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Remember The Wrestler: Brent Jennings, Clarinda HS/Osage Head Coach

“Winning state titles is always fun.”  -Brent Jennings

Brent Jennings.  Man, what a guy he is. When you read the quote I posted above, it’s pretty obvious to anyone with or without a wrestling background that it came from a source who has become very, very familiar with winning.  If this man has any weaknesses in not only wrestling, but life….then I’m not sure what on Earth those weaknesses could possibly be.  On the wrestling mat, he excelled.  As a coach, he is undeniably one of the best ever and will be in the Hall Of Fame some day.  As a father, he raised a couple of great people in his two sons who also happen to be just absolute hammers on the mat.  He also seems to be a universally respected individual by any individual in the wrestling community with a legit opinion. Although I’m sure there are people out there who envy him….due to his CONSISTENT success in wrestling. He’s not cocky, but professional. He’s respected in his own community, which also happens to be a historically good wrestling one. He really comes off to me as a real standup guy and an excellent role model that up and comers in the wrestling community should look up to.  He does so many things the right way, and as alluded to, his track record would indicate that he does so on a consistent basis…which is so respectable given the fact that consistent success on a long-term scale is so difficult to achieve for the ordinary squad.  Every squad seems to have “down” years or “rebuilding” phases.  Brent Jennings brings a tough squad that is always ready to roll, every single year.  And that expands beyond the wrestlers who compete for him. 

The Osage fan base is one of the most rabid fanbases in the state. The community avidly supports their wrestlers.  They bring tons of fans to the state wrestling tournament and these fans cheer loud for their guys.  And they all generally wear green.  I remember the first time I ever observed the Osage crowd at state….I was in awe, for it looked like there was a “Sea of Green” in the stands.  It’s quite a cool site for the neutral spectator.  Intimidating to the opposition. 

Coming into HS, I thought Osage was having a “down” phase, for we never seemed to see them at AAU state growing up.  Boy…was I incorrect there. At the HS level, us Mepo guys noticed the presence of fellow 2A squad, Osage almost immediately in most cases.  Never had to deal with them as youth wrestlers residing on the opposite side of the state, but boy did we have to in High School…. and these were guys that we hadn’t factored in to our HS expectations, for we had no idea who they were due to never encountering them.  The moment we all experienced wrestling in our first state wrestling tourney, most of us were familiarized with Osage wrestling and usually it wasn’t a pleasant introduction. We had Chad Hutchinson getting spanked viciously by Trent Goodale, my brother Justin Swafford losing in the finals his Freshman year to Dusty Pollard, Aaron Drain having the battle of his life against Jayden Olson, etc.  Heck, I ran into one of their studs at a freestyle tournament and had one of the hardest fought matches of my life… it was against a guy named Joe Uker, and he edged me out in that match.  He was unbelievably gritty. And the odd thing was, as mentioned….we generally had no idea who these guys were until they hit HS. It’s true that Osage guys were not avid participants at AAU State around that time, but I found out just this past year that this was because their youth tourney was held on the same weekend.  The existence of all of these Osage wrestling hammers in our age group was one of the most unpleasant surprises to us at Mepo being a fellow 2A school, for a lot of us literally would have placed higher at state in multiple years if we just didn’t have to deal with the pesky Osage hammers. 

Osage wrestling is the epiphany of what every wrestling community should strive to be… from the wrestlers, to the fans, to the youth club, to the cheerleaders, to the managers, to the staff.  They do things the right way…and they are led by Brent Jennings…a true legend.  Be thankful, Osage crew! You are a great wrestling community that has been blessed with some of the state’s all-time most influential wrestlers, coaches and fans. 

“Kids and parents need to be patient for results and understand that success isn’t always defined as a state title or a state medal.” – Brent Jennings

 

 

What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?

Clarinda High School

 

What year did you graduate?

1986

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My High School Coach Paul Honnold started the program in Clarinda. They didn’t have a program until around 1976-77. He came from Winterset and was trying to get things going. I started wrestling in 5th grade however my first matches were a couple years before that when I entered a local youth tournament put on by the local community college basketball team. I knew absolutely nothing about wrestling and actually won a match or two, which is why I gave it a try when they started offering practices.

