket. But when push came to shove, I just loved doing the basics. High crotches and single legs on my feet, half-nelsons and arm-bars on top, stand-ups on bottom. If you work hard enough on perfecting those basics, you can beat just about anybody out there.

Funny story: my high school coach once got so tired of me pinning kids with half-nelsons and bar-arms that he didn’t allow me to pin anybody for a few matches unless it was with a cradle.


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

Clear Lake were our rivals, and I hated those guys (sorry to any Lions out there reading this). I remember celebrating the fourth of July in Clear Lake and, almost every year, somebody from Clear Lake would have a bone to pick with me or somebody in my friend group. And they were always great at every sport.

So I went back and forth a few times with one of the Colon brothers. He had a funky, unorthodox wrestling style that didn’t square well with my straightforward Iowa style. I don’t think gravity applied to him. He was one of those guys that I would just take down and then cut, because he always found a way to tip me or roll me or sucker me into some weird position that I had never wrestled in. Those Clear Lake guys knew how to wrestle!


Who was your most influential coach?

I loved all my wrestling coaches. The guys over at the Cedar Valley Mat Club (CVMC) were always a hoot. To this day, they were some of the loudest, funnest, most boisterous guys that I know. I blame them for my loud personality today!

My high school coaches were also great and I stay in touch with them from time-to-time almost fifteen years later. Every summer I go back to my hometown and coach a wrestling clinic for a few days with my assistant coach. On the last day of the clinic, we make the wrestlers push a truck up a hill, which is a fun tradition that I inherited from my dad’s coaching days.

But since my dad coached me from the age four until my high school wrestling career, it would be hard to pick a more influential wrestling coach than him. He always had rug burns on his knees from scrapping with me in the living room and in the basement and, at any moment in time, I had to stay on my toes at home because a half-nelson could happen at the dinner table, on the couch, or while I was eating a bowl of cereal. That stuff leaves an imprint on you!


Was your team competitive in HS?

My high school team never placed at state, but we were always competitive. We had a winning record all four years, and when I was a Junior and Senior, we set the school record for most wins in a year. I think we won a few North Central Conference tournaments and duals in there, too. Naturally, this means that my dad and I got in a lot of arguments about whose team was better: the best team he coached or the team that I wrestled for.

I still think my Senior year team could take his best team!


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

Probably the guys that my dad coached. When I was little, he coached Jason Wedgebury to a state title, and that state title picture was always hanging up in the wrestling room, so obviously I always looked up to him.

Cool story: Jason Wedgebury ended up getting the principal position in Cedar Falls and I taught underneath him for a few years!


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

The GOAT wrestler that I ever scrapped with was TJ Sebolt my sophomore year at state. I think that match is the only time I ever got pinned in my high school career. The match was close until, of course, he put me in the tightest bar arm I’ve ever felt. I didn’t even know both my shoulder blades could touch eachother like that!


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

I’m an assistant coach at Bondurant-Farrar, so those guys are definitely my favorite wrestlers currently.

Last year, Colby-Lillegard won the state title at 126 pounds. I’ve been coaching him for three years and I’ve been so impressed with him both on and off the mat. In every practice, he would pick the hardest kid in the room to wrestle (Riley Anderson, our 120 pound wrestler last night) and they would battle it out head-to-head day in and day out, probably outworking everybody else in the state. And when Colby won state last year, that feeling was better than any of my achievements.

So when you get to be part of a team like that, your own wrestlers that you coach become your favorite wrestlers. I would encourage anybody who has been involved in the sport in the past to get involved with the sport in the present, even if it’s only attending the meets or volunteering here and there. Investing in the sport after it has given you so much joy is one of the best feelings.


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

I was a punk rock and metalhead kid in high school. If you plucked my headphones off and put them on during a wrestling meet, I can almost guarantee you would grimace at what you heard. But I loved the energy and the passion of punk and metal music, so it was perfect for warm-ups.

In fact, I was talking to my high school coach on the phone a few months ago, and the first thing he said when I picked up the phone was, “You still listen to that horrible screaming music?”

The answer is yes, by the way. I still do!


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

My senior year in the semi-finals.

I took a shot in the first period, pulled my hamstring, ended up on my back, and never came back in that match. I always thought I would be a state champ in high school and going into state my senior year, I had a nearly perfect record and was ranked second. In my head, not winning state wasn’t an option. So after that loss, I remember kicking over a few trash cans and punching a few lockers. I’m definitely not proud of it, but my injuries in high school always seemed to stand between a good and a great high school career.

It’s funny, I don’t dwell on that stuff now. I have a family I love, a job that I love, and a life that I love. But I would be lying if I said that that match and that shot never crossed my mind late at night. All the wrestlers I know can still visualize, smell, and see those defining moments from their careers.


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

I had the opportunity to wrestle for a few great colleges but, after experiencing some disappointments and not meeting my own expectations in high school, I was burnt-out and decided not to wrestle in college. There are days when I wish that I did and there are also days when I’m glad I didn’t.

I think that taking a break from the sport for a few years during college helped me gain back my passion for coaching the sport. And I also think that my failures to reach my own goals have helped me be a better coach. If I had accomplished all of my goals and been totally satisfied in my achievements in wrestling, I might not be investing in the lives of high school wrestlers like I am right now. God has a plan for these things and there is a reason why things like this happen.

So I don’t know that I would change anything. Honestly.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

I won AAU state my 8th grade year. Usually, a memory from 8th grade wouldn’t be my favorite memory from the sport. But there’s a really, really funny reason why that’s one of my favorite wrestling memories today.

If I remember correctly, the match went into overtime with Eddie Reiter and I barely squeezed out that win in a tight match. And years later, guess who I coach with?

Eddie Reiter.

It’s funny, because Eddie is such a good guy and he could mop the mat with me now. But of course, I have to rub his face in it from time-to-time!


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

Even though we only wrestle once, I have to say Nate Halverson, because it was my last wrestling match my senior year and probably my most memorable. Nate had won the state title the year before, so all year long, he and I were ranked first and second. He will always the guy I had on my mind that was standing between me and the state championship. His name was always the one that I felt like I was chasing, and I was always looking for his name in the results every weekend.

What’s weird is that we both choked in our semi-final matches. So the match that everybody thought would be the finals match ended up happening for 3rd and 4th place. It was a great match. It went into overtime, and I ended up pinning him. I started my career with a pin and ended it with a pin, which is something I’m pretty proud of. So even though I didn’t win the title my senior year, that match was a serious moment of redemption for me.


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

All year. I took small breaks during the track and football seasons, but freestyle and greco were always too fun to skip.


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

I don’t know, but I’d love to see it happen. There is more of a focus on being a “single sport athlete” now than there was when I was in high school, so I think the level of technique is better today. Plus, any kid has access to some of the best technical teachers in the world via youtube today, so they have constant exposure to wrestling geniuses on platforms like Flo.

But I think the guys from my day were tougher!


What other sports did you play?

I ran track and played football. Wrestling made me better at both of those sports, especially football. I was a two-time all-district football player and usually the smallest guy on the football field. But wrestling made my scrappy, intense, and gave me the confidence to love the fact that I was the smallest guy on the field. I loved being stacked-up against a football player twice my size and proving them wrong. That’s the wrestling spirit!

