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

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


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

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


What year did you graduate?


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

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


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

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


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

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


What was your record in HS?



How did you place at state every year?

6th, 2nd, 5th and 3rd


How would you describe your wrestling style?

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


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

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


Who was your most influential coach?

My dad was and is always in my corner.


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

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

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


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

Richie Thacker from Sioux Central now AD at Eagle Grove.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

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


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

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


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

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


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

All my West Benders.


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

After my semifinals loses my junior, senior year.


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

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


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

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


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

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


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

All year around.


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

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


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

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


Did you wrestle after high school?

1 year at Upper Iowa.


What other sports did you play?

Football was my only other sport.


What are your favorite sports teams?

Minnesota Vikings


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Coaching wrestling and being with the family.


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

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


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

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


What do you do now?

Correctional officer.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

Head coach at West Bend-Mallard.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

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


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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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



What year did you graduate?




Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My mother.



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

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



What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

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



What was your record in HS?

142 – 5



How did you place at state every year?



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

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


How would you describe your wrestling style?

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


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

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


Who was your most influential coach?

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


Was your team competitive in HS/college?



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

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


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes. Iowa State.


What other sports did you play?

Soccer, baseball.


What are your favorite sports teams?

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


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Hiking, Gardening, Climbing, Boating


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

I think the sport is still giving to me!!


What do you do now?

Operations Management.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

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


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

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


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



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

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


Senior Spotlight: Aime Mukiza of Des Moines North-Hoover

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

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

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

DM North-Hoover wrestlers, Mike Moore and Aime Mukiza

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

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

Cody Swim

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

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

(Photo cred to Cam Kramer from IAwrestle).


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

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


What was your record in HS?

 90-40 total of 130 matches

Fr. 18-13

So. 26-11

Jr. 27-9

Sr. 19-7


How did you place at state every year?

 Fr, So. SQ but DNP

Jr. 8th @ 113

Sr. 4th @ 113

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

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


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

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


How would you describe your wrestling style?

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


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

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


Who was your most influential coach?

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


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

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


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

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


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

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


What music do you listen to?



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

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


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

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



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

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


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

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


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

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


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



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

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


What other sports did you play?

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


What are your favorite sports teams?

 Funny thing… I don’t really watch sports.


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

 Working out, CrossFit, running, and sleeping.


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

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


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

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


Are you still going to be involved with wrestling?

For the rest of my life, until I retire.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


Remember The Wrestler: Bryan Blake, Linn-Mar


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

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

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


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

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


What year did you graduate?

Linn-Mar (Marion), class of 2000.


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

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


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

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

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


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

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

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


What was your record in HS?

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


How did you place at state every year?

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

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

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

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


How would you describe your wrestling style?

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

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

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


Who was your most influential coach?

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

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


Was your team competitive in HS?

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

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


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

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


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Did you wrestle after high school?

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

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

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

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


What other sports did you play?

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


What are your favorite sports teams?

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


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


What do you do now?

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


Are you still involved with wrestling?

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


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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


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


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


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


* Order does not necessarily indicate projected placements.

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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


SoCon (1): Jake Rotunda (The Citadel)


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


SoCon (1): Franco Valdes (Chattanooga)


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


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




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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


SoCon (1): Weston Wichman (Chattanooga)


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


SoCon (1): Austin Murphy (Campbell)


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


SoCon (1): Tyler Mousaw (VMI)


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



2016 2A 138

1 Ryan Leisure (Jr.) Clear Lake

2 Wyatt Thompson (Sr.) Creston-OM

3 Austin Staudt (Sr.) Charles City

4 Kyler Rieck (Fr.) Spirit Lake Park

5 Brennan Swafford (So.) Mediapolis

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

7 Lucas Roland (Fr.) PCM

8 Kirk Mommsen (Sr.) Assumption 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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


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


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


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



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


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



Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?


Answer: My father, Ivan D. Ivanov.



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


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



Is wrestling popular in Bulgaria?


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



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


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



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


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



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


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



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


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



What were your youth results? Any rivals there?


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



What is your record?

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



What are your thoughts on folk style wrestling?


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



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


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



How would you describe your wrestling style?


Answer: Discipline, Techniqle, and Gritty.



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

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



Who was your most influential coach?

Answer: My father, Ivan Delchev Ivanov.



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

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



Who would you consider the GOAT wrestler?

Answer: Buvaisar Saitiev (Russia)


What was your experience like at the Olympics?


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



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


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



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

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



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

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


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

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



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

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



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

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



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

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



What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

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



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

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



What other sports did you play?

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



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

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


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

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



What are your favorite sports teams?

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



What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

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



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

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



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

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



What do you do now?

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



 Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?


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



Any chance we see you wrestle again some time soon?

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



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


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




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


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



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


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


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


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


Remember The Wrestler: Lee Schweer, Tripoli


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

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

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


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

And man was he good.  




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

Tripoli  Wrestling. 


What year did you graduate?



Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

 I got started because I had 2 brothers that wrestled.


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

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


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

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


How did you place at state every year?

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


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

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


How would you describe your wrestling style?

Old school and physical.


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

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


Who was your most influential coach?

Greg Eschweder and John Samuelson.


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

 My brothers.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Brandon Sorenson


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

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


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

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


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

70’s and 80’s rock and roll.


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

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


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

State finals 1985.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

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


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

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


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

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


Did you wrestle after high school?



What other sports did you play?

 I didn’t play other sports.


What are your favorite sports teams?

 Iowa State Cyclones


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Restoring tractors, camping, fishing.


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

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


How has wrestling shaped you as a person today?

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


What do you do now?

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


Are you still involved with wrestling?

No, but I was when my sons were wrestling.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Clarinda High School


What year did you graduate?



Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

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


Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently?

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


How did they do?

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


What were your youth results?

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


Any rivals there?

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


What was your record in HS?



How did you place at state every year?

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


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

I had an elbow dislocation at the beginning of my Junior year. Missed most of the year but came back right at the end of the year and qualified for the state meet. It was a rough year in many ways. Making weight was a tough deal that year. We didn’t do things the right way back then. I think I drove my coach over the edge that year.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was defiantly a mat wrestler. I liked to leg a lot. I used a lot of different technique but looking back at matches I did a lot of basic things wrong. As a coach I would be yelling at myself to fix a lot of things.


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

I lost 7 times as a freshman and weighed about 95# I didn’t lose much after that. Back in those days you didn’t leave the neighborhood much like we do today. I think my senior year I wrestle Mike Malcolm from Glenwood 5-6 times.


Who was your most influential coach?

My only coach was Paul Honnold. He took and developed a program at Clarinda by developing a feeder program and starting a wrestling club for support. He picked us up every morning to lift weights before we could drive. We would have 13-15 kids in a regular cab type truck. You wanted to be early on the route so you could score the front seat or it was a cold ride.


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Clarinda being a young program was known for landing at the tail end of the Hawkeye 10 prior to my sophomore year. That year we tied for the dual title with I think 6-7 Sophomores in the line-up. We had 6 state qualifiers my senior year but we were all seniors.


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

I went to the JRob camp in 8th grade at Wartburg when he was at Iowa. There were several Hawkeye wrestlers I thought were pretty awesome at the time. Lou Banach was one who kind of put his thumb on me for the 12 days. Prior to that all college wrestlers were all larger than life characters. I can still remember Jay Robinson getting on me and telling me as a 90# kid to quit feeling sorry for myself and toughen up. It made going to NCAA Nationals so much cooler after that knowing the guys that were wrestling. I also went to some Saturday morning clinics in Creston and Chris Campbell was the clinician a couple times. He left a big impression on me at that time.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

There have been many but I still have to go with someone from my era. Mark Schwab just dominated and was such a fierce competitor. Getting to wrestle with him on Iowa Greco teams in high school was a great boost for me to know I could compete at a higher level. Not anywhere close to his level but it was fun trying.


What were some of your favorite moments in your coaching career?

Winning state titles is always fun. I was an Asst. Coach for Clarinda in 1994 with Moreno when we snuck in and won a title with 5 guys and a lot of bonus points. That was fun more so because I worked with a lot of those kids when I was in high school and they were young. 2020’s title was special and so much fun with the kids and great coaching staff we have. They made it a lot of fun to bring back to Osage. It was something I’ve been working towards for 25 years.


What are some of your favorite success stories for your guys?

There are too many in a 29 year coaching career to single some out. You just never know where a kids going to land from beginning to end. One thing I figured out early in my coaching career was to never count anyone out when they are young. I’ve had several kids that lost a lot through middle school but turned into studs once they developed in high school years. Kids and parents just need to be patient and trust the process.


What are your strengths as a coach?

You would have to ask my athletes. How would you describe the Osage wrestling community? Supportive Diehards! They love the sport as much as I do which is saying a lot. They love their wrestling!


How fun was it coaching your sons especially considering how well they did?

I wouldn’t change anything but it was very challenging from time to time. They didn’t always want to listen to their dad. The fact that they were about the same size made every practice a fistfight ready to breakout and they were determined to wrestle each other. As far as coaching them at meets it was fun. They were tough competitors and were smart wrestlers. The biggest challenge was at the state tournament when they wrestled at the same time.


Did you get more nervous for them than you did your own matches?

Definitely, I was never very nervous when I was wrestling. I always felt like I was in control when I was wrestling which wasn’t the case when the boys were wrestling big matches.


Were there any coaches you looked up to, learned from and implemented some of their coaching tactics into your own?

I stole from every coach I worked with and several others I didn’t. I tried to take what I liked and leave what I didn’t. I think working as an assistant before becoming a head coach is essential in growth as a Head Coach. The more people you can study the better. My high school coach Paul Honnold was probably the most influential as far as a role model. I got to see how a program should work from the bottom up. I watched him develop a youth program that didn’t exist previously and turn Clarinda into a powerhouse in the 90’s with those kids. He wasn’t there as the coach when that happened as he went on to be an Administrator after I graduated in 1986. The success wouldn’t have happened without him and the many volunteers that worked hard to make it happen. I learned a lot technically from Mike Moreno the two years I coached with him and Dave Daughton at Wayne HS the year I was there before coming to Osage.


When did you notice yourself making huge strides and bumping up a level in your game?

Wasn’t until the end of my 2nd year as a head coach. I was really questioning myself and if what I was doing was right until after the state tournament that year. We had a majority of freshmen that year in the varsity line-up. But those guys were a tough bunch and there were more behind them. We were a force over the 5-7 years.


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

The Osage ones of course. I do like watching Drake Ayala compete, he’s a pretty slick dude.


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

The same stuff I make my guys listen to today. 70’s and 80’s Rock


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

Probably losing in the state finals as a senior although my wrestlers would tell you I don’t take very many losses well.


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

#1 I would cut less weight and lift more. I really enjoyed wrestling and the sport but it became a negative when you can’t manage your weight correctly. We just didn’t do things the right way when it came to weight management then. My senior year I went that route and really enjoyed the season.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Winning as a team title as a coach and coaching both my sons to state titles were pretty special moments. Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you? I wrestled all year or at least spring and summer. I was on 3-4 Iowa Greco Teams. We only had Junior level stuff back then, no Cadets.


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

I think wrestling has evolved a lot over the years. There are a lot of things that have changed in 30 years. As far as the athleticism and grit I think the guys from my time would have no problem holding their own. But I think the advanced technique in the sport would make it difficult.


Did you wrestle after high school?

One year at Iowa Central and then went to the Army. I wrestled a little bit in the Army as well. What other sports did you play? I ran XC but I wasn’t much of a runner.


What are your favorite sports teams?

I’m a college fan. ISU and UNI. I can’t help but to be a Air Force Academy fan as well.


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Woodworking and running my engraving business. I like playing golf too but haven’t done it much since becoming so busy as Junior Director for Iowa USA Wrestling in the summers.


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

It gave me purpose. I found something I was good at and enjoyed doing. Not sure what I would be doing if I didn’t have it as a focus.


What do you do now?

Shop teacher and still coaching Any advice for upcoming wrestlers? It takes focused time and effort to be good. To be great that has to happen over a long period of time. So repetitive good habits over a long period of time will bring you success. Like I said earlier kids and parents need to be patient for results and understand that success isn’t always defined as a state title or a state medal.


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

Not a chance!


Do you have anything to add?

I’ve made many great friends from all over the country officials, coaches, wrestlers and even parents. I can’t seem to go anywhere where I don’t run into someone I’ve met through the sport of wrestling. It can be a tough sport at times but at the end of the day I wouldn’t have done it any different. Not sure how many more years I will be doing this but I can say working with kids has been a lot of fun in all the sports I’ve coached. It hasn’t always been easy but it’s been a great 30 years. Working with kids has always easily been by far the best part. Without kids willing to put in the time we wouldn’t have had any of the success we’ve had.


One of the deepest brackets in terms of talent in the history of the Iowa High School State Wrestling Tournament took place in 1982. Specifically in the 3A 105 lb. bracket. This is nuts. Check it out… these are the placers for 1982, 3A 105….

1982 2A 105
1. Steve Knight, Jr., Clinton
2. Jeff Gibbons, So., Ames
3. Brian Waddell, Sr., Bettendorf
4. Chuck Pearson, So., Waterloo East
5. Alan Paradise, Sr., Iowa City West
6. Tim Caquelin, So., Spencer

Tough bracket, eh? Heck yeah it is. The top 5 guys went on to compete at the D1 level and put together highly decorated careers. A couple of them are widely considered amongst the greatest Iowa HS wrestlers ever…

Steve Knight won his first of 2 titles in this tournament. He was also accomplished in the Freco scene. He had a year where he was named OW of both the Freestyle and Greco National Tournaments. He was an AA for Iowa State and even coached there as an assistant to HC Jim Gibbons…the brother of the man he met in the finals, Jeff Gibbons.  Jeff was a 3X finalist in HS, 2X champion. Jeff was also a Freco National Champ and was a 2X AA at Iowa State. He is the younger brother to 4X state champion, Joe Gibbons (as well as Jim and Tim) and Steve Knight is the older brother of 4X state champion, Dan Knight (younger brother of Jeff). Chuck Pearson was 4th here & a state champ in 1984. He was a DII qualifier for Morgan State. Knight had him 1st round here in ’82. Chuck made the Iowa Jr. team a couple years. Alan Paradise of IC West was 5th here & a PAC 10 champ in ’87 or ’88 for Cal State Bakersfield. Brian Waddell was 2nd string at UNI to Pat Pickford one season & then was a 3 year starter for the U. of Montana. He was 2nd twice in the Big Sky Conference & 3rd once…he just missed being an NCAA Qualifier twice by one wild card vote. Back then the DI Western Wrestling Conferences weren’t allowed many qualifiers. 8 teams & the 10 champs went & just 2 qualifiers..Brian & a lot of good guys shoulda been competing at NCAAs. Derrick Woods was runner-up to Pearson in 1984.

