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When my oldest daughter Kaiya Swafford wrestled at the AAU Girls State Tournament as a 2nd grader, she ended up scoring the fastest fall of the tournament. It was the fastest out of all girls and it was tied for fastest if you include the boys. It was an 8 second pin. However, it would have been a 2 or 3 second pin if she had any other official in the world other than Steve Farrell. 😂😂😂😂😂

Big thanks to Tony Hager from iawrestle.com for granting me permission to use that.  But see! I wasn’t lying! I suppose after multiple long days of officiating a gigantic youth tournament will make a guy feel a little sluggish when it comes to ensuring that a 3 second pin is called in 3 seconds. 🙂 No need to be Usain Bolt.  

I’m kidding around, but for real, Steve Farrell was part of my family’s best overall wrestling memories just by being the appointed official for that match.  Kaiya was beyond excited and still talks about that match to this day.  

I’ve known Steve forever, it seems like. He was in my grade…Class of 2001. I have no idea how I met him or where, but it seemed like we ran into him a lot, which was odd considering he was from the Waterloo region, which is nowhere near tropical Southeast Iowa where I am from. Ran into him in college a lot as well with him reppin’ Upper Iowa and me being a Loras Duhawk… And now he’s reffing my daughter’s and nephew’s matches. I can’t get away from this guy! And I’m 100% cool with that.

Every time I’ve been around Steve, he’s making people laugh. Always making me laugh, anyways, which I don’t know if that’s something to be proud of or not considering how zany my sense of humor tends to be. But yeah, I always liked him. I don’t recall meeting anyone who didn’t. From his days of reppin’ the Wahawk Club til’ now in which he represents the Zebra Club (with his speed to get down and look for a fall, it’s more like a Zebra-Sloth Hybrid Club)… He’s always been a fun presence to have around the Iowa wrestling scene. Very kind-hearted individual, too. He’s offered to assist or help  me with a few things over the years without me even asking and it has meant a lot to me. 

And on top of all this, I have been very impressed the last couple years with a few of his wrestlers that he coaches. I did the rankings for 3A a couple years and followed it closely. They are in good hands at Waterloo West!

 

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

I started wrestling in 1st grade at the YMCA in Waterloo. Then wrestled at the Wahawk Club at Waterloo West HS from 3rd-8th grades. I went to Cedar Falls HS and Wrestled 4 years at Upper Iowa.

 

What year did you graduate?

2001 HS 2006 College

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My Dad and brothers.

 

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

Dad state qualifier 1965 for Charles City HS in Iowa Brother Jim 2nd at state 1998 HWT.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

AAU state qualifier 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th grades. AAU state placer 6th grade. 7th place 105 pounds. 8th grade 3rd place 135 pounds.

 

What was your record in HS?

99 wins and a lot of losses.

 

How did you place at state every year?

Jr year state qualifier hwt, Sr year 6th place 215.

 

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

My sophomore year of HS I was hospitalized, gained a bunch of weight. I wrestled 140 as a freshman then 160/170 as a sophomore, junior HWT and Senior 215. I always wrestled like an upper weight so it worked out fine. My Freshman year of college my brother passed away and it was tough for me to return to college, but I did and I continued to wrestle.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I am a holding position aka stalling Okie State style.

 

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

Adam Welbes from Hempstead.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I was blessed with a lot of great coaches. Jim Trainer, Greg Haslor, Jeff Gard, Jay Lewellen, Gene Doyle, Heath Grimm and Ken Gallagher.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Freshman year of HS in 1998 we were state champions. Freshman year of college 2002 Upper Iowa D3 National Runner-ups.

 

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

Ray Brinzer

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Dan Gable

 

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

I am a poor’s man Okie State wrestler that stalled a lot.

 

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

Mark Ironside vs Brent Metcalf

 

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

Paulson Twins

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Austin Desanto

 

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

None

 

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

Freshman year wrestle back at districts in overtime.

 

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

Have more offense!

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Placing at state senior year and senior of college winning my last college match at UIU.

 

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

Akeem Carter and Mike Engelman.

 

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

I wrestled freestyle freshman-senior in hs. During The summer of my senior year I went to a lot of camps.

 

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

Psh! Of Course beat them 3-2!

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes at Upper Iowa.

 

What other sports did you play?

Football, Track, Baseball and Soccer growing up.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Cubs, Washington Football Team.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Hanging out with my beautiful wife and playing with my son!

 

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

I love it! I spend a good amount of time helping the little kids programs and setting up camps and tournaments.

 

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

Wrestling has made me a better man. I have learned a lot of life lessons through wrestling and have had some great coaches help shape who I am today.

 

What do you do now?

Teacher and Coach at Waterloo Community Schools.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I am the head coach at Waterloo West HS and I am Co-Owner of ISI Team Camps.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

School first, athlete second. Respect all and fear none.

 

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

I have lost 60lbs, but my wife said not unless there is a paramedic or AED on site. She refuses to feel sorry for me if I cannot move or break something.

 

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

I would like to give a shout out to Joel Allen. Baldy to the head table.

 

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

\When I lost my wrestle back freshman year, my whole team and family left me at Waterloo West where I currently coach. I had to use the pay phone to get a ride home. Moral of the story, Win.

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2X state champion from Anamosa and UNI All-American, Moza Fay left an interesting comment somewhere that I use all the time now. He wrote that in wrestling, the line that separates things always tends to be razor-thin. He made this comment in a discussion where people were comparing and contrasting a few placers with state champions and was basically his way of saying that there is not a huge difference between your average state placer and your 3-4 time state champions. The line that separates these guys in terms of talent is razor thin, closer than you would expect them to be.

I think this can apply to several different scenarios in wrestling. This includes a wrestler’s reputation and legacy. In other words, sometimes in wrestling, the circumstances and sequence of events will align in a manner where a guy can go from the “good guy” to the villain… just like that… And wrestling is such an emotional sport, it’s not fair that people can be judged or remembered in that  manner. There is no better example of this than with North Scott’s 2X state champion, Wyatt Wriedt. 

I am not going to beat an already beaten dead horse by going into one of his matches that he will always exclusively be remembered for by some, but I’ll say this: 1.) Yes, he was one of the combatants in a highly publicized, controversial match in which he was the victor. 2.) Yes he did react to the win in a manner which upset people considering the outcome and he was villainized big time because of it when the media got ahold of it, but give the kid a break… His adrenaline was likely through the roof when it went down and that happens to the best of us… People have moments where they react to something in a manner in which they later regret. I’ve had hundreds… Wyatt had a moment there. 3.) As soon as this situation and the coverage went viral, people forgot all the positive things Wyatt accomplished to that point and it’s not fair. There were no winners in this situation and this includes Wyatt Wriedt along with North Scott wrestling given the way the situation was covered and how the fans responded. 4.) I watched the footage of the full match last week and noticed that watching it this way, it’s obvious that Wyatt’s behavior was not as bad as it was portrayed on that video that went viral. Yes, the “broken” hand gesture was bad timing, but it happened a lot faster and the sequence of events was different than depicted in that film. I will say with 💯 confidence, that the video that went viral was edited in a manner that portrayed a clear-cut “good guy vs. bad guy.” It is obvious to me that the “good guy vs. villain” narrative was part of the intentions of whoever put this together and it affected the way people perceive Wriedt and North Scott and that was wrong for them to that. These kids were in high school.

It’s amazing that a high school kid who was the “feel-good, Cinderella Story” of the state tournament just a short year before could be so universally villainized by a large percentage of the wrestling community as he was.  Wriedt pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the tournament the year before when he defeated nationally ranked, Ethan Anderson of SE Polk. 12-10 in the finals.  Anderson was a state champion as a Sophomore and Junior, which is crazy-impressive for an upper-weight and was a Folkstyle National Champion as well as Pan-Am Bronze medalist.  Most people predicted him to walk through that tournament unscathed, but Wyatt Wriedt put an end to that narrative when he beat him.  Wriedt also defeated Lombardi in the semifinals that year. Lombardi and Anderson both defeated Wriedt handily on multiple occasions coming into the tournament, so this was a definite “feel-good” story of the tournament.  Couldn’t write it any better. The type of thing that inspires hope for other wrestlers who may need to defeat the odds in order to accomplish their goals.  Wyatt Wriedt’s celebration and smile after winning that match warmed the hearts of 90% of the fans in attendance that year. However, what Moza Fay mentioned in terms of the line that separates things in wrestling being “razor thin” in wrestling was on full display in the aftermath following his finals match vs. Rocky Lombardi the next year. The wrestling community was way to eager to transform him from “The Cinderella Champion” to “The Wicked Step-Mother” and it wasn’t cool at all, to be honest. 

You all can remember Wyatt Wriedt however you want to, but I am going to choose to remember who for who he is.  He is one of the best upperweight wrestlers to ever hit the Iowa HS wrestling scene in the 2010’s. He was a fun wrestler to watch. He was an upperweight, yet the way he moved around on the mat as well as the technique in his arsenal was more consistent with something you would see from a 152 lber.  An incredibly athletic individual. If he were to have the frame he does now, but were maybe 2-3 inches taller, he’d likely be a D1 standout in football right now.  He had a blast-double from the feet that sent plenty of big guys’ feet airborne the moment he made contact and had an array of pinning combinations that he would systematically utilize from the top position. And he has a seemingly endless motor and is one of the best wrestlers I’ve seen in a long time in terms of capitalizing on positive momentum when it’s there. If he gets on a roll where he starts scoring, good luck stopping him, for it seems like with every point he racks up, it adds fuel to his fire and he is quite capable of tacking on a ton of points before the other guy even knows what hits him.

I feel obligated to make it right for Wyatt Wriedt and North Scott wrestling. Not to mention, the “D3/D2/NAIA Weighs-In” series is something I’d like to do more of. Wyatt Wriedt is currently at D3 current powerhouse, Loras College where he is under the tutelage of “legend in the making” head wrestling coach, TJ Miller and the rest of the incredible Loras staff they have in place. As a former Duhawk myself, it is a very cool thing to see that the reigns were handed from a great coach who I have the utmost respect for in Randy Steward to someone like TJ who will continue to keep Loras Wrestling on the map as one of the top D3 wrestling teams of the present and foreseeable future. 

 

Here is a reel I put together for Wyatt. He chose the song, “Sweet Caroline,” and it worked PERFECTLY. 

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My father back in kindergarten.

 

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

No

 

How proud are you of your North Scott roots?

Words can not describe how proud I am and will always be say I am from North Scott.

 

How would you describe your coaches at North Scott? How much of an impact have they had in your life?

Coach Kelly and Ambrose are two of the best coaches I have ever had and it goes deeper then just wrestling,

but outside of wrestling. They helped coach me through life. They showed me what hard work really is and how much you can push yourself. Also Coach Denison, Coach Kriter and Dan Mashek were great. Like, come on name a better staff!

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Only placed and kids state like 2 times.

 

What was your record in HS?

No clue.

 

How did you place at state every year?

3rd sophomore
1st junior
1st senior

 

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

The hardest challenge so far has been tearing my knee up and taking so much time off the sport and trying to find my “old Wyatt wrestling style” and it has been hard for me. Confidence is key in wrestling and when you don’t go out on the mat with that, 9 times outta ten you won’t win. Still a work in progress.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

My two biggest influential coaches would be Dom Bradley and Brodie Ambrose.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

North Scott always placed top 10 at state. Loras is arguably the best d3 college in the nation so I’d say yes.

 

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

I’d probably have to say Gwiz.

 

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

That’s a hard question to answer because when I go wrestle I don’t leave anything on the mat so if I lose, I find the positives out of the match and then also work to fix the mistakes, but off the top of my head probably last year at regionals against Duncan Lee.

 

How do you feel your skills have changed since going to Nebraska and Loras?

My endurance and ability to move and scrambling ability has gotten much much better.

 

How are you liking Dubuque?

Dubuque is amazing the views here are incredible. You can drive 5 minutes outside town and your in the country or on the river and it’s also hour away from our family farm so that is nice to be able to go home a lot more.

 

Does D3, D2, NAIA, etc. have potential to grow the fan base?

The fan base at the division 3 level is still crazy and I think after Covid ends the fan base will grown for everyone.

 

Who was the fiercest competitors you have faced at the D3 level?

My wrestling partners.

 

Do you feel some D3 guys can compete at the D1 level?

Absolutely, I believe so.

 

Where was your best performance this year?

I would have to say last year at regionals beating the number 2 ranked kid in the nation.

 

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

Out of all my wins and losses in my wrestling career the one thing I would go back and change everything with is how I acted after the whistle blew in my state finals match against Rocky Lombardi. I watch that match every once in a while and get sick to stomach when I see how I acted.

 

Do you see yourself coaching someday?

I would very much like too.

 

What is your best wrestling memory/accomplishment? How hard did you work?

My best memory so far is beating Wartburg last year at Wartburg for the first time ever so that was awesome and the family I have made at Loras is one of a kind and I will never forget them. We as a team worked harder than we ever had before to accomplish that.

 

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

Seasonal I played football and also ran track. I ran in the 4×100 4×200 and 110 hurdles.

 

What other sports did you play?

First off I’d say I’m basically an amateur golfer, but also track, wrestling, football and also basketball in junior high.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Oklahoma Sooners

 

What are your hobbies?

Love to hunt and be on the farm.I also just got a new puppy…a black lab named Beaux.

 

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

Wrestling has shown me how much you can do if you one believe in yourself and push yourself past that mental wall. It has also shown me how to be a better leader on and off the mat shown how to show respect to Someone even if I don’t like them, shown me that no matter how hard you try and fight you will fail sometimes, but you can get right back up and do it over.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

My advice for any upcoming wrestler would be:

1.) GET YOUR SCHOOL WORK DONE!! I wish I would have done this one better.

2.) You need to have a purpose in your life. This needs to take place when you drill, when you compete, in school, etc.

3.) You need to be thankful for what you have in life and don’t waste the limited time you have.

 

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

This past year I lost my best friend Christian Miller. He was in a car accident in November. Chris was a 4 time state champ from Nebraska and my best friend, along with Mac Hughes. Shout out to him!

 

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

I wanna thank Rico for giving me this opportunity.

 

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Additional Intros by Athletes He Coached: Justin Portillo and Tanner Abbas of Clarion Goldfield Dows

 

 

Justin Portillo of Clarion-Goldfield-Dows/Grand View:

Dan Gabrielson. Coach. Doctor. Father and friend. A true hero to many. An underdog. A history maker. Many remember Dan Gabrielson for one reason and one reason only. But there is a lot more to the man than his most iconic 6 minutes on the mat.

 

Tanner Abbas: Clarion-Goldfield-Dows/Grand View

I started wrestling around 7th grade and Dan Gabrielson had already started the Team Valley Wrestling Club in my hometown of Clarion, Iowa. Dan has always been passionate about wrestling and has always made it a priority of his. What he did for the community, Clarion, and Northern Iowa is incredible and provided me and so many others with an awesome training opportunity by bringing in Carl Valley. Right off of the bat, I had an awesome coaching staff in Dan, Kurt Morgan, Kyle Ruiter, Jordon McLaughlin and Carl as my club coach. Dan kind of steered me towards wrestling in the first place considering my younger brother, Reed had always been pretty good growing up. He definitely had an impact on me before I even got onto the high school scene. I was excited to get into the high school room watching guys like Joel and Jake Haberman, Brady Brott, Taylor Lehman, Matt Odland, and many others scrap really hard and wrestle at a high level. As soon as I got into high school, Dan took me under his wing right away, and he was extremely tough on me the first two years in high school. He definitely helped shapes me into the person I am now from the soft kid I was at the beginning. The way he approached being tough and facing challenges head on was admirable. I frequently remember him and Coach Morgan talking about dual strategies as almost a science.They had every scenario played out in their heads and had guys move up and down the lineup to give ourselves the best chance and we always were in every dual because of this. Not only that, but dan helped create a championship culture within Clarion Wrestling had high expectations each year. He wanted to win badly and I loved that. As I got into my junior and senior year we developed an even better relationship and I got to know him on a level outside of just wrestling. He knew exactly what I needed in matches, told me what I needed to hear, and knew how to coach me. Even after high school he stayed in touch and even guided me towards Grand View. He said that it was a perfect fit for who I was and would allow me to become much much better. He still messaged me after duals or tournaments and he usually follows a long with most of the competitions. Word on the street is that this is his last year being in his prime so he’s training for a match with me at Christmas break or something so we’ll see how that goes 😉. Dan has done so much for the city of clarion and wrestling as a sport in general!

 

Joshua Swafford (PinDox Owner/Creator): 

Last year when I was on the fence about starting a new wrestling website, it was a conversation I had with Dan that officially inspired me to pull the trigger and go forward with it. The first step was naming the site, which for an over analytical person like myself, this was a long, grueling, tumultuous process. I eventually got down to roughly 10 names for the site down from a couple hundred…no joke. I jotted The Pin Doctors down, for I was a huge fan of the band, Spin Doctors as a kid and used to listen to them before wrestling matches. The deciding factor in choosing the name “The Pin Doctors” out of the remaining names was when I thought of what Dan told me before I decided to start the site. He had 100% confidence in my ability to pull it off and I could tell. To be honest, when I brought up the idea of starting a new site, there weren’t many people in my immediate circle who were very supportive of the idea. Most people basically talked about it as if it’d be a waste of time and something I wouldn’t follow through with. Dan was one of the very select few who supported the idea and thought I could do it. Without his words of encouragement, who knows if I ever would have started the site… At that moment, it hit me… The Pin Doctors was the perfect name for the site, for it pays homage to my favorite band as a kid AND the man who inspired me to start it…Dr. Dan Gabrielson… This site was inspired and loosely named after him and I’ve never told anyone except the Portillo twins about that. He has been very, very good to my family. Big thanks,  Dan.  Also, it impresses me how polite, professional, classy, well-mannered and intelligent EVERY single kid I’ve ever met who has been coached by him turns out to be. Tanner Abbas, Joshua and Justin Portillo, Spencer Trenary,etc. They are all very impressive human beings and it says a lot that Dan has had the influence he has had on them.

 

 

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

Belmond kids program, Belmond Klemme high, Central college.

 

What year did you graduate?

1993

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

I grew up next to the Yoder family.  John was head wrestling coach at Belmond and they are like my second family.  My dad wrestled in high school (coached by Don Jones).  My moms family is Kinseth, Bruce is her first cousin.   So when you find out that your cousin is Bruce Kinseth and he was a D 1 champ at Iowa pinning his way through big tens and nationals….and maybe Olympics talk?!?  Well….I just figured I should do this!!  Cory and Colby Yoder were my first partners and I started when Bruce was finishing up….maybe 1980. 5 or 6 years old

 

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

I just mentioned Bruce Kinseth national champ and state champ.  My late father, Mack Gabrielson was 18-3 his senior year but didn’t make it to state.  My nephews, the Tenold twins look just like him and built like him as well.  Carson (2, 2) and Cade Tenold (4, 2).  My step brother Jay Lefevre and his son Tyler.  And then my youngest son Bradan was a 2x SPW champ, IA FS champ and multi-national placer as a youth.  He is in 10th grade but put the shoes up after 8th grade.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I wrestled 8th grade year at AAU and was 5th at 95 pounds.  Corey Kammerer beat me in semis and won it.  2nd place was Paul Peterson who I beat 3 or 4 times as a youth from cedar rapids Prairie.  Not many opportunities to wrestle bigger tourneys.  I lost to Chad Kraft in emmetsburg tourney.  Beat Will Smith who was known to be the stud in our area in 8th grade and I didn’t lose in junior high.  MY biggest rival was 2 years behind me and he almost never lost to anyone…I think he won about 200 straight.   IT  WAS My training partner and best buddy, Colby Yoder.  He won AAU in 8th grade and was 5th as a 6th grader losing to Jeff McGinness, 3- 0 in semis.  Jeff won it the next year in high school and of course made history after that.  But little colby, 2 grades behind, gave him a tussle!!  I never lost to colby in our matches but I am certain it was the older brother mentality.  He gave me plenty of fits in the room and as an 8th grader was better than any kid I wrestled my 10th grade year…..by the way I placed 4th.

 

What was your record in HS?

124-17  losses  10, 4, 3, and 0

 

How did you place at state every year?

SQ, 4th, 2nd, 1st

 

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

1. Weight cutting in college became a bit legendary.  126 was a bit tough at 6 feet. Not sure how I made weight my freshman year at nationals but I owe alot of people.  Made it and won in the semis to become a national runner up, as a skinny immature 18 year old.

2. I think most people would want to know about the challenge to beat Ike Light.  We were at the same weight all 4 years.  But I will be honest it really wasn’t even on my radar until he beat me my junior year in the finals.  I was just trying to win a title and help our team be better!  I will discuss some of the Light stuff a little later, but I really had a lot of respect for what Lisbon was doing at the time.  Losing my 10th grade year in the semis changed me forever, which I will describe in a bit as well.

3. The biggest hurdle that I have dealt with in all of my years with wrestling is my home town high school, Belmond-Klemme.   It was both heart breaking and emotional for me.  I started coaching Clarion in 2008 because Kurt Morgan asked me to be the head assistant and I just built a house in between Belmond and Clarion.  It is in the BK district.   It now is one of the worst decisions I have made.  We go on to have some pretty good success coaching CGD.  Multiple attempts to have them share with us were met with angry, bitter outbursts.   I had my son coming up and they knew that.  Our club trained many of their kids for years for free.   I personally invested many nights with these kids. Their most recent teams were in shambles.  And to this day I can not think of anything I ever did to one person in that town?  Of course saying that, will be met with, “we dont like him…..” and why? Because our team destroyed you, because we won, because you are jealous?? It will always boggle my mind that your last two state champions, myself and Jordan McLaughlin, would be cast aside like enemies of the state because we wanted to help.  OH, And by the way, coach my son!!  Like it was such an awful thing to do.  So, my son, didn’t want to transfer before high school.  He wrote a letter to the superintendent and school board and said he would not wrestle if we did not share.  There is literally like 10 kids that are out and very few that have any real wrestling background.  I told him I would quit coaching and, he is very mature…..he said, “dad you love it more than me. I had fun and great success as a little guy but it hasn’t got me excited for quite awhile.” To clarify, my ex-wife also lives in and works for BK district.  Its behind us and Bradan is doing awesome and is smart as a whip!!!

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Great on the mat!!  Always was a work in progress on my feet.  But #1 was being in great shape, better as the match went on!!

 

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

I wrestled Jeff Pederson from lake mills 8 times my 9th and 10th grade.  Was 3 and 5 against him and he never made state.  He was 2 years older, super athletic but I found a way at the end of year to beat him….especially my 10th grade year.  Peter Taft was a stud.  My good friend dusty rhodes.  Both, state champs, they gave me 5 losses.  And I never beat them.  10th 4 losses (2 to Pederson, 2 at state, jamie cochran and brad Canoyer,  2 to dusty and 1 to Ike junior year.  Nobody senior year.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

John Yoder HS coach was tough as nails and a great motivator for me!! He grew up in Woolstock and went to Eagle Grove where his best friend was Marv Reiland and also Denny Christiansen.  Of course the wrestling world knows their sons Mark and Jason as ICW and SEP Hall of fame coaches.  I remember Mark coming in our room and helping.  Jason went to Central a few years ahead of me but we were both coached by….Kevin Azinger.   He was an absolute stud, technically.  Knows the sport very well and I improved on my feet with his help.  Both John and Kevin are still very active in my life and I speak to them often.  I had some good assistants, Mike Sinwell, Joel Griner, Ed Severson and Kevin Braner in high school and Matt Diehl in college.  Grew up going to Al Baxter camps!! Great man!!

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

High school teams were Belmond’s best dual teams by far.  10th and 12th grades made regional duals.  Senior year lost to Rock Valley in a heart breaker.  Only 4 teams made it back then so technically we were top 8.  My junior year we had our best team but a returning place winner and senior HWT had season ending injuries.  We easily beat West Hancock in a dual, but they had some great individuals and beat us at sectionals.  Eagle Grove won the dual title that year.  They beat Lisbon and I would’ve liked to see us wrestle both in duals that year.  We were very balanced. College years we had some really decent kids.  We were 3rd in conference and had guys like Brian Reece, Lance Eidem, Brent Dunlap, Perry Numendahl, Brent Lawrenson, Chad Jensen, Jason Coy, Darren Glenn, and other quality wrestlers.  We really missed out on some good recruits because the college was going a different way in those years.  Wartburg was just starting to be dominant and Central was the last team to win conference.

 

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

Belmond guys were Mike Shimp, Shane Baum, and Cory Yoder.  Mike won a title in 9th grade and was a hammer.  He went 2nd and 3rd his last two years losing to paul kreimier and Greg Randall.  Shane was 2nd and 3rd 11th and 10th and top guy his senior year, but was beat at districts and it was the most devastating thing I witnessed.  He went on to san Jose state and was looking to do great things at 167 and they dropped the program.  He and I reconnected and I am part owner in his very successful eye wear business, Baumvision.  We produce leisure society frames and also distribute TOMS frames.   Cory is like a brother to me and placed 5th and 3rd.  I really loved the Steiner Brothers and other Hawks!!

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

I think the most college ready, world ready guy was Jeff McGinness!!  I mean he trained with the Hawkeyes….won everything and was my grade and same weights….so of course I am biased.  I really think its hard to say that the smaller guys are the GOATs…..I mean in boxing the hwt champs are the greatest ever.  ALI, TYSON,etc.  My nephews are always ranked (grade rankings) behind some of the smaller guys and I am not sure how.  Carson went 2nd and 2nd at 160 and 170 as a 9th and 10th grader and Cade 4th and 2nd.  Honestly, it doesn’t make a lot sense.  3x champs Austin Blythe, Brian Moretz, Sindlinger, and some other big cats would smash the smaller dudes!!

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Of course, all my current kids I coach at CGD. My nephews at bosco.  And then guys scrapping at the college level that I have rolled with… Tanner Abbas, Spencer trenary, Portillo twins, Teske, Lara, Leisure, Sam Cool, Drew Bennett, Slade, Moose, and all our Team Valley club kids!!

 

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

Whatever the other guys wanted

 

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

Without question was my 10th grade year in the semis.  Jamie Cochrane is a great guy and his son won the title not too long ago and I had a chance to congratulate him right after!!  But that night I was up 5 to 3 with short time and was wrestling a pretty smart match.  John Monroe was the ref and I tend to shoot like 50 times a match.  He was notorious for calling stalling especially against the guy that was WINNING and also in tight matches.  I shot a single and got dinged with 20 seconds left.  How in the world could you call stalling on the guy that shoots?  Then I shoot again and with no time left Jamie jumps around to try and hook an ankle which he really didn’t and I kind of kelly through and he got 2 points and I lost 6 to 5.  THE only match of my entire career that I have ever said I “should of won” or “got screwed”.  It motivated me like nothing else ever had before.  I have watched alot of old matches that you have posted and am still struck by how John Monroe could be that ridiculous with stalling when a guy was behind and a few others use to do that as well.  Glad things have mostly changed for the better.

 

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

Winning that semis match!!  Other than that I got out of it what I put into it and would not change much of anything!!

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Without question winning the state title.  It’s such an emotional relief and satisfaction.  Let’s be honest, most of wrestling and sports end with a loss.  I am happy to have ended my high school and college careers with wins.  My sophomore year at Central I was 5th and had a nagging shoulder, but zinger talked me into competing and I am glad he did as I won that match.  It would be my last competition.

 

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

High School: Ike Light, Dusty Rhodes, brad Canoyer, Peter Taft, chris Jones, Jeff Pederson, Jamie Cochrane, Frank Kisley, Mickey Yilek

College:  Jesse Armbruster, Dusty Rhodes, Scott Steffal, Chris Ristau, Raphael Wilson(best i ever touched),  Kurt Schneck  Nate Skaar

 

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

Mostly seasonal but did more year round the last couple of years.

 

Elephant in the room… To this day, how often are you asked about your semifinal match from your Senior year?

Often I am asked about the Light match our senior year.  It has faded a touch, but came up again this past year after Aidan Noonan beat Adam Allard.  Crazy thing was that I went matside to watch my nephews and was sitting by Rhanavardi’s dad and I look behind me and the Noonan stud is right there.  I took a picture and I am sure he was thinking, “this CGD coach was a good wrestler?”  He probably had no idea that for the past 27 years I was essentially defined as the “ONE” that stopped a guy during his last try at winning 4x.  As Ike responded, I too kind of felt a relief for both of us.  I am sure he was tired of it and to be honest I sometimes was irritated that so many felt that it was some crazy upset.  I was ahead, the year before, most of the match.  I went on to be a national D3 runner up as a true 18 year old freshman backed it up the next year by jumping a weight and placing 5th, losing a close one in the semis to the national champ.  So, it wasn’t like I was some chump that tossed him and got a little lucky.  Ike, was very slick and and hard to wrestle, but I think I was too.  We both handled all the strong kids pretty easily.  Did I have a little luck in beating him?? Maybe… but it wasn’t controversial. I was down 2 and body locked him to his back for 5 with 20 seconds left.  So as much as he got irritated with all the interview requests, I was understandably beaten down hearing that it shouldn’t have happened.  I was pretty close to winning 3 titles…that 10th grade semis loss would of given me a good chance that year against him and I was very big at 112.  I honestly hope the talk of it…is now just historical and over.  I have nothing but respect for Lisbon, the lights, and how they competed.

 

How long have you been coaching? How would you compare and contrast how it feels being on the mat and being matside?

This will be my 4th year as head coach for Clarion Goldfield Dows.  I was head assistant, with Kurt Morgan, the 9 years prior.

This is my favorite question.  I certainly had zero plans to ever coach…but I always said if someone asked it would be hard to say no.  Kurt asked, and I really jumped all in.  I get more into the kids success then I ever did my own.  Its easy to control yourself.  But coaching and getting kids to believe that they can be better then they think is a real challenge!!   When I won, or had success, it seemed more of a relief and that the next step was to do it again.  I don’t know if wrestlers always appreciate some of the moments, hence giving us such crazy disgust when we lose, or don’t achieve what we believe we can.  Heck, all wrestlers eventually quit.  You look at like a Terry Brands and his awesome accomplishments, but when Kendall Cross beat him he literally about jumped off the train.  Maybe not literally, but we all know the story.  I try not to live life with these life and death momemts…its not healthy.

So, coaching… What coaching does for me is give me moments of deep emotions and tears of what a kid may have done.  Not just our state champion teams, or kids, but every little thing.  We had a heavyweight that started one year for us in 2016. We jumped to 2a that year and nobody thought we had a chance at the dual title.  This kid worked his tail off and when you looked at him…I am sure people said, “omg this kid will fall over,etc.”  We have a semis meet against #1 New Hampton and Nick Heman puts out a great kid who was coming back from knee injury.  I am certain everyone thought this wasn’t going to be close.  You know what? That kid won 1 to 0 and we won that meet!! He didn’t wrestle varsity his senior year as we had a pretty good kid named Spencer Trenary, but when I spoke about him at our year end banquet my tears were real and that kid may have proved to me more than anyone that sometimes the very little “wins” are the best!!!!

I have toned down some of my craziness since the 2012 stud team lost first round at duals.  I think We are the only number 1 seed to ever lose first round.  Horrible coaching mistakes and we were very willing to take THE blame….and then things just kept getting better!!  We now have a program that is highly competitive, year in and year out, and the kids understand where I stand so my loud angry moments are much less.  Although, not completely gone!!

 

What are some success stories from coaching that have brought you the most joy?

See above….too many more to tell but here is a few.

1. You can’t talk about success without the highest achievements.  Winning back to back dual titles in 2014 and 2015 confirmed all the work!! We had kids that would not give in, whether it was not getting pinned, or giving up a major, or getting the bonus points.  They just wanted to do it as a team!! Beating my good friends at Don Bosco both those years and at a dual in 2012, in Gilbertville, helped our kids believe, and got the kids thinking. “why not us?!”  Those two titles came with quite the hatred as the Portillo twins moved to town in December of 2013.  Guess what?  7 years later Gino Portillo is still living in Clarion.  Thinking back to all the mean things said, death threats (likely from a crazy kid), Pocahontas mom accosting me at districts, Belmond coach(Tony Andrews) throwing a water bottle at Josh [the St. Edmond kid beat your child, not Josh], Ray Fox and Schares saying and doing some childish things (although I still love Ray!!), Lake Mills assistant berating us without putting his name to things, Williams’ dad from Lisbon completely being inappropriate, North Central Conference coaches completely losing their minds, and culminating into a couple state investigations I would say our team handled things pretty well!! Lol  Through it all nobody heard from me until now….the thing is they moved here, they still live here, I didn’t buy them a house (only did that for my ex wife and my current wife), and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to help change those kids lives!!!

(Editor’s Note: I think Dan was being nice to me by not mentioning my name since I run the site and he and I have talked things out and what-not, but I won’t let myself off that easy. Not when I know dang well that I was more asinine than anyone on the forums in that situation. Mepo had a stacked team and I was so salty that CGD had something that had potential to (and did) beat us if we were to meet up. I publicly, vocally and actively rooted against every one of their guys at the time and for putrid reasons. 3 people from CGD were hurt as a result of my ignorance and hypocrisy and all 3 of these people have ironically helped me out a ton with this site. I have regretted this deeply since and it was a valuable lesson I learned… Don’t say mean things about anyone… especially if it’s someone you haven’t met. You never know what kind of damage your words can do to someone and if you have a conscience, you’ll regret it.just thinking that).

2. The Portillos were not shoe ins to win titles.  Justin wasn’t on varsity in Ohio and was the main reason they were wanting to leave.  Josh did not make it to state as a 9th grader.   They were definitely awesome but the combination of Carl Valley, kurt, myself, our other club kids from dirty dodge and the clear lake trio and are own kids in the room….Haberman, Brott, Lehman, Abbas, as well as a better living environment enabled the success!!  Josh beat 2 kids that could of been 4x champs, West and Blockhus and Williams who could have won 3.  Justin won his second title on a torn MCL during the semis.  They are unbelievable students, great humans, and likely to finish their careers as 4x AAs.  I could not be prouder of them and our relationships!!

3.  Joel Haberman’s state title win, stopping Hunter Washburn from winning his 3rd title, was one of our greatest coaching moments!!  Joel was an incredible athlete who didn’t place in AAU, not even close, he was a 4x SQ placing, 2nd his junior year, champ as a senior and a 4x NCC champ.  He was ornery and hated losing. His senior year he thought he was going to dominate at 152(lol)!.  Kurt and I slowly put the coaching moves on over the year.   First getting him to 138 and then realizing that Happel was going to 138.  It mostly left that weight open and we thought our freshman kid, Tanner abbas could place.  He did, 4th.  So we switched it up and convinced Joel to go to 132.  He lost twice in the duals the day before and was not happy, even though we won the title.  So, he goes and beats studs in the quarters and semis.  Kurt was great at breaking down tape.  We convinced Joel to wrestle super strategic.  Washburn appeared to never take a shot if his left hand wasn’t free.  And we kind of always had Alburnett’s number in duals…..other than 2013.  I think we were like 4-1 against them.  We always knew they had super studs but always were the bully type wrestlers.  Come out hard as hell. Try and bulldog/cowcatcher/strangle you to death.  That can get you very tired!!!  If you remember the match….the key was us getting out early when we went down.  Not giving up late period scores.  And then OT we hit a perfect back door leg pass when Hunter was tired.  I am not sure if we wrestled him 20 times we could beat him more than once….but that was big time coaching, listening, and competing!!   STATE CHAMP!!

4. Spencer Trenary….6 foot 6, 275 pounds wrestled only year round and one of our early Team Valley club kids with a 33 ACT and a 4.0 student!!  Really a coache’s dream!!  Pinned his way to the title his senior year!!  I could go on and on with so many kids and other success stories, but I thought the state champs need to be told!!

 

At what age did you decide you wanted to become a doctor? How much did your experience in wrestling prepare you for med school?

6th grade I knew I wanted to be a doctor.  When working 100 hours per week, or staying up 36 straight, I would often joke to my fellow OBGYN residents, “try doing it not eating!!”  Enough said.

 

Do your nephews, Carson and Cade Tenold remind you of yourself at all when they wrestle?

They talk like me and ask lots of questions.  They look like my dad and get their size from both their dad and my dad(their grandpa).  We trained them to wrestle like little guys and coach carl Valley had them very prepared!!  The Bosco guys like Bart Reiter and Welter’s have really polished it up!!  They think they can beat anybody and keep wrestling always which is very similar to me!

 

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

Guys now are so much technically better, but definitely not as tough!!!!

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Central College. 2nd as freshman and 5th as sophomore…those were the only two years I wrestled for I went to medical school early.

 

What other sports did you play?

Golf, football, baseball.

What are your favorite sports teams?

Chicago Cubs….was at game 7 when they won the world series!!

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Water skiing, snow skiing, golf too much, and entrepreneurship ventures!!

 

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

For some time, after the Portillo’s came into town, I wondered, “why are there so many mean people in this sport?” It took a little time for me to appreciate that I started a wrestling club, coached for 13 years, donated over a million dollars to the sport I love….I then came to the conclusion I don’t really give a damn about the hurtful things because very few people would of given so much of their time, resources, and energy to make wrestling better and for the kids to have greater opportunities!!  Its really that simple!!

 

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

If you have read my long winded answers it should be obvious!!!

 

What do you do now?

I am an OBGYN and own the Gabrielson Clinic for Women at multiple locations in North Central Iowa.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Head coach CGD, founder of Team Valley wrestling club and will always be a fan.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

You can be a part of it whether you make the Olympics or wrestle a few years as a youth!!  Try it out!!

 

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

I may have done this in my early coaching years!!  I pounded all of our CGD and club guys, but Sam Cook got the best of me and I didn’t try and wrestle Big Spencer in a match his senior year.  I think those days are done.

 

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

I hope that Ike Light can be at peace.  It was a bit unfair that everyone was cheering against him and the main reason, I believe, was Lisbon’s success.  I know in my years coaching we have definitely had a fan base loving to see us lose.  Its part of all sports.  Maybe he can now appreciate that my only desire was to win a title too!!

Shout out to some of  my kids that came from zero wrestling background to big time!! Dillon Anderson 7th in state(didn’t hardly win a match as a kid), Brady Brott state runner-up, 4th and cried after many matches in junior high, Taylor Lehman 3rd and 5th did everything to get better, Tanner Abbas (his title will come), Caleb Hanson, I should never have kicked you out of practice.

Please, fellow coaches, vote the best coaches even if you don’t like them.  Kurt Morgan should have been coach of the year as well as Gary Weber and Pete Bush.  Those are just 3 that come to mind.  Its not a popularity contest….for those 3 and many others not to win coach of the year is absurd!!

Thanks to Kurt Morgan for getting me coaching and all of our late night strategy/recruiting (lol) sessions!!  Shout out to Carl Valley for his friendship and truly teaching kids how to wrestle!

Thanks to the Yoder family and my own family, especially my talented son, Bradan!!