I also went to state in three events in track. While I enjoyed some aspect of track, that sport could really benefit from legalizing headlocks and tackles. Just an idea for any school administers out there reading this!


What are your favorite sports teams?

Iowa Wrestling and Iowa Football.

As a wrestler, when you grow up during the Brands era and your bedroom always has the classic “Train Like A Madman!” poster of the Brands brothers pinned to the walls, it’s hard not to bleed black-and-gold.


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Family, fishing, friends, church and, surprisingly, reading.

Not a lot of wrestlers like to read. But when I was in college I became a Christian and became obsessed with reading the Bible. I knew I wanted to coach wrestling, and I knew most coaches were teachers, so I decided that I wanted to teach English. Surprisingly, it was my desire to be a teacher and coach that cultivated a love for reading in my life.


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

Giving back to the sport feels better than receiving from the sport.

I really mean that. Partly, I say that because my coaching experiences have been great at both Cedar-Falls and Bondurant-Farrar. When you’re part of a coaching staff that is fun, has good chemistry and is really passionate about the sport, giving back to the sport is easy. You look forward to 3:30 every day. And the accomplishments of the wrestlers you coach feel better than any of your own accomplishments. I can’t explain the feeling, I think it’s just the way that the universe is wired. Investing in others and seeing others succeed is better than having the gold medal around your own neck.


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

Anybody who grew up in the sport knows that wrestling is responsible for creating a different kind of person. There’s an old saying that “a fisherman always knows another fisherman from afar.” Wrestling is like that. Wrestlers walk a certain way, act a certain way, work a certain way, they constantly mess with one another, tie-up with one another and scrap with one another off the mat. My roommate and best friend in college was a wrestler, and we would randomly start wrestling at 10pm and roll around in the dorm room and out in the dorm halls until past midnight.

But wrestling has definitely cultivated a strong work ethic in me. Dan Gable was certainly on to something when he said that “once you have wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” I like to work with the same kind of intensity that I had in the wrestling room because wrestling taught me that hard work is fun. The sport pushes you past what you think you’re capable of doing, and once you push yourself to those limits and experience the unique joy that only comes from working like a madman, you learn a secret in life. And so, in all of life, you find ways to push yourself to those limits, even if it isn’t a physical test.

And the sport has also taught me a lot about faith. In the Bible, there is this famous story about Jacob wrestling with God. They battle and wrestle and grapple through the night, and when God feels like ending the match, he simply touches Jacob’s hip socket and dislocates his hip. And then, Jacob collapses (wouldn’t you too if you wrestled God all night?) and he begs God to bless him. And God does bless him. Since I spent so much of my life wrestling, that story resonates with me. It makes sense to me that life is one, long wrestling match with God that extends past three periods and into tons and tons of overtimes. It makes sense to me that faith is like a combat sport.


What do you do now?

I’m the lead pastor of a church that my wife and I planted a few years ago in Des Moines, Iowa. We meet in a jazz club on Sundays, which is a unique environment and really welcoming to people who have had bad religious experiences. God has definitely used my experience in the sport of wrestling to accomplish his own purposes in my life. Even though I’m young to be a lead pastor, I think that wrestling gave me a level of grit and determination that is unique. And I also think it helps me be a leader who isn’t a religious self-righteous nutjob, but can really connect to rough people who “wrestle and struggle with life” and “grapple with God.”

I never thought that this would be my calling in life.

And wrestlers tell me that I preach like a wrestler. How many times has that sentence ever been said?


Are you still involved with wrestling?

I coach at Bondurant-Farrar (just outside of the Des Moines area) and, every summer, I lead a wrestling clinic in my hometown. But my favorite way of being involved is wrestling with my three-year old son. Almost every day, that poor little kid gets gut-wrenched and double-legged on the living room floor. But he loves it, and I know this because we constantly have to peel him off of his friends when he tries to put them in a half-nelson. We’ll see, but I think he feels the sport coursing through his veins.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

The world needs more wrestlers.

Wrestlers are some of the hardest workers and most enjoyable dudes that I know. Sure, we can push the limits and throw a few unwanted headlocks at parties with friends, but the world really does need more wrestlers. When I was a teacher, I always thought that the school staff would benefit from having more wrestlers. Now as a pastor, I think that the church could really benefit from the leadership of lots of wrestlers.

The sport will shape you into a more tenacious, hard-working, confident person and, quite frankly, the world always needs more people like that. I’ve seen guys who were drawn to the sport because they like physical violence, and because of the demands of wrestling, the sport gave them the skill of discipline that they never had.

If there were more people involved in wrestling who learned how to control their aggression and direct it positively, I think there might be fewer bar fights, divorces, broken families, and unemployment numbers. Obviously the sport isn’t a “magic bullet” but nobody comes out of the grinder the same person.

Jump in!


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

Not a chance. I can still trick myself into think I “still got it” and, let’s face it, an old timer’s tournament would shatter that illusion! Plus, like Eddie Reiter said in his article, nobody wants to see me vomiting in a trash can right off the mat!

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

I could never beat Mark Kist (he went on to wrestle at Iowa State and Wartburg). Mark is a short, stocky, boxy guy and he must have beat me half-a-dozen times growing up. Our matches were almost always close, within a few points usually, but he would always find a way to win. And the best part is that Mark was always a genuinely good human being. He was always humble, down-to-earth and nice.

Mostly, I have to give a shout-out to Sean Weber. Sean was my practice partner and childhood best friend. We must have spent millions of hours and millions of miles together in the back of our parents’ cars, traveling to Waterloo and Parkersburg and Cedar Valley and Waverly on weeknights in grade school to participate in the best wrestling practices. We always went back and forth and I know he endured at least a few punches and arguments from me. But I think that every wrestler has a practice partner like that.


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This is going to be a new series that I am going to try out. This series will chronicle events that took place in which a guy was under an extreme amount of stress or adversity in a wrestling situation. Some may have good endings, some maybe not so good, but the stories and the circumstances or events that made these situations tumultuous will always make them worth reminiscing. There are certain situations that come strapped with so much stress-baggage that even the strongest of wrestling minds may have had a difficult time getting through it without melting down.

Suggestions for some of these stories for the future are encouraged!!!

Ok so the first one is about the high school debut of Ryan Morningstar of Lisbon. Ryan’s high school debut is, without a doubt, the most stressful debut I have ever heard of, and there were many factors that made it that way.   Ryan ended up becoming a 3X state champion and multi-AA for the Hawkeyes in college, so he was obviously inclined to handle stressful situations with a bit more grace than the average guy, but when you consider all the hype and pressure this kid was under at the time of his Freshman debut, one would assume, that even as mentally tough as M* is, his debut had to have made him feel as though he were under an insanely immense amount of pressure that would have made the common Freshman start wetting the bed again… Wait til you hear this…

