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BRODY….TESKE!!!

 

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

Go to 4:00 mark to see Podium segment:

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

JESSE SUNDELL

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

CHRIS HELGESON

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

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

 

MARIO GALANAKIS

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

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

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

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

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

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Remember The Wrestler/Bus Driver: Dan Taghon, Sigourney

 

BY: Stephen Stonebraker 

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

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

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

 

What is your background in Wrestling?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Any fun memories you have of watching the matches?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Anything You’d like to Add?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Scott Morningstar became the 3rd four-time state champion in Iowa wrestling state history in 1980, just a year after Jeff Kerber of Emmetsburg became the second. Morningstar’s titles came at 98 pounds his freshman year, 105 his sophomore year, 119 his junior year and 126 his senior year. For his HS prep career, his record stood at an amazing 115-1-1.  He helped establish the groundwork for a new era in Lisbon wrestling winning his first 2 titles under HOF wrestling coach Al Baxter, and then his final 2 titles at Lisbon under the greatest wrestling coach in Iowa High School wrestling history – Brad Smith… where that winning tradition continues today.

Scott Morningstar was dominating throughout his high school career, he was offense minded and scored lots of points, wrestled smart and maintained good body position like all Lisbon taught wrestlers. He was great at punishing his opponents when they made mistakes and was much stronger that he looked. To sum things up, he was exceptional at winning…  Just as you’d expect for a 4-time state champion. Let’s take a brief look at each of his state finals matches.

In the 1977 class 1-A state finals at 98-lbs, the freshman Scott Morningstar beat Vince Kimm a very mature looking senior from Iowa Valley (Marengo) in a close 4-2 match, winning his first state title and finishing his freshman season undefeated at 33-0. His coach commented that his opponent “had a three day growth of beard and looked like he was 21 years old,” and Scott rode that kid out to nail down his victory! Not bad for a kid that was weighing around 97 or 98 lbs soaking wet… It was just the beginning of a brilliant HS wrestling career.

There’s always something special, almost magical about experiencing that first victory and on that grand stage in the “Barn” atmosphere… and this was the year that this young man from Lisbon found himself and experienced his first taste of that magic with a coach that inspired him to cross over that threshold into wrestling history… one that requires championship skills and championship confidence.

Just prior to that 1977 state tournament Lisbon coach Al Baxter was going over details with the team in their wrestling room and what would be needed by all of his wrestlers to win that coveted class 1-A team title. That’s when Baxter’s talk turned to their 98 pounder – “And Morningstar, hell, the way your wrestling you can win the damn thing,” Scott recalled Baxter saying.

It was at that moment the (wow factor) kicked in… the power of someone believing in you and verbalizing that belief in front of others and then that realization sinking in becomes a defining moment, a revelation of sorts in one’s life that is never forgotten! That’s what Morningstar took with him in each match at that 1977 state tournament, till he finished the job and got his arm raised, seizing the first of his 4 consecutive state title victories. It was the beginning of a young man’s dreams fulfilled!

As a sophomore in 1978, the final season under his legendary coach Al Baxter… Morningstar won his class 1-A 105-lbs finals match capturing his 2nd straight state title by defeating Duane Grant of Britt 10-5, finishing the season with a 32-1 record. Grant would go on to a 3rd place finish the following year in 1979 and continue his wrestling career at UNI. Morningstar’s only loss that season came at the hands Paul Kreimeyer of Wilton by referee’s decision.  Kreimeyer, if you remember was a two-time state champion, a runner up and a fourth place finisher.

In Morningstar’s junior season, he bumped up 2 weights, and under the tutelage of new coach Brad Smith, went on to win his third consecutive state title by beating Mitch Woosley of BCL (Conrad) in the 1979 Class 1-A 119-lbs finals match 8-4, and again finishing the season unbeaten with a nearly perfect 31-0-1 record. The lone blemish – a draw, resulted from a match against a Durant wrestler (Skeet Smith) who was noted for a neck wrench. Scott recalled, “I was up 8-4 with four take-downs and I went in for another take-down and found myself fighting for my life. I fought off my back and then got an escape for the tie. Sometimes you learn more from your mistakes.” Here’s the thing… if that match would’ve been wrestled under today’s tie breaker rules, who do you think would’ve won that match?

In 1980, Morningstar closed out his senior season unbeaten and unblemished, winning his 4th state title in the class 1-A 126-lbs finals match against a very tough Tim DeLarm of Midland (Wyoming) in a close battle 4-3.  Morningstar’s record was 20-0 in his final season, mainly because he missed time in the lineup recovering from a broken ankle and a bout with pneumonia. A fact that reveals his physical toughness, determination, and his will to win in finishing what he started 4 years prior, completing the astounding achievement of becoming just the third 4-time state title winner in Iowa HS wrestling history. He was also an All-American at 132-lbs placing 4th in the National Freestyle tournament and made the High School All-American team that year.

Scott Morningstar was inducted into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2008.

I enjoyed reading and researching information about Scott Morningstar and getting reacquainted with his high school career. Scott was a fantastic wrestler and deserves consideration for IA high school wrestling GOAT…

Some additional thoughts about that state tournament in Scott’s senior season… There were also a number of other great wrestlers that were on the wrestling scene at the same time that were garnering lots of attention and well deserved accolades like Barry Davis (Cedar Rapids Prairie) and Clark Yoder (Sigourney), who were going for their 3rd state titles. It was a tremendous evening that all Iowa wrestling fans got to share in back in 1980. Morningstar was also following Lisbon’s own Jim Lord, who won his 3rd title just 2 years prior. Those studs will undoubtedly get more coverage in the 3-timer (almost 4) series. But even with the spotlight focus moving around from one legend to another, I’m here to say that Scott Morningstar doesn’t stand in anyone’s shadow! The red-hot spotlight of that state tournament tells me that 1980 was a banner year for Iowa wrestling and the sport was on the rise.

Scott Morningstar’s high school career is as close to perfect as you can get while just short of perfection. He climbed that “Mount Everest” peak and conquered its glory, and did it 4-times… he was an exciting, tough and talented wrestler to watch, and is one of Lisbon’s GOAT’s… He’s deserving of this spotlight and his candidate consideration for Iowa HS wrestling’s GOAT!

One of my favorite quotes I found while researching this article involved the subject of how a coach motivates his wrestlers. This one came from Scott Morningstar, in Dan McCool’s book – “Reach for the Stars”, while discussing Morningstar’s freshman year state finals opponent with Lisbon coach Al Baxter… “Baxter was one tough son of a bitch. I was deathly afraid of him, but I loved him. He never did anything to hurt me, but I’m telling you when he’d put his big paw on your neck, and here I’m a shrimpy little 98-pounder, and he’d say,You’re going to make him cry in front of his mom and dad and grandpa and grandma’, you could beat anybody!”

It reminded me of that McDonalds commercial where the father trainer is trying to get his boxer son to turn that beast mode switch on, and tells the youngster – “Remember when someone stole your fries son? Well THAT’S THE GUY!”

Man I love wrestling… LOL

Scott Morningstar “Wrestling with Iowa” interview

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This is one of the most interesting, thought-provoking set of responses that I have received to the questionnaires I send out and that’s out of the “close to 100” RTW articles that I have written so far. I was blown away by Bradley’s responses. It was completed on elaborate fashion with the type of info and insight that interests me personally. Heck, if I did one of these myself, it would likely resemble something like what Bradley wrote.  I wish I would have known that he was such an interesting person to talk wrestling with, for Bradley was one of these guys in my grade who seemed to be at the same exact weight as me every single year from 3rd grade all the way until we graduated. We were in the same graduating class and with that said, we were in the same bracket at state in youth wrestling almost every year and were in the same freestyle brackets in high school a few times and somehow we only managed to meet up on the wrestling mat twice.  Once as 6th graders and once at a freestyle tournament our Junior years in HS.  And I have mentioned several times that I was overly chatty with the competition. There weren’t too many people that I grew up wrestling with that I didn’t approach and sometimes annoy the hell out of at one point or another.  I probably encountered Bradley hundreds of times over the years in passing or in the holding area and I never spoke to him once until the very end of our freestyle match in HS, in which he said to me, “good job,” and I just said “thanks.”  Why didn’t I ever approach Asche?  For whatever reason, he came off as intimidating to me.  I don’t know what it was.  For one, he always looked like the biggest dude in our bracket physically, so he had that going for him.  For another, his demeanor was not one that gave the vibe of arrogant or rude, but there was just something about him that made me not want to say the wrong thing around him.  He appeared stoic, confident and businesslike and just didn’t seem like a person that I would want to bother.  There were only a few people who I tip-toed around like that.  Ryan Heim, Paul Bradley, anyone from Lenox, Chris Wernimont, etc. All GREAT guys. In retrospect, I really wish I would have “cowboy’d” up and approached some of these people instead of being apprehensive and Brad Asche is the prime example of this, for now that I have been getting to know him a bit, he and I surely would have talked a lot of wrestling and likely been pretty good friends. 

I never wanted to wrestle Asche.  I was thinking about that the second and last time I wrestled him in our freestyle match our Junior season. That match is remembered by my best friend, Aaron Drain and my brother Justin due to something embarrassing that I did during our break between periods.  In freestyle back then, you got this 30 second break where the coaches are in your ear trying to tell you what your doing wrong and what to do next and are usually blurting this information while using your t-shirt as some sort of fan to cool you down with.  This always annoyed me and I didn’t want to go about things that way at all during break.  I needed total relaxation with nobody saying anything to me. I would have rather sat down and sang “Kumbaya” and relaxed for that 30 seconds that felt like 3 or 4 seconds epecially when you are wanting a breather. And I most certainly didn’t want someone hitting me with my shirt.  So Asche and I had this pretty wild, back and forth type of match going on where it seemed like a minutes-long struggle for positioning with sudden attacks where we’d both put each other in trouble.  It was exhausting. A really good freestyle match. He and I would have made great practice partners. Anyways, when I got back to the corner for the break, Justin was in my ear about a bunch of stuff and I didn’t want to hear any of it and he started beating me with my “I’m Easy” Abercrombie T-shirt, which immediately began to annoy me when one of the “shirt-snaps” hit my nose.  When this happened, I looked at Justin and said, “stop.”  He didn’t understand what I was referring to, for what kind of weenie is too soft to be able to withstand the discomfort of being aired off with a t-shirt? A few seconds later, Justin accidentally slapped me with the corner of my shirt right in my left eye and my knee-jerk reaction was this: I blew up and screamed at Justin in the corner, “STOP HITTING ME WITH MY ****ING ‘IM EASY’ SHIRT!!!” My eye hurt like hell from that.  My brother and Drain started laughing because my voice squeaked BAD when I said the words, “I’m Easy.”  Probably a puberty thing. So there I was, in the corner for a break in the middle of a hard-fought freestyle match with Bradley Asche and flipping out on my brother with some major voice-squeakage for everyone in the perimeter’s comedic delight.  My face got red and I looked around to see if anyone else saw or heard it and of course, there is Trent Goodale sitting down near our corner with the biggest smile on his face and laughing.  I laugh every time I think of Trent because he always caught my most embarrassing moments on the mat that I didn’t want anyone else to see and he always thought that it was funny…which it was.  For about a year, if Drain wanted to razz me, he would yell at me in a purposely squeaky voice, “I’m EEE-EEEEAASY!”

So then off I go to wrestle the final period against Asche and we went the full match without there being a tech or a pin… just a really solid wrestling match by both guys…  It was a good match for both of us. We scrambled a lot. And as mentioned, Bradley telling me “good job” at the end of that one is the only time we ever spoke.  If I could do it over again, I would have spoken to him at every state tourney that I saw him at. But hey, can’t change that and I am thankful that I asked him to do one of these, for it’s cool reading his insight.  He saw a lot of things in our age and weight range the same way that I did.  It was very refreshing to see.  

I don’t think I’ve met a nicer person in my time spent doing all of these. 

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

Eagle Grove Youth Wrestling, Eagle Grove High School, Buena Vista University, Coached at Glenwood High School 

 

What year did you graduate?

2001

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

When I was growing up Eagle Grove had some great wrestlers going through at the time. Late 80’s early 90’s Mark Reiland & Jessie Whitmer time frame. Eagle Grove also has a great tradition. To grow up in small town Iowa with a wrestling tradition, it was like a right of passage to wrestle. Home of the Eagle Grove Invitational and names like Nelson, Siddens, Gray, Reiland, Morgan, Kist, McCart, Coltvet, Whitmer. I know I’m leaving a lot out, but I will attach those two boards that one of my teammates in a previous article alluded to that hang in the Eagle wrestling room. I used to go watch those teams during the 80’s and 90’s and then try to emulate them on my living room floor at home. My parents have some pictures of me showing them how certain wrestler’s stance would be when they were on the mat or with my headgear on like Mark Reiland after he won his matches. Reiland with his headgear turned sideways was ingrained in my head like the coach himself having Nelson Brands Headphones in the corner while coaching. I also had some great friends/families that we grew up traveling and wrestling together. 

 

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

The family ties to wrestling go way back, and I never got to watch some of them wrestle but heard many stories, You always have to try to keep the family traditions going. My uncle Donnie Reed who got 4th and wrestled for Clarion. Uncle Kevin Reed who got 3rd and wrestled for Eagle Grove. My dad’s Cousin Mike Asche was a State Champ. Denny Asche I think qualified, but never placed. I had two cousins that wrestled for Coach Ewing at Ankeny; Mike and Mitch Reed. My Cousin Kurtis Williamson, we grew up wrestling together and his dad Ray took us everywhere to wrestle on weekends and hauled us to the Cedar Rapids every year for AAU state was a SQ as a freshman, Runner up to Tim Matthys as a sophomore, State Champion in one of the finals matches that I remember. When he picked top in Sudden Victory to ride out Seth Evans as a Junior, and then placed 3rd in 2000 as a senior. My Brother Bart wrestled for a couple of years in High School, but chose not to continue, and now I have my son Brody who is 9 years old and going to practices in Glenwood, IA with the Glenwood Wrestling Club, but he hasn’t competed yet. 

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Youth results were nothing special. I qualified for AAU state every year from Third Grade thru 8th grade. Never placed, every year I’d run into kids like you (Joshua Swafford), Jacob Smith, Brian Hessenius, the Sturm brothers, Matt Doebel, Garrett South; Looking back on some of those AAU brackets that you post is fun. It’s like a time capsule, and to see those brackets full of State Champions and medalists, it’s pretty amazing. We could be here all day talking about the kids I used to wrestle, I’m usually great at remembering people I’ve wrestled and the matches, but there were some great youth wrestlers that I used to have to face regularly at weekend Tournaments.

