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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what does Greg Randall attribute his success to?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greg Randall interview from “Wrestling with Iowa”

 

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

1979:

98 lbs

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

1980:

112 lbs

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

1981:

126 lbs

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

1982:

132 lbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post high school notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Joe Gibbons Iowa State Wrestling Tournament results…

1978 – 3A 98:

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

 

1979 – 3A 105:

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

 

1980 – 3A 126:

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

 

1981 – 3A 132:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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TRENT GOODALE, OSAGE, ‘01

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

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

 

JOSH WATTS, ASSUMPTION, ‘01

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

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

119

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

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

JULIEN BRODERSON, ASSUMPTION ‘19

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

 

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

 

TREY CLARK, UNION ‘00

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

 

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Remember The Wrestler: Derick Ball, Columbus Jct.

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

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

 

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

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

 

What year did you graduate?

I graduated from Columbus in 2003.

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

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

 

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

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

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

Zack Pugh-Placed 8th

Adam and Paul Reid-Placewinners at Fort Madison

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

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

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

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

 

What was your record in HS?

135-37

 

How did you place at state every year?

Qualified as a Soph

Placed 4th as a Junior and Senior

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Who was your most influential coach?

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

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

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

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

 

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

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

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

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

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

I wrestled for one year at Coe.

 

What other sports did you play?

I ran cross country, track, and played baseball.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Chicago Cubs and the Iowa Hawkeyes.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

What do you do now?

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

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

3A 167

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

 

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By Kevin Swafford

One of the greatest things about wrestling that I found was its impact on families and how the sport of wrestling is passed on with its fervent love and passion for excellence and hard-nosed quality competition from generation to generation, from parent to child, sibling to sibling, and beyond. As a matter of fact, I could probably make a career out of writing Iowa wrestling stories that are exclusively about wrestling families. There are levels of intensities that are hard to measure when it comes to family wrestling, like a wolf-pack and for the most part, there is a strength and confidence that is extremely formidable to anyone outside those walls.

When doing research on this article’s GOAT subject, I was immediately struck by how much talent that Nick Moore had… but also how much talent he had at home (brother Nate and cousin Cliff Moore) and a father that helped him pursue his wrestling dreams, and in the wrestling room with his teammates, and with his coach – former Iowa NCAA national champion Mark Reiland. I think it’s an aspect that gets overlooked sometimes when evaluating a profile of an individual whose body of work is unquestionably great. It’s the little things that matter in the daily pursuit of those high goals which become incrementally huge difference makers in that individual’s growth like the extra work that one puts in when no one is watching – the efforts invested in success that happen outside of the 2 hours spent in the practice room. Obviously, Nick had all of the tangibles that make star wrestlers… along with his intangibles, like coachability, drive and motivation to be the best he was able to build the impeccable high school resume that gives him GOAT credibility.

Let’s take a look at Nick Moore of Iowa City West and his “Case for IA HS Wrestling GOAT”!?

Nick Moore was the state’s 19th four-time state champion, winning titles at 130, 140, 152 and 160 from 2007-10. Those were weight classes well above the normal (98 or 103) starting weight classes seen in the resumes of most our beloved 4x state wrestling champions. He finished with a phenomenal 183-1 career mark, winning his last 151 consecutive matches that spanned three undefeated seasons (52-0, 49-0, 50-0) and was a junior national freestyle champion.

Nick’s only loss came during his freshman year at the hands of 2x state champion Mark Ballweg of Waverly-Shell Rock (career 158-6), in the 2007 state duals by a score of 5-3 after  defeating Ballweg in overtime in their previous meeting a week earlier in the state semifinals. Nick of course went on to win the 3A 130 lbs weight class capturing the first of his 4 state titles. Ballweg placed 4th at 130 that year, and is the only HS wrestler to defeat both Moore brothers (beating Nate Moore in the 2005 3A finals at 103 lbs) and also went on to wrestle for the Iowa Hawkeyes (along with his brothers).

Nick was part of ICW’s talented “Fab 5” in the mid to late 2000’s, a tight-knit group of stud wrestlers for then head coach Mark Reiland… which included Nick’s brother Nate (2x state champ and 4x finalist), Derek St. John (2x state champ), Grant Gambrall (2x state champ) and Dylan Carew (2x state champ and 4x placer), and played a role in helping Iowa City West to a 2nd consecutive state duals and traditional team title sweep back in 2007… (IC West took home those same titles the previous year in 2006).

What makes Nick Moore’s climb to the list of “Mount Rushmore” 4x state title winners so impressive, is he ran the table winning two of those individual state titles with an injured right shoulder that required a pair of off-season surgeries (sophomore and junior seasons), which points to Nick’s physical and mental toughness, while also winning those titles in middle weight classes that spanned from 130 to 160.

What makes his “4-Peat” run of state titles that much sweeter from my perspective is that two of those state title years, Nick was able to share them with his brother Nate who was 2 years older. The Moore’s were teammates again later on in their wrestling careers at Iowa. Nick Moore went on to become a Big Ten finalist and three-time NCAA qualifier for the Hawkeyes.

Nick Moore was inducted into the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s Wrestling Hall Of Fame in 2020 (sharing the honor that night with his brother Nate – now head coach of their alma mater – the Iowa City West Trojans).

Personally, I love that… maybe it’s the sentimental side of me that enjoys seeing success of brothers (myself being a twin and also having a younger brother that I played an important role in helping him reach his wrestling goals) and in this GOAT case, the impact that brothers play in shaping each other’s future as well as later in life.

Nick Moore stands in nobody’s shadow while carrying an ample resume and deserves our consideration for Iowa HS Wrestling GOAT – what say you?

Here’s Nick Moore’s state tournament results…

2007 3A Results

130

  1. Nick Moore, Fr., Iowa City West
  2. Isaiah Smith, So., Newton
  3. Micah Sheffield, Sr., Sioux City North
  4. Mark Ballweg, Jr., Waverly-Shell Rock
  5. Travis Stratton, Jr., Burlington
  6. Bradley Westendorf, Sr., Oelwein
  7. Adam Richards, Sr., Johnston
  8. Colby Tofanelli, So., Des Moines Lincoln

 

2008 3A Results

140

  1. Nick Moore, So., Iowa City West
  2. Alec Hoffman, Sr., Davenport North
  3. Tyler Hardin, Sr., Cedar Rapids Prairie
  4. Travis Stratton, Sr., Burlington
  5. James Tudor, Jr., Newton
  6. Mike White, Sr., Bettendorf
  7. Tyler Middleton, Sr., Ankeny
  8. Keaton Lunn, Jr., Fort Dodge

 

2009 3A Results

152

  1. Nick Moore, Jr., Iowa City West
  2. Josiah South, Sr., Urbandale
  3. Joey Trizino, Jr., Bettendorf
  4. Quinten Haynes, Sr., Waterloo East
  5. Cody Clark, Sr., Southeast Polk
  6. Cody Marsh, Sr., Fort Dodge
  7. Spencer BeLieu, Jr., Indianola
  8. Travis Mallo, So., Mason City

 

2010 3A Results

160
1st: Nick Moore, Iowa City West SR 48- 0
2nd: Spencer BeLieu, Indianola SR 38- 3
3rd: Anthony Walther, Waverly-Shell Rock SR 39- 4
4th: Nik Pappas, Valley West Des Moines SR 32- 8
5th: Cory Devries, Dowling Catholic W Des Moines SR 31- 15
6th: Beau Gill, Sioux City North SR 34- 8
7th: Bryan Levsen, Bettendorf SO 25- 6
8th: Thomas Mayberry, Maquoketa SR 36- 7

Here’s Nick Moore interview at “Wrestling With Iowa:”

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Ryan Cummings, Mediapolis

Ryan Cummings won 3 state titles. He won them in 1991, 1992 and 1993. The interesting thing with him was that the title he won in 1991 was in Minnesota. Being a vocal Mepo Wrestling alumni and lifelong fan myself, I idolized Ryan. The entire community did. He filled up the stands by being so fun to watch. Some Mepo people who didn’t normally follow wrestling would make it a priority to watch home meets so they could witness him wrestle. He was a big deal back then. In 1992 and 1993 he was so dominant that sometimes it just looked like he was able to control every facet of the matches he wrestled. It was magical. The only year he did not win state was when he was a Freshman in 1990… He did qualify, though. This was at Mepo. The only year he wrestled in Minnesota was 1991.

 

 

 

Tom Peckham, Cresco

Tom Peckham won state titles in 1960, 1961 and 1962. The only year he did not win it was his Freshman year. He got defeated first round at state against Bill Block from Maquoketa by a score of 4-4… referees decision. The ironic thing is that the referee was Harold Nichols… Peckham’s future college coach at Iowa State.

 

 

Dan Gable, Waterloo West

Dan Gable. We all know pretty much everything about him because he is an icon in the sport of wrestling. Ok fact, I would say that he is THE icon I The sport of wrestling. He has influenced everyone from Royce Alger to Ashton Kutcher to The Brands Bros. to Tom Cruise. He is a universally respected guy and crosses the line from the wrestling world to the mainstream to a certain extent. Gable only had one loss in his high school and college career combined. This was not in high school. He was undefeated for Waterloo West. So how did he not win 4 state championships? To my understanding, it’s because Waterloo West would not let Freshmen wrestle varsity. He is the first flawless wrestler to come from the state of Iowa in terms of record.

 

John Henrich, Akron-Westfield

John Henrich was a 3X state champion who was undefeated in the state of Iowa. In fact, he only gave up maybe 15-20 points total in his entire Iowa career. 7 of those points were in one match. 2 of his 3 finals opponents are now 2X AA’s at the D3 and NAIA levels. He beat Jacob Krakow from Iowa Valley-Marengo in the finals as a Sophomore and Jacob has been an AA for D3 Loras 2 times now. He defeated Brennan Swafford from Mediapolis 8-7 In the finals his Junior year. Brennan was an AA as a Freshman and then won it as a Sophomore at the NAIA level. He defeated a Freshman named Carson Tenold from Don Bosco who likely will go on to do big things when he was a Senior in 2019. The only year John did not win state was his Freshman season. He placed 3rd in South Dakota. And before you try to say that SD doesn’t produce good wrestlers, I’d just like to tell you that Lincoln McClravy says, “hi!”

 

Nelson Brands, IC West

Nelson Brands won state titles his final 3 years of high school in 2016, 2017 and 2018. And he looked pretty dominant in the process, really. All 3 brackets he won had some tough guys in them. Nelson Brands did not win state as a Freshman in HS. He just hadn’t quite turned the corner and reached the level that most of us have seen from him since at that time. Nelson was not the same wrestler at the end of his Freshman year compared to the Wrestler he was when he won state as a Sophomore. He raised his game immensely in that one year. Heck, he wasn’t even the same guy from the first tournament of the year at Burlington compared to how he was wrestling at the end of the season. I watched him.. he had a nice win over Mepo’s Mason Buster at that one, but he and Mason were both kind of wrestling sloppy at various points of that match. Somewhere along the line that season, something clicked for Nelson Brands. I think there were two huge wins for him that helped him get the ball rolling. 1.) His victories over Clint Lembeck from Xavier at the MVC and state finals were huge. Lembeck was a proven badass. The real deal and everyone knew it and Nelson beat him twice. It was huge. Probably the biggest win of his career was his victory over Zach Barnes from SE Polk. This one was likely a big one for him mentally, for I watched Nelson a lot from the time he hit the AAU circuit in 6th grade and if it was one person that used to give him the worst fits, it was Zach Barnes. I’ve beliefs ever since that those two wins were integral for his development. Never underestimate the power of confidence.

His Freshman season, if memory serves me correctly, he was in a pretty stacked 126 lb district with Skylar DeJong from Osky, Colten Mertens from Mt. Pleasant and Cam Sadeghi from Keokuk. He placed 4th behind all 3 of those guys. Wasn’t the same kid a year later. If he had made that jump his Freshman year, who knows what would have happened?

 

INTERESTING CONNECTIONS/PARALLELS BETWEEN THESE FIVE:

* Tom Peckham and Ryan Cummings are 2nd cousins. Ryan Cummings is the son of Dan Cummings who is in the Iowa Wrestling HOF for his accolades of coaching Mediapolis for 38 years. Tom’s mom is a Cummings. She is the sister of Dan Cummings’s dad.

 

* Nelson Brands and Ryan Cummings are both sons of twins; Terry Brands and Dan Cummings. Both are legendary coaches and both are in the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame.

 

* Dan Gable and John Henrich were the only 3X state champions that I know of who capped off their wrestling careers in Iowa with undefeated records. Gable was 64-0. John Henrich tmoved to Iowa from South Dakota where he placed 3rd as a Freshman. He never lost a match as an Iowa HS wrestler and gave up a cumulative total of 15-20 points in 3 years.

 

* Tom Peckham has been referenced several times by Dan Gable as “an inspiration and the guy whose style he wanted to emulate.” Both were national champions for the Iowa State Cyclones.

 

* John Henrich and Ryan Cummings both wrestled one year of HS outside of Iowa. Henrich in South Dakota and Ryan Cummings in Minnesota. John’s grandpa is Jim Henrich who coached at Akron-Westfield for 36 years and Cummings’s father was Dan Cummings who coached at Mepo for 38 years. In 2018, Henrich defeated Mepo’s Brennan Swafford 8-7 in the finals. Brennan was coached by Dan Cummings (and Jason Payne).

 

* Peckham was the inspiration for Dan Gable who was the inspiration for Terry Brands who had a son named Nelson.

 

* In the 2018 160 lb. finals, Nelson Brands and John Henrich wrestled their finals match at the same time, Nelson for 3A, Henrich for 1A. The opponent Henrich defeated 8-7 in that match was Brennan Swafford who was coached by Dan Cummings. Brennan’s only other loss of that season was first tournament of the year vs. Nelson Brands.

 

* Ryan Cummings wrestled for the UNI Panthers and qualified for the NCAA tournament one year and met up with legendary Iowa Hawkeye, Lincoln McClravy first round, whom he lost to as most did. Lincoln’s Coach was Dan Gable and he was originally from the state of South Dakota, just like John Henrich.

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Remember The Wrestler: TJ Sebolt, Centerville

When all is said and done, the Sebolt family will go down as one of the most legendary and influential wrestling families to come from Iowa. What TJ accomplished on the mat was extraordinary.  What TJ and his father, Scott Sebolt have not only accomplished, but have done for others in the clubs they have run and continue to run is heroic when you think about it. That goes for all the guys who run clubs.  I will say with confidence, that in Scott’s work with Higher Power Wrestling Club and TJ’s work with Sebolt Wrestling Academy, they have likely saved a few lives with the values they instilled in their athletes.  There were probably kids who are in successful in life now, but would have been lost had they not discovered wrestling and met the Sebolt family.  No matter whether someone likes it or not, the Sebolt family has already accomplished and influenced so much that they are cemented in time as being one of the most important wrestling families to join the wrestling world in the state of Iowa…

And yet, they have also been the most publicly disrespected family by general fans and message board  warriors that I have ever seen go through the state of Iowa by far. I’ll get to that later…

I was lucky enough to witness TJ’s 2nd tournament of his High School wrestling career his Freshman year. This took place at The Mediapolis Invitational.  This was a pretty big deal. Every little thing he did seemed to be a big deal to some people because there were fans out there who literally seemed to track every move the Sebolt’s made so they could have ammo to post hateful messages about them on message boards. There was a group of people who were awful to the Sebolt’s. I have been an avid message board poster myself for 20 years and have had my own moments that I am not proud of, but it almost comes off as an unwritten rule of message board etiquette that  there are certain lines that you never cross, ever. Like taking jabs at someone’s personal life for example. People crossed these lines every day with the Sebolt family. And TJ entered the world of being a message board target at an early age, for it started when he was a 7th or 8th grader. With that said, when he started competing in high school, there was a lot of buzz and a lot of eyes on him at all times.

My first time ever watching TJ wrestle was one of the most memorable wrestling moments I have ever been present for. It was borderline surreal, the feel in the air and the excitement that he sparked from every fan in the gym. I’ll try my best to describe it, but it will be difficult.

