The Schwab family… We’ve been privileged to have this family as part of Iowa’s own. I challenge you all to brainstorm a family that has been more influential to the ever-present legacy of top-notch wrestling that Iowa has maintained for decades. Ok, so now if you are done brainstorming, I would like to apologize to you for wasting your time…. because I already knew that you wouldn’t be able to think of any.
When you think of the individuals that Mark Schwab has had notable influence on, whether it be for on the mat performance or life in general, it is truly amazing. He is considered the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler by wrestlers who themselves are considered by some to be the GOAT Iowa HS wrestlers. He accomplished the absolute pinnacle of HS wrestling in Iowa and displayed dominance in doing so and it is not even debatable. You would think a guy with these credentials and such universal respect from almost all of the wrestling world may naturally develop an opinion of himself in which he considers himself better than others and is in denial of ever having a moment in life that didn’t reflect total perfection, right? I mean, it does happen a lot with success for some people. Sometimes, egos are easily inflatable if they aren’t kept in check and may cause a person’s head to swell to the point where they start floating in the sky, above everyone else. I know this from experience, for my own ego is out of control in the Mario Kart world. Mark is the total opposite of someone who goes that route when achieving success. He does not hold himself on an imaginary pedestal, nor does he feel as if he is any better or more important than any human being that we co-exist with. He also never lost sight of the fact that he is an imperfect human being like all of us who has done some great things and triumphed, but has also made mistakes and experienced defeat. He has achieved a great deal of success in his lifetime, but has also had times where he struggled both on the mat and internally. Through all the accolades and endeavors, Mark Schwab has avoided floating high above us in the sky with the rest of the hot air balloons and has managed to stay down to Earth with us. And I, for one, am glad to have him here!
If a group of people were asked, “what was Mark Schwab put on this Earth for? What is his purpose?” The majority of answers you’d get would likely have something to do with wrestling. His last name is synonymous with wrestling. But wrestling is just a mere part of what his purpose on this Earth is. His purpose is to help others and his experiences with wrestling are simply part of what has equipped him with the ability to do so. Sometimes, successful people are apprehensive when it comes to offering their secrets to their own success. They’d rather not have company because company means competition. This is also not a characteristic of Mark. There’s nothing he would like more than to help other people and he does so by means of the knowledge and insight he has picked up via personal experiences (negative and positive) as well as being an active learner of not only wrestling, but the entire spectrum of what life has to offer. If Mark is riding life’s metaphorical wave of success, he’d prefer it if others were riding along with him. And if you missed that wave yourself and are lost in the sea, Mark would gladly help you find your way back, for he’s familiar with that territory. Despite all his success, he has had times where he felt his life was sinking in the depths of the ocean of agony, confusion, struggle and defeat and was still able to find his way back to shore.
So kick back, relax, open your mind and read what Mark has to say, for if you are struggling in any area of life, you could read something in this article that provides the “spark” needed to get through the adversity. We all know how passionate and hard-working Mark was when it came to accomplishing goals on the wrestling mat. He’s been described by many as a genius with his mental approach to the game. He’s even MORE passionate about helping people than he was about meeting wrestling goals… just think about that.
If this world were inhabited by nothing, but Mark Schwab’s, we wouldn’t be headed in a direction towards world peace. The world wouldn’t have strayed from an altruistic, peaceful existence to begin with, so there wouldn’t be a need.
When I wrote that it is truly amazing who Mark has inspired, I wasn’t exaggerating… you can read his work here:
What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
There were no clubs around when I was in HS. The Waterloo Boys club was the closest. We trained on our own but I also wrestled lots of matches in freestyle. My freshman year I was 83-2 in freestyle & these were all matches after the HS season from March – July. Nothing can take the place of actual competition. No one made me do anything. Our parents were nothing but supportive & everything we did was supported by them. I wrestled at Osage HS & UNI. My coaches in Osage were the absolute best, available, supportive & the town of OSAGE was second to none is support. I couldn’t have drawn it up any better.
What year did you graduate?
1985 from Osage, 1990 from UNI & 2003 From University of Minnesota.
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
My brother Mike was my role model for training. He’s the one who showed me how to train. Also, I tried wrestling & liked it. My parents were the best support system I’ve ever had. I was so incredibly blessed to have support regardless & NEVER EVER an ounce of pressure. Nothing but love & encouragement. That’s probably why we all continued to compete in college & beyond.
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.?How did they do?