This bracket had it all. It had 5+ guys who went on to wrestle at the D1 level. It had two guys who were brothers of 4X state champions (Steve Knight and Jeff Gibbons) and by the time them and their brothers completed their careers, they solidified their spots as being members of a couple of Iowa HS wrestling’s most accomplished siblings ever. Those two happened to meet in the finals. It had upsets. It had multiple offseason world-beaters clashing against each other. It had comeback from behind wins.  It had several OT matches. It had everything you could ask for.

AND IT DIDN’T BEGIN AT STATE! A couple of the toughest guys in the bracket met each other at districts…. The eventual State Champ of the bracket, Steve Knight and 3rd place finisher, Brian Waddell met at districts. . Steve placed 6-SQ-1-1 at state. Waddell went SQ-4-3 at state…And it had a scenario prior to the tournament taking place in which one of the best guys at the weight (and returning placer) did not even make it out of districts because of being defeated by Knight and Waddell… His name was Jack Engelken and he was a returning state placer.  Jack didn’t go out quietly, either… In fact, the guys who placed 1st and 3rd in this bracket were damn lucky to not be beaten out by him, for he had both of them on the ropes… Read what 3rd place finisher (at state), Brian Waddell had to say about that:

Brian Waddell: Me and Knight almost didn’t qualify for state in ’82. We had a guy named Jack Engleken in our bracket. He was something like 26-0 and was 5th the year before at 98. I had him in the semifinals. He was beating me 6-2 with less than 20 seconds left in a row the match. I hit a five point Granby cradle and won 7-6. I upset number one seed Knight in the finals 9-6. That gave Engelken a shot at true second. The match went down to the wire with Knight winning by a point or two. He was a top guy in state who didn’t qualify his senior year.

Sidenote: Brian Waddell beat Steve Knight at the Bett Holiday Classic in Dec. 1981 9-5. Knight beat him in the dual 8-6, & then Waddell beat him again at the Clinton District 9-5 again!!

1. Brian Waddell, Bettendorf       2. Steve Knight, Clinton         3. Jack Engelken


Here is a picture of the granby Waddell executed to win the match at the end:


Here is a picture of Brian Waddell from Bettendorf and Steve Knight from Clinton wrestling in the finals at districts:



So after districts, it was on to state, and here is how the bracket looked:


As you can see, Waddell was edged out in the semis by Gibbons and finished in 3rd place… which set up an epic finals match-up between Jeff Gibbons and Steve Knight…two guys whose careers would end up having parallels with each other in the future. It’s only fitting that their match was one of the best shows ever put on by 2 wrestlers at Vets Auditorium. This is one of the best matches you will ever witness and it’s between two of the best HS wrestlers to ever come out of Iowa!



Remember The Wrestler, Rob Hoback of Columbus Jct.

Rob Hoback… he’s a legend in Southeast Iowa. One of the best athletes to ever come out of the region. 

His 1998 Senior Year State Championship:


This is his Junior year finals loss vs. Frank Marchant, but I felt like both these guys had moments where they displayed crazy athleticism in this match:


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My parents were always encouraging me to try every sport. My Dad might even tell you that I learned to wrestle from watching the movie Vision Quest. LOL


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

Wrestling family. My oldest son is in his senior year and just won districts. Making another run a state. My brother Andy Hoback qualified a couple times and placed 4th his senior year.


What were your youth results? Any rivals?

Made it to state a couple times but never placed. Not really.


What was your record in HS?

148-24. Wrestled some hammers my freshman year!!


How did you place at state every year?

Qualified sophomore year, 2nd junior year, 1st senior year.


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

Moment: Freshman year, Sectionals and I am in overtime with Drew Achenbach from North English Valley. Couple stalemates and we are down to about 15 seconds left. I hit a takedown and he fights it off at first but then I start to gain the upper hand. I get what I think was the takedown and jump up and start back to the middle of the mat. I then get tackled from behind and then hear the whistle. We meet in the center, shake hands and I go to raise my hand and the ref holds it down and raises Drew’s. The crowd went nuts!!! The ref turned to me and said, “ Don’t stop wrestling until I blow the whistle.” I was crushed! No wrestle back either. Drew got caught and pinned in the finals. I got to redeem myself at state duels and came away with a couple wins.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

Greased Lightening!! LOL I am not sure what you would call it. I know that I loved being on my feet and I loved finding new ways to take people down.


Who was your most influential coach?

I can’t pick just one because they all had skin in the game. They were the best!!


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

Sophomore year at state and I had to win this match to solidify becoming a place winner. I had wrestled this dude in sectionals and districts and could not beat him. Brian Ewing from Moravia. It was always close as was this match. I lost 5-4. I still think about that match. Oh yeah and when I lost in the finals my junior year. Crazy disappointed!


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yes!! Beyond competitive.


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

When I got to the junior high/high school years, it was Randy Pugh. He set the bar high!! But there are a lot more guys out there that definitely helped me along the way.


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

The whole Hawkeye Lineup.


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

Junior year, state finals was pretty upsetting!! LOL


What sports did you play?

Football, Wrestling, Baseball, Track and Field.


How did you do in each of them?

Four year letter winner in every sport in high school. All state honors in all four. Would have to look at the record books. LOL


Who were some athletes that you looked up to growing up?

Too many to name.


How has your skills you picked up wrestling helped your game in other sports? How did other sports help your wrestling game?

Wrestling taught you to be in good position all the time to accomplish your objective. That helps in other sports and all walks of life.


What are some of your favorite memories of every sport you play?

Playing at the Unidome in football, Giving Mr. Purdy a hard time on the way to Dickinson relays for Track, and so many more.


What accolades are you most proud of from every sport?

Getting awarded The Hawkeye Athlete of the Year in 1998, Placed 4 times at State Track and Field meet.


Is your entire family athletic?

I would have to say yes. Both parents were very athletic. It was also something that drove me personally. I had some of the same teachers and coaches that my parents did when they were in school. I had to listen to stories about them and how it wasn’t going to be easy filling their shoes. My brother and sister were also amazing athletes!


Would you consider being a multi sport athlete as becoming more and more discouraged as time goes on for people who want to play a sport in college? What would you say to a HS athlete who is considering not going out for a sport they love because they feel like it’ll be held against them for not dedicating that time to the one sport they plan on playing in college?

Absolutely becoming more discouraged now-a-days. I believe not only is it discouraged, but it can also hinder an athlete from getting accepted into a college/program that they are more then qualified to attend and compete at.
To an athlete that is thinking about not going out for a sport they love: Don’t worry too much about it. You as an athlete will know your limitations and will make the right decisions. No one intentionally sets themselves up for failure.


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

Not sure what I would change. Maybe could have won more of the close ones.


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

Senior year, 48-0, State Champ, Team duel Champs. We had a highly successful season. We worked our butts off.


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

From freshman to senior year. Here are a few in no particular order: Josh Dorothy, Justin Jeffs, Ryan Stevens, Tommy Hahn, Ben Scorpil and the list goes on.


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



Did you wrestle after high school?



What other sports did you play?

Football, Baseball, Track & Field


What are your favorite sports teams?

Anything Hawkeye!!!


What are your hobbies?

Crossfit!!! Anything outdoors hunting, fishing etc. Spending time with family and hanging out with friends. Love watching me some wrestling!! Can’t wait to be able to go watch in person again.


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

It has definitely made me a competitor in all aspects of life and has giving me the mindset of, “there’s nothing you can do to keep me from accomplishing my goals. I will find a way to succeed!”


What do you do now?

Power Plant Controls & Instrumentation Technician 1. I work for the Best Damn Utility Company!! Muscatine Power & Water


Are you still involved with wrestling?



Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Nail the basics the other stuff will come. Have fun!


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

Probably not.


Remember The Wrestler: Eric Schares, Don Bosco


Out of all wrestling media, past and present, if I were to list my top 5-10 favorite wrestling media writers, personalities, announcers, etc. may surprise people, but it’s heavily influenced by those I grew up reading and/or looking up to.  Some of these come to mind immediately…

Tim Johnson is far and away my favorite individual in wrestling media…actually, he may be up there with Jack Buck as my favorite in all of sports.  Tim is a born and raised Southeast Iowan like myself and has lived a life and accomplished things I could only dream of achieving.  And he reached his success by being true to himself.  The passion he has for the sport of wrestling is detectible to anyone who takes a second to listen to him for a few seconds and his takes are always spot-on and from a variety of angles, for he has worn a lot of wrestling “hats” in his day….wrestler, coach, commentator, advocate…. He is the wrestling media GOAT, to me and likely always will be.  

Jim Thompson is a man who compiled the 1A/2A rankings for The Predicament for decades and when I initially began writing about wrestling on forums in HS, he was someone I always really looked up to.  

So many people associate me with the late Dan McCool due to our shared love for wrestling history (and really, that’s basically the one thing he and I have in common), but to be honest, I never read much of his work. That’s not written with intentions of slighting or disrespecting Mr. McCool at all… He was great and I love his book, “Reach For The Stars.”  I use that book as a reference at times. He’s just not who I grew up reading… He wrote for The Des Moines Register. We rarely ever even encountered a Des Moines Register in my area.  In Southeast Iowa, we get a newspaper called The Hawkeye and 1 in 10 or so will buy a CR Gazette or QC Times. I can’t recall ever seeing a DM Register newspaper laying around my house…so I didn’t read much McCool.  The Hawkeye is based out of Burlington. With this situation, I was spoiled, for I grew up reading a couple of the state’s best ever wrestling journalists in Craig Sesker and Matt Levins.  So they are up there for me.  

There is a man named Todd Conner who used to have a wrestling newspaper and it was awesome.  

Of course, The Predicament staff, past and present…Wyatt…

I really like reading or following anything KJ Pilcher publishes.  He’s got an intriguing writing style and he was a good wrestler himself, so he receives bonus points for that. 

Lars Underbakke from IAwrestle is great and very knowledgeable.

In certain ways, Tony Hager from IAwrestle has been better to me than pretty much anyone else in wrestling media has been, which is ironic considering he and I had a rough patch there. He has given me opportunities to reach his audience, which is much larger than mine… that was pretty cool of him. He’s up there. 

In a nutshell, that is the jist of some of my personal favorites and something that those guys with an exception of Tony and Lars all have in common is that they are people I looked up to BEFORE I began covering wrestling.  Even Lars was “Fulsaas Fan” on the forums when I began. However, if I were to make a list of my favorite wrestling media personalities, it’d be incomplete if I were to leave out one of my all-time favorites who started covering wrestling AFTER I did… And that’s Eric Schares from Don Bosco. He covers wrestling for Iowa wrestling media outlet, IAwrestle.com  He is one of the most knowledgeable people you will ever talk to in regards to wrestling at multiple levels (you won’t find anyone more knowledgeable about 1A HS wrestling in IA). Even if you disagree with any take he may have, he has his own logic/reasoning to back up it up and he’s consistent with it.  And to make him a borderline intimidating presence in the wrestling media world is his cunning ability to display unbelievable wit in his responses to those who may disagree with him…. I am good at this myself and generally never shy away from a good old fashioned “flame war,” if necessary and I rarely ever encounter anyone who I would feel inclined to avoid said “flame wars” if they did in fact, unravel. I win 99% of them.  Schares is an exception. He’s a dude I won’t mess with.  Probably the only one.  I’ve seen people try to contest his takes in disrespectful fashion several times before and he just rips them to shreds.  That’s another thing I like about him. He will not hold back or paint a prettier picture for you than necessary to ensure you don’t get your feelings hurt.  He will argue with you….and he is able to push a person’s buttons and get them frazzled in doing so and 9 times out of 10, he is right about whatever topic it may be to begin with…or at the very least, has his own logic for it.  If wrestling ever grows to a point where ESPN/Fox Sports/etc. analysts are sought out, discovered and hired to cover the sport, Eric Schares should be one of the first ones contacted. He’s good. And he’s entertaining. Even if someone doesn’t like him, they can’t deny that he brings some excitement to the equation just out of his willingness to unapologetically be himself… 

And as unpleasant as he may come off to someone who disagrees with him, the man has got a heart of gold and that is observable by the way he discusses some of the individuals in wrestling who influenced him. Most notably with Don Bosco people… You’ll never find someone who genuinely loves their squad moreso than Eric Schares genuinely loves and appreciates the wrestlers/coaches to come through the Don Bosco program.  He will be loyal to Don Bosco for life and I couldn’t respect him more for it.  

I’ve observed several disputes that fans/wrestlers have had with IAwrestle in the past.  In fact, I am notorious for being part of a fairly highly publicized beef with them myself, something I am happy to have put behind me by now. A lot of times, when someone is upset with an IAwrestle take, people will resort to calling their staff out for not having a wrestling background, when in reality, these people failed to do their homework with them. The staff at IAwrestle is tougher than people realize. To start, the owner, Tony Hager was a phenomenal wrestler in HS… He was a 3X placer/2X finalist.  Lars Underbakke wrestled for Cresco, a downright wrestling history hotbed. And of course, Eric Schares. He was a state place-winner for Don Bosco in his day. A great wrestler.  So for anyone reading, keep that in mind if you want to get snippy with those guys….the IAwrestle guys have some very impressive wrestling accolades on their resumes and they DO know the in’s and out’s of the sport.  So be prepared if you are brave enough to cyber-scrap with someone like Eric Schares. He is a super bright individual who grew up in a community in which wrestling is part of the culture.  Wrestling is a second language to him and he can speak it fluently and with the speed of that guy who used to “speed talk” on the old Micro Machines commercials. The wrestlers who grew up in Gilbertville should feel proud to have grown up in the rich wrestling atmosphere they did and further, should feel proud that it’s home to passionate people like Eric Schares.  A guy I really look up to. 