To start, Ryan Morningstar is the son of a man named Scott Morningstar. Scott was a 4X state champion and a legend to the Lisbon Lion wrestling community, in which the wrestling community is legendary in itself. Scott was a 4X state champion and not only did he solidify his legacy as one of the top guys to ever wrestle for Lisbon, but to wrestle in the entire state of Iowa. He was and still is an all-time great. And he’s Ryan’s dad. Now, this was a very good thing for Scott undoubtedly was a great wrestling mind and tutor and to have that man as your dad meant that Ryan was born with having an elite level wrestling mind as his personal wrestling trainer who would be there for him for life. At the same time, though… He had some pretty big shoes to fill and a ton of gold hardware to collect if he wanted to live up to and build a legacy of his own that was comparable to his father’s. Heck, when Ryan was born and  people heard that Scott had a son, people in Lisbon probably made their share of “Yes! I can’t wait until Scott’s son starts wrestling! He’s going to be awesome!” So the pressure to succeed was likely evident from the beginning. And when Ryan began just blazing his way through AAU state brackets from the time he began, it was clear that the presumptions of Ryan being a monster on the mat were legit. Ryan had become a stone cold stud at a young age and put together a career that rivaled and arguably surpassed even his own legendary father. Get this. In Ryan’s youth wrestling days, by the time he was finished in 8th grade, RYAN MORNINGSTAR WAS WITHOUT QUESTION THE BEST YOUTH WRESTLER TO EVER COME OUT OF IOWA! At that time, the only person who even drew a comparison to how good Ryan was as a youth wrestler was Trent Paulson from Lewis Central. Ryan won state all 6 years he went to AAU and to this day, I have no idea if he was EVER beaten by a guy who was either in his grade, the grade below him or the grade above him. He very well could have been undefeated his entire youth career against his own age group. And no one in his age range was giving him good matches either. He basically just went out and destroyed everyone he faced. I’ll say it again, at that time, Ryan Morningstar was the best Iowa youth wrestler EVER…. and Lisbon couldn’t wait to see him do his thing in their gym on their mats. That was another thing. Lisbon was legendary powerhouse in which wrestling was one of the most important things to the entire community. Lisbon people lived and breathed wrestling and still do to this day. They had put together several state championship teams under HOF coaches, Al Baxter and Brad Smith as well as countless individual state champs. Wrestling was and still is a huge part of Lisbon’s identity and around the time that Ryan was about to enter HS, Lisbon wrestling had entered kind of a “down” phase… Sure, there were still guys like JJ Butteris and Ryan Fuller who had recently won state titles as well as guys like Casey Baxa and Derek Duecker who earned hardware at the state tournament as well, but as a team, Lisbon had some empty spots in their lineups for about a 5-6 year stretch.  Lisbon had to forfeit weights due to the numbers of participants being low. This was unthinkable at the time for a legendary program like Lisbon, but it happened. Lisbon wrestling was down… and Ryan Morningstar solidifying his status as the best youth wrestler ever seemed to be a sign of things finally starting to change for the better in Lisbon. Lisbon wrestling was about to claw its way back and Ryan Morningstar was going to be the one who sparked the Lion’s Den for another run. Lisbon fans were rabid with excitement to watch this kid re-energize the empire…as they should have been.

Just one of Ryan’s 6 AAU titles. Check out the placers and keep in mind that Morningstar wasn’t even close to losing a match there:

1.) Ryan Morningstar, Lisbon

2.) Scott Hazen, Underwood (2-3 time state champ in HS)

3.) Moza Fay, Anamosa (2X state champ in HS)

4.) Justin Hanson, Humboldt (3 time state champ in HS)

5.) Mitch Norton, Nashua-Plainfield (state champ in HS)

6.) ?

7.) Brooks Wheelan, Dubuque Hempstead (state qualifier and Saturday Night Live alum)

8.) Marcus Hollingshead, Oskaloosa (state finalist in HS)

At the time, there had never been a more sure-bet of a presumed undefeated 4X state champion to enter high school than Ryan Morningstar. It got to the point where Ryan dominated everyone in his own age group so severely that his father started bumping him up to wrestle 8th graders when Ryan was a 6th grader in an attempt to get him some competitive matches… and in doing so, he finally ran into a couple guys (both 8th grade) who actually managed to beat him…and multiple times. With that said, the only guys that I know of who ever beat Ryan Morningstar in youth wrestling were two 8th graders when Ryan was a 6th grader: Mack Reiter from Don Bosco and my brother. Justin Swafford from Mediapolis. I can’t give any details about the Mack-Ryan collisions, but I do know that Justin best Ryan probably 3-4 times that year and each match just kept getting closer and closer. The last time they wrestled that year, Justin barely edged him out in OT. These matches were stressful for us… It was like if we win, cool…you beat a kid 2 years younger than you… no big deal, you are SUPPOSED to beat guys who are younger than you.  But if ya lost it was like, “CRAP, maybe we weren’t as good as we thought since we just got beaten by a kid who is 2 years younger.” It just seemed like a no-win situation for us…I thought my dad was going to have a conniption due to nerves from those matchups…. And the Morningstar’s followed us almost everywhere we went for a few weeks there. Scott was adamant on getting Ryan the competitive matches that he felt he needed and it was a huge pat on the back for us that he considered Justin to be the guy to get those matches with.

So Mack and Justin combined for a large percentage of Ryan’s cumulative and rare losses as a youth wrestler. Ryan was so good that he had to wrestle up just to attempt to have a competitive match.

So the wrestling schedule came out for Ryan’s Freshman season and out of any of the hundreds of schools that Lisbon could have wrestled, guess who they faced first meet of the year? The Mediapolis Bulldogs. Home to Justin Swafford aka one of the only guys to EVER beat Ryan Morningstar in his youth wrestling days… And it just so happened that both were at 125 lbs. that year, so the matchup between the two of them first meet of the year was a certainty to take place… Justin was coming off some rather positive publicity himself at the time. He was a junior and had placed 2nd at state as a Freshman and Sophomore. He had just come off an off-season where he won one of his 4-5 freestyle state titles, 1 of his several Northern Plains Regional titles and placed 4th at Fargo Nationals and in that tournament he became notorious for defeating the defending Fargo champion early in the tournament for the 2nd year in a row (first year was Taylor Graham, second one was Nathan Morgan of California). So he was on a roll at that time. 

The meet was to take place at Lisbon…so in front of Ryan’s home crowd in front of hundreds of die-hard Lisbon fans who had been waiting for this moment since the day he was born.  I have no idea how Ryan felt about this, but I know how I would have felt. I would have been unbearably nervous and stressed out beyond comprehension. I’d have thought, “really?! Out of all schools I could have met up with first, it has to be the squad that has one of the couple guys who ever beat me?! Why couldn’t I have just had an average match against a standard opponent like most guys do??!” If Ryan was up for this challenge and happy to get this matchup in his first ever HS match, then props to him, for a stressful situation like that would have been borderline unbearable for most. I probably would have faked an illness. But that’s the difference between me and champions like Ryan Morningstar.

So here is the video to Ryan Morningstar’s long awaited Lisbon HS debut vs. rival, Justin Swafford of Mediapolis. And trust me, if I felt this match would paint Ryan in a negative light at all, I wouldn’t post it…. He had nothing to be ashamed of and wrestled lights out considering the situation, IMO. Not to mention, there were 2 calls that could have gone in Ryan’s favor, but didn’t and 1 call that could have gone Justin’s way, but didn’t…. It’s clear that this matchup could have gone either way. 



Ryan and Justin went on to have successful seasons that year. Justin won state in 2A while Ryan placed 4th in 1A in a bracket that included Justin Bohlke, Mario Galanakis, Chad Beatty and Jeremy Johnson. Morningstar went on to win 3 state titles in his final 3 years.



