Adam Manz was a great wrestler out of Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln. One of the most influential people in the SW Iowa wrestling scene in terms of both the way he competed and trains up-comers on how to compete. The cool thing is, his family has been an influential presence to the wrestling scene in SW Iowa for generations now, for his grandfather was the one who first started a youth program in the Council Bluffs area. Think of all the great wrestlers to come out of SW Iowa who have displayed greatness on the wrestling mat. Last names like Kjeldgaard, Paulson, Mason, Carruthers, Watters, Rodgers, Canoyer, etc. I wonder if they would have found wrestling if Adam’s grandpa hadn’t started a youth program in the area decades ago. I don’t have any knowledge as to what led to any of those last names getting involved with wrestling, but it’s fun to think about.
I’ve interacted with Adam here and there for a couple years now and have always been impressed with his insight/knowledge of the sport, general intelligence, the way he treats people, etc. And what’s just as impressive as his familial history in SW Iowa is his SW Iowa wrestling pride and his determination to keep the ball rolling for wrestling in that region. To any current, past or prospective wrestlers from the SW Iowa region who may be reading, be thankful for guys like Adam Manz… they don’t grow on trees and if it weren’t for guys like him, who knows where wrestling would be in your region… This is a great guy right here!
What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
As a youth I grew up in Council Bluffs. I wrestled for the CB Panthers, St. Albert Youth Wrestling Club, and Golden Eagles Wrestling Academy. In high school I wrestled for Abraham Lincoln and in college I wrestled at Iowa Central and Dana College.
What year did you graduate?
I graduated from Abraham Lincoln in 2005. I graduated from Iowa Central in 2007 and Dana College in 2010 but it was actually Midland University because Dana closed.
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
My grandfather, Leo Cash first started youth wrestling in Council Bluffs so I naturally started wrestling because of him. My brother also wrestled so he along with my parents put me in wrestling for the CB Panthers. If it wasn’t for my brother I’d just probably be an average Adam.
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestled currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc? How did they do?
Leo Cash was my grandfather and he started the first youth program in Council Bluffs. I am very proud to mention that. Leo was a state qualifier in 1940 for Abraham Lincoln High School. He then wrestled for the Navy’s Alameda Hellcats during WWII and competed at the national tournament, which I believe was the AAU. My mother never wrestled but was on the first cheerleading squad for Abraham Lincoln Wrestling. My father never wrestled but was a blessing in disguise because he could balance the family’s nack for wrestling and put everything into perspective. My brother wrestled in Council Bluffs and was a 2x state qualifier and wrestled for Chuck Haas at University of Dubuque. My nephew and niece wrestle, Mahri and Zander Manz. Watching them wrestle is quite special because they have so many more talents then what my brother and I have so it is exciting to see them compete, develop, succeed, and even struggle. My cousin also wrestled about the same time as me who had a lot of success, his name is Jimmy Watters. I also have a son on the way that is due December 13, 2021 and if he chooses he might be a wrestler too, Cash James Manz.
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
As a youth I was pretty average or below average. I was a 2nd or 3rd place king at most tournaments, but I had family and future high school coaches that always looked at the big picture for me. My biggest rival at the youth age would have been Jared Clark from Harlan. I could never beat this guy in youth. He kept me out of the AAU tournament a time or two. I only qualified once for the AAU tournament which I feel helped me in the long run. I would really like to look back at that bracket. My first match in high school was Jared Clark. I thought, “here we go again,” but after the most tiring high school match I had I prevailed for the first time and it helped set the tone for the rest of my high school career.
What was your high school record in HS?
I believe it was 147-40??? I can’t quite remember. I just know I took lumps.
How did you place at state/nationals every year?
