If you haven’t read Part 1 to this story (Josh Budke Weighs In), you can do so by clicking here: “Inside The Rivalry, Josh Budke vs. Jesse West Part 1: The Josh Budke Perspective.”
Jesse West transferred to Iowa City High, from Kansas for his Senior season in 1997. Back then, wrestlers transferring from out of state in to Iowa was not a common occurrence and it ruffled Iowa HS wrestling fans’ feathers badly when it did happen. On the rare occurrence that this did happen at the time, fans became upset because they would perceive it as either a coach cheating by actively recruiting or they’d perceive it as if the transfer wrestler was there because they had some sort of ax to grind with Iowa wrestling. In the case of Jesse West the fans perceived his transfer in both of those ways and despite the narrative that seemed to be collectively pitched by the Iowa HS wrestling fan base, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact it was quite the opposite. Jesse West possessed an abundance of competitive fire and a desire to always improve. He felt that in order to get himself to the highest level he could, he had to work out with who he considered the best wrestlers around, which in his opinion at the time, you found the toughest guys to compare with in Iowa. Jesse had a high opinion of the passion and mental approach to wrestling that was consistently displayed in Iowa. He developed this perception whenever he’d encounter an Iowan wrestler on the national scene or by watching interviews and inspirational speeches from the state of Iowa’s own legend, Dan Gable. These encounters and observations were proof to him that Iowa was where he belonged, for these were people that he could relate to. He moved to Iowa because he respected the Iowa wrestling scene and wanted to be part of it.
Unfortunately, when Jesse arrived, he quickly found out that Iowa’s wrestling community did not hold him in the same high regard as he held Iowa. In fact, he was treated like a villain…and the Iowa fans did not hold back when it came to ensuring he knew they felt that way about him. Frankly, Jesse West was treated like crap when he moved here by seemingly everyone who wasn’t from his own wrestling community of Iowa City High. And this was noticeable by most everyone in his season-long rivalry vs. Josh Budke, from Cedar Falls.
Here is a side of the Josh Budke vs. Jesse West rivalry that has, until now, been unheard. This is the Jesse West perspective!
What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
Flint Hills Wrestling Club, Emporia Kids Wrestling Club, East Kansas Freestyle/Greco, Emporia High School, Iowa City High School, Iowa State University, University of Missouri
What year did you graduate?
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
My uncle wrestled and had some decent success, I think my dad was a state placer also.
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
I won more than I lost, 4 or 5 x youth state champ, some great rivalries and kids (Robbie Rogers, Nathan Lawrenz, Jason Blanding, Trent Stefec, Robbie wrestled for Brown, and Nate went to UNI
What was your record in HS?
142 – 5
How did you place at state every year?
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
There always seemed to be someone telling me I wasn’t good enough or couldn’t achieve something, so I learned how to focus on what was in front of me, and I usually had a chip on my shoulder.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
Aggressive – I like being aggressive, attacking, constant pressure. I like scoring points!
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
In high school there were only 3 kids who beat me. Beau Vest, who beat me twice my freshman year both times the score was 3-2, I beat him convincingly in the state finals that year. He had not lost a high school match until then. The freshman from Dodge City who beat me in the finals my junior year, I beat him 17-0 a month before the state tournament. I am pretty sure I teched him in some freestyle events as well. And then there was Josh Budke. I beat Josh 3 times in the regular season, I think I beat him twice in the preseason, he beat me once in the state finals.
Who was your most influential coach?
My most influential coaches would be Brad Smith and Bobby Douglas. Both were phenomenal.
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
Eric Akin changed my life when I was 14. I could have listed him as a coach, but it was different.
Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
Jeff McGinness – Brad Smith did tell me that I was the best HS wrestler he ever coached.
When you decided to make the move to Iowa your senior year, how did you perceive the wrestling atmosphere compared to Kansas?
Iowa is the mecca of wrestling. The fans in Iowa are awesome! They are passionate about wrestling and knowledgeable. I bet you can’t throw a rock and not hit a national champ.
Was the Iowa fan reception to you positive, negative or mixed?
I was the most hated man in the state of Iowa for a year! Iowa City was awesome, and very welcoming. All of this made for a cool, unique senior year.
How awesome was it wrestling for Brad Smith the year you did?
Pretty F’n Awesome! I love Brad Smith. He is the epitome of cool, treats you like you’re his best friend, would do anything he could (twice) to help someone. One of the best pure athletes to walk the earth.
Are there any wrestlers you’ve seen, past or present that you would compare your style to?
I tried to emulate and imitate many, but I doubt anyone was copying me. I watch a lot of kids today that I wish I could wrestle like.
Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?
David Kjeldgaard – he was a beast… Budke … Justin Holdgrafer, Cory Connell…
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
Yanni, Fix, Spencer Lee, all the senior level freestyle athletes.
What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
Metallica, Notorious B.I.G, Tracy Chapman, Dave Mathews, Dr. Dre, Stone Temple Pilots,
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
I was really pissed after I lost my junior year in the finals. Yeah, that one stung.
If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
Nothing. I made a lot of mistakes, a lot of bad choices, but that is how you learn and get better. Take your lumps and your lessons and keep moving forward.
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment was being named the freshman with the hardest work ethic at Iowa State U. There were a lot of good freshman that year.
My best memory is getting home from the state tournament after my freshman year, and all of my non wrestling friends were at my house with a lot of toilet paper, and streamers!
Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?
Stephen Abas, Teague Moore, Josh Budke, Silverstein, Jeremy Hunter.
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
I loved freestyle. If I have one regret it is not finding Freestyle sooner.
How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
The technical level is through the roof right now! But these kids have guys from my day training them! There are only a few Brad Smith’s out there, but I think the level of coaching, training, all of it has gotten better.
Did you wrestle after high school?
Yes. Iowa State.
What other sports did you play?
What are your favorite sports teams?
St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals, K.C. Chiefs, Chelsea FC
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Hiking, Gardening, Climbing, Boating
How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
I think the sport is still giving to me!!
What do you do now?
Are you still involved with wrestling?
Yes. I run a youth club, a Freestyle/Greco club, and I Officiate Freestyle/Greco
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Work Harder… the answer is always WORK HARDER!!!
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
Tony Brown, Paul Myers, Erik Akin, Brad Smith, CT Campbell, Jamie Sauder, so many people… I could probably start listing names and it would take up 10 pages.
What are some of your general thoughts about your Josh and the rivalry you had with this person?
I didn’t know Josh… He was a tough kid who wanted the same thing I did… tough matches…
When did you first wrestle him? How long did the rivalry last?
The first time I wrestled him was probably in the Hawkeye wrestling room September of 1997, I think the rivalry ended in Des Moines in Feb. of ’97.
When you first wrestled against each other, did you know you had someone good, or was it just another guy to you?
I expected everyone to be tough in the Hawk Club, but you always know when you grab a hold of someone that knows what’s up.
Out of all the guys you had ongoing competition with, where does Josh rank as far as signicance to your career? Was he one of your biggest rivals?
Josh was a tough S.O.B., one of the toughest guys I’ve wrestled.
Would you consider the rivalry friendly or heated?
It wasn’t friendly, but was never personal, I did enjoy beating him though. But he was one of those guys, that when you beat them, you felt like you did something that day.
When you practiced, did you have times where you were practicing to beat Josh Budke or was it always just to win state and take one match at a time?
I don’t remember ever practicing to beat someone specific in High School ever… I’m sure Josh exposed some weaknesses that we would see on tape and try to improve on though…
Do you remember wrestling vs. Josh in practice?
Nothing specific, but if he took me down, then I bet the rest of that practice was not very fun for him.
How confident were you coming in to each match? Did you ever have to battle any nerves when you wrestled him?
Nerves were never my thing… Normal pre-match butterflies before big matches…Always confident, knew I was going to win.
What was the best/closest match you and Josh had?
They were all close. My favorite was beating him in the dual at Cedar Falls. Standing room only, then half the crowd left after 125!!! That was pretty cool.
What was your game plan against him each match?
Do you know Josh off the mat?
Did you respect Josh’s wrestling skills?
Who were some other talented IA opponents you faced?
Bob Koenig, Kentral Galloway, I think I wrestled Juergens my freshman year of college, I probably left out several names…
What is your take on how the Iowa HS wrestling fans perceived and treated you?
The Iowa High School wrestling fans did not want me to be successful… I was an outsider that was a legitimate threat to dethrone a golden boy of Iowa wrestling. It got built into a KS Vs IA thing, and I just wanted to wrestle, prove myself against the best.
Do you regret the one year you spent in Iowa HS and would you change it if you could?
No regrets, wouldn’t change a thing
How did you feel when you won?
Like I did my job, I take pride in a job well done.
How did you feel when you lost?
Losing is one of the worst feelings on the planet… I do not like losing… at all… at anything…
If you are to ponder on your wrestling career, would it be the same without Josh Budke in it?
No, he’s definitely a part of my story.
Any chance we could see a rematch with you and Josh at an old timers tournament?
I’ll do it tomorrow! Neutral Ground… Lisbon High School!!!