I think Matt Doebel from Clear Lake and I had the most matches out of anyone I wrestled consistently as a kid. I always used to run into Ryan and Mark Sturm from Emmetsburg A-R, Bobby Miller and Stecker from Boone, Bratland, Humboldt, the Harris brothers, Justin Porter, Nick Mason, Duran Barlow all from Fort Dodge, McCrady from Fort Dodge St. Eds. I’m sure there were many more. 

 

What was your record in HS?

I have no Idea, but it’s in a book somewhere or on the internet. I never reached the 100 wins mark back when 100 wins was a big deal, but there are more wins than losses. My coaching record is the same, I have no idea what it is, I’d have to take the time to look back and add it up, but there are more wins than losses. I like to think that my Wins and Losses are just numbers and they don’t define me as a wrestler or a coach. Looking back, I just hope that I made an impact on my teammates throughout my career and an even larger impact on my wrestlers that I coached. 

 

How did you place at state every year?

DNQ, DNQ, SQ, Runner-Up 

 

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

Cutting weight was difficult. I had a lot of anxiety when I cut weight. My parents bought me a scale and I used to use it all throughout the night before dual meets and tournaments. Some of the matches that were the most challenging. 

Andy Thompson, Clear Lake;  Regional Duals my freshman year, LBF I was a JV All Star and we faced Clear Lake at Regional Duals. We bumped the line up and I got the pleasure of wrestling Mr. Thompson after his state title. 

Dustin Bliven, Columbus Junction; State Finals my senior year; LBF

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

A well rounded wrestler. I was defensive at times; presented my leg and reached too much to get into a crackdown position or into a front headlock position; I still did have some takedowns that I could hit; Tough on top with the legs, and could get out and would in most cases except for when I got thrown on my head in the finals by Dustin Bliven in a couple of highlight reel throws or when Bart Mehlert threw the legs in and ripped my arm off, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one in either of those cases. 

 

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

Brian Thacker, Algona We had some back and forth matches in high school. Not sure there was anyone else that I went back and forth with in High School. 

 

Who was your most influential coach?

There are so many coaches that I could name here and each one of them had a hand in making me the person I am today. In High School, I was coached by Dave Morgan, Dan McCart, Bruce Rholl, Jessie Whitmer, Rich Dellaca, Darin Shreck, Linc Morgan. In college, Al Baxter, Tim Jagr, Sevond Cole. There was even my dad and other fathers at the youth wrestling level that were great. There are even some coaches that I’ve coached with like Ty Seaman, Matt Dyer, Adam Buthe, and Brad Gregory.  All of them definitely made an impact on my life. 

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

We were competitive in high school. We had some very good individuals on our team. At state I think 4th place 2000 is the highest we were as a team. That year we had Reiland, 2nd; McClintock, 2nd; McGonegle, 4th; Williamson, 3rd; and then we had some other qualifiers that added some team points, but that year we didn’t reach our goals. We were definitely good enough you hoist a trophy in Des Moines. To this day I have yet to accomplish this. As a coach the best we finished was 4th. 

In 2001, at State Duals we got 4th as a team. I believe we got beat by Don Bosco in the Semifinals and wrestled Bedford-Lenox in the 3rd/4th place dual. That year I’m unsure what we got at Traditional State, but we had a lot of qualifiers/placewinners that year. Reiland, Oleson, Morgan, myself,  I might be missing someone, but we had the qualifiers to do something with it, but didn’t get it done that year either. 

In College at Buena Vista, but I wasn’t very competitive. I did have some great teammates there as well that were very successful. Jamie Taxted, Taylor Wood, Aaron Loewens, Pat Wilsbacher, My college roommate and fellow coach Adam Buthe just to name a few. 

 

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

There were many that I looked up to because they were all successful, but probably due to when I was growing up I would have to say, Mark Rieland & Jessie Whitmer, “The strongest man in the world” -Dan Gable. Both who left their mark on the sport at Eagle Grove as well as the University of Iowa. 

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Mark Schwab. I wasn’t able to see him wrestle in High School, but I have heard many stories about him, and was able to personally meet Coach Schwab and be around him during my time at Buena Vista University. Listening to him talk and watching him train in the wrestling room and weight room. After watching him work out at his age, I can only imagine what he was like when he was in high school. 

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

I’m a big fan of the sport, so there are many. This list could go on and on, but I really like watching wrestling. My former wrestlers who are wrestling in college; Matt Malcom (UNK National Champion) , Anthony Sherry (Iowa State), Trevor Anderson (Grandview), Brett Mower(Utah Valley State RTC), Caleb Sanders (South Dakota State Football) Other college guys I enjoy watching are Yianni Diakomihalis, Spencer Lee, Kyle Dake. 

 

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

There were all different genres, I listened to Tupac, Bone Thugs, Metallica, some country. 

My Junior year we listened to Godsmack in the wrestling room and wore out the CD, and my Senior year we wore out the Nelly CD. Kids these days have it good with the ability to make a playlist on your phone, we would have to have the managers switch the CD or burn a CD to get all of our favorite songs. 

 

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

The night I joined the Runner-Up club, as I like to call it. In fact, I first started following what you were doing when Brad Gregory, my former Assistant coach sent me Bliven’s article. Coach Gregory and I  were in the club together. We used to be good sports about it. He would always quote Dan Gable; I believe on the telecast said something about high flying action, and be sure to watch the 1A mat, and before you know it… the rest is history. 

My Senior year in the finals. Hands down the worst I’ve ever felt. Like I told you before; I think the state finals is a different demon, whether you like it or not, you want to think of it as just another match, but it isn’t. It’s hard to describe. In Vets everyone was able to walk next to the mats during the first 5 sessions of wrestling and then, during the finals they were all in their seats. You go through the Grand March before the finals (still to this day) sends chills down your spine. When you warm up, etc. is all different during the finals. You have kids coming off the podium and carrying the large bracket that you’ve dreamt about hanging in your bedroom, down to their teammates. In 2001 Lewis Central and Emmetsburg had all those champs and I was warming up right next to them. My eyes would wander while warming up watching them celebrate with their teammates.  It’s the match you’ve mentally prepared yourself, but have you all these other things going through your head. It ended up being a bad night, I was definitely very hard on myself after that match. 

One of the biggest quotes to understand for high school kids was that you either “Win or Learn”

Needless to say, I definitely learned a lot from my experience, and I was fortunately able to coach a couple of kids to achieve their goals and with that State Title. 

 

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 to be honest. I loved my childhood and growing up in Eagle Grove. Being a part of the tradition. Even after growing up in Eagle Grove the amount of great wrestlers that came out of that town is very vague to me. I used to love talking to the late Dan McCool about the rich history of the North Central Conference, and Eagle Grove. I think one of my former teammates eluded to it before, but  Like I said earlier, Eagle Grove only has State Champs and Runner-ups on a board in the room. I grew up not knowing a lot of GREAT wrestlers that weren’t on those boards. Everyday I remember walking into that room and looking at those boards. I just wanted my name to be a part of that tradition, and I did it. It wasn’t the board I wanted to be on, but my name is on a board in that same room that MADE a lot of great wrestlers and is still making some to this day. 

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Coaching… There are many. I’m not going to be able to point out any one particular accomplishment, because when you are a coach there are many different things people consider accomplishments and there are different levels of accomplishments that will positively impact individual people for the rest of their lives. I could go on and on, but I don’t want to do too much rambling or people will probably stop reading. 

 

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

High School; JD Naig, JJ Butteris, Dustin Bliven, Nate VanDyke.  I’m pretty sure my 2001 bracket a couple more state champions in it, Drahos, Linden, not sure who else. College; Tom Meester, Ryan Sturm, TJ Miller, Ken Ware.

 

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

Seasonal, I played football, Golf/Track, and baseball. Knowing now how much freestyle wrestling helps you. If I could go back I would wrestle a lot more year round. 

 

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

This is a question that I always say it’s tough to compare, because wrestling has evolved so much. There would be GREAT matches regardless! 

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yeah for a few years I wrestled at Buena Vista University for Al Baxter. Then I started coaching at Storm Lake with Ty Seaman, then Glenwood with Matt Dyer, and later became the Head Coach. 

 

What other sports did you play?

Football, Golf/Track, Baseball 

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Iowa State, I was born in Ames and have been a little cyclone since I was young. New England Patriots, I always got the bandwagon comment when I said this, but I have my Starter jacket to prove it. As I’ve grown up though I’ve just become more of a fan of Sports in general and I think that is just because I’m competitive. 

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

It’s not a hobby but I’m a Husband to Breann, a father to Brody(9) and Brynn(4), I do enjoy playing with my kids, some good family time, golfing, and cattle.

 

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

I love coaching and I feel like I gave back a little bit to the sport, or I at least tried my best. My giving back will continue in the future though with my son Brody still wrestling. 

Luke Reiland and I also gave something back to the infamous Eagle wrestling room wall in 2001, We made large cutouts that are still there. It says “Eagle Wrestling Room of Champions”, and he was then able to become that Champion in 2002.  I hope it continues to make those young men/women believe that they can put their name on those boards one day.

 

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

The quote “Once you’ve wrestled, Everything in life is easy! Is 100% true. Without this sport it would’ve been very hard to get through some of those tough situations and times. Wrestling made me very mentally tough. The conditioning was not only physical but mental. People truly don’t know what wrestlers are talking about, and wrestlers are often looked at as unique individuals. . 

 

What do you do now?

I was a Teacher/Coach at Glenwood Community Schools for 13 years, but I changed routes and I just finished my first year in a new role as Director of Operations at Brumfield Angus Farms, based out of Michigan and Montana. 

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I am at the youth level. I try to help the Glenwood Wrestling Club when I can, but I’ve also tried to allow the new staff to transition without me being involved at any of the other levels. 

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

I like to use quotes. As a coach I would have quotes posted throughout the wrestling room. Some of my favorites are very long, so I won’t write those and I’m sure you’re going to think I’m long winded. “You only get what you earn!”-Brands I believe said this, and I used to always tell my kids that you either Win or you learn, I’m not sure who quoted that. These kids need to take advantage of all the opportunities that are available, not only in wrestling. We only live once, so why would you want to live the rest of your life with regret. Read books; There are some great motivational books out there. Do anything that motivates you, and do good in school because you’re a Student/ Athlete. 

 

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

I think I wrestled in one of these after college. I still continued to wrestle a lot year ‘round when I was coaching. I would’ve definitely been in shape to wrestle in one, but I’m going to have to say that my body wouldn’t be able to handle it anymore. 

 

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

I would actually like to give a shoutout to my parents and all of my other family members that came to support me throughout my career. I’m pretty sure they watched every match I wrestled, no matter where it was. I tried my best to thank them everytime they came, but thanks for your support. My teammates and the Eagle Grove Wrestling Family/Fan base. It was a blast, and I would do it all over again if I could. To the wrestlers I coached, thank you for all the great memories.

 

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

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to reminisce about my wrestling career. Like I told you before, I’m surprised we’ve never really officially met, (other than a couple times on the mat with you being the victor), but I really enjoy reading these articles and other things you post about wrestling in the state of Iowa. There are many more worthy people than myself to hear from and I can’t wait to read them all. I wish you the best of luck and look forward to following more from The Pin Doctors in the future.  

 

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In 1995, Jason Keenan became the  first of two 4X state champions from Ogden, the second being Jesse Sundell when he won his 4th in 2001. The total amount of combined losses between those two wrestlers is 2, with both of them having one loss apiece. To my understanding, Keenan’s only loss was by a controversial disqualification for running an illegal chicken wing. So the man was never actually beaten in a conventional manner. He was as close to flawless as a guy can get… So why is it that you don’t hear his name as much as you hear other 4X state champions that won their 4th titles around the same time he did, like Jeff McGinness from IC High who won his 4th in 1993 and Eric Juergens from Maquoketa who won his on 1996? My guess is because Keenan decided to ride bulls professionally after graduating high school opposed to wrestling in college. And in my opinion, when discussing the greatest Iowa HIGH SCHOOL wrestler of all-time, you can’t hold that against someone. I will never hold something against someone that is beyond their control OR if they pursued other ventures in life that brought them more happiness. It does not take away the fact that Jason Keenan was a borderline flawless wrestler who won 4 titles and was absolutely dominant in doing so.

Both Ogden guys, Keenan and Sundell had a couple of the most emotional 4th state title matches in terms of when you watch it, you can just tell that they were feeling an immense amount of pressure to win and when they did so, a gigantic weight was lifted off their shoulders. And Keenan was an inspiration for Jesse Sundell to the point where Sundell has credited Keenan as being a guy who was so influential that it enabled him to find it within himself to win his own 4 titles.

The way Keenan wrestled was fun to watch for a guy like myself who loves watching wrestlers who are persistent on pinning their opponent from the top position opposed to the “takedown clinic” style that more and more wrestlers implement into their games as time goes on. Jason Keenan almost resembled Dan Knight from Clinton in that regard and seemed to operate by the philosophy that Wade Schalles from the University of Pennsylvania preached of providing “intense legal discomfort” to give himself an edge and an advantage to accomplish what it was that he was best at… winning. Not to say that he was mean or dirty, for he was most certainly not that. He was just physical, tough and would put opponents through a gauntlet if he had to in order to ensure that he walked off the mat victorious.

So does Jason Keenan have a case for the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler? 119 wins, 1 loss by means of an illegal arm-bar, 4 state championships and surely passes the eye-test. Can someone provide an argument as to why on Earth he wouldn’t have a case?!

 

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Sundell and Galanakis were two elite wrestlers with one common goal and a mutual burning determination to reach it and they both had their own unique ways of attaining it.

Jesse Sundell: My style was very calculated. I was the ability to never get panicked or scared during a match. Even if I was behind, I knew I had to keep wrestling my style. If I panicked and started getting desperate I was going to take myself out of the match and I was always aware of this.

Mario Galanakis: I let things fly and didn’t think much. I just wrestled. I remember being a little nervous before the first match, but out of all the matches I ever wrestled in my entire life I have never stepped onto the mat with anyone who I didn’t believe I could beat. Losing never crossed my mind whether it was to my opponent or myself. I had full confidence in myself that I was going to win every match against Jesse. Even knowing that he was a three time undefeated state champ going for his fourth. And it was never anything personal against him, it was the challenge that fueled me!

So after months of intense flame wars on the wrestling message boards, the first battle took place at sectionals. The grueling 3 months of the regular season, in which hundreds of arguments, threats, personal attacks, troll-jobs, etc. had taken place between wrestling fans not only from Nodaway Valley and Ogden, but across the entire state, had concluded. The moment for the first battle had finally arrived.