9th- State Qualifier
10th- State Qualifier- one of the toughest state brackets of all time
Qualified 3x NAIA National Tournament
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
I can remember two transition timeframes that could have made me or broke me. The transition from 8th grade to high school and the transition from high school to college wrestling. When making my way from 8th grade to high school I had my future high school coach, Clark Allen who cared about me greatly. His son was one of my best buddies Logan Allen. They took me to the state tournament as an 8th grader and I saw the barn and said, “this is where I want to be.” A switch just changed for me and all those youth struggles began to come together. My second transition period was high school to college. I went from being the man at Abraham Lincoln to being a backup at Iowa Central. However, if you are trapped in a room with some of the baddest dudes on the planet and can come out alive making it through the entire season you can transfer to any 4 year school but only if you have the grades, which is why so many went on to be great mma fighters. My transition to Dana College was a bit different and I was ready wrestling wise but needed to adjust academically. In this case I went from being the man academically at Iowa Central to being a backup academic student at Dana. Long story short I adjusted and graduated with a 3.0 at Dana.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
RT1. I might not always win but you will be sore tomorrow.
How many guys in high school/college did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
Tough one here but I have to say the Barber twins from Winterset. I’m not sure if I wrestled just one or both. I snuck one out with one of them in high school and one in college but I’d say they got the best of me after that. They were tough and it always went down to the wire. Also, Luke Stamp, on paper, is always better than me but I managed to sneak two out on him but he won when it counted at districts. Same deal with Jay Sherer, I beat him 2 out of 3 times in college but then he went on to win a D2 title.
Who was your most influential coach?
I have to say Clark Allen, hands down. He is a legend of Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln. AL used to be the school to go to and it was because of Clark. Besides my brother, I never met a guy that believed in me more. I learned how to be “tuff” from this guy. He was like Clint Eastwood and John Wayne mixed into one. He helped me become confident in who I was as a wrestler and I always knew he had my back. Still to this day I look up to Clark and I knew the first day I stepped into the high school wrestling room I wanted to take his spot as a head coach at AL. I can’t go without mentioning a few other coaches I had that impacted my career, Leo Cash, August Manz, Tom Harm, Jimmy Rollins, Beau Vest, Luke Moffitt, Troy Bennett, and Keith Massey.
Leo Cash and August Manz helped pave my passion for wrestling. August helped me get through some great times and some very tough times. Tom Harm lugged me around with his boys and took me in. Jimmy Rollins and I have become great friends but helped me through my Dana days. Luke and Troy made me understand what “tuff” means and you have to work through your peaks and valleys. Beau made me understand the importance of family. Keith Massey helped me polish up my technique while being a wooden roller coaster.
Was your team competitive in HS/College?
While in high school we had a stout team my sophomore year. We came close to beating an in town rival that I believe won dual state. It came down to the last match but we just didn’t have enough to get the job done.
While at Iowa Central we won Nationals both years along with national duals and I believe the team won it the next 3 years.
At Dana, we finished 5th, an unmentionable year, and 8th as a team. We had placed each of the three years at national duals.
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
Of course Dan Gable is right up there. I was just a huge fan of wrestling and loved taking it in. When I was young I was able to watch a lot of great events in my area. I went to my first Division 2 National Championships where I was able to watch some great wrestling at an early age. I was also lucky to watch the Kauffman/Brand Open every year. One of the most memorable matches was Tony Davis vs Trent Paulson, epic. Davis wasn’t aware of the new overtime rules introduced that year. I was also very lucky to have a brother that lugged me to the D1 National Tournament each year and still to this day.
Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS Wrestler?
This is a tough one but I’d have to say David Kjelgaard. The amount of Cadet and Junior National titles he won was quite impressive. After the fact, I realized he beat Cael Sanderson for one of those titles was mind blowing. Winning the Junior Hodge put him in a short list category. I wish David’s knees held up over the years so that we could have seen his potential, however, it sounds like he is getting along quite well. Him and his family are a well respected family and held to high regard.
How proud are you of your SW Iowa roots? Do you feel the future is bright for SWI wrestling?
