For the Remember The Wrestler series, I have tried to encourage readers as much as possible to send over suggestions of wrestlers that they would like to read about and/or feel that their journey and insight will be interesting, for I will write about anyone whether I know them or not. Quite a few of the wrestlers covered in these articles have been selected in this fashion and they have always gone well, so I would like to reiterate, please send me suggestions on guys who you’d like to read about for this series. Because with this one, I had never met Cole Deike before sending him a message about partaking in one of these articles. I just knew of him as a good wrestler who I always kind of associated with a local legend, Brandon Ball from Columbus Junction whose wrestling career I followed throughout High School. Cole and Brandon were at the same weight class as Seniors. And his responses just blew me away. I’ve never received a set of responses that were more interesting, well thought-out and genuine as Cole’s. This is a great person with an interesting wrestling journey who is very forthcoming with valuable life insight in multiple aspects of life. I would highly recommend that everyone reads his responses, for something can be learned by everyone from Cole Deike.
A big shout-out to Coach Matt Wonderlin at Bondurant-Farrar… He was the one who recommended Cole to me for one of these articles for he felt he would make a good one and holy cow, he was spot on about that!
What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
I wrestled for Hampton-Dumont. Throughout my childhood, I wrestled for probably 15-20 different wrestling clubs, spanning from CVMC to Waverly-Shellrock to Waterloo and everything around those clubs.
What year did you graduate?
I graduated in 2007. Apparently that was almost fifteen years ago, and that gives me a headache to think about!
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
Nobody really encouraged me to give wrestling a try, because not wrestling wasn’t an option that ever crossed my mind growing up. I really mean that. My dad was a state champ for Nashua Plainfield, a 3x All-American for Wartburg, and he was the head coach for Hampton-Dumont high school for my entire childhood. So, naturally, I grew up in the wrestling room. Some of my most vivid memories as a child were in the wrestling room and, as a child, I would always sit against the wall and watch my dad’s practices wide-eyed because it felt like a different world: it felt like it was one-hundred degrees, the “big kids” were always scrapping, there was yelling, there was laughing, there was bonding. The wrestling world made more sense to me than the rest of the world.
So when I was born, legend has it that there were baby wrestling shoes hanging on my crib when I got home from the hospital.
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
I placed at both national & regional Freestyle, Greco and Folkstyle tournaments. But everybody likes to ask about AAU: I placed 6th, 2nd, and 1st.
How did you place at state every year?
My freshman year, the weekend before the high school wrestling season began, I broke my leg in the semi-finals at Topeka nationals, so my freshman year was a crapshoot.
My sophomore year I placed 7th, my Junior year I placed 4th, and my senior year I placed 3rd at state.
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
Breaking my leg my freshman year turned out to be a recurring challenge that really tested my moxy. I missed most of my freshman year and even after that year, not an entire year would go by without a sprained ankle or re-injury of that leg. It was always frustrating. I have always enjoyed pushing myself and chasing after my goals as fast and hard as I possibly can, and that leg always seemed to get in the way.
But the story is actually kind of funny and gives you a good glimpse into the wrestling mentality. When I broke the leg at nationals before the high school year began, we thought it was just a sprained ankle so we didn’t even get x-rays of the leg. After two weeks of hobbling around, my dad took the crutches away from me. He told me, and I quote, “you’re not going to get any tougher relying on those crutches.”
So I learned to walk on the leg and tough it out. After another week or two of limping around on my leg, my dad said, and again I quote, “you’re not going to get any tougher unless you find a way to run on it.”
So I went into the wrestling room and tried to run on it. I could get about a half of a lap around the room before the pain got too bad, and then I would limp the other half of the lap. I did about ten or fifteen of those laps before I told my coach that I felt like my leg wasn’t getting any better. Finally, we got an x-ray of the leg.
Turns out, it had been broken all along. My family still gives my dad hell for pushing me like that, but it gives you a great glimpse into the mind of a wrestler and how wrestlers think that “gutting it out” is the solution to everything!
How would you describe your wrestling style?
Iowa style. All the way.
Growing up in the sport, I had a pretty big bag of tricks in my back pocket. But when push came to shove, I just loved doing the basics. High crotches and single legs on my feet, half-nelsons and arm-bars on top, stand-ups on bottom. If you work hard enough on perfecting those basics, you can beat just about anybody out there.