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently?

My two boys Brady- Iowa State (graduated) and Brock- Air Force Academy(Senior).

 

How did they do?

In High School both were 4x place winners and State Champs as Seniors. Brady 6th, 5th, 2nd, 1st. Brock 5th, 7th, 4th, 1st. In College Brady started for ISU some his Sophomore year and Junior year until he was injured. Brock is still working on it.

 

What were your youth results?

Didn’t wrestle much until 8th grade. I think I got 3rd at state freestyle. They didn’t have a folkstyle state back then that I’m aware of.

 

Any rivals there?

Not really, but had a few guys I wrestled several times. Jack Stewart – Perry, Mike Malcolm – Glenwood

 

What was your record in HS?

90-13

 

How did you place at state every year?

Qualified in 10th and 11th grade and a Runner-up as a senior. I was only the 2nd person to place at the state tournament from Clarinda with teammate Josh Lisle being the first two years earlier when he placed 6th.

 

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

I had an elbow dislocation at the beginning of my Junior year. Missed most of the year but came back right at the end of the year and qualified for the state meet. It was a rough year in many ways. Making weight was a tough deal that year. We didn’t do things the right way back then. I think I drove my coach over the edge that year.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was defiantly a mat wrestler. I liked to leg a lot. I used a lot of different technique but looking back at matches I did a lot of basic things wrong. As a coach I would be yelling at myself to fix a lot of things.

 

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

I lost 7 times as a freshman and weighed about 95# I didn’t lose much after that. Back in those days you didn’t leave the neighborhood much like we do today. I think my senior year I wrestle Mike Malcolm from Glenwood 5-6 times.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

My only coach was Paul Honnold. He took and developed a program at Clarinda by developing a feeder program and starting a wrestling club for support. He picked us up every morning to lift weights before we could drive. We would have 13-15 kids in a regular cab type truck. You wanted to be early on the route so you could score the front seat or it was a cold ride.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Clarinda being a young program was known for landing at the tail end of the Hawkeye 10 prior to my sophomore year. That year we tied for the dual title with I think 6-7 Sophomores in the line-up. We had 6 state qualifiers my senior year but we were all seniors.

 

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

I went to the JRob camp in 8th grade at Wartburg when he was at Iowa. There were several Hawkeye wrestlers I thought were pretty awesome at the time. Lou Banach was one who kind of put his thumb on me for the 12 days. Prior to that all college wrestlers were all larger than life characters. I can still remember Jay Robinson getting on me and telling me as a 90# kid to quit feeling sorry for myself and toughen up. It made going to NCAA Nationals so much cooler after that knowing the guys that were wrestling. I also went to some Saturday morning clinics in Creston and Chris Campbell was the clinician a couple times. He left a big impression on me at that time.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

There have been many but I still have to go with someone from my era. Mark Schwab just dominated and was such a fierce competitor. Getting to wrestle with him on Iowa Greco teams in high school was a great boost for me to know I could compete at a higher level. Not anywhere close to his level but it was fun trying.

 

What were some of your favorite moments in your coaching career?

Winning state titles is always fun. I was an Asst. Coach for Clarinda in 1994 with Moreno when we snuck in and won a title with 5 guys and a lot of bonus points. That was fun more so because I worked with a lot of those kids when I was in high school and they were young. 2020’s title was special and so much fun with the kids and great coaching staff we have. They made it a lot of fun to bring back to Osage. It was something I’ve been working towards for 25 years.

 

What are some of your favorite success stories for your guys?

There are too many in a 29 year coaching career to single some out. You just never know where a kids going to land from beginning to end. One thing I figured out early in my coaching career was to never count anyone out when they are young. I’ve had several kids that lost a lot through middle school but turned into studs once they developed in high school years. Kids and parents just need to be patient and trust the process.

 

What are your strengths as a coach?

You would have to ask my athletes. How would you describe the Osage wrestling community? Supportive Diehards! They love the sport as much as I do which is saying a lot. They love their wrestling!

 

How fun was it coaching your sons especially considering how well they did?