And some advice for you all.  If you ever find yourself in the middle of an intense internet battle with Eric, keep in mind….he is probably laughing at how ticked off he is making you….  🙂



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

It was Bosco my whole life. Wrestled in the kids club there all the way through high school. In the summers we would practice with La Porte and Columbus a lot.


What year did you graduate?



Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

I don’t really recall what got me into it. I think maybe I saw my good buddy Joe Girsch doing it, so I decided to give it a try. I know I first started going to peewee practice in 1st grade and wrestled my first tournament in 2nd grade. I just liked going and hanging out with my friends, my dad and brother, and all of his friends at the weekend tournaments. My mom was always there supporting me too.


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

My younger brother (Who is much bigger than me) finished 5th in 2007 and got 2nd in 2008. My first cousin Bryce was a 2x state qualifier a few years ago for Bosco. My 6 year old son Graham just started competing a little this year. We have been to 2 tournaments so far and it makes me so happy just seeing him having fun with his buddies while spiking some dudes on the mat. My 3 year old daughter, Sloane, also participates in practice. They are both very feisty little red heads.


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I qualified for AAU State my 6th grade year but went 0-2, Finished 4th at AAU my 8th grade year. I cant say as I ever really had a rival. A lot of good guys that would hand me a monthly beating maybe. Probably the closest was Trevor Kittelson. I beat him a couple of times in freestyle and Greco early in my high school career then he got the better of me later on. I must have showed him the key to being a great wrestler.


What was your record in HS?

75ish and 25ish. I could probably look it up but it was pretty close to that. I missed almost my entire senior year with a broken hand from football. I came back the week before sectionals.


How did you place at state every year?

Finished 5th place my senior year. I was ranked around 7th my junior year, but lost at sectionals and never got a wrestleback because Charlie Ettelson was also in that bracket. Would I like to have that match back? Of course, but I just flat out got beat. I just didn’t force the action. Although, I don’t feel being a 2x placer winner over just doing it once would have changed my life in any meaningful way. It probably made me appreciate things a little more my senior year down at state.


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

One of my biggest battles was always just finding a spot in the lineup. Mack Reiter was at the weight that would have been the most optimal for me my freshman and sophomore year. Both the weights above that each year had a state placewinner for us at them also. I tried cutting a ton of weight each year to make the next lowest weight class. My freshman year, the weight just was not there to lose to make 103 so I went up to 125. My sophomore year I actually made 119 twice, but I was a shell of myself. I took a few losses those first two weeks to kids I had no business losing to. I made the decision to go up to 135, I won my first try out but lost the spot to Phil O’Loughlin who would go on to qualify that year and then win state 2 years later. My junior year I was at a good weight, had a great season beating a lot of guys that would go on to place, I just took that one loss at sectionals and all of the sudden I was sitting back crying my eyes out knowing that 3 quarters of my high school career were gone. I was in a pretty dark place then and wrestling was not really fun anymore. I broke my hand in football before the start of my senior wrestling season. To this day I still think that breaking my hand was the best thing that ever could have happened to me. It allowed me to still work on my conditioning, but just watch wrestling for a few months again and fall back in love with it.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

I felt like I was always in better shape than everyone I wrestled. I probably didn’t use that to the best of my ability in my style though. I like to go upper body a lot, but I scored a lot of takedowns with my quickness from anklepicks and ducks. I think the best way to describe my style was probably a strategist. If I had a lead late, it was over. I scored a lot at the end of periods, knew how to work the edge, could ride well enough to keep guys from scoring. I call it a strategist, you might call it a staller!


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

Honestly not many. The Bosco crew would always travel around to find the best competition so that usually kept us from seeing the same people too much. I think Doug Reiter made a lot of calls ahead to kids tournament directors and made sure all of our brackets were loaded. I felt like we had a truck load of great wrestlers coming home with 3rd and 4th place trophies a lot.


Who was your most influential coach?

That’s a tough one. Most of the coaches at Bosco now either came after I left or were just starting towards the end of my career. I would have to go with Doug Reiter though. I don’t think I ever learned a bit of technique from the guy, but he was a master with the mental aspect. The best I can put it into words was he had a way of pumping you up while calming you down simultaneously. I think the mental side of wrestling is talked about a lot and still not enough. It is absolutely everything. That’s another thing I really like to study when I watch wrestling and talk about it. I like watching and hearing about what different wrestlers mentalities are. I don’t think there is a one size fits all mental approach. My junior year I was at my best as far as technique and conditioning went and that season didn’t end how I wanted. My senior year, I probably traded in a little conditioning and technique for a huge improvement in my mentality and it paid off for me.


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

We won state duals by freshman and senior years. We finished 2nd my sophomore year. It was a lot of fun winning state titles with guys I grew up with riding bikes across Gilbertville and getting into trouble just being knuckle head little kids.


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

I followed everyone. I knew all the Bosco guys and who their biggest rivals were. I was winning money of older guys in state champion pick ‘em tournaments back in grade school, so it is hard to put my finger on just one guy. I loved watching them all.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

It’s always going to be Mack Reiter for me. I learned a lot from him on his work ethic. That was always my goal in conditioning was to match how hard he was working or top it. I tried to beat him in every crawl, sprint, or 3 man rolls.


You’ve covered wrestling for IAwrestle for a few years now, how has the experience been for you?

Been a lot of fun. It is a lot of work constantly trolling Tony Hager. I just love having fun with it. I’m always looking for the perfect joke. I have fun with some of the behind the scenes access it gives me to events. I just love watching how wrestlers take big wins and losses in the bowels of an arena while nobody is watching. It something I have always studied. Not necessarily study as in sit down at a desk and breakdown film, but I just like watching it. There is something that I have never really been able to put into words about it. I love big matches that have huge consequences for the winner and also the loser. It brings out the best in people or even just who they really are. I think I can kind of feel for guys that don’t get what they want because a lot of times I didn’t get what I wanted. To me the best part is trying to figure out why it did or didn’t go well for someone.  I ask the question “why” a lot when it comes to decisions made on the mat or in training to other coaches an athletes. Sometimes it gets perceived as me second guessing, but it’s really just me trying to figure out what makes people successful.


In order to grow wrestling, what are some things we could do to make it happen?

Do away with the “Good Ole Boys” mentality and open up to new ideas.


What is a crazy or funny experience you’ve had so far in your time covering the rankings?

How mid to low ranked Western Iowa 1a guys love trading losses back and forth to make my life hell when trying to put together a top 12.


Do you like doing rankings or do you have a love-hate relationship with it? What is your philosophy on how you do yours?

It is a lot of work filling all of Tony’s demands. I don’t do rankings like most other people. Some of it is the same like if wrestler A beats B then A is ranked higher, but I also put a lot of my predictions in there more so than other people. At the end of the day when all the dust has settled at state, nobody will remember how I came to the conclusion of ranking a guy first instead of second. They will just remember that I had the guy at #1 who won the tournament.


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

Generally, I think the top end guys get better from era to era. I’m not a big fan of the back in my day stories and how much tougher they had it. Selfishly I’d always like to see how that 2005 class from my senior year stacked up against other eras though.


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

A lot of guys from that 2005 class. I knew how hard I worked to get where I got so it was a constant struggle I had trying to figure out if those guys really put that much more work in than me or if it was all back to that mentality. I worked out with a 4xer everyday for more of my career than I didn’t and I felt I held my own in the work department. That’s what keeps me up at nights is trying to figure out what separates those two people.


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Can we switch this to favorite current high school athlete? For me that would be Cael Frost. I just love his mentality when it comes to sports. I think to be successful on the mat or the field you have to have a level of naïve confidence as Mack Reiter calls it. Some people think they are good, but Cael knows it. When the smack talk starts from the other team, he gets better.


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

Rock 108 was what the radio was always on in the wrestling room. Disturbed, Saliva, Godsmack, Metallica. Any music similar to that. I still listen to that on my long runs, it just sets the tone mentally for me. Even to this day certain songs take me back to some of the battles I had in the practice room with Todd Becker, Nick Weber, and Adam Weber. It didn’t hurt having a state champ, 3rd place finisher, and D3 all American to wrestle with everyday.


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

It’s that sectional loss my junior year and nothing else is even close.


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

Probably the one I mentioned 2-3 times already my junior year, but just for fun lets throw another one in. The summer after my freshman year at Fargo I was 3-0 in Greco and wrestling a kid from Oklahoma. He launched me for 5 early, but I threw him to his back late in the match. Was millimeter from pinning him as time ran out. I lost my next match too and I was done. Had I won that match I would’ve AAed at Fargo.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Probably my win first round at state my senior year, I beat the #2 ranked wrestler in the tiebreakers. I remember my Dad and Doug Reiter in the front row of the seats at Vets just going crazy.I could hear everything they were saying. Another memory that goes with that is after I pinned my guy in the wrestleback to place, I had a “Ricky Bobby, I don’t know what to do with my hands” moment. I just kind of ran off the mat past my coaches and there was my dad right there probably ready to hug me and I just ran right by him, it didn’t really fully register until I was down in the basement of Vets that I just ran right by him without acknowledging him. I didn’t know where I was running I just kind of ran with no end game.


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

I was a 4 sport athlete so not year round.Most of the way through high school we would get 50+ Freco matches in a summer.


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

Jay Borschel, Joey Slaton, Dan LeClere, Mitch Mueller, Chad Beatty, Matt Fields, etc………….you tell me


Did you wrestle after high school?

I am undefeated post high school. Won a match in OT at a Don Bosco alumni meet. One of my biggest regrets was not going to a smaller college and wrestling after high school.


What other sports did you play?

Baseball was my favorite sport and still probably is. That was the sport I was best at. I played baseball in college at NIACC.


What are your favorite sports teams?

Atlanta Braves and Iowa Hawkeyes. I am can be a very irrational fan at times.


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Hanging out with family. We are always doing something together.


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

I think it is what makes Bosco so great. You have 10 coaches that are basically donating their time to keep Bosco at the top. Not many if any teams have as many accolades as the Bosco coaching staff and they are doing it not for the money, but because they love doing it.


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

I think wrestling helps people elevate when times get tough in life or at work. In my profession there are a lot of times where a dangerous part of a tree needs to be removed, and I feel like I thrive in those situations because you are so use to people looking at you expecting you to perform when it’s only you and your opponent under the spotlight. I like that pressure of being the go to guy in the toughest situations, there is a lot of pride that goes with that.


What do you do now?

Troll people on the internet mostly.

I work for the City of Waverly. In my position, I am the City Forester as well as in charge of conservation efforts through maintaining the towns prairies and natural areas.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

I do what I can at IAwrestle although it is less now with a family. I helped Joe Reiter out coaching the 3rd-8th graders in Gilbertville for 5 or so years. Now I help Isaiah Corbin at practices with the Preschool-2nd graders which mostly consists of drilling them with dodgeballs.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Don’t ever look at a loss and use it as a measuring stick for where you think you stack up compared to anyone else. Don’t allow it to be a measure stick.


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

Absolutely not. I felt my conditioning was what gave me an edge when I wrestled. Since I don’t have that anymore, I’d probably get worked.


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

I want to give a shoutout to my wife. I feel like all my answers were geared towards my high school days before I met my wife so she never came up in them. Jacki loves wrestling too, we regularly go to wrestling meets and tournaments from Bosco to UI meets. We always make the trip to the state tournament too. I enjoy watching wrestling and spending time with her.


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

I imagine this is that last Remember The Wrestler you will be doing since I am easily the least accomplished person to do this so you must be scraping the bottom of the barrel.



Cullan Schriever… One of my favorite wrestlers….EVER. A technical wizard on the mat. I’ve never seen someone so efficiently utilize a spectrum of set-ups to score a plethora of takedowns each match quite like Cullan Schriever.  When he’s on and healthy, his game is systematic and borderline flawless and if you know what you are looking at when you watch him, it is quite the show.

So Cullan CAN’T have a case for the GOAT since he only won 3 titles, right?  WRONG. I refuse to put much stock in the one year that he did not win state.  It was his Junior year and he was terribly injured. A broken ankle, I believe.  And he STILL managed to place at state.  Unbelievable. On full-health, Cullan is nothing less than a legit comparison to undefeated 4X state champion and 2X national champion Hawkeye, Eric Juergens of Maquoketa. In fact, he reminds me a lot of Eric. He’s THAT good.

Cullan was able to accomplish some things that only the elite of the elite in the NATION were able to achieve.  Take a look at this resume:

  • 3X State Champion, 4x placer.
  • Fargo cadet freestyle champion in 2016…
  • Fargo junior freestyle champion in 2018…
  • 2017 Super 32 champion
  • Folkstyle cadet national champion in 2016
  • Two-time UWW Cadet All-American

Try to think of some other Iowa HS guys who Schriever’s accolades aren’t on par with…. I’m waiting.  I mean, the kid won Super 32…Who else has done that? Fredy Stroker?

Schriever is a product of Sebolt Wrestling Academy… So is current Fort Dodge Senior, Drake Ayala.  Drake is one of the Iowa HS GOAT’s in his own right and is trying to become a 3X state champion this year himself… The one year he didn’t win state, who stopped him? You guessed it, Cullan Schriever.

Does Cullan Schriever have a case as Iowa HS wrestling’s GOAT?  If you don’t think so, you are wrong… plain and simply.  In fact, he very well could be the best I’ve ever witnessed on the Iowa HS wrestling scene.  I’d love to see how he would do in some hypothetical matchups against other Iowa HS greats…. I am 100% Cullan would handle himself just fine against anyone you throw out there with him.

And my respect for him exceeds the wrestling mat, for a couple years ago when I covered 3A wrestling for The Predicament, the Mason City trio of Cullan, his twin brother Colby and 285 lber. Troy Monahan were some of the most impressive athletes I met all year.  All three were polite, well-spoken and showed patience with me when I had some technical issues. You seriously just couldn’t ask for a better trio of guys to represent your team in the manner those three did on and off the mat. RESPECT to Mason City’s wrestling community!!!!