Ryan and Justin met up one final time after this matchup and that was at Freestyle state the next year. Ryan finally got over the hump and beat Justin in another close match…. I can’t speak for Ryan, but I assume that win felt pretty good for him.

Ryan Morningstar was a stud. Probably the toughest guy any of us Swafford brothers faced in terms of how hard he came after you after the whistle was blown. He was simply the best at that. Best “aggressive off the starting whistle” guy any of us ever locked horns with.

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Remember The Wrestler: Josh Marin, West Liberty

The Marin family is one of the coolest wrestling families in SEI in my book. Nick and Josh. Both great wrestlers with a lot of fire and competitive drive out there. And they are both personable guys who have some of the most interesting insight about their careers and the sport itself. Great people. 

Josh entered HS wrestling with a ton of pressure or I guess that was the case, with big shoes to follow considering his older brother was 2 time state champion, Nick Marin. There is a quote that he wrote to the question, “what is the most upset you ever felt after a loss?” that hit me in the feels so hard that it almost made me cry because I know exactly how he felt in the match he referred to. It’s when it was all over for him and it was official that he was not going to match his older brother’s accolades and he had the feeling that his legacy that he left behind was basically as just “Nick’s brother.” Wrestling can rip apart a person’s heart in a variety of ways from multiple angles and trust me when I say that being remembered by some people as simply being second fiddle to your brother (I occupied this role in my family with my brother Justin)  is one of the worst forms of wrestling heartbreak. I hope people don’t think this of Josh and if they do, they really shouldn’t. Josh was a beast who was respected by all of the competitors that he faced from the standard guy to the elite caliber guys. Josh Marin was and still is Josh Marin and that is a great thing considering how much great stuff he showed out there. And he put his heart and soul into his answers for this, so I hope everyone has fun reading this article and can take something from it. On a couple personal notes, his story is one I felt I could personally relate to quite a bit and I am happy to learn that he is helping out at Iowa City High, for that’s where my brother’s (Justin) sons are wrestling and it’s great to hear that they get to workout with yet, another great coach like Josh. They have a great thing going there.


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

West Liberty Kids Club, Hawkeye Kids Wrestling Club, West Liberty High School, and Coe College.


What year did you graduate?

High school: 2008, College: 2013


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

Mostly my brother, Nick, but growing up in West Liberty at that time, wrestling was the sport in our town, so everyone was trying it.


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

My brother Nick, had some cousins and uncles from Wilton, had a couple cousins from Columbus Junction. My older brother Brian did junior high I believe, but not high schools. Currently my nephew Sam is doing some youth wrestling with Hard Drive, and my nephew Kale is wrestling at City High.


How did they do?

Only one that really did anything was Nick. He was a two-time state champ and one-time runner-up for West Liberty, then wrestled for a season up at UNI


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Youth didn’t start out great for me. I didn’t start getting “good” until probably late middle school. Qualified for AAU state in 6th and 7th grade. Placed 4th in 8th grade. As for rivals, I had a lot of kids that I saw several times. Cory Depoorter, Drew Harney, JJ Wombacher, Colton Smith, Tyler Hardin, Marshall Koethe, Ryan Hand, Max Mayfield, Taylor Hammes, and at least a dozen others that I could probably list off. I wrestled a lot of tournaments and was hitting up at least 1-2 tournaments every weekend, so I saw a lot of different guys growing up.


What was your record in HS?

I couldn’t remember exactly what it was 100% but it was around 146-35 or so. Way too many losses in there for my liking


How did you place at state every year?

I qualified sophomore year and senior year, but didn’t place either year


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

 One that comes to mind was during my senior year.  I had gotten injured right around Christmas break, tearing the cartilage around my rib. Breathing was painful, moving was painful. It was a struggle for a few weeks. Missed the first few weeks of competition of the new year, but was determined to get things back on track. Started practicing through the pain, wearing a wrap around my body to keep my rib in place. Despite being in pain, struggling with the breathing, I basically forced myself back on the mat. First competition back, I was able to win my 4th straight Solon Invitational and continue my senior season.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was very defensive on my feet, heavy hips and corner cutting. It took until late high school for me to start getting an offense. On the mat I was a leg rider on top and on bottom I was more of scrambler, going for Granby rolls and sit-outs, lots of clearing hips.


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

The first one that comes to mind is Brandon Ball from Columbus Junction, I think I was 2-2 career with him. We really didn’t get along much in high school, but after being teammates at Coe and getting to know him better, I gained a lot of respect for him. Another one that I thought of was Lee Maxwell from Wilton. I lost two in a row to him, but ended up getting the win at sectionals junior year. The last one I could come up with was Zach Simpson from Lisbon. Was beating him the first time we wrestled and made a stupid mistake. Ended up getting myself pinned. Wrestled him two more times that season and ended up winning both of them.


Who was your most influential coach?

There are so many coaches that have made an impact on my career. I’d have to say the most influential would be my brother Nick. He got me started in the sport. Didn’t matter what level I was wrestling, he was always there if I needed to get an extra workout or needed some advice. Nick has always been there for me. He even stepped aside when he thought it was best. I also want to shout out some other coaches. Morgan Deprenger had a huge impact on my career not only as a competitor, but without him I probably wouldn’t have become a coach. John Oostendorp at Coe really knew how to inspire a room, he always had some speech to get us going and in that right mindset. Mitch Kelly, Jesse Lira, Pete Robles, Curt Diemer, Gene Nelson, Ian Alke, Brandon Hudson, Jeff Richardson, Aaron Griffith, Ruben Chavez, Aaron Ruiz, Kurt Simon, all really shaped me in my time at West Liberty. Brad Smith, Johnny Galloway Sr., Tom Mashek , Jason Payne, Bill Plein, Andy Milder, Gavin Hjerleid, Mark Reiland, Tony Brown, John Siegel, Dustin Hinschberger, Ted Drees, Marcus Kurtz, Eric Casey, Nick Cole, Pablo Ubasa all helped me out through my wrestling career. Also my dad was a coach from time to time throughout my career and I’d be wrong not to include him here. I’m sorry if I missed anyone else. And now, even as a coach I’m still learning all the time from Cory Connell, he teaches me new things all the time.


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

In high school, we weren’t all that competitive. We went to regional duals a couple times, but our dual record was never that great. Although, my freshman year was the only time West Liberty qualified for state duals, despite a 15-15 dual record. In college we were a top ten team every year I was there.


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

Definitely my brother. It was one of those things where I wanted to be like him. Watching him growing up, I saw the success he had, and I wanted that feeling. He was the reason I even got into wrestling in the first place. Besides him, I was a huge Mark Perry fan, and of course, every Iowan who has ever stepped on the mat will say Dan Gable had some kind of influence on them.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler? Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

There are a lot of good options for this. I think I’m going to go with Jeff McGinness. Undefeated 4-timer, cadet and junior freestyle national titles, junior world title in freestyle


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

I listened to all kinds of stuff. Mostly rap and rock, but threw in a few other things to mix it up. But I was almost always listening to my headphones, just had to get myself in the mood to go to battle


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

Toss up between losing my wrestle-back match at state my senior year of high school or losing the district finals my sophomore year. The first one it just hit me that it was over. I wasn’t going to place at state, in West Liberty Wrestling lore, I was going to be “Nick’s brother.” The other one was against Brandon Ball. I was up pretty handily after the first period, had him on his back for a long time, but couldn’t get the pin. Well, I gassed myself out trying to pin him. Ended up losing in OT, and was just so mad at myself that I let that slip away from me.