Funny story: my high school coach once got so tired of me pinning kids with half-nelsons and bar-arms that he didn’t allow me to pin anybody for a few matches unless it was with a cradle.
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
Clear Lake were our rivals, and I hated those guys (sorry to any Lions out there reading this). I remember celebrating the fourth of July in Clear Lake and, almost every year, somebody from Clear Lake would have a bone to pick with me or somebody in my friend group. And they were always great at every sport.
So I went back and forth a few times with one of the Colon brothers. He had a funky, unorthodox wrestling style that didn’t square well with my straightforward Iowa style. I don’t think gravity applied to him. He was one of those guys that I would just take down and then cut, because he always found a way to tip me or roll me or sucker me into some weird position that I had never wrestled in. Those Clear Lake guys knew how to wrestle!
Who was your most influential coach?
I loved all my wrestling coaches. The guys over at the Cedar Valley Mat Club (CVMC) were always a hoot. To this day, they were some of the loudest, funnest, most boisterous guys that I know. I blame them for my loud personality today!
My high school coaches were also great and I stay in touch with them from time-to-time almost fifteen years later. Every summer I go back to my hometown and coach a wrestling clinic for a few days with my assistant coach. On the last day of the clinic, we make the wrestlers push a truck up a hill, which is a fun tradition that I inherited from my dad’s coaching days.
But since my dad coached me from the age four until my high school wrestling career, it would be hard to pick a more influential wrestling coach than him. He always had rug burns on his knees from scrapping with me in the living room and in the basement and, at any moment in time, I had to stay on my toes at home because a half-nelson could happen at the dinner table, on the couch, or while I was eating a bowl of cereal. That stuff leaves an imprint on you!
Was your team competitive in HS?
My high school team never placed at state, but we were always competitive. We had a winning record all four years, and when I was a Junior and Senior, we set the school record for most wins in a year. I think we won a few North Central Conference tournaments and duals in there, too. Naturally, this means that my dad and I got in a lot of arguments about whose team was better: the best team he coached or the team that I wrestled for.
I still think my Senior year team could take his best team!
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
Probably the guys that my dad coached. When I was little, he coached Jason Wedgebury to a state title, and that state title picture was always hanging up in the wrestling room, so obviously I always looked up to him.
Cool story: Jason Wedgebury ended up getting the principal position in Cedar Falls and I taught underneath him for a few years!
Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
The GOAT wrestler that I ever scrapped with was TJ Sebolt my sophomore year at state. I think that match is the only time I ever got pinned in my high school career. The match was close until, of course, he put me in the tightest bar arm I’ve ever felt. I didn’t even know both my shoulder blades could touch eachother like that!
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
I’m an assistant coach at Bondurant-Farrar, so those guys are definitely my favorite wrestlers currently.
Last year, Colby-Lillegard won the state title at 126 pounds. I’ve been coaching him for three years and I’ve been so impressed with him both on and off the mat. In every practice, he would pick the hardest kid in the room to wrestle (Riley Anderson, our 120 pound wrestler last night) and they would battle it out head-to-head day in and day out, probably outworking everybody else in the state. And when Colby won state last year, that feeling was better than any of my achievements.
So when you get to be part of a team like that, your own wrestlers that you coach become your favorite wrestlers. I would encourage anybody who has been involved in the sport in the past to get involved with the sport in the present, even if it’s only attending the meets or volunteering here and there. Investing in the sport after it has given you so much joy is one of the best feelings.
What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
I was a punk rock and metalhead kid in high school. If you plucked my headphones off and put them on during a wrestling meet, I can almost guarantee you would grimace at what you heard. But I loved the energy and the passion of punk and metal music, so it was perfect for warm-ups.
In fact, I was talking to my high school coach on the phone a few months ago, and the first thing he said when I picked up the phone was, “You still listen to that horrible screaming music?”
The answer is yes, by the way. I still do!
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
My senior year in the semi-finals.
I took a shot in the first period, pulled my hamstring, ended up on my back, and never came back in that match. I always thought I would be a state champ in high school and going into state my senior year, I had a nearly perfect record and was ranked second. In my head, not winning state wasn’t an option. So after that loss, I remember kicking over a few trash cans and punching a few lockers. I’m definitely not proud of it, but my injuries in high school always seemed to stand between a good and a great high school career.