TJ was in a pretty tough bracket at the Mepo tournament. He was at 103 pounds in a bracket that included the #2 ranked guy in 1A named Derick Ball, a Senior from Columbus Jct. and another phenomenal Freshman wrestler that I got to watch for the first time named Russell Weakley from Fort Madison.  Weakley went on to win a couple state titles himself in 3A. When someone pointed TJ out to me, he was warming up on the mat and an argument that I had read from a couple haters on the message boards was immediately void of any sort of merit. A few people’s undies were in such a wad about Sebolt that they actually had the nerve to hate on him for being held back when he had a Summer birthday.  Their argument was that it “gave him an age advantage.”  Keep in mind, TJ has a June birthday and had the choice to be either one of the youngest kids in the grade or one of the oldest.  Every kid with a Summer birthday is faced with that, not just TJ. I didn’t understand what the problem was at all and when I first saw TJ, it made me want to lash out at his haters myself as to how asinine they were acting.  TJ was tiny as a Freshman!!! Anyone who tried to make the argument that TJ would have an “age advantage” because he had a (gasp) early Summer birthday was just straight up delusional.  TJ did NOT have an advantage. He looked like he was about 90 lbs. soaking wet. The year before, he had the choice to either start HS wrestling and be at a disadvantage considering how small he was or allow himself to have another year to grow into the 103 lb. weight since they had eliminated the 98 lb. weight a decade or so before. That choice is a no-brainer, IMO. If you love wrestling and have plans of having wrestling as part of your life for the long-term future, you don’t start things out in a manner which you would have a significant disadvantage, which TJ would have had a disadvantage had he not been held back and STILL appeared to be at a disadvantage a year later when his HS career began. He was a very small 103 lber. Most the guys he wrestled looked bigger than him.

So the wrestling began and I was blown away by how good Sebolt and Weakley were. They appeared to be phenomenal Freshmen and the big talk in the gym seemed to be, “can this TJ Sebolt Freshman beat Senior and 2nd ranked Derik Ball???” Honestly, I was impressed by TJ when I watched him wrestle Russell Weakley in the semis, but I felt that he may have been just a bit too small for Ball. Ball was a HUGE 103 lber. And I knew Ball well. I had seen him wrestle for several years and he was really good and always improving. I had a ton of respect for him. Still do. My impression was that I thought Derick may be too experienced and too big of a 103 pounder for TJ to handle.  That seemed to be the general opinion of those who were anxiously awaiting the match-up in the gym.

So the finals match began and TJ was on Derick right away. And when I say, “on him,” I mean it took him a millisecond to work a set-up, another millisecond to shoot a shot and another millisecond to score the takedown. TJ put the packed gym on notice that he meant business right away in that match. He looked like the Tasmanian Devil out there. Just relentless and it was kind of odd to see because as mentioned, he was wrestling a great senior 103 lber who was so much bigger than him. And he didn’t let up. He just kept going and kept building his lead and would not take any sort of a breather between separations and seemed as if he really didn’t want his opponent to breathe in general. The general mood of the crowd at this point was, “oh my God, are you seeing this? This kid can’t be THAT good, can he?” For the first 4.5 minutes or so, the fans seemed to be collectively trying to make sense of what they were watching, because this cat was unlike anything any of us had ever seen before. TJ was winning big. It was at this point where something that seemed almost magical took place in that gym… The feel in the air when this happened as well as the way the crowd responded was unlike anything I had ever experienced before, and have never since. TJ and Derick had a scramble by the edge of the mat, but were not called out of bounds, and when they separated,  TJ wanted to bring the action back to the center, so he ran to the middle and waited for Ball to meet him there. Ball kind of stood up and appeared disheveled, but not necessarily gassed for he had a great gas tank and he paused for a second and looked at TJ while TJ was still in his stance in the center of the mat and gave him a look like, “ummm…kid…how on Earth is it possible that you are THIS good?” Ball was not broken and not fatigued. He just looked shocked. TJ was looking Ball right in the eyes when given this look and his response won the entire gym over. He responded by getting right back to business and circling and bobbing and weaving on the middle of the mat despite the fact that Ball was still 10 feet away from him. He just would not stop. Even if separated, he was still in the zone. When he did this, the entire crowd, meaning every fan from every school excluding Columbus Jct. gave an excited and collectively awe-struck cheer to this little guy and it continued for the remainder of the match. It’s not that they were rooting against Ball. Everyone liked Derick Ball. It was that the entire crowd was ok the same page as the one another that they were witnessing something special and that there were 4 seasons to watch of this little kid. TJ won the respect of that entire gym in that match…even the ones who hated him coming into the tourney despite not knowing him due to some toxicity they read on the message boards. They now just simply admired this kid’s skills. The atmosphere was just… electric. TJ went on to win the match and his skills were officially the big talk of the entire tournament. I was blown away. Will never forget that moment.

So when the guys all grouped up to pick up their awards, I walked over to the girl I was dating at the time, which happened to be a Mediapolis cheerleader. I was in my first year out of high school and had the appearance of the general preppy jock with blonde highlights in his hair that used to be so common in 2001-2003. And I was big at that time because I was lifting… I was weighing 190, bench-pressing 315 at the time. A stereotypical 2001 graduate jock. I looked like a meathead. And while talking to my girlfriend, TJ walked by us and since I am a guy who has never had the ability to keep his mouth shut, I blurted out something that was intended to be a joke and a reference to how impressed I was by him. I had to let him know. I loudly and with intentions of TJ hearing it, said to my girlfriend  “I don’t want you getting near that Sebolt kid! I don’t want you leaving me for him!” TJ kinda seemed off guard after I said this, as if he didn’t know if he heard me say that or not… and when he looked at me I said to him, “YOU are a badass, kid!” TJ responded like a deer in the headlights. I had for sure made him feel uncomfortable by saying that to him.  His response was something I recognized right away for it was something that I had experienced myself a few times. It was social anxiety… And it immediately hit me why he would have felt anxiety in that situation despite fact that I was complimenting him…In fact, he may not have known that my big “meathead-looking” self was joking to begin with.  Plus I was a stranger, I was older and physically, I was almost twice his size at that time. I think I had my answer to whether or not the kid had read the hateful comments about himself on the message boards. After reading the venom written from several others, mostly strangers every day for over a year at that time, you couldn’t blame the kid for being apprehensive of every stranger he encountered like that he did me in that situation. I felt terrible about it. I thought to myself, “ahhhh no, hopefully I didn’t make that poor kid feel awkward,” which I clearly did.

About 10 minutes later, TJ and I were in the same vicinity again and we made eye contact. And when we did, he kinda nodded at me indicating “thank you for the nice words.” I was relieved that he was able to take some time and make sense of the situation and what I said to him. I pointed back at him and mouthed back to him,  “I mean it, kid. You are incredible.”

Ladies and gentlemen, TJ Sebolt. One of the sport’s all-time greats and still currently one of the biggest influences in the game. A relentless competitor and equally relentless ambassador for the sport.

 

 

 

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

 -Started out in Centerville Mat club, spent some time in the Oskaloosa kids club and was part of the first core group of Hawkeye kids club with Pablo Ubasa when he first started that club in Iowa City. Wrestled for Centerville in junior high and Centerville in high school.

 

What year did you graduate?

-I graduated in 2006

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

-My dad. I brought home a flier from school when I was in first grade. He pretty much said I was doing it and the rest is history.

 

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

⁃ I have two sisters and they were never wrestlers. My dad wrestled when he was in high school. He was decent. I also have a six-year-old daughter who kind of plays around with wrestling.. we’ll see where that goes, haha.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

-Well I started off getting pinned my first 27 matches in a row. But ended up doing pretty well before entering high school. I was a two-time AAU state champion, several time Tulsa nationals place-winner. USA folkstyle national champion and had a lot of freestyle success, Etc.  I would have to say my biggest youth rival was probably Joe Slaton. We went back-and-forth all the time.  It seemed like neither one of us could win two matches in a row against each other. We ended up being training partners and close friends still today.

 

What was your record in HS?

⁃ 207-1

 

How did you place at state every year?

-1st, 1st, 1st, 1st

 

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

-Returning to the wrestling scene when I decided to start coaching was a challenge for me. I had left the sport and there were a lot of people who had opinions and negative things to say about me.  At the time I was worried about what people thought and/or said about me. That is something I had to get past and it was tough for me at first. I’ve really grown up and matured mentally since then. I think things have turned out alright.

 

How would you describe your style? 

-Technical, physical and relentless. Putting my opponent under pressure for the full duration of the match

 

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

⁃ I had one loss to Ryan Moyer of Parkhill, Missouri early in my freshman season. I never wrestled him in a official high school match again.  But the summer after he had defeated me, I had my redemption in freestyle.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

⁃ That is a tough one. I am hesitant to say my father because he was my father. I was able to work a lot with John Strittmatter during his time in Iowa City and that was huge for me. But there are several others who had strong influential roles in my career.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

 

⁃ We were in the hunt to win it my junior and senior year in high school, especially my junior year. I think we lost to Emmetsburg by two points or less and finished second both junior and senior year at the traditional state tournament.

 

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

-I was around the Iowa Hawkeyes a lot growing up. I became obsessed with Mark Ironside and then I became obsessed with Doug Schwab. I wanted to be just like them. I remember crying when Doug Schwab lost his senior year in the NCAA finals.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

⁃ I am biased… so I would say Drake Ayala, Cullan Schriever, or Cory Clark. But if I can’t include people I’ve been close with on a personal level since having coached all of those young men, I think I have to go with Jeff McGinness or Eric Juergens.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

 ⁃ All of my club kids.  But I think you’re asking college and senior level.

American wrestlers – Spencer Lee, JB, Kyle Dake, David Taylor, Thomas Gilman, Dayton Fix, and Nathan Tomasello

Others – Zaurbek Sidakov, Zavur Ugaev

 

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

-mostly classic rock or country

 

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

-I would probably have to say the one loss I had in high school. The expectation was to be an undefeated four times state champion and right out the gate I had a loss.

 

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

⁃ If I could change some things in my wrestling career I would spend less time cutting weight and more time improving at wrestling.  I would better prepare myself for college academics as well as develop stronger social skills at an earlier age.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

– The best wrestling memory competitively would be my dad running onto the floor to hug me after my finals match my senior year and the relief I felt after that accomplishment. However, now, my best memories are watching my athletes in the club work their tails off and reaching their goals.

 

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

 –On a national level I would say Henry Cejudo, Mike Grey, Nick Gallick, and Spencer Mango

-In state level – Nick Pickerell, Patrick Makey, Russell Weakley, Zach McCool, and Zach Kressley

 

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

 -All year – I don’t remember exactly when I started wrestling year-round but I want to say probably sixth grade.

 

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

⁃ Wrestlimg has evolved so much since then it is a tough comparison.  I think if you put those same guys in today’s world, they would still be highly competitive because they were good athletes that put in the time. However, if you straight up take a 2005 version of whoever vs 2020 Drake Ayala.. haha good luck!

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

-I went to Iowa State my freshman year and wrestled under Cael Sanderson as a redshirt. I went home for the summer after my freshman season and never went back.

 

What other sports did you play?

-I just wrestled. I did some gymnastics in my early years.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

-Kansas City Chiefs

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

-riding ATVs, hunting, fishing, grilling out with my family, watching movies or Netflix.

 

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

It’s an honor to give back to the sport of wrestling and make an impact on kids lives.  It’s a great way to transform personal experiences to help guide others in their wrestling paths.  I find satisfaction in helping kids thrive and be successful.

 

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

 -In one word I would say, discipline. Discipline is what gets things done.

 

What do you do now?

-Owner and Head Coach at Sebolt Wrestling Academy

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

-very

Was Higher Power Wrestling ahead of its time?

-I don’t think so, we were just blessed with a lot of talented kids that wanted to be great and were willing to work their asses off to do it.

 

When you were competing, was it tempting to read the message boards when you knew people were talking about you?

-I remember reading them and I wish I would never have because it was nothing but a bunch of haters.

 

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

I focus a lot on the technical side of things and developing skill, character and relationships. I’ve become a lot more open minded over the years while my dad’s style was more old school, hard ass, run you into the ground while outworking everyone three times over. Which, don’t get me wrong, I do a little bit of that as well.

 

Do you approach every kid in your club the same or do you handle them differently pending on which coaching approaches they respond to the best?

⁃ Yes, you have to.  Everyone responds to things differently but you have to figure out what makes them tick. How to push their buttons. How to get them to get the most out of them.

 

How much of what you learned from your dad at Higher Power WC do you implement into Sebolt Academy?

⁃ The basis is there but SWA as evolved – and we have to continue to evolve.  However, to this day we still do some of the same drills and situations I grew up doing at Higher Power.

 

What are some basic principles you have instilled into Sebolt Wrestling Academy?

⁃ accountability

⁃ attitude

⁃ hardwork

⁃ effort

⁃ the will to win

⁃ no regrets

⁃ be the best version of yourself

 

Do you have Centerville Pride still and do you still follow and root for them?

⁃ Centerville will always be where I’m from with having deep roots there. I do enjoy continuing to watch them have success at the high school state tournament.

 

How often are you approached by people who tell you how much they looked up to you growing up? How does it make you feel?

⁃ I don’t know if I get much of that anymore.  If anything I am approached more about our wrestling club these days.  I’m not much for patting myself on the back, but I do appreciate them noticing good things within our club.  But, there is always more work to do.

 

Who were some older wrestlers you looked up to growing up?

⁃ Tom & Terry Brands

⁃ Dan Gable

⁃ Lincoln Mcllravey

 

Who came up with the Superman Sebolt design? How long did it take to come up with that?

⁃ Not long at all.  I was a big fan of Superman as a kid – and still am.  When I was young, I was too nice.  In order to get me to go out on the mat and be more aggressive, my Dad always used the analogy, “take off the glasses Clark and bring out the red and blue”.  This has clearly stuck with me and has been influential.  I like everything the analogy stands for – you can be a nice easy going person, yet can be a total beast on the mat.  Not to mention the fact that Sebolt starts with  \S/.

 

What is the story about how when you first started you barely won, but eventually something clicked and you gradually became the winner TJ Sebolt that people remember and know you as?

⁃ As mentioned above, 27 losses by fall in a row, eventually my Dad got sick of watching me get my ass kicked.  He started me on a exercise routine and hired Centerville state champion Jason Hellupnik to train me and help me understand the sport.  That was the big turning point for me.  Goals, expectations and a lot of time is what lead to success down the road.

 

You’ve coached tons of kids with a variety of different goals and talent levels… does it mean as much to you when you have a guy with less talent than some qualify than when a kid wins state? What are some of the wrestling coaching memories that are most cherished by you?

⁃ Helping a kid improve and reach their full potential is just as satisfying as helping an elite athlete reach the next level.  One of my most cherished memories comes from a wrestler who wasn’t very talented, but somehow made the state finals, finishing second.  From where he started, to where he finished was amazing and nobody saw that coming.

 

What is more of a challenge? Wrestling in competition yourself or coaching?

I would say coaching is more of a challenge because if you’re competing you only have to worry about getting yourself ready – your weight, nutrition, workouts, etc.  As a coach, you are trying to help manage all of these things for several individuals.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

 – In the beginning, don’t necessarily worry about winning or losing – just give 100% effort, have a great attitude and try to improve everyday.

 

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

⁃ never say never

 

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

⁃ I’d like to give a shout out to all of our club seniors who are headed to college — keep doing things right and believe in yourself!

 

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

⁃ I have some good Joe Slaton stories but for his sake I’ll keep my mouth shut.

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I never saw a single person have the ability to fire up an entire arena with his heroics like Mack Reiter did several times in his HS career.  Mack was a popular wrestler in our era. Everyone, even people who didn’t know him seemed to like Mack and they cheered for him and why wouldn’t they? He always had a smile on his face and acted respectful to people while off the mat and when he was on it, the ways he would win matches and who he would win them against was enough to fire up the common spectator. I mean, when he wasn’t pinning a guy in 10 seconds or teching them out in the 2nd period, he may have had matches where he was down and it seemed unlikely that he or anyone in the world would still be able to pull off the win and Mack found whatever fire he had left within himself and won these matches much more often than not.  This is a guy who had guts and HATED to lose. And the closer someone came to sealing a win against him, the harder he fought back to ensure that it didn’t happen. Mack’s pin over Dan Davila from Underwood as a Sophomore after trailing 6-2 late in the match was the single loudest moment that I recall hearing at the Iowa HS State Tournament.  One of the things that makes Mack’s career impressive is that he was able to defeat Dan Davila 3 times…and never lost to him. He tech falled him once, he beat him by a point or two once and of course, he had that pin. If you talk to guys who were at that weight range and from that era, the majority of them who faced Davila will usually tell you that the guy seemed unbeatable. Just unbelievably good. And too physically imposing and fast to even hang with him. Welp, Mack didn’t get that memo. Davila only won one state title because of Mack… And he was talented enough to win 3-4.