I’m a huge fan of this kid… He is my favorite Hawkeye right now.


2017 3A 106

  • 1st Place – Cullan Schriever of Mason City
  • 2nd Place – Ben Monroe of Ankeny Centennial
  • 3rd Place – Cody Anderson of Waukee
  • 4th Place – Conrad Braswell of Prairie, Cedar Rapids
  • 5th Place – Nick Oldham of Valley, WDM
  • 6th Place – Evan Yant of Waverly-Shell Rock
  • 7th Place – Nathan Kahoe of Des Moines Lincoln
  • 8th Place – Hans vonRabenau of Iowa City, West

2018 3A 106

  • 1st Place – Cullan Schriever of Mason City
  • 2nd Place – Drake Ayala of Fort Dodge
  • 3rd Place – Lucas Uliano of Waukee
  • 4th Place – Devin Harmison of Southeast Polk
  • 5th Place – Ethan Wood-Finley of Iowa City, City High
  • 6th Place – Aiden Evans of Bettendorf
  • 7th Place – Rheiner Stahlbaum of Johnston


2019 3A 120

  • 1st Place – Carson Taylor of Fort Dodge
  • 2nd Place – Hunter Garvin of Iowa City, West
  • 3rd Place – Aiden Evans of Bettendorf
  • 4th Place – Keaton Moret of Norwalk
  • 5th Place – Thomas Edwards of Johnston
  • 6th Place – Cullan Schriever of Mason City
  • 7th Place – Nick Miller of Waukee
  • 8th Place – Nick Walters of Sioux City, North


2020 3A 126

  • 1st Place – Cullan Schriever of Mason City
  • 2nd Place – Carson Taylor of Fort Dodge
  • 3rd Place – Ayden Kingery of Southeast Polk
  • 4th Place – Thomas Edwards of Johnston
  • 5th Place – Bryce Parke of Linn-Mar – Marion
  • 6th Place – Grant Harbour of Norwalk
  • 7th Place – Connor Kelley of Waukee
  • 8th Place – Jackson Helmkamp of Ankeny Centennial

Remember The Wrestler: Wes Pargeon, Montezuma HS

A lot of you have been following The Pin Doctors and what I’ve been  up to with it since the day I started it a little over a year ago. I don’t feel like I’m going out on too much of a limb when I say that many of you have had a lot of fun in your time spent here, which makes me feel proud beyond words. My brother, Shea discovered how much fun people on a wide scale level have had on the site a few months ago. He was pretty proud of what I am doing after a conversation he had with someone while coaching a football game…and he can be a bit of an tough sell for me. If he likes or dislikes something I’m doing, he’s not afraid to hurt my feelings about it. And if you do something well in his eyes, you earned it, for he will not flourish you with even the most microscopic of compliments unless he means it.  So you can about imagine my excitement when he got ahold of me one night, noticeably excited. He indicated to me that he couldn’t wait to tell me whatever it was he had to tell me. When I got him on the phone, he said that someone he had just met that night at the football game had some nice things to say about the site and about me. The way he described it, during a break, he was having a routine conversation about wrestling with the officiating crew when he mentioned that his brother launched a wrestling website. Shea isn’t necessarily an avid reader or follower of the site, so I don’t think he expected anyone to know what it was. When the crew asked him what it was called, he told them it was The Pin Doctors and to his surprise, every one of their faces lit up and it became apparent to him that not only did they all know what it was, but they all really liked it. It was one of the first signs for Shea that the site had actually been getting somewhere in terms of it becoming widespread and received well amongst the wrestling community… That there may be something to this wrestling site I was always babbling about.

When I asked him who these people were, he told me 3 names, but pointed out that one of them seemed to be a more avid reader/follower than the other two. His name was Wes Pargeon from Montezuma. Ironically, I had just become familiarized with Wes’s name within the 2-3 weeks leading to that evening, for I had recently uploaded his state finals match. Also, I almost bought a truck from a man named Zac Whitehead, who told my dad and I when we met with him that he was related to the Pargeon’s from Montezuma. So I thought this was cool.

Shea told me he was proud of me. That doesn’t happen all that often and it made my day…thanks to Wes Pargeon.



What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle?

​No clubs.  Montezuma High School.


What year did you graduate?



Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

​It was just another sport my parents got us brothers into.


Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? How did they do?

​Brothers ​Mike 1985 state qualifier

​​​Curt 1991 district qualifier

​​​Daryl 1992 didn’t compete junior/senior year due to kidney issues


What were your youth results?  Any rivals there?

I don’t recall recording my record. Delson Knowler from Bloomfield and Sage Dalstrom from Pekin were 2 individuals I remember.  Delson would get the win and Sage and I would go back and forth.


What was your record in HS?

​I don’t recall exactly, somewhere around 80 wins and 20 loses.


How did you place at state every year?

​Senior year 2nd place.


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

Notable to myself was losing 21 lbs. my freshman year. It was definitely a learning experience for my next 3 years.  Also not wrestling sectionals my junior year due to back injury and not being able to wrestle till after Christmas my senior year due to tonsillitis and mono.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

It really depended on who I was wrestling at that time.  Sometimes I was the aggressor and sometime I just waited for the opponent to make a mistake.


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

My senior year I wrestled Phil Grimm from English Valley.  I won our first encounter and he won the next two.


Who was your most influential coach?

Jim Bond taught me as a youth and was my assistant coach in HS.  Gary Stroble was my JH and HS head coach.  Coach Stroble started our Montezuma wrestling program in 1981.  Montezuma didn’t even have mats to practice on when they had their 1st meet with 6 wrestlers.  Montezuma never won a dual meet until 1982. He got his 1st dual shut out in 1983. And his 1st state qualifier in 1985 (my brother Mike).  Some of you reading this will understand when a coach and student click, good things happen.  I was fortunate to click with 2 coaches.


Was your team competitive in HS?

​We had a good team in HS. Of course, there were better teams out there.


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

Having an older brother and 2 younger brothers I can’t just pick one.  Along with our sibling fighting at home, watching all 3 brothers practice and compete helped me become a better wrestler.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

​I can’t just say 1 wrestler. There are several that meet the requirements of a GOAT.


How would you describe Montezuma wrestling, past and present?

I would describe it as a struggling program past and present.  Spectators, overall, would rather watch a game not a match.


Would you consider a strength of yours to be your ability to scramble well and be able to hit some funky technique that works well?

​A strength of mine was being able to scramble. But as far as funky technique, no.


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

​Spencer Lee for his dominance and Austin Desanto for his attitude.


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

​About whatever I could get reception for?


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

I would have to say my senior final match at state. It wasn’t the fact that I lost but because the season was over.


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

I would have lifted weights.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Having my parents at every tournament and meet is a great memory I will never forget. Winning my 1st wrestle off as a freshman and finishing 2nd place at the state tournament as a senior.


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

I met Shawn Pippert at the Louisa Muscatine tournament in the finals every year.  Unfortunately, he was victorious every time.


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

​Only wrestled during the season.


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

I would hope the guys today would kick our butts due to the excessive time they spend on the mat.  There are a lot of kids going to clubs and tournaments year-round today.


Did you wrestle after HS?

My second year of college I went to Buena Vista and wrestle for ½ year. My mind set and extracurricular activities outscored my college wrestling career.


What other sports did you play?

​Football, cross country, wrestling, golf, and baseball.


What are your favorite sport teams?

​All Iowa Hawkeyes and Tennessee Titans


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?



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

​I taught our little kid program for about 3 yrs. It was a thrill at that time.


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

​One word (confidence).


What do you do now?

​Tool & Die Maker


Are you still involved with wrestling?

​Just wrestling with my kids on the living room floor.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

I would start off telling them about my senior tournament results. I wrestled in 7 tournaments starting after Christmas. I only won 2 of them and placed 2nd at the other 5(sectionals, districts and state were all 2nd place).  Believe you belong with the best of them. Set your goal high but achievable. Don’t forget to have fun.


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

Not a chance (lol). I don’t bend like I used to.


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

To the late Troy Rohret from Clear Creek. I never knew him personally, but I’m sure he was a great guy. He beat me in the state finals 4-2. Rest in peace, Champ.


Do you have anything to add?

​One thing I want to say is thanks to you Joshua Swafford.  What you have created here brings back a lot of great memories. Thanks again.


Remember The Wrestler: Ryan Valline, East Marshall/GMG


Ryan Valline wrestled for East Marshall/GMG and graduated in 2011. He was the first State Champ for EM/GMG and holy cow did he ever win a deep bracket and holy cow did he ever win an exciting match in the finals. His  wrestling story is a great one! A great wrestler who did an awesome job getting things rolling for his HS program.


What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle? 

I wrestled at South Tama club until my 5th or 6th grade year. Then I went to East Marshall for a year before going to Cedar Rapids Hammerin Hawks. Then I transferred schools to East Marshall my 8th grade year until I graduated. In college I went to Iowa Central for a semester and spent two years at Itasca Community College in Minnesota.


What year did you graduate? 

I graduated in 2011.


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try? 

My dad is the one who encouraged me to give wrestling a try.


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

My dad wrestled only a couple years when he was in high school. My brother wrestled from the time he was young until his senior year. I’m not quite sure how my dad did but my brother had an average career.


What were your youth results? Any rivals there? 

My youth results were not great. I lost a lot of matches when I was younger. I believe it was roughly my 6th grade year is when I started winning matches and tournaments. I finally placed at AAU state my 8th grade year. I took third.


What was your record in HS? 

I believe it was a 154-27.


How did you place at state every year? 

Soph 6th at 160

Jr 5th at 152

Sr 1st at 152


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

I would have to say wrestling in the finals. The guy had beaten me twice at in the prior weeks. I was down 4-3 with 13 seconds lefts. After a couple shot attempts my opponent got hit with stalling and it was his 3rd stall call which tied up the match and I didn’t know it. I took a shot and got a takedown with 1 second left on the clock.


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

I would have to say Chase Skoneczka from Benton. Throughout high school I beat him every time but the scores kept getting closer and closer. Then our senior year, he beat me at sectionals and districts. We both went on to make the finals and once again it came down to the end with me scoring a last second takedown to win 6-4.


Who was your most influential coach? 

Todd Hinegardner


Was your team competitive in HS/college? 

East Marshall was a very competitive team. We took 7th 3 years in a row at traditional state. My junior year we finally were able to make it to dual state after losing to Dallas Center Grimes and Denver Tripoli the previous years at regional duals. We finished 4th.


Who are your favorite current wrestlers? 

Spencer Lee and Kyle Dake


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

In the practice room in high school, we listened to a lot of classic rock. In college my teammates were more into the rap music.


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

My freshman year in high school. I won sectionals and was the heavy favorite to win districts and my first match I wrestled sloppy and it went into sudden victory and I had to ride him out. The guy stood up and I was about to bring him back to the mat and I tripped and lost my grip. Then the guy I beat in the finals at sectionals went on to place at state. I told myself I would never put myself in that situation again.


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

I would go back and start lifting in high school.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment? 

Being the first state champion for East Marshall/GMG. There are many wrestlers that I thought would be the first for EM/GMG. A couple that comes to mind is Brett Rosedale and Sam Upah. They both were great wrestlers.


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

Tanner Weatherman and Blake Soresenson


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

I wrestled all year.


Did you wrestle after high school? 

I wrestled at Iowa Central for a semester before joining the military. I didn’t compete there. Then I wrestled up at Itasca Community College in Minnesota for Dan Lovell who coached me in freestyle and greco.


What other sports did you play? 



What are your favorite sports teams? 

Iowa Hawkeyes and Minnesota Vikings


What are your hobbies other than wrestling? 

Hunt, fish, and lift weights.


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

Wrestling has taught me to be a hard worker at everything I do.


What do you do now? 

I am currently a Lineman Apprentice.


Are you still involved with wrestling? 

Sadly no. I was a coach for a freestyle club up north and I was a freestyle and ref for a few years.


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

It’s possible.


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

I would have to shout out to coaches Todd Hinegardner, Kelly Madison, Dan Lovell. Also shout out to a couple wrestlers that kicked my butt every day in practice, Sam Upah and Jase Schossow.


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

After I won state, I walked back into the locker room and on my bag was a one dollar bill with the words State Champ on it. To this day, I still do not know who did that.




How was The club formed?

Joshua Swafford: I believe Mike Sayre started it at James Madison Middle School in 89’ or so. In 1991, the club moved to the YMCA and a few years after that, the club practiced at the high school.  On the other hand, I’ve heard of youth practices taking place at the YMCA in Burlington as early as the 70’szz

Adam Roberts: You know I am not 100% sure how it was formed.  I know that Mike Sayre was our sole head coach at first and he was dating Karen Gunn at the time who is Josh Gunn’s mom and Josh wrestled so I figure Mike got suckered in that way.  Karen did the back end stuff like running the Iron Dog Tournament and managing any other paperwork that came with the job.  I would assume Mike recruited Mark Swafford as his assistant given the Mepo wrestling connection.  From that point it was the Burlington kids being joined by the Mepo kids at James Madison before we moved to the YMCA for years and then lastly the Burlington and Mepo High School Wresting rooms in the late 90’s. I also remember practicing in the Mepo Middle School a few times.



What colors were the singlets?

Joshua Swafford: Purple and Gold

Justin Swafford: Purple and yellow. They don’t have the yellow anymore. Unique to us.

Adam Roberts: Originally Purple with gold trim.  As we got older we started we started wearing more free style singlets and the Burlington kids stuck with purple while the Mepo kids starting wearing black and orange Bull Dog colors.




What are some of the names of guys who wrestled for the Club?

