The Gambrall family is one of the most “sneaky-good” wrestling families that’s ever gone through the state of Iowa. 4 brothers, 3 who have finished their HS careers. 2 out of those 3 state champs. All 3 of them state finalists. 9 combined place-finishes between the 3 of them. And the youngest has yet to begin his HS tenure.
Grant Gambrall is the oldest Gambrall brother and with the wrestling resume he has put together combined with his tenacity that was on full display every time he took the mat, he has a case for being the GOAT as far as I’m concerned. He solidified his candidacy for that when he proved himself as one of the best in the nation at D1 Nationals as a Sophomore in college, placing 3rd.
It’s an honor to put this together for Grant. A true wrestling great.
2006 3A 160
1. Kevin Kluesner, Sr., Epworth Western Dubuque
2. Grant Gambrall, So., Iowa City High
3. Riley Lindner, Sr., Fort Dodge
4. Billy Lewis, Jr., Bettendorf
5. Mike Stamp, Sr., Council Bluffs Lewis Central
6. David Zachary, Sr., Dowling Catholic WDM
7. Travaris Haywood, Sr., Davenport West
8. David Negrete, Sr., Des Moines North/Hoover
2007 3A 171
1. Grant Gambrall, Jr., Iowa City West
2. Dylan Wrage, Jr., Waverly-Shell Rock
3. Jesse Swanson, Jr., Knoxville
4. Cory Stonebraker, Sr., Cedar Rapids Prairie
5. Derek Nightser, Jr., CB Lewis Central
6. Ethan Bass, So., Southeast Polk
7. Byron Tate, Jr., Clinton
8. Taylor Drahn, Sr., Cedar Rapids Washington
2008 3A 171
1. Grant Gambrall, Sr., Iowa City West
2. Justin Rau, Sr., CB Lewis Central
3. Lee Averhoff, Sr., Waverly-Shell Rock
4. Adam Houser, Sr., Mason City
5. Alex Schwerdtfeger, Jr., Bettendorf
6. Riley Banach, Jr., Ames
7. Matt Riley, So., Des Moines Roosevelt
8. Brandon Abernathy, Fr., Indianola
What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
City High Mat-Pac with Brad Smith, Jeff Bradley, CT Campbell, Tony Brown, & Willie Gadson
Hawkeye Kids Wrestling School (which became Ubasa Trained) with Pablo Ubasa.
Trojan Kids Wrestling Club with Mark Reiland.
Johnny Galloway Sr. also helped with City High Mat Pac and ran a phenomenal club that I got extra training in throughout my kids and high school wrestling years.
Iowa City City High School (Freshman and Sophomore years) with Coach Brad Smith and many other great coaches.
Iowa City West High School (Junior and Senior years) with Coach Mark Reiland, Matt Orton, and many other great coaches.
University of Iowa with Coaches Tom Brands, Terry Brands, Doug Schwab, Mike Zadick, Kurt Backes, Jared Frayer, Luke Eustice, and Ryan Morningstar.
What year did you graduate?
2008 from Iowa City West High School.
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
My dad and Iowa Wrestling get all the credit here. Dad used to take my brothers and me to Iowa wrestling meets all the time as I was growing up and that really stoked my passion for the sport as a fan. I couldn’t wait to get on the mat and try to become like those great Iowa wrestlers of the mid-90s. My mom is amazing for supporting all of that wrestling passion in the house then and all throughout my career, as well as to this day with my brothers and their careers.
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
I think I was the first in my family to start wrestling. My dad went to Southeast Polk High School and had wanted to wrestle, but his parents thought it was too dangerous. But now, I have three younger brothers who have made and are making their own name for themselves on the mat.
Gradey was a two-time placer in high school, including a runner-up finish.
Graham was a four-time placer and a state champion in his newly completed high school career.
Gordon is about to begin his own high school wrestling career at Iowa City West High School as well.
I also have some cousins who have tried out the sport and some are still coming through.
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
I started in first grade and my first rival was Tyler Carew. He and his brother Dylan became some of my best friends throughout high school and college and we remain good friends with the Carew family today. They are just awesome people.
I was mediocre at first. The best part of my first grade season is that I went to 5-6 kids tournaments and did not finish last at any of them.
In second grade, I took fifth at districts for 3rd and 4th grade, one spot away from qualifying for the AAU state tournament. I was starting to get the hang of the sport.
I took 4th at state in 3rd grade. Some rivals at the time and in the following few years included Cal Beatty, Ryan Mulnix, and Cody Stanley.
I won AAU state in 4th and 5th grade and took 2nd in 6th grade. I wrestled Brody Verschoor in the finals all three years I think.
I took 3rd in 7th grade, losing to Eddie Reiter in the semis.
