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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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