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Remember The Wrestler: Dakota Gray, Fort Madison/Luther College

Here is what I posted about Dakota last week in a podium pic article (kinda silly, I admit): Dakota’s an SE guy from a HS program that I love, Fort Madison, and I’ve known his family for years and they are great. Two of his first cousins are a couple of my long time best friends, so they’ve filled me in for a long time about how he was doing. Dakota was an AA at Luther College. Placer at state for Fort Madison. It didn’t surprise me a bit to see this kid have success. And get this… There are a lot of wrestlers linking up with girls who are from prominent wrestling families themselves in SEI. I’m sure people remember Stewart and Steven Holloway? Both state champs. Both awesome. Well, Dakota and their sister, Harlie are now married with children. Not that wrestling breeding is an actual thing, but if it were, I’d say that their children will have good wrestling “pedigree.” Haha, there seems to be a lot of wrestling pedigree in the works with a lot of SEI kids. Gray-Holloway, Drain (Aaron)- Holloway (Heather), Swafford (Brennan)-Mashek (Maddie) are very serious lovebirds, Happel-Durr (that’s right, Lisbon! Mepo still wants credit for the Durr-half of these Happel monsters! 🙂 ), Krieger (Jorgi)-Zippe (Taylor), hell I married a McNeil… etc. A son and a daughter so far, I believe is what Dakota and Harlie have. There are 4 Holloway sisters; Holly, Heather, Honna and Harlie (Dakota’s wife) and I’ve told Holly this before, but I’m 90% sure all 4 would have been good at wrestling if the girls wrestling scene would have been as prominent in their days…tons of athleticism. Look for the name, “Gray” in the future…they have like a 99.9999% chance of being awesome…on and off the mat.

OK…OK… Maybe it was a little too much going into the wrestling couple’s stuff, but it is pretty funny/interesting.  And the evidence does suggest that if two people from wrestling families link up, their children will be good at wrestling.  Haha, not to put pressure on their kids or anything. I am sure Dakota is a top-notch dad.  His family is so diverse with their talents.  Good wrestling, good at showing horses and what not, good at organizing and facilitating events, etc. Hell, public speaking is another… I’ve never seen a public speech more perfectly executed than the one his mom gave at a wedding reception a few years ago.  They are one of these families that a program just loves to have, for they make tons of sacrifices just to ensure the program is maintained and efficiently so.  They are always spending their free time to volunteer to improve the programs and clubs that they are part of and I am sure Fort Madison just loves them for it.  


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

When I was in kindergarten, I brought a wrestling flier home. My parents asked me if I wanted to wrestle, and I said yes. Wrestling has been a big part of my life ever since!


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

My brother Lane wrestled. He placed 7th at State his senior year. He went on to wrestle at Iowa western. I also have a great uncle who wrestled. Ron Gray was a 2-time national champ for Iowa State in 1958 and 1959. He also won three state titles for Eagle Grove.


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I placed three times at AAU state. 6th in fourth grade, 6th in sixth grade, and 4th in 8th grade. In my 8th grade bracket my only loss in the tournament was to Cory Clark. Cory Clark beat me on the front side, and then lost to Thomas Gilman, so I had Cory Clark again for the third and fourth place match.


What was your record in HS? How did you place at state every year?

I placed twice at the state tournament. I placed 8th as a junior, and 4th as a senior. I had 113 career wins.


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

Losing my grandma my freshman year of college during wrestling season, and then losing my grandpa my senior year of wrestling right before the NCAA reginal were both very hard experiences. They both supported me so much with wrestling, so it drove me to do the best I could for them.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

I had a quick pace. I liked to wrestle in and out, and preferred wrestling on my feet. I had a really good carry, and a double leg that worked well together.


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

I would say one of my biggest rivals of all time would be Chase Helenthal of Keokuk, Iowa. We were rivals since kids club, and went back and forth quite a few times.


Who was your most influential coach?

I was blessed to have so many great coaches throughout my wrestling career. It’s hard to pick just one. Coach Smith and Coach Doherty are at the top of the list. They helped make me into the wrestler/person I am today.


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

We won three conference titles during my high school career. My senior year at Luther we finished third in the country at the NCAAs.


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

Russell Weakley. I used to cut out every newspaper article of him when I was in middle school and put it in this wrestling scrap book I made.


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Alex Marinelli and Spencer Lee


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

A few that stand out are Lunatic Fringe, Welcome to the Jungle, and Lose yourself


What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss? If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?

Probably the most upset I had ever felt was losing to Chase Helenthal at our home dual vs Keokuk. He was ranked 5th and I was ranked 4th at the time I believe.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

My senior year at the NCAAs, I pinned my first-round kid. In the second round I had the number two ranked kid in the country and lost. The number one ranked kid in the country was upset, so I had to beat him to All-American and I did! I went on to finish 6th. It was an awesome experience!


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

In high school John Meeks and Connor Ryan. In college Kenny Martin from Wartburg. He was a two time national champ. I went 1-2 against him in my career.  


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

I wrestled all year. As soon as the season ended, I would start practicing freestyle.


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

The guys from my day would dominate 😉


Did you wrestle after high school?

I wrestled at Luther College after high school.


What other sports did you play?

I played baseball and ran Cross Country.


What are your favorite sports teams?

Iowa Hawkeyes, Chicago Cubs, and Dallas Cowboys


How proud are you of Fort Madison Wrestling?

I am so proud of Fort Madison Wrestling. It is a great program with amazing coaches, and a great support system.


How happy were you to see your brother Lane place at state?

Seeing Lane place at state was my best memory of the high-school state tournament.


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

My top 3 are hunting, fishing, and golfing.


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

I love giving back to the sport of wrestling through coaching. It is a great feeling


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

Wrestling has taught me so many valuable skills. One skill that stands out is mental toughness. I have that mentality, that I can do anything I set my mind to.


What do you do now?

I teach special education at South Winneshiek Elementary School in Ossian, Iowa, and coach junior high wrestling. I also coach Outlaw Wrestling Club out of Decorah, Iowa.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

I coach junior high wrestling at the school I teach at, and I coach Outlaw Wrestling Club out of Decorah, Iowa.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Come to practice every day with a positive attitude and set your goals high!


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

Maybe. I have wrestled at Corn Cob Nationals a couple of times, and I wrestle at the Luther Alumni meet every year.


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

Russell Weakley… Take downs for a dollar?

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