My brother Mike who graduated from Osage in 1983 & UNI in 1988 was a state champion & D1 AA. My brother Doug graduated from Osage in 1996 & Iowa in 2001 was a State Champion, NCAA Champion in 1999 & Olympic team in 2008. I have a sister Julie & if wrestling would have been available for girls / women back then, she’d be the one you’d be interviewing.
What were your youth results?Any rivals there?
I wrestled a few tourneys in 5th grade & each yr I competed more & more. My youth rival would have been Derek Woods from Waterloo.
What was your record in HS?
106-1 I think
How did you place at state every year?
4x State HS Champion & State Freestyle champion in 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th & 11th grade. State Greco champ 9th & 10th grade.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
I was very hands on, active, scoring points from leg-attacks & over / under. I really preferred Freestyle over folk-style. I was a much better freestyler due to the ability to take competition from feet to back.
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
My only HS loss was to Dail Felin from Mason City. He’s actually a friend. He beat me in my 4th HS match. I wrestled him at least 5 more times in Freestyle having success each time. Steve Waddell from Bettendorf was always a battle for me. Kids freestyle I won 2 vs his 1 & HS freestyle / greco I think we were 3-2. Lastly, Cory Baze from Oklahoma beat me the first time we wrestled in Lake Placid NY to make a jr. world team. I would square that up later in the summer at the Jr. Nationals & the next 8 times in college. I wrestled about 230 freestyle matches from 9-12 grade so there were lots of studs along the way.
Who was your most influential coach?
My HS coach, Bill Andrew was the greatest. He could have coached D1 & been very successful. Coach Andrew was really ahead of his time. Coach Andrew & asst. coach Bruce Gast was an effective one-two punch J. Robinson probably influenced more than any other coach but I was with him for 10 yrs & at the right time in my life to learn. I also worked his camps five entire summers before I even went to Minnesota. Jim Miller was a great motivator, recruiter & very smart, disciplined with his words & always had the inside scoop. Rick Caldwell is another coach who I believe could coach any level. He’s incredibly organized, willing to invest, prepared & constantly growing & developing. Marty Morgan could say the most while using the least words, great recruiter & strategy strong. Joe Russell & Sam Barber are the most overlooked effective coaches I’ve seen. In my opinion, the best all around coach who could recruit, develop, program, style, smart, successful & strategy strong is Brian Smith of Missouri. The best strategy, smart & technique is John Smith. He recruits, develops, succeeds & guys adjust. The best developer & behind the scenes guy is Casey Cunningham. The guy who can get athletes to buy-in, continually progress, dial in / focus, continue to move forward in competition, over-achieve & achieve their ultimate goal is Terry Brands. This is just my opinion. Often, if people don’t like someone, they’ll discredit them or if they like, they are blind to obvious defects / behaviors. Bottom-line, give credit where credit is due.
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
In HS Osage were 2nd in State 1983, 1984, 1985. UNI we were very competitive but never reached our potential. As for coaching, I coached at the U of Minnesota from 1995 – 2005 where we won NCAA team titles in 2001 & 2002, Runner-up in 1998, 1999, 2003 & Third in NCAA’s in 1997 & 2000. We won everything you can win as a team – National Duals, Big-Tens, Midlands, Vegas… Great times, teams & memories.
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
Like I said, it started with my brother Mike & a few of the Varsity wrestlers in Osage: Doug Arndt, the Angel bros & Brian Neiss was so fun for me to watch as a kid in Osage. Also, back then IPTV aired college wrestling often & Nate Carr from ISU was my favorite as a kid. Also, Jeff Kerber from Emmetsburg inspired me to set a goal to win state 4x. As a kid, I was in awe of Tim Krieger of Mason City & Tim Klinghammer from Waterloo Central & west.
What were the family dynamics like with the Schwab bros? Very supportive of each other?
When it came to wrestling & competing, we were 100% in the others corner. We fought for each-other.
When you stepped on the mat for your 4th State finals match, you were wearing an Iowa State shirt. Were you interested in going there for a bit?
I was very good friends with Tim Krieger so he’s the one who gave it to me. We had talked about competing together in college. He didn’t talk to me for a year but then we picked right back up. I spent lots of time with Tim & we’d often get with Jeff Gibbons & Mike Guthrie.
You did not have an easy matchup in your 4th State finals match. Do you agree with me that Dan Sinnott may be one of the best guys to never win state?
Dan was a great competitor & scrapper. I’d also say Steve Waddell was another great not to win state. I know there’s many, many more who had ability.
If you Schwab bros were to fight over something, what would it be over? Was it ever about food?
