Inside the Rivalry Chapter 7, Part 5: Chris Helgeson Crashes the Collision Course and Sundell Wins His 4th
After the first two battles took place and ignited the wrestling world the way they did, it was only fitting that these two would have their most epic battle on the biggest stage, the state finals, with one man putting his four time state champion aspirations on the line to another man who had proven himself to be a legitimate threat. This was not only an anticipated matchup, but more or less a foregone conclusion. It was gonna happen. That is, unless, people got so caught up in the Sundell-Galanakis hype that they failed to notice another crucial piece of the 2001 1A 119 lb. puzzle. A guy with the same goals, the same determination, the same elite skill level, the same confidence as Sundell and Galanakis, but was from a very different geographical location. In fact, he may have gone unnoticed, for he made his noise on the opposite side of the state, where the discussion didn’t revolve around primarily 1A 119.
CHRIS HELGESON, LAKE MILLS: At the start of the season I just had my sights set on Sundell. I got third my junior year at 119 and was disqualified in the quarterfinals for a slam that was called illegal and the wrestler chose not to continue. The guy that won my bracket went up to 125 my senior year and I was undefeated against him in my career. I chose to stay down at 119 for my senior year because I wasn’t cutting much weight and I wanted to beat Sundell and stop him from getting his 4th. I knew Galanakis was good but didn’t start thinking about him until I heard he beat Sundell. It was a surprise because Sundell hadn’t lost in his career. After he beat him, I felt a little overlooked because everyone was expecting that match in the finals. I was pumped when the brackets came out. Sundell was on the opposite side and a potential semi with Galanakis was what I wanted. I was very confident that I could beat both. I wrestled a smart match in the semis and got an early takedown and stayed out of the positions he was good at and ultimately won the match. In the finals match, I was very confident and that was what I had envisioned all year. I started the match strong and had a lead in the second period. I made a big mistake on bottom trying an inside switch for a second time and he was waiting with his patented neck wrench and he pinned me. I wrestled hard and had a chance to win but you can’t make mistakes like that against a great wrestler. No regrets I got the shot I wanted. I was very upset after the match but I got my opportunity and revenge in a dual meet against ISU my senior year in college at UNI. This was a match that I really wanted as well.
The Lake Mills wrestling community was very confident in Chris, despite him being overlooked by many and the growing general consensus being that it was a two horse race between Galanakis and Sundell. The thinking in Northeast Iowa, especially Lake Mills was drastically different than it was across the state. They knew they had a horse in the race and they firmly believed that their horse was the future champion. And they had very good reasons for thinking this. Brad Helgeson was a very good wrestler for Lake Mills who graduated in 2001. He was a place winner for them and he and Chris are not only cousins, but great friends. He was 100% confident in Chris.
BRAD HELGESON, LAKE MILLS (Chris’s cousin, teammate and best friend): .Well I personally had no doubt that Chris was gonna beat Galanakis. In our minds, Chris was a returning state champ even though he got third the year before because of a terrible slam call in the quarterfinals. Chris was the hardest worker in the room and was very mentally tough. Our team was pretty loaded that year, so Chris had some great practice partners in the room. We had: David Back, Keith Hebrink, Myself and even our 103 pounder Jason Sprecher to name a few. Everyone in Lakes Mills knew how good Chris was and felt like he was even better than Sundell. Chris got caught in the finals and that stuff happens. Chris proved how good he was in college by being a three time national qualifier at UNI … And he won at least one match every year. He defeated Sundell when they met in college.
Mario Galanakis: Jesse and I were in the same district so obviously I knew we would be on opposite side of the bracket at state. Going into that state meet I had no doubt in my mind that we would meet up in the finals and that I was going to beat him in the third showdown. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, I was beaten by Chris Helgeson in the semis and that was probably the worst I had ever felt in my entire life after losing a match. I was so confident and sure that I was gonna win a state title that year that when I lost I remember just wanting to crawl into a hole and hibernate until the next season. Sundell went on and pinned Helgeson in the finals and captured his fourth title and I’m glad that he did! He deserved it and like I said before it was nothing personal against him. It was just two guys wanting the same thing, somebody wins and somebody loses. That’s what makes wrestling so challenging and rewarding at the same time.
Jesse Sundell: I went in, took care of business and won my fourth. . I got off to a slow start in my finals match against Helgeson, but was able to execute a move on him that I had a lot of success with called the neck-wrench and pinned him. Helgeson and I wrestled two more times after that. Later that year, I accepted the challenge of wrestling him again at the North-South All-Star Meet. I wanted to prove that my pin wasn’t a fluke. I succeeded for I pinned him again, this time with a tight-waist to a stack. To give credit where it is due, he did defeat me once in college. I was so proud to have joined a group filled with elite wrestlers as I did when I won my fourth and it is so neat when I am around the other four timers Iowa has produced. I look to all of them a lot and when they approach me and tell me they had fun watching me wrestle, it’s a funny feeling, for maybe it hasn’t hit me that I am also part of that group.