Mack Reiter won 4 state titles. He won most of these matches as if it were just a routine, easy thing to do, but he did have some pretty close ones.  A lot of people may automatically cross Reiter off as a candidate for the GOAT the moment they see that he did have 3 losses, when guys like Jeff Kerber, Dan Knight, Jeff McGinness, Eric Juergens and John Meeks did not lose a single match in high school.  I hear this all the time. “Swaff, you can’t write these about anyone, but the guys who never lost. The other ones are out of it.”  Nah.  Not true. Who knows what may have influenced outcomes in regular season competition. Things happen. The best do lose.  And the best of the best use these rare losses as something to learn from, which they do.  Anyone who doesn’t see the case for Mack after reading this may be just Gopher-hating.  Not to mention, if they didn’t abolish the 98 lb. division, Mack may never have lost, who knows? Because Mack would have been 98 as a Freshman if they still had it. A couple of the undefeated guys listed above wrestled at 98 as Freshmen (Kerber and Knight) because it was available to them.  Would they have won titles as Freshman as an undersized 103 lber like Mack did? Who knows?

Here are the placers from every season that Mack won state:

2000 1A 103

  1. Mack Reiter, Fr., Gilbertville (Don Bosco)
  2. Luke Reiland, So., Eagle Grove
  3. Dan Davila, So., Underwood
  4. Corey Kalina, So., Belle Plaine
  5. Keefer Jensen, Jr., Missouri Valley
  6. Adam Bender, Jr., Lenox

2001 1A 103

  1. Mack Reiter, So., Gilbertville (Don Bosco)
  2. Adam Bender, Sr., Lenox
  3. Dan Davila, Jr., Underwood
  4. Jake Kruckenberg, Jr., Mason City Newman
  5. Brett Ray, So., Orient-Macksburg
  6. Tony Hager, So., Ogden

2002 1A 112

  1. Mack Reiter, Jr., Don Bosco (Gilbertville)
  2. Gannon Hjerleid, So., Wapello
  3. Travis Stangel, Sr., Nora Springs-Rock Falls
  4. Jacob Kruckenberg, Sr., Mason City Newman
  5. Ryan Radloff, So., West Sioux (Hawarden)
  6. Chris Utesch, Fr., Akron-Westfield

2003 1A 125

  1. Mack Reiter, Sr., Don Bosco (Gilbertville)
  2. Dan Helgeson, Sr., Lake Mills
  3. Niles Mercer, Jr., Van Buren
  4. Keith Hefley, Sr., Prairie Valley (Gowrie)
  5. Tyler Burkle, Fr., North Linn
  6. Jacob Pedersen, Jr., Hudson
  7. Logan Queck, So., Nodaway Valley
  8. Justin Hamilton, Sr., West Branch

Here is a list of how all 16 matches that he wrestled at state went downL

FR: fall, dec, maj, dec.

SO: fall, fall, fall, maj.

JR: fall, fall, fall, fall.

SR: fall, fall, fall, tech.

  • So 2 decisions, 2 majors, 1 tech and 11 falls…against great competition.

Yes, he was battle-tested. He did this against stellar competition.

Mack was one of the most successful Iowans ever in terms of national success in HS. Check this out. Mack won Tulsa in 8th grade. He won FILA Cadet Freestyle Nationals between Freshman/Sophomore year. He won Cadet Freestyle in Fargo between Freshman/Sophomore. He won Junior Freestyle between Sophomore/Junior. He got 5th in Junior Freestyle between Junior/Senior and 4th in Junior Freestyle after senior year.

Mack Reiter most certainly has a case for the GOAT. It doesn’t matter who you would choose instead of him.. if you took that person and put them against Mack, they would be in jeopardy of losing.  I don’t care who they were. Mack made things happen.

 

 

 

 

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Remember The Wrestler: Seth Davisson, Fairfield H.S.

Fairfield. Mepo has seen a lot of Fairfield over the years. For like 25 years straight it seemed like we wrestled each other 3X per year at the Mepo Invite, Sectionals and Districts. You’d think I would have covered a Fairfield guy by now considering they are local and we ran into them so much, but honestly, I don’t recall ever speaking to anyone from there in all those years. There was no bad blood between the squads or anything and the matches between the squads were always respectful, but it just seemed like socially, not very many SEI people from the Mepo, Columbus Jct., West Burlington, Wapello, Louisa-Muscatine, Fort Madison, etc. squads seemed to socialize much with the Fairfield guys. They seemed to be in the imaginary social circle of schools in the Mt. Pleasant area. It seemed like the only time we would run into a guy from the Fairfield squad would be if one of them were dating one of our cheerleaders or vise-versa. They seemed cool, though! Very businesslike and always brought very balanced squads with not many real weak spots in the lineup. They have great school colors, too (orange and black).

I followed a lot of their wrestlers and my favorite Fairfield wrestler ever was a kid named Seth Davisson. Why was he my favorite? Well, because out of any kid that I have seen wrestle since I graduated, no kid’s style has reminded me more of myself than Seth Davisson. Ya see… headlock guys pull for each other… I was a headlock guy and so was he. Therefore, I always pulled or him. Unless he was wrestling Mepo’s Adam Drain…who happens to be one of my favorite people in the universe. Seth was ALWAYS having to wrestle Drain, it seemed… and that’s a bad draw for anyone, for by the time Drain was in HS, he was already like a 10X National Champion and a multiple Trinity Award Winner. When Drain was at his best, there was no one to go through Mepo that was better than him…EVER. Adam Drain was elite. And he seemed to be the only guy that Davisson couldn’t launch with that sweet headlock he had. If he wasn’t wrestling Drain, he seemed to be destroying whoever he wrestled and man did he have some good stuff in his arsenal. I was very happy to see him on the podium as a Senior.

Glad to finally cover a Fairfield wrestler. Much respect, guys!

 

 

When did you start and who did you wrestle for in youth wrestling? Who were some of your youth rivals and how did things go?

I wrestled for the Stars and Stripes youth wrestling program in Fairfield as a kid and I started in 2nd grade. Went to about 4-5 tournaments a year until about 5th grade. At that age I started going to more. Always was throwing headlocks as a kid going for the win and it usually worked. Got into middle school and those wins didn’t come as easily. I think I went 15-17 both 7th and 8th grade years. Not sure how many times Matthew Seabold beat me by 2 or 3 points. Other kids I had rivalries with in my youth were Mitchell Hora from Washington (man that kid was an OX), Dylan Pigsley from Eddyville and Griffin Osing from ALBIA was always fun.

 

What year did you graduate and which weights did you compete at?

Graduated 2013, never wrestled a JV match. Preseason/Football injuries to Jeff Guttry  (later on my partner and placed 3rd at state) and Tanner Metcalf  (practice partner once Guttry graduated)… I didn’t do great as a freshman having to wrestle Ethan Mooreman and Mikey England on the reg at 160/171. Sophomore year I got bumped to 189 and that worked out better for me, for I won thirty matches that year.

 

Are you involved with wrestling today?

Not involved at the moment other than I help at our Fairfield invitational kids tournament every year.

 

Did you qualify for state in HS and if so, how did you do there?

1 match away from qualifying for state that year. Junior year the weight classes changed and I started the year at 182 and cut to 170 (same thing happened as a Senior). Made it to state junior year.  Tore my labrum in a 5-2 match to place vs. a freshman named Cash Wilcke. No medal. Senior year, I faced Adam Drain from Mepo at districts and sectionals took second both times then 5th at state with Wilcke taking 4th both years I wrestled at state. Wilke tech-falls me that year though. He was the strongest kid I ever wrestled.

 

 

Did you play other sports in HS or wrestle in college?

Didn’t wrestle after highschool. Was a 2 year varsity in baseball football and 1 year in soccer as well.

 

Who was your HS wrestling rival?

The biggest rival I had in highschool was Richard England. I did pin Steven Ferentz with a headlock as a sophomore.

 

What are some of your favorite sports teams and athletes?

Favorite sports teams are Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Cubs, Iowa Hawkeyes. My favorite wrestlers of all time are Ryan Morningstar, Brock Lesnar, Tony Ramos and Brent Metcalf.

 

Would you like to give a shout-out to anyone?

I’d like to give a shout-out to any coaches, friends, fans and family for always being there. My head coach in middle school and last couple years of high school, Steve Miller. Another couple coaches that were huge for me were Jeff Courtright (Stars and Stripes – freshman year) Mike Burgraff (Stars and Stripes- sophomore year), Joe Fritz and Adam Foreman for always being in my corner!

 

What do you do now?

I have moved jobs a couple times since high school. I worked night shift in a factory for 3 years and now I install solar panels.

 

Do you hold any records at Fairfield?

2nd all time for wins in Fairfield history

 

 

What were some of the most heated matches you had that stick out to you today?

Senior year I beat brad scubal by 2 at the Fairfield Invite when he was a sophomore. I beat him again the following weekend in a wrestleback to get to Adam Drain in overtime. The only reason I won that match is because I deferred my choice in the first period. I usually chose down, but Coach Miller told me to defer and I ended up with the last choice and went down and escaped and won.

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The Leclere family. That is one…tough…family. I am 4 years older than Daniel and was aware of him being really good back when he was in like 3rd or 4th grade. I actually got to know them a bit when I was a Junior/Senior in high school and Dan was a 7th/8th grader. We were in the same freestyle wrestling club, which was Mark Reiland’s “Future Hawkeye Wrestling Club.” Dan would come there with his dad. His dad was always willing to push himself and work harder on the mat than anyone else in the room. I would attend practice and a common thought I’d have would be, “why is this dad able to run more sprints than me without vomiting? Is this guy a warrior or is it because I am a dog?” The answer was both of those. Then after practice we would all hit the locker room and Dan and his dad were guys I seemed to chat with the most. After speaking with Dan every week, I’d think to myself, “I am a Senior in high school, why is it that this 8th grade kid is clearly more mature and level-headed than me? Is it because he is advanced or is it because I am a jackass?” The answer was both of those as well. So the LeClere father and son duo of Doug and Dan got me to both question my youth and question my maturity. With that said, I knew that Dan was going to be a stud. He could have competed at a high level in high school as a 7th grader. He was wise beyond his years off the mat and tenacious beyond his species on the mat. He was way ahead of everyone in his age group, it seemed.

Dan won 4 titles for North Linn and finished with a 167-2 record. He ran into all sorts of competition every year he wrestled at state. Check it out:

 

2002 1A 119

  1. Daniel LeClere, Fr., North Linn
  2. Corey Kalina, Sr., Belle Plaine
  3. B.J. McMahon, Sr., Don Bosco (Gilbertville)
  4. Joey Verschoor, Fr., Kingsley-Pierson
  5. Andy Ohnemus, Jr., Southeast Warren
  6. Wade Sundell, Jr., Ogden

 

2003 1A 130

  1. Dan LeClere, So., North Linn
  2. Charlie Ettelson, So., Hudson
  3. Mitch Norton, So., Nashua-Plainfield
  4. Justin Bohlke, Sr., Kingsley-Pierson
  5. Trevor Hickman, Sr., West Marshall
  6. Nick Kenne, Sr., Pocahontas Area
  7. Keith Hebrink, Sr., Lake Mills
  8. Corey Edwards, Sr., Bedford

 

2004 1A 140

1. Dan LeClere, Jr., North Linn (Troy Mills)

2. Mitch Norton, Jr., Nashua-Plainfield

3. David Hildreth, Sr., Rockwell City-Lytton

4. Brian Bloes, Sr., Don Bosco (Gilbertville)

5. Forrest Young, Jr., Interstate 35 (Truro)

6. Kyle Eliason, Jr., Tipton

7. Andrew Knudtson, Jr., Lake Mills

8. Eric Lennie, Sr., Belle Plaine

 

2005 1A 140

1. Daniel LeClere, Sr., North Linn Troy Mills

2. Brett Rose, Jr., Woodbury Central Moville

3. Trevor Kittleson, Jr., St. Ansgar

4. Klint Kersten, Sr., Logan-Magnolia

5. Eric Schares, Sr., Don Bosco Gilbertville

6. Joel Allen, Sr., St. Edmond Fort Dodge

7. Jacob Hall, Jr., Ogden

8. David Hutton, Jr., Interstate 35 Truro

Does Daniel Leclere have a case for the Iowa HS Wrestling GOAT?!? Well, it’s kind of unfair to assume that there are too many of any knocks against him. IMO, his case began his freshman season. What he did that year was nothing short of amazing. To start, he was a freshman who won at 119. There is a significant difference between 119 lb. Freshmen and 103 lb Freshmen in which the overwhelming majority of 4Xers start off at 103. 119 is tougher for a Freshman. And that bracket had 2X runner up and Tulsa National Champ, Corey Kalina. His Sophomore championship was even more impressive for he beat 2X state champ, Charlie Ettelson from Hudson in the finals. Mitch Norton from Clarksville was also in that bracket. He won state two years later. Most notably was Justin Bohlke from Kingsley-Pierson placing 4th. He was the returning 2002 1A 125 lb. state champion.. the bracket that also included Ryan Morningstar from Lisbon, Chad Beatty from Wilton and Mario Galanakis from Nodaway-Valley.

Dan Leclere was legit. Don’t cross him off.

 

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I witnessed pretty much every title that Carter Happel ever won.  Impressive, eh? Actually it is, considering I watched him from the time he won his first Super Pee-Wee state championship as a 1st grader and racked up about 6-7 of them BEFORE even entering high school. Carter was pretty much “the” guy of that solid 2016 class from the get-go.  I know this for a fact, he was in my brother, Shea’s grade and I had that grade broken down to a science for years. There are only a couple-few guys that I recall ever giving Carter any sort of “fit” from the time he started until he finished his epic high school wrestling career.  One was Hunter Washburn from Alburnett. It seemed like those two met 100 times from the time they were tykes all the way through high school.  They had a highly publicized quarterfinal match at state when Carter was a Sophomore going for 2 and Hunter was a Junior going for his 3rd. That was a high-pressure match…whoever won still had a shot for 4 titles while the loser’s quest ended there. And it just so happened to take place between a couple guys who were already bitter rivals for a decade leading to that match. Carter won that one. Carter won the majority of his match-ups against Hunter Washburn, but I want to say that Hunter won at least one time maybe multiple against Carter early on when nobody else seemed capable of making even the faintest smudge on his armor.  Another guy who gave him fits was a kid named Ryan McDaniel from Marshalltown… a kid who had a penchant for slowing matches down and being a mostly defensive wrestler/opportunistic scorer. He was frustrating to Carter. He was frustrating to every offensive wrestler. I tell you what, it grinds my gears a bit when talented wrestlers quit when they have obvious talent. McDaniel was a guy who did that. He didn’t go out in high school. He was one of the best in the grade who would have surely succeeded in HS and he wasn’t the only elite kid of that class to quit.  A kid named Austin Stogdill from Alburnett was one of the best in that grade as well and he didn’t wrestle much in high school.  He would have been great as well.  I don’t know what led them to make those decisions, but I always wish the best for people and I hope that the path they chose, which didn’t include wrestling, led them to happy lives now. Anyways… that was pretty much it, from what I can remember.  Maybe Matt Wempen? I know Wempen beat McDaniel in the finals at state when Carter and McDaniel were 7th graders… but nevertheless, no one really ever got in Carter’s way and if they did, the whole gym talked about it because it was rare.