Nooooo, food wise, we ate & drank all the time but worked it off vs. laying up against the wall like so many, eking their way to the scale because they’ve starved all week & massively dehydrated. I could have competed a weight lower each yr easily. I’d leave practice 3-4 under, get back up to 3-4 over, work out at night again & then work out EVERY single weigh-in we ever had. I worked-out in the morning & then I’d step on the scale. It didn’t matter what I weighed; I was going to work-out anyway.
When coaching, were there certain types of personalities of wrestlers that you worked well with and liked to take under your wing? Do you approach every kid uniquely?
I meshed very well with 90% of the guys I worked with but the athletes who were willing to take the coaching, seek you out, do what they say & what you ask, great effort & willing to TRUST you allowing you to take them to extreme places were the athletes I connected best with. When I was in Minneapolis from 1995-2005 we had an entire roster of those types of guys. I believe wrestling is a sport that requires miles of personal time. One on one sessions is where the gains are measurably made. From my HS coach Bill Andrew on a.m. training sessions / work-outs were / are a must. I can’t imagine being serious about wrestling without morning training. As a coach, you invest a lot in the athlete & ideally the athlete invests even more. I can remember, Bill Andrew was at every workout & so was J. Robinson. How can you have an accurate pulse on your team if you’re not on the scene. I know many athletes / programs don’t train in the morning & I’m still baffled. The know-it-all & ungrateful individuals were the ones I struggled with but they never lasted long anyway. You know, there are many levels of wrestling within wrestling, coaching within coaching & commitment within commitment. HS wrestling & D1 wrestling have a chasm that’s as wide as the grand canyon. What I can’t believe is how many people have no idea what it is that drives, motivates or excites them. I can’t believe how many coaches / athletes don’t evolve. They never grow, learn, advance, invest & continue making the same mistakes year after year.
When did you develop your writing passion and talent as well as your wise philosophical takes on life?
Writing & reading didn’t become important until I was done with college. I was lost in the early 90’s & I began reading self-help books mostly but evolved immensely through the years in what I read. The writing started because I would write little motivational messages to athletes I worked with plus every book I read over the last 25 years, I highlight what I connect with or want to remember. After the book was read, I went through the pages & rewrote everything I highlighted so I had it when I needed it. In all honesty in HS / college combined, I never read a complete book. I didn’t even have the course class book in college. But from 1993 on I’ve read well over 600 hundred books. I know that because I’ve gathered them up three different times in my life. It started out to find the magic answer for happiness, evolved into a hunger for knowledge but also to appear knowledgeable, evolving again into a sincere drive to learn for myself & to help others. I can feel my desire to learn & gain knowledge has become more sincere & more about helping others than searching for my happiness on some page of a book. Writing offers me an outlet, freedom, knowledge, identification, clarity, direction, feedback & most importantly ideas that can help others. I’ve always been an introvert, deep in thought, dreamer. I’m learning to notice, identify, practice, adjust my awareness & organize, manage, express my thoughts & feelings as I evolve. How can I address something if I’m not aware of it. I’m often disappointed in myself but trying to talk to myself in a more compassionate tone vs. beating the shit out of myself like I always have. I’ve made several workbooks, programs, presentations in many different areas that would benefit anyone who’s willing to make a firm decision, get honest & willing to be committed for possibly a lifetime. I’ve found most people don’t like workbooks but I find the opportunity to learn, grow, develop, advance & achieve excellence through the vehicle of answering questions, giving thought, learning about self strengths, lesser strengths & what one really wants from life & themselves.
How important is it to you to help other people?
I KNOW helping others is my purpose. I’ve spent miles & miles of time deepening my knowledge, understanding, experience & every time I inventory my life, values, passion, drive, beliefs, motivations, it’s connecting with someone who needs it as much as I do. I’ve had a wide array of life experience. In fact, most wouldn’t believe some of them. I’ve made many poor choices, bad decisions, acted like an idiot, poorly or inappropriately, disliked myself, self-sabotage & self-destruction, … I know for a fact, regardless of the front others cloak themselves with, they’re just as unsure, fearful, hesitant & need help, support, input, direction like we all do. I KNOW for a fact my purpose is working with others. The arena seems to be evolving & not limited to performance psychology but life psychology & freaking getting-real.
How important was positioning to you in your wrestling game? How hard did you work to fine-tune that element of your game?