Mario Galanakis: The first match was at sectionals and it just so happened to be at my home school of Nodaway Valley. Our gym was pretty small compared to a lot of schools, but I remember there was not an empty spot inside there including the floor. There were people from all over the state that had skipped their own sectional just to come watch this match. Just like the saying goes, to be the best you have to beat the best, and that’s what I was intending on doing that day. I won a close match that day and still to this day that is one of my most memorable matches of my entire career. I’m pretty sure it was 1-1 with maybe 30 seconds or so left and I scored a takedown to win the match at the end.

Jesse Sundell: We wrestled our first match in Greenfield. This did not go well for me. I was undefeated in my entire high school career leading up to that day which happened to be two weeks before my high school career was to conclude. Looking back on my first match, I realized that I was not prepared for it. At the time I felt confident, but I really didn’t have a game plan. There wasn’t a lot of tape available back then. I wasn’t ready for Mario to wrestle on the edge. Every shot I had on him it seemed like we would be called out of bounds. He got a takedown on me right at the end of the third and was able to hold me down to get the win.

The verdict was in. The Mario believers were correct. Mario was the real deal and was a legit threat to defeat anyone he faced and he proved this by beating who was widely believed to be and just may be the best pound for pound, class for class wrestler in Iowa high school wrestling in that era. Mario had wrestled what he described as one of the most memorable matches of his career, while Jesse had experienced a personal nightmare that would be tough for anyone to swallow, given what was on the line. But Jesse was a tough person and was hit hard, but was able to recover in a situation where a lesser man would have been broken.

Jesse Sundell: I felt a lot of mixed emotions. At first I was crushed that I wasn’t going to be able to finish my career off undefeated. I remember getting up shaking his hand and then I sat in a hall right outside their gym. The longer I sat, the more I realized that my goals and season were not over. I might have lost the chance to go undefeated but my ultimate goal was to win 4 state titles. I could sit there and cash everything in or I could get to practice and work on finishing what I had set out to do.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still think about that match a lot and at times wish I could wrestle it over, but at the same time it made me refocus and took some of the pressure off of me and let me have fun again. The next week we created a game plan and we had my step brother, Tyler Grieser, wrestle a similar style to how Mario had wrestled me the first match. We knew if we were going to be able to win I had to get some takedowns on him.

So Mario won the first match. That means he proved he belonged in the discussion with Jesse and that anyone who believed otherwise naturally accepted this as fact and did so with total peace, right? The fans no longer had anything to fight about, right? Everyone got along from this point forward, for the results were in…and those results indicated that both guys were elite. No one could possibly dispute this, right? WRONG. The arguing became more incessant. The fans inched even closer to their side of the fence. The insults became more venomous. The emotional investment multiplied as did general interest for fans on a state-wide level.

Jesse Sundell: The second match (districts) was at Guthrie Center. I remember the second match at Guthrie being the most intense, loudest environment I have ever seen in a school gym. Guthrie had bleachers brought out on the one side of the mat, so all three sides were surrounded. I remember looking back at tape and noticing everyone in that gym was watching that match. Both our fan bases were getting into it and our Superintendent had his arms around my brother to make sure he was kept in check and refrained from fighting! I had a game plan this time. My game plan the second match was to make him wrestle in the center of the mat. If he would back up to the edge, I would go back to the center and make him come back to me. I had to keep the action in the center if I was going to get TD’s. The part that stands out the most for me in the second match was getting in on a single leg and pulling him back toward the center to finish the shot. Once I finished the take down, I could feel the momentum change.

Mario Galanakis: The next week we went to Guthrie Center for districts. Another close match that came down to the wire, I think I was trailing 3-1 and I hit him with a pancake type move right at the end of the match to tie it up, but I couldn’t keep him down and he escaped to win 4-3. The atmosphere for both matches was just electric. I had never seen or experienced anything like it before and certainly haven’t since. Fans from our squads were seething with intensity, several of them having to be restrained from fighting. Fans across the state prioritized witnessing these matches over watching their own kids at Sectionals/Districts. It was insane.

So the first two anticipated battles came and went and to any wrestling fan with a pulse, they did not disappoint. The next anticipated matchup would be the Grand-Daddy of them all. At “the barn” in Des Moines the following Saturday…the state wrestling finals. By this point, the tension may not have been eased, but surely, it didn’t progress, did it? The fans could stay away from each other’s throats, at least until the following Saturday, right? Ha, well… if you think that was even a possibility of being the case, then you haven’t been reading.

Jesse Sundell: One thing that alot of my teammates/friends still talk about was a t-shirt he wore at state. Now I don’t know the whole story or if it is even true because I never saw it, but they say Mario had a T-shirt he wore at state that said “You can’t ride this Bull”. Coming from me breaking my leg my Junior year bull riding.

Mario Galanakis: The rumors about the T-shirt were 100%…true. All my Creston boys like Chris Louden, Gustafson the Larkin’s and Boone Hayes had them made after I beat him at Sectionals. Then they all wore them at state. They said “Watch Out Sundell, You Can’t Ride this Bull”…with a picture of me on them.

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I originally knew Mario as “Manolis Galanakis’s brother.” Manolis beat me in the consolation semis at state as a third grader and I never saw him again. Never heard the last name, Galanakis until 3-4 years later when Manolis’s younger brother, Mario, beat one of the best guys in our youth club, Chris Johnson (WB-ND) at AAU state. He reminded me a lot of his brother.  INSANELY tough to score on. Mario appeared to be the same way… he was also able to rack up the score with his offense. Just an incredible wrestler.

Mario Galanakis: I wrestled for the first time when I was four years old. My older brother, Manolis started doing it when he was five and I was immediately on board. My dad didn’t know anything about the sport at first so it was always my mom waking us up at five am traveling to all the local little kids meets. A few years went by and my brother and I were making a name for ourselves around the area. My dad caught the bug and started making my mom stay at home so he could take us. We were both very successful at a young age. We both made it to state every year. The best I ever got was second, losing to Trent Paulson. I’d say he was one of my bigger rivals as a kid. Having my brother, Manolis as someone to look up to and us two always trying to out-do one another is something that I believe made us both very good!

When Mario and Jesse collided, Jesse had already won three state titles already and hadn’t lost a high school match. Mario’s resume did not match Jesse’s, but he had a reputation of having an incredibly high ceiling. People knew he was really good. He had his share of believers, despite not having the resume Jesse had coming in.

Mario Galanakis: I placed fifth as a Freshman. I lost to Joe Reiter from Don Bosco in the Semis and Luke Foor from Wapello to go for fifth and sixth. Sophomore year, I was undefeated going into state and lost to Dustin Hinschberger from Belle Plain in the Quarterfinals. I came back and got third.

Jesse Sundell: I knew he was a great wrestler. He had placed all two years prior to us meeting and he had been in my bracket before and had seen the wrestlers he had defeated. I knew he was going to come at me with everything he had.

Mario Galanakis became a household name to my family when I was a sophomore in high school. The year was 1999 and one of the best things to happen to Mediapolis wrestling occurred. Mediapolis hired a new superintendent who was an avid, passionate wrestling fan and had an extensive wrestling background. His name is Fred Whipple, a former DIvision II National Qualifier, wrestling official and wrestling coach. He came to Mediapolis from Nodaway Valley. One of Fred’s sons is named Kirk who quickly became one of my best friends. When Kirk was at Nodaway Valley, he was best friends with Mario Galanakis. And he and his dad swore that Mario was one of the most gifted wrestlers they had ever seen. The guys on the Mediapolis wrestling team heard approximately 10,000 stories about Mario and what he did and/or was capable of doing. And we believed every bit of it, for the Whipple’s knew wrestling.

Fred Whipple: The seven years I spent at Greenfield-Nodaway Valley were great years. The next seven were great years. They had a rich tradition of Baier’s, Christensen’s, Swoyer’s, Benton’s, Wallace’s, Riley’s and of course Mario Galanakis. Kirk and Mario were and still are great friends as is my son-in-law, JJ Cooper (state champ from Wilton) and Mario. I loved those years and Mario was clearly a key to keeping the tradition alive. Ironically, prior to that, I was a wrestling coach at South Hamilton Jewel where I became good friends with Brian Reimers, Jesse Sundell’s coach.

When the Sundell-Galanakis debates started to unravel on the message boards, many people took the stance of, “Sundell has never lost a match and dominates everyone. Why should he worry about Galanakis? The kid is a year younger and has yet to win a title.” I understand this logic, especially since I knew precisely how good Jesse was. If the conversation were about ANY other wrestler in the state, I would have likely just thought, “stupid debate, no one will ever beat Jesse in high school, for he is the best wrestler that I’ve seen” and moved along, but this was the Mario Galanakis kid we heard so much about. And that whole year, the Whipple’s insisted that Mario was capable of going with Sundell. So I paid attention. I didn’t dare get in the middle of the arguments, for both sides were becoming progressively infuriated with each other as the year went on, but my interest was surely sparked, if not for the matchup itself, for the Jerry Springer-esque cyber-fights that took place every day on the message boards leading up to the matchup.

Jesse Sundell: It really started my Senior year. The online message boards had just started to come out. Looking back on it, sometimes I wonder if it would have exploded as big as it did if it weren’t for the message boards. Lots of people were trash-talking each other, picking sides, etc. It is crazy to think how crazy things got with Mario and I when neither one of us had done anything at all to get it started.

Mario Galanakis: I have always respected Jesse and always will. A very good person who treated me with respect as well. I had tons of respect for him back then, which may surprise people, for there was a lot of talk about us. A lot of message board flame wars about us. I was never involved in any of that and as far as I know, I don’t believe Jesse was either. Whoever it was, they sure did a good job of building up our matches!

This war was scheduled to take place in the postseason, starting with sectionals, followed by districts and if all went as everyone expected, concluding in the state finals. On paper and according to their resumes at that time, Sundell had the upper-hand, but Mario was set on changing the course:

Mario Galanakis: Going into my Junior year, Sundell was the target I was aiming for. A lot of people may not know this, but the year before, I took third in the bracket where he won his third title. And I would have wrestled him that year at state had I not been beaten in the quarters by Dustin Hinschberger from Belle Plaine. I was winning that match 4-1 with 12 seconds left and riding him out when he hit me with a whip over or something. I lost in the last seconds. Sundell beat Hinschberger in the semis and went on to win the bracket that year. Luckily I wrestled Hinschberger for third and got a little redemption back from the loss, but had my mind set on a state title that year also. I knew Sundell would be in my bracket again the next year and I was gonna prepare myself to be ready for him.

Mario had several supporters, believers, etc. throughout the entire season, but his uncle stood out as being someone who went above and beyond when it came to helping him prepare to defeat Sundell.

Mario Galanakis: My Uncle Dan Hayes helped me prepare a lot. He is Creston standouts, Boone and Beau’s dad. He is Creston state champ, Andrew Hayes’s uncle also. After my sophmore year Dan was the one getting me prepared for Sundell. I remember him making me tape a picture of Sundell that he had clipped out of the register on my bedroom door so that I would work harder that off season. He always pushed me to be better and had a huge impact on the success I had! Definitely my number one fan! He skipped Boone’s sectionals and districts that year to be at mine.

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In 1979, Jeff Kerber became the state of Iowa’s second four-time state champion. A drought that lasted 17 long years from the time that Bob Steenlage of Britt, became the first to accomplish that feat back in 1962. Kerber’s mid to late 70’s performances elevated the threshold for both greatness and perfection.  During his high school prep career, Kerber went a spectacular 126-0 between 1976-79 to become just the second multiple-state titled wrestler on record to finish a career without a loss. Got a clue as to who the first was?  Ah, yeah – Dan Gable (finished his prep career undefeated but won only 3 state titles).

At the pivitol moment in Kerber’s young wrestling journey, it just so happened that Dan Gable, was coming off his 1972 Olympic gold medal victory, and was the role model that Jeff Kerber had in mind when he began his assault on the Iowa state record books, becoming the first “undefeated” four time state champion in Iowa history in 1979… Gable provided a new model, one of inspiration that focused on dominance and perfection. It was his model of “doing BIG things” on the wrestling mat in regards to setting his goals, and ultimately becoming one of the young studs that helped Emmetsburg capture four straight class 2A team titles at the same time he was showing the rest of the Iowa wrestling world what the new standard looks like.

The sport of wrestling was beginning an evolution in the early 1970’s that would pave the way for Iowa wrestling nationally in the future, building on and using youth programs to advance the sport. Kerber would ultimately create a new “road map” for how to prepare one’s self to be a valid contender for winning a state title right out of the gate, ready to compete as a 9th grader against all comers.

The road map revolutionized Iowa wrestling and was the product of a father’s unselfish and unwavering dedication to helping his son (and anyone who wanted to come along for the ride when car space was available) advance and improve. It really was a road map, as it was a plan based on lots of travel… with the goal of gaining competition experience wrestling nationally and throughout Iowa from 3rd grade through 8th, and going to lots of camps with excellent coaches and instructors. Then bringing that knowledge back home and introducing those advanced techniques to the Emmetsburg wrestling team. It was Jeff’s dad, John and Bill Gibbons who rented a gym and held a state AAU tournament so that wrestlers from Iowa could qualify for the national tournament. And as a result, Jeff Kerber was miles ahead of his fellow freshman when the 1975-76 wrestling season began.

Raising the bar in Iowa high school wrestling is what the GOAT discussion is all about, and Jeff Kerber is THE candidate that opened the floodgates for the next round of 4-Timer’s to push through.

Over the next decade, Iowa wrestling would see five more 4-Timer’s get crowned following in the wake of Kerber’s footsteps and opening the door to their own claims as Iowa wrestling’s GOAT.

Jeff Kerber won his 1st state title in the 2A 98lbs weight class with a (1-0) decision over Jeff Hannum of Pleasant Valley in the 1976 state tournament and finishing with an unblemished record of 31-0.

In 1977, Kerber moved up 2 weight classes to the 2A 112lbs class and locked horns in the finals with 1976’s returning state champ at 105lbs – Tracy Moore of Roland Story and became a feature match of 2 state champions, both with aspirations of becoming future 4-timers. Kerber came out victorious beating Moore by a score of 6-2. This solidified Kerber’s standing as a legit contender for a 4-title crown earner. From this point on, you could bet ALL eyes would be on the young man from Emmetsburg and their program as they dominated the class for the 2A team title. Kerber again finished the year with an undefeated 31-0 record.

The next season (1978) would turn into a doozy as Kerber locked down his 3rd straight state title at 119lbs, advancing through the rounds and capping his junior season off with an 11-3 victory over Bill Pfantz of West Marshall, finishing his season with a perfect 32-0 record.