When Carter hit high school, this trend continued. He finished with a career record of something like 209-1 and won 4 state championships. The only blemish he had was his Freshman season against a Wilton guy, I believe it was against Zeke Smith (and he would have wrestled up to face him). He defeated Smirh’ teammate, Brady Ruden in the state finals that year in an intense overtime match.  Ruden would go on to win a state championship of his own the following year. But that was it. Other than that, Carter was flawless in Iowa High School sanctioned events. And he was battle-tested every year… check out the results of the brackets he won:

 

2013 1A 120
1st Place – Carter Happel of Lisbon 43-1, Fr.
2nd Place – Brady Ruden of Wilton 40-7, Jr.
3rd Place – Kyler Kiner of Ogden 40-1, Jr.
4th Place – Jeren Glosser of Eddyville-Blakes-Fre 44-5, So
5th Place – Jake Hunerdosse of Southeast Warren 40-8, So
6th Place – Jared Coyle of Maquoketa Valley, Delhi 44-9, Jr.
7th Place – JD Rader of South Hamilton, Jewell 36-7, So
8th Place – Brad Kerkhoff of Audubon 44-8, So

2014 1A 132
1st Place – Carter Happel of Lisbon 53-0, So.
2nd Place – Colby McIntire of Central Lyon-George Little Rock 36-3, Jr.
3rd Place – Logan Mays of Wilton 41-6, Jr.
4th Place – Blake Meyer of Sumner-Fredericksburg 48-3, Jr.
5th Place – JD Rader of South Hamilton, Jewell 40-2, Jr.
6th Place – Jake Mulford of Audubon 30-10, So
7th Place – Gabe Henderson of Southeast Warren, Liberty Center 33-7, Jr.
8th Place – Nick Mangrich of Don Bosco, Gilbertville 31-19, So.

  • NOTE 2X State Champ, Hunter Washburn was also in this bracket, but defaulted out due to injury.

 

2015 1A 138
1st Place – Carter Happel of Lisbon 55-0, Jr.
2nd Place – Trey Brisker of Wilton 46-8, Fr.
3rd Place – Jeren Glosser of Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont 56-1, Sr.
4th Place – Tanner Abbas of Clarion-Goldfield-Dows 39-12, Fr.
5th Place – Tanner Sloan of Alburnett 38-13, Fr.
6th Place – Karsen Seehase of Sumner-Fredericksburg 25-5, So.
7th Place – Drake Healey of Iowa Valley, Marengo 51-7, Sr.
8th Place – Jake Mulford of Audubon 41-7, Jr.

 

2016 1A 145
1 Carter Happel (Sr.) Lisbon
2 Trent Johnson (Jr.) Dike-New Hartford
3 Trey Brisker (So.) Wilton
4 Tanner Hoyer (Jr.) Alburnett
5 Dylan Schuck (Jr.) Sibley-Ocheyedan
6 Dylan Mueller (Sr.) Central Springs
7 Griffen McBride (Jr.) Pleasantville
8 Braiden Tank (Sr.) West Monona

 

Carter had two or more fellow state champs in his bracket every year, except his Sophomore year and that year he had 1. He was in a shark tank every year at state and every year, he was the Great White shark from Jaws. He was a national champion as a cadet at both FILA and Fargo nationals and placed 3rd and 5th at Fargo nationals as a Junior.

 

Does Carter Happel have a case for being considered Iowa high school wrestling’s GOAT?!? YOU ARE DAMN RIGHT HE DOES!!! And if you try to dispute that, you are wrong and need to clear your head to where you can give this guy the credit he deserves.

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I conduct all kinds of hypothetical/“what-if” situations when thinking about wrestling and one of the most common “what-if” scenarios I brainstorm and have for years, is “what if I was a scout, GM or recruiter for a high level wrestling program…? Who would I recruit every year and what would be my basis for doing so?” I go through this every year and to be honest (and please understand, I generally critique myself pretty harshly and have a difficult time giving myself credit for anything), this is one of those few areas in life where I am 100% confident that I would succeed. I generally nail these. 

Every scout, recruiter, coach, etc. has their personal checklist on what they personally look for in a recruit. Most are pretty similar and my own checklist is no different, but what differentiates most is how much stock they put in to which areas. I know that two areas that I place a much more heavy emphasis on than most recruiters are “athletic upside/measurables and adaptability.” Some of the others are; results/accolades, health, consistency, academic performance, character, are they battle-tested, dedication, mental toughness, etc. With that said, I don’t know if there has ever been a HS wrestler to come out of the state of Iowa who has checked all the boxes more smoothly than Jay Borschel coming out of HS. Let’s go through some of the things that made him just totally stick out as an absolute “can’t miss” recruit.

1.) Accolades/Results: Borschel was a 4X state champ, was an AA at various national tournaments, finished with a career record of 163-1 with 95 pins… his one loss being in his Freshman season. CHECK

2.) Consistency: Borschel was one of the best and most accomplished wrestlers in the nation at his age and weight as a youth wrestler and never fell too far from being arguably one of, if not the best wrestler at his age and weight every year following until he graduated. There seemed to be no blips with him. He was consistently good.

3.) Health: Sadly, injuries derail a lot of promising careers and while it seems kind of harsh to knock a recruit heavily based on something unfortunate that happened to them that was beyond their control, the reality is that health is undeniably a huge factor that determines future success. Borschel had no injury concerns that I can recall.

4.) Character: If you read or listen to any interview from Borschel dating back to HS, it didn’t take long to be convinced that Borschel was a high character guy and wouldn’t be likely to have any “off the mat” issues.

5.) Academics: Borschel was a 3X honor roll student and a Wrestling USA scholastic AA. There likely would not be anything to worry about with Borschel in terms of eligibility.

6.) Was he battle-tested? Check out the place-winners of the 4 weight classes that Borschel won in HS and try to count the state champions, future NCAA AA’s, multiple high placers, etc. that were in his brackets and also keep in mind that Linn-Mar has always wrestled a tough schedule during the regular season… Yes, Borschel was battle-tested and he was borderline flawless…

2002 3A 103

  1. Jay Borschel, Fr., Linn-Mar
  2. Joey Slaton, Fr., Cedar Rapids Kennedy
  3. Brandon McDonough, So., Des Moines Lincoln
  4. Brady Graham, So., Oskaloosa
  5. Chris Johnson, Jr., Waukee
  6. Jeff Miller, So., Sioux City East

2003 3A 125

  1. Jay Borschel, So., Linn-Mar
  2. Jake Halvorsen, Sr., Iowa City West
  3. Kyle Anson, So., Iowa City High
  4. Christian Abrams, So., Fort Dodge
  5. Steve Arceneaux, Sr., Waterloo East
  6. Aaron Daniels, Sr., Newton
  7. Gabe Rostermundt, Sr., Council Bluffs Lewis Central
  8. Kyle Blood, Sr., Cedar Rapids Kennedy

152

1. Jay Borschel, Jr., Linn-Mar (Marion)

2. Ryan Bixler, Sr., Oskaloosa

3. Ben Hektoen, Jr., Fairfield

4. Drew Waschkat, Jr., Waterloo West

5. Tony Sims, Sr., Davenport West

6. Matt Splittgerber, Jr., Marshalltown

7. Shane Wessels, Sr., Fort Dodge

8. Jarion Beets, So., Cedar Rapids Kennedy

171

1. Jay Borschel, Sr., Linn-Mar Marion

2. Austin Boehm, Jr., Urbandale

3. Robbie Kramer, Jr., Prairie Cedar Rapids

4. Tyler Reed, Sr., Ottumwa

5. Chris Dunkin, Sr., Knoxville

6. Brett Schultz, Sr., Decorah-North Winneshiek

7. Josh Keller, Sr., Iowa City City

8. Robert Junck, Sr., Marshalltown

7.) Adaptability: This is where Borschel just totally wins me over. Borschel won state titles at 103, 125, 152 and 171. He won it as a lightweight, middleweight and upper-middleweight. That is one of the most impressive accomplishments in the history of Iowa HS wrestling and it is a direct indicator of his unbelievable ability to adapt to win. When I was a Freshman in HS, I wrestled at 112. When I was a Junior in college, I wrestled at 197. I know firsthand (and from a significantly lower skill-level when compared to Borschel) that the wrestling game changes from the weight ranges you occupy. It’s a totally different game wrestling as a lightweight when compared to a heavier weight and not everyone can learn to make that transition smoothly. And Jay Borschel is the poster boy for being able to win at different weight ranges. No one did it better than him. Some other names that come to mind who  performed at high levels in HS at lower and upper to upper-middle weights are; Drew Foster from Mepo (113 as a Freshman, 2nd at state as a Senior at 160, NCAA National Champ at 184), Willie Miklus from SEP (2nd at 119 as a Freshman, 1st at 220 as a Senior, 4X AA at the D1 level in college) and Evan Hansen from Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton (was 113 or 120 as a Freshman and won state at 182 as a Senior. He was a 4X NAIA National Champion for Grand View at 197). As you can see, when guys are able to prove that they can wrestle and do so successfully at different weight ranges, their bust-factor is low and it becomes very likely that they will succeed at the next level because of their cunning ability to adapt. When Borschel did this, it spoke volumes in terms of how good he was.

So with all that said, with my little hypothetical recruit grading scale for my imaginary job role that I will never occupy of being a scout/recruiter, Jay Borschel grades out perfectly. In fact, I don’t believe there has ever been a better recruit coming out of HS than Jay Borschel considering he checks so many of what I believe to be important boxes. With that said, if there were to be some sort of draft with every Iowa HS wrestler ever and none of the people drafting were to know the outcomes of how they ended up doing at the college level… If I were to have the first overall pick, I would confidently select Jay Borschel. You just can’t miss with a guy like that. He was a “sure thing” to accomplish something at the next level… and he did… he was a multiple AA and D1 National Champion for the Hawkeyes.

Does Jay Borschel have a case for being the Iowa HS Wrestling GOAT?!? DUH! That is an absolute no-brainer.

 

 

 

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My own wrestling experience wouldn’t have been the same, if it hadn’t been for the Hinman brothers…Dustin and Jordan.  They were a lot of fun to have around. Extremely funny people. For two years straight they referred to me as “The Leopard King” because of a dorky little leopard singlet that resembles lingerie.  We have them on VHS tape joking with me about that.  Funny stuff.  I remember the moment that I first saw Jordin wrestle.  Jordin is a very animated and competitive person and he says what he feels when he feels it and what he thinks when he thinks it. He has been like that from the start. When competing, sometimes there was no filter with him (which was refreshing) and there was no exception for a referee that kept letting a kid that he was wrestling as a 2nd grader cheap shot him for an entire match at the Iron Dog Burlington Youth Tournament.  I remember looking over at his mat because I heard a commotion from some fans and when I glanced over, 2nd grade Jordin was screaming, “he pulled my freaking hair!!!” And I thought, “wow…I thought I did see that in the corner of my eye.”  A few seconds later, “he’s chinning my back!” And I shit you not, this kid he was wrestling was doing that undoubtedly…with one of those old headgears with the chin cups… That hurts like hell and is a cheap-shot. The ref (a HS-aged looking kid) still acted like he didn’t see it.  About 15 seconds later, his opponent pinched him and Jordin looked at the ref and was like, “can’t you see this?” The ref blew him off. The kid was clearly pinching him. The Hinman corner was becoming pretty irate at this point and for good reason. Hinman and this little dirtball he was wrestling against got to their feet and the kid smacked Jordin across the head and Jordin looked at the ref and said, “screw this,” and he lost his temper with the kid finally and launched the kid on his back. The ref stopped it immediately and awarded the other kid a point for unsportsmanlike on Jordin’s behalf since he said, “screw this.”  It was the worst job of officiating that I had ever seen in my entire life. I thought a woman who I believe was  Jordin’s mom was gonna strangle the ref and the opponent. For whatever reason, this ref had something against Jordin and to this day, I would love to see this ref and Jordin in the Octagon together for an MMA fight because I’d love to watch Jordin kick his ass.  Because that’s something Jordin does well…he is good at kicking people’s asses. He is a very successful fighter and coach on the MMA scene these days and wrestling was a prerequisite for this.  

Wrestlers are limited in terms of how they can actually make money playing the sport that they love. Which is odd… baseball, basketball, football, etc. players make millions… Why is state wrestling in Iowa the most attended state event BY FAR if there is no appeal for the sport to maintain a pro league?  Because it hasn’t been done correctly…that’s why.  So wrestlers have to settle for being club coaches and MMA fighters if they have a desire using their wrestling knowledge to make money.  This is the route Jordin has taken and he is very, very good at it.  One of his nicknames is “Skeletor.”  I have also heard him referred to as “The Henchman.” One of the most badass nicknames that someone can have.  The dude has maintained and improved his self-discipline and hard work since he entered the MMA scene. He is chiseled. I am 37 years old and sometimes wonder if I am beginning to resemble the Michelin Man a little too much these days. Jordin is just a few years younger than me and looks like he has a 14 pack. He obviously trains hard.  When I see Jordin, I am always reminded of how far I have let myself go, while motivated individuals like Jordin just keep rolling with the punches. It is pretty inspirational, really… and it makes me very happy that he is relaying the knowledge, tactics, philosophies and techniques to my 2 youngest brothers, Shea and Brennan who train in his club.  They have been making some nice gains in the field of MMA in terms of fighting, yes, but also formulating a family atmosphere that has common values of respect, fun and self-discipline.  Please get to know Jordin Hinman… Great guy. I was around him a lot and as mentioned, he was always very animated, funny and sometimes plain wild, but I tell you what, if he considered you a friend and saw that you needed help with something, it is his “knee-jerk” reaction to drop what he’s doing and help you.  It has been so cool to watch him grow into the actively positive role model that he has become. He has likely saved a life or two by giving people something to be part of opposed to something that would be self-destructive that they would have been part of had they not found MMA in his club. A lot of these MMA club coaches have and they deserve more credit for that than they are typically given. Not very many people can say that they have had such influence. 

I am going to increase articles on my site of MMA fighters, for wrestling and MMA go hand-in-hand. 

 

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

I started wrestling at about 6 years old and I started in Keokuk, IA then we moved to Fort Madison, IA where I wrestled through my sophomore year.

 

What year did you graduate?

2004

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My mom was the one that introduced me to wrestling. I thought I was going to be Ravishing Rick Rude or Jake The Snake Roberts.

 

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

I have two older brothers that wrestled a tad bit but not quite as extensive as my tenure. My son, who is 9, wrestles. He started getting exposure at 5 years old. He wrestles hard and usually has a good attitude, I like that.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I was decent as a youth wrestler. Pretty aggressive and hard to beat. I got a lot of pins and rarely got pinned. The one name that sticks out most to me is Justin Swafford. He was so talented. I always wanted to beat him but I never got close haha. If you know who he is then I’m sure you can understand why.

What was your record in HS?

I can’t recall my HS career. I was making poor choices and wasted all the years I had put into it.

 

How did you place at state every year?

I hadn’t placed at state. I had knee surgery my freshman year and then quit my sophomore year.

 

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

I tried to treat every match the same. Each one is just as important as the last or the next. I wrestled because I liked to win at the best sport in the world.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I would say I was pretty scrappy. Like spaghetti too. I could usually get off my back if I ever got there.

 

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

I wish I had those moments.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Coach Mike Riley (some of you probably know that name) in my Middle School years. He knew I was pretty ornery but he did a good job of motivating me and keeping me on track.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Fort Madison is always competitive. Coach Ryan Smith has always done good things there.

 

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

Nick Flach, Jason Crooks, and Dan Almeida were some studs when I was a boy.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Nick Flach. He was the man.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

I like J’den Cox. That guy is so good. JB of course and I like watching PD3 scrap out there.

 

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

Same as today, a lil bit of everything.

 

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

They’re all pretty much the same. I don’t like losing at anything.

 

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

Just listen. When you think you know it all then it makes for a much harder road.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Best memories would just be from the youth days when you didn’t have anything to stress you out. Nothing like a little Mnt. Dew and running the hallways with all of your wrestling friends you make!

 

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

I played sports year round so it was seasonal. I wrestled year round now though.

 

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

That’s an interesting question. Not much has changed wrestling wise. Maybe a handful of newer moves but we all know that the good guys stick to the basics and the basics is what get ya Ws. I’d say the guys nowadays have better access to weight programming and training but guys from my day I think were tougher because we were old school and hard nosed at everything.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Not until I got into MMA.

 

What other sports did you play?

I played football, baseball, and ran track.

 

Who gave you the nickname “Skeletor?”

Lol, I really wouldn’t say it’s a nickname. More so something I get called when cutting weight. My cheek bones are high and the weight leaves my face first. Plus I’m tall and skinny. I guess an evil mofo too haha.