I am extremely proud to be from Southwest Iowa. I feel that we have great wrestlers here and you see notable teams like Logan Magnolia, Underwood, Creston, and Atlantic do well each year. I would like to help put Abraham Lincoln back on this list. One factor that we run into is that our population doesn’t compare to eastern Iowa. I think our bigger schools have some work to do to get back where they used to be but I am confident in what my coaching staff and I are doing at CB Abraham Lincoln to do our part to be a notable force in the state. The last several years (minus COVID) we have put together the SWI Wrestling Series. It is a traveling series in the summer where all of us schools get together and scrap. This year the turnout was great and us coaches will look to evolve this series.
What are some interesting hypothetical matchups between guys from different eras that you would have been interested in seeing?
I am going to pick a couple of SWI wrestlers here:
Alex Thompson vs Chad Zaputil
McGwire Midkiff vs Josh Watts
Colton Clingenpeel vs David Kjelgaard
I could go on for days. This would be a good conversation piece.
Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?
Mitch Mueller, Brad Stockton, Christian Abrams and Andre Vandervelde. Mitch is just a nice guy but I used to compete against him in high school and he’d kick my butt. I was in ahh watching him dismantle his opponents. I remember I was one of the next matches when Zach McCray upset Mitch. I felt like the air was moving and I couldn’t even hear myself think. Mitch sucked it up and came back to take 3rd. Brad Stockton was very similar to Mitch. Brad was dominant and fun to watch score points. Andre Vandervelde now coaches with me but he was such a good teammate to me that it really made my freshman year experience special. Christian Abrams was just a tough Dodger that I was impressed with managing to take 4th place (2003) in what I feel is one of the toughest state wrestling brackets to date. I wrestled him my senior year in the quarter finals and it was such a fun battle. I moved to Fort Dodge the next year to attend Iowa Central and briefly got to know Christian.
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
Ronnie Gentile, Abner Romero, Spencer Lee, Thomas Gilman, Yianni Diakomiholis, Adam Coon, Jordan Burroughs, Kyle Dake, Kyle Snyder, etc…
What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
Well I grew up in the non skip cd player era and let me tell ya, it skipped unless I ran with it level in my hand. Everyday I would get up early in the morning and run to Guns N Roses, Appetite for Destruction. Then one day when my cd player took a crap. I was trying to cut weight and I felt sorry for myself. Luckily I had a dad that set me straight and found a way to motivate me. My dad treated me and bought me my first mp3 player. Having a dad that didn’t wrestle really helped me out. My mom was the one that would let me have my ear full when I needed it.
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
Probably my junior year in college at Dana College. My match to be an all-american, I had majored the guy 3 weeks prior at the conference meet. I wasn’t prepared and reflect back on that match still to this day but I’ve come to terms with it and have learned.
My senior year in college I was in the same situation, a match before being an all-american I lost a close match to the number 1 ranked wrestler and I left my career not being an all-american. At the end of the day it didn’t matter if I beat several all-americans/national champs I didn’t do my job. Those matches trump my state finals loss. I think the state finals loss made me hungry to be a college wrestler. I think if I won I would have been content.
If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
Tough saying because I think any successes or failures helped shape me into the person I am today.
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
I would have to say all of the friends I have made over the years in high school and college. I still stay in touch with all my coaches and a lot of teammates. It has been a fun experience but now that I am a coach I have had a lot more fun experiences. Helping coach a top 10 3A team and having coached 2 state champions was pretty special.
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
Once I got to high school it became year round. No doubt in my mind that my freestyle and greco seasons helped me accelerate my career. The Golden Eagles Wrestling Academy was ahead of its time.
How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
Winners win. The sport has definitely evolved but your top notch guys from any era would find a way to win.
Did you wrestle after high school?
Iowa Central from 05-07
Dana College 07-10
What other sports did you play?