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

I would be more focused. I had a bad habit of losing focus during my career. Whether it was other aspects in my life distracting me or it was pressure I put on myself just throwing me off my game, I really let my focus drift too much and it cost me a lot in my career, matches and potential.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

I guess making it to state a couple times, most career pins at West Liberty at the time (95 pins), wrestling in Fargo, or surviving 4 years of college wrestling all come to mind. Although becoming a coach and seeing my wrestlers succeed has kind of become my new favorite accomplishments.


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

High school – Brandon Ball, Seth Noble, Jeret Chiri, Lee Maxwell, Evan Brown, Bret Kautz, Cody Stanley, Kile Beaver, Colton Smith, Micah Sheffield, so many others I can’t even remember them all.

College- Montell Marion, Nick Nothern, first two that come to mind


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

Year round starting in junior high, by the time I was done with high school I was wrestling 5-6 days a week during the spring and summer in several different wrestling rooms. Ended up loving freestyle and Greco a lot. Made it to Fargo once in each style.


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

I’d say that good guys, no matter the era, are going to be good, and stack up against the best. TJ Sebolt, Matt McDonough, or Nate Moore is going to be amazing regardless of when they wrestled. But I will argue that we definitely had some amazing wrestlers during my time of competing.


Did you wrestle after high school?

Wrestled 4 years at Coe College in Cedar Rapids


What other sports did you play?

I did football in high school. Was voted 12th man by my team senior year, but never started or anything. Did average nine yards a carry as a fullback though. (One carry for nine yards is still nine yards a carry)


What are your favorite sports teams?

City High Little Hawks, Chicago Cubs, Dallas Cowboys, Coe Kohawks, Iowa Hawkeyes, West Liberty Comets


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Growing up, my hobbies were pretty varied. Everything from Boy Scouting (made it to Eagle Scout) to backyard wrestling to breakdancing (I was awful) to riding my bike. As I got older, I started to get into mixed martial arts, trained at Mexican Top Team (aka my brother’s garage),  Fit2Live and Hard Drive MMA, and ended up with a 9-1 record. But too many concussions ended that hobby. Hobbies now include spending time with my family and friends, going to concerts and pro wrestling shows (when COVID doesn’t ruin those), and my brother is trying to get me to start doing mud runs with him, so we’ll see if that one becomes a hobby or not.


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

Being able to give back through coaching is one of my favorite things in the world. To see my wrestlers grow and find their footing in the sport is just an amazing feeling. It makes me very proud to be able to pass my knowledge on and create more generations of wrestlers


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

It shaped me in a number of different ways. It made me a tougher individual. Tougher physically, tougher mentally. It made me a more positive person. I know I’ve felt my worst when I was tired, cutting weight, sick, hungry, thirsty, mentally broken, and still I could bounce back, so anything now that I could go through, I know it will end up fine. It taught me how to stand up for myself. Out on the mat, it is just you out there. Nobody to help you, you had to fight. I was a dorky kid (big glasses, loved pro wrestling and Pokemon), but wrestling helped me be a stronger individual and to be able to defend myself if needed. It made me a person who helps others. Wrestling is an individual sport, but you still have a team behind you. Guys who support you and vise versa. Though doing that on the mat and in the room, I learned that it’s beneficial to help others, beneficial to yourself mentally and spiritually, beneficial to whomever you’re helping, and beneficial to the team as a whole around you. So wrestling has shaped me in all different types of ways and all for the better in my opinion


What do you do now?

I currently work for the Iowa City Community School District. I’m a paraeducator and an assistant wrestling coach at City High, and then I am a painter for the school district during the summers.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

Yes, I coach at City High in Iowa City


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

 Trust in the process. You don’t win championships overnight. It takes time and effort to get to that next level. It takes those extra workouts, it takes those repetitive technique sessions, it takes those sacrificed parties or summers putting in work, it takes a lot of time to get to your goals. But once you get your hand raised or you get that medal you’ll realize it was worth it.


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

 I’m not saying yes or no to this, but I will say, I’ll have to be able to fit in one of my old singlets first before I’ll do it, and they were mediums when I last competed


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

 Shout out to all my wrestlers I’ve coached at City High, past and present. You guys make the gray hairs, late nights, and stress worth it for me. I’d also like to shout out the coaching staff there as well, Cory Connell and Morgan Deprenger especially. You guys brought me in, at a point when my life wasn’t anywhere near where I wanted it to be. I was dealing with my depression, at a job I hated, had been out of wrestling for a couple years at that point, and was just in a bad place. Never would have guessed how much better my life would be getting back into the sport. So thank you to all of you and the wrestling families as well. City has the best families that raise some great kids. Also would like to give a huge shoutout to my parents as well. They have been super supportive throughout my whole career as a competitor and into my career as a coach. Driving me across the country to tournaments growing up really helped me become as good as I could be. Plus I like that I’m in my thirties and my parents still come to my wrestling meets and tournament.


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

 One story that gets told all the time from my high school days is about my buddy Cody. We were up at a dual tournament in New Hampton, and it was just a bad day. We weren’t wrestling well as a team at all. I think we just lost a dual and only won one match during it with a defensive pin. Our coach, Morgan Deprenger, was so mad that I don’t even think he yelled at us. We had a bye that round and we were just sulking in our locker room, feeling sorry for ourselves for the whooping we just took. Well Cody, who was our team goofball, saw a chalkboard and decided to use it to give us pep talk. He goes on this huge rant about how we need strength, technique, determination, and skills, and writes this on the board. He then decides to use an abbreviation for it. “We need STDS!” just shouting it over and over again. Our team is just dying laughing at this point, just falling over, until the coaches bust in. They are pissed. They had cooled down, until they came to talk to us and heard the laughter. Deprenger is fuming, starts ripping us a new one, telling us how we need to step up, and how we need to get our minds right. Cody at some point interjects that we again need strength, technique, determination, and skills. Deprenger goes with like that’s the best idea ever starts talking about those and goes on talking about how we need those to succeed and get back into it, and Cody let this go until Deprenger was all about it, and then Cody points to the abbreviation on the board. Deprenger stops mid sentence, turns, and just walks out. We didn’t know if he was pissed or trying not to laugh, but it was probably both. “STDS” still gets brought like once a year, like last week.

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The Iowa HS State Wrestling Tournament at Vets Auditorium in 1999 was like most years in terms of having a handful of upsets and wild matches that ignited chaos amongst fans who were watching. This was the year that Tim Cory from Bondurant-Farrar was called for a slam first round and he went on to make a statement in the consolations that fans still remember to this day. This was the year of Nick Lee vs. Joe Reiter. This was the year that Ryan Fulsaas and Mike Novak had one of the best heavyweight scrambles I’ve ever seen in their state finals match that put all the remaining fans at the edge of their seat. The loudest Vets got that year though, was after a match in which returning state champion Sophomore, Josh Watts from Assumption took his only loss of his career at the state tournament. Not very many people expected Watts lose, for ever since he was a little kid, he won state basically every year. Prior to this year, the only two guys I remembered ever beating him was Chris Wernimont from Pocahontas and Keith Peyton from Wapsie Valley…. if he had other losses over the years, then I sure as heck didn’t hear about it. And everyone knew it. It was a straight up rare occasion to ever see Watts lose a match… and it happened at state in 1999…and the crowd erupted into a frenzy that people still mention to this day and the victor was a kid named Dustin Dunton from South Tama.