 

How often do you implement wrestling into your MMA training?

A lot. If I can get my hands on you you’re usually going for a ride. Definitely helps me with top control and pounding out opponents.

 

What are your MMA accomplishments?

I had a few amateur championships and defended them successfully as well. As a professional I have knocked out or submitted every person I have a victory over. All of them in the first round besides one.

 

Do you feel your life would be different today if you hadn’t been introduced to wrestling and MMA?

Most definitely. I feel it’s every man’s obligation to himself, his family and society to know some sort of combat. Not to mention the peace it brings. I hear people talk about being peaceful but they don’t do anything combat wise. To me that just means you’re harmless. The guy that can rip your head off but chooses not to is the peaceful one. I’d rather be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.

 

Is there anything you would change with the current climate of MMA or wrestling?

I wish there was a better professional opportunity for wrestlers and that mixed martial artist got paid what they deserve.

 

How proud are you of your Fort Madison wrestling roots?

Super proud. I love the Red and Black pack. Coach Ryan Smith has been producing great young men for years.

 

How proud does it make you to give back to MMA and wrestling and observe people making strides with your tutelage?

That’s my favorite part. It’s very satisfying to pass knowledge. Pretty selfish if you horde information that could help someone.

 

Will your kids wrestle?

My son does now and my daughter says she wants to. She’s 5 and she’s pretty strong and athletic but if she starts getting on the losing end idk how she’d handle it. She’s tough but still a little girl and is sensitive. Some good ol wrestling would probably help her out though.

 

What are some of the past and present MMA clubs you have sparred with and represented?

Team Conflict was the original. Derek Doherty is a guy I grew up wrestling with and we actually practiced at the FM High School. Another good wrestler, Ryne Vincent, got a hold of me when I moved back to town and let me know they had something going on. I’ve never looked back.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Iowa Hawkeyes, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago White Sox, and the Las Vegas Raiders (going to be weird saying)

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Anything that has to do with scrapping. MMA, jiu jitsu, boxing, etc.

 

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

One of my favorite parts is teaching/coaching others. It’s very humbling to have people or kids believe in what you’re saying and then put it to use in their own ways.

 

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

Wrestling gave me the principles I use and share with my family. We work hard and get what we earn, not what we think we deserve.

 

What do you do now?

I trim and remove trees for the City of Burlington.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Yep, I coach the Burlington youth wrestling program and have done so for the passed couple of years.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Listen and be disciplined. Doing what’s right instead of what you want will get you what you want in life. Everything doesn’t have to be “right now”. Just quiet your voice, open your ears, buckle up and hold on because it’s a wild ride.

 

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

I’ve thought about Corn Cob Nationals and the Pickford tournament. Definitely something I am interested in.

 

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

Not personally but I would like to thank everyone that I have met along the way. Everyone that coached me and believed in me. Definitely my MMA coaches and teammates for working hard and grinding with me. It’s singles competition but you can’t be successful without the help of great people.

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Remember The Wrestler: Rob Kamerling, Lisbon

 

Rob Kamerling is someone I just met recently while putting the Iowa HS State Finals videos together. He has always been supportive of everything I’ve done on here and I am thankful for that.

I do not know Rob personally, so the intro may be vague, but I spoke to his HC, Brad Smith one time and his name came up and he commented on Rob being unbelievably strong and possibly the best guy he ever coached to not win state. That’s a huge badge of honor coming from Brad Smith for he has coached tons of wrestlers that did not win state and were still phenomenal.

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

Rudy and George Light. Shane was one of my best friends growing up, so being around the Light family and being from Lisbon I was gonna wrestle. Not sure if I was encouraged or just told that I was wrestling.

 

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

I have a son Keean that wrestles 220 at Mount Vernon. He just finished his Junior season and came up 1 match short of placing at State this year.
My daughter Kelsey is in 8th grade and just started wrestling this year. Mount Vernon just started a girls program.

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I don’t remember too much about my youth results. I had some success in freestyle. My only rival was probably Chad Thurn from Mount Vernon. He kicked the crap out of me growing up until about Junior High. Then the rolls were reversed. Actually I never kicked the crap out of him, but I did win the last match, and that’s the one everyone remembers.

 

What was your record in HS?

I was 99-19-1 in high school

 

How did you place at state every year?

I placed 3rd in 1989 and 2nd in 1990.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I guess my style was more of a hammer. I wasn’t really a technician, but more in your face.

 

Did you face any guys you exchanged wins with?

I didn’t really have anybody I went back and forth with. I did lose a couple tough ones to Craig Lamont from North Scott and Keith Woods from Mount Vernon. Funny how you always remember the guys that got the best of ya.

 

Who were your most influential coaches?

I would have to say Rudy and George Light were my most influential coaches. Rudy and George coached us every weekend from elementary through high school. We would load up in Rudy’s van every Saturday with any kid that wanted to go, and travel across the mid west to wrestle.

 

Was your HS team successful?

We were pretty dominant throughout my High School career. At the traditional state tourney we finished 3rd-1st-1st- and 1st from 1987-90. In State Duals we finished 1st-1st-2nd-2nd. In 1990 we broke the team pt record at State with 158-1/2 pts. I think that record stood for about 20 years. That same year we sent 8 guys to State and all placed in the top 6. This was before the true wrestle backs too.

 

Who did you look up to in wrestling growing up?

Growing up in Lisbon we had State Champs to look up to in the room every year. Mine was Greg Butteris. Greg was tough and mean. He would battle with Coach Smith every day of practice, and just scream when Coach would get the best of him. He hated to lose, even in the practice room. I wanted to be just like him.

 

Who is the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

The GOAT of all time in Iowa High School is a tough one. Each generation has one. In my wrestling days I saw Vance Light as the GOAT. A few years after I graduated I’d say Jeff McGinness took that title. Currently I’d have to say Cael Happel reigns.

 

Who are your current favorite wrestlers?

Aside from my kids I’d have to say Michael Kemerer is my favorite wrestler. He’s always all business. Spencer Lee would be a close second.

 

What music would you listen to before matches?

AC/DC was music back in the day

 

What was the loss that upset you the most?

I had 2 hard losses in my career. First was my Junior year to Jason Nosek of Mount Vernon. We were #1 in 1A and they were #1 in 2A. It was a huge rivalry dual for bragging rights, and I got pinned. Next was obviously my State finals match.

 

If you could change anything about your career, what would it be?

If I could change one thing about my wrestling career I would have went to Iowa. Not to disrespect UNI, but I always dreamed to be a Hawkeye.

 

What was your favorite wrestling memory?

My best memory was placing at Junior Nationals my senior year and becoming an All American.

 

Who were your most fierce competitors?

I wrestled a ton of great wrestlers growing up. The 2 most notable in high school were probably Ray Brinzer and Les Gutches. Brinzer was the national wrestler of the year and Gutches went on to become a World Champ and Olympian.

 

Was wrestling all year for you or seasonal?

Wrestling was pretty much an all year sport with a little break for football season.

 

How would the guys from your era stack up to the new era?

I would like to think we would be competitive with today’s wrestlers, but the kids today know so much. My style wouldn’t have matched up well. Kids today have unbelievable technique.

 

Where did you wrestle in college?

I wrestled briefly at UNI after High School.

 

Did you play any other sports?

I played football throughout high school and a little baseball. Baseball always to a back seat to wrestling freestyle all summer though.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Dodgers – Cowboys – and Iowa Hawkeyes.

 

What are some of your hobbies?

My hobbies pretty much consist of whatever school activity my kids are involved in. Wrestling and football go hand in hand. Both sports help to improve the other. I’m big believer that every football player should wrestle!

 

How has wrestling influenced your life?

Wrestling teaches you so much. It teaches you to be successful in life you need to work hard, set goals, and not to be scared of adversity.

 

What do you do now?

I work at General Mills as a production operator.

 

Do you have any advice for young wrestlers?

My advice for upcoming wrestlers is to set goals. Everyone has different goals, but give yourself something to push for. Listen to your coach! Believe it or not they usually know you better then you know yourself!

 

Any chance we may see you at an old timers tourney?

No chance you will ever see me at an Old Timers tourney. Unless maybe it was a charity event. Even then it wouldn’t be pretty.

 

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone?

I’d like to give a shout out to my Old man Lawrence Kamerling. Times were always tight growing up back in the day, but somehow he always scraped up the money so I could go wrestle. Looking back I’m not sure how he did it, but thanks dad!
Also I’d like to give a shout out to my uncle CT Campbell. Growing up he always made sure I had new wrestling shoes and whatever else I needed. He always took care of me.

 

Do you have any trivia or stuff you’d like to add?

Interesting trivia…not sure it’s the only time in State history, but one of my high school buddies Scott Webster entered the State tourney in 1988 with a losing record. He was like 11-14. He lost a nail biter in the semis to I believe Bobby Short, and eventually place 6th. Entered with a losing record and left with one, but had a medal to show for it.

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This is a cat that I always had a great deal of respect for. In fact, the entire Ball family is legit… Hopefully soon, I will get his brother, Derick Ball’s RTW article going. I grew up on a song by Billy Joel called “Honesty” where he sings, “honesty, is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue.” Well, Billy Joel is lucky that he didn’t meet Brandon Ball around the time he was writing that, because the song he was in the process of writing would no longer make sense to him. What you see is what you get with Brandon. He tells it like it is and unless he has an ax to grind with you, he will do so cordially even if it may be something you may not want to hear.  And if you don’t like it, you can talk to someone who will lie to you, because Brandon won’t. It’s refreshing when a guy who accomplished all the great feats that Brandon did prioritizes being himself and doing things the way that works best for him personally, opposed to getting caught up in the attention and/or just going about life telling people what they want to hear…

Brandon is a perfectionist when it comes to competition and performance and this will be blatantly obvious when you read how he truly feels about his own accomplishments… The guy won state, was a D3 AA and is a great MMA talent and he has not yet accomplished enough to where he feels like he succeeded the way he has always wanted to. He is very hard on himself and maybe that’s how great ones like Brandon are driven… by never being satisfied. Because personally, I’d be elated if I had his career resume. You all know that I am a pretty flexible critic, but for what it’s worth, I thought Brandon was awesome.

I hope you all enjoy this as much as me. This man is very interesting. You will never read a more “real and honest” take on wrestling. And he’s a great writer, too…

 

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

Columbus Wrestling was my base. I learned the most from Coach Plein. He was like a second father to me in high school. Always directed me in the right way when it came to wrestling. I don’t agree with how we cut weight back then, but that would be my only complaint on my coaching coming up. From Columbus we had the Dungeon Wrestling Club that was run by Jason Payne while he was still helping Plein out at Columbus. It was freestyle and was the main reason I made such a jump in high school. Put a lot of time in over the summer when I wasn’t playing other sports. The golf team I played for actually got fourth at state between my junior and senior year, but that applied to my life when I didn’t go out to focus on freestyle wrestling. I still wonder if I should have tried to handle both, but the state title my senior year really made it worth it. Between my junior and senior year I wrestled a lot with Cedar Hawk wrestling in Cedar Rapids. Johnny Siegel would always drive and I ended up getting a lot of mat time with Matt McDonough. We had some crazy goes back then. Would be much different down the road a little ways after I got the brakes beat off me by him and Ramos over a summer at Iowa in which I was trying to get back on the mat. That leads to my college career. One I am not very proud of. I was young and the summer after I was an All American at Coe College I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. After being under Dustin Hinschberger and Coach O for a year, I got good. I no longer was just a on the feet wrestler. They had taught me how to ride. How to put matches out of reach. I should have won it all my sophomore year at Coe. And we should have challenged Wartburg that next year for a title, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. Still feel bad about it to this day. I struggled at school and away from it for a couple years and wound up even trying to come back for the rival school Cornell for another chance. I tried. Wrestled with Tigue Snyder and spent time at Iowa wrestling all summer, but just never felt like I had it back. The medication I was on seemed to be holding me back. Just didn’t have it anymore. I decided to give up wrestling for good after Cornell. Can’t thank Mike Duroe enough for extending a hand and giving me the opportunity. He was truly a great man and knew everyone in the wrestling circle and used his resources to try to make me great again. Was very sad to hear of his passing. That’s when things really got interesting and I would realized all the work I had put in over the years wasn’t for nothing. I could keep fighting. I would get that fire back.

 

What year did you graduate?

2007

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

It was just the prestige of our program. We were good. I remember looking up to guys like Jason Payne and Nick Lee growing up. I wanted to be as good as them. It was a very large mountain to climb, but day by day even if it was just me and Plein wrestling down in the Dungeon with nobody else there, we did it. We made it happen. Hard to find something like that in small town Iowa. That’s why you see all these kids moving around to find a good coach. I had one. And I believed he could get me to where I needed to be.

 

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

My cousin Justin Scheef was part of the 95 team at Columbus that won State. He placed fourth. He always said I had the most raw talent in the family. Seth and Zack Pugh are my first cousins and always were really good wrestlers. Zack placed eighth and Seth was probably the best wrestler in the family placing I wanna say fourth and fifth before winning it his senior year. My brother also placed fourth twice. I didn’t wrestle much from like 3rd grade to 6th. Started up in junior high and wrestled around 150 or 160. But Seth was always the example to follow. By my sophomore year we were battling during conditioning and really starting to push each other and things started to click from there. Just hard work paying off.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Made it to state once as a kid. Was in the heavier weight classes growing up. The year I made it there was only one kid in my bracket. Caught fire in high school, but just wasn’t too interested growing up. Could call me lazy.

 

What was your record in HS?

132-26. I know I lost 12 matches my freshmen year. Think I was 12-12. Beat Caleb Martin my sophomore year at sectionals and lost to him and districts to come up a match short of qualifying as a sophomore. Choked as a Junior and pulled it off as a Senior. Think I’m off a couple on my record though. Think I lost 5 times my Sophomore and Junior Year. And then twice as a senior. Unsure if the wins are right.

 

How did you place at state every year?

7th as a Junior and 1st as a Senior.

 

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

Probably the weight cutting at the beginning. I was bulimic for a couple years at the beginning of high school when I was very green. Didn’t know how to be disciplined. Just would puke up what I ate and drank, but mostly just drank. Ruined me for practice. Had nothing in the tank all the time. Just was trying to make weight. And back then we did it by manipulating our water intake. Now a days I drink a gallon of water a day. Don’t know how I did that for the couple years I did and still wrestle hard. Just is a testament to this day for me when I think I’m beat and tired to keep pushing. I did that, I can do this type of thing. I still cut out water intake to make weight to fight, but that is usually one day and then I have a day to recover. Wrestling, I feel like finally has that problem under control and kids don’t deal with that, but it was still a huge part of the sport when I was in it. It took me realizing that if I ate and drank correctly then I would be able to do more and lose more weight. It just took me a couple years to get that discipline.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I like to take people down and get on top of them. I feel like I can get out on anybody and if I get a couple turns on top I can put a match out of reach. But if you turtle up and I have to I will take you down and let you up.

 

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

Caleb Martin beat me pretty good as a Sophomore. Kept me from going to state after I pinned him the week before in a fluke at sectionals. Eric Davis was 1A State Champ and we wrestled a couple times as a junior and I beat him both times but then got seventh at state. Biggest rival was my senior year, Brett Kautz. I remember the first time I lost to him I had messed up ligaments in my ribs. Think I lost by one at the Centerville tournament. I remember I had a notebook that year and I had a few pages written out, “I will beat Brett Kautz.” Even had the second place medal up in the room for a little while from Centerville. I met him in the state finals and cradled him up in the first period and held on to win 8-6.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I don’t know, Plein comes to mind but I’ve been with some of my MMA coaches much longer. Keoni Koch is someone I haven’t utilized lately but had always been a huge part of my development. Dave Sherzer is MMA version of John Siegel. Then I got my main dude Gabe Lemley who took me in and kept me in the sport when I thought I was done. MMA is the hardest sport on the planet. Wrestlers can say what they want.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Both. Still remember Osage celebrating after beating us by one point in the state dual finals. We should have won it. Then in college Coe was a good dual and individual team when I was there.