 

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

I want to apologize for these long answers, but it was the first and likely the last time you will get any response.  Since so much was said about me on The Predicament Boards in the past and Swafford goes on and on about Mediapolis and his brothers, I thought I should join the fun and put in a little extra!!!  Haha

Finally, I want the younger generations to understand a little about where this all started.  Although Don Bosco and Lisbon have had great success they are relatively babies to the sport.  As well as SEP, Waverly, West Delaware and IC West.  Add in Rico’s Mediapolis and mostly all the corners of Iowa and wrestling in the above places is kind of new.  Why do I say that?? The 1970s or even into the 1980s seems forever ago, but back 50 to 60 years before that the sport really began.  It was Humboldt’s Big Frank followed by the great programs in North Central Iowa that really got this going.  Clarion hosted the state tourney for 5 years before WW2.  You have the Fort Dodge, Waterloos, Eagle Grove, Britt, Algona, Osage, Clarion, Humboldt, etc. teams that really started the sport of Wrestling!!  I bring this up so that each of us does not forget the historical perspective of where it really began and the foremost Clarion historical writer, the late Dan McCool!!!   Thanks to all who help make the sport so very special!!!  Wrestle on….Dr. Dan Gabrielson

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Remember The Wrestler: Eric Ehlen, Belle Plaine/Iowa Hawkeyes

 

“Oh that Pin Doctor guy, he sure does know his wrestling history.” FALSE… Before ever making a statement like that, keep in mind that I hadn’t ever heard of Eric Ehlen before starting this site and he is one of the best wrestlers in Iowa HS history AND a Hawkeye. The Pin Doctor must have been out of the office and on a deserted island whenever Ehlen has been mentioned around him. 

Eric Ehlen is a man that I have only met and interacted with via the site and to be honest, I don’t know him very well at all other than I know he’s a very nice person. He wrestled in HS when I was 4-7 years old, so I don’t recall watching him.  He’s one of these HAMMERS who I hadn’t heard much about before and this is crazy to me, for after watching all of his finals matches, he is SO fun to watch. Such a diverse skill set with no real weaknesses at all. Just in watching his finals matches (he won 3 titles), I saw him storm the mat with confidence and intensity and successfully executed an array of moves including; a high crotch, a fireman’s carry, a Pererson roll, a cradle, a snatch single, etc. And everything just flowed for him. He’s go from one move to the next, to the next, to the next. If something didn’t work, he had a backup plan that almost seemed instinctive to him. And he could scramble with anyone. He knew what to do in every position imaginable.

He is one of the all-time greats. A guy, whose finals matches you should show your kids if you want them to observe a total package of a wrestler who did so many things perfectly. He was also very good at interviews. Very respectful and well-spoken.

He wrestled a guy in the finals who is a legend in my area named DJ Wade from Morning Sun. I couldn’t believe someone was capable of wrestling Wade as well as he did. Now Wade I do remember watching, for he was at most the local tournaments my dad took me to and I remember enough about him to confidently say, DJ Wade was awesome and Ehlen’s dominant win was an indicator of greatness.

I am proud to play a role in preserving the legacy of all-time great from a wonderful program, Eric Ehlen of Belle Plaine!

 

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

I had a great neighborhood of athletes which we encouraged each other to do sports, we had 2 D1 wrestlers, 1 D1 football player and several small college athletes all in a small area of Belle Plaine. Also I have three brothers, two which were wrestlers. Both brothers had teams with great wrestlers that inspired me to wrestle. Kurt and Kevin Shedenhelm and several others.

 

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

Two of my brothers wrestled, Andy was a state qualifier and a nephew, Josh, who also was a state qualifier. I now have two sons who are in HS and are now wrestling, Trae a Sr is a three time qualifier and one time placer. Drew is a sophomore and is a placer as a freshman.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

As youth I won a lot of tournaments but never really kept track of wins or losses,  but I do remember wrestling the likes of Shane Light and Boomer Kortemeir from Lisbon. But my rival was probably my friend and neighbor, Brett McKinney as Brett’s dad was a BP coach and took Brett and I nearly every week to peewee tournaments. We were exactly the same weight and wrestled nearly every time. He was a yr older than me and it was an awesome thing as we got older to have such a workout partner. His sr yr and my Jr yr we were both state champions and that was an awesome feeling.

 

What was you record in HS? How did you do at state?

My HS record was 112-4 all 4 losses were my freshman yr. My Fr yr I lost first rd to a boy from Lo-Ma 15-7, I remember being nervous and telling my Coach afterwards that I ran out of time, and losing sucks, I don’t ever want that feeling again. My sophomore thru sr yr I went 98-0. I had bronchitis my Sophomore yr at the state tournament, and battled through with a pin in the finals. Then another was my quarter final match my sr yr I wrestled the same kid that I wrestled in the finals my Jr yr and first period tired a firemen’s carry and ended up on my own back fighting for a minute and half. Down 5-0 he chose down and I somehow ended up putting a full nelson to put myself down 6-0, I battled back and won 9-6 scoring back points in the 3rd period, I had several people who watched the match say that was the best comeback they had seen.

 

How would you describe your style?

My style was pretty much attack and score.

 

Did you have any opponents you exchanged wins with?

Mike Clayton from BGM beat me in conference tournament and sectionals and I beat him at districts my Freshman yr.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Most influential coach would have been in Elem-HS Al Billings and Don McKinney because they took me around the state as a kid, the coach that made me who I am as a coach and person would be my college coach the Legendary Dan Gable!

 

Was your team successful in HS and college?

In HS BP didn’t fill a team while I competed so it was difficult to have success. My College team I couldn’t have asked for a better team. From 1990-95 Iowa Hawkeyes were one of the most dominant team in the world.

 

Who were your  most influential wrestlers growing up?

The most influential wrestlers as I grew up were all the BP wrestlers that came before me. I also watched the Iowa Hawkeyes and tried to do what they did.

 

Who is the Iowa HS GOAT?

GOAT hmmm, too many to pick from, there have been so many styles and talent and I have been fortunate as a hs coach to see them.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

My favorite current wrestlers are those that go out and give it everything they got and leave it all out there, those that dominate, that’s my style. The wrestlers like Spencer Lee, etc.

 

What tunes did you listen to before matches?

The two songs I listened to as I warmed up was  “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leopard and “Lunatic Fringe” by Red Rider.

 

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

The most upset I felt after a loss was the state tournament loss, I immediately started to prepare for next yr that day.

 

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

If I could change one thing I would have beaten my teammate Brett McKinney so I could have wrestled 98 instead of 105, As I weighed 95 that year and had to wrestle 105, as McKinney was a placer that yr.

 

What was your best wrestling memory? Best accomplishment?

Best Memory winning first title by fall, Best accomplishment was being inducted in the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame at the same time as Al Billings, my coach.

 

What were some of your most notable intense matches?

Most notable matches were beating Boomer Kortmier of Lisbon in a tight match my sophomore year and Ty Lettow of Alden 1-0 as he took me down with 0:00 on the clock. We gave it everything we had and neither of us knew who won, I thought I had won and he thought he had won.

 

Was wrestling all year or seasonal for you?

I was mostly a seasonal wrestler but I did do a few freestyle meets every yr but never cut weight or took it very serious. Which made my coach mad as he was the head of the Iowa freestyle.

 

How would guys from your era do against guys today?

I think the Champions yr in and yr out would be fairly close because great wrestling is great wrestling.

 

Did you wrestle in college?

Yes I wrestled after hs at U of Iowa.

 

Did you play other sports?

In hs I was a 4 sport athlete playing football, wrestling, golf, and baseball. My Jr yr actually golfed and ran track the same time.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

My favorite sports teams, college Iowa, pro football Dallas Cowboys.

 

What are you your hobbies?

Hobbies: hunting, fishing, bowling, golfing.

 

Did wrestling help you with your football game?

Did wrestling help football? Absolutely, tackling and my aggressive style, just wish I was bigger.

 

Does it make you feel good giving back to the sport?

Giving back- I love being a coach and teaching this sport and all the life lessons that go with it.

 

How has wrestling shaped you as a person today?

Wrestling has shaped my personality, it has taught me to persevere, be self reliant, push myself, self disciplined, humility.

 

What do you do now?

I now teach at Creston MS/HS and coach wrestling at Mt Ayr HS.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

My advice is to stick with wrestling it teaches you a lot about life and it will challenge you each and every day.

 

Any chance we see you wrestle in an Old Timer’s Tournament?

I am retired as far as wrestling, no more competitive matches other than in my wrestling room.

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Have you ever pooped your pants or had to go poop really bad while you were in the middle of a wrestling match? If not, be thankful for that. I know I am thankful that it never happened to me, for I’ve seen it happen to a few people and it was always pretty embarrassing for them and very funny to the rest of the team. 😂

It can happen to anyone on the wrong day… It doesn’t matter how good you are at wrestling, if your digestive system decides it has to poop, then well, your wrestling skills will not be of any benefit for you in terms of making that go away. I’ve been in the wrestling world for decades and not once have I ever seen someone coach “sphincter control” in a practice…haha, that’s one of those things in wrestling where you are on your own.

One of the first guys to do a Remember The Wrestler article was Charlie Falck from Apple Valley HS/Iowa Hawkeyes. He was a stud. 4X MN State Champion, won several national titles, was a multi-AA for the Hawkeyes, etc. When he answered the question about whether or not he has any funny wrestling stories, he responded with this:

Charlie Falck: I once bumped up to wrestle Jay Broschel when Apple Valley came down to Cedar Rapids for a tourney…. I pooped my singlet going into 2nd or 3rd period……..continued the match…I lost….shitty call……………

😂😂😂😂😂😂

Ya see? It happens to the best of us! And when one of my best friends was wrestling in the placing rounds at AAU State as a 7th grader, it happened to him… And what made this story as funny as it is today was his opponent’s parents’ angry, “crazy wrestling parent”  response to it.

To start, these two guys were wrestling for 5th and 6th at state and it was one of several battles they had. They wrestled a lot, the matches were always close, my buddy always seemed to squeak out a 1-2 point win, and the two guys HATED each other as did the parents. They always ended up chirping at each other or throwing shade at one another, any time they met… So the emotions were running pretty high prior to the start of the match. The high level of  stress may have actually played a role in my friend’s pants-poopage.

This match unraveled in the way it usually did.  It was a very close match with my friend leading by a point or so the majority of the time and both corners were heated as always.  With about 30 seconds left in the 3rd period, an expression came over my friend’s face to indicate that he was not feeling well, and he was encouraged by our coach to just keep going and stay tough. With about 15 seconds left in the match, my friend still held the lead when all the sudden, a stain that has the color of the standard mud puddle became noticeable on my friend’s singlet… and it was located right on his ass…. and it grew larger with every second that went by…. It was pretty clear that my friend had pooped his pants in the middle of a very important wrestling match in which he was leading by a point and still had to hold on for the win. When this became noticeable, our corner kind of became quiet, for there’s not really a whole lot you can say to coach or comfort someone who had just pooped their pants on the mat… We just sat there kind of expecting the match to be stopped, but somehow the official failed to notice the shit-stain on his butt that had begun running down the side of his leg as well as the terrible smell that was pungent enough to the point where we could smell it from the side of the mat… His opponent looked grossed out to the point where he was going to pass out or maybe even puke and contribute to the mess, but he kept going for he was down by a point still and needed to score quickly in order to win the match…. and the match was never stopped. Despite the sight of it and the smell, the ref didn’t notice it. The other kid’s parents were INFURIATED from the moment they noticed it and were yelling about how disgusting it was.

Somehow my friend hung on for the win and when he did, a huge spat broke out. The other guy’s parents were not only disgusted, but ANGRY because they felt like my friend pooped his pants on purpose to give himself an advantage to hold on for the win… Let me repeat that…. These people SERIOUSLY thought that my friend did it on purpose as a distraction to win a close match. Never underestimate the insanity of a wrestling parent…it has no bounds. I seriously can’t understand how anyone could be so stupid to where this would even cross their minds. I mean, it boggles my mind. If you poop your pants on the wrestling mat…I am going to assume that there is a 99.9999999% chance that the guy didn’t do it on purpose. I mean, I don’t know what would even prompt a person to think anyone pooped their pants on purpose. It’s icky. It’s embarrassing. It’s a mess. It’s not ever, EVER an option or part of ANY wrestler’s strategy to poop their pants on purpose to win a match. I can’t imagine assuming that someone literally thought to themselves, “ok I’m up by one with about 25 seconds left…screw it, I’ll just poop my pants so he doesn’t want to shoot on me…. Then I’ll win for sure!”  Yet, here was this kid’s parents being restrained and running their mouths angrily and incessantly, yelling stuff at us like, “YOU ARE DISGUSTING!” “LEARN TO WRESTLE BY THE RULES!,” “YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF!” “CHEATER!!!”  “SOME PEOPLE WILL DO ANYTHING TO WIN!” “WE WOULD NEVER COACH OUR GUYS TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT EVER!!!” It was pretty heated… and pretty freaking bizarre, for while you can expect someone to be grossed out by something like this, you wouldn’t expect them to assume that they did it on purpose and better yet, that the coaches TRAINED us to poop our pants as part of our strategy. It was one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen in my life and because of these people’s ridiculousness… It was also hilarious.  My friend promptly made his way to the bathroom, noticeably clenching his butt cheeks,  with a poopy singlet to the sounds of a couple grown ups yelling at him and calling him a cheater for pooping his pants…a 7th grade kid they were screaming at…

I can’t help, but wonder how these parents described this match to others who didn’t see it… “yeah, our boy SHOULD have won. It was close and he was about to make a comeback, but the other guy cheated and pooped his pants so he lost. If you ever wrestle a Mepo guy, watch out, they are dirty… they train their guys to poop their pants over there!”

😂😂😂😂😂 Holy…..crap.

Good thing my friend was a pretty thick-skinned kid. After changing his clothes and cleaning himself, he found us a few minutes later and when he did, he smiled and the first sentence that came out of his mouth was, “well that was shitty. I can’t believe I won that. From the moment the ref started the match I was spending just as much energy clenching my buttcheeks to hold that in as I was trying to wrestle. That was hard! Those people seriously thought I did that on purpose?!!!” All we could do from that point on, is laugh hysterically…as we had been since the match finished.

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This one started out as an email exchange with someone and myself. This person asked me to explain how Brennan’s Senior season went down and eventually we discussed it so much that I had enough for an article…and it just happens to fit the criteria for one of my new series about the best matches in HS wrestling history.

So this match may be THE most heartbroken the Swafford clan has ever been following a loss that any of us 4 brothers had. Brennan is the youngest of us 4 and probably the best of all of us…he’s most certainly the most naturally athletic of the 4 of us… Kid was an NAIA National Champ last year as a Sophomore and he’s there on a football scholarship if that tells you anything. Brennan was good, pretty much from the day he started at age 5. With Brennan, he caught in to every sport he played immediately from a young age and it seemed like everyone from the area just kind of considered it a foregone conclusion that he would probably win 2-3 titles when he got into HS. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that he would do it and reality didn’t set in that this wouldn’t ever happen until the last 5 seconds of this match vs. Henrich when his legs gave out on him. This loss was indescribably painful for us and we couldn’t believe that in decades of us Swafford bro’s wrestling that this was our family’s farewell from Iowa HS wrestling…it was just brutal. There were a lot of tears that night. If it weren’t for Brennan winning NAIA Nats last year, I would likely have a hard time talking about this match still today.  Fortunately though, time has granted me with an ability to see this for what it was….This match was legitimately one of the best matches I’ve ever seen in the Iowa HS State Finals. 4 lead changes, constant action, down to the wire, etc… It had everything a fan could ask for.

Funny thing was, although it was a state finals match, it wasn’t exactly watched by very many people.  Ya see, at the same time and on the 3A mat, the guy who was trying for his 3rd state title was someone named Nelson Brands.  Nelson is Terry’s son and all of us know about the Brands twins.  They have been wrestling celebrities for decades. Most of Iowa LOVES the Brands twins as they should and when Nelson took the mat, it made the general spectator straight-up giddy to watch him, for they felt like they were reliving the days of his dad by watching him since their styles are so similar.  Sure, Brennan probably had most of Southeast Iowa watching him and Henrich likely had most of NW Iowa watching him, but the common spectator…I’d say that 90% of them would prefer to watch Nelson Brands over anyone in the building. It doesn’t even matter if he’s expected to have an easy or difficult match… people tune in because he is a Brands and they love him for it. So if you are competing at the same time as him, unless you are wrestling against him, the attention is likely not focused on you.  Most of it will be on Nelson. Nothing wrong with that, for it’s not like the kid ever disappoints.  And man, did the overwhelming majority of people who watched Brands destroy his opponent ever miss a good one in 1A between John Henrich of Akron-Westfield and Brennan Swafford of Mepo.

And on paper, really…fans should have seen a barn-burner between those two coming.  The writing was on the wall. Check this out:

* Brennan was a Senior and the returning runner-up at 1A 152, John a Junior and the returning state champion at 1A 160.

* John was undefeated on the season coming in and Brennan had one loss to Nelson Brands first weekend of the season. Coming into the match, both guys pinned almost every opponent they faced during the season and at state.

* Both guys had health issues with Brennan breaking his hand in his last football game and then re-breaking it a couple weeks before state. Henrich had some lingering knee or shoulder problems, I believe.

* John Henrich wrestled in Iowa for 3 years. He moved to AW from South Dakota as a Sophomore. He placed 3rd at state in SD as a Freshman. In his Iowa career, he never suffered a single loss and only gave up 16 pts. to opponents TOTAL in 3 seasons… 7 of those points were scored against him in this finals match.

* Brennan had shattered the SEISC record for career pins 2 weeks earlier and notched his final HS wrestling pin in the semifinals against Austin Hellman from Don Bosco. It was his 128th career pin.

* These guys were from completely opposite corners of the state with Brennan being from SEI and Henrich being from NW Iowa. Both won regional awards given by their region’s newspaper, with Henrich being named Wrestler Of The Year by the Sioux City Journal and Brennan being named the 2018 Male Athlete of The Year by The Hawkeye for his accolades in wrestling, football and track.

* They had one common opponent that season coming into their finals match. That was Ryan Schott from IC Regina. He was a returning state qualifier who ended up placing 6th in this bracket. Brennan was up by 8-10 points in the 2nd period when he pinned him in the district finals. Henrich defeated him 3-0 in the semifinals… one of his closest ever matches in HS. We didn’t take much from these two results by means of comparing Henrich and Brennan coming into their match for we knew what the situation was with Schott. There was familiarity with Brennan and Schott. Those two were practice partners that year at the Eastern Iowa Wrestling Club. Henrich presumably didn’t know much about him being from the opposite side of the state. Schott was one of the more underrated guys in the state. A great multi sport wrestler. He likely would have racked up more hardware than he did in HS, but it always came off to me as if he was always cutting way too much weight. There was some log-jammage in the middle weights for Regina when Schott was in HS, so he may not have had much of a choice. Schott was a solid wrestler with a reputation of being good at keeping the match close if necessary and not giving up many points. A 3-0 win over Schott by Henrich was a nice win for him and we knew that. Coe College landed a good one with Schott. He is doing well there and it doesn’t surprise me at all.

* Henrich is one of two wrestlers to win 3 state titles and never suffer a loss in the state of Iowa.  The other one is Dan Gable.  Henrich is the most notable “South Dakota to Iowa” move-in since a guy from SD moved to Iowa to wrestle for The Hawkeyes. His name was Lincoln Mclravy.

* Both are still currently wrestling. Brennan Swafford is wrestling at the NAIA level for Graceland University and so far he is a 2X AA, 1X National Champ. John Henrich is wrestling for Nebraska and to my knowledge, has battled the injury bug.

*  The singlet Brennan wore in this match was the same one his brother Justin was wearing when he won state as a Junior in 2002.

* Both were under a lot of stress and pressure to win, but for different reasons.  John Henrich had a perfect Iowa record at the time and didn’t intend for that to change any time soon, in which it didn’t. He also had to deal with the fact that no matter how much he won or how convincingly, there was always someone there to downplay his accomplishments because he was from NW Iowa and for whatever reason, some people have this belief that NW area guys never wrestle good competition, which is not true. He also wanted to prove to the state of Iowa that he was more than just a “South Dakota boy” and could compete with our state’s best as well as South Dakota’s. He was also a 3rd (I believe) generation wrestler and his last name is synonymous with Akron-Westfield Wrestling because of all that his family has done for them over the years. Brennan Swafford was on his last attempt at a state title. The combined record of the Swafford brothers in state finals matches coming into that one was 1-4 and Brennan wanted to reverse that curse. He too has a last name that’s highly associated with his school’s wrestling program and had a great deal to live up to from the moment he began wrestling.

* I think these two would have been awesome practice partners for each other.

* Both guys were very hard on themselves after the match. Brennan was obviously because he lost. Henrich was upset with himself because it wasn’t a dominant win.  Both guys not only love to win, but they like to be dominant in doing so.  It’s kind of unfortunate that they were so harsh on themselves, for I felt BOTH guys wrestled great and put on a good show for those who watched it. Brennan went hard and fell short. It happens. Henrich displayed great mat-smarts and awareness, did what he had to do to win the match when he had to do it and won a big one. I think all of us will likely agree that neither of these guys had anything to be ashamed of.

Ok, so before diving into that match, I will post their matches from the earlier rounds that year.  For Henrich it will just be a highlight reel that I made for him when we awarded him “Best Of The Best In 1A” at The Predicament.

 

JOHN HENRICH

HIGHLIGHT REEL:

 

2018 State Tourney First Round:

 

2018 Quarterfinals vs. Ethan Fulcher of Hudson (Fulcher won a title himself 2 years later):

 

 

BRENNAN SWAFFORD 

 

2020 NAIA Championship Reel:

 

2018 State Tournament 1st Round:

 

2018 State Tournament Quarterfinals:

 

 

2018 State Tournament Semifinals:

 

HERE IS THE EPIC 1A 160 STATE FINALS MATCHUP BETWEEN JOHN HENRICH OF AKRON-WESTFIELD AND BRENNAN SWAFFORD OF MEDIAPOLIS. HENRICH WON 8-7 WITH THE DECIDING POINT COMING IN THE LAST FEW SECONDS:

1.) John Henrich- Akron-Westfield
2.) Brennan Swafford- Mepo
3.) Austin Hellman of Bosco
4.) Cam Rasing of Rockford
5.) Ethan Fulcher of Hudson
6.) Ryan Schott of IC Regina
7.) John Ebaugh of Denver
8.) Luke Jones of Central-Decatur

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Remember The Wrestler: Jimmy Rodgers, Oakland-Riverside

You know what’s one of the coolest characteristics that many wrestlers possess? Their ability to shift their demeanors, moods, attitudes, etc. depending on the reality of the situations they are in. I’ve seen guys who seem to transform into different people the moment they step on a mat…generally speaking, the shift is from nice and cordial to intense and competitive.  My brother, Justin is one of the nicest, most harmless people I’ve ever met….when he’s not on a wrestling mat.  It was so entertaining how the moment it was time to compete, he could seemingly flip an inner “switch” that changed him from “nicest guy in the world,” to “a total madman hell-bent on crushing your dreams to prevent you from crushing his.” To succeed in wrestling, especially at the level Jimmy Rodgers did, generally people have to possess a “mean” streak or have tendencies of being a hard-ass. I mean, it goes with the territory with wrestling being a sport in which the outcome is decided via battle of wills.  You have to be tough to just get through this sport and when it comes time to compete, most guys almost need to have a swagger or unshakable confidence if they have any intentions of being great.

Most of us have heard the negative stereotypes and perceptions that some non-wrestlers have about us.  A lot of people associate wrestling and wrestlers with being cold, robotic, remorseless, stubborn, etc. And let’s be real, we’ve all met our share of wrestling pals who can be described with one or more of those terms, but for most wrestlers, this terminology only applies to how they carry themselves on the mat, for they are nice off of it. However, these labels will follow them off the mat as well in terms of the non-wrestler’s perception/opinion, for some of these descriptive terms almost become part of a wrestler’s identity in the eyes of non-wrestlers who lack a legit frame of reference. 

Whenever a non-wrestler goes off on a “wrestling is for mean robots that like to roll around with other men in swimsuits” rant, I always wonder which wrestlers they met that gave them this impression. It’s hard to think of who these guys may be… It’s MUCH, MUCH easier to think of the wrestlers that you know did NOT influence these peoples’ perceptions of wrestlers.  And with that said, if a non-wrestler makes a comment like this, I will immediately assume that they never met Jimmy Rodgers…and if they do someday, they would likely feel stupid once they realize how far off they were in their generalizations of wrestlers.  I am not exaggerating when I say that Jimmy Rodgers may be the nicest, most empathetic and kind-hearted people I’ve ever met in my life. Not just in wrestling…ever. One of the nicest people I’ve ever met. When I talk to him, I almost have to remind myself repeatedly about who he is, for when I watched him compete in HS, he seemed like an intense, stone-cold gamer who would unflinchingly inflict any intense legal discomfort necessary on his opponents to ensure that he would walk off the mat with his hand raised. Kind of intimidating, really. I figured he would be a nice guy, for off the mat, most wrestlers are nice, but possibly the nicest person I ever met in my life? I wasn’t expecting that. In my limited conversations with him, it became clear almost immediately just how thoughtful and empathetic he is of other people.  He is the type of guy who may catch a life-changing break in life, but would still turn down if it meant that someone else would be hindered in any way by him accepting the “break.”  Helping other people and being considerate is not something Jimmy Rodgers has to remind himself to do…. It’s just the way he is. He is a naturally great, down to Earth dude with a heart of gold…. and he also happens to be one of the toughest wrestlers this state has ever seen at the HS level. Just beamed with confidence and self-awareness out there. Here is one example: When he was a Junior, he did one of the most courageous things I’ve ever seen someone do in the state finals. He was on top and leading 6-5 with 19 seconds left and instead of riding his guy out for the state title, he decided to let him up and try to take him down, which he DID!!! THAT’S confidence! Jimmy Rodgers is the man!!!

Also, he runs a youth club these days, and I want everyone to be aware of it, for I fully believe he has a unique approach to the sport that will be a success.  Click on this picture and it will lead you to his wrestling club’s page:

 

 

 

 

He put his heart into this! I hope you all enjoy his story as much as I do!

 

 

 

 

What year did you graduate?

1997

 

How did you do in youth wrestling? Did you compete at state? How did that go?

I think I won AAU State approximately 7 times…and had just as many freestyle and Greco titles in there as well growing up. I also won some Regional titles in Freestyle and Greco also. But I was an athlete. And when summertime hit, I was ready to play baseball with my friends. So after Regional was done. I was done. These days they would have said your crazy…win Regionals and not go to Fargo! But back then…it wasn’t like it is now. I was just done and ready for baseball and mom knew that. Lol!

Oldie but goodie .. Daren Kopeck, Dean Leaders, Chad Ryan, Gary Eliff, ? Woods, David Kjelgaard, and I. We might have won it. I know 3 of us did and 4 top 3. 🤯

 

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

As a kid I started off Wrestling for the Omaha Chargers…Then I moved to Council Bluffs and Wrestled for The Hawks…The Martinez Boys were amongst my teammates and after that I went on the wrestle for the Panthers and Keith Massey. Keith introduced me to Freestyle and Greco and took me all over the Midwest! Winning many State and Regional Tittles on the way to HS. At the Panthers David Kjelgaard and the Paulson Boys were some of my teammates 🙂

 

Who were some of your heroes growing up? Did you have any family members involved with wrestling?

My mom is my hero! Single mom that raised 3 kids! She took my older brother to practice when I was 5 and they asked what I was doing…brought me out on the mat and that was it..never looked back from there on. I was a natural. My brother, not so much lol. But he was always my biggest fan as I grew up! He was always in my corner. His name is Justin Thompson. Different dads. His dad died of cancer early on in life. My brother and I have always been super close in life! My sister the same! She was the team manger in HS! She saved many matches in HS by knowing the score better than the scoring table did! Honestly! She should be inducted to our town’s hall of fame for all she did for our team over the years! And you can quote me on that! Her name is Eva Rodgers and I’m her biggest fan as far as a team manager and what she did for our team!

My brother wrestled in youth and some in HS. He was always there for me! I remember him always being in my corner at State Youth Tournaments and Regional Tournaments. When I moved to Oakland when I was in 1st Grade the stories of my uncles began. My uncle Terry Eyberg placed 2nd at State in HS for Oakland his Sr yr and 4 conference championships. And my uncle Martin 2 conference championships 2nd jr year and 1st senior year at State. We have to be one of the stronger families in Southwest Iowa in regards to Wrestling tradition and we are proud of it! And now my son Maxum Rodgers is wrestling as I coach and lead his team across the country to have fun in a sport that we fun together! We make it fun with his teammates! We make it a real family feel! It’s all in the name Warriors Wrestling Family! And my Son is my driving force behind it all!

 

What was your record in HS?

159 – 11 . 82 pins . 432 takedowns.

 

How did you do at state in HS?

6th Freshman, 1st Sophmore, 1st Junior 46-0, 1st Senior

 

Any notable rivals you faced in Youth/HS Wrestling?

Rivals… Mark Rial…Friend, but we were head lock rivals at times when younger!

Nick Mitchell was a Rival that always had Mike Land coaching him in his corner as kids. Jason Evans from Bettendorf was a tough Rival when younger at AAU State! I wrestled a Bob Koenig I think when I was younger at AAU state as well in the finals. In HS-Thad Anderson from Logan Magnolia and Matt VanMeter from Guthrie Center. One thing I will mention…Mark Van Beek won my bracket my Freshman year…I beat him 13-2 my Jr. Year in the semis and I was picked to lose as Gable watched in the stands. The guy who beat me for 5th/6th my Freshman year…I beat my Sophomore year in the Finals. So the comeback trail was sweet!

Oh! And Matt Sterling! Duh!!! Big rival! Wrestled Sterling in my Junior Year State Finals match and then ended up having to wrestle him first round my senior year because he lost to Tyler Nixt at Districts and I barely got by him again! Tim Backer was the guy from Clarksville along with Sterling that I beat my Sophomore year in the finals. He beat me my freshmen year for 5th and 6th. Clarksville can’t like me too much lol…

 

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

I remember my Sophomore year cutting way too much weight and losing matches I knew I shouldn’t be losing because of not being mentally focused. I was wrestling not to lose instead of wrestling to win and for love of the sport! I still recall that bus ride up to the state tournament…looking out the window upon the fields. I thought to myself, “I’m done cutting weight like this ever again! I want to wrestle for me! Because I love the sport! I love being out there letting it go!” And that’s what I did when I got up there to the barn! Won my first on the way to 3!

At ISU I still look back and wonder what things would have been like if I would have just kept getting stronger and not cut to 141! I was 160 and a strong 160 walking around! I had no right cutting my body to 141! 149 was ok and I should have kept battling for varsity there! But that’s life! You live and learn! And hopefully I can pass my life lessons down to my wrestlers along the way!

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was very tough on the feet! Great hips! I could throw! Good double legs, high clothes, and single legs. On top I was a bar arm guy! I was very hard to keep down! Great stand up and a good standing switch also!

 

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

Thad Anderson and Matt Van Meter my Sophomore year were the only guys in HS that I really went back and forth with. Other then Blu Whale that upset me w/ a headlock my senior year at Griswold Tourney…boy you know an upset in the making when you here a gym erupt like it did that day….I tried to come back but just couldn’t recover from it

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Mitch Anderson was my most inspirational coach! He was like a father figure to me through HS…if I didn’t have a ride to a morning workout….even if there was a foot of snow…he would drive an hour out of his way to get me to get me to a morning workout! He was more than a coach! He was a great role model! I have modeled a lot of what I do with my youth program after his methods. I think a little more outside the box with the technology we have these days. But his roots are still there as building blocks to what I do for my youth program today. I owe my coach Mitch Anderson a great deal for helping me be the man I am today to my family and wrestling program! I also want to mention and give thanks to Dave Putnam for all his words and pump up moments! And Ryan Danker for all the work he spent in the room with us especially the mat time!

I also owe Keith Massey a world of credit also! Not only Keith but Keith had a supporting staff of many that helped me as well…Dave Paulson, Chuck O’Hara, Dwayne Kjelgaard, and Barry Coates. One thing about Keith is that he always made it fun for me and interesting! Made me look at it with open eyes and want more! That’s my approach with my wrestlers today! Make them fall in love with it so they keep wanting to come back for more…if they don’t then why are we doing it?

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

HS Team…won the team title in 96’ dual team runner up in 96’
I always say…if you have seen the movie HOOSIERS…that’s what we got to live in Oakland when we won it in 96’ in Wrestling,

In college, I was part of the #1 recruiting class in the nation 1997 ISU Cael Sanderson, Joe Heskett, Carlos Blanco, Jesse West, Jimmy Rodgers…

 

How cool was it when Oakland Riverside won state?

I remember getting back to the hotel after winning the state title…it was the Embassy Suites. So it was hollowed out in the middle. All the way up each floor was going crazy! It was unbelievable! I think they almost shut the place down! I also remember how loud the barn got! It will never be the same…I don’t care what any wrestling fan says about Iowa HS state wrestling. Vets/the barn is special! When something special happened in that place it was like a firework went off in that place!

Story time…before my semis final match my Junior year with Mark Vanbeek, chosen to win I might add. My assistant coach came down all fired up and pulled me aside! He grabbed me and looked right into my eyes and said Gable just sat mat side to watch your match…now go show everyone up there why they are wrong for choosing him to beat you! Out the gates…hit him for 5 on a headlock, then ducked him for five to his back. Then another late takedown. Ended up with an escape also. Won 13-2. I was so pumped for that match! Never forget it!

 

How is your wrestling club coming along? What are some of the names of the guys you have in your club?

My wrestling Club is Warriors Wrestling Family. We are just that…Family! Growing up wrestling was like a second family to me. And is to a lot of people out there today! Most understand this in our sport today. I had family in Ft. Dodge, family in Omaha, family in Oakland, and family in Council Bluffs. Was I related to them all? No but they were wrestling family. And at times we spent more time together then real extended family! My club means the world to me! I want to give my son and these kids an experience that they will never forget! Something that they will have to build upon for the rest of there life! We work hard but have fun doing it! It’s kind of a thing but I do give out a lot of nick names…my son is White Tiger…we have Chisel, Beastin, Coy the Destroyer, Sway, Queen Izzy, Kong, and Metcalf! There have been many others and there will probably be many more. I have learned so much from my interaction with these kids! Probably as much as they have learned from me! I pour all I have into our practices! And I never thought I would love being a coach more than I loved wrestling, but it’s true! These kids are special to me! They are our future! And it’s up to me to give my best to them! Thank you God for the opportunity to do what I do with them!

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Overall I have 2 best wrestling accomplishments. Yes I may have won 3 state championships but that’s not one of them.

1. I earned my college degree because of wrestling! That was the most important thing to achieve! Wrestling was always supposed to be a tool to get me to college and get that degree! I graduated HS with a 3.78 GPA bc I worked hard for my grades. And the same with college! At one time I was working a full time job as I was a student athlete at UNO bf stepping away from the sport. At 42 years old we still joke around that I still have one more year of eligibility left. And I still have thoughts of going back to get my teaching degree. Who knows stranger things have happened!

2. I pride myself on accomplishing getting a youth program off the ground. And taking kids from not knowing a stance to competing on the youth national stage. It had been an amazing past 4 years and I hope this year 5 can still be something special with the current Covid situation bc the kids need a healthy outlet like wrestling in their lives! It has been life changing for not only the kids but also for this coach!

 

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

In HS Matt VanMeter and I went back and forth with some good rivalries as stated before. I think I did get the last win on my way to win my fist state title. Mark Van Beek was a huge win since he did win my Freshmen year bracket and he was picked to win my Junior year. I do have to give a shout out to the upset win against me by Blue Whale! After years of taking his lumps by Oakland Riverside and our guys, he upset me my Senior year with my one loss. And if one guy was going to do it. I guess I wouldn’t of had it be anyone else! To this day I still think as Blue as a brother in the sport! Great family and will always enjoy our time in the sport together between our families! In college I was able to be in rooms at ISU, NE, and finish out at UNO before finally stepping away to finish up earning my degree. While I did not break the varsity lineup at the college level I did absorb much while at that level that I pass down to my club today. Training with guys like Dwight Hinson, Cody Sanderson, Joe Heskett, Bryan Snyder, Billy Maldonado, David Maldonado, Luis and Carlos Blanco, Chris Bono, Tom Ortiz, and Cole Sanderson are just some of the big names that come to mind that I absorbed from along the way! I thank them all for the time we spent!

 

Tell me the story about your AAU State finals match with Ben Shirk… Was it Jason Payne that was arguing with your brother about who would win between you two? Were you pumped for that match? When I saw that commentary, I thought it was funny because Payne and Shirk are from my area and Payne is now HC at my old HS (Mediapolis). Do you have any other funny stories like that?

So the Jason Payne and Ben Shirk AAU story…lol I have to be honest, I didn’t know who Ben was because he was from so far away on the other side of the state.  But when Payne bumped into my brother there it got hot fast.  Payne started in saying that an upset was about to happen and that I had no idea who Ben Shirk was.  He was right.  And I was really not worried because I was in the zone that year.  I really was.

Pause…this reminds me why I was in the Zone!  I did break my ankle that year before going to Tulsa! I made it a goal to try and knock of Shane Roller that was a 7 or 8 time Tulsa Champ.  Earlier that year Todd Kohl (Kasey Kohl 4x NE STATE Champ)’s dad took a bunch of us to a tournament in Miami, Oklahoma where they shut down the tournament for an exhibition between Shane Roller and I.  I ended up beating him 13-0.  And I really wanted to beat him at Tulsa that year.  Only to have my ankle broken right before we left.  That was really one of my only major injuries in wrestling ever.  After my comeback from the injury I was on fire my 8th grade year! I won Tulsa 1 time and got 3rd twice as a youth wrestler.

I remember my brother really getting me pumped up for the Shirk semifinals match!  I also remember at one point in the match him letting me up.  No one really ever let me up and I remember smiling at him and as he shot on me, I don’t think I ever spun so fast around someone that year! At state that year no kid scored an offensive point against me.  Felt pretty good about that.  Looking back on my career, there are two years that I can honestly say it would have been very hard for anyone to beat me! My 8th grade year and my Junior year in HS.

 

How honored did you feel when you were inducted into the HOF?

Being Inducted to the Hall of Fame was special because I got to share it with Family and Friends!  Unlike being on the mat by yourself in the moment, I was there with my mother and my immediate family.  And then sharing it with my club and others that joined us for the event as well.  It was a special night shared with friends and family and want to thank them all again for making the trip.  You know who you are!

In regards to the Hall of Fame I do want to say it took an entire team and town to help in my journey!  My teammates were amazing!  I could say names but I know I will forget someone and it’s just not fair!  I just want to say thank you to each and everyone of my teammates for any and all the time spent in that wrestling room!  It was a battleground!  It was very intimidating at times to those that may have not been at that level and still wanted to be part of it.  And for that I commend any and all that stuck it out in a room that was very demanding and gave so much to one that would give right back!  Thank you Riverside! I’ll never forget where I came from!

 

Who were some of your wrestling idols growing up?