In his 1979 senior season campaign, Kerber left nothing to chance and pounded his way to that pinnacle moment by pinning his field of opponents and achieving what no one else had done in 17 years. In the finals of the 2A 126lbs weight class Jeff pinned his opponent Todd Fey of Central (Dewitt) in 5:18 and brought the full capacity crowd to their feet in a long standing ovation that celebrated his tremendous achievement with him, and his team, and of course his coach – Bob Roethler, who the E-Hawks lost for most of the 1978-79 season because of an aneurysm and just made it back via wheel chair to inspire and spur on his team! Kerber capped his final season with another perfect 32-0 record and his HS career, ending with a phenomenal 126-0 record.

During his HS career he also was a 3-time national high school champion and wrestled for the Junior World team in Mongolia in 1979.

Having watched 2 of his state titles and performances in 1977 and 1978 personally, I can attest to his tenaciousness and his technique… he was one of those wrestlers that you made time for watching his matches. I didn’t watch many lower weight kids back then, mainly because of their youth and seeming inexperience. But Jeff Kerber was different!  He wasn’t just a phenom that first year… he was impressive in a manner of wrestling maturity that separated him from the rest of the field at his weight, and you literally stopped what you were doing to watch him go about his business on the mat – and brother, “business was a booming” when it came to the talent he displayed throughout his high school career!

Jeff Kerber was the Iowa HS Wrestling GOAT of the decade in the 1970’s… there should be little to dispute that. Whether he is the all-time GOAT???  His case can be made by what he accomplished, and he definitely raised the bar for how “ELITE” level competition in Iowa is defined. Kerber was the second IA high school wrestler to join that elite group called 4x-State Champions, and the very first to accomplish that feat going undefeated!

He became the model and the “trailblazer” of his time, and an example that others used to follow in his footsteps and the new standard to measure greatness at that level, and was honored as such with his 2007 induction to the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Jeff Kerber winning 4th consecutive IA wrestling state title

Jeff Kerber at “Wrestling with Iowa” – wonderful interview!

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T.J. Sebolt. Many people these days know him as a successful club coach in Iowa, but did you realize that he used to wrestle?!?! Not only did he used to wrestle, but he was one of the best to ever do it at the HS level in the state of Iowa.

How would I describe T.J. Sebolt to someone who wasn’t fortunate enough to see him wrestle in person? He was like the most relentless of typhoons that was hell-bent on coming after you. He moved in one direction and that was “towards you.” He was a technician in the sense where he not only executed the moves correctly, he did the minute, fine details correctly as well and he did so quickly, fluently, ferociously and RELENTLESSLY. If you were wrestling against Sebolt, you weren’t going to be given a millisecond of a break. He was going to come after you until the whistle sounded. It was as if the wrestling mat was his home and he was the world’s best guard dog. It was like when he stepped on the mat, he was able to part ways with any fear, anxiety, apprehension, etc. that he may have had in life and was able to be in a world that brought him the most satisfaction. That mat was HIS territory, it was HIS home and if you dared try to take it from him, he would come at you with the ferocity of a hyped up pit bull. It was fun to watch.

T.J. was a 4X State champion and finished with a career record of 207-1. His one loss was against a kid from Park Hill Missouri named Ryan Moyer, a loss that T.J. avenger the following summer in freestyle.

When I watched T.J. wrestle, I felt like I was witnessing something that was so good that he obviously had a skill-set that could not be duplicated. That he had skills that he was just born with and can not be taught… This was an incorrect observation for this guy is an integral piece in the development of several of Iowa’s current best wrestlers like Cullan Schriever from Mason City, Caleb Rathjen from Ankeny, Drake Ayala from Fort Dodge, etc. Guys that will have or already do have their own GOAT arguments.

Was T.J. Sebolt the GOAT?! Listen, if you don’t think he has a case, you either have to not know what you are looking at when you watch wrestling, you may be in denial, you may have never seen him or you may be just a straight-up hater to think he does not have a case for the GOAT. I’ve mentioned him as my own pick that I go back and forth with several times.

 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s begin with Jesse. I’ll never forget meeting Jesse Sundell. I met the guy at the 1997 AAU State Tournament. He was in my grade. He and I were wrestling in the “C” Division aka Junior High. He was in the 100 lb. weight class while I wrestled in the 110 lb. weight class. That year, Jesse and I were in the same area of the gym for most of the tournament, for we were both on the winner’s side of the bracket for the majority of the tournament (in his case, the entire tournament). The winner’s side matches were generally all wrestled on the same mats. Since I started wrestling, I was pretty social with the competition. I talked wrestling with pretty much any wrestler in my age group who liked talking wrestling as much as I did. For a lot of guys, associating with the competition wasn’t their thing, but every once in a while, I’d meet someone like Brett Wheelan who had a better wrestling stats memory than me and liked to talk wrestling even more than I did. I spent hours talking to these types of people. When I initiated a conversation with Jesse for the first time ever, as we were standing by our assigned mat, I quickly found out that he was a guy who loved talking wrestling also. He knew who everyone was and what they had done and who beat who at which tournament and so on. I remember thinking that he was one of the nicest, coolest people I had ever met. He had tons of knowledge of the sport and those who participated in it and was totally respectful when discussing his opponents. However, he was 100% confident in his own ability to win and for good reason.

In the semifinal round at that tournament, I was on-deck to wrestle Garrett Kozik from Belle Plaine when Jesse was on the mat wrestling a guy from my area who was a standout in my area, (Southeast Iowa) since he began. This guy placed high at state every year and eventually won state as a senior in high school, which means I watched him dominate our local competition for twelve years. I had seen him take losses, always hard-fought, but I never personally witnessed him ever being defeated in a manner in which he was dominated vs. Sundell. I didn’t expect to see what went down in that match. I had no idea that Jesse was so good. In fact, when he walked on the mat, I thought to myself, “cool, a chance to see Wade Sundell’s brother wrestle a guy that I know. I wonder if he is good like his brother?” About four seconds after thinking this, two things happened: 1.) The match started and 2.) Jesse had this guy on his back. That’s right, I knew Sundell was the real deal after four seconds of watching him wrestle. My train of thought was along the lines of, “ok wrestling world. Say hello to THIS guy…Jesse Sundell.” Jesse proceeded to tech-fall this guy about half-way through the seconnd period. I couldn’t believe what I had witnessed. “Where on Earth did this kid come from and how is it possible to be THAT good,” I thought to myself as I plodded onto the mat to wrestle my own semifinals match vs. Kozik. About two minutes later, I was bawling under the bleachers because Kozik pinned me in the second period. I no longer knew Jesse as “Wade’s brother.” He was Jesse…freakin…Sundell.

Jesse Sundell: Ha! that was a fun tournament. That is when I finally made the jump. I started beating guys that had been taking it to me the years before. I had wrestled a guy named Kris Thayer from Odebolt-Arthur the year before and he always beat me. I finally got him the last match of my seventh grade year and that was the turning point. That was the confidence I needed. I never lost to him again. Crazy how you can make things turn around like that. I made a bet with my step brother that I was going to pin and tech my way through that 1997 AAU State bracket. I beat Shawn Alexander in the finals by major. I lost the bet! Hahaha!

Jesse began wrestling at a young age. He and his brother were the first of his family to try it and they progressively took it more and more seriously as time went on.

Jesse Sundell: None of my family members wrestled prior to Wade and I. Wade and I wrestled from second grade(me) and first grade (Wade). We would wrestle in the winter and play baseball and do rodeo in the summer. When we were younger, wrestling was seasonal. When we got into high school, we started to do some freestyle in Fort Dodge with Mike Rial. We also did some of this over in Ames. Wrestling freestyle really helped make me feel more comfortable in positions. I felt it was crucial in allowing you to detect and feel different openings from different positions that you could capitalize on.

When Jesse stepped on the accelerator of his wrestling growth, he stepped hard and never let up. When Jesse was finished with his high school campaign in 2001, he secured a permanent spot of being undeniably classified as one of the greatest ever Iowa high school wrestlers, for he became Iowa’s 12th ever four time state champion (and Ogden’s second, joining Jason Keenan).

Jesse Sundell: I would say the wrestler that was the most influential to me growing up was Jason Keenan(Ogden’s other four time state champion). He was the one I set all of my goals after. He had set the bar and I wanted to be next to him.

Jesse did things that defied logic. In fact, to this day, the most astonishing thing I’ve ever witnessed anyone accomplish on a wrestling mat was something he did at the state tournament his junior year. He won his third state title in dominating fashion in a bracket that included the likes of Galanakis and future state champs, Aaron Helmrich of North Linn and Dustin Hinschberger of Belle Plain. An impressive feat in itself, but unexplainable when considering the fact that he did this with a broken leg that he suffered in a bull riding accident…

Jesse Sundell: The high point of my high school wrestling career was winning my third title my junior year. I had a compound fracture, breaking both the tibia and fibula in my right leg. This occurred in a bull-riding accident that occurred on Labor Day weekend. I remember the doctor coming in after I had broke it and told me that I wouldn’t be able to get back on the mat until March. I told him that was not going to work, for I had state wrestling in February. He told me that there was no way I could see the mat by then. I was back in the room and practicing at the end of December and wrestled my first match of that year in January. Looking back, there was no way I should have been wrestling. I was limping around still. I had to completely change my style of wrestling. I learned more mental toughness and perseverance through that season than any other. Being able to go 26-0 that year and win my third state title was the hardest obstacle I have ever had to overcome. I gave up rodeo after that year to stay healthy for wrestling, although rodeo will always be part of who the Sundell’s are as a family. My dad was a very successful at rodeoing. He rode bareback, bulls and saddle bronc. Later in his career just rode saddle bronc. Won multiple titles for the state of Iowa associations and also regional titles. Would travel to rodeos on the weekends to watch him ride. Growing up, my brother and I dreamed about traveling together riding professionally. We started out riding sheep, moved up to calves, then steers, then bulls. We are big into it. My brother, Wade has continued to ride and is one of the top Saddle bronc riders in the world. I had pretty good success riding bulls. I won some local buckles and was just getting ready to start attending larger rodeos until I broke my leg.

Entering the postseason of his Senior year, Jesse was in the process of putting together a high school wrestling season that was flawless. With three weeks left to go in his entire high school career, not only had he won state the previous three years, but he had yet to lose a match. And nothing indicated that he was in jeopardy of not becoming an undefeated four time state champion, for he beat everyone he faced soundly. No one really seemed to come close to beating Sundell. Therefore, when a group of fans began publicly voicing their opinions that a guy in the grade below him named Mario Galanakis from Nodaway Valley was going to beat Jesse, starting with their first anticipated showdown at Sectionals, it was confusing to many wrestling fans who hadn’t even witnessed a visible kink in Jesse’s armor. And the Galanakis movement through the course of the season continued to gain more steam and steadily, but surely, more and more fans continued to jump aboard the “Galanakis Train.” But why? Why were so many people clamoring for Galanakis to win, when Sundell’s career to that point was unblemished and close to perfection? Who was this kid and was the Galanakis Train legit or was it another rendition of the hype train?

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“I remember the second match at Guthrie Center being the most intense, loudest environment I have ever seen in a school gym. Guthrie had bleachers brought out on the one side of the mat, so all three sides were surrounded. I remember looking back at tape and noticing everyone in that gym was watching that match. Both our fan bases were getting into it and our Superintendent had his arms around my brother to make sure he was kept in check and refrained from fighting! People skipped out on watching their own squads compete at districts, just so they could see our match.”

– Jesse Sundell, Ogden

 

”The atmosphere for both matches was just electric. I had never seen or experienced anything like it before and certainly haven’t since. Fans from our squads were seething with intensity, several of them having to be restrained from fighting. Fans across the state prioritized witnessing these matches over watching their own kids at Sectionals/Districts. It was insane.”

– Mario Galanakis, Nodaway-Valley

 

“I wanted to beat Sundell and stop him from getting his fourth. I knew Galanakis was good, but didn’t start thinking about him until he beat Sundell. After Galanakis beat Sundell, I felt a little overlooked because everyone was expecting a repeat of that match in the finals. I was pumped when the brackets came out. Sundell was on the opposite side, for a potential semifinal matchup with Galanakis was what I wanted. I was very confident that I could beat both.”

-Chris Helgeson, Lake Mills

This rivalry was one of the most heated ones I remember. The year was 2001 and like every year, the pool was filled with a variety of wrestlers who had goals of making up for their shortcomings or securing their perfection at the high school level. This rivalry was between a couple guys who were from squads with fanbases that were loyal, vocal and emotionally invested in the outcome. People (fans) lost sleep over this match-up, whether it was due to being anxious about it, contemplating it or being upset because an opposing fan disagreed with their opinion…and in venomous fashion. And most of the vigorous fighting amongst fans took place on something that was fairly new at the time…the Iowa wrestling message boards.

Now, I am widely associated with message boards. I have posted on the Iowa wrestling message boards since their emergence in 2000, when I was a junior in high school. This is how a lot of people either know or will always remember me…a longtime message board guy. With that said, I have seen some heated flame wars on the forums in the past 19 years.  I have participated in them and have never shied away from stating my opinions or even engaging in flame-warfare myself on these boards. However, this is one battle that I wouldn’t even consider commenting on. Things got nasty and personal. People legitimately hated each other in these debates. Not only was it the most rabid and intense that I have ever seen people act on them, but the arguments pertained to two people that I really liked and respected on a personal level as well as having the utmost respect for their wrestling talents.

This is a story about a three week demolition derby that initially involved two wrestlers, with a third wrestler busting down the door and joining the mayhem at the end. This collision resulted in a fire…a fire that was already intense and uncontainable, but was made more so uncontrollable when gasoline was thrown on to it in the form of message board flame wars between the fans. This is the story of the war between an actual cowboy from Ogden and the son of a man who came to America from Greece on an oil tanker in the 1970’s. This was between an accomplished bull-rider vs. a prodigy in the restaurant business It was The Wild West meets Ancient Athens. Billy the Kid meets Alexander the Great. And an additional warrior crashed the war at the conclusion, when everyone thought it was a foregone conclusion that the victor would either be the cowboy or the Spartan…catching several fans and spectators by surprise. Brace yourselves, for you are about to relive the unforgettable three week collision course between Jesse Sundell of Ogden and Mario Galanakis of Nodaway Valley in 2001 as well as collision course crasher, Chris Helgeson of Lake Mills.