It’s funny, I don’t dwell on that stuff now. I have a family I love, a job that I love, and a life that I love. But I would be lying if I said that that match and that shot never crossed my mind late at night. All the wrestlers I know can still visualize, smell, and see those defining moments from their careers.
If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
I had the opportunity to wrestle for a few great colleges but, after experiencing some disappointments and not meeting my own expectations in high school, I was burnt-out and decided not to wrestle in college. There are days when I wish that I did and there are also days when I’m glad I didn’t.
I think that taking a break from the sport for a few years during college helped me gain back my passion for coaching the sport. And I also think that my failures to reach my own goals have helped me be a better coach. If I had accomplished all of my goals and been totally satisfied in my achievements in wrestling, I might not be investing in the lives of high school wrestlers like I am right now. God has a plan for these things and there is a reason why things like this happen.
So I don’t know that I would change anything. Honestly.
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
I won AAU state my 8th grade year. Usually, a memory from 8th grade wouldn’t be my favorite memory from the sport. But there’s a really, really funny reason why that’s one of my favorite wrestling memories today.
If I remember correctly, the match went into overtime with Eddie Reiter and I barely squeezed out that win in a tight match. And years later, guess who I coach with?
It’s funny, because Eddie is such a good guy and he could mop the mat with me now. But of course, I have to rub his face in it from time-to-time!
Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school?
Even though we only wrestle once, I have to say Nate Halverson, because it was my last wrestling match my senior year and probably my most memorable. Nate had won the state title the year before, so all year long, he and I were ranked first and second. He will always the guy I had on my mind that was standing between me and the state championship. His name was always the one that I felt like I was chasing, and I was always looking for his name in the results every weekend.
What’s weird is that we both choked in our semi-final matches. So the match that everybody thought would be the finals match ended up happening for 3rd and 4th place. It was a great match. It went into overtime, and I ended up pinning him. I started my career with a pin and ended it with a pin, which is something I’m pretty proud of. So even though I didn’t win the title my senior year, that match was a serious moment of redemption for me.
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
All year. I took small breaks during the track and football seasons, but freestyle and greco were always too fun to skip.
How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
I don’t know, but I’d love to see it happen. There is more of a focus on being a “single sport athlete” now than there was when I was in high school, so I think the level of technique is better today. Plus, any kid has access to some of the best technical teachers in the world via youtube today, so they have constant exposure to wrestling geniuses on platforms like Flo.
But I think the guys from my day were tougher!
What other sports did you play?
I ran track and played football. Wrestling made me better at both of those sports, especially football. I was a two-time all-district football player and usually the smallest guy on the football field. But wrestling made my scrappy, intense, and gave me the confidence to love the fact that I was the smallest guy on the field. I loved being stacked-up against a football player twice my size and proving them wrong. That’s the wrestling spirit!
I also went to state in three events in track. While I enjoyed some aspect of track, that sport could really benefit from legalizing headlocks and tackles. Just an idea for any school administers out there reading this!
What are your favorite sports teams?
Iowa Wrestling and Iowa Football.
As a wrestler, when you grow up during the Brands era and your bedroom always has the classic “Train Like A Madman!” poster of the Brands brothers pinned to the walls, it’s hard not to bleed black-and-gold.
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Family, fishing, friends, church and, surprisingly, reading.
Not a lot of wrestlers like to read. But when I was in college I became a Christian and became obsessed with reading the Bible. I knew I wanted to coach wrestling, and I knew most coaches were teachers, so I decided that I wanted to teach English. Surprisingly, it was my desire to be a teacher and coach that cultivated a love for reading in my life.
How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
Giving back to the sport feels better than receiving from the sport.
I really mean that. Partly, I say that because my coaching experiences have been great at both Cedar-Falls and Bondurant-Farrar. When you’re part of a coaching staff that is fun, has good chemistry and is really passionate about the sport, giving back to the sport is easy. You look forward to 3:30 every day. And the accomplishments of the wrestlers you coach feel better than any of your own accomplishments. I can’t explain the feeling, I think it’s just the way that the universe is wired. Investing in others and seeing others succeed is better than having the gold medal around your own neck.