Growing up my 2 wrestling idols were John Smith and Kenny Monday! That low single style that John Smith dominated with!  And that explosive power that Kenny Monday blasted people with inspired me to want to do the same to people on the mat!  As I got into Freestyle and Greco I had many people older then me that surround me that I looked up to along the way.  David Kjelgaard was a teammate in youth that I looked up to!  Brad Canoyer was someone in HS that I looked up to as we entered HS and began our climb at Riverside.  But it was also my friendships and family like relationships that made my journey special and the sport special for me along the way!  This where I wish I could name drop hundreds of names that are special to me for many different reasons that have impacted my life!  But it just wouldn’t be fair bc to leave one name out I would feel bad.  You all know who you are and what moments in my journey you have shared with me and I truly say thank you all for each and every one of those moments!  From the bottom of my heart, thank you for this wresting journey we’ve all been together on in our lives!

 

Who is the Iowa HS wrestling GOAT?

I’m going with Eric Juergens…really a toss up between him and McGinness to me.  I just felt like I followed him a little more through HS and was inspired more by him.  Just something about his run vs McGinness’s.

 

Favorite Current Wrestlers?

Going to answer with my son on this one.  We love to watch Roman Bravo Young and Austin DeSanto!  Yes we know they wrestle each at times!  But they both have there own styles and ways about approaching the sport.  My son loves to watch their highlight videos to get pumped up.  If I would of had highlight videos to get pumped up when I was a kid, wow what a difference it would of been.  I always talk to my club wrestlers about using YouTube and social media to study up bc we had none of that growing up!  What a game changer these days for them!

 

What tunes would you listen to before matches?

Music back in the wrestling days…I would actually listen to it all like today.  I lot of rap and hip hop. Rock and even sprinkle in that country!  Back then Garth Brooks hit big…if you didn’t know Garth you just didn’t know squat! I do remember go to drill at ISU and Cael always wanting me to bring Ozzy to listen to…momma I’m coming home!

 

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

The most upset ever after a loss was probably my first loss at state my freshman year.  My goal was to be a 4 time state champion.  But when I got there I could tell I was not there yet physically.  These guys were at another level as far as strength.  I knew I needed to make up some ground there in the off season and I made a promise to myself to do just that! I remember after my 6th place finish…Frank Bachman from Glenwood comforted me and told me I would be back and make it worth it! I guess you can say I did!  Thanks Frank!

 

Is there anything with your wrestling career that you would change if you could?

It’s hard to say what I would change in my wrestling career bc I truly believe in God’s plan!  And I love that it has led me to my kids club and helping kids and them find love for the sport!  But when I look back there are a few things that stand out…Jason Payne and I became friends on our recruiting trip and I was really leaning towards UNI.  They really wanted me there.  I wish I would not have cut to 141 at ISU.  It was the first year hydration became part of weigh ins and I could not pass it.  I wonder what things would have been like if I would have stayed at ISU instead of transferring to NE.  I was beating their starter at opens and wanted to wrestle with my former teammate Kyle Canoyer.  But I think if I would have stayed at ISU and continued to get stronger and better I would have eventually been an All-American.  Could of-Should of-Would of’s, Right! But like I said it’s all part of the plan…I get to pass it down now and that’s what I’m trying to do.  It’s about leaving behind a legacy now.  A piece of me.  I love my kids!  My family means everything to me and my wrestling family is something very special as well!

 

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

I wrestled pretty much all year round until baseball hit. Regionals was it for me back then. I would do Northern Plains and usually be in the top 3 in both styles. But when Regionals was done. I wanted to be with friends in my small town of Oakland and playing baseball. I enjoyed all sports! Heck, I was even the 8th grade MVP in basketball. If it meant compete I was in! If Fargo would have been as big as it is today, I probably would have gone on in Freestyle and Greco. I just wasn’t as big as it is today back then. At least it wasn’t to this small town boy.

 

How would the guys from your era do against the wrestlers of today?

The wrestling game is changing for sure! I think it’s easy for me to say that the talent level has escalated from the past to now! I think some have used technology to enhance their skills and use it to train more wisely these days. I know I do and if you don’t as a coach, then your living in the past! Today athlete are also using a lot more gymnastics in their wrestling and the lower level wrestling is apparent! We practice lower level wrestling a lot also! It makes for crazy scrambles and some great defense in matches that call for it! The game of wrestling has evolved and will continue to evolve as next generations pass it down and continue to grow as coaches.

 

Did you wrestle after HS?

After HS I wrestle at Iowa State for 2 seasons before transferring to NE. As stated previously I do look back wondering if I made a mistake in doing so. But God has his ways! I tried cutting to 141 for the team at ISU but couldn’t make the hydration testing that was implemented for the first time ever that year. After going back up to 149 my strength just wasn’t the same and my mind was not focused as well the way it should have been. After transferring to NE to be with my former HS teammate Kyle Canoyer, he ended up stepping away from the sport and NE just didn’t feel like home to me. I took a year of from school to figure out if I still had the fire in me. While in Omaha, Kasey Kohl and others convinced me to give it one more shot at UNO. So at that point I was working a full time job and wax a full time student athlete. Talk about burn out factor! That lasted a little over a semester before I just couldn’t keep up with the work load. I finished out my schooling though! I got my degree from UNO! And began my life into the real world! What wresting did for me to get my degree was nothing short of amazing though! The people and memories I have met and made from wrestling will always be cherished! Thank God for this sport! That’s why I owe it to pass it down!

 

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

To be able to give back to the sport means the world to me these days! My wife wants to boot me in the caboose at times because of it! It’s just a part of me that is hard to ever put to rest! It has given me so much in life! And I feel like God has given me a true gift to pass down to kids and if I didn’t listen to him then I would be ignoring him. I have had a lot of families bring there kids to practice to try our room out only to tell me that they have finally found a home! To me that means the world! I’m not saying I’m the best coach in the world! But I can say that I have created a culture in our room that is contagious to want to be apart of! Heck I can’t wait to go to practice! We currently have crew that drives an hour from Iowa to train with us and it’s bc of that contagious culture! It took one night for them to experience what we do in our room for them to want to make the drive 3 times a week and that makes this coach work that much more for our kids every night I’m in there with them!

 

What are some of your hobbies besides wrestling?

My hobbies other then wrestling are spending time with my family and our pets! Going to the lake near by! Biking! Playing football outside with the kids. Soccer with my daughter! Pretty much anything family and sports is where it’s at for this this dad! That includes fishing or golfing as well! My daughter loves driving the cart all over the place!

 

Favorite Sports Teams?

NCAA FOOTBALL- My brother Justin Thompson and our Family have been Buckeye Fans for 20 plus years! OH!!!

NCAA WRESTLING-ISU/NE/IOWA-Respect bc I wrestled there and grew up watching Iowa wrestling. But Penn State as of recent bc my son’s hero’s are Roman Bravo Young and Austin DeSanto. Plus what Cael has done is remarkable and how he is doing it is the right way! He makes it fun and brings the best out of his wrestlers without intimidation tactics etc! He’s got the right recipe for success!

PRO-They play for $ and not enough for the love of the game these days! So I’ll just leave that there…

 

Did you play other sports? If so, which ones and how did you do?

God blessed me with the ability of being athletic. I pretty much love all sports! Played golf in HS, ran track, played football, and even ran cross country. My cross country story was a touchy one. My Jr. year I had spent some time in the backfield running the ball and was probably going to do the same my Sr. year. But I knew I was not going to go to college playing football and our HS team was not much for size that year. Hence I was warned I could possibly be jeopardizing getting hurt for wrestling. So why not stay in shape running cross country. After choosing to do so, let’s just say I wasn’t a town favorite during football season until wrestling rolled around. It was all good. I was used to this living in a small town. Plus I really did have some fun running cross country with wrestling teammates getting ready fir the season. You guys know who you were!

 

Has wrestling shaped you as the person you are today?

Wrestling has shaped me in so many ways! But I’ll try to just outline a few. First it has made me very determined in life! I have always found a way to be successful in life! When I’ve been knocked down in the business world, in relationships, and in sports I’ve always found a way to bounce back! This is something I instill in my wrestlers today! Determination to never give up! Always find a way! Wrestling has taught me to care about my fellow human beings/teammates! I always talk to my wrestlers about pushing each other and being there for each other like family! Hence the name Warriors Wrestling Family! I think our world needs more of this in general! Helping one another instead of being at odds with one another! Wrestling has also taught me to be thankful! I thank God for this talent he has given to me! I thank God for allowing me to be able to pass it down! And I thank God for this sport to bring so much joy to our family! Yes it has also brought stress at times, I can’t lie. But the joy it has brought out weighs that stress ten fold! And the families it has brought joy to as well I think would agree.

 

Any chance we may get to watch you wrestle again in an Old Timer’s Tournament?

Last year I may have participated in my last old timers tournament for my wrestlers. When this 41 year old wrester, at the time, went up against a 29 year old I felt my age. I know the question…did I win. Yes…but I was gassed! Age is real like any sport on the mat! I would like to go out on top with a first place at the old timers tournament at Buena Vista. This being the same year I was inducted to the IHSSA HALL OF FAME. A lot of my wrestlers were there to watch coach participate which was special, just like they were at my hall of fame induction. And I was so honored to share both with them and my family. I love having two families in this world! My immediate family and my wrestling family!

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

My advice for upcoming wrestlers is keep it fun while training hard! That’s the recipe for success! If you can get through a workout with sweat dripping, muscles pumping, and your mind focused….all the while ending it with smiles and joking around with your workout partners and coaches. You just might of found a recipe for success! Yes there are also times to focus and have those mental edge moments. But the recipe to train and get to those moments are crucial to the sport!

 

How do you feel about things with your wrestling club this season so far?

This is year 5 of our Warriors Wrestling Family and with Covid it has been a real challenging start to the season! Very few tournaments but we are practicing and keeping the kids spirits very high with positive thoughts and great energy in the practice room! We have added some great new talent this season to our club that makes our practice room very competitive! So the mentality had been this! Even if there is not a lot of tournaments…we have some of the best partners in the metro sharpening in the practice room! So when we do go to a tournament we will be ready to showcase our skills and have fun doing so! It’s all about how you can spin a situation. And right now we have the right parents making the right feel with our club to make our kids feel great in these difficult times.

 

Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc. Any Shout-outs?

* Dan McCool was an amazing ambassador to the sport! He always stayed in touch with me and really took notice to the amazing room we had our 1996 year! It was one of a kind and he witnessed it first hand at one of our practices! I can’t tell you how I truly feel about this man and our sport! He holds a special place in this wrestlers heart! God speed Dan McCool…gone but definitely not forgotten!

* In closing I would like to say thank you to everyone that has been part of my journey in this sport! As mentioned earlier I just can’t say names bc there are too many to list and it’s just not fair to mention a few and not the rest! Because all of you have played an important roll in my life! Thank you for being part of it! Someday when this wrestler is put into the ground and his life is being celebrated…I want people to know I wish I could have had a moment to say thank you in person if I had not been able to along the way. Every moment leads to another in this life for the right reasons…I truly believe that! Thank you for our moments in this sport and long live wrestling! God Bless!

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The first time I heard about this match was after it happened when I was a little kid. I was about 6 years old when it happened. The only thing I was able to gather about it was that it was a big deal. Why this was, I didn’t know, for I didn’t fully understand the basics of wrestling yet, but I knew it was important, for it was angrily discussed by so many people in the Southeast Iowa wrestling community. 10 years later, I was filled in on why this match was so widely discussed at the time.

My friend, Nick Breuer and I were camping out at the Des Moines County Fair in the year 1999. We hung out by various campfires all night and listened to a spectrum of stories from several different people. The topics we all shot the bull about varied from baseball to gas money, to the animals at the fair, to girls to you name it, but naturally, we ended up settling on discussing wrestling more than anything. And there were some great wrestlers hanging around who came and went that night. 1999 state champ from Columbus Jct. Nick Lee was there… So was Aaron Drain and a couple other wrestlers came and went. The camper/campfire we hung out with for the majority of the night was owned by a family member of one of Southeast Iowa’s most well-known wrestling families to this day… the Malone family. To be specific, it was Jay Malone’s sister, Joni.  Joni opened up about her brother, Jay’s finals match in 1990 which ended in controversy. Jay was a Senior and was defeated in the finals by an incredible wrestler and athlete,  Brian Moretz from Northwood-Kensett on what many people consider to be a questionable call… To make a long story short, when Joni told this story, she had a few of us rugged, tough-guy, wrestlers in tears due to it hitting us so hard in our collective “feels.” It was difficult for Joni to tell the story without sobbing. It was clear to everyone near the campfire that night, that the outcome of that match cut deep for her family and the Morning Sun wrestling community and considering that Joni told us this story 10 years after the fact and was still torn up about it indicated to me that the void that was planted in the hearts of the Morning Sun wrestling community after this match was likely gonna stay and grow limbs for a while. Time hadn’t healed this wound yet. 

Jay was a Senior in 1990, so not only was this Jay’s last match ever as a wrestler, but it was Morning Sun’s last ever HS match, for they shut down the entire school the following year, which meant that the Morning Sun wrestling program went with it. The future of Morning Sun Junior High and High School wrestlers were to be in the hands of a combination of Wapello, Mediapolis, Columbus Jct., New London, Winfield, etc.  Wherever they decided to enroll. Morning Sun wrestlers have been HUGE factors for the success of every one of those programs since then. I know Mepo for one wouldn’t have won state in 2015 without the help of Morning Sun-Mepo wrestling star, Mason Buster placing 3rd. Wapello had Paul Wilkerson in the early 90’s, Columbus Jct. had Nick and Eric Lee, I can go on forever about the impact of Morning Sun wrestlers in whichever lineup they may have been in since the school closed. The school may have shut down in that community, but wrestling has remained strong. Morning Sun was, still is and will always be a wrestling community, despite no longer having a high school.  A huge part of their identity to this day is wrestling. When you think of certain towns or schools, it’s natural to associate them with what they are known for.  For example: Mepo was known for it’s girls basketball for decades, Applington-Parkersburg, Sigourney, Bettendorf, etc. are all known for having consistently elite football programs. Communities like Lisbon, Don Bosco, Osage, Columbus Jct., etc. are communities that are widely associated with wrestling. When you hear the name of any of those communities, it’s not long before you think, “wrestling.” Morning Sun will always be associated with wrestling and it’s difficult to see that ever not being the case given their storied history.

Get this… the Morning Sun program was started in the 60’s by a man named Bob Darrah. Bob Darrah had success in Morning Sun and eventually moved on to start another powerhouse in a much larger community…Des Moines Dowling. One of the wrestlers Darrah coached was  standout named Al Baxter. Baxter went on to start a powerhouse of his own that is still raking in the hardware…. A little program called Lisbon.  Morning Sun had another HOF coach who got his start there. A man named John Siegel. Siegel had an incredible Head Coaching career at Morning Sun and since the school closed has spent the majority of his years as the perfect complementary assistant coach to HOF HC, Bill Plein of Columbus Jct.  Those two are both coaching at Burlington Notre Dame currently. Siegel also spent some time helping out at Wapello and New London. He has achieved success with literally program he has been part of, for he is a known mastermind of the mental approach to the game.  And he got his start at Morning Sun. Another huge name to get their start there was “The Voice of College Wrestling” himself, Tim Johnson. He was a state qualifier himself for Morning Sun in the Al Baxter era and coached for a few years at Mt. Vernon and did well.  While at Mt. Vernon, he coached Greg Randall to 4 state titles as well as had success with several other wrestlers. He shifted from coaching to commentating in the 80’s, which was a decision I’m personally glad he made, for if there is anyone in the history of wrestling that I would consider to be my #1 inspiration for whatever it is I do now, it is Tim Johnson…and this is because of his post-coaching work with commentating. Before I started commentating Mepo wrestling/baseball and softball games myself for “The Dogcast,” I studied hours of Tim Johnson’s work prior to my first meet. His knowledge of the sport, the passion he has for it that’s easily detected in his voice, his likability, his ability to disguise any potential biases he may have while commenting on a match while still being himself in the process, etc. is just phenomenal. Out of anyone who has ever wrestled or been part of the sport in any way, Johnson is certainly one of my all time favorite wrestling figures/personalities. And the fact that he is a fellow Southeast Iowan makes it even cooler for me. Straight outta Morning Sun!!!

Dowling…Lisbon…Columbus Jct….Tim Johnson…. all traced back to Morning Sun origins. Pretty impressive.

So at the 1990 state tournament, the last ever Morning Sun HS wrestling match to ever take place was to unravel in the state finals…. in the very last match of the tournament, for Morning Sun had a finalist in the HWT division, in which most of us know that the HWT’s are the guys who wrestle last at the state tournament. Head Coach John Siegel had Jay Malone ready to go for the 1A HWT finals match and it seemed as if things were falling into place in a manner that would result in a fairytale ending for one of Iowa’s most storied programs… I mean, you couldn’t write this anymore perfectly. They had the last match of the tournament on lockdown and it was to be called by none other than Morning Sun’s own Tim Johnson. It didn’t seem or feel like things would end on anything, but a positive note… and the thought of things ending on a tragic, catastrophic note just didn’t seem plausible. As you will see, they didn’t receive the farewell they rightfully expected or deserved. Things played out in a manner which almost seemed as if a cruel joke had been played on them.

And none of this is to discredit or throw shade at Jay’s opponent. The wrestler that Jay Malone met in the finals is one of the best heavyweight wrestlers to ever come through the state. Actually, he’s one of the best ever athletes to ever come through the state. His name is Brian Moretz from Northwood-Kensett. While a lot of Morning Sun fans have been vocal in their disagreement with the way the match was called, I’ve never heard one of them say a negative thing about Moretz. He didn’t make the call. He just wrestled… and as usual, he did well until the last few seconds. He is one of the all-time greats and everyone knows it. At the time this match took place, he was a Junior and the returning state champion. He won 3 state titles from 1989-1991 and placed 4th his Freshman year. What makes this more impressive was the fact that he started out as a Freshman at HWT and stayed there his entire career. He finished with a career record of 116-7 with a winning streak of 88. He chose to play football at UNI after HS and was an AA lineman. His accomplishments are incredible. I assume, this match wasn’t how he would have preferred to win, considering how dominant he was. A guy like Moretz probably wanted to win in undeniably dominant fashion… Not in a manner in which the debate was so prevalent and ongoing to where it is still discussed 30 years later as it is right now…

Here is a good look at just how tough he was by the time he was a Senior going for his 3rd state title:

Brian Moretz was and will always be a wrestling legend in the state of Iowa and is in the Hall of Fame. And there isn’t anyone more deserving of that, than him. 4-1-1-1 at HWT is a HUGE feat, and while someone can argue with the call the official made in this match, no one can argue the fact that Moretz more than solidified his status as an all-time wrestling great in his HS wrestling career.

While commentating the tail end of the match, Tim Johnson was noticeably unable to contain his excitement at the end of the match. Johnson is about as good as a person can possibly be when it comes to being a wrestling commentator and when a moment is so huge that it causes him to momentarily lose his composure due to excitement from his personal feelings, then that’s saying something. If a Morning Sun wrestling fan were to watch this match and not go crazy with excitement, I would question whether or not they even cared about wrestling.

So here is the match… This is how the legendary Morning Sun wrestling program ended… Keep in mind that when the video begins, there are roughly 15 seconds left in the match and Moretz has a 5-2 lead:

 

A few years ago, my brother, Justin wrote and recorded a song called “Til’ The Sun Goes Down” and I thought it’d be cool to use for a tribute video I put together about Morning Sun wrestling (particularly this match) one night while learning how to edit video with Camtasia… Check it out:

 

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This was originally supposed to be an Inside The Rivalry with both Josh Budke and Jesse West’s takes, but I can’t get a response from Jesse West and Budke has had his turned in for a long time now. Budke’s takes are so  interesting and insightful, not to mention he obviously worked his tail off on it given how well thought-out his responses were…  I would be silly to not find a way to use this content, for what he turned in is really good stuff. I refuse to let this stuff go to waste. I decided that I will write an article with Budke’s perspective, and if Jesse West reads it and would like to provide his own input, then maybe there will be a Part 2: Jesse West Weighs In. I sure hope so. 

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

With all that said and no offense to Jesse West, he is probably a great guy, but most Iowan wrestling crews at the time were entrenched in the Budke corner of that rivalry if they had a preference at all in the matter. There were some fans sprinkled here and there who were rooting against Budke because they were rivals with him or their school was rivals with Cedar Falls, but generally speaking, the only people who seemed to be in the Jesse West corner were people from the IC High/Matpac community and those who actually knew him.. This was at a time where being an out of state transfer wrestler in Iowa was near it’s peak in terms of not being a good experience for them.  There are transfers even today who experience the “you aren’t an actual Iowan” treatment from Iowa wrestling fans, but the hate is not nearly as vocal, open and widespread as it used to be.  So there was a bit of chippiness among fans when they wrestled. It was a pretty big deal at the time.

HERE IS THE MATCH VIDEO TO THE FINALS MATCH. IF WEST PARTAKES IN THIS IN THE FUTURE, I WILL TRY TO FIND A MATCH FROM THE REGULAR SEASON TO BE FAIR.

 

STARTING OFF WITH BACKGROUND INFO-RELATED Q/A FROM BUDKE AND WILL LEAD INTO JESSE WEST RIVALRY

 

What was your overall record in HS?

JOSH BUDKE:  155-11… 7 losses as a Freshman, 1 as a Sophomore and then the 3 losses Senior year to Jesse.

 

What were your high school state results?

 4th as a Freshman at 103

1st as a Sophomore at 103

1st as a Junior at 112

1st as a Senior at 125

 

What was the highpoint of your HS wrestling career?

Winning State Senior year along with the team title are major highlights.

 The highpoint that stands out was the Dream Team Classic (Iowa vs. US national team) the spring of my senior year.  First time they held the event and it was at Waterloo West where I grew up wrestling.

I had a close match but won 4-0 and the place was unbelievably loud.  It was great meeting the other Iowa kids and the National team kids also.

 

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

 I have mentioned this here prior, but I was a terrible loser. It is such a hard sport and you take it personally but there are plenty of top-notch guys who lose with grace – that was not me.

 The Jesse West loses were all hard to take.  The other ones that stand out for me were at some of national freestyle tournaments.  I was close a couple times to be an all-American and lost some close matches that still bother me.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

The first time I went to an AAU event was 5th grade and I did not qualify.

I ended up 4th at AAU State as a 6th grader.

I did not place in 7th grade.

I ended up 5th at AAU State as an 8th grader.

 Lot of good kids in those brackets and wish I had a copy of those! (lot of state champs and place winners)

 A couple rivals of note.

 JD Pugh from Columbus Junction always got the best of me growing up.  I do not remember ever beating him!  

Brandon Livingood from Decorah was another guy who beat me way more than I got him.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

 Wrestled at the University of Iowa.  I made some friends I still have today and a lot of life experience that is for sure.  I had a few varsity matches as a sophomore and as a Senior but was never the top guy at the weight class.  Disappointing college career.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Cedar Falls had some great coaches and I never thanked them all enough for everything they did!

Gene Doyle, Ken Gallagher, Jeff Gard, Jay Llewellyn, Trainor, Olmstead to name a few coaches over my 4 years.

 Paul Huffman was the guy who took me under his wing and made the difference in my wrestling.  He taught me how to leg the right way and spent a ton of extra time with me and it made the difference in my career without a doubt.

 

Who was your most influential wrestler?

 Hard to pick one.  I would say Tony Wieland was someone I looked up to and kept me from getting beat up as a little 103 pounder!  Huge guy, multiple state champ and college all-American but was as nice as they come.  Another guy I never thanked enough for looking after me.

 The other is Nick Flach helping me out Senior year against West.  Not 100% clear why he did but really cool of a college kid to reach out and help a guy he did not know.

 

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

 I had a couple uncles on my mom’s side that were state place winners at Cedar Falls.  

 

My little brother was a stud athlete at Cedar Falls but never wrestled.  He has a little boy who just started in their kids wrestling club in Cedar Falls.

 

My youngest is now wrestling here in Cedar Rapids and he loves it.

 

I also have a nephew at Ballard-Huxley who is wrestling in high school and doing a great job.

 

Who are your favorite current HS wrestlers?

 I do not follow HS super close but Linn-mar had a good year with some tough kids so that was great to see.

 

Was your team competitive?

 We were very competitive.  Cedar Falls in the 1990’s had some great wrestlers and some great teams before and after I was wrestling there.  (In the 90’s CF won state team titles 3 times, a runner up and 4th place finish.  We had some good state dual results also)

 We were state champs my Senior year and won back to back to back individual titles, so a lot of credit goes to my teammates that year.  Adam Eichhorn and Eric Sinclair both had great careers at Cedar Falls, were state champs that year and were great work out partners.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I always say it was boring!  I was tough on top mainly riding legs.  I was solid on bottom.  I was never a great technician on my feet.  Preferred getting into a scramble or front headlocks.

 

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

 Plenty of things but I regret the tournaments I did not go to the most, even over some of the loses.

My senior year I should have gone out to Senior Nationals and then I also did not go out to Fargo for Junior Nationals.  Both decisions I regret.  I tell my kids all the time that it is ok to fail, but you will regret not trying and not going for what you want far more.

 

The other thing I have mentioned a couple times but keeping Wrestling in perspective.  Wrestling is a great sport, but it is still just a sport.  I would have been a better wrestler (especially in College) if I could have kept a better mentality around that.  Learn from your loses and get better but do not let it define who you are as a person.

 

What was your best wrestling memory/accomplishment?

 So many great memories and great teammates from my kids club all the way thru college.

 Accomplishment wise, I would say looking back that going from a pretty mediocre wrestler as a kid and junior high wrestler to putting things together in high school and being a state champion.  My goal was always to win state, but I always questioned if that was possible. Now I try telling my own kids to be patient as they develop in their own sports and activities.   Where they are at today, skill wise and in comparison, to their peers, is not where they will end up if they keep working and getting better!

It was also a really great experience getting into the High School hall of Fame and having my older kids with my wife and I out in the middle of the mat.  (My wife was a wrestling cheerleader, so we are high school sweethearts.  At the hall of fame, she was pregnant with our twins) My head coach, Gene Doyle was inducted the same year so that was special also.

 

How hard did you work? Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

 One of my strengths was my conditioning and I worked hard at that.  No regrets about the amount of work I put in.  I was not the most talented, by a long way, so I closed that gap via hard work.  

 I did wrestle all year round and I did wrestle freestyle (but not very well) I wrestled in one (and only one) Greco tournament so I could weigh in early for freestyle.  Poor choice but a couple funny stories from it.

 

What other sports did you play?

 Growing up I played about everything, just not very well.  After 7th grade I focused on wrestling and that was the only thing I did in high school.  Really wished I would have run cross country my senior year in high school.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

 I follow the Hawkeyes and the Chicago Cubs

 

What are your hobbies?

With 5 great kids, a very supportive wife and a busy career my hobbies have taken a back seat the past few years.  I did get back into shape a few years back doing Triathlons and accomplished a goal of mine in doing Ironman Louisville in 2010 which was awesome.

Coaching the kids has been a highlight for me and I would encourage every parent to get into coaching.  Lots of great stories there 😊

 

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

 I was really a shy quiet kid and wrestling gave me my identity when I was growing up.  The work ethic and grit you learn and earn in this sport translates over to the rest of your life.  I am grateful for all the lessons this sport taught me.  

 It also can be very damaging if you do not keep winning and losing in perspective so finding a balance is super important in my opinion.

 

What do you do now? Are you still involved with wrestling?

I coached at Cedar Rapids Washington for several years and loved it.  As my family grew that took a priority so I stopped.  Now my youngest is getting into the sport so we will see where that takes us.

I work at The Accel Group, which is an insurance broker here in Iowa.  Great company and great people.  A lot of old wrestlers in the group which is fun.

 

When did you first wrestle Jesse West? Ever meet up in youth wrestling. How long did the rivalry last?

 

He may not remember this, but our first-time wrestling was in the Iowa Wrestling room.  It was in the fall right before the season started.  Royce Alger was running the high school club that year and he paired us together one Sunday practice (on purpose I am sure)  I had no idea who he was but everyone one else was done and running and we were still going until someone got a takedown.  I still remember we went for a while without a score, but I hit an inside trip to a double and finally scored on him. When I learned he was at City High and wrestling 125 that year I knew it was going to be a battle. He transferred in that year from Kansas, so I did not know him until we were both Seniors in high school.  He would drop a weight in college, and I moved up a weight, so we never ran into each other after that.  I do remember rooting for him against Leroy Vega later that summer at a freestyle tournament and wanted to see him succeed when we were not going up against each other.

 

 

What were the overall results between you and your Jesse? Where did you wrestle, and which matches stuck out as being most intense or most important?

 We wrestled four matches our Senior year. One win on my side and three wins on his.  They were all close.

– Keith Young finals I lost right at the end of the match.  I gave up a reversal, got an escape and could not get a takedown.

– Later in the year at the City High, Cedar falls dual meet I lost in double overtime.

– MVC Conference final was a 1-point loss to him.

– State Finals, overtime was my only win.

 Both, Keith Young and the dual meet were held in the Cedar Falls gym so those losses really hurt in front of my home crowd.  The dual was packed for that meet.

(Random note but our conference tournament was held at Linn-mar and my kids go to school there, so I still think about that loss 😊  The loss my sophomore year was also at Linn-mar so I’ve pointed out to my kids where I broke my headgear after that one)

 Not necessarily more important but the first loss at Keith Young broke a pretty good winning streak for me and made me question staying at 125.  I started thinking about going up to 130 to avoid him.

 

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

I had a good tournament going into the finals at Keith Young and beat a couple good kids, so I felt pretty good.  I was always nervous.  Every match, every time.  Looking back now, I was a little too high strung and took wrestling way to seriously.  

 

What did you know about Jesse coming into the first match you had with him?

I knew he was a 2-time state champ, from Kansas and from our time at the Hawkeye club I knew it was going to be a tough match.

 

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

 Hard to pick one since they were all good battles, but I should choose our state finals match since I won that one. 😊

 

What was your game plan against him?

During the regular season I should have game planned more and I did not have a plan.  I just took the attitude that I would wrestle my match and I would beat him, not a great strategy obviously.

The first time I really put together a game plan was for state.  Nick Flach (at UNI at the time) offered to help me and he came up with a plan for me.   Basically, the plan was this.  Keep running back to the middle and try to make conditioning a factor and 2) no crab rides, minimal legging.  During our first three matches he would reverse me each time I tried.  If you look at the finals match it looks like he was waiting for me to crab ride, instead I kept sucking him back so the plan worked right up until the end.   I avoided it most of the match but when I tried it with 5 seconds left, he put me in a lot of trouble again.  Thankfully, they ruled it an escape and not the reversal.

 

Do you know Jesse off the mat?

 No and I wish I would have tried.  Back then he was such a rival/threat and someone trying to achieve what I was trying to achieve that I did not like him.  He was probably a great guy.

 

Did you respect their wrestling skills?

 Absolutely!  I underestimated how tough he was on top and I struggled to get out.  He was hard to score on and most of our matches were low scoring.

 

How did you feel when you won?

 Only happened once, but it was at the right time.  Combination of relief and excitement.  After giving up the last second point to go into overtime I was so panicked I just kept telling myself not to blow it after I had the win locked up. I do have to say I should have prepared for the post-match interview.  That must be one of the worst interviews of all time! Super painful to watch.

 

How did you feel when you lost?

 After our first match at Keith Young, I remember Mark and Mike Schwab (Mike was at Don Bosco and Mark was at Minnesota coaching I believe) pulling me aside.   They were trying to give me some pointers after that first lost and I could not pull myself together.  In general, I took losing way too hard and I was not very mature about it. The way I handled losing would be a regret of mine.

 

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

 Sounds like a terrible idea!  I can get talked into most things so never say never, but my money is on Jesse if that happens.

 

Is there anything else you would like to add? Advice? Entertaining information. Interesting facts. Cool things about life? Cool things about wrestling? Funny stories?

 Couple other random stories to our last match at State.  The grand march before finals.  Everyone walks out with their weight class.  Really cool experience and was blessed to have the opportunity each year to walk.  Well, what I thought was an upspoken rule was that each finalist was on the opposite end of their row so basically you are apart from each other.  Not sure if it was his coach’s idea or his but he stood right next to me during the grand march.  I am sure they were trying to get into my head.  I was so mad at first and then it struck me that it was intentional, so I started talking to him instead to show it did not bother me.  I think it was the only time we ever spoke to each other!  

 2nd part to this.  I realized pretty quickly that he was watching me warm up and again not sure if it was him or his coaches but it looked like he was going to shadow what I was doing, even in warms ups.

I am guessing since I had been there.  So, it goes back to the conditioning game plan…. While warming up I was behind some partial walls in the basement of vets.  Again, I noticed he was watching me so I decided I would sprint where he could see me and then stop and walk when I was behind the wall.  I saw him sprinting every time I was so I figured I would try and wear him out before the match if I could keep him running.  There is a lot of time to warm up before finals and you can wear yourself out if you are not careful.

 Another random fact is that was the 2nd year in a row I wrestled an Iowa City High guy who transferred.  Joe Lucchi transferred back to Iowa City my Junior year.  I beat him in the finals at the Keith Young tournament at 112, so he ended up dropping down to 103.  He beat Cliff Moore in the state finals that year, essentially keeping Cliff from being a 4-time champ. I would say that started the wave of transferring we would see become more prevalent years later.  Reiland over at City West certainly had his fair share but Brad Smith started it 😊

 

Did Jesse being a Kansas transfer put any fuel on the competitive fire for you or was that something that did not matter?

 It was more about getting beat by him then where he was from.  I just remember going into the season thinking it was going to be a fun year and my goal was to dominate.  I did not see any real threats at the weight class, so this was my year to have some fun.  That changed quick.

 

Were you able to pick up on the General spectators rooting for you because you were the Iowa homegrown guy? 

Yes and no.

 Funny story here but some of the Waterloo West cheerleaders asked me for a senior picture and I said no.  (I was worried my girlfriend, also a cheerleader would get mad – side note, 24 years later were still married) Well they thought I was a jerk (rightfully so) so they were huge West fans and were very vocal in their support of him.

I would say otherwise I did get some “homegrown” support and a lot of “you can’t let some Kansas kid beat you” stuff from people.  I received a ton of cards and notes after the state tournament from people, so the support was awesome.

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Who Is The GOAT?!?! The Case For Cody Fisher, Woodward Granger

I love how this kid put Woodward Granger on the map the way he did. This one may be a surprise to some of ya and for a couple reasons. To start, most of the guys I have written about for this series were in earlier eras than Cody. Secondly, Cody Fisher, IMO put together one of the most impressive careers in Iowa HS wrestling history and did so, seemingly to the sound of collective, state-wide cricket chirping.  He went out and consistently won, consistently dominated, but he was never flashy about it, really. He isn’t cocky. He isn’t some Hulkamaniac upper-weight with 40 inch biceps and washboard abs. He is a strong dude, but it never seemed like it was to the point where he was always overwhelmingly physically imposing to his opponents like Matt Fields was. Cody Fisher won and did so consistently all 4 years in HS and did so starting as an upper-weight and the main reason he did this was simple… He is a one tough, intelligent dude on that mat and has such a balanced skill-set… He reminds me of what Lance Berkman was to the MLB. Lance was a guy who was kind of built like Fisher. Ya know, obviously athletic, but not too concerned with trying to attain the physique of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but strong looking as hell nevertheless…. They are both pesky in about every facet of their games, both didn’t seem to have any weaknesses and they both appear and come off as guys who you could see yourself hanging out and playing Mario Kart with off the mat. A nice guy, too.

So Fisher placed 2-2-1-1 at state and what makes this incredible for him was that he started his HS tenure as a Freshman at 195 lbs. He placed 2nd his first two years in HS as an upper weight and in both matches, he lost to upperclassmen phenom who will likely have his own GOAT article someday, Bryce Esmoil of West Liberty. Fisher can be forgiven for that. I mean how many Freshman are able to say that they scrapped at state on Saturday night at 195 lbs? Not many and most of the 195 lb. Freshman who get into scraps on Saturday night at state wrestling, did so fighting with their friends about who got the last cup of Dip N’ Dots. Fisher scrapped at state on a Saturday night because he was  just straight up tough enough to be able to make the finals as  a Freshman. And if it weren’t for Bryce Esmoil, who knows… he could have become a 4X state champion who started out at 195, which is just unheard of.

2017 2A 195
1 Bryce Esmoil (Jr.) West Liberty
2 Cody Fisher (Fr.) Woodward Granger
3 Jackson Mikkelsen (Sr.) Creston-OM
4 Matthew Landsperger (Jr.) Knoxville
5 Zac Stork (Sr.) Atlantic
6 Sam Moore (Sr.) Mount Vernon
7 Seth Moore (Sr.) Ballard
8 Caleb Olson (So.) Webster City

2018 2A 195
1 Bryce Esmoil (Sr.) West Liberty
2 Cody Fisher (So.) Woodward Granger
3 Nick Foss (Sr.) Harlan
4 Nick Smith (Sr.) Central DeWitt
5 Kade Hambly (Jr.) Clear Lake
6 Dalton Chipp (Jr.) Hampton-Dumont
7 Blake Anderson (Sr.) OABCIG
8 Shyler Langley (Sr.) Heelan Catholic

2019 2A-220
1 Cody Fisher of Woodward Granger
2 Kaden Sutton of ADM, Adel
3 Dakoda Powell of Spirit Lake Park
4 Kobe Simon of West Liberty
5 Kade Hambly of Clear Lake
6 Mike Hoyle of Solon
7 Seth Adrian of Assumption
8 Jarrett Meyer of Central Lyon-G-LR

2020 2A 220
1 Cody Fisher (Sr) Woodward Granger
2 Kobe Simon (Jr) West Liberty
3 Seth Adrian (Sr) Assumption – Davenport
4 Crew Howard (Jr) Clarinda
5 Treyton Burnikel (Jr) Crestwood – Cresco
6 Andrew Hamilton (Sr) Algona
7 Kamrin Steveson (Jr) Grinnell
8 Christian Nunley (Jr) West Delaware

He was also a 4X Freestyle AA at Fargo Nationals. He’s one of the most underrated wrestlers to come out of Iowa in quite some time. He now wrestled for Iowa State and is a Freshman this season.

 

 

When I was writing for The Predicament, I conducted this interview with him prior to his Senior season: 

 

When did you start wrestling? Who introduced you to the sport?

I started  really getting into wrestling in the fourth grade and some very good family friends introduced me to it.

 

Do you have any family who wrestled before you? How did they do?

I’m the first person in my family to wrestle believe it or not, haha.

 

Did you catch on to wrestling quickly or was it a gradual process?

Wrestling for me was a gradual process at a young age and took lots of time and dedication.

 

What club did you wrestle for growing up and how would you describe your experience with the club?

Growing up I’ve been with Ubasa Wrestling Academy and my experience with Pablo is very unique. I’m glad I’ve stuck through with him and it’s gonna be hard to leave that.

 

What are a couple memorable moments from youth wrestling?

Some memorable moments with in my youth were winning my 2 AAU State titles and wrestling the Funez twins from Perry at the Perry tournament my 7th grade year.

 

How did you finish at state tournaments in youth?

I finished first twice and 7th once at AAU state in my youth.

 

What are some of your more memorable moments from high school wrestling to this point?

Memorable high school moments are definitely the state tournament and definitely gotta give some attention to the ACGC tournament for being my favorite regular season tournament.

 

How did you finish at the state tournaments you wrestled in at the HS level to this point?