Joshua Swafford: Ross Patton, Ryan Patton, Josh Gunn, Jason Campbell, Buc Lee, Cody Lee, Tyler Sherwood, Justin Swafford, Joshua Swafford, Phillip Klees, Adam Roberts, Neil Johnson, Andy Hartje, Chris Sime, John McClure, Brian Glendening, Kevin Glendening, Matt Glendening, Jason Sime, Jayme Sime, Cole Simmons, Brad Lower, Chris Johnson, Chad Johnson, Caleb Martin, Mark Mueller, Jim Corder, Lee Defosse, Matt Peterson, Jim Corder, Bobby Forseen, Aaron Drain, Ryan Phillips, Ricky Cavins, Neil Johnson, Robert Johnson, Josh Britton, Ryan McCall, Steve Reynolds, David Reynolds, Nate Kramer, Justin Kramer, Brian Mehaffey, Lee Defosse, Ben Thomson, Heath Latta, Scott Hartje, Mitch Dill, etc.

Adam Roberts: Klees, Roberts, Chris, Drain, glendenings, Matt, Josh and Micah Keller, Josh and Justin Swafford, Phillip Klees, Aaron and Adam Drain, Brad Lower, Neil and Robert Johnson, Brian and Kevin Glendening, Booger Sherwood, Heath Latta, Jason, Chris and Jamie Sime, Cody and Buck Lee, Steve and David Reynolds, Chris Johnson, Andy and Scott Hartje, Nate and Justin Kramer, Josh Gunn, Brian Mehaffy, Mark Mueller, Ricky Cavins, Ryan Phillips … A ton more that I am sure I am missing.     


Who were the coaches?

Joshua: Mike Sayre, Mark Swafford, Jim Drain, George Bowman, Alex Sherwood, Josh Daly, Dennis Reynolds, Calvin Keller.

Adam: Mike Sayre, Mark Swafford, George Bowan, Calvin Keller, Jim Drain are who I remember.

Justin: Sayre, Dad, Bowman, Calvin, Drain,


Coach Mike Sayre and Coach Mark Swafford


How would you describe the coaching styles of Coach Sayre and Swafford?

Joshua Swafford: Coach Sayre was a mad man. He started coaching when he began dating Josh Gunn’s mom, Karen. You’ll never meet another person like him. He would piss off a lot of parents (usually new ones) or general onlookers who were running laps in the facility or something for screaming way too much and way too loud at us. He was hard core. His nickname was “Sayre Bear.” He could get away with a lot of things that most normal people can’t due to being shaped like a bear, sounding like an elephant and his absolute willingness to confront anyone who had anything to say to him. People did not want to mess with this guy and that included the kids.  If we didn’t work as hard as we could, the punishment was severe and usually consisted of a lot of stair-running and a lot of burpies. And in the few occasions someone was brave enough to run their mouths at him, he was able to make them look silly, for he has some of the sharpest and funniest wit imaginable. Off the mat (and on…it was tough love) he loved the kids.  You got to a point where all he had to do was look at you funny and you knew he meant business. I guarantee there was nothing else like it in the state. One of a kind. Mark Swafford was pretty similar to Mike Sayre, but his own version of it. Every bit as intense and a very strict and assertive way of making sure people got it. He and Mike Sayre were a formidable coaching duo. Very good technicians obsessed with the sport.

Phillip Klees: They both coached in a way that results were guaranteed. They would make sure we were the best. I owe so much in my life to the coaches of this program. Their coaching styles… borderline sadistic. Sayre would laugh the first practice year when we were huffing a puffing during up down, “this is the worst shape you boys will be in all year.” Don’t know how many times I heard, “if you got the energy to cry, you can do more up downs.” And who can forget the famous “washing machines” exercise, whatever that was, haha!

Adam Roberts: Coach Sayre was a bruiser.  He wasn’t a fancy wrestler, he was strong as an ox and would let you know it if you crossed him.  He had the most wicked, leg crumbling cross face you could ever imagine and he would throw it on you for fun. Coach Swafford was a technician. He was quick, smooth and fluid.  I don’t really remember that much about George Bowman except he used to jog to and from the YMCA for practices.

Justin: I would describe Sayre as tough, but fair. He had a way to relate to kids while being a smart ass. He wasn’t malicious, but cared deeply about us while cracking the whip on us. He’d get that little grin on his face and giggle and you’d know that he’d be up to something. Extra laps or something. He took the time to write me a letter after I won state one year that really reinforced my work ethnic, to keep doing what I was doing. It was good to hear that I was doing great things from a hardass like him. Dad was intense, passionate about the sport, good at working on the technique we needed. He bought us the best tapes to help with technique… the Granby system, Gable and a Schalles topwork video. That was my go to for top work and I would recommend it to anyone. Wade Schalles top work. Dad taught us how to do the carry series perfectly and that eventually morphed for me to everything that I considered my go to. Coach Bowman was relaxed, but expected a lot out of ya. He was the easiest to talk to, but you knew he expected you to or at least compete. He gave the best “in match “ advice. He had a good way of encouraging. Good positive reinforcement, but it was clear that he wanted 100% from us. He was a straight talker. You didn’t get any BS from him. He meant what he said.

When Mike Sayre asked Mark Swafford to be Co-Head Coach of the club.


Where were most of the wrestlers from?

Joshua Swafford: They were from Mediapolis and Burlington. It was very difficult when we had to split up when we got into HS. We were a family and then instantly we were heated rivals. Both squads got about half the guys… the Sherwood’s, Adam Roberts, Phillip Klees, Brad Lower, Chris Sime, John McClure, Heath Latta, Ryan and Ross Patton, Ryan Phillips, Riley Ball, etc. were all Burlington guys. Aaron Drain, Justin and Nate Kramer, Josh Gunn, Matt, Micah and Josh Keller and Josh and Justin Swafford were Mepo guys.

Adam Roberts: It was probably a 50-50 split Mepo and Burlington, maybe more Burlington kids early on. I think some kids lived in small surrounding towns like Danville and Middletown.

Justin Swafford: Mepo, Burlington, Danville mostly. We even got some guys from Morning Sun and Wapello towards the end there like Jared Pierce.  Logan Frescoln traveled all the way from Cardinal.


Front Row (L-R): Ryan McCall, Kevin Glendening, Bobby Forseen, Heath Latta, Justin Swafford Back Row (L-R): Phillip Klees, Josh Swafford, Brian Glendening, Tyler Sherwood, Josh Britton


How long did the club last?

Joshua Swafford: It’s still going, but has different coaches, structure, etc. It’s for sure, an entirely different club than what we had. Ours was one of a kind.

Adam Roberts: If Josh Gunn was an indicator on when the club started and he is two years older than me then it probably began around 1988 and basically ended when I went to high school in 1998. So best guess, 10 -11 years.



Have you ever thought of restarting the club?

Joshua Swafford: Mark Swafford still coaches at Mepo Youth. Would love to get him reunited with Sayre. When some of us got into HS, the club derived into a West Burlington-Mepo hybrid club that Jim Drain was the mastermind behind, which later evolved into the Mepo Youth Wrestling Club run by Drain and Mark Swafford which won several youth and a HS State title in 2015.

Adam Drain and Chris Johnson… World and National Champs for West Burlington YC.

Justin Swafford– If I were to start a club, I would do a lot of the things the same. I would put kore of an emphasis on freestyle and Greco. The main thing I would do different would be separating the new from the experienced so the new kids did not get shell shocked to start the sport. I would probably have 3 separate groups of guys based on experience and level. The complete beginners aren’t going to be excited or entertained by being screamed at for not doing a setup to a move they don’t know yet correctly.

Adam Roberts: No, I live in St. Louis now.

FRONT L-R: Jordan Carey, Lane Ranck, Winston Hostetter                      BACK L-R: Coach Mark Swafford, Justin Swafford, Micah Keller, Brad Lower, Miles Wagler


Did Club always have a full room for practice or were the numbers small?

Joshua Swafford: The room was always full and everyone could attend, but not everyone could stay. You couldn’t go there and expect to stay if you planned on slacking off.

Adam Roberts: Generally speaking, we always had a pretty full room.  I remember there were two groups, the older more experienced group that went with Coach Sayre and the younger less experienced group of kids who were taught by Mark Swafford. I’d say the room consistently had 20 – 30 kids in it.

Justin Swafford: We were the premier wrestling club in SEI in my day and tons wanted to join to get better and we accepted them, but you had to be tough to get through them. Some people would travel to work out in our club. We really cranked things up during districts.



Could any kid join the Club or did it require hard work, dedication and toughness? Were the practices run in intense fashion? 

Adam Roberts: Anyone could join, but at the end of the season it was only the hardworking, dedicated and toughest kids who made it to and through districts and onto state. I remember people staring at us as they walked around the track above us at the YMCA thinking we were crazy.  There were some knock down drag outs, punches thrown, crying and cussing going on with a bunch of pre-teen kids.  Under Coach Sayre we did a lot of live wrestling and conditioning supplemented with drilling the basics.  I also remember going to school my sixth grade year probably at around 5% body fat with a black eye and my Math teacher asking me if everything was ok at home.


Does the Club hold a special place in your heart to this day?

Joshua Swafford: Absolutely. A huge part of my heart is there with wrestling. I hated wrestling Burlington in high school. I still considered them all my brothers and wanted them all to win. I still root for Burlington. Always will. When I see my old teammates from this club, whether they were Mepo or BHS, we always remind each other that even if we don’t see each other enough these days, we are still family…some great friendships there.

* Phillip Klees: The club meant so much to me. I felt obligated to give back and coach for a season before college. Had there have been kids club state titles back then, we were perennial favorites. I can’t thank Mike and Mark enough for their selflessness. With a tear from the bottom of my heart, thanks guys.

Adam Roberts: Of course.  Some of the people I care about the most were in this club.  We still keep in touch.  We basically had a brotherhood. I often refer to this club as our “Sandlot”.  We spent a lot of time together, growing up and facing a lot of adversity.  We are all stronger and more disciplined because of this club.  Life is hard, but we all learned how to be overcomes through our Desire, Determination and Dedication… the Iron Dog 3 D’s… Go Hard or Go Home.

Justin Swafford: Of course. I loved for that club. And Mediapolis wrestling and the trips that we took. Everything about it holds a special place in my heart. It introduced me to a lot of things that became a huge part of my life. Even running on the track at the YMCA introduced me to running… I qualified multiple times in track and cross country running long distance, so that was big for me.



What are some of your favorite Club memories?

Joshua Swafford: One time, a guy named George Bowman showed up and started coaching as if he were one of the guys. Just fit right in there with Sayre and Swafford and they loved him because he had a unique personality and he knew his stuff. He seemed like a nomad. Just kind of appeared one day. Turned out, he was a 2 time state champion from North Dakota and a standout wrestler at the University of Minnesota in the 70’s. He would do fun stuff like make t-shirts with the names of some of our rivals we had battles with. For Klees it was Cody Koenig or Willie James. For Josh Swafford it was Shea Stamp or Anthony Briberesco. Justin Swafford didn’t have anyone usually because he didn’t lose much, but there was a lot of preparation for Henry Wahle and Mack Reiter a couple years. Another one… I loved it when our guys succeeded. Klees besting Willie James at state for the first time. Justin Swafford winning it every year. Roberts being a thorn in several guys’ sides like Adam Reid and Alex Grunder, Heath Latta always dominating, Aaron Drain emerging to one of the best at his age and weight range, Chris Johnson besting JJ Suiter at the blood round at state when that kid reached him out at districts, Chris winning it the next year, Nate Kramer winning state, Micah Keller battling with Kyle Anson and Joey Verschoor, Johnny McClure making noise, Andy Hartje burying guys with a 3/4 Nelson, Matt Keller placing 2nd at state, Brad Lower winning it several years, overcoming the pukes to place every year myself,  Josh Gunn launching people, etc.

Adam Roberts: A few memories that stick out in my mind are 1.) the year we qualified 20 some kids for the state tournament and brought home 10+ metals.  2.) Mark Swafford air guitar-ing it across the Mepo High School wrestling room to “Life is a Highway”.  3.) The practice right before the state tournament that Justin Swafford snapped on us and cussed us all out screaming at the top of his lungs at us for 15 minutes  for not running stairs fast enough at Burlington High  School.  Never saw Justin lose his temper like that. It was crazy. 4.) Night tournaments at Wilton and Durant. 5.) Spending  the night in a hotel the day before District tournaments in PV.

Justin Swafford: The pizza parties were awesome. It snowed real bad in April for one of those. Dropping ice down the stairway at 5 Seasons Hotel with Drain and Chris Johnson and then running to our rooms when someone would scream at us. Playing the first  Mortal Kombat game and trying to teach Klees the blood code: ABACABBA! Josh trying to get away with washing machines is everyone’s favorite.



How would the team have done if they didn’t split into Burlington and Mepo?

Joshua Swafford: In 2A we would have been up there with anyone had everyone from the club stuck together. Osage, Emmetsburg, Clarinda, Winterset, Clear Lake, etc. all would have been tough of course. The team that would have given us major fits was Lewis Central of the 1999-2002 range.  They would have been difficult for any team in history to beat. However, I mean it when I say that had we found a way to stick together, we would have been nose to nose with anyone. A lot of the Burlington and Mepo guys depended on each other quite a bit for they were the best practice partners for each other. This team would have won  state… especially if some of the top guys didn’t quit when they hit HS. That’s another thing, we had at least 5-10 potential state champs who quit wrestling in HS. If the club didn’t split, who knows, these guys may not have quit. Burlington HS and Mediapolis HS always have ad great coaching staffs in place at the HS level. Both staffs would have done great with an entire combined crew.

Phillip Klees: I am absolutely confident that no one would have ever stopped us if we didn’t split. Had we not broken up, our JV team would have held its own at varsity tournaments. if I recall, Anthony Briberesco got denied state by Nate Kramer and I. That’s just one of many examples of how our team used to shut guys from other teams down. .I didn’t like wrestling against my teammates, at all.

Adam Roberts: If we could have all come together we would have ridden a lot of momentum through high school. Instead I think a lot of  kids including myself didn’t reach their full potential. Competitive wrestling partners are the reason programs excel.  If we would have stayed together we would have been in the State  Dual Tournament several time and probably brought home medals.

Justin Swafford: We would have had great teams. Both Burlington and Mepo were tough being split. We would have been a crazy good team with DEPTH. Sky was the limit.