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This one is a long-time coming for me, for I was way, way late to jump aboard the Jarion Beets train compared to some.  This man had a pretty large crowd of adamant and supportive believers by the time I even heard his name for the first time and they sure let me know how silly it was for anyone to have ever doubted him.  His crowd loved him and were vocal about it, as they should have been.  So here is the story:

The first time I ever heard of him was when he defeated the ranked #1 guy in the state and future Hawkeye, Jake Kerr from Oskaloosa.  I was a message board warrior at the time and when I first saw that this happened, I logged on to the popular Iowa HS wrestling forum back then, which was Iowa Preps.  I was probably considered one of the top 2-3 most insightful posters on the board at that time, to boot and it was rare for me to receive a response similar to the one that I received when I inquired about Beets.  To start, I created a thread and in this thread, I don’t know why, but I spelled his name wrong.  I accidentally titled the thread, “Marion Beets Upsets Jake Kerr At State.”  I don’t know why I wrote his name as “Marion.” I don’t know if I misread his name on my state book, or if I was thinking about Montell Marion when I wrote it or what, but when I posted this thread, basically I was like, “who is this kid? Is he the real deal?”  And holy cow, did they let me hear it.  The first response indicated their disgust in me for getting his first name wrong. I am glad they did that.  I HATE writing the wrong name for someone or misspelling their names.  I am glad when people are harsh on me for doing so, for I don’t ever want to make that mistake again.  And after I was lashed for that, the next couple dozen responses had to do with how it wasn’t an upset to them for they knew how good their guy was and that we were simply late to the party and that I was silly for not catching on to that more quickly.  Several people chimed in saying things such as, “I told you so,” “now do you finally believe,” “Jarion is one of the most talented guys in the state that noone knows about,” “will people finally give Jarion the respect he deserves,” etc.  I had clearly struck a nerve and for someone who takes pride in generally pinpointing wrestling talent earlier on in the process, I felt pretty silly for not knowing who he was.  I never forgot, though!!! And Jarion continued to pick up wins at the D1 level, in which he was a teammate of my brother, Justin’s.  Whenever I’d see Justin, I’d try to pick his brain about who was doing well in the room and who was legit and how he would do against who and when I would ask about Jarion, his eyebrows would raise and he would say something along the lines of, “yeah that kid is legit. A raw talent. And he is just scratching the surface in how good he can be.”  I was 100% sold… Justin doesn’t just dish out compliments like that to anyone…especially in that phase of his life where he was starting to become somewhat bitter towards how wrestling was going for him.  

With all that said, I should have known about Jarion Beets sooner and am excited to know the full story.  Hopefully this makes up for my inadvertent ignorance of when I didn’t realize who he was, for he is universally described by his wrestling peers as one of the most talented wrestlers they ever came across.  

SIDENOTE: After reading this, I can’t help, but think how this man would have done had he started earlier.  Maybe a 3-4 time state champ, for real. Some of his answers straight up got me pumped.  Jarion Beets is the man!!!

 

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

I wrestled for Cedar Rapids Kennedy, also Cedar Hawk wrestling club while in high school. While in college I wrestled at UNI and Panther Wrestling club.

 

What year did you graduate?

Graduated high School 2006 and college 2011.

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

I had a friend on the team named Luke Dolan and he always encouraged me to come give it a try. He believed in my talent and told me I would for sure be varsity ha, I was intrigued. We had a good team and me being not as experienced in high school I was reluctant.

 

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

I don’t have any family that did it before me, my little brother tried it in high school but he didn’t like it as much as me. You can believe it is in the blood now.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I did not wrestle as a youth.

 

What was your record in HS?

I have no idea but I maybe won 60 matches. I started Sophomore year and was hurt most of Junior and had a strong senior record of 34-3.

 

How did you place at state every year?

Started Sophomore year and placed 8th, Junior yr 6th and Senior DNP…Ouch, lol…

 

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

The biggest challenge for me was not coming from a wrestling family and not knowing how intense it was. I walked into a totally different world and in Iowa it wasn’t a easy transition. There is a lot to a high school season and I was not prepared for nor was my family. The cutting weight, tournaments on the weekends and additional training was a shock. Luckily, I found a wrestling family the Aarhus’ to take me in and help me progress.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Ha I don’t know how to describe my wrestling style. Early on I was definitely a counter offense guy, later in my career I was offensive.

 

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

There were a few guys I remember going back forth with Jake Kerr (Oskaloosa), Mike Stamp (Lewis Central), Andy O’ Loughlin (Independence) and Grant Gambrall ( Iowa City, City High). Most of them beat me the first time around and I won the second time.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

My most influential coach in High School was Jason Aarhus and in college was Tolly Thompson. Post College has been Doug Schwab. Everyone has influenced me in a different way but it was what needed at the time.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

I believe we were competitive. My high school teams best was 3rd at State. College we always were ranked in the top 20.

 

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

Although I did not watch wrestling growing up, when I was in high school it was Mark Ironside. He probably does not remember helping me one day after a camp and I was impressed, for him being as awesome as he was, he took some time out to help a 2nd year wrestler. Also that even though I was novice with hard work I could grind out anything!

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Jay Borschel because I never managed to beat him out of 100 times in high school we wrestled lol and he was a 4 timer with 1 loss to my teammate, who I give runner up to… that was Joey Slaton. Side note Jay also beat me in college too!

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Also bias because I coached him for years Cohlton Schultz (ASU), Taylor Lujan (UNI), Spencer Lee (Iowa), Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) and Mehki Lewis (VT).

 

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

I was an big Emineim fan and Ying Yang Twins. Really got us going!

 

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

Ha, there are too many to count but the most upset was after a double OT loss to Robert Kellogg first round of state my senior year.

You hit my radar when you beat Jake Kerr at state. It was considered a huge upset at the time and I couldn’t believe that it happened, for I wasn’t aware of you yet. And then you proceeded to keep winning huge match after huge match and you made an art out of proving people wrong. And you did it all the way through college at the D1 level…that’s rare. What clicked with you. How did it feel proving people wrong the way you did?

I stayed a student of the sport. After every loss I learned and normally nobody beat me more than once. I kept tweaking my style to adjust to different people and trying different things and I also watched video. I sometimes learned more that way than practicing. But also needed more one on one guidance to keep me encouraged after losses to progress my style and to let me know I can always do better. Once my coach (Tolly) told me I need to find and perfect an offensive shot and do it hundreds of times so I could be more comfortable, then I would start winning. Once my shot got better I was able to score offensively, normally I scored my points playing a defensive roll. I also loved proving people wrong and I don’t care if I’m the only one who believes in me when I was confident, I was dangerous.

 

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

To start earlier, maybe not super young but 10-12 years old. I think that’s perfect timing.

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Best accomplishment was being a All American and also being the MVW of my team. Coming in as a walk on and not expected to do much I accomplished a lot more than I set out too.

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

Jay Borschel (high school and College), Ryan Morningstar (high school and College), Shane Onufer (college), Jake Kerr (high School), Grant Gambrall (high School), Dave Rella (College), Scott Glasser (college) Ethan Lofthouse (College).

 

Who gave you some of your best battles in the practice room in HS and college?

High school room there weren’t too many battles most of them knew how to beat me but it made me better. In College I had guys like Moza Fay, Justin Swafford, Nick Pickerell Ryan Loder, Brice Wolf and David Bonin. They always pushed me a little bit even if it did not seem like it. Win or lose I took something from them.

 

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

After my Junior year of high school I started year around and drastically improved my skills. It seemed like in college you were year around no matter what whether you did freestyle or not. You needed to be trying to improve.

 

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

I think they would of done fairly well but guys nowadays are so much better at a younger age if we were ahead it wouldn’t be for long. But the guys from my day are the guys starting on most Olympic/World teams. Burroughs, Snyder, Dake, Green etc. But I see the young guys on their heels.

 

Are you satisfied and content with your career as a whole?

I am content with what I have accomplished but no means satisfied, even the slightest bit. I count my blessings because I did more than I was supposed to on paper.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

I went to UNI and was a All American, Most valuable wrestler, and team captain.

 

What other sports did you play?

I ran track and played football

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Minnesota Vikings, LA Lakers and Rockies.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

My other hobbies would include concerts, sporting events and watching tv.

 

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

I love it and it truly is my passion, I can’t imagine a day that I’ll have to give it up!

 

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

Wrestling has taught me many things. It taught me to be resilient and adaptable, that tough times do not last and that your hard work and belief in your self is the only things that you can control. A lot of times in life I have been down by 5 with 10 seconds to go and prevailed.

What do you do now?

Now I am a regional sales manager for a company called TTR.

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I have coached every year since I graduated.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

My advice is take time off if you need too, wrestling is a long and grueling sport. Remember why you went out for wrestling in the first place, find your desire and use it to drive you. Keep it fun and keep learning always!! Never retreat and never surrender!

 

Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
Ha, you’d probably see me try to make an Olympic team before that!

 

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
Shout out to my college squad the Kings of 09. All my friends and family that helped me push through. My squad in CO Mile High Wrestling club that help me remember everyday why I choose to coach.

 

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How Close Were The 3 Timers To Winning 4?! Part 4

 

AUSTIN BLYTHE, WILLIAMSBURG/IOWA HAWKEYES FOOTBALL 

Austin Blythe from Williamsburg was a 4X finalist and 3X State champion from 2008-2011. He finished with a record of 188-11 with 146 career pins. Last I knew, that number is in the top 5-10 ever. The only year he did not win state was as a Freshman in HS, which was the year he placed 2nd. He lost 3-1 to a Sr. named Avery Fuhs from Chariton. He was a 285 guy all 4 years. He went on to play football for the Iowa Hawkeyes and is still currently a Center in the NFL for the Los Angeles Rams.

 

BRIAN MORETZ, NORTHWOOD-KENSETT/UNI PANTHERS FOOTBALL

Brian Moretz from Northwood-Kensett 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 285 and stayed there his entire career. He finished with a career record of 116-7. He finished with a winning streak of 88. He chose to play football at UNI and was an AA lineman. His accomplishments are incredible. 

 

MARK SINDLINGER, CHARLES CITY/IOWA HAWKEYES FOOTBALL AND WRESTLING

Mark Sindlinger from Charles City is one of the most prolific multi-sport athletes to come out of the state of Iowa. He wrestled at the HWT Division all 4 years in HS and won state titles in 1981, 1982 and 1983. He went on to play football for the Hawkeyes AS WELL as wrestled for them. He was a 2X Big 10 Champ wrestler and placed 4th and 6th at NCAA Nats. He only had one full season of wrestling to work with, the other two seasons were shortened from football where he was a 3-year starter and a member of a Hawks football team that went to 4 Bowl games. The only year he didn’t win state was his Freshman year.

 

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Jake Marlin. I started hearing whispers and what-not about him being a potential Tazmanian Devil with wrestling shoes around the 2nd half of the season his Freshman year, but I hadn’t ever seen him. I read his stats in AAU. He was from Creston and that’s located on the opposite side of the state from me… Mostly just some message board rumblings… “watch out for this kid, he’s about to break out, he started to as an 8th grader last year” type stuff. So my interest was sparked…. it was a full-blown forest fire when I witnessed him wrestle in one of the best, craziest matches I have ever seen in my entire life. He was up against a guy named Tanner Schmidt from New Hampton… a former state champ and Senior who had a reputation for being pretty physical out there and always wore his emotions on his sleeves. He was fun to watch. Anyways, they were at 130 pounds, I believe and it was the semifinals, I believe. Tough, take no prisoners Senior vs. a Freshman who is starting to make huge waves. The match was a scramble from start to finish and the entire crowd seemed to be fixated on that mat. If you were a Freshman, one of the last Seniors you would want to collide with in the semis at State was Tanner Schmidt. He was a tough, physical wrestler who would not be shy to put a Freshman through 6 minutes of mat-hazing. But Marlin was swinging back. The kid had guts. That was obvious to everyone right away and was solidified in the final period of the match. They reached an OT period where they started scrambling some more and Marlin caught Schmidt on his back and Schmidt fought off his back and cane back after him and Marlin put him down again… he put him on his back at least 2-3 times in that OT period to win the match and advance to the finals and it was weird because there was not much scoring before those moments. One of the wildest things I have ever seen. I had to learn more about the kid. I knew he was a High Altitude kid coached by Chad Tunink and Zach Mulder in the AAU scene. I knew Zach through my brother and his son having battles together and always loved his input, for it was always spot on, to the point and usually pretty funny. I’ll never forget when he told me about Marlin. He said, “yeah, guys used to tease him a bit because he used to do silly stuff like get out of position and pinned when leading or whatever and just did dumb things on the mat, but I remember telling them, ‘you just wait, because when that kid gets it, he is gonna be one baaaaadddd motor-scooter.’” I hadn’t ever heard someone referred to as a motor-scooter before and I loved it… I use that phrase and feel cool every time I do, to this day! And Jake was exactly that… a bad motor-scooter. Zach can probably make a living teaching lessons on how to be cool.

His final three years he looked so good that he looked like he was straight-up bouncing and body-slamming his opponents on trampolines and just wrecking their worlds. He was fun.

Marlin was in the same grade as Brandon Sorensen from Denver-Tripoli who also won 4 titles and this was always interesting to me because their styles couldn’t be any different than each other. The only guy I remember giving him repetitive trouble was a kid from Albia named Matt White from Albia. He seemed to wreck through about everyone else. He won 4 state titles and take a look at some of the guys who placed in the brackets he won: Dakota Bauer (Ballard), Drew Foster (Mepo), Eric Clarke (Assumption), Logan Thomsen (Union), Adam Skopec (Spirit Lake Park), Tanner Schmidt (New Hampton). All those guys were state champs except for Foster, but he was an NCAA champ. He also beat Tyler Patten in the finals one year. Patten placed 3-3-2-2.

Was Jake Marlin the GOAT? I’ll say this, the kid had moments in his matches that looked more impressive than anything else I’ve ever seen, so in spurts, maybe? He is a 4 timer with some HUGE moments in his career.  I’m glad Iowa HS Wrestling produced a Jake Marlin. A bad motor-scooter.

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I do not know Brian Reece. I have never met him in person and was only 6 years old when he was a Senior in HS, so I don’t remember watching his state finals match on TV when I was a kid.  I asked him to do one of these, for he was so nice in helping us put together a year’s worth of state finals matches that we had one of the most difficult times finding…1989.  It was a nightmare trying to find any VHS tapes for that year until we met Brian Reece and then Mike Isaacson.  And to pay him back in whatever way I could, his was the first match that Bill Cummings put together when we got those and HOLY COW…WHAT A FINALS MATCH HE HAD THAT YEAR!!!!! If you haven’t watched that one, DO IT NOW, for it’s one of the best matches to ever take place at The Barn. This man has guts.

Another thing that was cool to see was the reception of fans when his finals video was posted.  I don’t know if any wrestler who has posted their finals match(es) on facebook has received the love that Brian Reece received when he posted his.  Tons and tons and tons of “likes” and comments.  He is obviously a very well-liked person in his wrestling community.

So for those of you who saw a 1989 match that was important to you and that you may have never seen before we posted it, you have Brian Reece, Mike Isaacson and Bill Cummings to thank for that!!