2nd, 2nd and first.

Who were your wrestling heroes growing up? Who are your current wrestling heroes?

I loved watching bigger guys so definitely fans of Mike McMullan and J’den Cox

 

Was there ever a point in your career where you noticed yourself jumping levels and making huge strides?

The summer going into my sophomore year I noticed big leaps and bounds in my wrestling just from devoting more time to the sport.

 

Who have been some of your toughest competitors in HS to this point in your career?

I’ve had several tough competitors… too many to name without feeling like I left a few out. Many competitors, even ones I beat handily, have had great things they’ve brought to the table.

 

Not very many guys make the finals 4 times, let alone starting at a heavier weight as you did as a Freshman. Now here you are, a Senior and 3 time state finalist and returning champ. How cool is it that you are on pace to join an elite club of 4 time finalists in Iowa and even more exclusive being a 4 time finalist who started raking in the hardware as an upperweight Freshman?

It’s very cool knowing I’ve made finals every year at heavier weights and my most memorable tournament is my Junior year and the feelings and having everyone there around me and looking at my phone afterwards and  reading all the messages. It was just an unreal feeling.

 

What are your wrestling goals for this coming season?

Some goals are to definitely get another title and others is to hit 200 wins for my career but other than that I haven’t given much thought to goals yet.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style? Who would you compare yourself to?

I don’t know really how to describe my own style… I guess you could say I’m pretty offensive based on my wrestling.

 

What other sports do you play and how have you done at them?

I used to play football until my sophomore year then I decided to devote myself to wrestling.

 

What are some of your hobbies besides wrestling?

For hobbies, I’m an avid scary movie watcher and I also enjoy spending time with my friends and relatives.

 

What is some of the best advice you ever received?

Best advice I’ve ever had is really hard to say because I’ve been around some really great minds of the sport and I’ve soaked up so much it’s hard to say just one.

 

Do you have any advice for up and coming wrestlers?

Advice for upcoming wrestlers is to just focus on getting better and invest in the process of it and it will pay dividends in the end.

 

What is your favorite style of wrestling? Folkstyle, Freestyle or Greco?

I don’t have a favorite style, I just enjoy wrestling as a whole.

 

Who were some of the most influential coaches you worked with?

Definitely a lot people to thank for the coaching I’ve received, but Pablo Ubasa, Ross Larson, Tanner Hiatt, Mike Zadick and the ISU coaching staff have taken my wrestling to extraordinary heights and I’m excited to see where things go from here.

 

What are your college plans? Is wrestling in your future whether it be competing or coaching?

I’m currently committed to wrestle for Iowa State and coach Kevin Dresser and the rest of the ISU coaching staff.

 

What is the future outlook for Woodward Granger wrestling?

I’m hoping I’ve started Woodward Granger wrestling in the right path and whenever possible I’d like to come back and help. Later in life if our paths cross again, I’d be very happy to coach for Woodward Granger.

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Remember The Wrestler: Kelly Fox of Guthrie Center

 

While reading Kelly’s responses to the questionnaire and learning about his journey and experiences with wrestling, it hit me in “the feels” pretty hard at parts.  It gave me the same feeling I get whenever I watch the end of the movie, “Rudy.” I can’t make it through that movie without crying.  I didn’t make it through reading about Kelly Fox’s wrestling journey without crying either. 

Do you think I’m a wussy for that? Ok then, I’ll sick Dan Gable on you!

 

HAHA, TAKE THAT, ROBOTS! See…it’s ok for wrestlers to be sentimental about wrestling. Dan Gable clearly is…. and he is the complete opposite of  someone who is “weak-minded.” Wrestlers are way more human than we are often times given credit for by non-wrestlers. The next time a non-wrestler tells me that wrestlers are nothing more than emotionless robots that like to roll around with each other dressed in swimsuits, ironically may summon my inner Terminator. 

Anyways…

\The story of Kelly Fox is something that could appeal to any sports fan. Heck, it could appeal to someone not interested in sports at all. If a person tells you that they don’t think they could ever get into wrestling, the Kelly Fox story would be a perfect one to use if you want to try to change their outlook on that. Kelly Fox qualified for state as a Sophomore with a mediocre 14-10 record and managed to win a state title. This just simply does not happen very often. He was an underdog in every match, he faced a high ranked wrestler in every match and he WON all four of these matches to win state. It amazes me that this story was almost completely forgotten about in time by most wrestling fans. I had never heard of it happening prior to watching the 1983 state tournament for the first time ever a few weeks ago and you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who has studied Iowa HS state wrestling history over the years more than I have.

There are tons of people who love inspirational sports movies like Rudy. Some people who love these types of movies may have no interest in the sport being played in the movie, but love it anyways because they love stories of good characters defeating the odds… it makes people feel happy. Kelly Fox is a guy you could make a movie like that about…(If I had a budget to work with, I 100% WOULD do it. I mean that). A person doesn’t have to have any prior wrestling knowledge, experience or interest to be inspired by Kelly’s story either. What’s not to love about a true story of a person repeatedly defeating the odds at the perfect time and accomplishing tremendous feats despite being doubted by everyone outside their own supportive and enthusiastic wrestling community? Most love those types of stories, no matter who or what they may be about.  Rocky… Rudy… Miracle…Hoosiers….. KELLY FOX! This man is our Rudy, guys… 

(In Case You’ve Never Seen The Ending Of The Movie “Rudy” That I Referred To):

 

This is also a perfect example of something that needs to be documented and accessible to anyone who has a wrestling background and/or people who try wrestling in the future…For it could inspire them during the rough times that they will most certainly have at some point in their careers or well, lives. Not to mention, it’s something that should not be forgotten in time as it almost was! And to think that there may be other stories or journeys similar to Kelly’s that are at risk of permanently falling between the cracks of infinite obscurity… It just makes me want to research more and try to find more Kelly Fox’s before their memories fade even further…. Thing is, I don’t know if there is a likelihood of finding any other stories quite like Kelly’s…. The only one I can think of that comes close is Rice Owens from WDM Valley winning state with something like an 25-13 record in 1998. The Kelly Fox story does not happen very often, BUT maybe it will happen again in the future for a young reader out there who may use Kelly’s words and story as the inspiration they needed to spark their own inner fire that helped them accomplish their goals.

I hope parents/coaches of wrestlers encourage their kids to read this one. You can tell them to skip past my ramblings…. They need to learn from and learn about Kelly Fox! What he accomplished and his account in how he accomplished it is one of the most heart-warming things you will ever hear about in this sport. As I mentioned above, it made me cry.  If you think I am a cowardly lion for that, then I guess I should offer you an oil can, for I assume you are a heartless tin man who could use some.

THIS IS THE CLIP OF KELLY CELEBRATING HIS STATE FINALS WIN WITH HIS COACHES AND CHEERLEADERS AS WELL AS HIM RECEIVING HIS GOLD MEDAL ON THE PODIUM:

 

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

I only wrestled for my High School, Guthrie Center High School. Back then there were no clubs that you attached yourself to and did out of season wrestling with. There were a few summer tournaments, but most of us had jobs during the summer. We did have a 2 week camp period during the summer at our HS, but that was about the extent of wrestling when not in season.

 

What year did you graduate?  

May 1985

 

 Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

Actually coming from a smaller town you played all the sports. In Jr. High I did football, basketball, track, and baseball. Up until my 7th grade year I had never tried wrestling. So that year I went out and 2 weeks into it, I quit. Did not feel good at quitting something that I had started, but just was not a fan. I think because I had never been exposed to the sport, I did not get out on a very good foot and quite frankly was getting my butt whipped. I was a guard in basketball and actually thought I had some game, so had decided that basketball would be my winter sport. Once 8th grade came around, I still had a bad taste in my mouth for quitting wrestling the year before, so I went back out and tried it again. I had some success. I think I was .500 in matches, but after the season I felt much better and thought I had made up for quitting the year before. Summer came and I had football and basketball camps and at that point I had ordered my basketball shoes for my upcoming freshman year. Throughout my freshman year of football, I had numerous upper classmen come up to me and tell me they better see me on the mat after football was over, for they were in need of a 98 pounder. Didn’t think much of it, but as the season got closer and closer the noise was getting louder and louder and a few seniors indicated that they didn’t want to stick me into a locker if I had made a bad choice on not going out for wrestling. In the end, it was the Sunday before winter sports practices started that I had made my decision and it was one that would pretty much change my path in life. Mind you, my new basketball shoes were not in yet, but that Monday in early November of 1981, instead of taking a left into the door that led to the basketball practice gym, I went right into the wrestling room and the look on the basketball coaches’ faces was not a good one. I was young then and did not have the heart to tell them that I had changed my plans and felt wrestling was a better fit based on my size at the time. I was less than 100 lbs. and only 5’2”. In the end it was the best decision I ever made, for it forever changed who I was. Footnote to that story, my basketball shoes did come in about 2 weeks later and when the assistant coach gave them to me, he did say he missed me on the court, but hoped I was happy with my decision. He ended up being a big fan of mine which really meant a lot. You hate to disappoint people especially that early in life, but in the end if worked out for everyone.

 

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

My younger brother who is 2 years younger than me did some wrestling and I had a cousin also who wrestled in HS prior to me getting into HS. Nobody currently in my family wrestles, I do have a 17year old son, but I never once pushed him into the sport and he was a hockey player growing up. He never seemed to have any interest so I just stayed away from it. I told him I thought he would be good, for he is very competitive, but it was not something he ever wanted to try. I am at peace with that, as a father, down deep I wanted him to, but I always told him I was good with whatever sports he wanted to play. It was baseball and hockey.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Didn’t really have any for I didn’t do any of the younger kids tournaments or wrestle until got into my junior high years.

 

What was your record in HS?

Freshman year = 15-15 (3rd at Sectionals, but see below on a bizarre activity in which I got to actually wrestle at districts that year). Sophomore year = 18-10, Junior Year = 26-8, and Senior Year = 21-1, so totals look like 80-34.

 

How did you place at state every year?

Freshman year – -Got 3rd at sectionals, but the night before districts started, my coach got the call that Dexfield’s Paul Merical became ill and was unable to compete, so I got the nod being that I finished 3rd. So mind you this was technically my second year of competition, so when I got there, I truly didn’t understand the impact of what districts was. I knew the wrestlers at districts would be tough, so I was not expecting much that would surprise me. Ended up beating the sectional champ from the week before, but that was as close as I got. Finished 3rd and only top two from districts went onto state. But I almost back-doored my way in my Freshman year. Sophomore Year – -State Champ 98 lbs, went in with a 14-10 record, that has to be, if not the worst, one of the worst records in the bracket. I got 2nd at both Sectionals and Districts. You guessed it, I was 16th seed at State. Had to go through the gauntlet to get that crown. Junior Year 105 lbs – 4th place overall. Senior Year – 105 lbs…Beat out in first round by a freshman and no wrestle backs for my guy got beat next round.

 

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

The one that sticks out the most is my Senior year where I rolled my ankle in a dual in early January and I was out 3 weeks. Very painful and I could not put a lot of weight on the ankle for that period of time. We did not have a pool and there is only so much bike you can ride to stay in shape. Came back the weekend before Sectionals that year to wrestle in my last Guthrie Center Tiger Invitational and ended up winning it, but in the championship match took a huge elbow to the top of my head and it split wide open and the cut was deep. I was wrapped up like a mummy to finish the match, but then had to go to hospital afterwards to get 9 stitches in the top of my head. Took it pretty easy the week leading up to sectionals and going into both sectionals and districts, I was clearly out of shape and not at my peek that was for sure for didn’t have that many matches. Being that I was a senior, I was wrestling a lot of underclassmen at 105, so that was of help.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Always wanted to get the very first take down and my go to move right out of the gate was a duck under to a single and down to the mat you go. After that, loved riding the legs and controlling your arms and using tilts. Did not pin a bunch, but I would rack up some back points. When I rode legs, I rode high and put a lot of pressure on your shoulders/neck. I could sense frustration a lot of times for if we would have had riding time back then, I would have racked it up on most kids.

 

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

A few that stick out to me was wrestling Pat and Mike Moran from Woodward Granger were guys I went back and forth with a lot. First and foremost, those guys were class acts. Win or lose they were always so gracious and we ended up being friends. After matches and at tournaments I would hang out with them and we would talk wrestling. My Junior year in 1984 I went back and forth with a wrestler from Dallas Center Grimes named Doug Hatch who ended up winning it all that year. We wrestled in a dual and then a few tournaments and he had my number every time. We had to wrestle in the Semifinals at State that year and he got the best of me. I was happy to see him go on that year and take the Championship, very good wrestler and person as well. Of course in my conference and regular tournaments there were numerous guys that I would wrestle multiple times and the last one that sticks out me is Mark Patrick From Coon Rapids. He and I went back and forth and I don’t believe Tim every beat me, but I will tell you every time I wrestled him he would get better and better and just such an outstanding person. We wrestled each other so much, we knew what each would do, so it truly was a game of cat and mouse by the time we were seniors. Those four guys jump right out at me when I think of tough exchanges and good people in the sport.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I have to go with my head coach at the time I won it, Jim Calvert. But also had some pretty good assistants throughout my career, but I think more importantly were the boys in the room that I wrestled against every day. They were scrappy, tough, and really took it to me from time to time. I always remember we would try different things and bounce things off one another. Learned different techniques from them all, but at the end of the day we all respected one another and were good teammates.

 

What was the story of your state championship your Sophomore year? What was your record? How did districts and the matches leading to the finals go for you?

What a run this was. First and foremost my season record was only 14-10 coming into State. Finished 2nd at Sectionals in Coon Rapids that year where I had to wrestle 3 matches (wrestle back) to advance, and then went to Rockwell City for Districts, where I finished 2nd as well. Don’t remember how that district came out, but remember eventually falling to the champion of our district 3-2 in OT. Have to be totally honest, I was not expecting it. I remember it being a very tough district, but remember in those days I wrestled the 1st place guy from the other sectional and I beat him 5-4 and then had to wrestle Chad Cox again from my district and again he beat me 3-2 in OT. Then it was on to State the next week in which I just remember it being a very compact and quick week. Since the season was technically over, I went up to Coon Rapids to wrestle with their qualifiers and against Mark Patrick a lot (I mentioned before). Had a light practice that Wednesday and then off on Thursday to State. My High School had a send off event which I thought was pretty cool and then in the school van we went. There were some things that stick out to me about how it felt when we first got down there. First at weigh-ins, I found it very intimidating that there were multiple teams with 5-7 wrestlers there and here I was with only one other wrestler, our Super Heavyweight Kent Bortell. I just remember the whole Lisbon team standing there in a huddle and I had to go up against their top guy Danny Benyshek. I can’t fully describe how it felt that very first time entering Veterans Auditorium and walking around the floor where the mats were.  I suppose the best word to describe it is, “amazing.” Nothing will ever compare to that old barn. I know today everything is nice and new and bigger, but I am telling you there was something special about that place and when I walked out on the mat, I felt at home for some strange reason. I wrestled the best guys to get to the finals. I can’t remember their rankings, but I am telling you they were all very highly ranked throughout the year. First off was again Danny Benyshek from #1 Lisbon team. Final score of the match was 7-5, I remember getting the first take down and I believe a 2 pt. nearfall, but don’t remember anything else except for hanging on at the end. The look on my coaches face when that match was over, I am going to say was one of huge surprise. The next day was an early match Friday morning, against Kingsley-Pearson’s LeMont Schmid. It was a 5-1 final, and I believe it was a takedown and some back points that provided me that lead. I remember he was down to start the 3rd period and I gave up a late escape, but he couldn’t get me down. I felt good after that match and I think it was at that point where I was like, “let’s go. I can compete with these guys and you just have to keep the pressure on them.” So after that it was off to get some food and rest, for the semis would be that night. I remember we went back to the hotel and chilled most of the day. Coach didn’t want me to stay around Vet’s, so it was a hangout day at the hotel. Once we got back to Vet’s for the semis, I felt a huge change in atmosphere and the enormity at hand. I could see on my friends’ faces and how nervous they were, but it gave me confidence in a way I can’t describe. My semifinal match was against Bob O’Conner from Dike. He was a year older, had already been to state the year before and was 27-2 coming into our match. I got one look at him before walking out and was like, wow he is thick. He had some tough matches before, so I remember going out right away and trying to take him down and he blocked everything I threw out at him. He did try for some singles, but 0-0 after 1. In regulation we went 2-2, and for the life of me I can’t remember how that went. As we went to OT, I shot right away and as we went to the mat something popped in his knee. There was an injury timeout and after some time, we continued. He clearly was not the same and was hurting, for I ended up tilting him to his back 3 times on my way to a 10-0 OT victory. Later down in these questions, I will provide you with a memory I will never forget about this match. Man, my team and buddies were all fired up after that and we couldn’t believe I would be walking in the Grand March, and wrestling in the finals. That next day was a whirlwind. Had teammates and former wrestlers coming to the hotel all day. I was trying to stay calm and relaxed, but found that very hard. Just remember my coach saying you have gotten this far, let it all go on this match. Got to the arena and the Grand March is something I will never forget. If there is one thing, I wish all my buddies could take part in, it would be that. You have 10K people with a standing ovation and it seems like it goes on forever. I can’t describe the feeling for I still had a match to go, but I remember thinking to myself, “so this what my buddies have talked about.” Got a little warm up time for they have a bunch of awards and things they do before the matches, and then it became time for introductions of the first finals matches, which was 98 lbs…my weight. Honest to God, this next part will be hard for me to type out and know I will be stopping a lot to collect my thoughts and emotions; I mean my God it’s been 37 years, Kelly. After keeping loose in the corner, my coaches were just keeping me as calm as possible. After I headed out to the center, I just told myself, “let’s make the first move and make something happen, don’t hold back.” I did just that, got the first takedown and got some tilt points right out of the gate. This match is fuzzy to this day and I am not sure if I was up 5-0 or 6-0 after the first period, but remember the rest of the way on he pretty much controlled it with a reversal and I believe he got some back points as well, and up until the very end, almost had additional back points to which he would have won the match. I just remember him riding me very hard and trying to tilt me every chance he got. I believe I got called for stalling late, but he ran out of time. I was holding on for dear life for his ride was so tight and I didn’t want to give up any more back points. Time ran out and I had to look over at the board to see exactly how it ended up. I was so relieved. I don’t think I responded with much and my memory is fuzzy with it, but I do remember running into my head coaches’ arms and the cheerleaders racing over to congratulate me and the coaches. The GC crowd was going nuts, it was so loud, but I remember the 2A match was not finished yet and that came down to the last few seconds. The rest was a blur, to be very honest. I remember getting on top of that stand and the moment that medal went around my neck, I was on cloud 9. It finally had hit me when the announcer said, “and your Class A 98 lbs State Champion, from Guthrie Center, Kelly Fox.” I heard every one of my buddies and teammates behind me in the stands yell so loud. Was handed the board and off I went to a few interviews and then into my teammates’ arms. I know I don’t do this justice, but the enormity of this didn’t hit me for days and maybe months. I think terms I saw in the newspapers and what not to describe it consisted of; “Cinderella Story,” “The Little Train That Could” and “leave it to the smallest to bring home the biggest.” I found a quote from my coach Jim Calvert after it was all said and done, he indicated that the difference between the way I wrestled during the season and at the state tournament was my attitude. “There was no stopping him after he won Thursday’s match. He wrestled with so much confidence, it was unbelievable,” he said.

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yes we had some gusto, but more than being competitive is we truly where a wrestling family. We always had close bonds inside the room and we always did a lot together in and out of season. I truly will never forget that, some very good people that either win or lose never lost sight of how tight our group was. As you get older it is just something you cherish and are grateful you experienced.

 

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

There was also a couple of brothers from Guthrie Center that I remember always wanting to be like when I was growing up, Mike and Mark Artist. Twin brothers and they were wrestling legends at GCHS. Mark won a State Championship in 1977 and Mike was second that same year. I remember talking to them when I was younger and truly admired how good they were. As I got a little older I was a huge Barry Davis fan and loved what he brought to the mat for intensity and just how he went out and never let up for the full 7 minutes in his college matches.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Hands down Dan Gable followed by all the 4 Timers. That is something very hard to do and to repeat every year is just something that is hard for me to comprehend with all the pressure I know that exists.

 

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

Not really, to be very upfront. Since I started so late in my career to wrestle, I just felt I needed to go out and do what I could do. I was not flashy by any means, my style was to get the first takedown, ride you out and take you to your back.

 

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

Any of the 4 timers of course, the Gibbons brothers were always so good, and just the guys I wrestled against daily in the wrestling room. I will forever be indebted to them for making me who I was.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

We are huge Iowa Hawkeye fans so my answer would be anyone that wrestles for them, but by far over the last few years my favorite has been Spencer Lee. What a great wrestler, but more than that…just how he carries himself and how humble he is. You can follow him up with Marinelli and Kemerer and so on.

 

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

I was an ACDC/Van Halen guy. All their songs got me pumped up and those are the songs blaring in the weight room at our school. But I had one song I had to listen to before each big match and that was “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. Before Sectionals/Districts/State I always took a long walk around the town and would put my headphones on and that was always the last song I would listen too. Got me so fired up and to this day I still get some chills when I hear it for it takes me right back there.

 

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

My very last match ever, 1st Round of my Senior Year at state. Got beat by a freshman and I couldn’t do anything against him. Again, coming in I wasn’t in the best shape with being out so long with my ankle injury, but no excuses for this was state. I was ranked 2nd in the state coming in and just got whipped and my hats off to Bruce Obrecht from Underwood. When I got up after being rode practically the whole 3rd period, I looked at my family and friends and to see the looks on their faces to this day truly makes me disappointed. It was all on me, I didn’t wrestle good and remember thinking at one point before the match was over, “is this the way you are going to go out?” I let a lot of people down that day and for the longest time, that truly stayed with me and was hard for me to overcome. I felt so bad for them and was not worried about myself when I walked off that mat, for that day the better person won hands down and I knew it.

 

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

Wish I would have put more time in the off season into the sport. Plus, I had some offers from some Juco’s to continue my wrestling career, but I chose to go a different path and it was clearly not the right one for me. I had my heart set on going to the University of Iowa, not to wrestle (walk on was in the back of my mind). I wanted to get that college experience and that was just not a good call. Trust me, I had a good time, but I forgot what college was for. I spent too much time with extracurricular activities and forgot I had to go to class and study, for that’s why I was there.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Most would think I would say when I won the State Championship and that was my best moment for sure, but my best memory was probably in the Semi-Finals of that year. I was wrestling Bob O’ Connor From Dike who was very good and very highly ranked that year (believe 3rd) and we had a tough match where we went 2-2 in regulation and then went to overtime and unfortunately he hurt his knee in the first period after I took him down and he was not the same from then on. I put him on his back three times in the match to end up winning 10-0 in OT. Prior to going into OT, I just remember a group of my friends started a chant and was getting other people to join in and I just remember thinking, “how can you let them down now?”  A few of my buddies would yell, “Who are you rooting for!?!??” The rest of their crowd would answer, “Kelly Fox!!” and it was so loud and they got others who didn’t even know me to join in. Remembering that 37 years later truly gives me goosebumps and brings big tears to my eyes. After that match I went running to that group, and they literally picked me up on their shoulders and were chanting again. That is the wrestling memory I will never forget and feel is the best.

 

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

Guys today do much more wrestling in and out of season, both folk and freestyle throughout the year so I am going to say they would be tough to beat, that is for sure. Another thing, kids don’t cut as much weight as we did back in the day, which when I look back, it was totally stupid. My senior year I cut from 125 down to 105 and the muscle and strength would go along with the weight I lost. I sweat out every day. I ran and I would lay under the mats to make weight and that was silly…plain stupid. I had no business doing that, should have wrestled at 112 or 119. 

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

I did not wrestle after high school and a very stupid mistake on my part that I will never ever forget. Again had some offers but never pursued them.

 

What other sports did you play?

In high school, played them all. Smaller 1A school so I loved that I got that chance. Football in the fall, wrestling in the winter, track in the spring, and rounded it out with baseball. Was all Southwest Iowa in Baseball my senior year as a Utility player (for I was catcher, relief pitcher, shortstop). I truly loved representing our school in every sport, once a Tiger Always a Tiger.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

In College, anything to do with the Iowa Hawkeyes, our family is Black and Gold baby. In Pro Football that would be the Minnesota Vikings, Pro Hockey – New York Rangers, and in Pro Baseball the World Champions LA Dodgers. Not much of an NBA guy, but have always loved the Philadelphia 76’s since the days of Dr. J…

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Don’t really have any hobbies, I just watch a lot of sports to be honest, both college and pros. I don’t have time for any hobbies 😊.

 

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

I didn’t give enough back enough to the sport, I gained way more out from it then I have given back. That is very much a regret I still have in life, I know that I could have coached kids up, but think I left with a bad taste in my mouth and never really embraced what the sport did for me, for it totally made me who I am today.

 

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

That you can’t quit on anything. The Impossible is Possible. Physical size does not matter in any sport, its the size of the heart, soul, and values you are given and how you channel them. Two things helped shape me into the person I am today; the sport of wrestling and my military time. I would not be where I am at today without either one of those. I would say wrestling gave me the don’t quit attitude in a one-on-one situation. The thought that it’s only you, yourself, and I out there that can either win or lose, you can’t blame anyone else when you walk off that mat. The military provided me with the pride I think we all need to have in life, you have to take pride in what you do every single day both personally and professionally and give 110% in any task.

 

What do you do now?

After doing 9 years in the US Air Force as an Intelligence Analyst at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, I decided this was the place for me to stay and raise a family. I was midwestern born and raised and wanted my kids to have the same. Plus it was not far away from Iowa City so I can continue to watch my Hawks and go back and forth to live events. For the last 21 years I have had the pleasure to work in the I/T Industry and currently am a Sales Representative for our Maintenance Division and have loved all 21 years of being with this company.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I kind of walked away from the sport for many years and then got back into it 10 years ago and became a wrestling official in Nebraska and did some kids tournaments in Iowa as well. Didn’t like the direction the sport was going to be honest. Parents were not good and it started to reflect on their kids. I officiated for 3 years and decided that was not for me. I got tired of telling coaches and parents to settle down and let their kids learn the sport and have fun. Don’t get me wrong I am competitive as they come, but I felt they were really taking the fun out of the sport for their kids and I didn’t want any part of it.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

In this sport you are in control of almost everything. How you carry yourself on and off the mat, how much work you want to put into the sport, it takes more than just regular practice. Many workouts, I remember doing early before school started, to not only keep my weight in check, but to stay in shape and be ready for those last two minutes of the 3rd period. Last, but not least, it’s never over and the sky is the limit. Don’t let anyone tell you, “You Can’t.” I don’t believe that one bit. It’s mano vs mano and it’s the person that is the most prepared physically and mentally, period. Any given match is up for grabs, trust me. I proved it 4 times in a row February 23-25, 1983. Physically I was not the best, but mentally I felt I was ready in every match I went out there for.

 

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

Man I would have loved a tournament 5-10 years ago. It’s been 35 years since I last stepped onto a mat. I still watch a lot of college meets and if I have a buddy that has a son wrestling I love to go watch them. The passion for wrestling is so much more different than any other sport I have played. Never lost the passion and desire to go shake hands again. I would love to look at someone in the eye, and go at it again and thinking about it makes the hair on my arms stand up again.

 

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

To every teammate that I ever had in that wrestling room. I wrestled with some great guys that I am still very good friends with today and they all truly made me better and they were always in my corner in the good and bad times. I had such good times hanging out with these guys and we were so close as a team, each of my 4 years in High School. Whether it was just hanging out, going to a movie, or chasing girls, I feel we truly loved each other and had each other’s back.

 

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

I have a couple of different ones.  First one was in my history class on that Tuesday afternoon after that championship weekend and my school principal came to the room and pulled me out of class. Not everyday you get pulled out by your principal, so I was a little nervous. We went to his office and he then put his speaker phone and it was Coach Dan Gable and a few wrestlers offering me congratulations and told me to keep working hard. Barry Davis was one of them and those guys gave me so much encouragement. It totally blew me away, I was not expecting anything like that, but I know my HS principal at the time Barry Monahan had something to do with it, and I am forever grateful.

Last one I would tell you and not many people remember this one… It is a good trivia question for those closest to me. In the Championship match in 1983, I wrestled in the finals vs. a guy named Charlie Luther from Semco-Gilman and believe it or not, the next year in 1984, my first round match was against…….you guessed it….Charlie Luther again…I came in at 23-6 and he was 22-3 and I ended up beating him again 4-2. It was such a tough match and found it bizarre that we had to go at it again, after being in the finals the year prior.

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Kind of crazy, I kicked off this series last week and began on Matt Otten of Manly-North Central vs. Shane Light of Lisbon and asked for requests for future articles when I posted it. I received several. Ironically, the first request that I received was this match-up…. This took place in the Iowa HS State Quarterfinals between returning 3A 171 state champ, Jason Crooks of Fort Madison and returning 2X 3A 189 lb. state champ, Tony Wieland of Cedar Falls.

I wrote that it was “ironic” that this match was the first request and that was not a mistake. What could possibly be ironic about this matchup for me?! Well, Jason Crooks’s father, Ron Crooks is the one who talked my uncles and the  father into quitting basketball trying wrestling when they were in Junior High. He was their HS wrestling Head Coach. The way my brothers and I were raised into this sport has a pretty significant connection to how Ron Crooks coached my father and my uncles when they were doing it.  He has been described by all 3 as one of the most important individuals in their lives and it’s very possible that had he not talked my uncle Brian into wrestling, this site may not exist. I would probably have a dorky basketball site right now if it were not for Ron Crooks.

Here is what my uncle Kevin had to say about Ron Crooks:

KEVIN SWAFFORD: Coach Ron Crooks talked my brother Brian into trying it out and I followed. I don’t know if it’s always possible to express in words how someone’s had an impact on your life and on your character, and in molding you as you grow up and mature. Coach Crooks obviously had an impact on me and our whole family not just us 3 boys. You couldn’t measure his investment in you with the amount of time he spentworking with you individually.  But it all centered around hard work and fostering a family like culture – he persuaded us to buy into his process and vision for finally putting our school on the wrestling map, and that vision started with us. All of our coaches were like that but everything starts at the top.

 

So yeah, the Crooks family is a very important family to us. I think it goes without saying that my family was deeply entrenched in the Crooks side of this matchup when it took place and hopefully that’s understandable. We go back with them. Doesn’t mean that we don’t think the world of Tony Wieland.

 

Here are some things that made this matchup notable:

* This was a matchup between two returning state champions in the quarterfinals.

* This was at 3A 189, a weight that is usually won by Seniors and returning state champions are few and far-between once you reach a weight this high, let alone 2 in the same bracket…who end up meeting in the quarterfinals…

* Jason Crooks placed 6th as a Sophomore in 1993 and won it at 3A 171 in 1994.

* Tony Wieland was a state champion at 3A 189 as a Sophomore in 1993 AND as a Junior in 1994, which is an incredible feat for an underclassmen.

* Crooks only had between 2-4 losses in his last 3 years of HS wrestling…. I don’t think Wieland had anymore than 2 losses total in his final 3 years of HS.

* Crooks met up with a Darrell Wieland from Cedar Falls in the quarterfinals the year before, which he won. I don’t know this for a fact, but I am guessing that Tony and Darrell are related, likely brothers.

* Off the top of my head, there were at least 3 other guys in this bracket who would be finalists the next year (Daggy, Tecklenberg and Cole) and two of those guys were champs (Cole and Daggy).

* Both guys were great football players along with being elite wrestlers. After HS, Crooks played football for the Iowa Hawkeyes and ND State as well as wrestled for Wartburg and ND State.

* Wieland ended up wrestling at UNI where he was teammates with Crooks’s HS teammate and fellow state champion, Nick Flach. He was an AA there. Nick Flach was instrumental in helping Josh Budke train to defeat his Senior year rival, Jesse West in 1996. Budke is from Cedar Falls and was a HS teammate of Wieland’s.

* Wieland defeated Crooks just a few weeks earlier at the Urbandale tournament. Big thanks to Matt Nelson for that info!

 

 

Here are the videos for Tony Wieland’s two state championships prior to this matchup…

 

 

 

Wieland was an absolute beast. About the closest thing this state has ever seen to a real-life Hercules.

 

1993 3A 189

1.) Tony Wieland, So., Cedar Falls

2.) Ryan Reasland, Sr., Webster City

3.) Ira Johnson, Sr., Spencer

4.) Jeremy Mize, Jr., Ames

5.) Matt Lamb, Jr., Iowa City High

6.) Jason Shoars, Sr., Charles City

 

1994 3A 189

1.) Tony Wieland, Jr., Cedar Falls

2.) Jeremy Mize, Sr., Ames

3.) Dan Knipp, Sr., Waterloo Columbus

4.) Ryan Boese, Sr., Mount Pleasant

5.) Bill Waugh, Sr., Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln

6.) Josh Vize, Sr., Dubuque Senior

 

 

Here are the videos to Jason Crooks’s 2 titles in 1994 and 1995:

 

 

1994 3A 171

1.) Jason Crooks, Jr., Fort Madison

2.) Todd Scott, Sr., Newton

3.) Darrel Wieland, Sr., Cedar Falls

4.) Andre Terrell, Sr., Davenport Central

5.) Scott Allen, Sr., Spencer

6.) Corey McCloud, Sr., West Delaware, Manchester

 

Ya know, on one hand, I look at something like this and think, “what the hell were these two doing meeting in the quarters? That’s a finals matchup, come on… tournament needs to be seeded.”  Then on the other hand I’m thinking, “this is what makes every round of the Iowa HS State tournament great! Two guys like Jason Crooks and Tony Wieland can actually meet there!”

 

HERE IS THE INFAMOUS MATCH BETWEEN JASON CROOKS OF FORT MADISON AND TONY WIELAND OF CEDAR FALLS! 1995 3A 189 QUARTERFINALS:

 

1995 3A 189

  1. Jason Crooks, Sr., Fort Madison
  2. Satori Snow, Jr., Cedar Rapids Prairie
  3. Tony Wieland, Sr., Cedar Falls
  4. Micah Daggy, Sr., West Des Moines Dowling
  5. Robert Cole, Jr., Des Moines North
  6. Aaron Tecklenburg, Jr., Marshalltown

 

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I’ve always thought the name “Laramie” was a cool name… I have an affinity for cool-sounding, somewhat uncommon names and the name Laramie is one of them that fits my list of cool names. So cool in fact, that for all 3 of my children, that name was at the top for my favorite “boy names.”  All 3 children ended up being girls, but if one of them were a boy, who knows…there may have been a Laramie Swafford hitting the mats soon… And prior to, I had only heard of one person who has that name… Laramie Shaffer. At least I thought he was the only person I knew of with that first name….

One of the cool things about this site for me personally, is when guys fill out their questionnaires and send them back, sometimes I get answers to questions I’ve had for decades… In Laramie’s case, I had a bunch of questions that has confused me until now… The main question being, “how were you able to manage being a monster wrestler in two different states at the same time?!” Let me explain…So my brother, Justin placed 4th in a loaded Fargo Nationals Freestyle bracket in 2000… Justin was a 2003 graduate and this took place in the summer after his Freshman year…This bracket had close to 100 guys in it. One of the guys who caught my eye was a kid named Laramie Shaffer from Missouri. He was just a match or two from placing in the top 8, so he won a lot of matches in this bracket. Justin was going to wrestle him in the placing rounds if he won his last match. So that name stuck with me and you could probably imagine my confusion when I discovered what I thought at the time to be some of Missouri’s Laramie Shaffer’s past results.  Turned out, Laramie was a hammer in the 2005 graduating class, 2 below Justin… Pretty impressive showing for a younger guy like that to be making the waves he did in a deep Fargo bracket, but what didn’t make sense was that he wrestled at the AAU state tournament that same year… In Iowa… At a much lower weight than the 105.5 lb. division that he was in at Fargo. “How is this possible?” I thought to myself. It didn’t add up. I just figured that he was a guy who moved in from Missouri or maybe had a split household in which he wrestled in both Missouri and Iowa and it somehow fell between the cracks…. but didn’t get past ol’ Joshua Swafford, Wrestler Detective.  

I was more or less at a loss when I noticed Laramie Shaffer making more impressive marks as both a 90 something-pound 8th grader in Iowa as well as a 120 lb. Missouri kid in the Junior division in Freestyle… My questions became increasingly more far-fetched as time went on and there and more signs of there being two Laramie Shaffer’s who were both elite wrestlers with one being from Iowa and one being from Missouri…. “Does he have 2 birth certificates?” “Does he wrestle Missouri just during the summer and Iowa during the winter?” “Why does he weigh so much more during the Summer? Does he seriously gain 30-40 lbs. per offseason and then lose it again the moment he comes back to Iowa?” “He placed at this tourney and that tourney on the same weekend? How did he do that? Is he some sort of master of omnipresence?” It never occurred to me that there could actually be two Laramie Shaffer’s in the world and that both were superb wrestlers from bordering states around the same age range.

The toughest dual team I think Mepo ever faced while I was in HS was Winterset. We faced them first round at the state duals my Junior year in 2000. They kicked the crap out of us. My brother Justin was the only guy who seemed to show up that weekend. We were atrocious that day and they were ready to go. Granted, State Duals were held a week after traditional state in those days, so our weight and behavior for some of us had been out of control since state and for most of us, sectionals/districts that year, but I presume the same was true for them as well, but they showed up and some of their guys were the most tenacious wrestlers we faced all season. Chad Hutchinson, Justin Kramer, Aaron Drain, Matt Keller, myself… we all lost. We were among Mepo’s best guys when we were there and all of us had success as kids l the way through HS and we all got throttled by our Winterset matchups. Justin Kramer was one of the best guys to ever go through the Mepo room. Despite never even placing at state, he rarely lost and he defeated 4-5 state champs from various classes in his HS tenure. When he qualified for state as a Senior, he was beaten by a kid named Colt Stephens from Winterset. An unknown to us at the time. We figured the nerves got to him, but then it happened again at state duals…. the last match Kramer ever wrestled in his life, he was defeated by Colt Stephens again. All of us ran into hammers we knew nothing about.  I had no idea who most these studs were prior to the meet. I was a kid who memorized the AAU and HS state booklets and had never heard of brilliant Winterset wrestlers like Clint Manny until we hit HS and he started reeling in the hardware… Which was crazy, for he was in my grade and around my weight-range to boot. And there he was, placing and making the finals more often than not in HS competition… With the mystery that came with Winterset guys like Laramie Shaffer, Colt Stephens, The Abel’s, Clint Manny, etc. for me, I was starting to come up with some conspiracy theories, for in those “primitive internet” days,  no one seemed to know anything about these guys… No one from SE Iowa, anyways… “Where in the world are these guys coming from?! Do they have some sort of Missouri connection?!” is probably the pinnacle of how far-fetched my thought process was when it came to our new Winterset friends. And it was derived from the confusion that sprouted from seeing Laramie Shaffer’s Missouri results.