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
Anybody who grew up in the sport knows that wrestling is responsible for creating a different kind of person. There’s an old saying that “a fisherman always knows another fisherman from afar.” Wrestling is like that. Wrestlers walk a certain way, act a certain way, work a certain way, they constantly mess with one another, tie-up with one another and scrap with one another off the mat. My roommate and best friend in college was a wrestler, and we would randomly start wrestling at 10pm and roll around in the dorm room and out in the dorm halls until past midnight.
But wrestling has definitely cultivated a strong work ethic in me. Dan Gable was certainly on to something when he said that “once you have wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” I like to work with the same kind of intensity that I had in the wrestling room because wrestling taught me that hard work is fun. The sport pushes you past what you think you’re capable of doing, and once you push yourself to those limits and experience the unique joy that only comes from working like a madman, you learn a secret in life. And so, in all of life, you find ways to push yourself to those limits, even if it isn’t a physical test.
And the sport has also taught me a lot about faith. In the Bible, there is this famous story about Jacob wrestling with God. They battle and wrestle and grapple through the night, and when God feels like ending the match, he simply touches Jacob’s hip socket and dislocates his hip. And then, Jacob collapses (wouldn’t you too if you wrestled God all night?) and he begs God to bless him. And God does bless him. Since I spent so much of my life wrestling, that story resonates with me. It makes sense to me that life is one, long wrestling match with God that extends past three periods and into tons and tons of overtimes. It makes sense to me that faith is like a combat sport.
What do you do now?
I’m the lead pastor of a church that my wife and I planted a few years ago in Des Moines, Iowa. We meet in a jazz club on Sundays, which is a unique environment and really welcoming to people who have had bad religious experiences. God has definitely used my experience in the sport of wrestling to accomplish his own purposes in my life. Even though I’m young to be a lead pastor, I think that wrestling gave me a level of grit and determination that is unique. And I also think it helps me be a leader who isn’t a religious self-righteous nutjob, but can really connect to rough people who “wrestle and struggle with life” and “grapple with God.”
I never thought that this would be my calling in life.
And wrestlers tell me that I preach like a wrestler. How many times has that sentence ever been said?
Are you still involved with wrestling?
I coach at Bondurant-Farrar (just outside of the Des Moines area) and, every summer, I lead a wrestling clinic in my hometown. But my favorite way of being involved is wrestling with my three-year old son. Almost every day, that poor little kid gets gut-wrenched and double-legged on the living room floor. But he loves it, and I know this because we constantly have to peel him off of his friends when he tries to put them in a half-nelson. We’ll see, but I think he feels the sport coursing through his veins.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
The world needs more wrestlers.
Wrestlers are some of the hardest workers and most enjoyable dudes that I know. Sure, we can push the limits and throw a few unwanted headlocks at parties with friends, but the world really does need more wrestlers. When I was a teacher, I always thought that the school staff would benefit from having more wrestlers. Now as a pastor, I think that the church could really benefit from the leadership of lots of wrestlers.
The sport will shape you into a more tenacious, hard-working, confident person and, quite frankly, the world always needs more people like that. I’ve seen guys who were drawn to the sport because they like physical violence, and because of the demands of wrestling, the sport gave them the skill of discipline that they never had.
If there were more people involved in wrestling who learned how to control their aggression and direct it positively, I think there might be fewer bar fights, divorces, broken families, and unemployment numbers. Obviously the sport isn’t a “magic bullet” but nobody comes out of the grinder the same person.
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
Not a chance. I can still trick myself into think I “still got it” and, let’s face it, an old timer’s tournament would shatter that illusion! Plus, like Eddie Reiter said in his article, nobody wants to see me vomiting in a trash can right off the mat!
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
I could never beat Mark Kist (he went on to wrestle at Iowa State and Wartburg). Mark is a short, stocky, boxy guy and he must have beat me half-a-dozen times growing up. Our matches were almost always close, within a few points usually, but he would always find a way to win. And the best part is that Mark was always a genuinely good human being. He was always humble, down-to-earth and nice.
Mostly, I have to give a shout-out to Sean Weber. Sean was my practice partner and childhood best friend. We must have spent millions of hours and millions of miles together in the back of our parents’ cars, traveling to Waterloo and Parkersburg and Cedar Valley and Waverly on weeknights in grade school to participate in the best wrestling practices. We always went back and forth and I know he endured at least a few punches and arguments from me. But I think that every wrestler has a practice partner like that.