I’ve known of Mike Piper for a long time and have always liked him, although I hadn’t ever met him until a couple weeks ago. For one, he wrestled for Clear Lake and my cousins wrestled there. So we pulled for them. Secondly, this dude used to post on the wrestling forums and did something that you rarely ever see on those… he registered under his own name and was not anonymous like 99% of the other users are. I have always followed that rule myself, so he made a good impression on me, simply for doing that. And then when he posted, he was witty and not afraid to speak his mind. It was fun. After that, if I heard his name called to a mat at state or something, I tried to watch him if someone from Mepo wasn’t going. This dude good scrap!
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
My dad’s side of the family was big into wrestling.
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
I had 2 uncles that wrestled for Mason City. Todd was a State Champ, and Brad was a runner-up.
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
NOT GOOD! I always ran into Dusty Pollard and Derek Pike at little kids tournaments up here and would get the piss beat out of me. I think that might be part of the reason that wrestling took a backseat to soccer growing up. I only went to AAU Districts once, somewhere between 3rd-6th grade, and went 0-2 BBQ.
What was your record in HS?
How did you do at state?
I went 1-2 my Junior year and got 2nd 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 was fortunate enough to stay healthy my entire high school career, so the only real moment that comes to mind is losing in the State Finals the way I did. In the end, I think I just learned a valuable lesson…Life goes on. As Web always said, “The sun will rise tomorrow.”
Who was your most influential coach?
Easily Gary Weber. I wasn’t even going to go out for wrestling in High School. He was my P.E. teacher and hounded me to go to body fat testing. He was a great motivator, and I credit him for making me fall in love with the sport.
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
I’d like to think so. In High School, the North Central Conference was tough top to bottom, and that’s not to say it isn’t now. Iowa Falls, Eagle Grove, Humboldt, Algona…every dual was a dogfight. I think Clear Lake had made State Duals the year before I got into High School, and we made it back my senior year. We were the 8 seed though, and unfortunately got the E-Hawks first round. I think we only won 2 matches, but it was awesome to make it down there at least once.
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
I wasn’t as involved with the sport as much as I should have been as a youth wrestler, so I didn’t really have one.
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
Spencer Lee and Yianni because of their style. Drew Foster (I promise its not because of your Mepo connection) because of his drive and determination, its just an incredible story.
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
Losing in the State Finals. To be 5 seconds away from a state championship, only to freeze on the restart and piss it all away was a pretty miserable feeling.
What was your best wrestling memory/accomplishment?
Sealing the Regional Dual against Cresco my Senior year to get us to Cedar Rapids. We had tied them earlier in the year, and it was a goal we had talked about as a team every year. It felt good to finally get over that hump.
Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?
Mike Kist of Eagle Grove and Mike Zinnel of Humboldt. Kuper and I wrestled 4 times my Senior year, the last 3 being Sectional, District and State Finals.
Who was the fiercest competitor you ever faced?
Freshman year I had the “honor” of wrestling Goodale, Watts, and J.D. Naig at the Osage Duals. You can take your pick, but all 3 were pretty damn fierce.
How heated was that Clear Lake-Osage rivalry? I’ve heard stories about the dual meets between them being pretty intense.
It got pretty heated at times, but I think the fire was really stoked a few years after I got out of High School. After an incident at the Osage Duals, both A.D.’s got together and decided that they should take a break from competing with each other during the season. I think it lasted for a few years.
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
Aside from a week team camp at Nebraska, it was just in season for me.
Did you wrestle after high school?
I wrestled 1 year at Waldorf.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
Good hips, good scrambler and a legger.
What other sports did you play?
Soccer. I ran Cross Country one year and went out for football as a sophomore because Gary was the JV coach.
Did you have good practice partners to help push you in the room?
I had Michael Billings who was a year older than me, and a weight lighter each year in high school.
What are your favorite sports teams?
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
I used to trout fish a lot over in Decorah before we had kids. My buddies here in Lake Mills got me into golf a couple years ago and now I’m hooked. My group consists of 3 former Lake Mills wrestlers and a pumpkin-baller, but we don’t hold it against him.
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
I think every wrestler would say that it formed a strong work ethic for them. It taught me that nothing in life is ever given to you. You get what you earn, and if you’re not happy with it,
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
I think every wrestler would say that it formed a strong work ethic for them. It taught me that nothing in life is ever given to you. You get what you earn, and if you’re not happy with it, work harder.
What do you do now?
I work in the Network Operations Center (IT) for our local Phone and Internet provider here in Lake Mills. I’ve been married for 12 years to an amazing woman who keeps me in line. We have an 8 and a 6 year old daughter, and just welcomed a baby boy 2 weeks ago.
How pumped are you to have a boy? What are the chances he wrestles? What are the chances your daughters wrestle?
I’m super pumped to have gotten my boy. We both know that a healthy baby is all that a dad cares about, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for a boy. The odds of him wrestling are pretty favorable. He’s going to be growing up around it. The girls wrestle each other at home occasionally, and its pretty entertaining to watch. I’m extremely happy with the growth of girls wrestling in Iowa over the last few years. I’ll let them make their own decision, but as of now they don’t have any real interest in it.
Are you still involved with wrestling?
I’m in my 7th year as an assistant at Lake Mills and its been awesome. Brandenburg has a great thing going here, and the kids love it. Its pretty hard to compete with Bosco and Lisbon, but we were able to get a win over the Lions a couple years ago for 3rd.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
The same thing a lot of us realize years after we get out of High School…listen to your coaches more. When you’re a teenager, you think you know it all, and there’s no way these old guys know what’s best for you. One of my biggest regrets is waiting to long to listen.
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
Not happening. When I’m not on the IR, I scrap with the boys in the room, and that’s plenty for me.
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
We’ve been fortunate enough to coach some great kids over the years at Lake Mills. Not one of them is more important than the other, but I’ll give 2 quick ones. One to Slade Sifuentes. His freshman year was my 1st year coaching, and we had very similar styles. I was younger and had a bigger gas tank back then. I hope he finishes his career strong with the Duhawks. The other would go to Gabe Irons. Hands down the most improved wrestler I’ve ever seen from Freshman to Senior year, and THE nicest kid you will ever meet. I’m not a teacher, and to this day he still calls me Mr. Piper. He looked like he should be guarding the paint on the basketball floor…deceptively strong. He’s playing football up at Bethel University, and I know he’s going to do great things in life.
Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.
We had a lightweight in high school who was a year younger than me, Cory Dwyer, good wrestler. He was hilarious! He would always try to get under our Heavyweights skin and was generally successful at it. I think it was at the Forest City Invite one year, he kept calling him an inbred until he snapped. He started chasing him around the locker room and we all had to stop him from beating his ass. Looking back, it probably wasn’t one of the wisest decisions for Cory to go after the biggest guy on the team, but kids will be kids.
I’d also like to thank you for what you do for the wrestling community. Your work on The Predicament, Pin Doctors and everything in between while working full time and raising 3 girls is just awesome. We’re lucky to have an enthusiast like you. I tip my hat!