 

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

It would have to be my cousin Seth. He was good as a kid, think he won it in sixth grade. May have only been a couple years older than me but I was trying to be as good as him. This just wasn’t in wrestling. We played every sport you can think of. Even had some badmitten rivalries back in the day.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

TJ Sebolt wasn’t bad, remember getting pinned by him in high school. Probably the best high school wrestler from my era. Even beat my brother too. But you gotta go Tom Brands or Dan Gable for overall effect.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers? High school? College?

I don’t pay much attention. I have gotten a couple goes in with Brennan Swafford lately though. Hope he has some more success. Think I’m gonna have to stop throwing subs to get him back in the room though. Just kids that come in and keep me sharp. Fans of them.

 

What MMA club are you part of?

Currently I am training at Skunk River Grappling Dojo. I started my career in Cedar Rapids with Hard Drive Mixed Martial Arts and still will be training up there when the time comes. Just a struggle to find guys my size anymore so I do a lot of traveling to find good practices.

 

Has wrestling helped more than other martial arts for your MMA skillset?

Everybody would like to start with a base for MMA and many say wrestling is the best base to start with. I would say it is one of the most important staples in grappling. Keeps you in good positions. But it was taken me ten years to be a decent striker. I wish I would of started on that sooner.

 

How would you describe your MMA style?

I’m trying to round out my game but I would say I am still and always will be a wrestler. I can dominate on top in the guard position. Have won most of my fights from there but as competition grows I need to be able to do everything well. That is what makes the sport so difficult.

 

Who are your past and present favorite MMA fighters?

BJ Penn. Hoping he doesn’t fight again. Just an amazing competitor. In his prime the best in the world.

 

Was it cool cheering on your older bro, Derick growing up?

Derick cut more weight than I ever did. How he stayed at 103 for four years is beyond me. I remember watching him use a spray bottle to drink his water so he wouldn’t drink too much. Crazy amount of discipline. Always a better runner than me. If he wouldn’t of went out for cross country I wouldn’t of. Huge reason I had so much success in wrestling was because I never really got out of shape in high school. Always had another sport to play. That’s why all these kids are getting burnt out on wrestling. My brother played multiple sports and so did I. I don’t think I would of had near the success if I wouldn’t of participated in other sports. That was probably his biggest influence on me. Was to not just be a one sport athlete. That’s not how it was back then. I wrestled a lot in the offseason, that shouldn’t be an excuse to not play a sport you love.

 

In your experience, how are MMA and wrestling alike and different?

It’s where you have your chin. I have been preaching this to a guy I am working with for a year now probably. Chin down! In wrestling no one is gonna try to come under your chin and choke you. So when you hit a shot in wrestling they always say head and chin up, well in MMA that leaves you open to getting choked. Chin down and hand control. I do a lot of dumps in MMA. Driving through sometimes puts you in a bad position. Then you gotta worry about your arms and legs. So really just focusing on good position, hand control, and having your chin down and your neck protected are paramount.

 

What do you feel you would need to accomplish with your wrestling and MMA career to be happy with your accomplishments?

I would like to make a big promotion. Fight on Bellator or the UFC.

 

Are you proud of your Southeast Iowa roots?

I love small town Iowa.

 

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

Would go to my brothers house in Iowa City and illegally download some CD’s. Mostly rap and rock, and a little country. I can remember One More Silver Dollar playing on my boombox.

 

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

Probably my only loss as a fighter. Kid didn’t make weight and my coach told me not to take the fight but I did anyway. Lost by arm bar early in the first round. Should of walked away. Probably still be undefeated.

 

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

The way it ended. I should of at least won it in college. Looking back ten years later there is a lot of regret there. But I went down another path and am still competing today so it is what it is.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Best memory would be the state title. Greatest accomplishment would be being an All American. We’ve had a lot of state champions at Columbus but I was only the fourth to place collegiately.

 

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

Lost to TJ Sebolt by fall as a junior. Lost to Daniel Dennis by one as a sophomore in College. Probably one of the main reasons I had so much confidence that year.

 

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

All year. Wouldn’t of had the success I did if it was seasonal.

 

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

I think they would be bigger. I think guys at 49 today would of been at 41 or 33 tens years ago. A lot of people don’t cut anymore. I feel like I can compete with guys a lot easier at higher weight classes today.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

3 years.

 

What other sports did you play?

Baseball, Golf, and Cross Country. Was decent at baseball and made all conference my junior and senior year. Sometimes I wish I would of taken baseball a little more seriously. Would of made life a lot easier.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Steelers got a shot this year with Big Ben back. Liked the Mariners since Griffey.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

I play a lot of Golf. Seth and I get together for wiffle ball still to this day, maybe a game of hoops now and again. Really enjoy slow pitch but with the virus haven’t found a team this year.

 

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

I recently tried out coaching kids and may continue that, but I like to wrestle. I still got a few years at a high level so I like to test myself. So when wrestlers come in the gym and want to work on MMA that is where I find a lot of joy these days. Helping people make the same transition I’ve been working on for ten years. But most of them don’t come back after a few days. But I still get a lot out of old wrestlers. Jake Kadel is moving back to Iowa shortly and should be one of my main training partners soon. He is one that made the transition to Jiu Jitsu but didn’t want to strike. Very talented. I like testing myself, so coaching is still down the line a little ways.

 

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

Just keeps me keeping on.  Be a few years before I put on 30-50 and start rambling on the bar stool.

 

What do you do now?

Currently I work for a food pantry called the Fellowship Cup. They are supported through a second hand store called the Quarter Store that I also work at. Mornings doing deliveries for the Quarter store and afternoons picking up food donations for Henry County that goes to the food pantry. Free food for anyone who needs it Thursdays 10am-2pm. Then training. Once or twice a day.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I give what I can. If somebody wants to get some good goes in I’m always ready. I just feel I’m best suited for collegiate wrestlers or high level high school kids.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Gallon of water a day.

 

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

Maybe, more likely a jiu jitsu tournament.

 

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

Anybody that is looking to mix it up my gym is open Mondays and Wednesdays 630-? In Lowell, Iowa. Driveways at the bottom of the hill.  I’m looking for guys under 170 but my buddy Jordin can take care of everybody else.

 

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

Keep an eye open for tickets. Looking to fight at the end of the summer.

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Who Is The GOAT?! The Case For Alex Thomsen, Underwood

 

 

Alex Thomsen, Underwood. I’m sure no one has forgotten about him yet… heck, he’s still kicking it at Nebraska. I remember THE MOMENT this kid showed everyone that he had stepped up a level compared to the other guys in the 2018 class. The moment he separated himself from the pack and he dug through some frustration before reaching that point. He was in my brother, Brennan’s grade so I saw hundreds of his matches over the years. He was always one of the top guys at his weight since he was a Pee-Wee, but had a little lull in there around 5th grade where he went 0-2 at state, losing to a couple guys he would normally be capable of beating with his eyes on most days. I remember when that happened… I was reading some of the wall charts and heard an interesting conversation about it.. Some of the funniest and most interesting conversations I’ve heard in my life has taken place while tuning in to people talking to each other near wall charts. In this conversation, a guy said, “man, you see Alex Thomsen is already beaten out? I didn’t see it coming, but I think it’s fair to say that kids have finally caught up with him and that we won’t be hearing much from him much more in the future.” The other guy agreed. I wish I would have recorded that…. that prediction aged so poorly that it is just…hilarious. They were saying this about Alex Thomsen after he had a bad tournament as a 5th grader… a 5th grader….. Wow.

Alex bounced back and re-raised some eyebrows when he won state as a 6th grader…However, it was a match he won in the semifinals as a 7th grader that started getting people chirping about Alex being “on another level.” He had an OT win in the AAU semifinals over a guy who was considered by a large percentage of people at the time as the best guy in the entire 2018 graduating class alongside Anthony Sherry from Glenwood and Drew Bennett from Fort Dodge. That kid’s name was Gable Sieperda, from Central Lyon and he became a wrestling stud and Cross Country legend in HS. As a 7th grader, Sieperda was cruising. It seemed like he hadn’t taken a loss to a guy in his grade in years. He seemed impossible to score points on and had an offense, to boot. When those two met up as 7th graders, the entire crowd started roaring in a manner that I can only recall having the same electricity 2 other times at AAU in decades prior to… one being my brother Justin Swafford’s finals match vs. Mack Reiter when they were in 7th grade and the other being when Cory Clark and Thomas Gilman met in the semis at state as 8th graders…. Thomsen vs. Sieperda was a big deal. And when Thomsen pulled off the win in OT, there was so much buzz in that arena. Everyone was watching that match. And after he won, I’ll never forget it… Alex did that confident, Hollywood walk that he became notorious for in high school (Alex Thomsen had more mat-swag than about anyone I had ever seen, that’s for sure). He wasn’t cocky, but you could just tell he was confident by how he carried himself… And after he got his hand raised, he calmly walked back to the corner as if he had no doubt in his mind he was going to slay that dragon. Most people were surprised…Southwest Iowa wasn’t. Golden Eagles people weren’t surprised. Head Academy folks weren’t surprised. The Cobra club in Council Bluffs knew it was coming. The Berley Boys knew what was up. SW Iowa called that shot. They were the only ones. And with Alex, his wrestling game was so smooth and fluent that he made it look cool. It was all business and he did it as if he were some Hollywood badass like James Bond. Put it this way… if all the 4 timers were compared to Mortal Combat and Street Fighter (those are video games for those of you who don’t know), characters, Alex Thomsen would have Johnny Cage on lockdown. You expected him to put on sunglasses immediately after his matches finished. The kid is has such versatile athleticism, he would have surely been a multi sport athlete had he not been so set on wrestling.

JOHNNY CAGE FROM MORTAL COMBAT

Then the next year, Alex started making waves on the National scene. He and my brother were on the same DC Elite NUWAY Duals Team and Alex was like a “for sure” win every match. No matter who they were wrestling, we knew we would win with Alex… the only guy who seemed to give him fits that year was a kid named Rhyker Sims from Sergeant Bluff-Luton. Not sure what that was all about, but I am pretty sure Alex raised his game another additional couple levels after their rivalry. He got beat for 3rd and 4th at state in 8th grade by Grant Stotts from Valley by a score of 1-0… that was a match that kind of needed 6 minutes to get a clearer comparison between those two… Alex placed 4th that year and it was one of the biggest surprises of the tournament, but everyone knew dang well that he was the real deal… Ironically, Brody Teske placed 3rd his 8th grade year… Teske, as you’ll read later is someone who Thomsen became forever linked to in high school.

By the time Alex was a Freshman, he started out impressing so many people with so many big wins that people started doing what seemed like the unthinkable at the time… they started debating who would win between Alex and the returning state champ from Highland, Drew West… This was considered unthinkable at the time, for the West twins had been so dominant and so acrobatic and fun to watch for 5 years leading to that, not only on the state OR National level, but the WORLD level… and Alex was making people actually believe that someone could actually defeat one of the West twins at state… and he did it in the quarterfinals at state as a Freshman… While Bryce West’s only barrier to perfection at the state tournament was Joshua Portillo from Clarion-Goldfield Dows, West’s barriers were Alex and Michael Blockhus. My goodness that group of guys had some WARS.

Fast forward to Senior year. Alex was an undefeated Senior… not for the season, but for his CAREER. If he finished his season undefeated, he would join the likes of Jeff Kerber, Dan Knight, Jeff McGinness, Eric Juergens and John Meeks as undefeated 4X state champions… the catch was, there was another guy in his grade that was on the path to doing the same thing. His name was Brody Teske from Fort Dodge and he just so happened to be at the same weight as Alex and it just so happened that Underwood and Fort Dodge were scheduled to meet twice… once at the Council Bluffs Invite and once at the CR Jefferson Invite. Those two guys earned the respect from EVERYONE when they decided to not dodge each other in either of the matches. The fans wanted that match and were almost skeptical that it’d actually take place, for both guys had so much on the line and if they wrestled, one of them was going to fail to go their entire careers without a blemish. Long story short, Teske had a huge scare in the semifinals vs. an out of state kid and showed up in a big way when he beat Alex in the finals. I’d say at the time, the predictions seemed to be 75-25 in Alex’s favor… And shortly after, those two were scheduled to meet again at the CR Jefferson Invite and despite the fact that Brody Teske could have very well chosen to just sit that one out and essentially secure an unblemished HS career, he chose to attempt to silence the skeptics and a second battle did, in fact take place. Alex won the second matchup. Both of these matches were absolute barn-burners and those two deserve eternal credit for their courage in putting it all on the line like they did, for not every wrestler, even at their level would have been brave enough to do that. If there are two wrestlers who should be universal fan favorites given their willingness to give the fans a show despite what they had on the line… it was Teske and Thomsen.

And keep paying attention to them… Alex is going to be a redshirt Sophomore at Nebraska and Teske transferred from Penn State to UNI… their careers are far from over.

Does Alex Thomsen have a case? He won 4 titles, he only lost one time at the hands of another 4 timer, he was a Junior Fargo National Champ In Greco, he placed multiple times in other various national tournaments and won a couple-few folkstyle national titles. You are fooling yourself if you believe Alex Thomsen does not have a case.

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Remember The Wrestler: Tyler Shulista, Alburnett

My mom and dad had 4 boys. Me (37), Justin (35), Shea (23) and Brennan (21). Obviously, quite the age gap between the first two and the second two. I’m telling ya, if I wouldn’t have bought my parents that dang Boyz 2 Men CD, the younger two may not have happened. Anyways, this was unique, for it was like when Justin and my careers ended, Shea’s and Brennan’s began. And so many things changed from Justin and I’s youth days to theirs. For one, they started a state tournament for the Kindergarteners-2nd graders called Super Pee Wee. We didn’t have that and I was amazed at how good some of those Kindergarteners were. One thing that stood out immediately was that there was a purple squad that you saw everywhere. They had like 70 kids and their fanbase was 100% excited with what they had going on. You could tell. They were so happy for every one of their guys who did well, and all of them seemed to do that. I wondered who this team was and asked someone. “That’s Alburnett… a club from a small town in Alburnett, IA. They are a future powerhouse.” This was so interesting and cool to me for I hadn’t even heard of that town until then. I love it when something sparks in a small community like that. Later, I learned that a lot of them practiced at a facility called “The Barn” and it was orchestrated by a man named Shulista… an apparent genius wrestling coach. And he had two sons, Conner and Tyler… Tyler being the oldest. And they were both studs. Alburnett Wrestling is one of the most impressive waves that we have seen in the new millennium, for they were homegrown and had so much depth and talent at every weight. In that era of youth wrestling, Alburnett, Mepo and Fort Dodge were the best “home grown” programs that you don’t see as often anymore. And Mr. Shulista is the primary mastermind behind that. Let’s hear about his son, Tyler!!!

 

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

Alburnett Mat Pack, Prairie Hammerin’ Hawks, CVMC

 

What year did you graduate?

2012

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My father

 

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

My dad wrestled but never made it to state. My younger brother Conner was a 4 time state place winner and 1x state champ. 4th, 4th, 2nd, 1st.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Placed at super pee wee all 3 years, placed at aau state every year and won it twice. 2006 and 2008.

 

What was your record in HS?

187-6 I believe.

 

How did you place at state every year?

3rd, 1st, 1st, 1st

 

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

Freshmen year making weight was my biggest and most adverse challenge. Also losing in the semi finals freshman year and getting through adversity and coming back to get 3rd.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Aggressive, always going forward, little bit of funk.

 

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

Sawyer Farris beat me at state freshman year and never beat me again. Other losses were to a few 3a guys.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Every one of my coaches had influenced me in their own way.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yes we went to state duals my junior and senior year and we placed 3rd 3 years in a row at the traditional state tournament.

 

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

Joe Slaton

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Cory Clark

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Spencer Lee and Alex Marinelli

 

Alburnett had so many great wrestlers for a long run there… who are some of the best guys to come from Alburnett wrestling?

Chris Halblom, Hunter Washburn, Dylan Windfield, Conner Shulista, Bryce Paul, Tanner Sloan. Those were some state champs, then there was Colton Martin, Grant Henderson, Jaymus, Tanner Hoyer,  etc.

 

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

Classic rock and country.

 

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

Winning 4 state titles instead of 3.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Winning my 3rd state title, winning mr wrestler of the year award. And winning 1A wrestler of the year.

 

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

Connor Ryan, Eric DeVoss, Jack Hathaway, those were my top 3 losses.

 

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

Wrestled most of the year but took breaks as well.