Turns out Winterset was just a solid, well-coached, hammer factory of a wrestling program. In retrospect, I feel that the greatness of some of what they’ve brought through that room with guys like Manny, Ryan Jensen, Cory Christensen, Jared Abel, Laramie, etc. gets overlooked and I don’t know why. I get that “better than people give them credit for” vibe when I think back on it and I know I’m not the only person to have caught that vibe. Cory Christensen was a 3 time state champion for Winterset in the 90’s and coaches at  Don Bosco now and I heard from 2 different Bosco wrestlers that none of them had any idea how good he was until Cory eventually told them after he had been there for months and they looked it up. They went out, took care of business, dominated and walked off without even a hint of cockiness or arrogance and went on to the next thing. And you wouldn’t have to worry about them throwing shade at you on or off the mat and you also wouldn’t need to worry about any of them adding your girlfriends to MSN Messenger or anything lame like that. They won and lost with dignity and respect.  A very solid and consistently balanced thing they’ve had going on in Winterset, year in and year out.

And the mystery of Laramie Shaffer’s omnipresence? The answer to that mystery is in Laramie’s story!  He’s a nice guy and I’m glad I met him!

 

 

FRESHMAN IN 2002 2A 103

103

  1. Justin Brown, Jr., Centerville
  2. Tyler Bjustrom, So., Algona
  3. Dane Reiter, So., Hudson
  4. Skylar Smith, Fr., Mount Vernon
  5. Tom Michels, Jr., Osage
  6. Laramie Shaffer, Fr., Winterset

 

SOPHOMORE IN 2003 2A 112

112

  1. Justin Brown, Sr., Centerville
  2. Laramie Shaffer, So., Winterset
  3. Jace Kuhlman, Sr., Maquoketa
  4. Mark Beatty, Fr., Maquoketa Valley
  5. Brandon Johnson, Sr., Chariton
  6. Quentin Kuhns, Sr., Adel-DeSoto-Minburn
  7. Tyler Bjustrom, Jr., Algona
  8. Andrew McDonald, Jr., Forest City

 

JUNIOR IN 2004 2A 119

1. Laramie Shaffer, Jr., Winterset

2. Andy Schmitt, Sr., Clear Lake

3. J.J. Krutsinger, Fr., Waterloo Columbus

4. Jake Kliven, So., NC-NK Northwood

5. Doyle Bohr, Sr., Washington

6. Josh Knipfer, Jr., New London/Winfield-Mt Union

7. Marcus Nagl, Jr., Carroll Kuemper

8. Jacob Ryan, Fr., Mount Vernon

 

 

SENIOR IN 2005 2A 125

 

1. Laramie Shaffer, Sr., Winterset

2. J.J. Krutsinger, So., Columbus Waterloo

3. Mike Whisler, Sr., Centerville

4. Bryan Sundall, Jr., Emmetsburg/Armstrong-Ringsted

5. Joel Anderson, Sr., Battle Creek-Ida Grove

6. Brady Schmauss, Sr., Crestwood Cresco

7. Mike Sandy, So., Spirit Lake Park

8. Zach Williams, So., Union LaPorte City

 

 

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

 

In youth I just wrestled for the Winterset youth club, although I spent some time going to Iowa City to the Hawkeye Kids Club and to Des Moines to the Rail-splitters Kids Club. In High School I wrestled for Winterset and in college wrestled 4 years at Iowa State and half a year at Augustana College in Sioux Falls.

 

What year did you graduate?

 I graduated from Winterset in 2005. Iowa State in 2010.

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

 My dad took me to wrestling when I was in kindergarten and I got pounded on and quit that year. He brought me back in 1st grade and I have been doing it ever since.

 

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

 My dad wrestled for a bit in high school, both of my sons just started wrestling and I hope they enjoy it as much as I did. My 3 year old daughter is tough as nails and I could see her putting a whipping on people in a couple years.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I placed 6th, 6th, 5th, 3rd, and 3rd at AAU state, I wrestled with a lot of great kids in AAU. Brandon McDonough, Joey Slaton, TJ Sebolt, Shea Minor, Patrick Makey, Nick Pickerell, Cody McClintock and Brady Graham to name a few. Some of our AAU brackets were stacked with future state champs. Placed at various national tournaments although never at Tulsa which I believe we all thought of as the holy grail of tournaments.

 

What was your record in HS?

I was 189-12, 9 of those losses were from freshman year, it was rough.

 

How did you place at state every year?

6th, 2nd, 1st, 1st

 

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

 

Freshman year was super tough, I was really young for my grade as I was an August birthday so my freshman year I had just turned 14 and weighed about 95lbs. 9 of my 12 losses in high school came that year and I got pinned 3 times. It made it a hard wrestling year, but I ended up placing 6th at state after losing first round to Tyler Bjustrom then ended up wrestling Dane Reiter and Tommy Michaels on the backside too. Junior year I tore my meniscus in my knee right before state and had to wear a brace throughout the tournament. It was more a mental challenge than physical one though and I ended up placing 1st.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

 My style has changed a lot over the years. In high school I was a get some points on the board and wrestle smart kid. I didn’t win matches by big points, but if I was up I was hard to score on. In college Cael really pushed us to attack, attack, attack so I started being more of that always attacking style wrestler.

 

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

 I only lost to Brandon McDonough and Justin Brown twice in high school everyone else only beat me once and I either avenged that loss or never wrestled them again.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

That is hard, as I had a lot of great coaches. Greg Stephens my youth coach would probably be the most influential as he taught me great fundamentals that I carry today. Jason Reitmeier from Augustana is probably second as he got me back to loving wrestling again. The most influential for my style was definitely Cael Sanderson at Iowa State, he made how I wrestle change a lot.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

 Winterset was always competitive in high school we finished 4th, 3rd, and 2nd at state duals while I was in high school. At Iowa State we won 3 big 12 championships and got 2nd, 5th, and 3rd at the NCAA championships. At Augustana we got 2nd at the NCAA championships.

 

How would you describe the Winterset wrestling fan base?

 Winterset fans are awesome, our home meets were always packed and there was always a ton of Winterset supporters at away meets and tournaments too. They were the best kind of fans, super enthusiastic and loud, but not unruly or disrespectful to other teams. Running out to the mat at Vets with all my friends and fans right there by the mat side cheering me on is one of my best memories of high school.  I’d like to add that Logan-Magnolia fans are great too. They have been super welcoming since we moved here and have been very supportive of my transition to running the LO-MA Youth Wrestling Club.  

 

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

 Although he wasn’t much older than me and I doubt he knew this, I really looked up to Jesse Sundell. I knew him and his family growing up and always followed his career. He was and still is a great guy and I always wanted to be 4 time champ like him. I loved watching his matches with Mario Galanakis they were always exciting.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

 That is a super hard question as there have been so many great wrestlers from Iowa. I would have to say Jeff McGinness or maybe Jay Borschel.

 

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

 There is quite a list of guys I wrestled with or knew during high school that I had a lot of respect for, but one stands out. I grew up wrestling Brandon McDonough and his brother Brent. Brandon also handed me two of the biggest whippings I received in high school. I actually won state before I won the Harlan tournament because I always had him in the finals.  He taught me a lot of what I know of wrestling when I would go to Des Moines to train with him and his brother. It saddened me greatly when I learned a few years ago that he had passed away. The dude was a true warrior and I respected him a lot.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

International I would say Jordan Burroughs, high school would be Briar Reisz, though I might be biased there, and Drake Ayala.

 

 

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

 I never listened to music before I went out and wrestled. I felt it distracted me.

 

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

 I would say either first round at state freshman year or in the finals sophomore year. That finals match was a tough pill to swallow.

 

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

 That is a hard one, there are multiple things I would change, but I think cut less weight would be the top thing.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

 My best memory was wrestling and beating, Jesse Sundell who I had looked up to growing up, in my first wrestle offs at Iowa State. My best accomplishment was winning my second state title and finishing the year undefeated.

 

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

I wrestled a lot of hammers in high school. Dan Davila put a whooping on me freshman year, same tournament Patrick Makey and I had a good scrap. Brandon McDonough was always tough and Justin Brown gave me two of my biggest losses in my career. Derek Moyer and I had a good match and Austin Bair and I wrestled 3 times senior year and we were both ranked #1 and both ended up with titles. College pretty much everyone I wrestled was tough lol, some of my teammates being the toughest ones.

 

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

Depended on the year, I wasn’t big into freestyle and I played a lot of other sports so wrestling was more of when I had time during the off season.

 

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

 I think the class of 2005 could compete with the guys today. Things evolve and change, but I think most of the good guys back then could adapt and change and have as coaches and would give the guys today a run for their money.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

 Yes, I was a letter winner with some varsity matches for Iowa State for 4 years, then took a semester off and ended at Augustana College in Sioux Falls were I was an All-American. During that semester off I started training for MMA.

 

 What other sports did you play?

 I was pretty active. Played football, soccer, baseball, ran cross country, rode bulls during summer, did gymnastics until I got into high school, was a pro MMA fighter, and jiu jitzu competitor after college.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

 My wife has me rooting for the Huskers which I never thought I would see the day. I don’t really have favorites though I just like to watch sports in general.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

 I like to read, hike, hunt, snowboard, jiu jitzu, and do muay thai.

 

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

I like coaching quite a bit, I just started coaching a youth club, but before that I was a voluntary coach at Iowa Western Community College. I like passing on the tips and tricks I have learned over the years. I think wrestling is the greatest sport there is and I love seeing kids being passionate about it.

 

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

 Honestly, I don’t know where I would have ended up without wrestling. I was kind of a wild kid and wrestling gave me a lot of purpose in life. It really helped me get through some tough times and gave me the perseverance to get to where I am today.

 

What do you do now?

 I am a Social Science and Career teacher at the Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility in Omaha, NE and I run a small landscaping business on the side.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Yes, I coach the Logan-Magnolia Youth Wrestling Club and I help with the Logan-Magnolia high school wrestling team.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

 Cut less weight and have more fun. If you don’t have success at first keep working at it. I have known a multitude of wrestlers who weren’t very successful until they got older.

 

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

 Sure, I am game to wrestle anytime.

 

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

 All my former teammates, thanks for being great guys and making memories with me.

 

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

I just want to say Todd Becker has probably forgotten more about Iowa Wrestling than I have even known about it. Also since you brought it up the other day, Swafford, there was another wrestler with the name of Laramie Shaffer from Missouri, I think he was two years older than me and I actually met him at Tulsa Nationals one year when they called the name to the head table.  

EDITOR’S NOTE: Decades-long questions ANSWERED! There were TWO Laramie’s that I have known of and they were both hammers in the wrestling world in the early 2000’s and both of them had the last name of Shaffer!!! How’s THAT for a coincidence!!!

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I think I’m going to make this a new series called “The Greatest Matches In Iowa HS State Wrestling History” and that idea was inspired by this match. 1988 Iowa High School State Wrestling Finals Division 1A 112: Shane Light (Sophomore from Lisbon) vs. Matt Otten (Senior from Manly-North Central). In the entire history of the state tournament, I don’t know if there has been anything more impressive than what Shane Light did in this match. Matt Otten was a Senior who placed 2-1-1 leading to that year. One of the greats. And Shane Light was a Sophomore who won his first of what ended up being 4 titles the year before. Otten was the returning 1A 105 champ, Light the returning 1A 98 lb. champ. Both had tons on the line. Matt Otten was on a quest to become a 3X state champion/4X finalist…Very few had done that prior to 1988. Shane Light, winning state as a Freshman, had 4X state champ dreams that were still alive and kicking.  Coming into the match, Matt Otten was considered the favorite. He was REALLY good and anyone you talk to who wrestled back then will tell you that they considered him a beast. Shane Light was considered the underdog coming in, by most. In fact, the only year Shane Light was ever considered the favorite coming in to any of his 4 state titles matches was his Senior season, the year he won his 4th state title. That was the only year he was ranked 1st coming into state.

Coming into the 1988 Finals, here were Matt Otten’s Freshman, Sophomore and Junior year finals matches: 

 

Here was Shane Light’s State finals matches from the year before as well as him winning his 4th title:

 

The match between Light and Otten did not disappoint…to say the absolute least. Both guys really went hard. Shane Light’s performance in this match is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen in a HS wrestling match. Check it out. 

 

 

Here is an interview with Shane Light after the match:

 

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This one has been a long time coming. For one, I don’t do nearly enough of these for guys in the 70’s era and earlier. I just simply don’t know as much about them as I do other eras, but I’d like to change that! And will try to! 

Secondly, it’s been a long time coming that I get someone from Britt (later West Hancock) for one of these considering their rich wrestling tradition. With the exception of posting Mark Sanger’s finals pin from his Senior year, the only Britt-West Hancock guy who has made the page was a wrestler named Tate Hagen, who I wrote about last year for having a great football season. Tate later went on to win state. So yeah, it’s taken me way too long to come up with at least one “Remember The Wrestler” article for them,, for if there’s any community that’s deserving of some props, it’s Britt-West Hancock. It’s one of the all-time greatest programs in state history. The school has brought home 46 individual state championships, which ranks eighth in the state. As a team, Britt brought home five state championships, as well as nine runner-up finishes and four third place finishes. Britt has 14 combined top-two finishes which ties them with Osage for fifth best in the state. Britt was the home of Iowa’s first ever 4X state champion, Bob Steenlage, who graduated in 1962.

Britt truly hit their stride in the early 70’s with names like; Brent Hagen, John Hagen, Cliff Howlett, Jeff Stevenson, Bruce Gayken, Dave Howlett, Mark Stevenson contributing for Britt teams who won back to back to back titles in 1971-1973. And they’ve had numerous guys since who have made etched their names on the ever-present, ever-growing wall of champions since, such as Pat Kelly, Ron Finch, Rick Sanger, Mark Sanger, Paul Jenn, Tate Hagen, etc.  I realize I left out a ton…not intentional. It’s just a lot of ground to cover with a program like Britt. 🙂

Cael Sanderson made history by becoming the first ever 4X D1 national champion in NCAA history, but a somewhat obscure fact is that he had one loss his redshirt season. Who was it that beat him? A native from Britt…. Paul Jenn. And btw, MAYBE we can watch that match soon, for I have spoken to someone who has it on VHS. 😉

So like I said, it’s about time. And who better to learn about than one of the best to ever step on a mat in the state of Iowa, Brent Hagen… One of the all-time Iowa HS greats, from one of the Iowa all-time greatest families who came from one of the all-time greatest programs in the history of Iowa HS wrestling.

1972 Britt Team…. Their Class A State Championship photo from left to right Asst coach Ron Meyer, Head Coach Al DeLeon, Dale Miller,Bruce Gayken,Jeff Stevenson, Steve Dummett,Mark Nelson,Brent Hagen,Dave Howlett, Richy Nelson and Mark Stevenson. There are a lot of state medals in this picture. 10 state championships, 8 runner – up medals, plus other places.

Wally Hagen, the father of the legendary Hagen brothers!

Brent’s father crowning his mother at the 1945 state wrestling tournament held at Clarion HS.

 

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

We didn’t have youth wrestling clubs back then. I would participate in Britt’s elementary wrestling program. We would practice for three weeks and have a tournament with Britt kids at the end. I wrestled for Britt High School. I wrestled at Mankato State and UNI in college.

 

What year did you graduate? 

I graduated in 1975.

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My dad had a great influence on the Hagen brothers’ wrestling careers. He had a true love for the sport..

 

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

My dad, Wally was a two time state champion for Clarion High School. My mother Mary Lois was the 1945 State Wrestling Tournament Queen. My older brother John was a four time state finalist. He won three state Championships while going undefeated his last three years. My cousin Joe Rohrer was a state champion for Clarion. My nephews Austin and Adam wrestled in high school in Wisconsin.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I only wrestled in one youth tournament in Junior High. Mark Stevenson and I won the Harlan tournament.

 

What was your record in HS?

My record in high school was 111-4. I lost my first high school match by fall. I lost to Dave Morgan from Eagle Grove twice and Rich Wilson from Belmond.

 

How did you place at state every year?

State champion as a freshman, sophomore and senior. State runner-up as a junior.

 

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

The hardest challenge was cutting weight especially in college. I struggled a lot with weight my sophomore year in college. I weighed around 150 lbs at the beginning of the season. We wrestled 20 duals during the season . I wanted to wrestle at 126 during the season and cut to 118 for tournaments. My college coach Rummy Macias wouldn’t let me do that. Thanks to my high school coach Al Deleon we arranged that I could workout at Mankato East High School until the division II national tournament. I won the national title at 118. I think I weighed 150 for the finals.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was a very controlled wrestler in high school.I would never leave my comfort zone. I started to enjoy wrestling on my feet when I developed a fireman’s carry. My college career was very high scoring. My senior year at UNI I had a lot of matches where I scored 30 points or more.

 

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

My junior year I wrestled Rich Wilson too many times. The worst part was he won the only one that counted. I enjoyed wrestling Dick Perez from Hampton.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I had great coaches at every level. My junior high coach was Ron Meyer. Coach Meyer would be my workout partner on cutting weight days in high school. My college coaches were Rummy Macias at Mankato State, Chuck Patton and Don Briggs at UNI. I learned a lot from them. The man who had the most influence on my life and career was Al Deleon. He taught us technique, conditioning and mental toughness. He convinced us that we deserved to win. I was so lucky to wrestle for one of my heroes.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

I was on some great teams. Britt won state my freshman and sophomore year. We finished 2nd my last two years. I was on a Division 2 national runner-up at UNI.

My freshman year in 1972, Britt qualified 9 out of 12 wrestlers to State. All nine wrestlers placed 6th or higher.We had six in the finals with three champions. My senior year in 1975 we only had 3 wrestlers qualify. All three of us won state.

 

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

I have always been a huge Oklahoma State wrestling fan. My favorite Cowboy was Yojiro Uetake.He was a takedown artist.My brother John another hero would practice with me on our mat in the basement

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Dan Gable

 

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

I would like to see a dual between the North Central Iowa stars of the 70’s and 80’s against other all star teams from around the state.

 

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

Dave Morgan, Paul Martin , Mark Stevenson just to name a few.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Spencer Lee is a great wrestler and seems to be an even better person!

 

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

Outlaw album in college.

 

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

The easy answer would be my loss to Rich in the finals, but every loss sucked.

 

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

Once again my finals lost wold be easy, but my last two years at Mankato State were tough. I wish I would of handled that better.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

I was a finalist every year I wrestled in high school and college.

 

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

I wrestled against some great teams and wrestlers during my career. One person doesn’t really standout.

 

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

I wrestled only during the season. I did attend a camp in summer in Albert Lea. I did wrestle one freestyle tournament after my finals loss my junior year. I broke my arm . I started to lift weights and practice more after my senior year in high school.

 

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

Better… darn good I think. In fact, I think the wrestler of my era would be very competitive . We had some great teams in Northern Iowa. I still remember having full c squad, b squad meets before the varsity dual. I remember our district in AA would have multiple state champions and place winners. We had a tryout at Britt between returning state champions.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

I wrestled in college at MSU and UNI. I was a D 2 National champion and a two time runner-up.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Yankees and OSU Cowboys.

 

Did you play any other sports in HS?

I did play baseball in high school. I taught and coached at Denison High school for 32 years.

 

What do you do now?

I currently work at North Scott Foods in Eldridge .

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Fishing, traveling and family time.

 

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

Wrestling taught me that if you work hard good things will happen.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I watch a lot of high school wrestling. My wife Carol and I attend Davenport Assumption meets. We live in the North Scott district so I am a Lancer fan also.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Try to be well rounded, wrestle but enjoy other things. Try to learn the proper technique first. I would start wrestling in tournaments in 3rd or 4th grade. Play other sports, find other hobbies and enjoy your youth. When you get to high school listen to your coach!

 

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

I still have one match left in me.

 

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

I have always told everyone that I grew up in the toughest neighborhood in the country. Between 1st and 3rd street SW in Britt we have had 22 state wrestling champs. I am proud to have wrestled for Britt . I was blessed to have great coaches and great teammates. Once an Eagle always an Eagle.

I have really enjoyed doing this. It has brought back some great memories. We only wrestled 10-12 duals and 3-4 tournaments. I still remember competing at the Eagle Grove tournament. You can never forget wrestling in Vets. We were lucky to wrestle in the 70’s.

 

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Remember The Wrestler: Mark Schwab, Osage HS/UNI Panthers

The Schwab family… We’ve been privileged to have this family as part of Iowa’s own. I challenge you all to brainstorm a family that has been more influential to the ever-present legacy of top-notch wrestling that Iowa has maintained for decades.  Ok, so now if you are done brainstorming, I would like to apologize to you for wasting your time…. because I already knew that you wouldn’t be able to think of any. 

When you think of the individuals that Mark Schwab has had notable influence on, whether it be for on the mat performance or life in general, it is truly amazing. He is considered the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler by wrestlers who themselves are considered by some to be the GOAT Iowa HS wrestlers.  He accomplished the absolute pinnacle of HS wrestling in Iowa and displayed dominance in doing so and it is not even debatable. You would think a guy with these credentials and such universal respect from almost all of the wrestling world may naturally develop an opinion of himself in which he considers himself better than others and is in denial of ever having a moment in life that didn’t reflect total perfection, right? I mean, it does happen a lot with success for some people. Sometimes, egos are easily inflatable if they aren’t kept in check and may cause a person’s head to swell to the point where they start floating in the sky, above everyone else. I know this from experience, for my own ego is out of control in the Mario Kart world. Mark is the total opposite of someone who goes that route when achieving success. He does not hold himself on an imaginary pedestal, nor does he feel as if he is any better or more important than any human being that we co-exist with. He also never lost sight of the fact that he is an imperfect human being like all of us who has done some great things and triumphed, but has also made mistakes and experienced defeat. He has achieved a great deal of success in his lifetime, but has also had times where he struggled both on the mat and internally. Through all the accolades and endeavors, Mark Schwab has avoided floating high above us in the sky with the rest of the hot air balloons and has managed to stay down to Earth with us. And I, for one, am glad to have him here!

If a group of people were asked, “what was Mark Schwab put on this Earth for? What is his purpose?” The majority of answers you’d get would likely have something to do with wrestling. His last name is synonymous with wrestling. But wrestling is just a mere part of what his purpose on this Earth is.  His purpose is to help others and his experiences with wrestling are simply part of what has equipped him with the ability to do so.  Sometimes, successful people are apprehensive when it comes to offering their secrets to their own success. They’d rather not have company because company means competition. This is also not a characteristic of Mark. There’s nothing he would like more than to help other people and he does so by means of the knowledge and insight he has picked up via personal experiences (negative and positive) as well as being an active learner of not only wrestling, but the entire spectrum of what life has to offer.  If Mark is riding life’s metaphorical wave of success, he’d prefer it if others were riding along with him. And if you missed that wave yourself and are lost in the sea, Mark would gladly help you find your way back, for he’s familiar with that territory. Despite all his success, he has had times where he felt his life was sinking in the depths of the ocean of agony, confusion, struggle and defeat and was still able to find his way back to shore. 

So kick back, relax, open your mind and read what Mark has to say, for if you are struggling in any area of life, you could read something in this article that provides the “spark” needed to get through the adversity. We all know how passionate and hard-working Mark was when it came to accomplishing goals on the wrestling mat. He’s been described by many as a genius with his mental approach to the game. He’s even MORE passionate about helping people than he was about meeting wrestling goals… just think about that. 

If this world were inhabited by nothing, but Mark Schwab’s, we wouldn’t be headed in a direction towards world peace.  The world wouldn’t have strayed from an altruistic, peaceful existence to begin with, so there wouldn’t be a need.

 

When I wrote that it is truly amazing who Mark has inspired, I wasn’t exaggerating… you can read his work here:

 

 

 

 

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

There were no clubs around when I was in HS. The Waterloo Boys club was the closest. We trained on our own but I also wrestled lots of matches in freestyle. My freshman year I was 83-2 in freestyle & these were all matches after the HS season from March – July. Nothing can take the place of actual competition. No one made me do anything. Our parents were nothing but supportive & everything we did was supported by them. I wrestled at Osage HS & UNI. My coaches in Osage were the absolute best, available, supportive & the town of OSAGE was second to none is support. I couldn’t have drawn it up any better.

 

What year did you graduate?

1985 from Osage, 1990 from UNI & 2003 From University of Minnesota.

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My brother Mike was my role model for training. He’s the one who showed me how to train. Also, I tried wrestling & liked it. My parents were the best support system I’ve ever had. I was so incredibly blessed to have support regardless & NEVER EVER an ounce of pressure. Nothing but love & encouragement. That’s probably why we all continued to compete in college & beyond.

 

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

My brother Mike who graduated from Osage in 1983 & UNI in 1988 was a state champion & D1 AA. My brother Doug graduated from Osage in 1996 & Iowa in 2001 was a State Champion, NCAA Champion in 1999 & Olympic team in 2008. I have a sister Julie & if wrestling would have been available for girls / women back then, she’d be the one you’d be interviewing.

 

What were your youth results?Any rivals there?

I wrestled a few tourneys in 5th grade & each yr I competed more & more. My youth rival would have been Derek Woods from Waterloo.

 

What was your record in HS?

106-1 I think

 

How did you place at state every year?

4x State HS Champion & State Freestyle champion in 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th & 11th grade. State Greco champ 9th & 10th grade.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was very hands on, active, scoring points from leg-attacks & over / under. I really preferred Freestyle over folk-style. I was a much better freestyler due to the ability to take competition from feet to back.

 

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

My only HS loss was to Dail Felin from Mason City. He’s actually a friend. He beat me in my 4th HS match. I wrestled him at least 5 more times in Freestyle having success each time. Steve Waddell from Bettendorf was always a battle for me. Kids freestyle I won 2 vs his 1 & HS freestyle / greco  I think we were 3-2. Lastly, Cory Baze from Oklahoma beat me the first time we wrestled in Lake Placid NY to make a jr. world team. I would square that up later in the summer at the Jr. Nationals & the next 8 times in college. I wrestled about 230 freestyle matches from 9-12 grade so there were lots of studs along the way.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

My HS coach, Bill Andrew was the greatest. He could have coached D1 & been very successful. Coach Andrew was really ahead of his time. Coach Andrew & asst. coach Bruce Gast was an effective one-two punch J. Robinson probably influenced more than any other coach but I was with him for 10 yrs & at the right time in my life to learn. I also worked his camps five entire summers before I even went to Minnesota. Jim Miller was a great motivator, recruiter & very smart, disciplined with his words & always had the inside scoop. Rick Caldwell is another coach who I believe could coach any level. He’s incredibly organized, willing to invest, prepared & constantly growing & developing. Marty Morgan could say the most while using the least words, great recruiter & strategy strong. Joe Russell & Sam Barber are the most overlooked effective coaches I’ve seen. In my opinion, the best all around coach who could recruit, develop, program, style, smart, successful & strategy strong is Brian Smith of Missouri. The best strategy, smart & technique is John Smith. He recruits, develops, succeeds & guys adjust. The best developer & behind the scenes guy is Casey Cunningham. The guy who can get athletes to buy-in, continually progress, dial in / focus, continue to move forward in competition, over-achieve & achieve their ultimate goal is Terry Brands. This is just my opinion. Often, if people don’t like someone, they’ll discredit them or if they like, they are blind to obvious defects / behaviors. Bottom-line, give credit where credit is due.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

In HS Osage were 2nd in State 1983, 1984, 1985. UNI we were very competitive but never reached our potential. As for coaching, I coached at the U of Minnesota from 1995 – 2005 where we won NCAA team titles in 2001 & 2002, Runner-up in 1998, 1999, 2003 & Third in NCAA’s in 1997 & 2000. We won everything you can win as a team – National Duals, Big-Tens, Midlands, Vegas… Great times, teams & memories.

 

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

Like I said, it started with my brother Mike & a few of the Varsity wrestlers in Osage: Doug Arndt, the Angel bros & Brian Neiss was so fun for me to watch as a kid in Osage. Also, back then IPTV aired college wrestling often & Nate Carr from ISU was my favorite as a kid. Also, Jeff Kerber from Emmetsburg inspired me to set a goal to win state 4x. As a kid, I was in awe of Tim Krieger of Mason City & Tim Klinghammer from Waterloo Central & west.

 

What were the family dynamics like with the Schwab bros? Very supportive of each other?

When it came to wrestling & competing, we were 100% in the others corner. We fought for each-other.

 

When you stepped on the mat for your 4th State finals match, you were wearing an Iowa State shirt. Were you interested in going there for a bit?

I was very good friends with Tim Krieger so he’s the one who gave it to me. We had talked about competing together in college. He didn’t talk to me for a year but then we picked right back up. I spent lots of time with Tim & we’d often get with Jeff Gibbons & Mike Guthrie.

 

You did not have an easy matchup in your 4th State finals match. Do you agree with me that Dan Sinnott may be one of the best guys to never win state?

Dan was a great competitor & scrapper. I’d also say Steve Waddell was another great not to win state. I know there’s many, many more who had ability.

 

If you Schwab bros were to fight over something, what would it be over? Was it ever about food?

Nooooo, food wise, we ate & drank all the time but worked it off vs. laying up against the wall like so many, eking their way to the scale because they’ve starved all week & massively dehydrated. I could have competed a weight lower each yr easily. I’d leave practice 3-4 under, get back up to 3-4 over, work out at night again & then work out EVERY single weigh-in we ever had. I worked-out in the morning & then I’d step on the scale. It didn’t matter what I weighed; I was going to work-out anyway.

 

When coaching, were there certain types of personalities of wrestlers that you worked well with and liked to take under your wing? Do you approach every kid uniquely?

I meshed very well with 90% of the guys I worked with but the athletes who were willing to take the coaching, seek you out, do what they say & what you ask, great effort & willing to TRUST you allowing you to take them to extreme places were the athletes I connected best with. When I was in Minneapolis from 1995-2005 we had an entire roster of those types of guys. I believe wrestling is a sport that requires miles of personal time. One on one sessions is where the gains are measurably made. From my HS coach Bill Andrew on a.m. training sessions / work-outs were / are a must. I can’t imagine being serious about wrestling without morning training. As a coach, you invest a lot in the athlete & ideally the athlete invests even more. I can remember, Bill Andrew was at every workout & so was J. Robinson. How can you have an accurate pulse on your team if you’re not on the scene. I know many athletes / programs don’t train in the morning & I’m still baffled. The know-it-all & ungrateful individuals were the ones I struggled with but they never lasted long anyway. You know, there are many levels of wrestling within wrestling, coaching within coaching & commitment within commitment. HS wrestling & D1 wrestling have a chasm that’s as wide as the grand canyon. What I can’t believe is how many people have no idea what it is that drives, motivates or excites them. I can’t believe how many coaches / athletes don’t evolve. They never grow, learn, advance, invest & continue making the same mistakes year after year.

 

When did you develop your writing passion and talent as well as your wise philosophical takes on life?

Writing & reading didn’t become important until I was done with college. I was lost in the early 90’s & I began reading self-help books mostly but evolved immensely through the years in what I read. The writing started because I would write little motivational messages to athletes I worked with plus every book I read over the last 25 years, I highlight what I connect with or want to remember. After the book was read, I went through the pages & rewrote everything I highlighted so I had it when I needed it. In all honesty in HS / college combined, I never read a complete book. I didn’t even have the course class book in college. But from 1993 on I’ve read well over 600 hundred books. I know that because I’ve gathered them up three different times in my life. It started out to find the magic answer for happiness, evolved into a hunger for knowledge but also to appear knowledgeable, evolving again into a sincere drive to learn for myself & to help others. I can feel my desire to learn & gain knowledge has become more sincere & more about helping others than searching for my happiness on some page of a book. Writing offers me an outlet, freedom, knowledge, identification, clarity, direction, feedback & most importantly ideas that can help others. I’ve always been an introvert, deep in thought, dreamer. I’m learning to notice, identify, practice, adjust my awareness & organize, manage, express my thoughts & feelings as I evolve. How can I address something if I’m not aware of it. I’m often disappointed in myself but trying to talk to myself in a more compassionate tone vs. beating the shit out of myself like I always have. I’ve made several workbooks, programs, presentations in many different areas that would benefit anyone who’s willing to make a firm decision, get honest & willing to be committed for possibly a lifetime. I’ve found most people don’t like workbooks but I find the opportunity to learn, grow, develop, advance & achieve excellence through the vehicle of answering questions, giving thought, learning about self strengths, lesser strengths & what one really wants from life & themselves.

 

How important is it to you to help other people?

I KNOW helping others is my purpose. I’ve spent miles & miles of time deepening my knowledge, understanding, experience & every time I inventory my life, values, passion, drive, beliefs, motivations, it’s connecting with someone who needs it as much as I do. I’ve had a wide array of life experience. In fact, most wouldn’t believe some of them. I’ve made many poor choices, bad decisions, acted like an idiot, poorly or inappropriately, disliked myself, self-sabotage & self-destruction, … I know for a fact, regardless of the front others cloak themselves with, they’re just as unsure, fearful, hesitant & need help, support, input, direction like we all do. I KNOW for a fact my purpose is working with others. The arena seems to be evolving & not limited to performance psychology but life psychology & freaking getting-real.

 

How important was positioning to you in your wrestling game? How hard did you work to fine-tune that element of your game? 

I didn’t understand how to teach positioning until I was at the U of Minnesota. Positioning to me started with the athletes foundation / stance. If an athlete can stay in-position, he’s always in a position to score or defend or counter. Also, when you maintain position, you’re not using near the energy you are when you have to fight out of a bad position back into a good one. Stance is one of the first things you learn & ultimately a position to be mastered to succeed at a high-level. Most kids almost take offense when you mention stance but what they don’t know is if they continue in the sport, they will find out just how important it is. Stance is home-base, your structure, offense & defense. Every match starts in this position & the bulk of most matches are spent in this position. One would do themselves a favor by mastering this position & spending time moving fluently, changing in / out of square / stagger, relaxed, sting, changing levels, changing speeds, tight circles both ways, hand-fighting…

 

How did you feel after winning your 4th title? Relief? Appreciative of your supporters? Both?

I’m very grateful for the people who helped & supported me, I NEVER forget people who help me. I’m forever in their corner until they decide differently. My brother Mike, Julie, Doug, Mom, Dad, Grandpa Mork, Aunt Nade, Bill Andrew, Bruce Gast, Jeff Kerber, Brian Moore, Rick Samuelson, Doug Arndt, Angel family, Coach Betts, John Bunge, Coach Newhoner, my teammates, town of OSAGE all played a part. I’m so grateful to them all.

 

Did you get more nervous wrestling yourself or watching Doug wrestle?

No doubt when my brothers competed.

 

When there is a guy who is a Senior and going for his 4th, do you find yourself pulling for and empathizing with them since you know via experience the pressure they are facing? When guys like Allard or Ike Light were beaten their Senior years or when Jesse Sundell lost at districts as a Senior, how did it make you feel considering you are one of the few who knows the pressure they were under? 

I didn’t feel any pressure but I understand how one could. Most pressure is something we do to ourselves. Yes, I’ve seen some overbearing parents & coaches who project their anxiety onto the athlete, but in the final analysis, it is something we can at a minimum manage. Most of us have forgotten we have the power of choice. I know much easier said than done. My coaches Bill Andrew & Bruce Gast never even talked about winning; they talked about competing & having fun. As for my parents, we never even talked about wrestling. I can tell you, by the time the state tournament rolled around as a freshman, I had won this in my mind soon many times that I KNEW I would win. I’m not talking trash here. I’m simply crediting the power of our imagination when exercised correctly & efficiently.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Hayden & Hendrix Schwab

 

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

Music has always been a passion of mine but it had nothing to do with competing or training. Blues is my true love, but I have a wide range of music. I’m fairly decent at music trivia & history. In fact, it might be the only game I’ve played in 35 yrs.

 

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

Probably my senior year at the NCAA’s when I knew I would never reach my goals, dreams or potential. I have an entire article about this & will send when complete.

 

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

I would have gone to College at the University of Iowa or Iowa State.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

I feel good about setting a goal in 6th grade to win 4 state titles & accomplishing it. I feel good about being an all-American as a true freshman. I feel good about my performance in Tbilisi Russia. I feel good about the part I played & the movement we created at the University of Minnesota. I felt ok but not good about coming back to be an AA again in college after missing over an entire year due to knee infection issue, losing over 1/3 of my body weight & having 9 knee operations with a left knee mobility of 15-60 vs 0-180

 

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

All wrestling / lifting / running / competing.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes, I competed internationally from 18-21 & college from 1985-1990 missing over a complete year of my career due to injury.

 

What other sports did you play?

Ran Cross country as fresh & soph.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

I’ve never watched college or pro sports. I never had a team of any sort. I’d much rather talk about music or just life observations.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Reading, writing, working-out, music, guitar, collectables, & travel although I’m at the end of travels. I was fortunate wrestling took me all over the world & then personal curiosity took me to many places in the world where wrestling never would. I’ve been in over 40 countries & every state except Hawaii. I’m so blessed & pleased I went places I wanted to see for myself. I went on several trips alone but I knew it was now or never, so I did it, gaining experience & gratitude because of it. I spend almost all my time by myself. It’s not on purpose & never was but this is where I feel most comfortable. I’m an extreme person which can be a curse or blessing depending on where I’m channeled. At times I’ve caused myself  & others a lot of unnecessary trouble & pain but sometimes pain is the only place we can or will wave the white flag. I love nature, connection, beauty, quietness & the miracle of it all.

 

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

I’m one who believes heavily in appreciation & gratitude so giving back is really my duty / obligation.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I’m not part of any program but work with athletes, teams, individuals, businesses in the mental / emotional climate to give themselves the best opportunity to succeed. I really want to work with people outside of sports. I’ve invested a lot of time & miles & miles of learning to be in a position to be able to give back to those in any arena of life who want to change, grow, develop, have an idea of what it is that drives, motivates, excites them. I have the experience, knowledge & tools to help people go within, learn about themselves & face what’s kept them cuffed. I can help anyone in any arena face, manage, grow, develop & achieve excellence if they’re motivated.

 

Your brother Mike filled me in on how wonderful of a person your mother was. How influential was she to you boys and would you guys have all reached the successes you did without her?

Mom was golden. You know, I NEVER heard her speak ill of anyone other than Trump. Man, she was a rock. Mom & dad were nothing but supportive. Growing up I was angry we didn’t have much money or material items but later on in life, like now, I realize just how blessed I really was & wouldn’t trade or change anything about my mom & dad. So many parents try to coach their kids & from what I’ve seen, few are actually helping. Thank God our parents only supported. I can say, we NEVER even talked about wrestling.

 

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

You will NEVER even see me in a pair of wrestling shoes.

 

When did you start playing guitar and what inspired you to start creating music?

My uncle Ron was my guitar inspiration. In all honesty, he was as good of Blue’s player I ever heard. Music has always been a focus in my life. Growing up, my mom had tons of albums & that was my introduction. Since then, music has taking-on a life of its own.

 

What are some songs/bands that you enjoy listening to?

I like music from the 50’s like Elvis or doo-wop, 60’s like the Beatles, Zep & 70’s probably holds the most array of music I enjoy. I like disco, funk, rock, pop, slow but my foundation & true love will always be the blues. I take music seriously & know a lot about the artist or bands I enjoy. I memorize the songs I enjoy & frankly have made music part of my life. I love playing music trivia or naming the artist on the radio but even going beyond that into the artist or bands lives, their influences, studio knowledge, ect.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers? 

Exercise & build castles with your imagination as much as possible. Imagination is our most powerful faculty.