I wouldn’t change anything but it was very challenging from time to time. They didn’t always want to listen to their dad. The fact that they were about the same size made every practice a fistfight ready to breakout and they were determined to wrestle each other. As far as coaching them at meets it was fun. They were tough competitors and were smart wrestlers. The biggest challenge was at the state tournament when they wrestled at the same time.

 

Did you get more nervous for them than you did your own matches?

Definitely, I was never very nervous when I was wrestling. I always felt like I was in control when I was wrestling which wasn’t the case when the boys were wrestling big matches.

 

Were there any coaches you looked up to, learned from and implemented some of their coaching tactics into your own?

I stole from every coach I worked with and several others I didn’t. I tried to take what I liked and leave what I didn’t. I think working as an assistant before becoming a head coach is essential in growth as a Head Coach. The more people you can study the better. My high school coach Paul Honnold was probably the most influential as far as a role model. I got to see how a program should work from the bottom up. I watched him develop a youth program that didn’t exist previously and turn Clarinda into a powerhouse in the 90’s with those kids. He wasn’t there as the coach when that happened as he went on to be an Administrator after I graduated in 1986. The success wouldn’t have happened without him and the many volunteers that worked hard to make it happen. I learned a lot technically from Mike Moreno the two years I coached with him and Dave Daughton at Wayne HS the year I was there before coming to Osage.

 

When did you notice yourself making huge strides and bumping up a level in your game?

Wasn’t until the end of my 2nd year as a head coach. I was really questioning myself and if what I was doing was right until after the state tournament that year. We had a majority of freshmen that year in the varsity line-up. But those guys were a tough bunch and there were more behind them. We were a force over the 5-7 years.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

The Osage ones of course. I do like watching Drake Ayala compete, he’s a pretty slick dude.

 

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

The same stuff I make my guys listen to today. 70’s and 80’s Rock

 

What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?

Probably losing in the state finals as a senior although my wrestlers would tell you I don’t take very many losses well.

 

If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?

#1 I would cut less weight and lift more. I really enjoyed wrestling and the sport but it became a negative when you can’t manage your weight correctly. We just didn’t do things the right way when it came to weight management then. My senior year I went that route and really enjoyed the season.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Winning as a team title as a coach and coaching both my sons to state titles were pretty special moments. Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you? I wrestled all year or at least spring and summer. I was on 3-4 Iowa Greco Teams. We only had Junior level stuff back then, no Cadets.

 

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

I think wrestling has evolved a lot over the years. There are a lot of things that have changed in 30 years. As far as the athleticism and grit I think the guys from my time would have no problem holding their own. But I think the advanced technique in the sport would make it difficult.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

One year at Iowa Central and then went to the Army. I wrestled a little bit in the Army as well. What other sports did you play? I ran XC but I wasn’t much of a runner.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

I’m a college fan. ISU and UNI. I can’t help but to be a Air Force Academy fan as well.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Woodworking and running my engraving business. I like playing golf too but haven’t done it much since becoming so busy as Junior Director for Iowa USA Wrestling in the summers.

 

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

It gave me purpose. I found something I was good at and enjoyed doing. Not sure what I would be doing if I didn’t have it as a focus.

 

What do you do now?

Shop teacher and still coaching Any advice for upcoming wrestlers? It takes focused time and effort to be good. To be great that has to happen over a long period of time. So repetitive good habits over a long period of time will bring you success. Like I said earlier kids and parents need to be patient for results and understand that success isn’t always defined as a state title or a state medal.

 

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

Not a chance!

 

Do you have anything to add?

I’ve made many great friends from all over the country officials, coaches, wrestlers and even parents. I can’t seem to go anywhere where I don’t run into someone I’ve met through the sport of wrestling. It can be a tough sport at times but at the end of the day I wouldn’t have done it any different. Not sure how many more years I will be doing this but I can say working with kids has been a lot of fun in all the sports I’ve coached. It hasn’t always been easy but it’s been a great 30 years. Working with kids has always easily been by far the best part. Without kids willing to put in the time we wouldn’t have had any of the success we’ve had.

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