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

Osceola Mat Club, Clarke Community High School, UNI, Central College

 

What year did you graduate?

1990

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My parents.

 

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

My dad wrestled. My brother Eric. Two of my sons, Gable and Coel, wrestled.

 

How did they do?

My brother Eric was a state qualifier his senior year, 1992. Gable just missed out on districts his senior year. Coel had to quit because of concussions.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I wrestled a lot. I wrestled a lot of tough hombres growing up. Jason Jewitt and I had some battles.

 

What was your record in HS?

121-11

 

How did you place at state every year?

Qualifier, 5th, 1st, 1st

 

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

I dislocated my elbow my junior year of college a week before the conference tournament and had to miss nationals that year.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Technical. I was not one to out=muscle anyone. But I was a sponge when it came to learning technique. I think that combined with my quickness/balance allowed me to beat some people who were animals.

 

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

I didn’t really go back and forth with anyone.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I had a lot. Rod Gall and Mike Burgraff were my high school coaches. Burgraff was the one who taught me about mental toughness. I was fortunate to have Jim Miller as an assistant for one year at UNI and he was a master motivator. Kevin Azinger, my head coach at Central, taught me more technique than anyone.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yes. Clarke got 6th at state in back to back years (1989, 1990). The ’93 team at Central finished 9th in NCAA’s.

 

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

Matt Diehl and Mike Laib from Clarke were the first two that I remembered going to watch growing up. They were 98 and 105, and I was a little fart, so I naturally gravitated to the lower weights.

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Dan Gable

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Jordan Burroughs at the senior level. Spencer Lee in college.

 

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

Lunatic Fringe

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

My sophomore year in the quarterfinals I got pinned. It was the only time in my career. I was crushed.

 

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

I wish I would have chosen neutral at nationals my senior year in the quarters. I lost on a riding time point.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Wrestling all the way back my first year at Central in the consolations to get 4th at NCAA and earn All-American honors.

 

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

Jeff O’Gara from Wisconsin Lacrosse was my nemesis in college. We pushed each other for 3 years. Lim Prim (Grinnell) was probably the best wrestler I beat in high school. Steve Pladsen (Waukon) and Matt Gonshorowski (Washington) went on the win state titles.

 

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

I wrestled as much as I could. I loved freestyle. We only had a wrestling room from November to February. It was on the stage. As soon as wrestling season was over, it was torn down. I had to travel to Indianola, Chariton, Winterset, etc. to work out. But I never gave it another thought.

 

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

I think we’d fare ok. But there are some extremely talented wrestlers now.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes

What other sports did you play?

Football, tennis, baseball

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Redskins, Braves, Celtics, all Hawkeyes

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Golf

 

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

It makes it all worth it when I see my wrestlers grown up and leading successful lives. I am so proud of the wrestlers that I have coached, whether they ended up on the podium and/or became successful teachers, businessman, and fathers.

 

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

It taught me self-discipline. Anything worth earning is worth working for.

 

What do you do now?

I teach at Central Academy in Des Moines and for DMACC. I coach at Clarke.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Yes. Head coach at Clarke Community in Osceola.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Have fun. The thing I have always appreciated about our sport are the relationships that I formed along the way. I went to wrestling tournaments when I was young to see friends and then wrestle in that order.

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

Those days are long gone.

 

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

I am so proud of the wrestlers that I have coached, whether they ended up on the podium or became successful businessman and/or fathers.

Another guy, I’d like to shout out is Jaysson Gurwell from Saydel. When we first wrestled, he was just starting, I think it was our sophomore years. I pinned him in 0:22. Flash forward to our senior year and he gave me a hell of a battle in our conference finals. He went on to finish 4th at state that year. It just goes to show you what hard work can do. He is also grown up to be a great man.

Also, I can’t thank the assistant coaches that I’ve had over the years. They have been very loyal and were great coaches to work with.

Dave Ewing helped me out a lot when I was a young coach. He was always a sounding board and was always willing to share.

 

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

My senior year in high school I beat every wrestler who stood on the podium with me at some point that season.

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I figured I would get this one out of the way, for I know how eager Eric probably is to read about his undeniable wrestling greatness for the thousandth time in the past 7 months since I began this site… being given an abundance of attention is what’s most important to Eric Juergens.  JK!!! That is a JOKE!!! It is very likely that when Eric reads that he is the subject of yet another wrestling article that puts a giant magnifying glass on his absolute work of art of a wrestling career, his initial response may be, “wow, still a lot of hoopla over something that I did a long time ago…Why are people still talking about that?”  Because that’s how humble he is.  A lot of wrestlers, including your world-beating, highly accomplished wrestlers love the attention they received and continue to receive from being so awesome and I don’t blame them.  Some of the things that some of these guys did only happened to me in my dreams.  Eric couldn’t care less about that…. However, that still doesn’t give him an escape from the GOAT series I’ve kicked off.  “Hua-hua-hua!!! Mr. Juergens, you may be able to score an escape at will against anyone in a wrestling match, but you will never escape the wrath of my incessant wrestling-babble!!! Sorry man, you were just too awesome.”

I’ve mentioned about 45,564 times already that I have gone back and forth with several wrestlers who I had personally chosen as the guy I thought to be the GOAT.  Eric Juergens is the most longstanding one, for he is the one I thought of as the GOAT from Junior High all the way until a TJ Sebolt or Jay Borschel or John Meeks forces me to reconsider a bit, but then I ultimately end up back on Juergens.  Then I started putting these videos together and was re-familiarized with Jeff McGinness and got the chance to watch Mark Schwab, Dan Knight, Shane Light and Kent Streicher wrestle for the first time ever and I started to reconsider and have landed on Schwab and have landed on McGinness and have landed on Knight and have landed on Jason Kelber, etc.  I always end up making my way back to thinking it’s Eric Juergens, though. It’s like that song, “Back To You” by John Mayer from the early 2000’s.  That song that goes, “back to you, it always comes around, back to you. Tried to stay away, but it’s too late.”  The main difference between that song and the GOAT topic for me is that I believe John Mayer is singing about a girl and here I am, applying it to Eric Juergens in a GOAT debate. With that said, you won’t ever catch me singing that song to Eric Juergens. But it does kind of fit, in a funny way for me.  It is too late… he was my grandpa’s favorite as well as my brother, Justin and I and maybe part of that planted a bias in me that I can’t shake? Not to mention, Juergens is from Maquoketa… He is a Mississippi River-rat, born and raised, as was I. I grew up near the bluff from the Mississippi. Mepo is located on HWY 61, as is Maquoketa. In fact, Maquoketa was usually in our district in the 90’s so we saw Eric and Marc wrestle quite a bit… The Juergens bros grew up an hour and a half up the river from us, but he still seems like “our area 4Xer.”  The one we river-dwellers could identify with the most. He is the only 4X state champ other than Dan Knight that I can think of who is in the same news coverage region as us….  Yeah….sorry, Eric, but you are going to be a lot of peoples’ Iowa wrestling GOAT’s for a longggg time!

One thing that’s interesting is that a lot of people’s GOAT pics are heavily influenced by the geographical region they are from. Basically all NE Iowa will say Schwab. McGinness is pretty widespread, but Iowa City and Cedar Rapids he has on lockdown with an exception of some guys who will choose Borschel… Hopefully Dan Leclere and Nick Moore are mentioned soon. A lot of Southern Iowa will say Moyer or Sebolt. Des Moines area you will hear a lot of Cory Clark and John Meeks.  Lisbon and surrounding parts will mention the Happels. SW gets a ton of David Kjeldgaard. Juergens and Knight get a lot of love from Southeast Iowa, Quad Cities and Dubuque, but from different age groups than each other.

Enough of all that, let’s get to the facts. Eric Juergens was a 4X state champion with an unblemished record of 144-0.  He did have a close call here and there when he was a Freshman, but ultimately came out unscathed. He was a 2x NCAA D1 Champion for the Hawkeyes and was the 2001 Big 10 Wrestler of the Year.  Simply put, can’t get much better than that and it’d be tough to make an argument against him.

 

 

 

  • SIDENOTES:
  • Marc Juergens was another one of my favorites and I’d love to do an RTW article on him… Marc, if your reading and are interested, hit me up about that.
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  • By Stephen Stonebraker

 

They wake up in the wee hours of the morning right before the sun comes up, the same we do.  They ride the long two hour drive to the tournament & two hour drive back.  They sit in a gymnasium from eight in the morning until six at night cheering us on in every match.  Most of the time we don’t even acknowledge that they’re there. They never get a thank you.  They are the unsung heroes of this sport. They are our cheerleaders.

I’ve been involved with the sport of wrestling since 1991.  Went to my first dual meet in December of that year & in early 1992 I attended my first wrestling practice.  I first became involved in the wrestling media in 2007.  In nearly thirty years of being involved in this sport I cannot remember a single time when I saw a cheerleader or group of cheerleaders being recognized for their contributions.  I’ve read everything from the Predicament, to W.I.N. to Amateur Wrestling News to every internet publication the sport has throughout the World Wide Web. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a highlight or a feature on a cheerleader.  I hope I’m mistaken. I hope I’m wrong.  I hope that there have been & I simply didn’t see them.

I don’t know how it is at other schools but at Sigourney High School where I wrestled, our cheerleaders received letters.  They deserved them.  They earned them.  They also deserve to be showcased once in a while, the same way the wrestlers & the coaches are.

Even when I try & hide it, I can’t. One way or another people can always tell I was a wrestler.  I have that build & of course once you follow me on facebook, it becomes overbearingly apparent.  I had recently been cast in Iowa City Community Theatre’s THE FANTASTICS & one of my cast mates, Reagan Loula (now Regan Estes) asked me if I had been a wrestler.  I told her I was & she said she had been a wrestling cheerleader in high school.  Come to find out she had cheered for Washington High School, a school we dualed every season.  Having been a senior when she was a freshman, she had been there during one of my matches.  Talking with her over the course of the production, I realized how unappreciated & overlooked cheerleaders are throughout wrestling.  Something I hope to change.

1.  How did you become involved with Wrestling cheerleading?

I was really just trying out for cheerleading in general, but wrestling quickly became my favorite. Something about the way we used the mat for our cheers just appealed to me more than our football or basketball cheers.

2.  Cheerleaders in wrestling are often overlooked & underappreciated.  Why do you think this is & what do you feel the wrestling community needs to do to make their biggest supporters know they’re recognized?

I would say that opposed to other sports’ cheerleaders, we are right there on the mat with you. We feel every pin, every victory and every loss much more than cheerleaders for other sports.

3.  What are some of your favorite memories of wrestling cheerleading?

Honestly my favorite memories are the camaraderie between us and the wrestlers. It really felt like we were a team.

4. Some might think that Cheerleading is a breeze where you just sit on the edge of the mat & wave pom poms.  However it often takes a lot of hard work & discipline.  Talk about the amount of time & dedication it took to learn some of the routines.

I mean, I can talk to you all day about the bruises I sustained. I also tore my rotator cuff doing a basket toss (a move where one cheerleader is thrown in the air & then caught by the other cheerleaders) freshman year while being a wrestling cheerleader. If you want to know more, watch the Netflix documentary “cheer” and you will see.

5.  How do you feel being a member of the wrestling cheerleading squad enhanced your life? How did it make you a better person?

I think, like being a part of any sport, that being a part of the squad helped build my character.

6.  Did you cheer for any other sports during high school?  What were the differences between cheering for them & cheering for wrestling? Do you feel you were more or less recognized for your contributions or about the same compared to wrestling?

Yes, I cheered for football and basketball. And I do think that we were thought less of for being wrestling cheerleaders. I don’t really know why, but it was and is upsetting. Thefootball/basketball cheerleaders said that we weren’t “real” cheerleaders because we were always sitting

7.  Anything you’d like to add?

Wrestling cheerleading was always my favorite. I don’t have a concrete reason, it just was.

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Remember The Wrestler: Cody Kroul, Solon

 

Cody Kroul has been one of the most requested Remember The Wrestler articles and what makes him different from others who are requested often is that several of the people who requested Kroul are guys who wrestled against him in high school.  So I don’t know what it is about the guy, whether he wasn’t chatty with guys he wrestled in high school or if he was mysterious or what the deal was…. but one thing that’s certain that people who wrestled him want to know what his thoughts are. He had to have been a guy who was universally respected by the competition… otherwise, noone would care.  I am glad they did request him, for I don’t think Cody was aware of the site’s existence before I talked to him and after I told him to check it out, he has told me that he has really enjoyed his time with it.  I just posted his Senior season finals match last week. Kid was an ox. And he seems like a cool guy to me.  He accomplished more later in his career, but the first thing I think of is how he won a tough district to qualify for state as a Freshman at 160 lbs.  We had a guy who was a Senior, athletic and a helluva wrestler at 160 who was undefeated and ranked #2 coming into the tournament… and rightfully so. This guy beat tons of state placers that year.  First round, this guy was defeated by another Freshman from Mt. Vernon by the name of Matt Kroul…Cody’s cousin.  Our #2 Senior did not receive a wrestleback because Matt Kroul was defeated by Cody in the finals. It was something that stuck out, that’s for sure.  I felt terrible for our guy, for he was probably the best wrestler I ever knew to not qualify for state. But that was such a rare thing to see.  2 Freshmen in the finals, both with the last name, “Kroul” and they were first cousins.  Apparently in the Kroul family, you don’t dodge each other…you decide what your territory is and you earn it…The winner gets the last piece of chicken if it ever comes down to that. 

Cody covered a ton of territory in his decorated wrestling career.  Matt and Cody both won state as Seniors and it was likely the situations like their Freshman year at districts where they took on the adversity with open arms that helped them get to where they needed to be mentally to win state. Their insane athleticism and high skill level played a huge role from a physical standpoint. It was really a site to see how strong that particular crop of guys were in his age group and weight range.  I mean, when they’d meet up, you’d get the same feeling that you do when you watch Game of Thrones and The Mountain and The Hound get into it.  

Some of the wrestlers I’ve gotten to know who ride bulls or have done rodeo are some of my favorite wrestlers AND people… Jesse Sundell and Jason Keenan from Ogden, Aaron and Adam Drain from Mepo, Cody Kroul, etc…Takes a tough-minded person to do something like that and apparently, in the world of rodeo, being tough isn’t the only thing that is valued. Another common factor with every wrestler-bull-rider hybrid that I have met is polite, respectful and just full of integrity. It makes me want to pay attention to bull-riding a little closer. And I am not going to spoil anything, but I really love the way Cody answered a lot of these questions.  He seems like just such a level-headed, hard-working, down to earth, tough, yet nice guy.  He represents the Kroul family well!!!