Set concrete goals that are written. The most important aspect of setting goals are the day to day behaviors / actions one must take to give themselves the best opportunity to succeed. Most people are vague & lazy with their goals. The little things are key. Details are a must. View the goal daily & the steps because you’ll be constantly adjusting your steps, adding behaviors, possibly being able to eliminate specific steps that have been met. The bottom line is setting a specific goal is ongoing. The writing & details are continuously flowing. Really give your goals thought because although your goal may be 6 months away, it’s actually happening a little at a time. Each day is as important as the next. Each day is your opportunity to engage in your steps / details that bring your goal to life. The one constant is the goal itself, that never changes.

I’ve never understood why most people let alone athletes & coaches don’t have the information on how to set real goals vs. wishful thinking or rubbing a genie lamp. The information is out there & the potential impact is staggering. it’s the little things – Inches & ounces that make the difference. These little things I mention can equate to feet & pounds. Setting goals is a skill for a lifetime. You can set goals for anything that is important to you. If you really are serious & want to give yourself the best opportunity to grow, develop & succeed, then construct a well thought out written blueprint to guide, support, direct, encourage & give feedback, then goals are the very first thing. I can’t tell you how much written goals & detailed steps have made a difference for me. For example, I set goals financially, relationship, health / fitness, nutrition, business, academic, travel, spiritual growth….. My point is this is a life-tool for anything that’s important to you. Written goals / steps make everything more clear, believable & something we’re more likely to act on. If you’re going to be there anyway, why not give yourself the best opportunity to mature, experience & succeed.

Most people wing-it & I’ll never understand it. The other life-skill that’s ideal for an athlete is journaling. There’s so much power in writing things down. Writing heavily connects with our subconscious mind & the sub mind is the shot caller but it takes time; focused & INTENTIONAL time. Awareness is key & journaling uncovers, reveals, identifies & untangles our thoughts. We must know what we’re thinking. We must become clear about our patterns, strengths, lesser strengths before we can truly grow, develop & ideally achieve freedom & excellence. This requires consistent daily discipline that most are not willing to give or will make excuses why they can’t. Like anything, it’s about what’s important to you. We’ll always do what’s important to us. We talk about how mental our sport is but when asked what we do to train mentally, few have an answer.

Continued learning / education – always reading something..

Make mistakes, adjust…make mistakes…adjust….make mistakes,,adjust, learn, succeed, fail, adjust, grow, develop, read, mistakes, adjust, grow..

The conclusion of everything I’ve written above, has led me to cultivate a nature of Gratitude. Obviously, this is ongoing but I’d never have thought when I began this journey that it would lead me to the importance & development of gratitude & a grateful heart. Maybe I’ll elaborate on this at a later time.

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Doug Reiter (Mack’s Dad) and Mark Swafford (Justin’s Dad)

When Justin was pinned by Mack in the state finals as a 7th grader, you would think that Justin was struggling to even win a match considering the panic and loathing that ensued in the Swafford household afterwards, but in reality, it was the first loss Justin had in two years and again, he went another full year without taking a loss all the way until AAU State the next year. Mack and Justin were in the same bracket again, but this time instead of meeting in the finals, it appeared as if they would meet in the quarterfinals. And they did.  I think that was the most tension I ever remember there being for any of us four brothers in a match against anyone ever.  Justin wanted to get Mack back so bad that he was almost like a man possessed in the days leading to it.  Mack was the first opponent that Justin ever really thoroughly studied and game-planned against…. The consensus for us was that if you wrestle Mack….you HAVE to have some sort of a game plan…. otherwise he will be 3 steps ahead of you and you will be screwed. He just had way too many dangerous weapons in his scrambles…you had to try to study and learn them all, otherwise he would bury you. Justin became a better wrestler because of his rivalry with Mack and there wasn’t a single day that went by where Justin didn’t have at least a few minutes where he would think about it and become irate.  Everyone in our club was talking about this projected matchup from the beginning of the year and it wasn’t just my family who so badly wanted this win…our entire youth club anticipated it for months leading to it. For Justin, he was tunnel-visioned to make up for what happened in their AAU finals match and the way he looked at it, Mack was the only one in his way to get what he felt was rightfully his, which was the state championship the following year. And while Mack approached his matches with Justin essentially feeling that if he beats Justin in whatever round it may be, he was focused on the spectrum.

Mack Reiter: For me it was always just to win state. I didn’t change my style for anyone. I wanted to impose my style of wrestling on my opponent so I never really pictured any one person. It did feel good though whenever I would beat Justin, because that usually meant that I would win state or whatever tournament it was that we met at.

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

 

So another regular season went by and Justin hadn’t taken a loss to anyone leading into state wrestling his 8th grade year. This meant that since his 5th grade year, he had only one loss out of hundreds of matches and that was to Mack Reiter in their 7th grade finals match.  I don’t recall there ever being a match where the emotions seemed to be riding so high for our squad. I was really jacked up for this one. I remember Mack and Justin pacing by each other and staring each other down like they did the year before. I was so worked up that I was in Justin’s ear, saying a bunch of stuff to him that I thought would piss him off. This likely annoyed Justin, for he didn’t ever have any trouble paying himself mad before a match. Our entire club was most certainly not arrogant this year. There was a quiet and calm, “cautiously optimistic” vibe to it.

Aaron Drain (Justin’s Lifelong Practice Partner): We all saw how hard Justin worked and we knew he was ready as he always was, but he was in a situation where we hadn’t seen him in before. Which was avenging a loss. You gotta lose in order to be able to do that and we had no idea if that sort of thing got to Justin or not.

My dad was a wreck he was so anxious. Justin was probably his favorite kid to coach since he was so coachable and never asked questions when told to work on something or to go harder. It was difficult to find anyone more hard-working than Justin and Dad deeply respected him for that and being his son, he wanted the world for him. He wanted him to be happy as a result of all the excruciating work he put himself through without even being ordered to do so. And the electricity in the air was deafening when they both walked on the mat. It seemed like the entire auditorium knew when that match was coming so they could all tune into it. It was 5X as loud and crowded when they met up this year compared to the finals match the year before. People still remembered the finals match from the year before and I think a lot of people tuned in to see if the result of that match was just a fluke or if Mack was in a world of his own… Or maybe they all were anticipating what it ultimately became… One of the best matches that’s ever taken place at AAU state in the history of the tournament? I don’t recall there ever being a match at the AAU State Tournament where the crowd was louder than they were in this match…The 1999, C-90 Quarterfinals between Mack and Justin. And Mack and Justin did not disappoint.  In fact, they put on a nail-biting-inducing show for the fans in attendance in that match…  And little did my dad know, that one of the most significant moments of his wrestling dad life was about to take place at the end of the match when he met Mack’s dad, Doug Reiter… Watch how crazy this match was:

 

Justin Swafford: I was devastated. He really surprised me in the finals in 7th grade, and my 8th grade year I had a tough time pulling myself together on the backside of the bracket after losing to him even though I wrestled back for 3rd and beat some really tough kids – I couldn’t believe he took the title away from me again. During that period (Jr. High/High School) those loses definitely haunted me.

1.) Mack Reiter

2.) Tony Hager

3.) Justin Swafford

4.) Glenwood

5.) Justin Bohlke

6.) Andy Roush

7.) Charlie Ettelson

8.) Adam Gottschalk

At the end of the match, Mack’s corner and fans went nuts. They were very excited and very loud about it, in which you can’t blame them considering how the match turned out. My dad was probably more stressed anxious for that one than he has ever been for a match and his anger got the best of him when he perceived the loud screams and cheers as being kind of, “in our face.”  My dad, who is notorious for his lack of fear and unflinching willingness to be confrontational if he’s upset, shouted an expletive (**** you people is what was was screamed) at the entire Reiter corner and their jaws dropped.  My dad’s voice carries and everyone could hear it.  He stormed off, looking like he was about to beat up the nearest Tyrannosaurus Rex he ran into when Doug Reiter started following him and did so all the way until my dad sat down by some stairs on the upper level.  A large group of kids and fans followed behind them, for it appeared as if Doug Reiter and Mark Swafford were about to get into a fight and everyone wanted to see it.  What happened though, was not what the onlookers expected and was something that stuck with my dad for life and taught him a lesson in humility…

 

When did you first meet Doug Reiter? 

Mark Swafford (Justin’s Dad): I actually met and first conversed with Doug Reiter after Justin and Mack’s second Folkstyle match at AAU state when they were 8th graders. Let’s just say that after this match, Doug gave me a very valuable lesson in humility. The boys had just finished a barnburner of a match in which they were tied up in the 3rd period with Mack on top and Justin on bottom and about 5 seconds left when it looked like Justin just needed to back up to grab his one point escape for the win, but as he tended to do, he got over-aggressive and went for the 2 point reversal instead of the escape. Mack wrenched Justin to his back and picked up nearfall points and the win with a couple seconds left in the 3rd period.  Mack’s corner was excited and jubilant, as they had a right to be and I took it the wrong way in the heat of the moment.  I glanced at Justin and saw him hanging his head and the combination of seeing my son’s heartache to the sound of some very excited cheers, I regretfully took it personal. I yelled out to Mack’s corner, an expletive, which was way below the dignity of the situation in which I am and have always been ashamed of. When things cleared out, I walked out of the gym area and unbeknownst to me, Doug was following right behind me.  A lot of people were following behind, for it appeared as if a fight was going to break out between Doug and I. I got near some stairs, still just heartbroken for my boy when Doug approached me. He could tell that I was very upset and everyone including myself knew that I was very much out of line. The first ever conversation that took place at that moment changed my perception for the better on a number of things and it was all because of the thoughtfulness, class and respect that came from the mouth of Doug Reiter when he spoke to me. He first said, “hey don’t be like that. We don’t want to have bad blood with you guys. We don’t dislike you guys.” Then he said that he could tell that I was upset and that he understood it, but wanted to let me know that the excitement displayed in their corner was not a personal slight towards Justin or at our expense, but it was excitement that came from the joy they were experiencing at that moment, for they felt that Mack had just pulled off a victory against one of the best wrestlers in the state of Iowa who they hold in very high regard.  He said that they all considered that win a big accomplishment for Mack for there wasn’t a kid in the state around their weight range that they respected more than Justin. He also wanted to let me know that Justin was still an awesome wrestler and that he had no doubt that he would bounce back to do great things in high school. Boy did I feel sheepish… It was that moment where I learned to try to handle wins and losses with respect and humility.

 

How were you and Doug Reiter’s relationship after this match?

Mark Swafford (Justin’s Dad): How does wrestling affect a man? I am sorry, I have a tendency to answer questions with questions at times. Doug and I crossed paths a lot, mostly during the freestyle season. In fact, Doug and I started taking Mack and Justin to the same freestyle club which was Mark Reiland’s Future Hawkeye Wrestling Club and those two boys became fantastic practice partners for each other. So every time I ran into Doug, we always talked and I would say we were friends. Always had great wrestling discussions about our boys or whoever it may be. He was always just one of the friendliest people that you could ever meet. He had a GQ look to him, but was always sporting some neat sandals and shorts.  He always greeted me with a warm, handsome smile with a noticeable twinkle in his eye. He’s one of these people who when you encounter them, you can tell that they are genuinely happy to see you and not just going through the motions.  He always made sure to ask about how life was going and how the boys were doing. You could tell how much his family meant to him.  Just a standup guy that I really looked up to and felt privileged to become friends with him.

NOTE: A few years ago, some tragic news swept the entire Iowa wrestling world. Doug Reiter had become terminally ill. This saddened most everyone, for most wrestling fans in Iowa at least know who he is and anyone who does know him, respects the hell out of him.  I remember hearing the news myself and just feeling like it didn’t seem fair for him and his family.  I remember my dad being straight up devastated when he caught wind of this….

Mark Swafford: Years after Justin and Mack finished their careers, my youngest two boys were wrestling at The Clash in Rochester, MN.  I was there coaching Mediapolis as an Assistant coach.  I made a trip to the hospitality room during the intermission and overheard a conversation between a couple of officials in which they discussed Doug’s illness. This was the first I heard that Doug was sick and I will never forget that moment.  I got that feeling as if my heart was in my throat and was being simultaneously punched in the stomach.  It was devastating news. I heard of Doug’s passing a few weeks later and I felt just sick for the Reiter family.  It hurt bad, for I knew how good of a man Doug was and I knew that his family had to be just devastated, for I know how much of a good family man Doug was.  Again, it hurt. Doug was a man who I respected a ton, for he taught me humility and was someone I dearly liked. It left a void for me. It just didn’t feel right. And the common denominator that brought us all together was wrestling…THAT is how wrestling affects a man!

Now, while my dad had made a new friend who had already become an influential person to him, the wound was still very fresh to Justin. He did not handle this loss very well at all. While off the mat our two families were officially on good terms, on the mat, the rivalry had just begun. 

 

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Cole Pape marched out there as a Freshman at state wrestling in 1998 looking like a reincarnation of Stacey Rice from Storm Lake who won 3 titles of his own in the late 80’s. They were both blonde for one… Stacey won state at 2A 126 as a Freshman while Cole Pape won it at 2A 130 as a Freshman, which are very difficult weights to win it as a Freshman… Both won close matches in their finals match, with Rice defeating future Osage HC, the legendary Brent Jennings from Clarinda in the finals and Pape pulling off some late match heroics to defeat future Luther College D3 National Champ, Garrett Kurtz from Waukon.  It appeared as if both were on the right path to becoming historical 4X state champions (being a 4X state champion is history in itself, but these two were on pace to becoming the first to ever do it when not starting at the lowest weight their Freshmen seasons, which CJ Ettelson became the first to accomplish in 2003). However, Rice just had one bad tourney as a Sophomore while Pape just had one injury-plagued season that may have affected how he performed as a Junior.

Pape was in my grade and weight range. And I wrestled him in the semifinals at state when we were seniors… So I am probably more familiar with him than I am the other 3 timers. The first time I saw him was at a youth tourney in Wapello in 4th grade in which he wrestled my practice partner, Adam Roberts. Roberts was up pretty big to start the match and Pape ended up pinning him with a cradle late in the match. Some late match heroics that he would become masterful at. He was simply never out of a match… no matter how much trouble he appeared to be in, he could always pull off the win, it seemed. At the time, he looked real raw and inexperienced and I didn’t really think we’d see much of him after that match, but later that year, he was one of the guys who went to state with me at my weight/district and placed 2nd in our bracket at state behind Shea Stamp and it was all uphill from there for Cole Pape. I want to say he went on to win 2-3 AAU titles before entering HS. He was considered one of the best in my grade.

He defeated Kurth from Waukon as a Freshman in the finals. As a Sophomore he defeated Ryan Utterback from New Hampton in the finals. Another battle. As a Junior it had been rumored that he sustained an injury of some sort. I couldn’t decide of these rumors were credible or not, for he kept notching W’s over Jeff Wiele from West Liberty in the regular season, which is another wrestler I hold in high regard. Then at state as a Junior, I remember sitting in the basement around the semifinal round when a bunch of commotion erupted with people saying, “Pape got beat! Pape got beat!” “To who?! Are you sure?!” I asked. And my question was answered when I saw a distraught Pape pace through the basement and not long after, a pumped up Norwalk squad. He had been beaten by Dustin Bussanmas from Norwalk in the semis. Dustin was another good wrestler in my grade and had been a top guy for years. Everyone from SEI knew him as “The Buss” but he was from nowhere near Southeast Iowa so I don’t know what the rest of the state called him. My practice partner Phillip Klees always talked about him. It was a matter of time before “The Buss” made his mark at state and I suppose that was his coming out party. He went on to finish 2nd Bart Mehlert from Laporte City-Union and Pape got 3rd.  I’m pretty sure a lot of people were interested in seeing a Pape vs. Mehlert match… I can’t remember if they met during the regular season or not?

It was a pretty safe bet that whoever he met in the semis the next year was going to be put through a gauntlet…So let’s take a few moments of silence to feel sorry and flourish that poor schmuck with some sympathy, whoever it may have been. Welp, it was me. Thanks for the moment of silence and the sympathy you all gave to me, for I have felt sorry for myself about being convincingly beaten in that match for years. I kid, I kid. But yeah, I had the unfortunate task of wrestling Pape in the semis when he was out for blood and things did not go my way. Pape was generally a real classy guy… very polite to most people off the mat and always just took care of business on the mat and moved on. I must have been an exception to this, for Cole was my age and my weight range and in my district since we were little kids and he never seemed to like me too much in our interactions off the mat and especially in the shenanigans on the mat in the semis match. In my career, I had never taken more straight up cheap-shots in a match than I did in my match against Pape. Elbows, after-whistle shoves, pushing my head in the mat well after the whistle was blown and we had gone out of bounds, etc. I don’t think he liked me too much, for he normally wasn’t like that. In fact, I’m 99% sure he didn’t, which wasn’t totally uncommon… there were a few who didn’t over the years. And he had a PERFECT game plan against me coming in. Or was coached perfectly on how to take everything away from me. I came into that match feeling real good. I was confident, I wasn’t anxious, I was hydrated, I was focused…I was feeling much better than I was in my first two matches and I won those. I had caught the vibe that he didn’t like me too much years before this match took place, so to be honest, I didn’t really like him either at that point and felt fully ready to go out there and beat him. Mentally, I was in a much better place than I was for 99% of the matches I ever wrestled. And this changed about 2 seconds into the match. Right after the match started, he immediately locked up a Russian tie on my left arm. This threw me off INSTANTLY. In my 12 years of wrestling to that point, I had never had anyone in practice or in a match lock up a Russian tie, let alone to my left arm. On my feet, I used my left arm to set up EVERYTHING. I liked to lock that left arm up and lure someone into a left-sided sag headlock and if they sniffed that out, I liked to go into an outside carry or fireman’s from it and would try to set up scrambles where I could switch directions, usually while controlling my left arm. It was as if my thumbs had been cut off. The thumb is more important of a body part than people realize and no one fully realizes this until they have one of them missing… I had no idea what to do with it and while I got frustrated and would try to shake him off or do whatever felt right, he’d use it for a set-up to a shot and would take me down.  Then we’d get back to our feet and same thing. Russian tie to my left arm. I was clueless. Eventually I just started throwing haymaker throw attempts that ended up being mirages for whoever watched the match. I had a ton of people come up to me and say that they couldn’t believe how close I was to throwing Pape on his back and ending it at like 3 different points in the match. I still have someone mention that to me at least once a year. I’ve always just nodded my head like, “yeahhhhh, I was SUPER close.” When you read The Hawkeye Newspaper story on the match, you’d get the vibe that I had Pape on the ropes and was close to putting him away with a throw on multiple occasions in the match… I just kind of took that and played along with it. “Yeah, I was SO close to throwing him. Darn!” HAHA, ok I am going to clear this up. Those throw attempts were mirages. I was NOT close to getting Pape in any sort of danger in that match, regardless of how it appeared. I have no idea why it appeared the way it did, but I felt it and he was never even close to being in any sort of danger against me. He dominated the entire match and I was absolutely clueless on how to adapt to his Russian tie to my left arm. That match was nothing, but smart, dominant wrestling on his part and desperation out of frustration on my end. Nothing more, nothing less. And the final result of this “crazy” match between Pape and I, was him pinning me at the end of the 2nd period. Nothing to see here. He took everything away from me and he wrestled me perfectly. I mean it was that simple…take away my left arm and I’m hopeless. Hell I didn’t even know that about myself. He sure did.  

So Pape went on to win in the finals soundly against Joe Weiser from Clarke Osceola after a scare where he was taken down with a carry to start the match. He regrouped and dominated the rest.

Pape had moments where he was streaky, IMO. After the season, he took a loss or two that made me scratch my head for it’d be against a guy that I beat. And then he’d go on to beat nationally ranked opponents, most notably at the Dream Team Classic he beat Marcus Levesseur from Minneapolis 6-4, who was like the top ranked guy at 152 in the entire nation. In retrospect, I wonder if his injuries still nagged at him around that time. I could never make sense of it, but it was quite obvious that Pape, at his best, was capable of doing a lot of damage at high levels. He went on to wrestle for Iowa. My parents took my little brothers; Shea and Brennan to a Hawkeyes meet in the early to mid 2000’s and they were real young at the time. They handed out wrestling card type deals to kids who came to the meet and my brother Brennan got one of Paul Bradley who he idolize for years because of it.  Shea got Cole Pape for his card… Go figure.

He was smart and he had heart… Nobody can argue with that. Not even a salty loser like myself.

1998 2A 130

  1. Cole Pape, Fr., Maquoketa
  2. Garrett Kurth, Sr., Waukon
  3. Ryan Utterback, Jr., New Hampton
  4. Buc Broyles, Jr., Adel-DeSoto-Minburn
  5. Dan Varner, Jr., Northwood-Kensett
  6. Cade Kelly, Sr., Clarke, Osceola

199 2A 135

  1. Cole Pape, So., Maquoketa
  2. Ryan Utterback, Sr., New Hampton
  3. Benn Christiansen, Sr., Glenwood
  4. Brandon Uhlenhopp, Sr., Aplington-Parkersburg
  5. Mark Sturm, So., Emmetsburg/Armstrong-Ringsted
  6. Jeff Wiele, Jr., West Liberty

2000 2A 140

  1. Bart Mehlert, Sr., LaPorte City Union
  2. Dustin Bussanmas, Jr., Norwalk
  3. Cole Pape, Jr., Maquoketa
  4. Jeff Wiele, Sr., West Liberty
  5. Andrew Knaack, Jr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck
  6. Kolby O’Brien, Sr., Atlantic

2001 2A 152

  1. Cole Pape, Sr., Maquoketa
  2. Joe Weiser, Sr., Clarke, Osceola
  3. Matt Doebel, Sr., Clear Lake
  4. Cody Downing, Jr., Creston
  5. Danny Ebling, Jr., South Tama
  6. Josh Swafford, Sr., Mediapolis

 

CLARK YODER, Sigourney

Clark Yoder was a 3X state champion and likely would have been a 4X state place-winner if there were wrestle backs at state back in the day. He won state championships in 1978, 1979 and 1980. When he was a Freshman, he won districts and the other qualifier from his district who went with him was Brian Swafford from Mepo, my uncle. In 1978, he won districts again and the guy from his district to go with him was Mark Swafford from Mepo, my father. I grew up on Clark Yoder stories. His career record was 112-4.  Lost 3 times as a freshman, 1 time sophomore and was undefeated junior, senior years.  He lost twice to Jim Lord (Lisbon), once to Pat Vogel (Benton Community, Van Horne), once to Dave Lott (Denver)… all previous or future state champs. Dave Lott was who beat him first round at state his Freshman year which prevented him from being a 4X state champion. Clark had a short stint of wrestling for UNI, but after a short tenure in which he experienced injury, enlisted in the Army.

1978 2A 126

1. Clark Yoder, Sigourney
2. Scott Johnson, Nashua
3. Randy Steward, Dewitt Central
4. Kurt Nelson, Corning
5. Kevin Mehan, Emmetsburg
6. Todd Stumberg, Grundy Center

1979 2A 132

1. Clark Yoder, Jr., Sigourney
2. Dana Robinson, Sr., Humboldt
3. Jeff Vance, Sr., Griswold
4. Don Jennings, Jr., Atlantic
5. Dave Capitani, Sr., Knoxville
6. Garry Miklus, Sr., Saydel

1980 2A 132

1. Clark Yoder, Sr., Sigourney
2. Bill Bowers, Sr., Mount Vernon
3. Bob Kauffman, Jr., Emmetsburg
4. Todd Stumberg, Sr., Grundy Center
5. Dave Nelson, Sr., Tri-Center Neola
6. Russ Rasmussen, Sr., Wilton

 

JIM LORD, Lisbon

Jim Lord from Lisbon won titles in 1976, 1977 and 1978. When you read about the Lisbon wrestling empire and the generations of greatness that have accrued there for decades, a lot of their wrestling legends of today grew up idolizing guys who grew up idolizing Jim Lord.  Lord was a 4X state finalist meaning the only year he did not win state, he was runner-up. This was his Freshman season at 98 lbs and he lost to David Lott from Denver that year in the finals. Lord went on to wrestle at Iowa State.

1976 1A 98

  1. David Lott, Denver
  2. Jim Lord, Lisbon
  3. Tom Dappen, Logan-Magnolia
  4. Mike Murphy, West Branch
  5. Randy Reinier, Pekin, Packwood
  6. Rex Hartwig, Rockwell City

1976 1A 105

  1. Jim Lord, Lisbon
  2. Dave Lott, Denver
  3. Mike Murphy, West Branch
  4. Rick Leander, Greenfield
  5. Dan Harris, Morning Sun
  6. Kelly Griffin, Laurens

1977 1A 112

  1. Jim Lord, Lisbon
  2. Robert Cole, Highland (Riverside)
  3. Jim Jordan, Plainfield
  4. Steve Struck, Tripoli
  5. Rick Leander, Greenfield
  6. Wade Ballinger, Sidney

1978 1A 126

1. Jim Lord, Lisbon
2. Mike Blasberg, Tripoli
3. Luther Beenken, Reinbeck
4. Bill Troshynski, Guthrie Center
5. Rodney Cole, Highland-Riverside
6. Kevin Wahe, Alburnett

 

ROBERT WALKER, Martensdale St. Mary’s 

Robert Walker won 3 state titles as a Sophomore, Junior and Senior in 2010. As a Freshman, he qualified for state and that’s the one year he did not win state. He won 3 brackets that were littered with future state champions like Tyler Foubert from EBF and future national level studs like Grant Henderson from Alburnett, but a 3X NAIA National Champion for Grand View. Robert has a twin, David, who also reeled in a couple of state championships of his own. Last I knew, Robert was wrestling for the Air Force, but I have no idea how long that tenure lasted. He was a nice boost for a respectable program at Martensdale St. Mary’s.

2010 1A 140
1st: Robert Walker, Martensdale-St. Mary’s SO 41- 4
2nd: Brode Hills, Louisa-Muscatine SR 35- 5
3rd: Matt Finch, Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn JR 47- 1
4th: Dallas Houchins, Interstate 35 Truro JR 32- 5
5th: Mason Waddell, St. Edmond Fort Dodge SR 43- 7
6th: Jake Slocum, West Branch SO 31- 12
7th: Cole Hopkins, Coon Rapids-Bayard SR 40- 5
8th: Taylor Wedeking, Nashua-Plainfield SO 36- 10

2011 1A 140
1st: Robert Walker, Martensdale-St. Marys JR 46- 0
2nd: Nolan Oviatt, Logan-Magnolia SR 44- 3
3rd: Skyler Rice, Emmetsburg/RA SR 28- 5
4th: Wes Prill, Pleasantville SR 39- 9
5th: Tait Simpson, Lisbon JR 36- 4
6th: Braiden Vrzak, Turkey Valley Jackson Jct SR 35- 13
7th: Tyler Foubert, Tri-County-Montezuma FR 48- 7
8th: Matt Steffen, Kingsley-Pierson SR 33- 9

2012 1A 145
1st: Robert Walker of Martensdale-St Marys 30-0 Sr.
2nd: Jake Slocum of West Branch 44-5 Sr.
3rd: Tyler Foubert of Tri-County-Montezuma 48-6 So
4th: Ben Huber of Hudson 46-6 Sr.
5th: Teddie Harvey of St. Edmond, Fort Dodge 30-4 Jr
6th: Grant Henderson of Alburnett 41-6 Jr
7th: Spencer Kelly of Rockford 47-6 Sr.
8th: Mike Novotny of Underwood 40-5 Sr.

 

INTERESTING FACTS AND CONNECTIONS: 

* I compared and contrasted Cole Pape to fellow 3 times, Stacey Rice from Storm Lake… Stacey’s little brother, Skyler placed 3rd in one of Robert Walker’s championship brackets.

* All 4 of these guys had brothers who were very good as well. Pape’s brother, Dane was a 3-4 time placer and a 2X finalist. Jim Lord’s brother, Doug was a state champion. Robert Walker’s twin brother David was a 2X state champion. Notice how all of them start with a D? Clark Yoder’s brothers Greg and Ross were wrestlers and I know Ross won state.

* Jim Lord’s brother Doug was beaten in the finals in 1974 by a man named Marty Bussanmas from Norwalk. The one guy to ever beat Cole Pape was Dustin Bussanmas from Norwalk. One can assume that those two may be father-son or uncle-nephew?

 * Jim Lord’s only loss at state ever was to David Lott from Denver in the finals as a Freshman. Ironically this was also Clark Yoder’s only loss at the state tournament as well, which took place first round at state his freshman year. Which means David Lott prevented two guys from being 4X state champions. To make things more coincidental, despite Lord and Yoder being in 1A and 2A, they wrestled Lott in two consecutive matches… Lord beat Lott in the finals in 1976 as a Sophomore and Lott’s next match at state was vs. Clark Yoder first round at state the next year.

* I described Pape’s Russian Tie to my left arm in the semis at state my senior year that essentially disarmed me in more ways in one… Clark Yoder, who also beat a Swafford in the postseason (my dad, Mark in his senior season) was asked to describe his wrestling style and here is how he responded:

Clark Yoder: Aggressive… I had a saying that I would always repeat: “Tough, Tight, Mean, Russian”.  To me it meant, ‘Tough’ – stay aggressive, always try and score more points.  ‘Tight’ – stay in contact, keep the pressure on all the time.  ‘Mean’ – (not dirty) just hard -nosed wrestling, drive through the opponents best, like driving through a hard crossface and never let them see you give up.  ‘Russian’ – at the time I felt that the Russians were the best technical wrestlers, greatest drilling and precise techniques.

 

  • Lord, Pape and Walker began their HS careers NOT at the lowest weight.
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Matt Fields from North Cedar was good for attendance at the Iowa HS State wrestling tournament. Or let me re-phrase that… He was a force in ensuring that people who were in attendance at the state wrestling tournament stayed around to watch the bigger guys, for I remember a lot of people staying around just to watch him… which is great because it always upsets me watching people clear out of the arena once the big boys start taking the mat. I always thought it was disrespectful when people did that and it makes me kind of feel as if the bigger guys get short-changed in terms of the crowd response after they win their titles…  This wasn’t so bad when Fields was around, though. Or at least I am assuming it wasn’t, for I remember an entire group of Winfield Mt. Union cheerleaders staying around in 2002 just because they all had a collective crush on him… And a lot of other fans and fellow wrestlers wanted to stick around to watch him because the beat-downs he handed out and the athleticism he showed while doing so was something that was fun for them to watch.

Matt Fields made his presence known in a big way when he placed 2nd at state at a weight where you typically don’t see many underclassmen… 1A 115. He then went on to finish the last two seasons of his HS career undefeated and to my recollection, didn’t really have much trouble with that. He finished with a record of 137-11 which is incredible for a guy who starts his HS career at an upper weight and wrestles the remainder of his career there. He won the 2002 FILA Cadet Nationals title and 2003 Junior Nationals title.

He was an AA for the Iowa Hawkeyes in college.

2002 1A 215

  1. Mike Kuecker, Sr., Tripoli
  2. Matt Fields, So., North Cedar
  3. Kyle Niemann, Sr., Sumner
  4. Kyle Olson, Jr., Underwood
  5. Michael Bucklin, So., Colfax-Mingo
  6. Dylan White, Jr., Ogden

2003 2a  275

  1. Matt Fields, Jr., North Cedar
  2. Kyle Lehman, Sr., Winterset
  3. Ben Dunkelburger, Jr., LaPorte City Union
  4. Brian Borchers, Sr., Aurelia-Galva-Holstein
  5. Galen Read-Hess, Sr., Fairfield
  6. Rob Lance, Sr., Mount Pleasant
  7. Bret Flynn, Sr., South Tama
  8. Wade Machin, Sr., Osage

2004 1A 275

1. Matt Fields, Sr., North Cedar (Stanwood)

2. Andy Kavanaugh, Sr., Southern Cal (Lake City)

3. Ben McCready, Sr., Valley (Elgin)

4. Todd Parrish, Sr., Lenox

5. Ben Hogan, Sr., Nodaway Valley

6. Aron Bierl, Sr., Nora Springs-Rock Falls

7. Adam Lyons, Jr., Central Decatur (Leon)

8. Jake Koeppen, Sr., Lake Mills

Does Matt Fields have a case for consideration of Iowa HS wrestling’s GOAT? Well I’d say he did enough to at least put himself in the conversation.

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Justin Swafford vs. Mack Reiter in AAU State Finals As 7th Graders In 1998

So the first time they met up was in 1997 when Mack and Justin were 6th graders. This match went down at freestyle state.  Justin won this match and somewhat handily. The way I remember it was that there were a couple of close scrambles here and there, but the match was ultimately decided by a few 1 point takedowns. It was a convincing win. I couldn’t get over how much I thought Mack resembled his older brother, Joe. Justin was in the middle of a 100+ match winning streak at the time and just didn’t ever seem to have a close match around that time.  I admit, our club (Burlington Youth Wrestling Club) had reached a point with Justin’s success that we were straight-up arrogant regarding him.  None of us thought there was a remote possibility that he would lose even though Mack was a 3X state champion himself at that time. And when Mack walked off the mat, IRATE about losing to Justin, some of our club members kind of laughed amongst each other and made comments like, “did this Mack Reiter kid actually think that he was going to BEAT Justin?!?! HA!” We had all become THAT accustomed to Justin dominating that we found the thought of Mack Reiter beating him to be inconceivable. Arrogance about our guy. It’s funny how things unravel sometimes.

 

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

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

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

Mark Swafford (Justin’s Dad): Justin and Mack had met for the first time in the state freestyle finals 2 years before that, in which Justin won.

 

So Justin won the first round and with an exception of Mack being visibly TICKED, most of the Burlington/Swafford camp just thought of it as just another win. As mentioned, when it came to Justin at that time, the Burlington club was wavering on the line of arrogance. Most people didn’t think we’d ever see Justin get beat and it got to the point where the thought of it happening was starting to seem almost far-fetched to us. I remember a teammate of ours named Steve Reynolds laughing and asking everyone, “why was this Mack Reiter kid so fuming-mad? He DID know that he had taken a loss to Justin Swafford, a match that he was never going to win anyways, right???? So why on Earth would he be so mad about it?” The Swafford camp had maybe become a little to accustomed to Justin winning and probably needed to be taken down a peg to be humbled…and if anyone was going to do that, it’d be Mack, because his anger after losing that first match went even deeper than what was on the surface…We didn’t realize that we had summoned an angry pit bull in that match…

Mack Reiter: There’s actually a funny story involving my dad and Justin that not a lot of people know. At Freestyle state as 6th graders, as mentioned, I lost to Justin. I didn’t wrestle very good, and certainly didn’t wrestle good in my dads opinion! Anyway, that was the very first year they were going to have a kids freestyle/greco national tournament and it was in Waterloo, IA. I lived 10 minutes from Waterloo, IA and back then I truly loved to compete. I wanted to wrestle everywhere as often as I could. Now in order to wrestle at nationals you had to compete at your regional tournament, which for the Northern Plains that year it was in Minot, ND. I did NOT live 10 minutes from Minot, ND! Anyway, my dad said I didn’t wrestle well enough to get to go to Northern Plains. It wasn’t so much that I lost, it was that he didn’t think I was competing the way I was capable of. And with dad there was no negotiating. He wasn’t mean about it or anything. After the match he just said get in the car we are going home. Now this absolutely crushed me. The entire drive home from Fort Dodge and probably for at least the next month I don’t think I spoke a word to my dad. But it drove me to do more, it drove me to train harder and compete harder. I remember reading the results of kids nationals in the Waterloo Courier and seeing the results to my weight knowing that there was a chance I could have won a national title. Naturally, like just about everything in my life, my dad did the right thing at the right time for me. He knew what he needed to do to motivate me and to get the best out of me.

 

So not only was Mack PISSED about losing the match, but he had salt poured on the wound by not being allowed to compete at Northern Plains Regionals because of the loss. We did not realize it at the time, but Mack obviously wanted to get payback for that one. We were in harms way and didn’t know it, for we had all become so used to Justin winning these types of matches that we were all over-confident. It had reached a point where it was kind of difficult to not feel that way, for Justin’s backstory coming into that tournament mostly consisted of winning. And as mentioned, our crowd was over-confident with Justin to the point of total arrogance.

Adam Roberts (Burlington Club Teammate and occasional practice partner):  I remember seeing those two staring each other down in the holding area as they strutted past each other. They looked like a couple of roosters warming up before a cock-fight. I remember laughing as Mack would stare back at Justin because I didn’t think he stood a chance and I thought, “well, that kids probably going to be crying soon.”

Aaron Drain (Burlington and Mepo Practice Partner): Justin was one of my primary practice partners throughout my wrestling career. I became pretty good, good enough to the point where I was placing 3rd-5th range every single year at AAU, it seemed. One big reason I did as well as I did was because I had to go through the Justin grind every day. Every year it seemed like I would make the semis at AAU and get beaten there by either Trent Paulson by 4 or so points or Dustin Hinschberger by 2 points. So I knew them well. And I knew Justin well with him being my bully, I mean practice partner/best friend for years…. Put it this way, those two guys consistently beat me by 4 points and Justin, who was always 5-10 lbs. lighter than me, would have practices where he’d kill me. In Junior High, Trent Paulson had solidified spot as the best youth wrestler to ever go through the state at that point for he had broken the record for the amount of state championships with 6. I used to tell people all the time back then that I thought Justin could go with Trent I knew both and I struggled way more with Justin at that time. I fully believed that. I thought he was going to embarrass Mack Reiter. The thought of Justin losing to someone in his grade and his size was just something I couldn’t see happening. Justin was too good. I learned that weekend that Mack is too.

Josh Keller (Justin’s Teammate At Mepo and Burlington): Josh (Swafford) and I had met a couple girls at the hotel that weekend that we were sitting with for a lot of the tourney. I wanted to go out by the skywalk area with Josh and the girls and Josh insisted that we stayed there and watch Justin’s finals match. I thought it was a waste of time because I hadn’t ever seen Justin beaten before.

Steve Reynolds (Justin’s teammate at Mepo and Burlington): I practiced with Justin and was two years older and put it this way… I don’t think I ever watched a match of his where I felt him losing was a possibility. He was mean.

Matt Keller (Justin’s Teammate at Mepo and Burlington): Since I began wrestling, I hadn’t seen Justin come close to losing a match yet. I thought he had it in the bag. None of us even cared who Mack Reiter was, we thought Justin had it locked up.

Joshua Swafford (Justin’s Older Brother and Writer/Narrator of this story): I was probably the one guy from our club who was most shook up.  I knew what Mack’s past AAU results were and knew that he had performed well there before. Both of them were 3X state champions at this point. I saw the first matchup they had in freestyle and I felt Justin won the folkstyle situations in that match even more soundly than the freestyle ones… but then a couple months later I saw Mack have an insanely good tournament at a national tourney of some sort and in doing so, he dismantled a kid who Justin had fits with when he wrestled him. I knew we had our hands full and I certainly wasn’t laughing like a few of our onlookers were when they observed those two staring each other down on the holding area. As Josh K. mentioned, we watched that match with a couple of Des Moines area girls that we met that weekend and both of us were crushing pretty hard on them. I remember acting all confident when I explained my brother to them to try to impress them. “oh yeah, my brother hasn’t lost in years, he should win this easy, yada, yada.”  Deep down, though…I was anxious as hell. I couldn’t wait for it to be over with so I could focus on trying to look cool for this girl I was talking to. One thing to note is that these girls had a guy who hit on them earlier in the tourney by sitting by them in the stands and saying to them, “you chicks are pretty hot. You wanna grab some munchies?!?!”  It was really funny and became an inside joke for the rest of the weekend and comes back later in the story… I’m pretty sure that people from our club remember the stories of Josh Keller, Matt Keller, Aaron Drain and I being girl crazy at all these big events were discussed more than some of these old matches were.