Do you have anything interesting or funny to add about the club?

Joshua Swafford: I have a few things:

1.) Our finish-ups were terrible when we started practicing at Burlington High School. We had to run across the gym, up a flight of stairs, through the hall, down a flight of stairs and that was one lap… we had to do 30 a night. If we got caught slacking, 5 more were added on. Brad Lower, Caleb Martin and Justin Swafford were the littlest guys in the room and would always lap the big guys by at least 5-10 laps.

2.) We discovered the drink All-Sport at BHS. They had an All-Sport machine and we drank a lot of it after practice.

3.) Mark Mueller started wrestling at this club. He went on to wrestle in Postville, IA and won 2 state championships and wrestled for the Hawkeyes. He was at Burlington for 2-3 years and got his butt kicked bad by Klees, Gunn, Josh Swafford and Roberts to the point where he left in tears almost every night and his dad would get so frustrated with him. After his 2nd or 3rd grade year, he vanished and everyone assumed he quit because he was getting beaten up pretty bad. Then we saw him at AAU State one year and he was huge and strong and won his bracket. We had no idea what happened to him, but the guy got good and he got really big and strong. If he would have stayed at Burlington and the club didn’t split, we for sure would have been THE powerhouse. He ended up kicking my ass in college later down the road…

4.) We had a lot of talented guys who quit in HS. Some of these guys would have won state had they stayed out. Heath Latta and Nate Kramer would have won state. Kramer was already starting to dominate AAU every Even year. Brian and Kevin Glendening would have placed at least. Andy Hartje, Robert Johnson, Brian Mehaffey, etc. all could have placed.

5.) Heath Latta was incredible. He quit his Freshman year, but he was so gifted that I guarantee he can still wrestle and do it at a high level. Tough, tough person.


Adam Roberts: Over 30 years later, the Burlington Youth Kids Wresting Club still refers to their youth club wrestling tournament as the Iron Dog Classic.Kids originally in the club now have kids wresting in that same tournament.

Justin Swafford: This is the club that taught me how to run up walls and do back flips. This is a shining memory of my childhood. I see any of those guys now and it’s like I saw them yesterday. Still feel close after all these years. Great comraderie.




Written by Kevin Swafford

There are many inspirational wrestlers with legendary legacies throughout Iowa Wrestling history.  Growing up in Southeast Iowa, and having the good fortune of seeing so many kids come through local and state-wide wrestling programs to test their skills against great competition has been a 45 year joy for me, as well as for those who participated in the making and molding of those athletes. That would include coaching staffs, families, teammates, friends and fans.  One of the things that I admire about sports, and particularly wrestling, is that to advance and get better, there’s no way around the obvious – you have to face challenges head-on in order to achieve success.

There are no shortcuts

Sometimes it takes longer to reach our goals, sometimes they are never reached.  Sometimes the biggest challenge we face is in ourselves.  But the values gained in training and work ethic remains engrained in those who participate in wrestling because to succeed we are taught and trained to do everything with a purpose.  Wrestlers grow up learning to live their daily lives with purpose, to set high goals and develop plans to reach them, which are then put to the test and measured. Adjustments are made, then applied and put into practice if useful. The point being, you are always moving or advancing and not standing still.

It’s a tried and true repeatable pattern and a process of continual learning that can be seen in those who advance, achieve and are successful. Sounds easy right?  The key ingredients in all of that is vision, commitment, dedication, and perseverance!

That’s what I see in the life of this RTW profile wrestler…  from a talented and successful high school wrestler, who made it a habit of overcoming odds – being labeled “too small” to be competitive… the struggles, commitment and persevering throughout. Yet, it was Dan Gable that told this wrestler before his senior year that he was going to be the 118 pound national champion over and over again.  It wasn’t just crazy talk.  It was a coach intentionally sowing seeds of inspiration that made it possible for unlocking mental barriers and opening the doors to a “story book finish” for both this wrestler and that coach’s career in Cedar Falls, along with a whole team that dared to imagine themselves putting together performances that shocked the wrestling world.

As fans we’ve witnessed countless amazing moments in this sport. In a reference that will no doubt link me to an ancient bygone era… it’s what ABC’s Wide World of Sports host – Jim McKay called: “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat.” It doesn’t get any more dramatic than that, not in wrestling. Win and you experience that thrill of victory much like this RTW profile did in 1997. Lose and you feel like you’ve suffered a deep and searing agony like skier Vinko Bogataj in this WWS intro!

In competition, there’s such a great amount of preparation that goes into achieving and experiencing success.  It’s not just the battle against an opponent that fans watch, but the constant battle within ourselves to push ourselves beyond our imagined limits to reach that goal or prize.  When “battle-day” arrives, we all take part in that experience but once the lights are turned off, there’s just a brief time of reflection and then life moves on to the next event. But there are those extraordinary moments that are special, that draw on the unforgettable excitement and emotions that happen in life, yours and mine… they are lasting, and to some extent can define us or leave its mark on others.

Like when Albert Pujols hit that mammoth homerun in Houston off of Brad Lidge in the 2005 NLCS playoffs, and where we keep hearing reports from time to time that his homerun ball was seen passing Mars or other some other distant galaxy!!! That event happened over 15 years ago and folks are still talking about it…

You instantly remember where you were, who you were with, when it took place, and all the raw emotions that went with it as the event happened before us. Unfolding like a 3-part play, you remember Act I – the intro, then Act II – the confrontation or main plot, then the finale in Act III – the conclusion or resolution. Each part building upon its own unique foundation.

In sports it’s sometimes called the Road to Victory.  But I believe what makes victory taste the sweetest and lasts the longest is recognition of that great adventure and of the individual road that was traveled to reach that destination… remembering the pains and struggles and sometimes suffering that were eventually overcome, and the countless hours of hard work, perseverance and persistence that were poured into that journey and relishing in that. Learning to capture those moments and appreciate them as stepping stones towards the future. In reflection, remembering the decisions, lessons learned, the all-in commitment and sacrifices made just to get to that place where everything paid off, became worth it and culminated in triumph.

That’s what makes the story of this RTW profile subject so special!

Today, I’m talking about an Eagle Grove athlete that wrestling legend Dan Gable called: “the Strongest Man In The World!!!!” – Jessie Whitmer.

He’s one of the most well-known wrestler’s the state of Iowa has ever produced. Mostly because his career epitomizes the perseverance it takes to achieve greatness.

He was a member of the record setting 1997 Iowa Hawkeyes “Dream Team” performers at the NCAA Championships that year and was Dan Gable’s crowning achievement as a college coach. As they scored the highest points total ever amassed in a NCAA Division 1 Tourney with 170 as well as having 8 All Americans with 5 of those National Champions. That Iowa team also destroyed seeding expectations!

What made that ’97 championship that much sweeter when looking back on it, was the Hawkeyes were underdogs and not picked to win the title that year. And Jessie Whitmer was one of the biggest underdogs in the tournament, with low expectations from outside experts. The truth of that problem was that the so-called pundits and wrestling fortune tellers forgot to ask Iowa or Whitmer about it.

Jessie didn’t start wrestling till he was in 7th grade, but he took to the mat like a duck takes to water. Success quickly followed as Jessie placed third at the 1989 IA state tournament as a 103 pound freshman in class 2A, finishing with a record of 36-5. The following three years saw him go 112-3 on the mat while winning one state title at 103 his sophomore year and then placing 3rd his junior and senior years at 112 and 119 pounds and compiling an amazing 148-8 HS career record by the time he graduated in 1992.

Jessie went on to wrestle at the University of Iowa as a Hawkeye, and he redshirted as a freshman, learning his craft wrestling behind the great Chad Zaputil one of my nephew’s favorite Hawkeye wrestlers, who held down the 118 pound class till he graduated in 1993 with 3 NCAA finalist finishes …

Coming out of high school, he was deemed by many as “too small” to be competitive at 118 pounds in college.  After his freshman year at Iowa, he was stuck behind Mike Mena for 4 years, who ended up becoming a 4-time All-American himself.  “I wrestled varsity my junior year until after Midlands. Mike Mena placed second there and I placed fourth so he took over that spot,” Whitmer explained. He noted at that tournament he was beaten by David Morgan of Michigan State twice and that Morgan continued to give him trouble throughout his career.

Prior to the start of his 5th and final season, Coach Dan Gable believed the team was stronger with Whitmer in the lineup, and convinced Mena to move up a weight class. With only 1 more year of eligibility remaining, Jessie stepped up his game along with his intensity. That turning the corner focus for Whitmer can probably be placed at his dedication to an off-season strengthening program that was managed by Iowa’s conditioning and strength coach – Terry Brands.  Jessie, who by his own admission (if you listened to “Tony Hager’s Happy Hour” podcast back on September 25th  2020 with Jessie Whitmer as Adam Feller’s guest… yes shameless plug but I like these guys!) was still physically small for the 118 pound class. Whitmer filled out and put on some much needed muscle over that summer and fall.  It was one of the parts of the puzzle that was missing in his game plan for becoming a national champion, but not the most important part.

During that 1997 senior campaign, Whitmer discovered the power of self-confidence and the change from inside that occurs when athletes finally latch onto it. In Whitmer’s case it was developing and maintaining that belief that he could beat anyone that stepped on the mat with him. Developing the unshakable mental strength required to win at that pinnacle athletic level. It doesn’t guarantee you will win, but it becomes ‘The Keep’ of no retreat!  That’s what separates those who try and those who succeed. That’s probably one of Dan Gable’s greatest gifts in the sport of wresting, preparing his soldiers for battle and mentally for war on both the mat and life.

Specifically, after a dual meet at Michigan State, where his college nemesis David Morgan had again beaten Whitmer… “On the bus after the meet coach Gable went through each match but that day he started at 126. He got to my match last and said that I learned that I could take him down, turn him and escape. When Gable was done with all the positive things, it changed my outlook and I started believing in myself,” recalled Jessie.

Whitmer captured 4th place at the Big Ten Conference tournament… With 2 weeks left before Nationals, the Hawkeye team shifted gears and put the pedal to the metal with rumors that this would be Coach Gable’s last NCAA tournament.  Jessie did his part, as he went on to become the NCAA Division I champion at the 118 weight class that year.  Seeded 6th, he upset the #3, #2, and #5 seeded wrestlers in the tournament, all three returning All-Americans. Whitmer finished that final year with a 24-6 record and a national crown, and helped the Hawkeyes to a record setting national team title with 170 points.

Coach Gable would later state that the 1997 team peaked at the correct time because he changed his coaching style slightly to get the team more mentally prepared. “He was such a great coach. You didn’t just wrestle for yourself…you didn’t want to disappoint him. He told me before my senior year I was going to be the 118 pound national champion and I thought he was crazy,” Whitmer said.

What I love about Jessie Whitmer’s story is that it’s a story of perseverance.  In an interview, Dan Gable reflected on what he felt made Jessie Whitmer successful: “Whether he was the first string guy or the second string guy – which he was always the second string guy until that last year – he stayed committed to the system.  He always kept training to get better….believing in himself, believing in the system….and adding to what he did well, and he just peaked when it was time, because he was committed to getting better, committed to the system.”

I couldn’t say it any better than that…

Introducing husband, proud father and family man, a dedicated employee, and coach… Jessie’s also an Iowa Wrestling HOF inductee, Eagle Grove alum and state champ, the 1997 NCAA D1 National Champion at 118 Lbs. weight class for the Iowa Hawkeyes… and according to the legendary Dan Gable – Wrestling’s Strongest Man In The World…!


What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
I wrestled for Eagle Grove High School starting in 7th grade after a classmate told me he thought I would be good at it because I was short. I also wrestled for Iowa in college.

What year did you graduate?
I graduated high school in 1992 and college in 1997.

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
The classmate that told me I should try it was Matt Wadle. I didn’t know anything about wrestling other than watching George “The Animal” Steele and the Road Warriors. I remember coming home after school and telling my mom that I was going to try wrestling and she said, “Oh buddy, you are going to get hurt!”. I think she thought someone would hit me over the head with a steel chair.

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
I had a brother that wrestled whom was two years younger than myself. He won a state title in 1994. My youngest sister tried wrestling at some point. I currently have a son that wrestles. He is in 3rd grade and he’s learning a lot. He has a ton of heart and many qualities I wish I had at his age or even now.

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
I started in 7th grade and my first loss of 7th grade was from Cory Jones of Iowa Falls. He was a bit of a rival for a few years until he grew and I remained pretty small. I wrestled him again in 8th grade and we tied. The last time I wrestled him was as a 9th grader at Iowa Falls. He later wrestled my little brother and beat my brother up pretty good. We went to a few local tournaments, but never really knew about other wrestling opportunities.

What was your record in HS?
I believe it was something like 142-8. As a freshman I lost to Troy Bennett from Ft. Dodge three times, once to Troy Frieders of Algona at the NCC Conference tournament, and once in the semifinals of state to Marty Bolin of Davis County. As a sophomore I lost to Troy Bennett again. As a Junior I lost to Jason Nurre of Dyersville Beckman, and as a senior I lost to Juan Robles of Wilton. I remember all eight. If you are looking at rivals, I guess Bennett could be one, but we only wrestled five times and he won four of those, giving me 50% of my high school losses. He was better at positions than I was and probably just plain grittier than I was at that age. He made me better each time we wrestled.

How did you place at state every year?
I placed third as a Freshman, first as a Sophomore, third as a Junior, and third as a Senior.

What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
I think you have adverse challenges in wrestling all the time. It starts with hard practices, managing your weight, maintaining grades, blending in socially, being a good son, daughter, or sibling. It’s a challenge each day to juggle all these things and still mentally be in a place to go out on a mat by yourself, in front of lots of sometimes rowdy fans, peers, town members, and teammates to put on a performance people sometimes expect from athletes.

How would you describe your wrestling style?
In high school I was probably a little more relentless and pretty aggressive. In college I tried to be more physical and I think things slowed down for me.

How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
I didn’t really exchange with anyone. Bennett pretty much lopsided those matches and he deserved to win all of them. I will say, as a freshman at Eagle Grove, we had some tough people in the room already and those were true battles every day. I will add more below when I talk about our team.