This video is of his Senior year state finals match and keep in mind, he did not win this match and it was heartbreaking for him, BUT he still wrestled a great match and you’ll see how close he was… 


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

STC wrestling club, South Tama County High School, Iowa Central Community College and University of Northern Iowa


What year did you graduate?

High school-1999

Iowa Central Community College-2001

University of Northern Iowa-2003


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

Dale Cruikshank-his two boys, Greg and Karl both wrestled and our families were very close.


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

My dad wrestled for Iowa Valley I believe. His Jr. year he was on varsity and was pretty good.  He ended up getting hurt so his back up replaced him and ended up placing 6th at State I think.


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I placed 4th at AAU State my 8th grade year.  I don’t really recall any rivals.


What was your record in HS?



How did you place at state every year?

6th as a Soph, 4th as a Jr. and 2nd as a Sr.


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

I cut a lot of weight so that was always a challenge.  Seemed like every Monday I was 15 lbs. over.  I will say I didn’t cut weight the right way.  My Senior year I ended up getting a staph infection in my left knee that started out about the diameter of a cigarette.  At Christmas break I had it cut out and stitched. It didn’t heal correctly and the Doctor gave me two options: 1. Have surgery and be done wrestling for the season or 2. Deal with it and have surgery after the season.  I chose option 2 of course.  The staph ended up eating away about a quarter size diameter and down to the cartilage in my knee.  It hurt so bad, but once that whistle blew, I felt no pain.  


How would you describe your wrestling style?

Aggressive and offensive.  I wanted to break our High School takedown record.  Unless our team needed a pin, I would rather get a tech fall. I figured I didn’t cut all that weight to wrestling for a minute.  I wanted to get a good workout in.


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

I can really only think of two guys.  Tim Halligan of Independence.  He was a force to be reckoned with.  We wrestled 6 times during my Soph. and Jr. year.  He came out on top in 4 of those.  I think he was the only guy that wore me out.  He was none stop.  The other guy was Kyle Cunningham of Forest City.  I think I beat him my Frosh year and he beat me in the 3rd place match at State my Jr. year.


Who was your most influential coach?

Dale Cruikshank and Jay Hoskey.  Dale got me started wrestling and coached me from the beginning and through High School.  When I was in 8th grade, I was allowed to practice at times with the High School team, which is where I met Jay. Jay and I had a great relationship and I learned a lot from him.


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

South Tama wasn’t very good my Freshman year.  My Sophmore year I believe the team made the regional dual meet where we lost.  My Junior year we placed 4th at State Duals.  My Senior year we placed 3rd at State Duals and 4th at the Traditional tournament.  


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

Greg Cruikshank.  Greg was the wrestler I wanted to be like.  He was 2 years older than I and we were close in weight.  I got the opportunity to be his practice partner for 2 years in high school.  I believe he is the reason I had the success I did.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Eric Juergens of Maquoketa, IA


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Who isn’t a fan of Spencer Lee?  Guy is a beast.  He and Alex Marinelli, Michael Kemerer and Austin DeSanto.  Always looking to score and push the pace. Fun to watch.


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

Jock Jams cd, Rocky soundtrack and Metallica.


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

From my first wrestling match until my last, I always took losses very hard.  The worst would be losing my State finals match against Adam Kramer of New Hampton.  My whole Senior year I had the attitude that I was not only going to win State, but also go undefeated.  I had no doubt in my mind.  I wasn’t cocky, just confident.  I trained hard. I had great workout partners in Joe Hughes (5th State 130), Corey Wilkins (4th State 140), Paul Bradley (2nd State 145), Karl Cruikshank (5th State 152) and Brenon Chyma (4th State160).  These guys were my daily wrestling partners and I not only competed with them, I beat them at times.  After losing my finals match in O.T., I was devastated.  I don’t think I really ever recovered from it and it’s probably part of the reason I didn’t have success in college wrestling.


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

I wish I could have learned to not take losses so hard.  If I could have learned to look at losses more as a positive rather than a negative, I believe I would have had a better outcome in college wrestling.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Beating Josh Watts my senior year at State in the semi-finals is one.  Another would be traveling to little kids wrestling tournaments on the weekends with my parents and all our wrestling families.  We always had fun.


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

Tim Halligan of Independence in high school for sure.  Brad Howard of Waterloo Columbus.  We wrestled twice maybe, but he always gave me a tough match.


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

Seasonal, but I would do a freestyle tournament every now and again.  In 1997 I think it was, I did make the Fargo Freestyle team. I went 0-2.  Haha


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

I think it would be very competitive.


Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes, Iowa Central and Northern Iowa


After you beat Watts at state, how loud did the crowd seem? Did you have a game plan coming into the match?

I don’t recall the crowd really. This was just another match in my mind. I didn’t have a game plan other than just wrestling my match.


Describe South Tama wrestling in just a couple words.

Tough and close knit


What other sports did you play?

Football through my sophomore year and cross country my senior year.


What are your favorite sports teams?

Iowa Hawkeyes and UNI Panthers


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Boating and traveling


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

It always feels great passing on knowledge to the youth.


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

I learned my work ethic from my parents, but wrestling had taught me that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. I wouldn’t ever say I was a talented wrestler. I had to put in a lot of time learning technique and conditioning.


What do you do now?

I’m a Deputy for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office


Are you still involved with wrestling?

I just watch and follow it these days.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Work hard and keep it fun. Wrestling is the toughest sport. It’s even tougher when it’s not fun.


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

Highly unlikely.


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

Tim Halligan of Independence. It was always a war with him. I always thought I was in great shape, but Tim was on another level.


Remember The Wrestler: Jordan Bremer, Woodbury Central

We’ve all heard the phrase, “speed kills.” This phrase is true in wrestling and applicable to many athletes who have taken the mat over the years. There are not very many wrestlers who fit this bill than Jordan Bremer from Woodbury Central. A 3X state champion who literally just lit people up with his finesse and speed. He is one of these guys who may have been a 4X state champion had he been full-sized as a Freshman. He was only weighing in the 90’s range and some of the guys he wrestled at state that year were probably 30-40 lbs bigger than him just a week or so after the season ended that year. And being undersized as a Freshman, he still managed to place 4th, which is phenomenal.

I always associated Jordan Bremer with his wrestling style, 3 titles and his epic rivalry that he had with a guy named Brance Simms from Twin River, Valley Bode. A lot of Southeast Iowa people like myself followed Simms (who is from the Northwest part of the state, like Jordan) because his mom was a New London graduate and her brother was Shane Arnold, a standout for them in the late 80’s. On a personal side note, Shane was the first wrestler I remember ever watching as a tyke. The one interaction I ever had with Jordan before this was when I began writing the Inside The Rivalry series for The Predicament and discussed the possibility of writing one about his rivalry with Simms. The kid struck me as a very sharp person and very enthusiastic about wrestling, a combination that is great for the sport. I am proud to have a platform in which he can tell his story because he has a lot of good stuff to say…a trend that I’ve seen with a lot of guys in his age group.

 I never connected the dots that his brother was Andy Bremer, a standout wrestler for WC who graduated in 2002 until reading Jordan’s responses.  Great wrestling family, the Bremer’s!