 

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

Most guys today wouldn’t stand a chance maybe that’s biased but the kids aren’t as tough now as they were back then.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

1 year a Coe College.

 

What other sports did you play?

Football and golf.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Iowa Hawkeyes, Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Vikings

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Golfing, off roading, farming.

 

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

Pretty good knowing I’m influencing the younger generation.

 

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

It has taught me to never give up always keep working hard.

 

What do you do now?

Raise hogs.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Coach Mat Pack and high school all at Alburnett .

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Never give up and say you can’t!

 

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

Probably not but never say never

 

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

Ike light, Kane Thompson, Matt Ironside, Charlie Falck. Thank you guys for all your dedication in helping me and getting me to where I am today! Coached by some of the best guys out there!

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With all of these GOAT articles, that I’ve been writing, hopefully it’s understandable that my mind drifts off from time to time to thoughts like, “is there anything I am the GOAT at?” And I came up with one thing…. I am the GOAT at playing truth or dare with myself. I am quite the daredevil. And will say pretty much whatevs. Wanna see my mad skills?!!!

TRUTH OR DARE?!

TRUTH!

“Nobody has a better case for the GOAT than Jeff McGinness. When you look at resume and checking of the boxes, he’s got them all covered and then some. Please… someone come up with someone who has a better case? Humor me…”

DARE!!!

“I DARE YOU TO SAY JEFF MCGINNESS ISN’T THE GOAT!”

Oh how the mighty hath fallen. I would never do something so crazy. Ya see, Jeff McGinness has something that you can call a rabid fanbase and they will seriously toilet paper your house if you say Jeff McGinness is not the GOAT…. people believe firmly in this… and why not? No one has a better case.

I was so excited when I started converting the Jeff McGinness state finals matches to YouTube. It brought back so many memories. I loved his interviews… He was like a tougher version of Robert Deniro. A rich man’s Robert Deniro. Watching his interviews brought me right back to being 10 years old and at a McGinness camp at the YMCA in Burlington. Went to a camp run by him and Mark Ironside… the rich man’s Joe Pesci. Cool guys. 

I grew up with an array of different farm cats. Hundreds of them. I have probably watched twice as many cat wrestling matches than human ones. And they are fun. Cats always impressed me with their cunning ability to maintain their balance and position and they are always able to land on their feet in flawless form. I always thought these would be super qualities for a wrestler to have. And I was right because we had Jeff McGinness and he was able to wrestle like a cat!! Absolutely amazing. A big cat that could not be contained. Joe Exotic tried and McGinness suplexed him…and landed on his feet of course. Then he wrestled all Joe’s cats and dominated like usual. Carole Baskin tried to cage the incredible Jeff McGinness and Jeff McGinness put Carole Baskin in a spladle, back-flipped out of it, landed on his feet, growled at Carole Baskin before he freed all of her big cats. He freed them for the sole purpose of finally having some specimens that could somewhat test him in a wrestling match. In fact, I heard just last week that Jeff McGinness barged into Mike Tyson’s house and knocked him out. Tyson tried throwing an uppercut at McGinness. McGinness hit a nasty duck under and suplexed him… it’s the fastest Tyson has ever been knocked out… 2 seconds. Why did Jeff McGinness do this? Well, it wasn’t to rob him… McGinness is a standup guy. Nah… it was to wrestle his tigers. He pinned both of Mike Tyson’s tigers in a little under a minute. Ya see, people don’t understand the stress that Jeff McGinness had to endure in his career. He was hard up for competition and forced into a career of wrestling tigers for fun, considering he could pin everyone else in the world in 2 seconds. The tigers he wrestled generally lasted 10 seconds. For a man as competitive as Jeff McGinness, this was torture, not being able to find anyone that he couldn’t use as his own ventriloquist dummy. One…tough… cat. One of a kind. Jeff McGinness. 

McGinness was a 4X state champion. He did not lose a single match in HS. He won Cadet and Junior national titles and I believe was voted the OW in one of those tournaments. He was also a member of the USA Dream Team as a Senior…. He was a 3X AA and 2X National Champion for the Hawkeyes. He was borderline flawless. Yeah, that’s a good resume, if I were looking to hire someone for something that demanded wrestling experience, I think Jeff McGinness would be worthy of consideration!!!

DARE!!!

I dare anyone reading to claim someone else as the GOAT… and while doing so, consider the risks… your house, will for sure be TP’d by a mob of angry McGinness fans if you complete this dare. Don’t say you weren’t warned. And can ya blame them?

TRUTH!!! I was VERY close to making a highlight reel of McGinness’s finals match to the song, “stray cat strut,” by the Stray Cats… I still might. 😎 I chickened our at the last second because I don’t want Jeff McGinness thinking I am a dork. That’s probably wayyyy too late though. Just imagine, Jeff McGinness just toying with guys in the finals like a cat pawing at a ball of yarn with this background music 😂😂😂:

He was pretty close to perfection.

 

 

 

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Remember The Wrestler: Matt Davis, Dubuque Senior

Matt Davis was in my grade. The class of 2001. He was also at the same weight as me…literally every single year since we began. I wrestled Matt a lot. Maybe more than I have wrestled anyone and until 9th grade or so, I think I won every matchup against him.  Listen, there are not many wrestlers, if any that I personally respect more than Matt Davis and there is a reason for that.  For one, he and his dad are nice. Secondly, I know firsthand, that this guy never, ever, ever stopped improving.  The improvements were gradual at times, but they never stopped.  Every year he was fine-tuning new, valuable skills and it used to impress the hell out of me.  By the time we were Seniors, he was one of the best technicians in our grade.  And I’m telling you, it was a snowball effect with him.  His improvements were direct results of having a good attitude, putting in the extra time, listening and working his tail off. He earned every stride he gained. By the time we hit high school, he was beating me more often than not when we would meet up at freestyle tournaments.  Every year he incorporated a new set of elements to his game.  That Dubuque Senior duo of Matt Davis and Nathan Specht, people need to remember them.  They were absolutely awesome wrestlers and people.

I went to college in Dubuque and worked at a pizza place called Falbos to help get me by through college.  One of my happiest days at work was when the Davis family came in and immediately recognized me and asked how I was doing.  Just the nicest people and I was so glad that they didn’t forget me because I sure as hell won’t ever forget them. 

 

 

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

I wrestled for Dubuque Senior in high school. We didn’t really have any clubs in youth wrestling, but had good coaches and practices around Dubuque.

 

What year did you graduate?

2001

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My dad encouraged me to give it a shot when I was in third grade, so I signed up for a program through the YMCA.

 

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

My dad wrestled in high school, and my son Owen is 6 and just getting started. He does a good job, works hard and has a great attitude.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I did well, but not great. I think I made it to AAU State 3 or 4 times, but never placed. A lot of names come to mind, I wrestled Brett Wheelen about 100 times, but we were always friends off the mat. There was also a kid from Mediapolis named Josh Swafford I could never get past.

 

What was your record in HS?

122-27, I believe. I could be off a couple matches.

 

How did you place at state every year?

Freshman- Qualified
Sophomore- DNQ
Junior- 2nd
Senior- 3rd

 

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

Not a lot of adversity, I was lucky enough to stay pretty healthy.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was aggressive on my feet, legger on top, and liked to work the granby from bottom.

 

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

I traded wins with Ryan Sallis from Waterloo East a lot my freshman and sophomore year.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Tim Hejhal had the biggest influence on my style, he was a great teacher and coach. Denny Moore (Nate and Nick’s dad) was my youth coach and had a huge impact as well.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Freshman and sophomore year we were competitive, junior and senior not so much. I always had great practice partners though.

 

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

Being a Dubuque Senior guy I looked up to Keith and Eric Weber and Rick Healey.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Probably an unanswerable question, but I remember seeing Eric Juergens at practices and tournaments when I was younger, and he was awesome. I think he would get my vote.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

My son Owen, also the Iowa Hawkeye and Western Dubuque Bobcat wrestlers.

 

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

Red Hot Chili Peppers and Blink 182

 

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

State my senior year. Your goal your whole wrestling career is to win a state title, tough to take when it’s over.

 

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

Nothing really, a few matches I would have liked to go differently, but that’s life.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Making it to the finals my junior year. I beat Jake Hobbs in the semis, who kept me from going to state when I was sophomore.

 

Describe the wars you and Specht had over the years… could you have asked for a better practice partner?

There were battles, but probably not what you would think. We wrestled each other everyday for years, so we knew what the other person was going to do. It became pretty boring. He has been my best friend since first grade and I think I can count on one hand the number of times we have gotten mad at each other. Great partner, better friend.

 

Do you have a lot of pride in Dubuque area wrestling?

Yes, growing up there weren’t a lot of kids that wrestled regularly, but the ones that did were very good. There are great coaches and programs in the area now. I live in the Western Dubuque school district and have a ton of respect for Coach Cleary, his staff, and Coach Gotto. They run a great program.

 

How much did freestyle help your folk style game?

It helped on my feet, which was probably my weakest position. By the time I was a senior it was my best. Freestyle teaches you to finish your shot or get the hell out of there. It was also the most fun I had wrestling.

 

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

Being from Dubuque, I had the pleasure of wrestling Cliff Moore and Ryan Heim on a regular basis. It helped me when I was younger, but created a lot of losses in high school. Tim Halligan and Johnny Galloway as well.

 

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

Seasonal when I was younger, all year in high school.

 

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

I think we would do fine.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

No, I had enough. A lot of work for a lot of years, I was ready to be a regular college kid.

 

What other sports did you play?

I played baseball when I was younger. In high school I ran cross country to help me get in shape for wrestling.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Hawkeyes and Cubs

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Spending time with my family and friends, golf.

 

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

I haven’t been involved for a long time, but recently started getting back into it with the youth program at Western Dubuque. It’s great to be around the sport again.

 

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

Dan Gable said “Once you’ve wrestled everything else in life is easy”. I think that sums it up pretty well.

 

What do you do now?

I’m an insurance adjuster.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I’ve recently started getting involved with the Western Dubuque youth program.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Work hard, be coachable, and believe in yourself. Confidence is a powerful thing.

 

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

Absolutely not.

 

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

My practice partners Nate Specht, Coalton Olson, and Louie Fischer. I owe a lot to Louie, he was a couple years older than Nate and I and he would haul us around to lift and to practices even when we didn’t want to go.

Most of all my dad, he spent a lot of time taking me to practice and tournaments. He was always supportive, and found a good balance of helping me get better without pushing too hard.

 

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

A lot of good times, I hope he doesn’t get mad at me but one of my favorite stories is Louie Fischer’s battles with the hydraulic door. If he was having a bad day, he would storm out of the wrestling room and slam the door behind him as hard as he could. About halfway shut, the hydraulics would catch the door and it would close gently behind him. We always got a good laugh, I think Louie did also.

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BRODY….TESKE!!!

 

In 1987, Dan Teske from Fort Dodge was standing on the podium at the Iowa HS State tournament and got a glimpse as to what the standing ovation experience  was like for a guy standing on the podium who won their 4th title… thing is, Dan Teske was standing on the #4 spot on the podium when this standing ovation took place. The guy receiving the standing ovation was a hammer named Dan Knight from Clinton who is now the HC at Bettendorf.  So in a way, he kind of had an idea as to what his son, Brody experienced when he stood on top of the podium after winning his 4th state title in 2018. It’s a small and crazy world, isn’t it?

Go to 4:00 mark to see Podium segment:

 

Brody Teske was one of the best “tiny guys” of that class since he was a Kindergartener. The first time I ever saw him was when a wrestling dad and great person named Reese Strickland tapped me on the shoulder and pointed at a couple tiny Kindergarteners and said, “those are two future elite wrestlers for the future. I guarantee it.” It was Brody Teske from Fort Dodge and he was wrestling against Kyle Biscoglia from Waukee. Lol and Reese was right… they were only 38 lbs. and Kindergarteners at the time, but Reese hit the nail on the head. That was the first time I saw those two butt heads. It probably happened another 20 times. Biscoglia and Teske had WARS!!!

Teske, Biscoglia, Noah Fye, Michael Blockhus, Drew Bennett, etc. seemed to run the show for the “little guys” in that 2018 graduating class for years and all of them made the jump to HS and became very well-decorated wrestlers in HS. Teske  became the most successful by winning 4 titles and only being beaten 1 time, by Alex Thomsen from Underwood who was also a 4Xer with one career loss…to Teske. Both guys just never let off the accelerator in their careers, ever. When they were Seniors, both Alex and Brody were undefeated 3X state champs coming into the season. If they finished off their last season unblemished, they would join the likes of Jeff Kerber, Dan Knight, Jeff McGinness, Eric Juergens and John Meeks as undefeated 4X state champions… those two just so happened to be at the same weight and it just so happened that Underwood and Fort Dodge were scheduled to meet twice… once at the Council Bluffs Invite and once at the CR Jefferson Invite. Those two guys earned the respect from EVERYONE when they decided to not dodge each other in either of the matches. The fans wanted that match and were almost skeptical that it’d actually take place, for both guys had so much on the line and if they wrestled, one of them was going to fail to go their entire careers without a blemish. Long story short, Teske had a huge scare in the semifinals vs. an out of state kid and showed up in a big way when he beat Alex in the finals. I’d say at the time, the predictions seemed to be 75-25 in Alex’s favor… And shortly after, those two were scheduled to meet again at the CR Jefferson Invite and despite the fact that Brody Teske could have very well chosen to just sit that one out and essentially secure an unblemished HS career, he chose to attempt to silence the skeptics and a second battle did, in fact take place between those two despite many fans thinking it wouldn’t happen. Alex won the second matchup. Both of these matches were absolute barn-burners and those two deserve eternal credit for their courage in putting it all on the line like they did, for not every wrestler, even at their level would have been brave enough to do that. If there are two wrestlers who should be universal fan favorites given their willingness to give the fans a show despite what they had on the line… it was Teske and Thomsen.

 

Does Brody have a case for the GOAT?! Of course. The state of Iowa is lucky to have a couple of fearless competitors that gave the fans what they wanted and seemingly consistently dominated every other match they wrestled in.  I wonder if it ever occurred to Dan Teske while he was standing on the 4 spot on the podium as a Senior, that he would have a son and his son would receive the same treatment 21 years later.

And keep paying attention to them… Alex is going to be a redshirt Sophomore at Nebraska and Teske transferred from Penn State to UNI… their careers are far from over.

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Inside the Rivalry Chapter 7, Part 6: What Have Sundell, Galanakis and Helgeson Been Up to Since and Where Are They Now?

After the Sundell-Galanakis-Helgeson three car collision course at state, Helgeson and Sundell finished their high school wrestling careers and went on to college. Sundell at Iowa State, Helgeson at UNI. However, Galanakis, being a JR., still had another high school season left. At that point, Mario had finished 5th, 3rd and 3rd in his first three years of high school and was the obvious and clear-cut favorite to win state as a Senior. Unfortunately though, things just never fell into place at the right time for Mario. He was upset by future Hawkeye, Chad Beatty in the quarterfinal round. This was a bracket that consisted of three future varsity Iowa Hawkeye wrestlers: freshmen Ryan Morningstar and Chad Beatty, and Senior Mario Galanakis.

Mario Galanakis: I lost to Chad Beatty in the quarters came back and pinned my way back through the back side pinning Ryan Morningstar for third. The next week at State Duals, I pinned Beatty.

Prior to Drew Foster of Mediapolis winning a national title for The University of Northern Iowa in 2019, Mario was widely believed to be the best Iowa high school wrestler of all time to never win a state title. If this isn’t a correct assumption, then it’s got to be unbelievably close.

These two haven’t associated a lot since high school, but haven’t been total strangers to each other since their epic rivalry in high school.

Mario Galanakis: Jesse and I met once again in college. He wrestled for Iowa State, I wrestled for Iowa. We have spoken a couple times since then and everything is mutually respectful. He is a great guy and one of Iowa’s best ever wrestlers. The only reason I pursued our matchup was because of the respect I have for him…if I were to win state, I didn’t want to take the easy route. I wanted to beat the best. And Jesse was the best. So I took the challenge. Tons of respect for him and I was happy to see him win his 4th title.

Jesse Sundell: I do not know Mario that well off the mat. We have a lot of mutual friends. I follow up on him and see how he is doing and what he has been up to through our friends. I recently reached out to him congratulating him on his marriage/family/business. I let him know that I would like to make it down to his bar/restaurant and sit down and catch up with him.