NOW, those were the feelings of guys from OUR squad before they met up… I am sure that guys from Mack’s WAHawk squad were JUST as confident for Mack as we were for Justin. He was, in fact a 3X state champion in his own right and successful on the national level already. I’ll tell you this, they all seemed pretty pumped up for it. 

As confident as either side may have been, I think most reasonable fans were anticipating a battle… I don’t think anyone was anticipating the match to go like this:

Mark Swafford (Justin’s Dad): Mack and Justin met in the AAU state finals as 7th graders and Mack buried Justin with a perfectly executed cradle off Justin’s standup in the first period. This stunned us, for it was Justin’s first loss in 2 years.

Adam Roberts: I was shocked. I knew instantly that we were  gonna see a year of Bird kicking it in to overdrive right when it happened.

Phillips Klees: I still can’t believe it. They had to have set that up.

Matt Keller: I didn’t even know what to say. Couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe how good of wrestlers there evidently were in the state if someone was able to do that to him.

Riley Ball (Justin’s Burlington Club Teammate/Practice Partner): That was my first time ever at state and that was a match that gave me a good idea of how much better I still needed to get if there were guys like Mack out there because I already knew Justin very well and had the same opinions of him that everyone else did.

Aaron Drain: We weren’t over-confident or arrogant about Justin. He had earned that confidence from us by that point. It was moreso none of us had given Mack Reiter enough credit coming in.

Joshua Swafford: I expected a close match and thought that Justin was going to bounce back even after he was taken down, but after that pin was called, I was shocked and just sat there with my mouth open and making some presumably indecipherable grunts and “what’s?” I remember trying to control my emotions so I didn’t look silly in front of the girl who I watched it with, but there was an avalanche of emotions that I was holding in at that time and I am pretty sure that this girl knew it for after a couple-few minutes of likely appearing visibly shook up, this girl nudged me and smiled and said, “hey your hot, wanna go grab some munchies?!” And it made me laugh. It is probably the one thing in the world that could be said at that point that could possibly result in laughter from me. I spent the entire trip home stressing more about being too much of a wienie to ask that girl for her phone number than I did thinking about that match…which was difficult to ignore considering my dad was stressing about it the whole ride home. Haha, I was pathetic. My dad was pretty upset because he over-heard a coach/fan from another squad who was watching the match say, “I thought Swafford was supposed to be good.” So I knew that we had a long year ahead of us with Justin. I became more upset about that match as time went on that year.

Justin Swafford: My 7th grade year in the finals at AAU was the second time wrestling Mack. That was the beginning of the rivalry and lasted through high school as I ended up a weight class or two above Mack in college. It was a tight match but in the 1st period I turned into Mack off a standup right into his big move, the nearside cradle, and ended up getting stuck. From my memory I remember a rather over-celebratory reaction from Mack’s club/fans and pretty much a large percentage of the entire crowd and that was enough to spark a fire in my gut, let alone it was the first time I had been pinned since early in my career, so that was definitely the start of the rivalry the way I saw it. That was the first time I ever felt hated or disliked collectively by a group of people and Mack was the face and focal point or symbol if you will of me being hated at that time. That’s why it always seemed I had something to prove. In retrospect, I suppose that should have been a good warm-up for being generally rooted against by fan-favorites such as Moza Fay and Wade Satern who I encountered in HS.

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Remember The Wrestler: Ryan Ronan, Highland-Riverside

 

If you’ve been following this site, you may have felt inspired, moved, happy, warm and fuzzy at times when reading past wrestlers’ varying tales of overcoming adversity, working hard, accomplishing goals and etching their names in the history books.  Wrestling has a great deal of “feel good” stories and for good reason, for wrestling is an emotional sport.  

However, wrestling would not be described accurately and fully if the stories of heartbreak did not emerge from time to time.  I would guess that there is more heartache in the sport of wrestling than there is joy… because the cold, hard truth about wrestling is that not everyone wins and things don’t always unravel in a manner as you feel it should have or could have at times. As blissful as an imaginary world of wrestling where everyone eventually gets their time to shine may seem, it just doesn’t always happen that way.  Sometimes great people accomplish great things and sometimes even the people who may rub some the wrong way rack up the accolades as well.  Sometimes lazy, non-dedicated people get what they typically deserve on the mat, which is watching another guy’s hand being raised in high-stress situations. And on the flip side of that, sometimes some of the greatest, most hardworking people you may meet in your life had some of the most unexplained and harsh postseason luck and it just doesn’t seem fair at times.  Sometimes it makes you want to cry for them because you know how bad it hurt them.

With all that said, it’d take a pretty cold-hearted soul to not feel bad for Ryan Ronan when he did not qualify for state as a Senior in HS.  He was good enough to be there. He was good enough to do damage at state, in fact. Very well could have placed had he qualified.  Tragically though, it just did not work out for him when it came to the postseason, which hit everyone who knew him directly in the feels.  Everyone knew how passionate Ryan was about wrestling and how hard he worked and nobody wanted to see his heart being torn from his chest, but it happened. And to this day, I wish that things would fallen into place for him.  This is a guy who has, on multiple occasions, gone out of his way to try to help me in my own life when I needed it. A guy who, if I called the shots, would have good things happen to him in wrestling… not irreversible heartbreak.

A lot of wrestlers’ careers are looked back on and retrospectively judged by one component of their wrestling resumes….whether they qualified for state and how they did when they were there. I’ve met some incredible wrestlers who did not make it to state and I am happy to have a platform where I can give these guys the props they’ve always deserved, for if you look at the big picture, the postseason shouldn’t be the only thing that defines a wrestler. 

With that said, Ryan Ronan was one of the best Heavyweight wrestlers in Southeast Iowa in the late 90’s and 2000. He had a lot to be proud of in his career, regardless of whether or not he met his goals, and people need to know that about him.  He was an incredibly solid wrestler and as mentioned, one of the best heavyweights in Southeast Iowa in his time and I don’t even feel as if that can be contested.  That’s how I will always remember Ryan Ronan as a wrestler, and I hope you all feel the same way. 

 

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

Lone Tree Little Lions Wrestling Club

 

What year did you graduate?

2000 from Lone Tree but we at the time wrestled with Highland.  We didn’t have wrestling at our school at that time.   Four of us from Lone Tree were lucky to have Highland accept us with open arms.

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My uncle Eric Wortman who wrestled at Waldorf (at the time was a two-year school) and Coe College.  We would watch Iowa meets in my grandparent’s basement.  He would show me some things and he was always a really good person to be around.  When I was like six he gave me one of his headgears and that was it.  I was a wrestler.  My father would take me to Iowa meets as well. Going to the NCAA’s was really neat when I was young.  Growing up my dad had every Iowa wrestling meet taped from IPTV and he would tape every high school state tournament.  I mean it was crazy.  We would be going through old family videos and then we would find some crazy old Iowa vs Arizona State dual meet taped right through a Ronan family Christmas.   If you knew my father you would know just to laugh. (lol) We watched a lot of those old VHS tapes growing up.  Back in those days going to an Iowa wrestling meet was like going to a Metallica concert as a young kid! Everyone and their dog went to Iowa meets.

 

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently?

Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?  My brother Austin wrestled for Lone Tree High school.  My sister Kylie could have been a good wrestler but she was a good basketball player.  Girls wrestling had not taken of just yet back then.  She was strong, fast, and very athletic.  Fortunately, for her, she married Billy Dominguez from Columbus Junction and they just had a little boy Briggs who hopefully someday will wrestle like his dad.  To this day my father loves wrestling but never wrestled and my mother couldn’t tell you which teams were wrestling on a live broadcast.  She could tell you who Dan Gable is though.  Growing up dad was the one who took us Ronan kids to everything and mom stayed home with my younger siblings.

 

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I pretty much placed every year at AAU every year except one time I believe.  I placed 2nd twice and won it my eight grade year but to this day the little kids AAU books still have it wrong my eight grade year. (lol) Justin Garvey from New London was really the local kid growing up who got the best of me growing up.  Justin and I were pretty big kids.  I cannot imagine how our parents kept food on the table back then to feed the rest of their families.  Back then our little kid programs probably had a hard time finding club singlets for us that would actually fit us.  I still to this day think the reason I wrestled at Highland in high school was because coach Jeff Weiland at Highland gave me a high school singlet to wear when I was in middle school for kids state.  I couldn’t find singlets anywhere that would fit.  He was a good recruiter for the sport.  He knew what he was doing.  He was also a really good coach.  I was going to play basketball for Lone Tree and actually enjoyed it in middle school.  I was no Clay Edwards from Morning Sun but had a decent shot for a big guy.  There is a guy who would have been fun to watch wrestle in high school under coach Siegel had he not played basketball for WMU.  I want to say he grew to be like 6’9’’.

 

 

What was your record in HS?

I want to say I had around 110-115 wins.  We didn’t wrestle as much back then as kids do now.  I didn’t wrestle any Greco or Freestyle at all back then.  I know I had a quite a few losses my freshman and sophomore year in high school.  I got beat up quite a bit.  I wasn’t used to getting beat a lot when I was younger that much.  My senior year Nick Cole and I reached the 100 mark about half way through the season.  That was fun to do it with Nick Cole because I witnessed what he went through in his four years of high school.   You should really be doing this article on him.  100 wins back then was a big deal in our school.  The Nick worked while he waiting at Highland.  He was behind two state champions in our lineup when we were young.  He never gave up on himself.  I know I had close to if not hit the 100 career pins mark while at Highland for a career.  My junior year, I set the falls in a season record with 31 or 30.  I was really proud of that.  Highland has had some good wrestlers.  I want to say that Bryce or Drew West from Highland broke that record eventually though. I had the pins record for the fastest pin but one of the west boys pinned a kid in less than 7 seconds I believe.  They were pretty good wrestlers as we all know.

 

 

How did you place at state every year?

I never qualified for the state tournament.  I still have nightmares about that.  For about five years it was hard for me to be around wrestling or to even step in a gym.

 

 

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

My sophomore year in high school I broke my nose and had to wear a mask.  That wasn’t very fun.  After I didn’t qualify my senior year I hit a really low spot for a few months in life.  In our house we just didn’t talk about it.  Plus, I knew college and football was around the corner.  You have to get back up on the horse and ride it.  Life doesn’t stop!  You have to keep moving your feet!  Nobody is going to feel sorry for you anyway!  That’s wrestling! That’s life!

 

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I really don’t know what kind of style I had.  Had a good double leg and high crotch and loved the power half and cheap tilts.  I didn’t wrestle like a lot of big guys and just stand around I guess.  I really wish more heavyweights would shoot!  At least an outside single or high crotch.  It drives me crazy watching the bigger guys just push pull each other for six minutes without shooting.

 

 

Who was your most influential coach?

At Highland I had some really good coaches.  In middle school I had Gary Curtis and Pat Wood.  In high school I had Jeff Weiland, Shawn Kreman, Aaron Robertson, Chris Robertson, Bobby Forseen, Jim Bartz, Duane Lawrence, Clint Jones, and Jeff Stewart.  All of those coaches were Pure Gold! I am probably forgetting someone.  That is the neat thing about Highland.  Everyone seems to pay it forward.  The generations circle through and there is a strong support system in that community for wrestling.  It started with Gary Curtis.

 

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college? Never wrestled in college.

I played football in college out of high school so no college wrestling.  I wrestled on some really good teams at Highland my Freshman and Sophomore years in high school.  We just lacked some numbers at the time.  It seemed like we didn’t have a 189 pounder for most of my high school career.  Most years we were giving up a couple of weights.  That really hurt us when we wrestled good quality teams with full lineups.  My Freshman year we beat Wilton in a dual at Highland that was really a big deal to the community.  They were ranked number 1 at the time.  Wilton was stacked and had like 3 or 4 state champions in their lineup at that time.  At the end of the year we wrestled them again and they beat us.  Back then it was fun to wrestle teams from others schools that were good because all of the local wrestling teams would come to watch the dual meet.

 

 

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

Growing up it had to be Jay Malone from Morning Sun!  He most likely doesn’t know who I am but he was a HWT.  I believe he was the last Morning Sun wrestler to have ever wrestled with the green and white singlet.  My father, Worked with his brother or a relative at Rath at one time in Columbus Junction.  I remember coming home one day and my dad had an old VHS tape with all of his matches from his senior year on the tape.  I was really young when I saw that tape and I wanted to be just like him.  I would watch his matches to see how he would set up his ties and how he would ride big HWT’s.  That was the first time I remember seeing coach John Siegel.  I didn’t know if I should run from him when I saw him in a gym or just sit right next to him the entire time and listen to everything he told his wrestlers.  I have a lot of respect for coach Siegel and Bill Plein.  Those two guys are legends!  I still to this day have a lot of respect for guys like coach Dan Cummings, Gavin Hjerlied, Andy Milder, Tom Mashek as well as Mark Chiri from New London.  All of those guys deeply care about their athletes and to this day I can walk in a gym and we all have a great appreciation for each other.  All of them have also made a life commitment to our sport.

 

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Jeff McGinness from City High. When you dive in and look at what he did outside of our state and what he did when his coach in his school bumped him up in the lineup against others studs in Iowa it’s hard to say anyone was better than Jeff.  He was a 4 timer in Iowa and he did many things outside of our state and found great success.  I believe he was 172-0.

 

 

Favorite Wrestling Movie?

Vision Quest by far!  I have the soundtrack on vinyl.

 

 

How would you rate the crop of HWT’s in your era compared to other eras?

I thought our area had some really good talent in the state.  My senior year when I was seeding fourth at sectionals with like a 36-6 record I thought for sure who ever makes it out of this district will make it to state.  Cody Wendt from North Cedar was 43-2, Ryan Fuller from Lisbon was seeded second at sectionals with a great record and Michael Husband from English Valley had like a 30-4 record as well.  I believe Ryan was a two-time champ in high school.  I believe Cody Wendt from North Cedar beat Fuller a couple of times that year.  He was the one seed at the sectional.  Ryan Fuller and I got out of the sectional that day.  The previous year I had won my sectional.  I really fell apart at districts my senior year.  I ended up getting beat by a kid who I had never lost to and that was it.  There were some good HWT’s in the area back then.  Kyle Wellington from Louisa Muscatine was really good.  Marshall Holtcamp from Wapello had really improved.  You had Brian Ferentz from City High in the area.  You had Wade McLeod from Muscatine in the area.  You also had Nick McTee from Mount Pleasant in the area.  Walter Kelly from West High was a challenge being as tall as he was for a lot of guys.  We were all within an hour of each other.  There were some hammers in the area.  Really, there were some big strong HWT football players out of that group in the area.

 

 

You did not qualify for state and I know that it stings deeply, which is understandable. You were most certainly good enough to not only qualify, but do some damage at The Barn, IMO. When you see guys to this day who fall just shy of qualifying, does it make you feel for the kid? What advice would you give to someone who fell just short of qualifying?

Life doesn’t stop and it’s not the end of the world.  Pete Robles from Wilton comes to mind.  Another kid that comes to mind is Jordin Bakke from Lisbon he was much younger than me.

Those guys were studs and I don’t think qualified.  I also think of Hitchcock from Mepo and Campbell from Mepo and Ben Sweeting from Highland!  All of those guys were hammers.   Yes, I feel for the kids when they don’t qualify.  The entire gym does when it comes to district and sectional high school wrestling.  When my brother got beat his senior year in high school and didn’t qualify it was like my heart was ripped out again!  I really felt for him.  When you put so much into it and you don’t reach a goal it stings but life moves on.  You only get what you earn right?  Everyone in wrestling makes a big sacrifice and commitment to the sport.  However, when your dreams are crushed you still have to get back on the horse and ride it.  Life doesn’t stop.  Kids are fragile.  I have really learned that through coaching kids.  About 20 years ago to this year I am glad I had Aaron Robertson next to me down in Wayland in that gym after districts were over.  I needed someone there for me when things didn’t go to plan.  I am forever grateful to him for being there for me. The biggest thing for kids to realize is that they really can only control two things.  Their attitude and effort.  Those two things are crucial for an individual’s success in anything.  Ultimately, those are the only two things a kid can control.  When kids don’t reach their goal/goals who is there to pick them up.  Often times it’s not a parent it’s the coach.  That is why I get into coaching.  Good coaches are so important to have and we need to keep them in our sport and not drive them out.

 

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Every Iowa wrestler and every Northern Iowa Panther!  I still follow the Iowa Central wrestling team as well.  I was an academic counselor there for about five years prior to moving back home and it was always nice working with those guys.  There would be days when I would have Jon Jones, Colby Covington, Nate Carr Jr, Joe Soto, Kenny Anderson, Bradley and Carrington Banks, David Greenwald, Billy Murphy, Patrick Hunter, Phil Mandzik, Russell Weakley, Zach Covington, Brad Lower, and Joe Colon in my office.  I will always remember Kenny Anderson!  I don’t believe he could break the lineup at ICCC and he went on to Wartburg to be multiple D3 champion.  Those were some fun guys to be around.  It has been really neat to see where they have all landed at.  Those kids were all Pure Gold to work with!  A lot of people see some of them on TV now and really don’t know the true person I got to work with while in Fort Dodge.  I know that Last Chance U has never done a documentary series on wrestling at the junior college level but they should have during those years I was at Iowa Central.  I want to say that in my five years working there they won five straight titles in junior college.  Working with Luke Moffitt, Troy Bennet, Justin McClintock, and Mark Rial was a lot of fun.  Justin McClintock is probably the funniest guy I know.  I try to follow his little boy and he is fun to watch!  Lane is a hammer!

My favorite former college wrestlers were Randy Pugh, Jon Oostendorf, Ray Brinzer, John Smith, Wes Hand, Sylvester Terkay, Tom Ryan, Mark Branch, Lincoln McIIravy, and Jordan Westfall from Coe! And I am just going to say this …. Wes Hand is still a better wrestler than Brock Lesnar!  Mark it down!

 

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

Led Zeppelin/ACDC/CCR

 

 

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

I am a baseball guy!  I loved Augie Garrido.  He was a long time university of Texas baseball coach and one of his favorite quotes ever is, “Free Yourself from Fear” I used this quote a lot when I coached high school baseball.  When you take the fear and anxiety out of the game, then and only then, the true genius comes out in the game.  So if I could change one thing it would really be just let it fly and go get it!

 

 

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

Nick McTee from Mount Pleasant was a guy I could never beat my junior and senior year in high school.  I never beat Justin Garvey either!  Those are just some guys that I wrestled more than once or twice when I was older in high school.  They were tough competitors.

 

 

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

Seasonal, I played four sports in high school and I was always playing baseball in the fall and spring somewhere in Iowa.

 

 

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

I think you see a lot of really good guys now days go out and dominate that have super good technique and are just so many levels up from most kids.  I think there is a lot more specialization with all of elite clubs.  In my younger years while wrestling at Highland we had some good tough teams.  Tough kids who worked hard and listened.  We were all organic kids in a community that all grew up around each other.  We had guys like Aaron Robertson, Tony Sweeting, and Nick Cole who all won state titles.  We had guys like Nic Poch, Robert Vazquez, Justin and Chad Bell, Tommy Hahn, Brent Sweeting, Nick Cole, Tim Miller, Dustin Schneider, who were all hammers especially when they all got older and were qualifiers and or place winners.  Tommy Hahn was an absolute stud!  To this day one of the best wrestlers in my opinion that never won it.  Ben Sweeting was really good wrestler also. Overall,  I just see so many kids are at so many different levels.  Today, you see kids that really have separated themselves from others.  You see more pins at the state tournament as well.  You also see teams with less full lineups.

 

 

What was you high school wrestling experience like?

Wrestling at Highland was an awesome experience.  I would tell younger kids that when you sign up for wrestling at Highland you are signing up for being involved with a great community of people who would do anything for you!  They are all supportive of every kid on the team trying to obtain individual and team goals.  I just really remember they were a community that accepted a few Lone Tree kids and embraced us with open arms.  I just remember it being a family/community atmosphere and the parents all looked out for each of us.  The Sweetings, Hahn’s, Cole’s, Robertson’s, and the Poch’s were all just awesome parents who for the most part released us to the coaches and let the coaches coach.  When wrestling season was over I don’t think the parents knew what to do with themselves.   To this day they are all pillars in the community.  Blue Collar through and through!  That was just the generation I wrestled with.  In small towns it’s fun to watch each generation participate.  It’s also crazy how wrestling is engrained with the generations.  In high school some teammates and I would go to Carver and get workouts in after Iowa would have practice.  Nobody does it anymore but that was at that time it was pure Nirvana watching those guys workout.

 

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

No, I played football at Waldorf Junior College

 

 

What other sports did you play?

I was an All-State Baseball and Football player and I qualified for the Drake Relays and State Track as a thrower in high school.

 

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Cubs, I am a big baseball guy, literally and figuratively!

 

Strongest guy I ever wrestled?

Curt Schmidgall from Mediapolis.  I think he only wrestled one year in high school.  He was the only guy I ever wrestled who actually benched pressed me off of his body when I had him flat on his back the first time we wrestled.  I was all of 275 at that time.

 

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

I love to catch Walleyes and go up north to fish.  I also am highly involved with our local community.  I serve on our city council in our town and I am on our local parks committee.  I have also served on several committees and boards in higher education in the past.  Coaching baseball has eaten up all of my summers.  My wife Rachel and live in Lone Tree Iowa and we have two daughters in Reese and Ryland.  My wife is from Clear Lake and they are a big wrestling community as well.  Our children are five and seven and go to local wrestling events with me a lot.  My oldest daughter loves Spencer Lee and she always wants to wrestle.  So all in all my hobbies are my family, sports, and my community.

 

 

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

Really good, for me it took some time to eventually get back into the sport but I have in the past helped out at our local school with the kids club and the Black and Gold club that Steve Farrell created prior to taking his current job at Waterloo West.  I will get to go to my grave knowing that a did a wrestling clinic with Randy Lewis an Olympic gold medalist.  That is something that was really neat.  Randy is a hoot and when Randy talks nobody else talks.  He is also the only person I have ever seen teach a clinic with what appeared to be CROCS on his feet. I learned more in one hour with that guy than any other person who I have been involved with in wrestling.  I also helped out at Cedar Falls high school when Jay Llewellyn coached their when I was just finishing up college at and my undergraduate degree at UNI.  Jay was fun to be around.  I have given back to baseball more so than wrestling through coaching.  A few years ago we as a team were fortunate to make it to the state baseball tournament and win conference in baseball.  It was really neat to coach my former wrestling coaches kid in Spencer Weiland that year when we qualified.  That was really special to me!  I love to mentor kids and coach them.  There is nothing better to see than a kid grow up and become a great ball player or wrestler.  I am a guy who always roots for the underdog.  There is nothing more important to me than watching a kid work his tail off and get rewarded.

 

 

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

It’s taught me how to deal with the ups and downs in life.  Maybe not so much then, but a lot now in life.  I am not the smartest guy in the room but I will work extremely hard to help someone in my position and profession.  I love to help people.  For a few years I worked for the Iowa College Access Network.  I was helping families across the state for a nonprofit help students get into college and help families figure out how they were going to pay for college.  There is nothing more rewarding than helping families and students navigate this process.  Especially, if they are first generation student like me.

 

 

What do you do now?

I am a Student and Academic Support Coordinator for Kirkwood Community College.  I love to help students get from point A to point B.  I love to help high school and college students achieve their goals for their future.  I work with students who are taking Dual Credit while they are still in high school.  It absolutely amazes me how many good students we have in our local area who are great Welders, Auto Technicians, CNA’s, and Construction Builders.  They are the next future generation.  We will need them someday.  It’s important that we mentor them and provide the proper guidance and channeling for their future success. A lot of what I currently do with students are things that I have learned through wrestling.  A lot of students need constant reminders on time management and strategies for that.  A lot of students need motivation and a lot of students need to know you care about them.  That’s a wrestling coach right?  Those are the life skills our coaches all taught us.  I now just do it in a different way.  We as wrestlers understand that nothing is given and everything is earned.  These principles apply to academia and the wrestling world when you are trying to be successful.  I work a lot with students in career services and I help students figure out what they are good at so they can make life long lasting decisions.  I don’t want the students I work with to tackle on a lot of student loans or debt while going to college.

 

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Currently, I am not involved in wrestling because I am busy with life.  Last year, I did help out when I could at Highland with a Heavyweight who had never wrestled before.  I can tell you this.  When coach Ball sent me the video of a young man winning his first high school match it meant a lot to me!  I witnessed firsthand where the kid was starting from and where he ended up last year.  There was nothing better to me than seeing him smile after his first win.  It was like the kid won a title.  So yes, wrestling is important and I love how women are getting involved in the sport.  I hope the state can get that going and what coach Whitcome at Waverly Shellrock is doing is fantastic!  We need that for our sport.  Girls are good wrestlers! We also need more inner city student athletes participating in our sport. I really like what Ray Brinzer is doing out east in a big city.  I think his club team is called the Angry Fish which is kind of funny.  Although, he is a hoot himself!

 

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

“Do it Anyway” You will be uncomfortable at first but you will progress.  Wrestling is really perfect for any kid no matter their size.  I had the privilege to meet coach Jim Miller while working at Iowa Central.  He has a quote he uses with his wrestlers and it goes like this….  “Do it Anyway”!  After meeting coach Miller I could tell why he was so successful at Wartburg as a coach!  That man is truly someone very special.

 

 

Advice I would give to parents?

I would really encourage parents to take a step back and release their kids to youth coaches.  So many times I have shown up at a little kid tournament and you see parents living their lives through their kids.  When parents are going nuts on an official it gives our sport a black eye.  Don’t be that parent!  As a parent, understand that your kid is now driving the car and not you.  Find a youth coach you can trust and stick with them.  Your wrestlers experience is not your wrestling experience.  Let your kid get in the drivers seat and drive the car down the path they want to go down.  Trust the coaches and release your kid to them.

 

 

Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament? Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

Not a chance!  I wouldn’t make weight.  You are not going to find me in a wrestling singlet anytime soon!  Although, Jim Drain did give every old timer hope and encouragement with what he did a few years ago.  I did go to an old timers tournament about 15 years ago and I watched Eric Lee wrestle.  That was awesome!  Eric had a group of about 20 fans there that day and they all were very proud of him.  I still think Eric got paid out that day to wrestle from his fans but it was so funny to watch.  I wanted to see Nick Pugh wrestle but that didn’t happen.  I want to say that that day the Lone Tree first responders were very busy helping wrestlers with injuries.

 

 

Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories?

I remember I lost to Nick McTee from Mount Pleasant one time and coach Kreman had to come and find me somewhere in the school behind a locker room.  I didn’t even know where I was at in the school.  After I gathered my thoughts and went out to the awards stand it was too late to receive my medal and everyone had basically left.  Coach Kreman was not happy and I was upset at myself for disappointing him.  Then, I ran into my father who barely ever said anything to me after wrestling match.  That day he did!  He had some things to say mainly about sportsmanship!  He told me that you always get your medal period!  I was being a big baby!  A few years ago Nick McTee and I were messaging each other.  The first thing he brought up was “Hey Ronan, you remember that one time you forgot to come to the podium at Wapello” Yeah Nick, I still remember that.

Big thanks to the Cole family who helped me a lot my entire career!

 

Do You Have Any Wrestling Trivia You Would Like To Share?

It’s funny, in high school I was a Lion, Raider, and a Husky.  Think about that for a second.  Kind of crazy to have three mascots in high school.

 

In 1998, who won the 125 pound SEISC JV tournament finals at Notre Dame HS?  Future state champ, Nick Cole of Highland (Soph) or future placer Joshua Swafford from Mepo (Freshman).

 

As I grow older and life keeps plugging away I look back on wrestling and I just think of all of the great people I have met through the sport.  When I show up to a Highland meet or a meet in Lone Tree it always brings back good memories.  However, it’s the people in the sport who bring each other back to the gyms.  There is not a better sporting environment to be around than a wrestling tournament.  We all look forward to that one famous phrase in our long Iowa winters and it is “wrestlers, clear the mats please, wrestlers, clear the mats”

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Remember The Wrestler: Evan Shaw, IC West/Coe College

I can go on forever about the seemingly endless amount of personal connections I have with Evan Shaw. My brother Justin helped coach him a bit at IC West, we were in the same freestyle program over the summers, his cousin Nate Houston is a great friend of mine and lives next door to me with his sister Kara, his grandpa drove the bus for the Mepo wrestling team for a while, his aunt and my mom are co-workers, etc. His grandfather is one of the greatest people I have ever met in my entire life. Actually, I can say that about his whole family, for every one of his family members that I know are great people. I used to listen to some of his Grandpa’s stories and life advice for hours on end. Like I said, I can go on and on about various connections I have with this man.

Evan was a part of the IC West wrestling program when Coach Mark Reiland got them to their absolute peak. They were undeniably a powerhouse around that time. One of the best squads to ever grace the state and consisted of wrestlers who were some of the best to ever step on a mat… and Evan played a very instrumental role on this team. He was one of the studs on that team and has been described by a couple IC West wrestling affiliates as being the “glue” that kept the squad together and functioning efficiently. He was part of a team that had guys like Derek St. John, Nate Moore, Nick Moore, Dylan Carew, Grant Gambrall, Kody Pudil, Mitch Mueller, Greg Coleman, Alex Kanellis, etc…. Think about that… I heard multiple people say that Evan was “the glue.” THAT is an outstanding compliment and a testament to the respect he received from some of the staff, fans and athletes in the IC West wrestling community.

I can’t believe it took me until now to meet Evan considering all of our mutual acquaintances and hobbies. He has said some very encouraging things to me about the site which is something I will be eternally grateful for because that’s the type of thing that will spark me to keep at it. He reminds me of his family…good people. And he’s a great, eloquent writer! Not much proofing had to be done with his responses.

Be on the lookout for a poetry book that he will be releasing this Spring sometime. I will probably post something about it around the time it releases.

 

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

Trojan Wrestling Club, Hawkeye Kids Wrestling Club, Future Hawkeyes Wrestling Club, Iowa City West, and Coe College.

 

What year did you graduate?    

2007 from Iowa City West…what a team!  I remember growing up with all those guys and I’m so glad they all came to West. I was very fortunate!

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?  

All my classmates in 1st grade got a flyer about joining the Trojan Wrestling Club, and I thought it would be fun to try.  Bruce and Peter Kinseth, my best friend and his dad, were a big inspiration as well, since Bruce was Most Outstanding Wrestler his senior year at the NCAAs for the Hawkeyes in 1979.  I always tell people he was the only guy to pin his way through both the Big Tens and the NCAA Tournament on his way to a National Title.  I wonder if that record will ever be broken.

 

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

Nate Houston, my cousin, wrestled for Mediapolis. My older brother tried it for one year. And one of my uncles wrestled at Burlington back in the ’70s.  I was the only one to qualify for State.

 

What were your youth results?  Any rivals there?   

In AAU, I qualified after 4th grade, but always came up a match short in placing.  It was tough getting to the podium, but it helped me grow and become a better wrestler.   Some guys I had lots of good matches with were Brady Jacobi, Ryan Mullnix, Jeret Chiri, Michael Hemingway, Sean Weber, Michael Silverstein, Travis Hardin, Colton Smith, and Clayton Rush.  I had a lot of great matches over the years, but those are the ones that stick out in my mind.  And I gotta remind Derek St. John, although we were younger, I beat you in the only match we ever wrestled.

 

What was your record in HS?    

103 – 67.  Over half of those losses came in my freshman year, when I weighed 114 tops, and had to wrestle at 119 most of the year.  There was a senior at 112 that I just couldn’t beat, and there was a spot in the varsity lineup at 119, so I took it.  I had 14 matches against 10 state ranked kids, and 5 matches against state champions (2 from MN, 2 from IL, 1 from IA).  That first year was tough, but it made me better in many ways I couldn’t appreciate until later.

 

How did you place at State every year?   

Sophomore year, one match from the podium.  Junior year, made it to the finals, lost by one point.  Senior year, one match away again, lost to a kid I had pinned the year before. I’m just glad I was able to wrestle in The Barn Sophomore year the last year they held State there, that I had my shot in the Finals, and that we did so well as a team all those years.

 

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

Probably my senior year–I wrestled a kid at Districts who was sick–his parents called mine on Sunday morning and told them about it–and then it caught up with me the next week at State, and I didn’t wrestle the way I could have.  Also, getting suspended for 1/3 of the season for drinking during winter break, I was disappointed with that.  But I always felt that I wrestled every match to the best of my ability, so I’m very thankful.  My senior year, I wish I could have gone into State strong, like I did every other year. But the way we did as a team made up for everything.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?   

Hard handfighting and defensive first.  Maybe like Randy Lewis, who I’ve learned in recent years is a great guy as well.  Shout out Lewbo!

 

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

Didn’t go back and forth with too many guys in HS, not like I did in my younger years, but I did have quite a few matches with Drew Harney from City, and he came close to beating me once.  Never lost a match to a City High wrestler though, or a City High dual, in 4 years on varsity, thankfully.

 

Who was your most influential coach?   

Pablo Ubasa–all the years in kids club, and working out in the mornings before school.  Love Mark Reiland, though–both have had a huge impact on my life, and I couldn’t ask for two better coaches.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?   

Very much so in high school.  Won traditional state my junior and senior years, and state duals my freshman, junior, and senior years, for 5 championships in 4 years.  I was really thankful to be there for the peak of Iowa City West wrestling.  We were even ranked in the top 10 in the nation my senior year.  I would like to have seen how our teams did against the all-time greats in Iowa history, even my freshman year, with Mitch Mueller, Greg Coleman, and Alex Kanellis on the squad.  We had some really tough teams, and I know that few have swept both the traditional and dual titles in a single year, yet alone in back-to-back years.  So it would have really been a test of character and our talents to see us stacked up against some of the great teams in Iowa history.  We could always feel the tempo of a meet, and usually someone would step up in the thick of things when it counted.  Or someone would get bonus points when needed, or a key match would be won that might not have been won otherwise.  It was really remarkable what we could do.

 

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

Bruce Kinseth, Joe Williams, Mark Ironside, Doug Schwab, Wes Hand, and Steve Mocco.  I really got to know a lot of those Iowa guys while sitting with them in the sauna at Carver before kids club practice, or while cutting weight.  It was such a privilege to have access to the Hawkeye wrestling room all those years as a kid.  I still remember one of the pass codes!  It was great to talk with some of your role models–Mark Juergens, Eric’s brother, was a great guy as well. I loved sitting in the sauna with them all. I also remember beating Tom Brands in ping pong at an Iowa Wrestling summer camp in Mason City in like 6th grade. He got heated, but it was a lot of fun. Gotta be always competitive right?

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?   

It seems like Nick Moore has been mentioned a lot, I’d have to give my vote to him.  But I always thought that TJ Sebolt and Jeff McGinnis were great, too.

 

You’ve been described as “the glue” of the dominant IC West teams that you were part of. What does this mean to you?   

It made me feel real good to hear that, after all these years.  I don’t think we really elected a team captain my senior year; but I grew up wrestling with all those guys, and I was always good at encouraging them and keeping them together.  We learned what worked as a team, and what didn’t.

 

Describe some of the battles you had in the IC West wrestling room.

I remember one time I rode Nate Moore for about 10-15 minutes straight, and another time when Denny Moore broke up a fight between me and Nick, but that’s all I can say!  I still love the Moore brothers like my brother.  We were close and our room always had good matches.  Shout out to Kody Pudil and Grant Gambrall!

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?   

Graham Gambrall is who I’ve been rooting for, along with Spencer Lee.  Those guys are just tough.  If Graham stays sharp, I really think he can compete well at the college level.  But he’s got to stay sharp and work his butt off.  That’s my message for him, stay focused, work hard, and you’ll be rewarded.  You’ve got one shot at this, so make the most of it, and really give it your all.  You know you’ll only improve if you go 100% at all times, so keep that up and push yourself.  Then you’ll grow, bud!

 

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

Thunderstruck, Eye of the Tiger, and The World’s Greatest by R. Kelly were my go-to songs while warming up.  I used to listen to those three before every match like a ritual, along with a couple of other things.  But anything rap, and some rock, would get me going.  I’ll save country for after the match.

 

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

Losing in the State Finals, by far.  I’ll think about it now and then, more so in recent years, but I really felt like it was my night that night.  So it still stings sometimes.

 

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

My overall confidence in my shot, I realized later on that I was too defensive as a wrestler.  That’s what I wish I could teach young kids today, to trust your shot.  It should be like a mantra to them–over and over, trust my shot, trust my shot.  I really think it could make a difference for them.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment? 

I was probably the best singlet trader from Iowa at national tournaments!  But seriously, I was proud of making All-American at Topeka (folkstyle) and Enid (freestyle), and making it to the State Finals.  One great memory was a tournament at St. Louis where our hotel was next to a Hooter’s, and we all went back and forth between the restaurant and the hotel, bugging our parents throughout the night.  Going to Fargo, and to Tulsa was a lot of fun, too.  I’m also proud that I won my last high school match (to seal our State Duals win against W-SR), and also my last college match at Coe.

 

 

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

I wrestled Derek Moyer, a state champion, in my second varsity wrestling match, and only gave up a major.  Wrestled Charlie Falck two weeks later.  Senior year at the Dvorak tournament in Illinois, I wrestled Lucas Roth, state champ from Illinois, and lost by decision to Anthony Meza, a two-time state champ from California.

 

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

All year, after 5th grade.  Got a concussion on the way to regionals that year and had to forfeit in Greco, but Reiland got me into the Freestyle bracket where I just injury defaulted, I think to Dak Adamson once, and after that I wrestled both Freestyle and Greco all through high school.

 

 

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

I think we were really tough, and we had a lot of competition in the room all the time.  I don’t know what these guys today could do, but I’d like to see them go against a couple of our teams.  Our elementary school teams for Pablo were tough, all-timers on there all throughout the team, and we went all over the nation to compete against people.  Not to mention our high school teams.  And I wonder if some of these guys today are even going to regionals.  I know that the top competitors are, but I don’t think they have the same depth nowadays that we had back then.  I wish them the best, though, and hope they keep growing.  There’s so much potential out there.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?  

I wrestled at Coe College for a semester, then decided I was done with wrestling.  But Coe was a great experience, and I really thank them for the opportunity.

 

What other sports did you play?   

I played football for a couple of years in high school, but really loved paintball, too.  Even traveled around the Midwest on a competitive team that placed high in tournaments.  Also played baseball before wrestling freestyle in the summer, and a lot of soccer all through elementary school.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?   

Any team from Dallas or Iowa.  Always been a big Cowboys fan, and of course, nothing beats Iowa football.  I also like the Chicago White Sox, North Carolina basketball, and keeping up with ICW sports.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?  