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

I started out wrestling for the Woodbury Central youth club and then in about 3rd grade I joined the Northwest Iowa Wrestling Academy and did that till I was in 8th grade. Some other kids in the club were Chaps and Cash Wilcke, Destin McCauley, Eric DeVos and a couple of my high school teammates Nate and Zach Ryan and more that I’m forgetting.


What year did you graduate?



Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My oldest brother Andy and my dad.


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

My older brother Andy was a 4x state qualifier from 1999-2002 for WC. He placed 4th in 2000.


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I placed every year at the AAU state tournament. Peewee State Finals in 2002 I lost 2-0 to Thomas Gilman. The only year I won AAU was in 6th grade. 8th grade I broke my arm a couple weeks before districts so didn’t get to wrestle. I would say Gilman was my rival for a couple years though not much of a rivalry when you don’t win any of the matches. And Zach Welter from North Linn… seems like we wrestled every year at AAU State.


What was your record in HS?



How did you place at state every year?



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

I would say learning how to rely on my athletic ability and quickness as a freshman. I was only weighing about 95 lbs wrestling 103 and guys were bigger and stronger than me. I would say it went alright placing 4th.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was quick and came out right away and attacked. I could score with many different takedowns. Once I got a couple I would like to work for the pin.


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


Umm… not many other than Brance Simms, but again only winning 1 out of 4 matches is not really back and forth.

Who was your most influential coach?

Adam McElrath WC head coach during my time, Jake Thomas who is the current WC head coach and my brother and dad all had huge impacts on me.


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

We made Regional my first 3 years and then finally my senior year we qualified for duals and placed 5th. In college Minnesota won two national dual titles when they still did national duals and we placed 3rd and 2nd at the national tournament my first to years there.


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

It’s kind of funny that it wasn’t my brother. I mean I looked up to him, but I would say Mack Reiter. Always remember watching Mack at Vets when I was 6,7,8 years old. Funny how we both were 1A wrestlers who ended up at Minnesota.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

I would say Cory Clark. I may be biased because he’s from my era, but can’t argue with what he did in high school and college.


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Normally any guys from Minnesota so Gable is fun to watch right now but now gonna have to root for UNI and Wade Mitchell and NDSU and Beau Klingensmith once he gets there next year as well!


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

Mostly Linkin Park but I’d mix it up with rap every now and then.


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

Definitely my semifinals of my freshman year. Lost by 1 point. At that moment you realize your dream of being a 4xer is out the window so it was pretty hard to change your mindset quickly and get over it and battle back for 3rd.


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

Definitely that semi finals match.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Either my first state title or reginal duals my senior qualifying for the first time since 2000 as a school.


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

Brance Simms is the one that comes to mind. Definitely had my number. He was a great competitor. Kyler Kiner from Ogden and Andrew Foutch also come to mind. Wrestled them down at the state tourney. Didn’t really wrestle too many guys in college multiple times.


What was your rivalry with Brance Simms like?

Man it was fun. We actually never wrestled until high school. He was always a couple brackets bigger than me growing up so I didn’t really know what he was like stylistically. First time he majored me and then the next two were 1 point matches and then of course the state title match was a close one as well.

When you look at the list of 3X state champs from Iowa, how honored are you to be a part of that elite company?

I mean it’s pretty cool. Personally a little disappointed to not me on that 4x list but should be grateful because a lot of kids would love to be on that 3x list.


Are there any wrestlers past or present that you would compare yourself to?

Um none really come to mind.


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

I tried to be on the mat year round. Summer was a little more difficult because I played baseball but still tried to hit open mat and local camps as much as I could.


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

Well I would say we would do pretty well. I believe my senior class was the most D1 committed wrestlers in the history of Iowa high school wrestling. I think there were over 25 of us that signed and wrestled D1. May be something cool you could look into?


Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes at the University of Minnesota

What other sports did you play?



What are your favorite sports teams?

Miami Hurricanes/ Iowa State for College Football, Las Vegas Raiders, and Minnesota Twins.


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

I like to hang out with friends and family, as well as still play some video games. Like to fish, bike and play the occasional round of golf.


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

I love it. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the sport. It’s only fair that I give back my knowledge and experiences. Nothing really satisfies me more than seeing a young kid accomplish his/her goals in the sport.


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

I think it has helped me face the different adversity and challenges in my life with more maturity and resiliency. Made me realize if I can get through the challenges wrestling throws at you there is not much else that you can’t get through.


What do you do now?

I’m an account executive for Long Lines Broadband in Sergeant Bluff IA.

Are you still involved with wrestling now?

Yes, I am an assistant at Woodbury Central.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

I would say learn how to win the close matches. I think a lot of times there is pressure that you have to just dominate and pin everyone or win big against opponents that you’re supposed to beat on paper and that weighs on kids’ minds. Especially the elite ones. It’s okay to win by decision even if it’s not what you want or expect. Learn to win the close ones. Especially if you’re going to wrestle in college.


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

I definitely think it’s a possibility just have to get back in shape!


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

Um just a shout out to the Iowa wrestling community in general. Keep supporting the boys and girls in our state with the passion that you all have! Wouldn’t want to be from any other state or a part of any other sport. Also shout out to Pin Doctors for keeping the history of Iowa wrestling alive!


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

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

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

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

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

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


Where did you start wrestling?

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


What year did you graduate?

2010 HS 2015 UNI


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My whole family was a big influence.


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

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


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

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


What was your record in HS?

194-4 I think


How did you place at state every year?


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

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

How would you describe your wrestling style?

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

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

Joe Colon, ¾ losses were from that guy

Who was your most influential coach?

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

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

We were average.


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

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


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Brandon Sorensen

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

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

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

Blood round Sophomore of college.


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

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

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

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


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

It was a good time.


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

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


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

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


What was your mindset like when wrestling?

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


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

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


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

Year round.


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

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


Did you wrestle after high school?


What other sports did you play?

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

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

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


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

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


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Remember The Wrestler: Jeremy Meyer, Newton HS/UNI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What year did you graduate?

I graduated high school in 2003.


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

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


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

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


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

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

What was your record in HS?

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


How did you place at state every year?

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


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

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


How would you describe your wrestling style?

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


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

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


Who was your most influential coach?

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


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

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

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

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

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

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


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Did you wrestle after high school?

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

What other sports did you play?

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

What are your favorite sports teams?

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

What do you do now?

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

Are you still involved with wrestling?

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


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

Becker (Todd)

Bedard (Tony)

Brenda (Jim)

Even (Tommy)

Fox (Gable and Ray)

Francis (Al)

Hogan (Mike, Tom, Pat)

Kettman (Taylor)

Kimball (Daniel)

Mangrich (Mark, Scott)

Mills (Corey)

O’Laughlin (David, Phil)

Pecenka (Troy)

Purdy (Troy)

Reiter (Joe, Mack, Bart)

Schmitz (Jeff)

Thome (Irv, Steve, Jake)

Weber (Daryl, Lee, Mark)

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

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

Welter (Clay, Cole)

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

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

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

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

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



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

Team Bosco as a grade schooler/middle schooler.

Don Bosco HS

Wartburg College 


What year did you graduate?

High School 2010

College 2014

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

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


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

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


How did they do?