SO WHAT ARE THE CHANCES THAT WE SEE A REMATCH BETWEEN MARIO GALANAKIS, CHRIS HELGESON AND/OR JESSE SUNDELL?!?!?! WILL WE SEE THESE TWO AT AN OLD TIMERS TOURNAMENT!?!?!

Chris Helgeson: Ha I’m to overweight for a rematch so I would say no, maybe we will cross paths coaching.

Jesse Sundell: Not sure if that will happen. However, my wrestlers are always trying to talk me into wrestling at the Corn Cob.

Mario Galanakis: I am pretty out of wrestling shape these days! Especially compared to Jesse who probably works out with his guys all the time. I think it has been two years since I have been in a wrestling room. But I’m always up for a challenge and I would be willing to train for rematch!

So how has life been for Jesse, Chris and Mario been since their wrestling days? Well, the paths they chose were different, but as to be expected from two of the most mentally tough warriors that Iowa High School wrestling has ever produced, they have become influential, successful and widely respected citizens who still contribute to the sport of wrestling.

 

JESSE SUNDELL

I am back at Ogden working as the District Technology Director. Married with three kids, 6th grade daughter, 4rd grade boy and pre-school daughter.  I am also the head coach of the Ogden wrestling team. I spent nine seasons as an assistant to my old head coach Brian Reimers and took over after he retired.

CHRIS HELGESON

I’ve been out of coaching for about six years but will be getting back into it this year. My family and I just moved back to Lake Mills this April. I have a son that is in Kindergarten so I will be helping with the youth wrestling and some with the high school as well. I’m still a huge fan of college wrestling. We have a college fantasy league and have a group of about ten sometimes that goes to watch NCAA. I am a residential lender in Lake Mills and love being back to the small town that I grew up in.

My advice for up and coming wrestlers would be to take in as much coaching as possible and make it fun. You don’t need to cut a ton of weight to be good especially at the youth and high school level. It takes away from getting better as a wrestler in practice and competition.

 

MARIO GALANAKIS

I went to Ellsworth Community College after high school. I never paid attention to college wrestling growing up, but learned quickly when I wrestled at that level. My second college tournament at the Iowa State Open, I wrestled in the open division and had to wrestle Zach Roberson from Iowa State. I had no clue who he was and my coach decided not to tell me until after the match. I remember taking him into overtime and almost taking him down to win, but time ran out. I ended up losing the match but then I started paying attention to results and Division 1 wrestling, and this guy ended up becoming a national champ. That boosted my confidence a little to say the least. I had a good season there and won a lot of tournaments.

I took a year off my second year, though, for my family endured a catastrophic loss. The week before regionals, my brother Manolis lost his life. He and I were close and had so many wrestling memories growing up, that it was hard to see a wrestling mat without thinking of him and realizing that he was gone. I had to take a break. When I came back the following year, I took third at Junior College Nationals. I was still classified as a Sophomore. Then I decided to transfer to Iowa. I have had the opportunity to wrestle for many many great coaches! All who were very influential. Gable, Brands, Zalesky, Stiener, Schwab, all of them were amazing and I could never be thankful enough for the opportunity to wrestle for them. The one that sticks out the most and probably pushed me and brought out the best in me was always Mike Zaddick. The guy just knew what to say and how to make you want to work hard and be the best. Sometimes he would kick the living shit out of me in practice but at the end of the day he was doing it for me! Wrestling at Iowa was such an honor, for the history and culture is unmatched. For example, legendary Iowa wrestling coach, Dan Gable was quoted saying something that I have and always will take to heart in life. He said once you have wrestled everything else in life Is easy. This is so damn true, committing yourself to a sport that is so demanding, time consuming, tough, and never ending. It is NOT an easy thing to do, but if you do it and you really, really commit your life to it, you will learn and reap the benefits of the hard work, dedication, and sacrifices that have to be made! So when you incorporate all that into your daily life after wrestling you can do anything you want. You know how to work hard, you know what it takes to be successful! This did and continues to carry over to life off the wrestling mat. I roofed houses for two years after college. This was probably one of the hardest jobs I have ever done, but I loved it and I went from the “groundhog” to the top guy in less than a year. This wasn’t because I was Mario Galanakis and I wrestled for Iowa, but because I worked my ass off, I showed up every day at 6 AM, I worked harder than anyone on the job and I was always the first one on the roof and the last one off. These are the same skills I learned in wrestling! Currently, I own a sports bar in Creston, Iowa. I just got married to an amazing woman and we have four kids together. She owns a hair salon in Mt. Ayr, so between the restaurant, her salon and four kids we stay pretty busy!

When I’m not working, my hobbies are spending time with my wife and kids. We love to go fishing, camping, river walking, and basically do anything outdoors. When winter comes, my wife and I love to do home renovations and try and build things that she finds on Pinterest.

As far as my contributions to the sport since college, when I first graduated and was the assistant coach at Creston. I was all about it and loved coaching. I had the opportunity to coach Jake Marlin to four state titles and that was just as rewarding as wrestling myself! Hopefully I can get back into wrestling when things calm down a little bit.

Lastly, I would like to share some advice for wrestlers who are currently pursuing their goals at whatever level it may be, whether it’s youth, high school or college. My advice for kids today is to be fully 100% committed. If you truly want to be the best or maybe just be a state champ, don’t just think it, don’t just say, “I hope I am.” You have to make it happen and you have to do it your own way and remember that no one in the world is better at wrestling like you, than you. Everyone has their own unique talents that gives them potential. The inner drive is most important. You can do it. Allow yourself to.

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Remember The Wrestler/Bus Driver: Dan Taghon, Sigourney

 

BY: Stephen Stonebraker 

There was a triangular dual meet against BGM-HLV & Wapello where we had a different bus driver but other than that for every away dual  & tournament throughout my entire high school wrestling career, our bus driver was Dan Taghon.  A big burly man with a voice that would carry throughout the entire gym, Taghon did more than simply drive us to our competitions.  He was one of our biggest fans & someone you could always hear yelling encouragement for you.  In a lot of ways, many of us on the team thought of him as an honorary coach.   I sometimes go back and watch my old matches & I hear Dan Taghon loud & clear in every one of them.

“Come on Stephen!!” With encouragement & “Half!!!” with instruction.   Dan’s favorite move was the half nelson & he loved watching Savage wrestlers turn their opponents over with it working for the fall.

In the sport of wrestling we get so wrapped up in our wrestlers & our coaches that we often forget to recognize the many others who make this sport great.  We’re lucky if our officials ever get the pat on the back they deserve & bus drivers like Dan Taghonnever get any recognition.  I think they ought to.  Taghon always made sure that come Hell or high water, we always got to our competitions on time.  It could be the nastiest of Iowa’s winter weather, & he always got us home safe.  About 16 years later than it should have been, this is the thank you he is owed.

 

What is your background in Wrestling?

My sophomore year of high school the wrestling coach Jack Smith approached me & told me that he thought I should go out for wrestling.  I did & I immediately fell in love with it.  On the junior varsity that year I lost every match but my last one.  My junior year I got to wrestle some varsity & I won four matches.  My senior year I made the varsity & I won the Sigourney invitational & I took second at sectionals to qualify for districts. I believe my record was 10-8.   I wish I had gotten started in wrestling sooner.  I think with more experience I might have been able to make state.

 

What Year did you start driving the wrestling team to duals and tournaments?

Sam Stull drove the wrestlers to all of the away competitions for years & years.  When he decided to no longer do it, not many others were interested.  I guess some don’t like to sit in a gymnasium all day watching high school wrestling. I loved it.  To be honest, I never thought of it as a job.  To me it was entertainment.  I got paid to drive the wrestling team to & from duals & tournaments.  I got paid to do it & I’m glad to have made the money, but I loved it so much I’d have done it for free.  My first season I think was 1992-1993.   I had about a five year layoff when I was assigned the transportation director at the high school, but other than that I’ve always done it.  I still do it to this day.  Only time I miss is if I have something going on with my family.  I also attend all of the home matches too.

 

Wrestlers can sometimes be a rowdy group.  Do you have any funny stories going to or coming home from a dual or tournament?

At the Van Buren tournament back when Tong-uk Yi was coaching, he saw a kid from Kirksville hit a move that he had never seen before. He got real excited & was determined to learn that move.  I got a kick out of how he refused to leave the gym that day until he knew what that move was and how to do it.  I really enjoyed it when Jeff Kirby & Gary Jarmes ran the program.  They were a lot of fun to talk to on the way home from duals & tournaments.  They had nicknames for all of the conference rivals & they’d often play cribbage on the longer bus rides.   As to the wrestlers, they were always very respectful.  Wrestlers are usually good groups of kids.  I took a lot of pride getting them to & from competitions safely.  Sometimes the Iowa weather can be bad. I’ve driven them through more than one snow storm.  Always got them back safe.  That was important to me.

 

Any fun memories you have of watching the matches?

Sigourney made the Regional Duals & placed at team state a few years back.  The Dual was held at Sigourney & it was an awesome experience. An electrical atmosphere.  It was also always fun whenever one of our kids would pull off an upset or to watch it when there were two ranks kids going at it.

 

Do you follow just Sigourney wrestling or do you follow other teams?

I pay attention to the high school rankings. I enjoy good wrestling no matter who it is but always cheer for the Sigourney kids. I enjoy high school wrestling more because it seems the kids aren’t afraid to take risks and try things.  I like college wrestling too but there’s not as many moves & a lot more hand fighting.  I don’t find it as exciting.  I follow the Iowa Hawkeyes & watch their matches on TV whenever IPTV or BIG 10 plays them.  I go to Carver Hawkeye every once in a while.   My son Trevor married former Iowa wrestler Phil Laux’s twin sister.  So I was a big fan of his.  He’s going out to Cornell, so I guess I gotta also be a Big Red fan now too.

 

What do you think the sport of wrestling teaches someone who participates in it?

Most of all I think it teaches you mental discipline.  It also teaches you teamwork, how to work hard, train your body and weight control.  I see so many of these smaller schools have difficulty filling lineups.  I wish kids would be able to see how much wrestling would benefit them in their life.  I think if they knew a lot more kids would do it. It’s a great sport

 

When You’re not hauling the wrestlers around, what do you do these days now that you’re retired?

I spend time with my wife & my grandkids.  I also own a motorcycle and enjoy going on trips. I’ve been to Wyoming to see Yosemite and I’ve been to Sturgis about twenty times.

 

Anything You’d like to Add?

I feel very lucky that I got to be the one that drove the wrestling team around.  It’s been a very rewarding experience that I’ve enjoyed a lot.  It’s never been a job to me. I’ve enjoyed every second of it.
I also want to say that I thought about wrestling in college, but I didn’t because I didn’t figure I was good enough.  So I went to A.I.B for a year instead.  If I had it to do all over again, I would’ve picked a junior college with a wrestling team & I’ve had done it.  I loved wrestling & it’d been nice to have done it for a few more years.  If you want to wrestle in college, wrestle.  Don’t worry about if you’re not good enough.

I’m also excited about Indian Hills fielding a wrestling team next season. Kids in this area need a good junior college program they can wrestle at close to home. A lot of the kids around here from Sigourney, Tri-County, Pekin, English Valleys, ect are farm kids.  Indian Hills has an excellent agricultural program that these kids can study.  It’s awesome to know that they can now wrestle too.  Hope they take advantage of it.

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Inside the Rivalry Chapter 7, Part 5: Chris Helgeson Crashes the Collision Course and Sundell Wins His 4th

 

After the first two battles took place and ignited the wrestling world the way they did, it was only fitting that these two would have their most epic battle on the biggest stage, the state finals, with one man putting his four time state champion aspirations on the line to another man who had proven himself to be a legitimate threat. This was not only an anticipated matchup, but more or less a foregone conclusion. It was gonna happen. That is, unless, people got so caught up in the Sundell-Galanakis hype that they failed to notice another crucial piece of the 2001 1A 119 lb. puzzle. A guy with the same goals, the same determination, the same elite skill level, the same confidence as Sundell and Galanakis, but was from a very different geographical location. In fact, he may have gone unnoticed, for he made his noise on the opposite side of the state, where the discussion didn’t revolve around primarily 1A 119.

CHRIS HELGESON, LAKE MILLS: At the start of the season I just had my sights set on Sundell. I got third my junior year at 119 and was disqualified in the quarterfinals for a slam that was called illegal and the wrestler chose not to continue. The guy that won my bracket went up to 125 my senior year and I was undefeated against him in my career. I chose to stay down at 119 for my senior year because I wasn’t cutting much weight and I wanted to beat Sundell and stop him from getting his 4th. I knew Galanakis was good but didn’t start thinking about him until I heard he beat Sundell. It was a surprise because Sundell hadn’t lost in his career. After he beat him, I felt a little overlooked because everyone was expecting that match in the finals. I was pumped when the brackets came out. Sundell was on the opposite side and a potential semi with Galanakis was what I wanted. I was very confident that I could beat both. I wrestled a smart match in the semis and got an early takedown and stayed out of the positions he was good at and ultimately won the match. In the finals match, I was very confident and that was what I had envisioned all year. I started the match strong and had a lead in the second period. I made a big mistake on bottom trying an inside switch for a second time and he was waiting with his patented neck wrench and he pinned me. I wrestled hard and had a chance to win but you can’t make mistakes like that against a great wrestler. No regrets I got the shot I wanted. I was very upset after the match but I got my opportunity and revenge in a dual meet against ISU my senior year in college at UNI. This was a match that I really wanted as well.

The Lake Mills wrestling community was very confident in Chris, despite him being overlooked by many and the growing general consensus being that it was a two horse race between Galanakis and Sundell. The thinking in Northeast Iowa, especially Lake Mills was drastically different than it was across the state. They knew they had a horse in the race and they firmly believed that their horse was the future champion. And they had very good reasons for thinking this. Brad Helgeson was a very good wrestler for Lake Mills who graduated in 2001. He was a place winner for them and he and Chris are not only cousins, but great friends. He was 100% confident in Chris.

BRAD HELGESON, LAKE MILLS (Chris’s cousin, teammate and best friend): .Well I personally had no doubt that Chris was gonna beat Galanakis. In our minds, Chris was a returning state champ even though he got third the year before because of a terrible slam call in the quarterfinals. Chris was the hardest worker in the room and was very mentally tough. Our team was pretty loaded that year, so Chris had some great practice partners in the room. We had: David Back, Keith Hebrink, Myself and even our 103 pounder Jason Sprecher to name a few. Everyone in Lakes Mills knew how good Chris was and felt like he was even better than Sundell. Chris got caught in the finals and that stuff happens. Chris proved how good he was in college by being a three time national qualifier at UNI … And he won at least one match every year. He defeated Sundell when they met in college.

Mario Galanakis: Jesse and I were in the same district so obviously I knew we would be on opposite side of the bracket at state. Going into that state meet I had no doubt in my mind that we would meet up in the finals and that I was going to beat him in the third showdown. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, I was beaten by Chris Helgeson in the semis and that was probably the worst I had ever felt in my entire life after losing a match. I was so confident and sure that I was gonna win a state title that year that when I lost I remember just wanting to crawl into a hole and hibernate until the next season. Sundell went on and pinned Helgeson in the finals and captured his fourth title and I’m glad that he did! He deserved it and like I said before it was nothing personal against him. It was just two guys wanting the same thing, somebody wins and somebody loses. That’s what makes wrestling so challenging and rewarding at the same time.

Jesse Sundell: I went in, took care of business and won my fourth. . I got off to a slow start in my finals match against Helgeson, but was able to execute a move on him that I had a lot of success with called the neck-wrench and pinned him. Helgeson and I wrestled two more times after that. Later that year, I accepted the challenge of wrestling him again at the North-South All-Star Meet. I wanted to prove that my pin wasn’t a fluke. I succeeded for I pinned him again, this time with a tight-waist to a stack. To give credit where it is due, he did defeat me once in college. I was so proud to have joined a group filled with elite wrestlers as I did when I won my fourth and it is so neat when I am around the other four timers Iowa has produced. I look to all of them a lot and when they approach me and tell me they had fun watching me wrestle, it’s a funny feeling, for maybe it hasn’t hit me that I am also part of that group.

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