Reading inspirational books, writing poetry, and trying to get people to live their best lives.  Find a good book!  Really, please!  Happiness is all about putting your virtues into action, and feeling like you’ve lived your best!

 

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

Absolutely wonderful.  I have been struggling with some things these past years, but it has always helped me feel better to get in the room and help those kids practice.  There’s nothing like building a positive habit to get your day going well, or wrap it up well, and wrestling taught me that so well.

 

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

It’s made me mentally tough, and has given me a lot of self-esteem, and it taught me all I needed to know about discipline.  I couldn’t be more thankful for that.  Everywhere I go, friends still introduce me as a state champion wrestler.  Those were some of the best years of my life, and I’ll never forget them.  Checking your weight, warming up, checking other kids’ hands for their weight, traveling all over with friends, all of that was very special.

 

What do you do now?  

Well, now that I’m out of prison, I’m working on becoming an author and public speaker.  I’m in the process of getting my second book published this Spring, and you can find the first one on Amazon, or in the Iowa City Public Library.  I want to inspire people to live their best lives, and hopefully we can all serve others a little, too.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?   

I’ve helped out with my old kids club, Ubasa Wrestling, for a few winters, but have taken a break from that.  It was a great learning experience though, and I love helping the kids.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?   

Concentrate on building your strengths, focus on improving your weaknesses.  Trust your shot, have faith and believe in yourself.  Confidence is a big part of it, so trust it.  And be good with your counters, you should be able to rely on them in any moment.  That voice of guidance you have is always the right thing to trust.  Really, you can’t have enough faith in yourself, so remember your successes well and learn what went wrong if you lose.

 

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

I’d love to wrestle again, if the time is right.

 

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

I’d just like to thank my coaches, Pablo Ubasa and Mark Reiland, for all the great coaching over the years, and all the lessons learned. You guys really taught me a lot.  Also, my teammates at Iowa City West High and all the members of Hawkeye Kids Wrestling Club.  You guys are doing great, it’s great to see how active you still are in the sport, and all that you guys are up to these days.  Dylan Carew, keep in touch.  Spencer Manning, hope you’re doing well.  And Cindy Johnson, too, even though you kicked my butt a couple of times.  And I’d like to thank God for looking after us all these years, and I just pray that we find His purpose for our lives.

And for everyone else, a lot of us found our passion in our youth with wrestling, but now, in our later years, what will we give our time to, what will we devote ourselves to, how will we give back?  What is it that you find special in life?  Well, stick to that with all your heart and believe in God’s promises, and what you wish for your life will come to pass.  That’s what I believe, that’s what I hope in.  I hope you do too!

Anything can happen, really, if you first show some dedication–we’ve all learned that.  So go and use it now, pick something and stick to it.  You’ll see results.  Promise.  God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.  Romans 12:6

I hope some of you guys read my poetry over the years, and maybe you’ll get something out of it, too.  As Tony Robbins says, the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your questions.  Like, how do you want to serve?  How do you want to give back?  And, where do you excel?  So, just maybe, we’ll meet each other on down the road, and we’ll both have something good to share about our lives.  Peace, Evan

 

 

 

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So who are Mack Reiter and Justin Swafford and what factors influenced them to be the warriors that they are? I feel that to better understand this rivalry, answering that question may help. This article will include a few things about their upbringing, wrestling roots, etc. as well as a questionnaire answered by Mack and Justin that will supply you with a general understanding of who they are, what they accomplished and a glimpse of their personal approaches to life.

 

JUSTIN SWAFFORD

Justin Swafford was from Mediapolis, Iowa. His parents are Mark and Jacinta. He has an older brother, Joshua (me) and two younger brothers, (Shea and Brennan) and they all wrestle. There are more wrestling stars on our mom’s side of the family (McLaughlin’s) than our dad’s, most notably Nick and Tucker Weber from Clear Lake. Our dad and his twin brothers came from a basketball family prior to giving wrestling a try late in Junior High, in which they all fell in love with it immediately. Dad is a very naturally athletic person, but was at a disadvantage because he was inexperienced as well as the youngest person in his graduating class. He could have been held back a year like most are today, but wasn’t. He qualified for state as a Senior and was rapidly improving around the time HS wrestling came to an end for him. When he was hitting Open tournaments following his Senior year, he was better than he was in High School. He had a moment where he took down 3X state champion, D1 Champ and former Head Coach at Iowa State,  Jim Gibbons in a match… That was something that just didn’t happen against Gibbons… ever…. especially by guys who had only been wrestling for a few years.  Gibbons made my dad pay for the remainder of the match and I think Dad’s primary goal in that match became survival at that point, but if Dad would have started wrestling years earlier, I am guessing he would have had much heftier goals than just surviving that match… He would have been elite and likely hell-bent on winning that match given how competitive he is. And he denies this, but I always assumed it bothered him that he didn’t have a very long competitive wrestling journey. The ride ended just when it was starting to get fun, it should bother him!  It would bother me. It’d bother a lot of us. I mean, he fell in love with wrestling immediately and the moment he started stepping his game up to the level he was aiming for, his career ended. You’d have to lack emotion to not be left with an array of questions in regards to what could have been. With that said, I am not going to say that Dad lived vicariously through his sons’ wrestling careers, but I feel like it filled a few voids seeing his own flesh and blood not having any “lack of experience” disadvantages and consistently competing with the absolute best in the state every year and even setting the bar for the entire grade at times as Justin did. Justin and his brothers could be considered confirmation for Dad of the extremely high potential he did in fact possess himself. Justin’s career brought an incredible amount of joy to his life. Justin knew that and it drove him to do anything in his power to win.

In short, our Dad REALLY wanted the last name, Swafford to enter the wrestling shark tank with the rest of the tiger sharks.

HERE IS A VIDEO OF JUSTIN’S FIRST EVER MATCH AT THE AGE OF 5:

Justin began wrestling kind of inadvertently as a 5 year old.  He was a member of the Burlington Youth Wrestling Club growing up. The intentions were to take me (Josh) to practice, for I was 2 years older and at that time was the presumed the much tougher kid and Justin went from just rolling around on the mats to becoming a full participant in practice. Justin was very skinny and a silly, little happy kid who acquired the nickname “Bird” from our teammates in the Burlington Youth Wrestling Club. There are a few people like Adam Roberts and Phillip Klees who still call him that… and he didn’t get the nickname because he was some sort of stud that flew over the competition. He got the nickname because of his skinny legs and the way he seemed to float and bounce all over the place. He resembled that little Woodstock bird from the Peanuts comics. His career didn’t begin with lofty expectations from my parents or anyone and sometimes they entered him in tournaments thinking that it would be cute to see him try to wrestle. They just hoped that he just wouldn’t get hurt. Nobody at that time would have ever guessed that he would become as good as he did. He struggled mightily at times and was beaten quite a bit his first 3 years until all the sudden his 2nd grade year, out of nowhere, it became rare to ever see him lose. Not long after, it was rare to see him have a close match. It took forever for us to realize that he was the real deal and that it wasn’t a fluke, for we just didn’t see it coming. We were all a bit skeptical of it. He was too happy, skinny and bubbly to be a wrestler… He didn’t have that stereotypical gruff wrestling personality as non-wrestlers may call it. As so we thought anyway…. We weren’t aware that he had an altar-ego that had an appetite for systematic destruction and domination and was basically the total opposite of his normal bubbly personality off the mat. This altar-ego only emerged when he put on wrestling shoes. He developed this mean, mat swagger about him in which he would stare opponents down before matches and sometimes resemble a raging lunatic on the mat for his intensity was so high… We don’t know where it came from. No, that’s a lie. He developed that swagger because of the manner in which he responded to our dad’s coaching style, which could be responded to in a variety of different ways and will all result in different reactions from our dad. You could get defensive and not abide with Dad’s expectations and stubbornly fight with him…. Brennan and I tended to do this and the reaction that Dad had to this response was, to put it lightly….not pleasant. You could be quiet when he was lecturing, nod your head, comply with Dad’s rules and just try to get through it like our brother Shea did and Dad was ok with that response for the most part. Or you could respond how Justin did…. which is buy in fully and train like a madman. Some quotes my dad would recite to us on a routine basis were, “show your opponent no respect,” “there’s no such word as can’t in our house,” “create legal discomfort for your opponent to where he wants to quit and get off the mat,” “punish this kid for trying to take what’s YOURS,” “ride him so ferociously that you are like a second skin to him,” “if you practice doing something wrong, all you’ll get better at is doing something wrong,” etc. These speeches and quotes pumped Justin up and it helped summon the wrestling warrior that lurked inside of him. This warrior gave him an edge on the mat 99% of the time.

MARK SWAFFORD IN THE 90’S… Our dad is a very intense person when it comes to wrestling and his authoritarian approach to coaching wrestling was 100% compatible with Justin’s learning style.

 

Justin Swafford: I was a very hard worker that prescribed to Dan Gable’s “out work your opponent” philosophy. Dad encouraged this and taught me how to be fearless and tough. He was also big on Wade Schalles’s philosophy of always creating legal discomfort for your opponent to give yourself a mental edge. I took this to heart. I made it a large part of my life… A huge part of what drove me for everything else in life as well.

 

Phillip Klees (Justin’s Youth Teammate): And the moment Bird walked off the mat, he was looking for the first person to play Nintendo Game Boy and clown around with. He was the best.

Adam Roberts (Justin’s Youth Teammate): What I remember most about Justin (with an exception of his wicked claw and tight waist riding style that used to make kids cry), was his intense focus and never-ending motor. Bird would start a match staring through all distractions and lasering in on his full arsenal of how he was gonna control a match. The crazy thing was, from the start of the match to the middle to the end, he maintained the same intense expression on his face and always appear as if he couldn’t wait to get back into action if the match was stopped. That’s just how Bird was. He genuinely loved to compete and work hard. He enjoyed it. He went out there to break his opponents’ wills because that was his sole intention. Bird wasn’t a fancy wrestler. He was just determined with a smooth way of controlling the tempo of the match topped off with grit. He is the best wrestler I grew up with, no questions asked. And you know, the main thing that separated Justin from the rest of the good to average wrestlers is that he actually LOOKED FORWARD to wrestling guys like Mack Reiter while the rest of us would have been dreading it.

 

Here are some various questions Justin answered that will help you get to know him better: 

 

How did you do in youth wrestling? Any rivals there? Was wrestling full-time or seasonal for you?

Justin Swafford: Beginning in 5th grade I wrestled all year round. I placed 2nd as a second grader wrestling 3-4th graders, 1st, 4th, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 3rd. JP Davis, Derek Webb, Blake Jacobi, Tyler Everson, Derek Fuglsang, Henry Wahle, Moza Fay, Brian Leyhes(spelling??) were some huge rivals of mine growing up.

 

What was your overall record in HS?

177-11

 

What were your high school state results?

2nd, 2nd, 1st, 7th

 

What was the highpoint of your HS wrestling career?

That is a tie between being a sophomore seeing my oldest brother Josh pinning his way into the semifinals at state his senior year and me finally winning a state title my Junior year after being a 2x runner-up.

 

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

All of them. Lol! I hate losing. That being said for my HS and prior wrestling career, the loss to Moza Fay in the quarterfinals my senior year, both finals losses, and both AAU losses to Mack are all up there for most upset I ever felt because I didn’t wrestle my match in any of them. I wrestled theirs’ and they deserve credit for that, for that means they won the mental battle over me in those matches. I was the 5th man in my pool at Fargo my Senior year, losing that last match and missing AA status was pretty painful. Especially after a lackluster performance at state my senior year and I really wanted to prove myself. My Senior season was a nightmare. In college it was the loss of my Senior season due to a shoulder labrum tear that ultimately was a large part responsible for ending my career. I was coming into the year with a good summer of training, I had physically matured for wrestling at 149 lbs. and just felt more dominant and confident in the room. After I suffered a shoulder subluxation during homecoming, had shoulder surgery and the doctor told me I wouldn’t have recreational use of my shoulder, I was shocked and didn’t really know how to recover mentally. Because in my heart I didn’t feel done with wrestling/competing. It felt like something inside me was mortally wounded. I HATE losing.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

I wrestled for the University of Northern Iowa.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Dan Cummings

(I don’t know if you want to include this but Tom Mashek and Mark Reiland were also big influences on me for freestyle and Derek Mountsier at UNI)

 

Which wrestlers did you look up to the most growing up?

Ryan Cummings, Brandon Cummings, Dan Gable, the Brands brothers, Eric Juergens, Dave Shultz, Jeff McGinness, Josh Budke, John Smith, Wade Schalles, Lincoln McIlravy and Mark Ironside were the wrestlers I looked up to the most.

 

Who are your favorite current HS wrestlers?

I’m probably biased because I coached them in youth wrestling, but Hunter Garvin, Graham Gambrall, and Will Hoeft are up there with my favorites right now. Drake Ayala is a beast too.

 

Was your team competitive?

Yes, we made it to the state duals my Freshman year, and were 1 round away from going to state duals my senior year. Mediapolis always puts out a tough team.

 

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

Making better choices leading up to and in college. For example, I wish I would have visited more college campuses before making my decision. I also wish I had better eating habits and got my sleep routine before tournaments under control.  Participation in more freestyle tournaments, better self care and focus off the mat are some other things.

 

What was your best wrestling memory/accomplishment?

Watching my 3 brothers’ successes. Josh pinning his way to the semis at state as a Senior and only needing 3 minutes total to do it was cool. He was one of the best wrestlers I grew up with, but had issues with weight and adrenaline dumps along with hip dysplasia that they didn’t find until he was in college. It was too late for his hip to be cured with braces by then so he essentially wrestled with a handicap without knowing it his entire career. A state place-winner with untreated hip dysplasia…think about that. Brennan winning a NAIA national title in 2020. Shea placing 7th, 4th, and 5th at state. For myself, getting the monkey off my back and winning state was a great memory. All of the experiences and stories I have with club wrestlers growing up and my HS and some of my UNI teammates are hard to beat.

 

What other sports did you play?

I played baseball thru freshman year of high school where I only played 1 game before I was forced to quit due to some overly strict attendance policies. It was either wrestle state and regionals and basically sit out every baseball game of the rest of the season or quit baseball to strive towards a goal of being an All American; I chose the latter (which paid off because I AA’ed that year at 103.5 lbs placing 4th at Fargo). I also ran cross country and track where I was a CC state qualifier as a senior and ran a 4:38 mile my Junior year at the state track meet in class 2A.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Along with the rest of my family I’m a big St. Louis Cardinals fan. Although I follow more NCAA football (I’m a UI Hawkeye and UNI Panther fan) I also like the Kansas City Chiefs.

 

What are your hobbies?

My biggest hobby is writing songs as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with a focus on the guitar, piano, drumming, sound engineering/recording, and producing. I love music and it is my other passion in life. I was part of UNI’s Jazz III band my senior year as their guitarist even though I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 19. I played trumpet in band from 5th-12th grade as well as took piano lessons from 2nd-9th grade. I also am a very nature-drawn outdoorsman who loves gardening, fishing, landscaping, long bike rides with the family, hanging around a campfire with family and friends, cooking, movies, HBO tv series shows, and chemistry.

 

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

The biggest impact it has instilled in me is the sense of work ethic and self-resilience. In wrestling there is no one else to blame for a bad performance, only you, which also teaches you the skills you need in life to pick yourself up after defeat or hardships. I always liked the fact that you very often get back what you put into the sport, which is a very rewarding aspect of the sport. Your fate doesn’t reside in the hands of some coach who wants to fit in with the booster club. It’s up to you how well you do. There is a certain story element to any wrestling match if you watch with the right eyes, in a sort of Gilgamesh and Iliad sort of way, two heroes battling it out to see who will be the victor – that’s a beautiful thing if you ask me.

 

 

NOW LET’S HERE MACK REITER’S BACKSTORY!!!

I don’t know personally, but from a lot of the stories that I’ve heard over the years, Mack’s dad, Doug Reiter had similar coaching tactics and philosophies as my dad and was also in the same boat in terms of demanding effort and respect, abandoning weakness and embracing the grind. The Reiter boys, all 4 of them, were tough people and I’m sure a lot of it is because that’s what was expected from them. Mack, like Justin, also started at a very young age. Like Justin, Mack was also the 2nd son and was also two years younger than his older brother, Joe. Also Like Justin, Mack had two little brothers, Bart and Eddie.  Every Reiter brother was a hammer. I went to college with his sister, Audrey at Loras College and to my understanding, she was a hammer on the softball field herself.  Even the Reiter cousins were hammers.  They resided in a variety of communities too.  There were some from Union…I believe that’s where Brock Reiter was from. Dane Reiter went to Hudson. I can’t remember where Nick, Cheyne, etc. Reiter went to school, but I assume it’s in that region somewhere.  The Reiter family has been a well-respected wrestling name in Iowa for decades now.   

 

Mack’s father, Doug Reiter

 

Mack Reiter: I started wrestling when I was 4. The very first tournament I ever entered had Corey Kalina, Nick Reiter and Dane Reiter in it. It was at Gladbrook Reinbeck. I remember I ended up winning the tournament, but it was by a 3 way tie. Corey beat me that day, but I beat my two cousins. I don’t know if I was a natural or that good when I started. We didn’t really compete enough to know. When my parents entered Joe and I into the AAU districts when I was in 2nd grade and Joe was in 4th they had no idea how we would do. Then we qualified for state so they took us to state. Then I got 3rd and Joe got 4th and I think that was the first point my parents realized we might actually be good at this. It was all such a small world before that point. I remember my mom telling me one time that they couldn’t believe how well we did that first time in Cedar Rapids. I placed 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st at AAU state. I bumped up into the 3rd-4th grade division when I was in 2nd grade to compete. DNP, DNP, 5th, 5th, 3rd, 1st at Tulsa Nationals. We always viewed Tulsa as the biggest tournament of the year and then AAU a close second behind that.

 

Here are some various questions Mack answered that will help you get to know him better: 

 

What was your overall record in HS?

181-3

 

What were your high school state results?

4x champ

 

What was the highpoint of your HS wrestling career?

After winning state my senior year and running over to hug my mom and my dad. As I said earlier my dad always knew the right thing to do with me. He raised each of us four boys differently because he had to. None of us were the same. There were certainly times I disagreed with him and would fight him over things, but in the end, he was always right. Getting to hug him and mom was a culmination of an incredible group effort to accomplish something great.

 

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

After losing to Franklin Gomez in the NCAA quarterfinals my senior year of college. My entire life I wanted to be an NCAA champion. After losing the match I knew a window closed on a goal of mine and it would never be reopened.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yeah I wrestled at the University of Minnesota.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I think it would be to hard to name just one. Mark Schwab on the technical side of wrestling. J Robinson on the mental side of competing. Mark Reiland on taking accountability! Theres a story there that I will let Mark share someday if he wants! I was at an age where I needed to grow up and Mark was there to help me! Lastly, my dad even though he was never my coach again after AAU state my 8th grade year.

 

Which wrestlers did you look up to the most growing up?

Mark Ironside, Jody Strittmatter and Eric Juergens. I remember going to the 14 day Iowa intensive camp when I was younger and Jody/Eric were my main instructors. I really liked those two.

 

Who are your favorite current HS wrestlers?

I coach at PINnacle up here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. We had 116 state entrants in the Minnesota/Wisconsin tournaments. 17 state champions, 31 finalists and 72 placers. I absolutely love being involved with that program and to name my favorites would be to rattle off the entire list of not just qualifiers but every kid involved in our program. We have kids drive over 2.5 hours one way to come to practice 3 times a week.

 

Was your team competitive?

In High School we won state duals my junior year. We finished 2nd in state duals my sophomore and senior years. We finished 2nd at traditional state my freshman and junior years. In college my team finished 5th, 2nd, 1st and 10th.

 

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

I don’t think I would change anything. I never accomplished my ultimate goals, but that wasn’t the path for me. I believe that I got the most out of my abilities.

 

What was your best wrestling memory/accomplishment?

Winning NCAA’s as a team my junior year. That was the only year I didn’t earn All-American honors. I tore my ACL on Oct. 19th of my junior year, had surgery on Oct. 24th and made my way back wrestling in an open tournament at the end of January. I went into NCAA’s my junior year with 14 matches and ended up losing out in the blood round 3-2. As bad as that night was for me personally, the following night when Cole Konrad won his second individual title and clinched the team title was the greatest night of my life up until that point.

 

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

I wrestled year round. I had a personal policy to take the week after high school state tournament off and then the month of August off of the mat. Other than that I was always looking for a practice somewhere. I was a wrestler who had a real love for competing… I loved to do it. 

 

What other sports did you play?

I never really played any other sports past 6th grade. If I wasn’t wrestling or doing something for wrestling we had work on the farm to do or we were helping my dad with home construction.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

The Minnesota Twins. I love watching baseball. Other than that everything University of Minnesota.

 

What are your hobbies?

Golf. I play a lot of golf and it is my favorite thing in the world to do. Other than that coaching at PINnacle pretty much year round as a side job.

 

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

I would say it has had a hand in everything in my life. Since I was 4 years old it has been the one thing I can always count on!

 

“PART 3: THE FIRST TWO BATTLES” COMING SOON!!!!

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Remember The Wrestler: Jay Bjustrom, Algona

Jay Bjustrom was one of the best guys in all of 2A the year he graduated in 2003 and all of Iowa, West to East knew it.  In fact he could have been one of the best pound for pound guys in that grade regardless of division (1A, 2A, 3A)… And all of Iowa from the Southeast, to the Northwest to the South Central to the Northeast part of the state knew it.  Actually I am being facetious with that last part… Statewide, I believe Jay was one of the most slept on and underrated wrestlers in the state. However, guys in the Northwest area of the state knew precisely just how tenacious Jay and his brothers were. I could tell by the way Northwest people would talk about him back then and it is even more noticeable now when you see the Bjustrom’s mentioned in Remember The Wrestler articles about NW area wrestlers, for they are mentioned often and always with huge praise. The Bjustrom’s were and continue to be considered top tier in NW Iowa. Jay is a legend in Algona. I had a guy from NW Iowa tell me just last year that he considered the Bjustrom brothers to be some of the best to ever step on a mat in Vets. And I don’t think you’ll find many people in NW Iowa to disagree with that. And here I am on the other side of the state in Southeast Iowa, agreeing with it as well, but the only reason I know this is because of how closely I followed him after a big win he had at the state tournament as a Junior.

While Jay was and still is a big deal in Northwest Iowa in High School, on a statewide basis he was criminally slept on when fans would discuss or research who they thought were the best wrestlers at each weight.  You know how I know this?  Because we were guilty of it ourselves.  He was in my brother, Justin’s bracket as a Junior in 2002 and that was around the time that my brother’s infamous rivalry with Moza Fay started heating up.  Moza defeated Justin at a regular season tournament that year and it prompted a lot of talk on the forums and what-not about who was going to win that 2A 125 lb. bracket that year….Moza Fay or Justin Swafford? It seemed like that was THE debate for that weight and everyone else seemed more or less disregarded. Jay Bjustrom, Ruben Chavez, Brady Dolan, etc…didn’t seem like they were mentioned much as guys who had a great shot to win it, although they SHOULD have, for they were all good enough to win it.  Why is this?  Well, I think it’s because Northwest Iowa wrestling can be mysterious to other wrestlers not from that region, for their wrestling media coverage generally doesn’t go around and get sent too far away from their general vicinity like say, The Des Moines Register, The Gazette, The Hawk Eye, The QC Times, etc.  Northwest Iowa wrestling IS covered and from what I’ve read, it’s been done well by the Le Mars Sentinal and Sioux City Journal.  Problem is, those papers don’t seem to be accessible outside of NW Iowa, especially back in 2002 when the internet wasn’t at the high level it is now.  

So Moza and Justin had their first state tournament battle in which Justin took the win and went on to win state.  When Moza went to the backside, the general vibe seemed to be that Moza would just bulldoze his way to 3rd without a problem, for a common opinion was that “the finals took place in the quarters between Fay and Swafford.”  I watched Moza wrestle on the backside, for as heated as he and Justin’s rivalry was, the kid was still amazing  and interesting to watch.  In the semi-consolation round, Fay was beaten by a point or two.  It happened right in front of me and it stunned a lot of the fans that were nearby.  The name of the kid who beat him: Jay Bjustrom from Algona, who had just barely lost in the semifinals to Brady Dolan.  After that match, it freaked us out, for if this Bjustrom kid was as good as he looked against Moza, then our finals match vs. Brady Dolan may be a little tougher than we originally thought considering he beat this Bjustrom hammer in the semis….And Bjustrom had just permanently etched his name on our radar with his huge win over Moza. That’s literally the moment where I discovered how great he was. And he went on to win big for 3rd and 4th.  The bracket was a little tougher than we thought… 4 of the top 6 in that bracket won state at one point or another; Justin Swafford, Moza Fay, Dallas Kuper and Jay Bjustrom.  

Bjustrom won a LOADED bracket the next year as a Senior in 2003. He was at 130 and the bracket consisted of future state champ, Adam Kurimski of Fairfield, Willie Harris of Creston who is one of the best guys I’ve ever seen who didn’t win state, Christopher Johnson from West Burlington who was my brother Justin’s longtime practice partner. Chris never won state…he always peaked in March…which is why he was a 2X Tulsa National Champion and 2X Reno World Champion in high school.  

I went from knowing nothing about Bjustrom to a year later thinking he may be the most impressive wrestler in all of 2A…. Northwest Iowa…they were always so difficult to scout against or find any info about, since noone had access to a large proportion of the media outlets that covered with them. Never knew who we’d run into… And holy cow, did Jay Bjustrom ever make his presence known in his final two years.  An absolute hammer. 

 

2002 2A 125 1.) Justin Swafford, Jr., Mediapolis 2.) Brady Dolan, Jr., Independence 3.) Jay Bjustrom, Jr., Algona 4.) Dallas Kuper, So., Osage 5.) Moza Fay, So., Anamosa 6.) Tony Bolen, Jr., South Tama

2003 2A 130 1. Jay Bjustrom, Sr., Algona 2. Willie Harris, Sr., Creston 3. Chris Johnson, Sr., West Burlington 4. Mark Jensen, Sr., Crestwood (Cresco) 5. Albert McNeil, Sr., Northeast Goose Lake 6. Robert Struthers, Jr., Emmetsburg/Armstrong-Ringsted 7. Kevin Townsend, Sr., Glenwood 8. Adam Kurimski, Jr., Fairfield

 

Here is the video of Jay winning state as a Senior:

 

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

I was a graduate from Algona High School, class of 2003. I got my start in wrestling at the Bullpup Wrestling Club in Algona, put on by Pat Hamilton and Tong Uk Yi, who were also my high school coaches. I was probably in third or fourth grade when I started. Throughout youth wrestling, Bullpup practice and a handful of local tournaments was the extent for me.

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My dad was the main driving factor that got my younger brothers and I involved in wrestling. He is a great technician and has a lot of knowledge to draw on. Since Tyler and I were a year apart, we were able to practice and encourage each other in competition.

 

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

Both of my brothers were place winners at state: Tyler placed 2nd (2002) 8th (2003) and 2nd (2004) and Corey placed 7th (2007) My father Randy was on the Algona State Championship team of 1975. My grandpa (mother’s father) Robert Kain placed 3rd at state in 1952 and his twin brother, Richard Kain was a 3x runner-up in 1950, 1951, and 1952.
My other grandpa, Francis Bjustrom, was also a State Champion in 1958.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I placed 7th and 4th at AAU State in junior high. All of the rest of my youth experience was in local tournaments and meets around northern Iowa. I didn’t really have any one rival growing up. I remember always having tough matches with the Emmetsburg boys. I feel like I wrestled each one of the entire team that I grew to know at least once while growing up.

 

What was your record in HS?

121-18

 

How did you place at state every year?

As a freshman at 103 lbs, I ended the season early due to a lingering shoulder injury. As a sophomore at 119lbs, I went 0-2 at state. I was disappointed, but being the first time at “The Barn”, I let nerves get the best of me. As a junior at 125lbs, I placed 3rd. I was on the losing side of a close semifinals match, one that I wished I could get back. I remember some very tough competition wrestling back to get 3rd. My senior year at 130lbs, I was a state champion. That year, I remember focusing on control and avoiding risk in each match…all of which lasted up until the finals, which was chaotic and mostly a blur.

 

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

I think controlling weight was always the hardest challenge from year to year. I would always start running and changing my eating habits a couple weeks before the season started. My brothers and I would have been lost without Mom helping us out and keeping us grounded. She taught physical ed and health/wellness at the high school. She really helped us learn how to calorie count and get to our target weight in a healthy manner. It really tested my self discipline.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

My main strategy in a match was to outlast the other guy and control the pace, so I put a lot of time into conditioning…my favorite method was running around the section of our farm. Style wise, I was not the best on my feet, but I was very comfortable on the bottom and top and anywhere that I could control with a wrist or under hook. My strength was probably riding guys out and wearing them down.

 

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

Just a couple guys, most of my losses came my freshman year.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Aside from my Dad, Tong Uk Yi was a very influential coach for me growing up. He was close to my size, so we were able to wrestle in practice but more than that, his style was the opposite of mine…he’s quick, he likes taking open shots, he likes throws. He was able to put me into situations that put me out of my comfort zone and made me adjust and learn new technique. He also did the scouting of my opponents at state and elsewhere.

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

We were very competitive as a team all four years and so was the North Central Conference. Algona was NCC Champions in 2001 and 2003 competing against the likes of Clear Lake, Humboldt, Iowa Falls, Eagle Grove, and Clarion, who were all full of talent. Emmetsburg held us out of the state duals two different years and went on to win, so I think we didn’t have the chance to prove ourselves at a state level. I think we could have placed pretty high, if not 2nd behind Emmetsburg/AR both years.

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

I can’t say I had one. The Algona teams from the late nineties probably influenced me the most.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

I’ll keep it close to home and give my vote a family friend, Jeff Kerber.

 

Did you at any point feel overlooked prior to the state tournament? How good did it feel to show everyone that you were just as elite as anyone?

I never remember feeling like I was overlooked at any point, but that is probably because I avoided the chat rooms and weekly results and rankings. I tried to never put much emphasis on anyones past wins and losses. I usually stuck to my training each week and went into most matches statistically blind. I definitely felt fulfilled when I won state, as it was all I could think about for a year. It especially felt good getting Algona back on top of the podium, which hadn’t been done since 1985.

 

How do you feel about NW Iowa wrestling? Did it make you proud to represent them at the high level you did?

I grew up hearing all of my dads stories of wrestling under Champ Martin and Bill Fjetland in the 70s. It was kind of Algona’s heyday back then but was also very competitive in NW Iowa with Emmetsburg, West Hancock, Eagle Grove, and others. It hasn’t changed much since then, NW Iowa still continues to deliver solid teams. I’m glad that I was able to represent our part of the state, and I am continuing to help out in the wrestling room to help keep our traditions going.

 

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

I’d like to see a team of guys from the 1970’s versus guys from the 2000’s go head to head in a dual. That way Dad and I can put that argument to rest!!

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

I have respect for all the guys that go through four years of high school wrestling. It’s a tough sport and teaches you independence and self discipline.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

All the guys in Algona’s room each year!

 

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

I was all 90’s country.

 

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

Probably losing to Brady Dolan in the semis of the 2002 state tournament. He went on to wrestle your brother, Justin Swafford, in the finals.

 

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

I probably would have liked to attend some out of state or national tournaments, just for the experience. I say that now, but at the time was not interested at all. There is definitely a lot of opportunities out there right now for kids of today.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Besides winning state my senior year, I was also proud to win the Bob Sharp Ankeny tournament three times. It was the furthest distance our team traveled and despite the long bus ride, I always felt good going into it.

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

Tony Bolen(S.Tama), Robert Struthers(E-AR), Jacob Naig(E-AR), Willie Harris(Cre), Dallas Kuper(Osage), Travis Snover(DM-L), Chris Daily(Hum), Wade Saturn(Hum), Mike Zinnel(Hum), Luke Reiland(EG), Brock Woodin(Clarion), Aaron Wernimont(Poc) These are some of guys off the top of my head that I had tough matches with in high school…some of them were more regular. Ive gotten to know a lot of these guys over the years.

 

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

Mostly seasonal. I would do freestyle practice and a few tourneys in the spring during high school. Algona also attended the UNI team camp a few years in a row which was fun.

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

That’s funny because I always have that discussion with old teammates. My first thought is that we would wax the youngsters of today. I’m sure every generation thinks that though.

Did you wrestle after high school?

I did not. Got to know all the Iowa State guys really well though.

 

What other sports did you play?

I played golf and football.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

I can’t say I watch many sports besides golf on Sundays. Probably say I pull for Phil Mickelson.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

I love being outdoors. Fishing and golfing are my big two hobbies. I also spend a lot of my free time on different projects around our acreage.

 

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

It seems that all of the traditions I have gotten used to growing up have drastically changed in the new era of the internet, cell phones, and social media, so bringing my past knowledge and experiences to the guys of today feels like I’m keeping some of those traditions intact.

 

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

It has taught me to be independent and taught me how to accept my shortcomings as my own.

 

What do you do now?

I am back farming with my dad and younger brother Corey.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I still help out in the high school room as a volunteer coach. I show technique and wrestle when I can. I attend home meets and occasionally will travel with the team and help where I can.

 

Any advice for future wrestlers?

Conditioning and repetition. Two most important factors in wrestling. Don’t skimp.

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

Unsure

 

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

I’ll give a shout out to the 2003 Algona Wrestling team and Coaches Brian Morgan, Pat Hamilton, Mike Weier, and Tong Uk Yi.

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

Mack Reiter, Gilbertville-Don Bosco

 

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

Justin Swafford, Mediapolis 

 

Joshua Swafford (Justin’s Older Brother): I remember when Mack and Justin wrestled at a freestyle tournament at Iowa City High, there was an editor of a small wrestling newspaper in attendance who specifically came to that tournament in hopes of seeing Mack Reiter vs. Justin Swafford. They were only 8th graders at the time. The guy introduced himself to my mom and said that he was dead-set on taking as much video and pictures that he possibly could, for they impressed him so much in their battle at AAU State a few weeks earlier that he said, “you never know… this could be a couple of future NCAA Champions going at it as 8th graders…it’s can’t miss.” Neither Mack nor Justin ultimately accomplished that feat, but Mack was close and who knows what Justin could have done if his body didn’t fall apart among other things. The rivalry that these two had was a pretty big deal for a few years there. They met a total of 7 times. First time in the finals at freestyle state in 6th grade, the finals at AAU State in 7th grade, the quarterfinals at AAU State in 8th grade, IC High Freestyle Tournament as 8th graders, Manchester-West Delaware as 8th graders, Freestyle State Duals as Freshmen and finally, the last meeting they had was at Freestyle State Duals as Juniors. It was a rivalry that ignited a ton of fan commotion every single time they took the mat together. They were both known for their intensity, fire, stubbornness to give even a millimeter and people were on the edge of their seats every time it went down.

This rivalry was incredibly huge for my family. I know it’s the status quo to claim that you don’t care what “this person” or “that person” thinks of you, but I’m just going to be real… I don’t know if there was a wrestling family who’s respect we wanted to earn so badly than the Reiter family. For one, Mack knocked Justin off a pedestal in their weight range that he had occupied for 3-4 years prior to his first defeat in the finals at 7th grade AAU state. There was always this underlying feeling of, “prove to these guys that you weren’t just another win for Mack, but a big one.” Secondly, our family just had so much respect for the Reiter’s, for they were the quintessential great wrestling family on and off the mat. Terrors on the mat and off the mat, if you didn’t catch them in a moment of intensity, they were respectful, charismatic and very happy people. Our dad, Mark Swafford ended up becoming pretty good friends with Mack’s dad, Doug Reiter. Doug’s sense of respect, professionalism, wisdom and empathy left an impression on our dad that he still utilizes today. This rivalry was intense on the mat, but ever so valuable in terms of how the experiences affected people.

When these two met up, it was a clash of winners. Kids who had been consistently winning for years and outmatched anyone they encountered in terms of their intensity on the mat. And in the rare moments when they actually lost to someone, it was almost as if they didn’t understand the world of losing, for it never occurred to either of them while competing for even a second that they would lose. They were a couple of warriors… but very, very different warriors with different styles, different outlooks, different ways of preparing, different ways of approaching their matches against each other, different HS careers and different body types…but their intensity, passion for the sport and respect for each other was something they undoubtedly had in common… Before we get into some of their matches, let’s take a look at some of Mack and Justin’s general thoughts about their rivalry.

 

If you were to give a summary of you guys’s rivalry in a paragraph or two, how would you describe it?

Mack Reiter: Justin was an awesome competitor and a huge contrast in body shape and style from myself. I was short and squatty, he was long and lanky. Up until around 6th-7th grade he was almost always one weight above me every year at AAU so we didn’t wrestle until then, but we had some great battles from that point on. Honestly I don’t know if we wrestled more than 6-7 times total in our careers, but I think every single one of them was close. Typically we would only wrestle in state level events (AAU, Freestyle state, Freestyle State Duals, etc.). I would say the rivalry lasted from 6th grade until sophomore or junior year in HS. Once we got to high school it was limited to just freestyle. 

Justin Swafford: Looking back I think it was a matter of two extremely competitive young wrestlers wanting to make their mark in the sport. We had a similar meanness and determination about us that clashed when we were on the mat, I can remember a lot of pacing and epic stare downs (lol!). As we became members of the same freestyle wrestling club, Future Hawkeye Wrestling Club, which became the Trojan wrestling club under Mark Reiland’s leadership with help from Pablo Ubasa, we got to know each other better as friends off the mat and realizing we had a lot in common. We both came from a family crazy about wrestling with sibling rivalries, not to mention the towns we grew up in are also a hot bed of wrestling culture and passion for the sport. The rivalry sure sharpened each of us which led to a lot of growth in the off season and success at Fargo. Mack was really solid all around. His positioning was hard to break through to score on, and of course he was a monster on top. I was always able to transfer any kind of nerves into excitement to wrestle my best match no matter who it was, to outwork my opponent. With Mack it was no different, except there is a level of respect there that I tried to utilize to sharpen my skills and senses, rather than overthink and freeze on the mat. The closest match was probably our 8th grade quarterfinals match. I did pull out a squeaker in Marion at the freestyle state duals wrestling for Monster USA (Tom Mashek’s club) which felt great. This was Junior or Senior year. I remember a really bad call in the middle of the match while in the par terre positon that I thought should have went my way but put me behind by 2, in the last remaining seconds of the match I forced him below me and quickly cut the corner to lock up a crotch lift from our feet and threw him for 3 to win the match by 1. I had really good hips there and worked a lot at club practice sitting in the chair and doing the move smoothly with explosiveness getting good air of my opponent (Pablo Ubasa and Tom Mashek were to thank for a lot of my freestyle techniques).

 

BEFORE WE DIVE INTO THE MATCH-BY-MATCH, YEAR-BY-YEAR RIVALRY THESE TWO HAD, LET’S LEARN ABOUT WHO THEY ARE FIRST. TO START, JUSTIN AND MACK’S BACKSTORIES! THIS IS COMING IN PART 2 WHICH WILL BE PUBLISHED SOON!!! I HAVE EVERY PART FINISHED ALREADY AND THERE ARE 5 OF THEM TOTAL!

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