Brandon was 2,2,3,3 at state

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

Dillon is currently still in high school


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

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


What was your record in HS?

162-14 I believe


How did you place at state every year?



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

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

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

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


How would you describe your wrestling style?

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


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

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


Who was your most influential coach?

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


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Luckily, very competitive.

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

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


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

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


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Mark Schwab


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Winning a national title for Wartburg in 2014


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

Cody Caldwell, Levi Wolfensberger, Nazar Kulchytskyy


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

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


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

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


Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes, wrestled for Wartburg College.


What other sports did you play?

Baseball in high school.


What are your favorite sports teams?

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


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

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


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

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


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

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


What do you do now?

I am an Sr. OnSite specialist for Stryker Endoscopy.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

I am an assistant coach for Don Bosco.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 2A 160

1 Josh Ramirez (Sr.) Dubuque Wahlert

2 Luke Hageman (Sr.) Dyersville Beckman

3 Tate Battani (Sr.) Ballard

4 Wes Cummings (Jr.) PCM

5 Zach Williams (So.) Osage

6 Cavin Malloy (Sr.) Williamsburg

7 Colter Bye (Jr.) Crestwood

8 Payton Pelke (Sr.) Union

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

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

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

Respect to Josh Ramirez! 4X State Champ!


Remember The Wrestler: Trent Hardin, Van Buren HS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hardin vs Combs at 215 Blood Round in 2004

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

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

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


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

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

What year did you graduate?

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

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

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

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

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

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

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

What was your record in HS?

162- 24 with 96 pins

Freshman (35-9 with 29 pins)

Sophomore (40-6)

Junior (43-8)

Senior (44-1)

How did you place at state every year?

DNQ, 4TH, 4TH, 2ND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you describe your wrestling style?

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

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

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

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

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

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

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

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

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

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Jay Borschel – lots of talented wrestlers to pick from!

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

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

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

Lincoln Park and Eminem haha

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

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

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

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

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

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

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

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

Having 29 pins as freshman

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

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

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

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

Donavon Grove (2timer)

Thomas Hess  (2 timer)

Ben Lehman ( 1st, 2nd )

Kyle Slifka  (3rd, 1st)

Jon McLaughlin (5th,4th) I believe

Adam Robards (5th) Maybe more

Nick Olson (3rd)

Mark Root ( Place winner Illinois)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you wrestle after high school?

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

What other sports did you play?

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

What are your favorite sports teams?

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

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

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

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

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

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

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

What do you do now?

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

Are you still involved with wrestling?

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

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

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

How would you like to be remembered?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What if NCAA D1 moved to the Super Regional Format?

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

How it works.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Western Region (18) - Host: Arizona State

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

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

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

Central Region (17) - Host: Iowa

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

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

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

Northeast Region (18) - Host: Cornell

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

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

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

Southeast Region (23) - Host: NC State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Follow more work by Justin and Joshua Portillo by following Portillo Productions. 
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Cole Welter: Don Bosco, Class Of 2013

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


Cory Christensen, Winterset, Class Of 1993

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



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

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


Derric Thomas, Mason City Newman, Class of 2010

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


Interesting Connections Between These 4 Guys:

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


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

Remember The Wrestler: Nick Beuter; Cedar Falls HS, Boise State

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

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

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

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






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




Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

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

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


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

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


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

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

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

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


What was your record in HS?

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


How did you do at state?

Freshman – 2nd at 103

Sophomore- 2nd at 112

Junior – 3rd at 125

Senior – 1st at 130


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

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

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

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

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

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


Who was your most influential coach?

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


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

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

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


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

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


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

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


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

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


What was your best wrestling memory/accomplishment?

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


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

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


Who was the fiercest competitor you ever faced?

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


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

I wrestled all year.


Did you wrestle after high school?

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


How would you describe your wrestling style?

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


 What other sports did you play?

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


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

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


What are your favorite sports teams?

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


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

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

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


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

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


What do you do now?

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


How fun is wrestling history to you?

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


Are you still involved with wrestling?

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

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


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 1A 113

1 Cael Happel (Fr.) Lisbon

2 Devon Meeker (Sr.) Wapello

3 Jacob Ragsdale (Sr.) Dike-New Hartford

4 Logan James (Fr.) Underwood

5 Nathan Phillips (Sr.) I35

6 Kurtis Krager (Jr.) OABCIG

7 Easton Larson (Fr.) Don Bosco

8 Tyler Helgeson (Fr.) Lake Mills


2019 1A 120

1 Cael Happel (So.) Lisbon

2 Daniel Meeker (So.) Wapello

3 Blake Thomsen (So.) Underwood

4 Casey Baker (Jr.) I35

5 Cael Frost (Fr.) Don Bosco

6 Tyler Helgeson (So.) Lake Mills

7 Dillon Lynott (So.) West Sioux

8 Uvaldo Camarillo (Sr.) Postville


2019 1A 132

1 Cael Happel of Lisbon

2 Logan James of Underwood

3 Joshua Tibbits of Martensdale, St. Mary`s

4 Easton Larson of Don Bosco

5 Nolan Noonan of Cascade

6 Gabriel Lewis of Denver

7 Jacob McBride of Newman Catholic

8 Dillon Lynott of West Sioux, Hawarden


2020 1A 138

1 Cael Happel (Sr) Lisbon

2 Logan James (Sr) Underwood

3 Heath Moyer (Sr) North Linn – Troy Mills

4 Dominic Lopez (Fr) New London

5 Jace Mulder (Fr) Western Christian – Hull

6 Karter Krapfl (So) Hudson

7 Trae Ehlen (Jr) Mount Ayr

8 Jordan Khommanyvong (Jr) South Central Calhoun

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

2001 1A 103

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

2002 1A 112

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


2001 1A 112

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

2001 1A 119

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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


What year did you graduate?




Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

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


Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently?

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

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


Parents, children, brothers, etc.?

 Mike Moreno

Rick Moreno

Michael Moreno

Gabriel Moreno


How did they do?

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

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

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

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

Israel Moreno – 5th at State as a freshman

Kane Mahler-Moreno – TBD


 What were your youth results?

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


Any rivals there?

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


What was your record in HS?

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


How did you place at state every year?

 Freshman – 6th

Sophomore – 4th

Junior – 3rd

Senior – DNP


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

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

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

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

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

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



How would you describe your wrestling style?

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


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

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


Who was your most influential coach?

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


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

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


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

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


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

 David Kjeldgaard


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

 Yanni D

Frank Chamizo


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

Reggae – All Types

Nirvana, Sublime, Metallica

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



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

 They all felt bad.


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

 Focus more on strength training and less on making weight.



What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

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


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


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

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


How close are you, Rick and Mike?

 Close. They have mentored me in wrestling and life.


 Did you feel a lot of expectations being a Moreno?

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


What are your favorite movies?

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


Who were some of your workout partners from your area?

 Jeff Newby – Glenwood

Jason Black – Glenwood

Kirk Artist – Glenwood

Mike Wells – Clarinda



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

 All year.


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

 Its all the same in my opinion.


Did you wrestle after high school?

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



What other sports did you play?

 I was active as a kid.  Played all sports.


What are your favorite sports teams?


Iowa State

Oakland Raiders


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

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


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

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


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

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


What do you do now?

 I work with at risk youth.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

 Yes, I am the head coach at Beaver Creek WC


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

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


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



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

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


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