I didn’t understand how to teach positioning until I was at the U of Minnesota. Positioning to me started with the athletes foundation / stance. If an athlete can stay in-position, he’s always in a position to score or defend or counter. Also, when you maintain position, you’re not using near the energy you are when you have to fight out of a bad position back into a good one. Stance is one of the first things you learn & ultimately a position to be mastered to succeed at a high-level. Most kids almost take offense when you mention stance but what they don’t know is if they continue in the sport, they will find out just how important it is. Stance is home-base, your structure, offense & defense. Every match starts in this position & the bulk of most matches are spent in this position. One would do themselves a favor by mastering this position & spending time moving fluently, changing in / out of square / stagger, relaxed, sting, changing levels, changing speeds, tight circles both ways, hand-fighting…
How did you feel after winning your 4th title? Relief? Appreciative of your supporters? Both?
I’m very grateful for the people who helped & supported me, I NEVER forget people who help me. I’m forever in their corner until they decide differently. My brother Mike, Julie, Doug, Mom, Dad, Grandpa Mork, Aunt Nade, Bill Andrew, Bruce Gast, Jeff Kerber, Brian Moore, Rick Samuelson, Doug Arndt, Angel family, Coach Betts, John Bunge, Coach Newhoner, my teammates, town of OSAGE all played a part. I’m so grateful to them all.
Did you get more nervous wrestling yourself or watching Doug wrestle?
No doubt when my brothers competed.
When there is a guy who is a Senior and going for his 4th, do you find yourself pulling for and empathizing with them since you know via experience the pressure they are facing? When guys like Allard or Ike Light were beaten their Senior years or when Jesse Sundell lost at districts as a Senior, how did it make you feel considering you are one of the few who knows the pressure they were under?
I didn’t feel any pressure but I understand how one could. Most pressure is something we do to ourselves. Yes, I’ve seen some overbearing parents & coaches who project their anxiety onto the athlete, but in the final analysis, it is something we can at a minimum manage. Most of us have forgotten we have the power of choice. I know much easier said than done. My coaches Bill Andrew & Bruce Gast never even talked about winning; they talked about competing & having fun. As for my parents, we never even talked about wrestling. I can tell you, by the time the state tournament rolled around as a freshman, I had won this in my mind soon many times that I KNEW I would win. I’m not talking trash here. I’m simply crediting the power of our imagination when exercised correctly & efficiently.
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
Hayden & Hendrix Schwab
What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
Music has always been a passion of mine but it had nothing to do with competing or training. Blues is my true love, but I have a wide range of music. I’m fairly decent at music trivia & history. In fact, it might be the only game I’ve played in 35 yrs.
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
Probably my senior year at the NCAA’s when I knew I would never reach my goals, dreams or potential. I have an entire article about this & will send when complete.
If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
I would have gone to College at the University of Iowa or Iowa State.
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
I feel good about setting a goal in 6th grade to win 4 state titles & accomplishing it. I feel good about being an all-American as a true freshman. I feel good about my performance in Tbilisi Russia. I feel good about the part I played & the movement we created at the University of Minnesota. I felt ok but not good about coming back to be an AA again in college after missing over an entire year due to knee infection issue, losing over 1/3 of my body weight & having 9 knee operations with a left knee mobility of 15-60 vs 0-180
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
All wrestling / lifting / running / competing.
Did you wrestle after high school?
Yes, I competed internationally from 18-21 & college from 1985-1990 missing over a complete year of my career due to injury.
What other sports did you play?
Ran Cross country as fresh & soph.
What are your favorite sports teams?
I’ve never watched college or pro sports. I never had a team of any sort. I’d much rather talk about music or just life observations.
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Reading, writing, working-out, music, guitar, collectables, & travel although I’m at the end of travels. I was fortunate wrestling took me all over the world & then personal curiosity took me to many places in the world where wrestling never would. I’ve been in over 40 countries & every state except Hawaii. I’m so blessed & pleased I went places I wanted to see for myself. I went on several trips alone but I knew it was now or never, so I did it, gaining experience & gratitude because of it. I spend almost all my time by myself. It’s not on purpose & never was but this is where I feel most comfortable. I’m an extreme person which can be a curse or blessing depending on where I’m channeled. At times I’ve caused myself & others a lot of unnecessary trouble & pain but sometimes pain is the only place we can or will wave the white flag. I love nature, connection, beauty, quietness & the miracle of it all.
How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
I’m one who believes heavily in appreciation & gratitude so giving back is really my duty / obligation.
Are you still involved with wrestling?