I was a 3x Junior Varsity Award winner in Cross Country haha. With wrestling year round it made it difficult to do other sports without having to sit out. I’m not much for sitting so I focused my efforts on wrestling once I made it to high school. Prior to high school I did pretty much all your normal sports. All my wrestling buddies and I were on the “C” team basketball team in junior high. That was a spectacle in itself.
What are your favorite sports teams?
I’m not much of a sports fan but I do enjoy the UFC, the Iowa Hawkeyes/HWC, Oklahoma State Cowboys, and the NWTC.. It probably helped that I had a bunch of buddies fight mma to hold my interest.
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
I enjoy home repairs. I am about as amateur as it gets but with the power of YouTube I can make it look like a crapier version of what I watched. I am a big collector and enjoy going to antique/ flea markets. I probably have one of the biggest key collections most people have seen. I collect regular/skeleton keys and my buddy Scooter Davis got me into collecting my hotel key cards. I’ve been doing that since 7th grade.
How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
It feels great giving back. I am very proud to have coached so many wrestlers over the years. With my grandfather and brother being a coach it makes it even more special. For me it doesn’t matter if the wrestler is wrestling for a state title or for his first junior varsity win. If they are willing to work hard and put the time in then I got their back.
I am super proud to have two former wrestlers coaching with me. Nick Mitchell who was a 2x state qualifier and wrestled 4 years at Buena Vista. I am also coaching with McGwire Midkiff who was a 4x placewinner and state champion. McGwire just finished up his degree at North Dakota State and competed for the Bison.
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
Well it has made me very sore each morning waking up but it’s worth it haha. Wrestling has paved the way for me when it comes to getting the most out of each day. I like to stay busy and think of my glass always half full because it could always be worse. I owe my parents, coaches, teammates and wrestling so much because it has allowed me to reflect back on myself and my accomplishments and be proud. Now I look forward to being a father and continuing to live that championship lifestyle.
What do you do now?
I work for the Council Bluffs Community School District and work for a program called TAP. I help 14-25 year olds with different abilities find meaningful work. I take a lot of pride in my job and enjoy it very much. When I was in school I wasn’t much of a Science, Math, Social Studies, or English type of guy but I did know I could work. Now I get to teach people how to develop their skill set. It’s great and I am thankful my district has taken on this program.
Are you still involved in wrestling?
For sure and have been since I was 6 years old. I coached at CB Thomas Jefferson for a long time but now I am back at my alma mater, Abraham Lincoln. I am very blessed to get to coach with the staff we have at AL. I have to give them a shout out because they are always helping our wrestlers. Nate Harm, Luke Harm, Mike Childers, McGwire Midkiff, Nick Mitchell, Mat Daniels, and Andre Vandervelde.
I also coach the Cobra Wrestling Program and have coached at SWIFT for a number of years. The Cobra youth program has some great coaches as well and I am sorry if I miss anyone but I also coach with August Manz, Colton Downing, Nate Kelso, Jeremy Clingenpeel, Aaron Anderson, John Schorsch, Shea Minor, Andre Vandervelde and Mike Childers.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Wrestling is hard and it doesn’t come easy. Learn to enjoy putting yourself in uncomfortable situations in a controlled environment and learn to be intrinsically motivated. I would tell new wrestlers this in a much simpler way depending on the age.
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an old times tournament?
I highly doubt it. My typical rule of thumb is I only work out with you if you still have eligibility. I try to preserve my aches and pains for wrestlers that compete, however, I’m never against settling a late night bet. Ask Luke Harm.
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached?
A shout out to my parents and brother for keeping me in line. Another shout out to all my coaches throughout the years. Without all that help I would probably struggle. Last shout out to my wife, Mandy Manz for putting up with me. I am probably hard to live with and she is barring my child. I’m sure that’s not easy.
Also, thank you Swaff for doing all these articles and all the content that you have put up. You have the best intentions in the world and I always look forward to the content Pin Doctors has up.