So here ya go, guys… It’s Cody Kroul… I hope he mentions all of you!!! If he does, one thing I will give away is that he has nothing, but respect for you!!!

 

 

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

Solon Spartan Little Man Wrestling Club. That’s who I wrestled for in AAU. I wrestled for Team Iowa one year as well. I wrestled for Solon in HS.

 

What year did you graduate?

2004

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

Coach Hadenfelt encouraged me. His sons were standout wrestlers themselves; Adam, Aaron and Auggie.

 

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

None of my immediate family wrestled before me, but I have some cousins and nephews who are trying it out now and they were inspired by me.  I think that’s awesome and I am proud of that.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Matt Fields is one that comes to mind. It’s funny to think that I weighed the same as him as a JH kid. We split 1-1 AAU titles.  Murphy from Lisbon is another that I wrestled a lot in youth, but never in HS.  My cousin, Matt Kroul, from Mt. Vernon and I had a little brother-big brother thing going on, but I always got the best of him.  Not sure what would happen now, for he’s a big boy.

 

What was your record in HS?

155 wins and 20 losses via google.

 

How did you place at state every year?

I was a 4X qualifier. I placed 6th as a Junior and I won it as a Senior.

 

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

Coach Williams leaving my Junior year was tough. I had some let-downs at state and really wanted to prove some things for myself and he was one that I wanted to get wins for as well. Coach Kaeding came in and I did great with him and felt a lot of pressure was off to succeed after my Senior year when I won it.  I wanted to make my coach’s time worth it and wanted to make them proud.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Bullheaded and in your face.  Maybe a little too much at times.  Maybe if I would have been more technical, it would have helped my conditioning.

 

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

Jovani Galvan comes to mind instantly. We wrestled probably 15 times in high school and I won most all of them, but I believe he did get me once.  Neuzil from Highland was always tough. Him and Zac Gayewski from West Burlington gave me a couple valuable losses during the season that really got me headed in the right direction for the rest of the year.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Coach Hadenfelt.  He started coaching me from the time I was probably a pre-school kid and stayed with us and coached us through HS. He was great. Coach Reiland coached me to my first AAU title.  In HS, I had Coach Williams and Coach Long.  I was blessed with some great coaches.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

My Freshman season, we qualified 7 guys and qualified for state duals where we were competitive, but maybe just a tad not as good as some of the kids there. I was on some great teams, though.

 

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

Dan Gable

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

This is a tough question. You can’t argue against the 4 timers. Jesse Sundell was one of the greatest. Jay Borschel is another. Ryan Morningstar only won 3, but is up there for sure,

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Spencer Lee and Alex “The Bull” Marinelli.

 

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

Classic rock or old country.

 

How are you related to Matt? Was it weird having to wrestle him?

Matt’s Dad, John and my dad, Tom are twins. We lived two miles apart on a gravel road, but we where on the Johnson county Linn County Line so you literally could ride a bike or in my case a horse sometimes to the family farm (the one off hwy 1 that sells pumpkins and sweet corn) now. Not weird at all for me as a kid wrestling, but I always won against Matt he would prob think differently having to wrestle but I maturing wise I was ahead of him until half way through HS, and I guess probably naturally a little meaner than when he was growing up

 

Are the Krouls naturally athletic?

Yes, we have been lucky to have naturally talented genes even the girls of the family have been great athletes.

 

How much do you remember about districts your Freshman year? Looking back, do you think it’s pretty crazy how your bracket unraveled?

As tough as our districts always where it still is pretty cool when I go home to see that my dad had a few of my brackets hung on a wall still and I had four district and sectional brackets at the time didn’t seem like much of an accomplishment, but looking back now it’s pretty cool. The thing I guess I remember most about freshman year was getting beat in first round on the edge of the mat at state with only couple seconds left then him going on to get third and me beating him a couple weeks later at state duals in Cedar Rapids the rest of my freshman year kinda a blurr remember hard battles with Thompson from Mount Vernon.

 

With guys like you, TJ Bevans and Hadenfelt, I’m guessing you guys had some battles in practice… what was that like?

As far as battles go in practice I kinda took they can be your best friend after practice but during practice make it a battle, the older teammates knew that even though I was the underclassmen I damn sure wasn’t going to back down, there was definitely probably a few bloody noses and black eyes that would have got called during a match, but all of them are great friends till this day

 

Do you still follow Solon wrestling? Who have been some of your favorite kids since you graduated?

Still follow Solon very closely. I was on and off back home in Solon a few years ago and got to go in and help coach with Aaron and TJ and coach Williams is back! Helped with Lance Evans and got to help with the West twin brothers a little in their last year.

 

When you were a Senior, 189 IMO, was tougher than usual. Heck, in your region you had guys that you would meet up with regularly… It is pretty impressive with guys like you, Galvin, Gordon Johnson, The Neuzil brothers and Zac Gayewski constantly colliding. Describe some of the battles. How would you describe some of your styles and how do you guys compare and contrast to each other?

Nuezil and Zac Gayewski seemed like meat heads like myself. Very rarely did we ever run into guys as strong as either one of us three throughout the season so it was crazy that us three were that close to the same area. Our little crop of area guys in that time and weight range were pounders. but each knew how to wrestle on top of it. Galvan was dangerous could throw low center of gravity hard to finish on and luckily I had just wrestled him so much that I knew his strong points and how to always work around them, not press something that wasn’t there. Yeah, it was a bunch of big, talented, athletic, strong guys at our weight and area at that time and I was proud to be a part of all of it.

 

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

All of my state losses were just brutal.  I would go in ranked high and would get upset.

 

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

I would focus more and I would listen to my coaches more.  If you shoot, you give yourself a better chance of scoring! Who would have thought? Lol.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Winning state as a Senior was big.  It was pretty emotional.

 

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

A lot of guys brought so many different valuable things to the table.  My most notable was Galvan, since he was great and we wrestled so much.

 

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

It was seasonal for me, but I wish it would have been all-year.

 

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

Wrestling is wrestling. The sport changes and the wrestlers adapt. Any wrestler from any era would do fine in today’s era and any guy from today would be right in the mix with the guys in past eras.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Not competitively, but I have coached at the HS level and have scrapped with all of them.

 

What other sports did you play?

You name it, I did it. Rodeo, football, track, baseball, a little soccer, you name it. I pursued rodeo via scholarship and competed professionally for 7 years.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Hawkeyes wrestling.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Hunting, Rodeo and Ranching.

 

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

After coaching, I gained a whole knew love and appreciation for the sport. I followed it more closely, drove back for a couple big duals and started following it more.

 

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

That phrase “give in or give it all you got” is something I go by and I got that from wrestling for I think that’s what wrestling is all about.

 

What do you do now?

I live in Salmon, Idaho and I work for one of my friends who owns a truck dealership. I still do stuff on the side like ranching and being a hunts guide.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I help out with the HS and little kids. Eventually-maybe I might take over the HS program someday.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

If you wanna be good, make wrestling your passion. A coach once told me that wrestling is 85% mental and I believe that and you can start things by learning the sport fully and in time, you’ll have it licked.

 

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

I would love to! Just give me about 6 months to train for it.

 

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

Coach Long was interesting because he always had a full arsenal of moves. Morningstar and Light helped out. I think we had a lot of good wrestling in Eastern Iowa in my day because the coaches all got along and worked together.

 

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This is the first of 2 Reiter brothers that you will see right off the bat, for as mentioned, I am starting off with the 4 timers in this series and Bart was the 2nd 4-timer in the Reiter family… the first one being 2nd oldest boy, Mack. Joe, Mack, Eddie and Bart Reiter…. I can’t be the only one who thinks Doug and Janet Reiter picker out some super cool and ultra tough names for their sons.

Sadly, Bart’s legacy of being one of the GOAT’s for Iowa HS State Wrestling has faded a bit, for when having this debate, people always want to include college and offseason accolades into the mix when formulating their opinions and claims… This isn’t always entirely fair and I don’t believe results in a claim or belief that is 100% accurate. There are a lot of factors that come into play when weighing these things out. For offseason accolades, maybe a guy didn’t reel in the Fargo titles and what-not because they were busy with other things? This may be the case, for I remember that Bart played baseball, which is something that I always respected him for, for I am personally a huge advocate for kids playing and succeeding in multiple sports despite the belief that you should devote your entire life in HS to wrestling in order to succeed at the next level. To each their own, but I believe a kid can benefit and vary their skill set as well as not burn themselves out of they choose to do more than just wrestle during the offseason. And with college, who knows what can happen to influence the outcomes… the line(s) of success are so thin. Someone could be injury plagued, have girlfriend/relationship priorities, burn out, have death(s) of loved ones to deal with, etc. that can all affect how their college careers unravel. Bart’s college career was injury plagued. IMO, you can’t knock him for that either. The way I look at it, if a guy raked in the offseason HS and collegiate accolades like say a Jeff McGinness, Mack Reiter, Jay Borschel, Cory Clark, etc. then awesome! That further proves how great they were and adds more ammo to their argument for being the GOAT. However, if a guy is lacking in one of those areas, I refuse to use that as a knock against them because you never know what they could have been dealing with or doing at the time which may have contributed to the outcome… Besides, the debate is “The Greatest HS of All Time” and a guy should be critiqued in this debate, primarily on just that… how they did in their wrestling careers in HS sanctioned events in the state of Iowa. And no matter how you lay it out or mix it up or perceive it, Bart is in the conversation for that and there really is to much to debate with it. Kid was good. He won 4 titles. He finished with a record of 162-2 and the Don Bosco teams that he wrestled for won state all 4 years he was in High School. His two losses were both to guys who were state champions themselves (Cruse Aarhaus and Nick Trizzino) and they were both 1-2 point matches. He had a deadly cradle and was dangerous just like his brother, Mack (and Joe and Eddie as well) so he was “in” any match he ever wrestled, for no matter how the match was going to a certain point, he was always capable of executing a match-decisive move to win it. He and Mack were the first sibling pair to win 4 state titles and were the only ones all the way until 2020 when Cael Happel from Lisbon won his 4th title, following the footsteps of his brother Carter who won 4.  The guys he beat in the finals and at the previous rounds were gamers… He had the following finals matchups from Freshmen to Senior year: Kendall Witt, Cam Wagner, Jason Winkler, Cam Wagner. It should be noted that he also won brackets that included Ridge Kiley, Colton Wagner and other various state champions in the bracket. Bart Reiter was something else. It was a lot of fun to watch him. One of the best ever HS wrestlers in the state of Iowa.

Bart is the only 12x state champ that I know of. 4 individual, 4 traditional team and 4 state dual championships…

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Thirty-six years after the IHSAA sanctioned the state tournament, Bob Steenlage muscled his way to becoming Iowa’s first four-time state champion. I love events in history that break barriers. They’re special, like man’s first space walk in orbit, or man’s first steps on the moon. They are events that are extraordinary, that appear transcendent as moments of destiny where you stop what you’re doing to watch what’s taking place and take notice. That’s the esteemed place of honor that Bob Steenlage holds in Iowa wrestling history!

It’s been almost 60 years since Steenlage won his 4 titles and his alma mater high school, Britt won consecutive state titles in 1961-1962, but the legendary achievement of becoming the first will always remain and belong to him. It’s an astounding feat that would not be repeated for 17 long years. It would become the road map for those who came after him that persevered and held onto their dreams of becoming a 4 time state champion in wrestling, and aspired to push those boundaries ever further.

Bob Steenlage has an amazing history and life story that fully told would be better left for a “Remember the Wrestler” article to do him justice, but since we are dealing with the subject of GOAT in IA HS wrestling I will try to limit most of my comments and facts to his high school career and push for his consideration as such.

So is Bob Steenlage of Britt the GOAT?

By simple name recognition by the average wrestling fan… probably not. But if you asked knowledgeable wrestling fans you may get another answer. Steenlage has a lot more name recognition than you may think, and of course his accomplishments in Iowa wrestling history are in a class among the wrestling elites, as a very select few of this group are – he’s not just a member of the 4 timer list of Iowa state champions. He’s the very first one in that elite group. That carries the weight and level of respect in this sport much like that of the pioneer astronauts of the NASA space program in their race and quest to conquer space.  Part of what makes Steenlage relevant even today is that he’s a decorated Vietnam veteran, has a published biography and is a public speaker, and that he’s still out there telling his compelling story and still promoting the sport of wrestling to those who are willing to hear.  His wrestling credentials for GOAT and his claim dates back to 1959.

Here’s the case for Bob Steenlage as GOAT…

Bob Steenlage completed his HS career with a record of 74-7-5 in route to his pinnacle achievement of winning 4 consecutive state titles. He would be the first to admit that he was not the most talented wrestler ever to don the mats at the state tournament, but recognized that his lack of natural or gifted ability did not have to be a hindrance in achieving greatness.  Probably the greatest attributes or assets that he possessed as a competitor were his raw determination and an unshakable belief and confidence in himself, and his mental toughness.  He had immeasurable TRUE GRIT!

And while his career record is not nearly as impressive by today’s standards, there is a reason that the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum selected Bob Steenlage to represent the award presented to the top high school senior wrestler in the state of Iowa.

Kind of a unique factoid regarding this first 4-time event in Iowa HS wrestling history is that as a senior, Steenlage won his finals match on a referee’s decision by “riding time” (3-2).  We’ll get to the details of that in a moment, but first, let’s talk about context and then take a quick look at each state title in order.

At that time in Iowa wrestling history, the participating state wrestling schools were divided into just 2 classes – larger schools class A and the rest of the wrestling schools in class B.  Growing up in an agricultural state, Iowa has long been recognized for its work ethic and it provided rich opportunities for anyone willing to put their hard work and efforts to good use.  I’m old enough to remember those days of hot summers baling hay, stacking and unstacking, then putting the bales away in the barns. Bales weighing between 70lbs to 100lbs depending on moisture content and how tight the bales were set and loading those hay racks 7 rows high. That’s the work life that Bob Steenlage knew and came out of, and it didn’t matter that he was on the light end of the wrestling weight classes as everyone was expected to carry their own weight in that era of late 1950’s early 1960’s.  Small in weight class or not, Steenlage was nasty as a roll of barbed wire and just as strong.

As for the individual state titles that he won:

State Title #1

Steenlage won the first of his 4 straight championship titles in the 1959 Class B 95lbs finals where he defeated Ron Jones of Iowa Falls 2-1, who went on to wrestle in college at Iowa State University and was 2x AA at 130 placing 5th in 1963 and 4th in 1965, and was part of Coach Harold Nichols’s first NCAA National Championship team.  Ron along with his brother Don (also an Iowa State alum and IA state champ at 133lbs in 1961) later coached for their alma mater for 15 years – Ron winning the Iowa prep 2A COY award in 1983.  So the kid that Steenlage beat in the finals as a freshman was a pretty good quality wrestler, good enough that Dr. Harold Nichols chased both he and his brother down at a roofing job personally to recruit them for his Iowa State wrestling program.