I’m not part of any program but work with athletes, teams, individuals, businesses in the mental / emotional climate to give themselves the best opportunity to succeed. I really want to work with people outside of sports. I’ve invested a lot of time & miles & miles of learning to be in a position to be able to give back to those in any arena of life who want to change, grow, develop, have an idea of what it is that drives, motivates, excites them. I have the experience, knowledge & tools to help people go within, learn about themselves & face what’s kept them cuffed. I can help anyone in any arena face, manage, grow, develop & achieve excellence if they’re motivated.
Your brother Mike filled me in on how wonderful of a person your mother was. How influential was she to you boys and would you guys have all reached the successes you did without her?
Mom was golden. You know, I NEVER heard her speak ill of anyone other than Trump. Man, she was a rock. Mom & dad were nothing but supportive. Growing up I was angry we didn’t have much money or material items but later on in life, like now, I realize just how blessed I really was & wouldn’t trade or change anything about my mom & dad. So many parents try to coach their kids & from what I’ve seen, few are actually helping. Thank God our parents only supported. I can say, we NEVER even talked about wrestling.
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
You will NEVER even see me in a pair of wrestling shoes.
When did you start playing guitar and what inspired you to start creating music?
My uncle Ron was my guitar inspiration. In all honesty, he was as good of Blue’s player I ever heard. Music has always been a focus in my life. Growing up, my mom had tons of albums & that was my introduction. Since then, music has taking-on a life of its own.
What are some songs/bands that you enjoy listening to?
I like music from the 50’s like Elvis or doo-wop, 60’s like the Beatles, Zep & 70’s probably holds the most array of music I enjoy. I like disco, funk, rock, pop, slow but my foundation & true love will always be the blues. I take music seriously & know a lot about the artist or bands I enjoy. I memorize the songs I enjoy & frankly have made music part of my life. I love playing music trivia or naming the artist on the radio but even going beyond that into the artist or bands lives, their influences, studio knowledge, ect.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Exercise & build castles with your imagination as much as possible. Imagination is our most powerful faculty.
Set concrete goals that are written. The most important aspect of setting goals are the day to day behaviors / actions one must take to give themselves the best opportunity to succeed. Most people are vague & lazy with their goals. The little things are key. Details are a must. View the goal daily & the steps because you’ll be constantly adjusting your steps, adding behaviors, possibly being able to eliminate specific steps that have been met. The bottom line is setting a specific goal is ongoing. The writing & details are continuously flowing. Really give your goals thought because although your goal may be 6 months away, it’s actually happening a little at a time. Each day is as important as the next. Each day is your opportunity to engage in your steps / details that bring your goal to life. The one constant is the goal itself, that never changes.
I’ve never understood why most people let alone athletes & coaches don’t have the information on how to set real goals vs. wishful thinking or rubbing a genie lamp. The information is out there & the potential impact is staggering. it’s the little things – Inches & ounces that make the difference. These little things I mention can equate to feet & pounds. Setting goals is a skill for a lifetime. You can set goals for anything that is important to you. If you really are serious & want to give yourself the best opportunity to grow, develop & succeed, then construct a well thought out written blueprint to guide, support, direct, encourage & give feedback, then goals are the very first thing. I can’t tell you how much written goals & detailed steps have made a difference for me. For example, I set goals financially, relationship, health / fitness, nutrition, business, academic, travel, spiritual growth….. My point is this is a life-tool for anything that’s important to you. Written goals / steps make everything more clear, believable & something we’re more likely to act on. If you’re going to be there anyway, why not give yourself the best opportunity to mature, experience & succeed.
Most people wing-it & I’ll never understand it. The other life-skill that’s ideal for an athlete is journaling. There’s so much power in writing things down. Writing heavily connects with our subconscious mind & the sub mind is the shot caller but it takes time; focused & INTENTIONAL time. Awareness is key & journaling uncovers, reveals, identifies & untangles our thoughts. We must know what we’re thinking. We must become clear about our patterns, strengths, lesser strengths before we can truly grow, develop & ideally achieve freedom & excellence. This requires consistent daily discipline that most are not willing to give or will make excuses why they can’t. Like anything, it’s about what’s important to you. We’ll always do what’s important to us. We talk about how mental our sport is but when asked what we do to train mentally, few have an answer.
Continued learning / education – always reading something..
Make mistakes, adjust…make mistakes…adjust….make mistakes,,adjust, learn, succeed, fail, adjust, grow, develop, read, mistakes, adjust, grow..
The conclusion of everything I’ve written above, has led me to cultivate a nature of Gratitude. Obviously, this is ongoing but I’d never have thought when I began this journey that it would lead me to the importance & development of gratitude & a grateful heart. Maybe I’ll elaborate on this at a later time.