Who was your most influential coach?
I had great coaches, but my first coaches were my parents and they will always be my most influential coaches. The people below are all people that I care deeply about. They all gave me a piece of themselves to make me better. They gave me “TIME”, which is no greater gift you can give someone, and with that “TIME”, you knew they cared. My parents gave me so much and didn’t ask for anything. This started me in the right direction and put me in front of all the other great people below. I had plenty of great coaches through the years and all gave me tools. I started 7th-8th grade with Coach Jim Neighbors and Coach Dick Messerly. They got me going in the right direction and grew my love for the sport. Coach Marv Reiland was there at the same time and showed me how to be slick and remain calm. Coach Mike Woodall came in when I was a freshman and showed me how to love wrestling. Coach Woodall would grab you after your match while you were all sweaty and show you technique, never worrying about getting blood, sweat, or tears on him. Coach Dave Morgan came in for the remainder of high school. He taught us to be intense and to not stop wrestling.

I went to college and I had Coach Dan Gable and Coach Terry Brands for a majority of the things that I did. Both taught me to believe in myself and gave me the skills to compete with some of the best people in the nation. They all taught me how to prepare for the time on the mat and get ready to perform. I still believe today when I run into other coaches, I am still learning from them. I help with the Clear Creek-Amana program and I learn stuff from Coach Kyle Forness. I also help out at Big Game Wrestling Club with Dylan and Tyler Carew. I learn something from them every week. They all have been influential and provided pieces to me as a puzzle to make me into the wrestler and person I am today.

Was your team competitive in HS/college?
In high school I believe we got 2nd in the traditional State tournament when I was a Freshman and as a Senior we won the State Dual tournament.

Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
I looked up to the Eagle Grove wrestlers. Mark Reiland, Rick Coltvet, Chris Mickelson, Denny Asche, Shawn Angell, Dave Vrba, Don Schmanke, Jason Olson, Jason Thomason, Dave Messerly, Heath Chelsvig, Rich Bol. The college guys at the time I loved to watch were the Brands brothers, both Terry and Tom. I also looked up to guys like Brad Bruhl, Doug Black, Stacy Rice, Mark Schwab, and Tim Ascherl.

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
I would say Mark Schwab. I actually wrestled with him at UNI when I was an 8th grader and I was there for a wrestling camp. We wrestled on our knees because he had surgery at some point prior to that day. He probably doesn’t remember this because I am confident he wrestled more kids than just me. He was that kind of guy. Sometimes the smallest of gestures can mean the world to people. He was someone that I always pulled for as a kid.

Who are your favorite current HS wrestlers?
I would have to say Drake Ayala. Who couldn’t like a guy that goes out and wrestles weights above to give fans matches that we all want to see. I enjoy watching the CCA wrestlers and many of them are my favorites. I also like Hunter Garvin, Kael Scranton, Wyatt Voelker, and Millie Peach. I get the privilege of seeing some of these kids during club season. I do want to point out one CCA kid that is a favorite of mine because he constantly puts in work to get better and that’s Max Carlson.

Who are your favorite current college wrestlers?
I enjoy watching Spencer Lee, Austin Desanto, Nate Carr Jr.

When you started, some of the guys in the club not only had years of experience, but were some of the best kids in the nation. Did you ever feel frustrated having to play catch-up or were you able to maintain a positive attitude?
When I started in 7th grade, I listened very well and we had great partners. I can’t express how beneficial a good partner is. It doesn’t have to be a great wrestler, just a good partner.

What wrestling move worked best for you?
Probably the fireman’s carry in high school along with a near cradle. In college I used underhooks and the front head and arm.

What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of The Heart

What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
I don’t remember ever feeling horribly upset about the losses themselves. The feelings I felt were from letting down the community that sacrificed time and money to come watch the performance.

If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change a single thing. Each thing that happened made me into what I am today. All of the stuff made me better as a wrestler, father, son, husband, employee, and coach.

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
My best memory was being able to acknowledge my parents by pointing at them after the national finals. It was also a chance to be able to direct the crowd that their applause was for what the coaches in my corner were able to accomplish by getting someone to believe in themselves.

Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?
In college I wrestled Lindsey Durlacher, Dave Morgan, Mike Mena (In the room), Teague Moore, Cody Sanderson, and Sheldon Thomas.

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
It was always seasonal. My senior year I wrestled in the summer a bit.

How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
I think the guys from the past were tough and gritty. I think they would be fine today, but would have to evolve like the sport has to remain competitive.

What other sports did you play?
Football and track

What are your favorite sports teams?
Hawkeyes and the Atlanta Falcons

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Lifting weights, hiking, biking

How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
I love helping other people grow in the sport.

How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
It has given me a great foundation or base to build on. I think I work harder because of it and I have a higher expectations for myself.

Your NCAA finals victory has become a fan favorite moment in Iowa Hawkeye wrestling history, not only because of your story leading to it, but because of Dan Gable’s emotional reaction and referring to you as “the strongest man alive.” Could that moment have been any sweeter for you?
I don’t believe so. I knew I had to come off the stage at some point, but the roar of the crowd was one of the coolest things ever.

How often when you go to wrestling events do you hear the words “strongest man alive” from fans?
I usually hear it as I walk around a few times. My son thinks that makes him the strongest kid. LOL

Does it get old or is it always cool to hear?
It’s always great to hear! Makes me feel good that people remember those moments like I remember them. It’s an underdog moment.

Were there any Hawkeyes you looked up to prior to becoming one?
Mark Reiland, Bart Chelsvig, Chad Zapitul, Terry Brands, Tom Brands, Tom Ryan.

Who is the GOAT Eagle Grove wrestler?
Wow, that’s a tough one. Coach Dave Morgan will always be up towards the top. I never got to see him wrestle. Mark Reiland was pretty incredible and I did watch him. It would be a toss up for me.

What do you do now?
I am a Special Agent in Charge for the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement

Are you still involved with wrestling?
I help coach at the Clipper Wrestling Club in Tiffin and Big Game Wrestling Club in North Liberty.

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Listen, work hard on being a good partner, and try to get a little better each day.

Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
No way. This body was never a BMW in the first place. It has way too many miles on it.

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
I used to wrestle a kid from Hampton-Dumont named Matt Showalter. I pinned a lot of kids in high school and I don’t know if I ever pinned him even once. I will forever remember his toughness and the fight in him and I have always respected it. Those kind of people are built from within and they are special!

Tell us something about yourself that folks might not know about Jessie Whitmer?
I am pretty much an open book. I usually am pretty shy and don’t like big crowds. It has taken years of work to come out of my skin a little bit and open up more. I thank all of you that have helped pull me out. Wrestling is just an extended family, and I don’t think anything is more important than family

Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.
I have a daughter that’s 11. She doesn’t wrestle, but she is pretty tenacious. She plays softball and she pitches. She also finds herself out in front of people on the mound by herself, surrounded by teammates and fans. It’s similar to wrestling when you face off with each batter. She also has more courage than I did as a kid. I also have a wife, she was my girlfriend in college and also the painter of my toenails.

Here’s a brief glimpse of a young Jessie Whitmer winning his 2A state title in 1990 at 103 Lbs. over Brian Benitz of Jefferson Scranton in resounding fashion with a 11-4 decision. It was the same night Jeff McGinness of IC West in 3A won the first of his 4 straight titles, with Ike Light of Lisbon in 1A winning the first of 3 state titles. All on the mat at the same time… great company!


Jessie Whitmer Wrestling Career Notes…

Jessie Whitmer was inducted in the Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2019 along with Joe Corso, Don Buzzard and Dr. Gary Steffensmeier.


HS Record of 148-8

1997 NCAA 118-POUND CHAMPION (24-6)

1989 2A Iowa State Tournament Results (Freshman)
1. Donni Donahue, Clarinda
2. Marty Bolin, Davis County
3. Jessie Whitmer, Eagle Grove
4. Jaysson Gurwell, Saydel
5. Ryan TeBockhorst, Mid-Prairie
6. Vin Chem, Roland-Story

1990 2A Iowa State Tournament Results (Sophomore)
1. Jessie Whitmer, So., Eagle Grove
2. Brian Benitz, Jr., Jefferson-Scranton
3. Jason Nurre, Jr., Dyersville Beckman
4. Brad Canoyer, Fr., Carson-Macedonia
5. Leung Prim, So., Grinnell
6. Jason DeVos, Jr., Estherville

1991 2A Iowa State Tournament Results (Junior)
1. Jason Nurre, Dyersville Beckman
2. Dave Morgan, New Hampton
3. Jessie Whitmer, Eagle Grove
4. Brian Benitz, Jefferson-Scranton
5. Dee Clarke, Knoxville
6. Bob Edens, Camanche

1992 1A Iowa State Tournament Results (Senior)
1. Juan Robles, Wilton
2. Tony Milcoff, Cedar Rapids LaSalle
3. Jessie Whitmer, Eagle Grove
4. Matt Albright, Lisbon
5. Jamie Cochran, Moravia
6. Mike Dukes, Bedford

Some interesting trivia regarding the 1997 Iowa Hawkeye’s historic run at the NCAA Nationals Championship…

That 1997 team was Dan Gable’s crowning achievement as a coach. As they scored the highest points ever amassed in a NCAA Division 1 Tourney with 170 points as well as having 8 All Americans with 5 of those National Champions. That Iowa team also destroyed comparative seeding expectations vs results.

118 Lbs. Jessie Whitmer, a one-year starter, a farm boy, won the title as a 6 seed, beating the #3, #2, and #5 seeds along the way.
126 Lbs. Mike Mena, a 4 seed, finished 2nd against Eric Guererro of Okla St and felt (with some good reason) that he let one slip away
134 Lbs. Mark Ironside was seeded 1st and finished 1st
142 Lbs. Kasey Gillis, unseeded, finished 6th
150 Lbs. Lincoln McIlravywas seeded 1st and finished 1st
158 Lbs. Joe Williams was seeded 1st and finished 1st
167 Lbs. Mike Uker was unseeded but finished 5th
177 Lbs. Tony Ersland, unseeded, finished one overtime loss away from the podium
190 Lbs. Lee Fulhart was seeded 5th and finished 1st
277 Lbs. Wes Hand was, like Ersland, an unseeded wrestler who finished one loss away from the podium

Those are ridiculously good results against seeding.
Iowa’s cumulative record in the tournament: was a phenomenal 45-9

Even their two non-AA wrestlers contributed well to the win total. Wes Hand added to the bonus points by winning one match by forfeit and another by fall. Mike Uker and Kasey Gillis (who struggled for much of the year) won two matches by fall.

Iowa wrestlers earned 22 bonus point victories in the 1997 nationals.
Iowa’s 5 champs scored 117 points.

An underdog to Oklahoma State, Iowa clinched the title Friday night, winning 24 of 26 matches – including an incredible 23 in a row that started the night before.

In the end the great coaching, great teammates, a great family support system, and a tremendous effort resulted in what was indeed an impressive NCAA championship.



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


What year did you graduate?

2001 HS 2006 College


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My Dad and brothers.


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

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


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

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


What was your record in HS?

99 wins and a lot of losses.


How did you place at state every year?

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


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

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


How would you describe your wrestling style?

I am a holding position aka stalling Okie State style.


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

Adam Welbes from Hempstead.


Who was your most influential coach?

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


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

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


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

Ray Brinzer


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Dan Gable


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

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


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

Mark Ironside vs Brent Metcalf


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

Paulson Twins


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Austin Desanto


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



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

Freshman year wrestle back at districts in overtime.


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

Have more offense!


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

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


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

Akeem Carter and Mike Engelman.


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

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


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

Psh! Of Course beat them 3-2!


Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes at Upper Iowa.


What other sports did you play?

Football, Track, Baseball and Soccer growing up.


What are your favorite sports teams?

Cubs, Washington Football Team.


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

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


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

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


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

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


What do you do now?

Teacher and Coach at Waterloo Community Schools.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

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


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My father back in kindergarten.


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



How proud are you of your North Scott roots?

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


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

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

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


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Only placed and kids state like 2 times.


What was your record in HS?

No clue.


How did you place at state every year?

3rd sophomore
1st junior
1st senior


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

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


Who was your most influential coach?

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


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

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


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

I’d probably have to say Gwiz.


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

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


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

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


How are you liking Dubuque?

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


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

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


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

My wrestling partners.


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

Absolutely, I believe so.


Where was your best performance this year?

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


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

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


Do you see yourself coaching someday?

I would very much like too.


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

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


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

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


What other sports did you play?

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


What are your favorite sports teams?

Oklahoma Sooners


What are your hobbies?

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


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

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


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

My advice for any upcoming wrestler would be:

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

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

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


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

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


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

I wanna thank Rico for giving me this opportunity.




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



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

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


Tanner Abbas: Clarion-Goldfield-Dows/Grand View

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


Joshua Swafford (PinDox Owner/Creator): 

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



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

Belmond kids program, Belmond Klemme high, Central college.


What year did you graduate?



Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

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


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

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


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

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


What was your record in HS?

124-17  losses  10, 4, 3, and 0


How did you place at state every year?

SQ, 4th, 2nd, 1st


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

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

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

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


How would you describe your wrestling style?

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


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

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


Who was your most influential coach?

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


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

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


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

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


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

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


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

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


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

Whatever the other guys wanted


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

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


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

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


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Did you wrestle after high school?

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


What other sports did you play?

Golf, football, baseball.

What are your favorite sports teams?

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


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

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


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

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


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

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


What do you do now?

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


Are you still involved with wrestling?

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


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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



Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

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


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

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


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

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


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

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


How would you describe your style?

My style was pretty much attack and score.


Did you have any opponents you exchanged wins with?

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


Who was your most influential coach?

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


Was your team successful in HS and college?

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


Who were your  most influential wrestlers growing up?

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


Who is the Iowa HS GOAT?

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


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

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


What tunes did you listen to before matches?

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


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

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


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

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


What was your best wrestling memory? Best accomplishment?

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


What were some of your most notable intense matches?

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


Was wrestling all year or seasonal for you?

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


How would guys from your era do against guys today?

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


Did you wrestle in college?