 

State Title #2

As a sophomore, Steenlage bumped up a weight to 103lbs, and advanced through the state tournament rounds going on to win the 1960 Class B state championship and capturing his 2nd straight title, beating Rich Leichtman of New Hampton by a score of 4-0.  The runner up, Leichtman would go on to win a state title of his own the next year at 112lbs in 1962, continuing his wrestling career at Iowa State – placing 3rd in the Big 8 Tourney in 1966 at 123lbs, then placed 5th at the NCAA Nationals at 123 (unseeded) behind none other than our GOAT profile wrestler Bob Steenlage (seeded 4th) who placed 3rd that year for Army (West Point Military Academy). In that 1966 NCCA Nationals tournament, both wrestlers were defeated by eventual 3x national champion Mike Caruso from Lehigh (Leichtman losing to Caruso in the 2nd round 3-2; and Bob Steenlage losing to Caruso in a close 4-2 semifinals match).  Steenlage defeated Leichtman in the wrestle backs by a score of 4-2 to advance to the 3rd place medal match where he defeated Warren Crow of SUNY-Albany 7-3 to capture 3rd place.

Leichtman’s school – New Hampton was a state powerhouse during that era from 1957-1963 which included 12 individual state titles and 3 team titles in 1957, 1959, and 1963.  So again, the kid that Steenlage beat was a great kid, a future state champ and went on to have a good career at the college level.

A background note – Lehigh’s Mike Caruso went on to be inducted into the National Collegiate Wrestling HOF in 1991 and finished with a career record of 57-1 and had a streak of 50 consecutive wins. His only loss came by the hands of none other than Bob Steenlage in a 7-2 match – Not Too Shabby!

More trivia – Steenlage also defeated Mike Johnson of Pitt in the finals of the Easterns in 1965.  Mike Johnson was the first wrestler in the U.S. to win four straight wrestling titles in high school.  Steenlage was the second ever to accomplish this feat one year later.  Who would’ve seen that cawinkydink happening in their crystal ball?

 

State Title #3

Steenlage capped off his junior season in 1961 by seizing his 3rd state championship title at 112lbs by defeating Dan Sullivan of Corning in another close match 2-0.  I’ve been working on trying to find out more information on Dan Sullivan but have been unsuccessful at this point researching back through 60 years on any of his wrestling achievements… but the point here is that Sullivan was a state runner up. It’s still not necessarily a reason to discount double-check a state title if you’re measuring GOAT attributes based on competition level… Oh, by the way, I’ve heard from family members that winning one state title is NOT that easy, let alone your third! One thing’s for sure, you wrestle whoever makes it to the finals and Steenlage beat the best that took the mat against him that year at state.

 

State Title #4

As mentioned previously, Steenlage won his 4th straight state title in 1962 at the 120lbs weight class in exciting fashion by defeating Steve Balsbaugh of Perry, a previous state qualifier who got knocked out of the tournament in the opening round the year before by Steenlage’s teammate and a 2x state champ himself – Larry Loyd.

The 4-T clinching finals match ended in the third period tied 2-2, but back in those days one of the tie-breaker criteria used to determine winners in a tie match was by a clock that logged the riding time advantage between wrestlers, similar to how college score tables track riding time today. This ultimately provided Steenlage with a criteria advantage and when the referee returned from the scorer’s table after about a 2 minute meeting, he raised the right arm of Bob Steenlage for the win, causing the crowd to erupt with excitement, thus crowning him as the “First 4 time State Champion” in Iowa wrestling history. The criteria time difference was by 1 second, as Steenlage had racked up a 61 seconds of riding time advantage. A point was given to a wrestler if they had more than a minute riding time over their opponent. The official score in the books would go down as 3-2 with the difference determined by “riding time”…

While that score doesn’t seem indicative of a dominating performance that would provide ammunition for considering Bob Steenlage as the GOAT in Iowa HS wrestling, maybe we should consider some facts regarding his senior year campaign…

Much of this information is chronicled in the documentary “Wrestling with Iowa”, which includes footage of an interview of Bob Steenlage, who is now 76 years old, discussing his quest for 4 state titles and in particular his senior year.

During his senior year he faced and overcame some major hurdles, which began when his HS wrestling coach Kent Townley left before the season started. Steenlage has been candid about that event being devastating to him at the time – “He was like a father to me. It was devastating when he left because he was my workout partner, my mentor, and my teacher.”

Britt had brought in a new wrestling coach named Jim Craig, a former NCAA champion at Iowa in 1959. On the surface this all seemed to be a plus, but as it happened, during some drills where Steenlage and his new coach were working on takedowns, Steenlage injured his back. The pain was severe enough that it forced him to see a local doctor, who after x-rays, told Steenlage that he would never wrestle again! To paraphrase, the words of Lt. Aldo Rey – “That was news he could NOT abide!”

He didn’t accept that diagnosis so he sought help through a chiropractor across the street, who worked on him and helped him manage the pain while he worked at getting back on the mat. The injury left him unable to wrestle for weeks and was a nagging reminder throughout that season as it took much longer to recover than expected, with the pain preventing him from working out until 10 days before the district tournament started.  Throughout this ordeal Steenlage’s confidence never wavered though – “I knew I could win because of 3 things… my mental outlook, the strong grip I had and the physical shape I was in!”

That belief and confidence carried Steenlage all the way to the state semifinals match against his fiercest rival and competitor – Ron Barker of Osage, who Steenlage recalls as being “built like an ox” and that match was refereed by none other than Dr. Harold Nichols – yes the legendary Dr. Harold Nichols…  Steenlage’s only loss his senior year was to Barker during a regular season dual.  The semi-finals match was highly competitive with Steenlage coming out on top by a score of 7-5, but that victory came at a high cost as he separated his right shoulder during the match, the seriousness or severity of which was not known till after the tournament was over!

“I knew I had to wrestle with one arm,” Steenlage said about preparing for that final match of his prep career.  He persevered, while having no grip in right hand or much strength in his right arm throughout that finals match against Steve Balsbaugh of Perry. Miraculously, he was able to wrestle his opponent to a 2-2 draw when the referee’s whistle blew ending that match. And with the 1 point awarded by the scorer’s table for the just over a minute advantage in riding time, the wrestling gladiator Bob Steenlage became an Iowa wrestling legend and the first Four-Time wrestling state champion in Iowa history!

Like many that are reading this, we’re either not old enough to remember this historic event or weren’t even born yet… maybe for decades.  But the truth is in the details.

Everything that I’ve read about it and even interviews of those involved or that did see this, portray it like a true life Rocky movie with a fairy tale ending, including the hero – a bruised and battered gladiator character like Rocky calling out “Yo Adrian, I DID IT!” atmosphere to it. Only in this case he won it for his coach and his teammates and the entire wrestling world (Iowa) that was watching!

So much interest and thought is spent discussing won-loss records, match ups, and wrestling era’s and trying to compare one against the other, but I think there is so much more to this sport than numbers when evaluating worth and excellence, plus there’s no statistic that measures a wrestlers desire, heart, and guts when competition is concerned. In the horse racing and breeding industry they can measure differences in heart size in relation to performance… (did I mention I love horses in one of my previous articles? well I digress) but the sports folks can’t quantify or measure will and the desire to win. We only see a partial measure based on results. Those are attributes required by those that achieve at the highest levels of competition.

We try to quantify individual attributes and contributions via statistics, which don’t get me wrong – they matter, especially today where colleges are using wrestling metrics to make training decisions and how analytics can be used to predict potential, reveal weaknesses, opportunities to improve, develop workout and training strategies and plans to streamline individual workouts as well as for improving team strengths and addressing team weakness. But like all data analytics, it’s only as good as the input data used in producing results. So where am I going with all this? Well I feel like it’s hard to give an elite and outstanding candidate like Bob Steelage a fair shake because I’ve never seen him wrestle or seen video of him wrestle to make any disqualifying decisions or impressions regarding his style… The only style I see in newspaper print and books that I’ve been fortunate enough to read and learn about him. And his style is he hates to lose and he’s a winner! There’s very little data available on older era athletes to make valid comparisons or draw realistic conclusions regarding older era wrestlers.

How does that help in evaluating who the GOAT is in Iowa HS wrestling? Did I help move the needle at all or did I just muddy the water?  Regardless, there’s a great deal of uniqueness and level of excellence in the HS career of Bob Steenlage that all fans and competitors should value, recognize, and appreciate.

Winning four consecutive state high school titles was and still is a Mount Everest achievement in wrestling, and Steenlage is the Edmund Hillary figure in Iowa wrestling that conquered that summit! The fact that others have followed and made that climb to that same summit peak overlooking the vast wrestling horizons doesn’t diminish that great achievement in the least, and in my opinion, enhances it – just as it does for those others that have achieved that pinnacle moment in their histories!

Bob Steenlage is probably not the GOAT in Iowa HS wrestling if what you are measuring by is based on won loss record and points scored vs points allowed, or even quality of opponents. But I’d still put him up against anyone pound for pound at his relative age and weight class, given access to the same advantages of modern wrestling facilities, and training. He won 4 state titles at 4 different weight classes. Just like all the other 4 timers, he was a winner and a steely cold competitor that didn’t seem to have many weaknesses.

And he won his last state title with an arm that was basically useless (the proverbial “one arm tied behind his back”) – how many 4 time GOAT candidates can say that?

As far as breaking barriers in sports and wrestling in particular – Bob Steenlage ranks at the top of the sport. That’s why he has a place in the Dan Gable Wrestling Museum and an annual award named after him given to the top senior wrestler in the state of IOWA!

It doesn’t get any better than that…

And to quote the late great radio voice Paul Harvey – “And now you know – the Rest of the Story!”

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Mark Schwab… 4X state champion from one of the most recognizable and consistently rowdy squads, Osage… What would Iowa HS be without Osage? Not the same, I can tell you that. For one, I can’t imagine the tournament without seeing several man-children dressed in green singlets taking the mat with hopeless, frightened inferiors shaking in their little ASICS across from them. My God they’ve had some tough dudes.

Is Mark Schwab the GOAT? Well, my whole life I grew up hearing from several credible sources who adamantly claimed he was, but that’s all I had on him… other (credible) people’s accounts. It wasn’t until this past year where I finally saw footage of him wrestling in HS. It was when he won his 4th title vs. Dan Sinnott from Albia, who was a helluva warrior himself.  Put it this way… I have no idea how anyone could ever formulate a game plan to beat Mark Schwab. He is about as close to the perfect balance of skills that I could have ever imagined. His positioning… he was able to maintain perfect positioning for every single little millisecond that he was on the mat. I can’t imagine being able to do it as good as him. And he was disciplined… this likely led to his perfect positioning. And he was aggressive and obviously confident… he had absolutely no weaknesses and I have no idea how he ever lost in HS.  I heard he did lose once… I can’t remember who to, but I am guessing it was against Chuck Norris on steroids…and I assume Mark had to try real hard to lose. It’s probably the most exhausting  and difficult mission he ever went on.

I have never seen a more complete HS wrestler than Mark Schwab anywhere, ever. He had it all. I can’t even make sense of what it would be like to be that impressive of a human being. Ever read one of his essays? The man’s train of thought and logic is even perfect. I am not a jealous or envious person by nature, but I wish I could be Mark Schwab for just one day. And if I had that chance, I would spend the time in that day wisely. I would start my day by flying around in the sky and from there, I would soar through the world in search of a grizzly bear that may be stupid enough to try to fight me… and I would kick that grizzly bear’s ass… and then I’d help him up and tell him what he could do to improve his fighting skills. Because that’s what Mark Schwab is capable of doing.

Yeah, Mark Schwab has a strong case. If someone were to say, “yada yada is better,” my response would be, “oh yeah? How is that possible?” And then I would set up an intervention to help them lay off the crack pipe.

I have been trying to think of something in this world that I may have a shot at beating Mark Schwab in and after hours of brainstorming, the only thing I could think of is that I would probably place higher than him in a Miss America Pageant.

 

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Out of the RTW articles I’ve posted so far, no one has mentioned John Meeks as the potential GOAT. This is totally beyond me, for this guy’s HS career was battle-tested and unscathed… 4 titles, 0 career losses. And he had wins vs. guys like Brandon Sorensen, Dakota Bauer, Jordan Rinken, Adam Perrin, Conner Ryan, etc. So why is he so routinely forgotten? I assume it is because he didn’t have the college career that Cory Clark had for the Hawkeyes. Cory Clark was the other 4xer in Meeks’s class and there was a considerable amount of debate as to who was the better recruit. It was inevitable that those two were going to be compared. Clark was a National Champ. Meeks was an average college competitor for the Cyclones. This should not be held against Meeks in the HS GOAT debate. There are so many life changes and factors that can affect how a guy’s college career unravels. The line is so thin when it comes to the determination as to whether a guy pans out in college or not. Eric Juergens, who is one of the most common GOAT mentions, almost quit in college due to the various stressors that accumulated for him and the only reason he didn’t was because he stumbled upon Tom Brands by chance in the elevator the night he was set on calling it quits. Brands talked him into sticking it out… Juergens went on to win two NCAA titles. Would he be considered the GOAT by so many if he hadn’t had that encounter with Brands? Not likely. No one knows why Meeks did not accomplish all he had set to accomplish in college and it’s not even relevant, for it has no effect on the FACT that he is one of the greatest HS wrestlers to ever step on the mat in Iowa. Clark’s college career has nothing to do with John Meeks. You know who had some nice things to say about John Meeks? Jeff McGinness did on Tony Hager’s podcast, Hager’s Happy Hour comment section. They are doing a great job with that, check it out on Facebook. Anyways, they were all discussing their top 100 of the last 10 years list and McGinness subtly went to bat for Meeks, saying something along the lines of Meeks’s college career not being a deciding factor and pointing out that the kid never lost and did defeat Brandon Sorensen, a 4X state champion himself and a NCAA finalist and 4X AA for the Hawkeyes. Who is McGinness? He’s the man who has the most votes for being the GOAT. He knows a thing or two about the HS to college transition. I also think he knows a thing or two about which HS guys may be better than others. He seems to like Meeks.

No one had a more unblemished, respectable career than John Meeks. Period. His legacy needs to carry on a bit. He was great.

 

And people need to consider the influence that his life mentor/coach, Al Garrison and coach Willie Gadson has on John Meeks’s life… also factor in that they both passed away around the same time which happened to be around the beginning years of Meeks’s college career and it may shed some light on why Meeks may have lost a little bit of bounce in his step at Iowa State.

 

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