Yes I wrestled after hs at U of Iowa.


Did you play other sports?

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


What are your favorite sports teams?

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


What are you your hobbies?

Hobbies: hunting, fishing, bowling, golfing.


Did wrestling help you with your football game?

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


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

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


How has wrestling shaped you as a person today?

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


What do you do now?

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


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

😂😂😂😂😂 Holy…..crap.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





2018 State Tourney First Round:


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





2020 NAIA Championship Reel:


2018 State Tournament 1st Round:


2018 State Tournament Quarterfinals:



2018 State Tournament Semifinals:



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

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Remember The Wrestler: Jimmy Rodgers, Oakland-Riverside

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

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

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

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





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





What year did you graduate?



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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


What was your record in HS?

159 – 11 . 82 pins . 432 takedowns.


How did you do at state in HS?

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


Any notable rivals you faced in Youth/HS Wrestling?

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

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

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


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

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

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


How would you describe your wrestling style?

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


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

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


Who was your most influential coach?

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

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


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

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

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


How cool was it when Oakland Riverside won state?

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

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


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

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


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Who were some of your wrestling idols growing up?

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


Who is the Iowa HS wrestling GOAT?

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


Favorite Current Wrestlers?

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


What tunes would you listen to before matches?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Did you wrestle after HS?

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


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

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


What are some of your hobbies besides wrestling?

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


Favorite Sports Teams?

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

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

PRO-They play for $ and not enough for the love of the game these days! So I’ll just leave that there…


Did you play other sports? If so, which ones and how did you do?

God blessed me with the ability of being athletic. I pretty much love all sports! Played golf in HS, ran track, played football, and even ran cross country. My cross country story was a touchy one. My Jr. year I had spent some time in the backfield running the ball and was probably going to do the same my Sr. year. But I knew I was not going to go to college playing football and our HS team was not much for size that year. Hence I was warned I could possibly be jeopardizing getting hurt for wrestling. So why not stay in shape running cross country. After choosing to do so, let’s just say I wasn’t a town favorite during football season until wrestling rolled around. It was all good. I was used to this living in a small town. Plus I really did have some fun running cross country with wrestling teammates getting ready fir the season. You guys know who you were!


Has wrestling shaped you as the person you are today?

Wrestling has shaped me in so many ways! But I’ll try to just outline a few. First it has made me very determined in life! I have always found a way to be successful in life! When I’ve been knocked down in the business world, in relationships, and in sports I’ve always found a way to bounce back! This is something I instill in my wrestlers today! Determination to never give up! Always find a way! Wrestling has taught me to care about my fellow human beings/teammates! I always talk to my wrestlers about pushing each other and being there for each other like family! Hence the name Warriors Wrestling Family! I think our world needs more of this in general! Helping one another instead of being at odds with one another! Wrestling has also taught me to be thankful! I thank God for this talent he has given to me! I thank God for allowing me to be able to pass it down! And I thank God for this sport to bring so much joy to our family! Yes it has also brought stress at times, I can’t lie. But the joy it has brought out weighs that stress ten fold! And the families it has brought joy to as well I think would agree.


Any chance we may get to watch you wrestle again in an Old Timer’s Tournament?

Last year I may have participated in my last old timers tournament for my wrestlers. When this 41 year old wrester, at the time, went up against a 29 year old I felt my age. I know the question…did I win. Yes…but I was gassed! Age is real like any sport on the mat! I would like to go out on top with a first place at the old timers tournament at Buena Vista. This being the same year I was inducted to the IHSSA HALL OF FAME. A lot of my wrestlers were there to watch coach participate which was special, just like they were at my hall of fame induction. And I was so honored to share both with them and my family. I love having two families in this world! My immediate family and my wrestling family!


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

My advice for upcoming wrestlers is keep it fun while training hard! That’s the recipe for success! If you can get through a workout with sweat dripping, muscles pumping, and your mind focused….all the while ending it with smiles and joking around with your workout partners and coaches. You just might of found a recipe for success! Yes there are also times to focus and have those mental edge moments. But the recipe to train and get to those moments are crucial to the sport!


How do you feel about things with your wrestling club this season so far?

This is year 5 of our Warriors Wrestling Family and with Covid it has been a real challenging start to the season! Very few tournaments but we are practicing and keeping the kids spirits very high with positive thoughts and great energy in the practice room! We have added some great new talent this season to our club that makes our practice room very competitive! So the mentality had been this! Even if there is not a lot of tournaments…we have some of the best partners in the metro sharpening in the practice room! So when we do go to a tournament we will be ready to showcase our skills and have fun doing so! It’s all about how you can spin a situation. And right now we have the right parents making the right feel with our club to make our kids feel great in these difficult times.


Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc. Any Shout-outs?

* Dan McCool was an amazing ambassador to the sport! He always stayed in touch with me and really took notice to the amazing room we had our 1996 year! It was one of a kind and he witnessed it first hand at one of our practices! I can’t tell you how I truly feel about this man and our sport! He holds a special place in this wrestlers heart! God speed Dan McCool…gone but definitely not forgotten!

* In closing I would like to say thank you to everyone that has been part of my journey in this sport! As mentioned earlier I just can’t say names bc there are too many to list and it’s just not fair to mention a few and not the rest! Because all of you have played an important roll in my life! Thank you for being part of it! Someday when this wrestler is put into the ground and his life is being celebrated…I want people to know I wish I could have had a moment to say thank you in person if I had not been able to along the way. Every moment leads to another in this life for the right reasons…I truly believe that! Thank you for our moments in this sport and long live wrestling! God Bless!


The first time I heard about this match was after it happened when I was a little kid. I was about 6 years old when it happened. The only thing I was able to gather about it was that it was a big deal. Why this was, I didn’t know, for I didn’t fully understand the basics of wrestling yet, but I knew it was important, for it was angrily discussed by so many people in the Southeast Iowa wrestling community. 10 years later, I was filled in on why this match was so widely discussed at the time.

My friend, Nick Breuer and I were camping out at the Des Moines County Fair in the year 1999. We hung out by various campfires all night and listened to a spectrum of stories from several different people. The topics we all shot the bull about varied from baseball to gas money, to the animals at the fair, to girls to you name it, but naturally, we ended up settling on discussing wrestling more than anything. And there were some great wrestlers hanging around who came and went that night. 1999 state champ from Columbus Jct. Nick Lee was there… So was Aaron Drain and a couple other wrestlers came and went. The camper/campfire we hung out with for the majority of the night was owned by a family member of one of Southeast Iowa’s most well-known wrestling families to this day… the Malone family. To be specific, it was Jay Malone’s sister, Joni.  Joni opened up about her brother, Jay’s finals match in 1990 which ended in controversy. Jay was a Senior and was defeated in the finals by an incredible wrestler and athlete,  Brian Moretz from Northwood-Kensett on what many people consider to be a questionable call… To make a long story short, when Joni told this story, she had a few of us rugged, tough-guy, wrestlers in tears due to it hitting us so hard in our collective “feels.” It was difficult for Joni to tell the story without sobbing. It was clear to everyone near the campfire that night, that the outcome of that match cut deep for her family and the Morning Sun wrestling community and considering that Joni told us this story 10 years after the fact and was still torn up about it indicated to me that the void that was planted in the hearts of the Morning Sun wrestling community after this match was likely gonna stay and grow limbs for a while. Time hadn’t healed this wound yet. 

Jay was a Senior in 1990, so not only was this Jay’s last match ever as a wrestler, but it was Morning Sun’s last ever HS match, for they shut down the entire school the following year, which meant that the Morning Sun wrestling program went with it. The future of Morning Sun Junior High and High School wrestlers were to be in the hands of a combination of Wapello, Mediapolis, Columbus Jct., New London, Winfield, etc.  Wherever they decided to enroll. Morning Sun wrestlers have been HUGE factors for the success of every one of those programs since then. I know Mepo for one wouldn’t have won state in 2015 without the help of Morning Sun-Mepo wrestling star, Mason Buster placing 3rd. Wapello had Paul Wilkerson in the early 90’s, Columbus Jct. had Nick and Eric Lee, I can go on forever about the impact of Morning Sun wrestlers in whichever lineup they may have been in since the school closed. The school may have shut down in that community, but wrestling has remained strong. Morning Sun was, still is and will always be a wrestling community, despite no longer having a high school.  A huge part of their identity to this day is wrestling. When you think of certain towns or schools, it’s natural to associate them with what they are known for.  For example: Mepo was known for it’s girls basketball for decades, Applington-Parkersburg, Sigourney, Bettendorf, etc. are all known for having consistently elite football programs. Communities like Lisbon, Don Bosco, Osage, Columbus Jct., etc. are communities that are widely associated with wrestling. When you hear the name of any of those communities, it’s not long before you think, “wrestling.” Morning Sun will always be associated with wrestling and it’s difficult to see that ever not being the case given their storied history.

Get this… the Morning Sun program was started in the 60’s by a man named Bob Darrah. Bob Darrah had success in Morning Sun and eventually moved on to start another powerhouse in a much larger community…Des Moines Dowling. One of the wrestlers Darrah coached was  standout named Al Baxter. Baxter went on to start a powerhouse of his own that is still raking in the hardware…. A little program called Lisbon.  Morning Sun had another HOF coach who got his start there. A man named John Siegel. Siegel had an incredible Head Coaching career at Morning Sun and since the school closed has spent the majority of his years as the perfect complementary assistant coach to HOF HC, Bill Plein of Columbus Jct.  Those two are both coaching at Burlington Notre Dame currently. Siegel also spent some time helping out at Wapello and New London. He has achieved success with literally program he has been part of, for he is a known mastermind of the mental approach to the game.  And he got his start at Morning Sun. Another huge name to get their start there was “The Voice of College Wrestling” himself, Tim Johnson. He was a state qualifier himself for Morning Sun in the Al Baxter era and coached for a few years at Mt. Vernon and did well.  While at Mt. Vernon, he coached Greg Randall to 4 state titles as well as had success with several other wrestlers. He shifted from coaching to commentating in the 80’s, which was a decision I’m personally glad he made, for if there is anyone in the history of wrestling that I would consider to be my #1 inspiration for whatever it is I do now, it is Tim Johnson…and this is because of his post-coaching work with commentating. Before I started commentating Mepo wrestling/baseball and softball games myself for “The Dogcast,” I studied hours of Tim Johnson’s work prior to my first meet. His knowledge of the sport, the passion he has for it that’s easily detected in his voice, his likability, his ability to disguise any potential biases he may have while commenting on a match while still being himself in the process, etc. is just phenomenal. Out of anyone who has ever wrestled or been part of the sport in any way, Johnson is certainly one of my all time favorite wrestling figures/personalities. And the fact that he is a fellow Southeast Iowan makes it even cooler for me. Straight outta Morning Sun!!!

Dowling…Lisbon…Columbus Jct….Tim Johnson…. all traced back to Morning Sun origins. Pretty impressive.

So at the 1990 state tournament, the last ever Morning Sun HS wrestling match to ever take place was to unravel in the state finals…. in the very last match of the tournament, for Morning Sun had a finalist in the HWT division, in which most of us know that the HWT’s are the guys who wrestle last at the state tournament. Head Coach John Siegel had Jay Malone ready to go for the 1A HWT finals match and it seemed as if things were falling into place in a manner that would result in a fairytale ending for one of Iowa’s most storied programs… I mean, you couldn’t write this anymore perfectly. They had the last match of the tournament on lockdown and it was to be called by none other than Morning Sun’s own Tim Johnson. It didn’t seem or feel like things would end on anything, but a positive note… and the thought of things ending on a tragic, catastrophic note just didn’t seem plausible. As you will see, they didn’t receive the farewell they rightfully expected or deserved. Things played out in a manner which almost seemed as if a cruel joke had been played on them.

And none of this is to discredit or throw shade at Jay’s opponent. The wrestler that Jay Malone met in the finals is one of the best heavyweight wrestlers to ever come through the state. Actually, he’s one of the best ever athletes to ever come through the state. His name is Brian Moretz from Northwood-Kensett. While a lot of Morning Sun fans have been vocal in their disagreement with the way the match was called, I’ve never heard one of them say a negative thing about Moretz. He didn’t make the call. He just wrestled… and as usual, he did well until the last few seconds. He is one of the all-time greats and everyone knows it. At the time this match took place, he was a Junior and the returning state champion. He won 3 state titles from 1989-1991 and placed 4th his Freshman year. What makes this more impressive was the fact that he started out as a Freshman at HWT and stayed there his entire career. He finished with a career record of 116-7 with a winning streak of 88. He chose to play football at UNI after HS and was an AA lineman. His accomplishments are incredible. I assume, this match wasn’t how he would have preferred to win, considering how dominant he was. A guy like Moretz probably wanted to win in undeniably dominant fashion… Not in a manner in which the debate was so prevalent and ongoing to where it is still discussed 30 years later as it is right now…

Here is a good look at just how tough he was by the time he was a Senior going for his 3rd state title:

Brian Moretz was and will always be a wrestling legend in the state of Iowa and is in the Hall of Fame. And there isn’t anyone more deserving of that, than him. 4-1-1-1 at HWT is a HUGE feat, and while someone can argue with the call the official made in this match, no one can argue the fact that Moretz more than solidified his status as an all-time wrestling great in his HS wrestling career.

While commentating the tail end of the match, Tim Johnson was noticeably unable to contain his excitement at the end of the match. Johnson is about as good as a person can possibly be when it comes to being a wrestling commentator and when a moment is so huge that it causes him to momentarily lose his composure due to excitement from his personal feelings, then that’s saying something. If a Morning Sun wrestling fan were to watch this match and not go crazy with excitement, I would question whether or not they even cared about wrestling.

So here is the match… This is how the legendary Morning Sun wrestling program ended… Keep in mind that when the video begins, there are roughly 15 seconds left in the match and Moretz has a 5-2 lead:


A few years ago, my brother, Justin wrote and recorded a song called “Til’ The Sun Goes Down” and I thought it’d be cool to use for a tribute video I put together about Morning Sun wrestling (particularly this match) one night while learning how to edit video with Camtasia… Check it out:



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