I won it again in 8th grade.
I took 2nd at Tulsa a couple times as a youth wrestler.
I won or placed at various other national tournaments in all three styles, including winning the USA Wrestling Schoolboy Division National Triple Crown award as an 8th grader.
What was your record in HS?
I am not sure of my exact record. I believe it was in the 150-16 range. I know I lost a lot as a freshman (around 12 times), twice as a sophomore, and once each my junior and senior seasons.
How did you place at state every year?
DNP as a freshman.
2nd to Kevin Kluesner as a sophomore.
1st as a junior
1st as a senior
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
I’ll try to list just a few.
Winning districts and then failing to place at state my freshman year was tough. I had beaten some of the placers during the year and did not wrestle well at state.
I did rebound with a great next season on the mat, only to come up short in the finals as a sophomore after blowing a big lead in that match (another tough moment).
Those experiences definitely helped me grow into a much better wrestler, especially in the more high-pressure matches.
That summer I went undefeated in cadet freestyle and greco national duals (combined 17-0) I won greco and took 3rd in freestyle in Fargo as a cadet.
I won high school state the next two years and had great success in freestyle and greco as well, placing in both styles each year at Fargo and going undefeated at Junior national duals.
I finished out my high school career at the top of the 171 pound rankings after defeating Jordan Blanton and Quentin Wright in All-Star duals about a week apart.
I also had many ups and downs and challenging moments in college.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
I like to imagine I was a crafty and creative wrestler, and I think I was on a good day, at least until college.
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
I only remember a few opponents that I actually exchanged wins with in high school.
Jarion Beets, who went on to All-American for Northern Iowa (a really awesome guy that deserves his own pin doctors interview if it hasn’t already happened).
Cam Simaz, who went on to win nationals for Cornell University.
Chris Spangler, who went on to wrestle at Iowa State.
There were many other tough opponents I had battles with as well, but not that I exchanged wins and losses with.
Who was your most influential coach?
This is a very difficult question to answer because I was very truly blessed with a whole host of amazing coaches that poured so much into me and my wrestling abilities.
If I have to choose just one, I will have to go with Johnny Galloway Sr. because he taught me how to have fun while being a mat-rat. From early morning lifts and drills to late night practices, he invested countless hours. His practices were tough, but fun (just like he is). He helped me learn to change pace, directions, patterns, and levels in my wrestling to keep my opponents off balance and open up attacking opportunities. He also made sure I could move my feet faster than a turtle so I was at least semi-athletic on the mat.
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
I was always involved with teams that placed in the top 4 or 5 at state or nationals in high school and college, including state champions at Iowa City West my junior year of high school.
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
Mark Ironside. His tenacity and endless energy on the mat made him someone I really looked up to as a youth wrestler. He taught at some local wrestling camps I attended as a kid as well and I just thought he was awesome.
Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
Nick Moore. He was my teammate and he is as tough (and funny) as they come.
Are there any wrestlers you’ve seen, past or present that you would compare your style to?
What are some interesting hypothetical matchups between guys from different eras that you would have been interested in seeing?
Desanto vs Ironside would be a lot of fun for the energy levels they have.
As far as high school match-ups, maybe Jeff McGinnis vs Nick Moore. Both had such outstanding high school careers and both were from Iowa City and I think they were relatively similar weights in high school, though Nick wrestled a higher weight in college.
Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?
My teammates, including Tyler and Dylan Carew, Nate and Nick Moore, Derek St. John, Jeremy Garvin, Matt Behnami, Brad Lower, Vicente Chaires, Kyle Anson, and Zach McKray. Those guys lived it with me and I learned from all of them. I also have great respect for Josh Ihnen, who I had a lot of battles with in high school and college. Marshall Koethe and TJ Moen are guys who inspired me with their toughness and approach to the sport as well. Shoutout to Justin Koethe also. He was right after my era, but I love how he let it fly on the mat.
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
My brothers, Graham and Gordon, are favorites for obvious reasons.
I’m in California now so I don’t get to see as much of the Iowa High School guys as I used to, but I like Wyatt Voelker and I was able to wrestle with him at Big Game Wrestling Club when I last visited Iowa.
In college, Spencer Lee and Nelson Brands are fun to watch.
What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
Whatever the mood called for. From Offspring to Eminem to Merle Haggard and most everything in between.
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
Probably after Kile Beaver headlocked me for the win when I had a big lead late in the match in around 3rd or 4th grade.
If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
To understand from a much earlier age how important the trust and comfort between wrestler and coach is to the long-term success of the wrestler.
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
Defeating Quentin Wright in the Dream Team Dual at my home high school gymnasium at Iowa City West my senior year of high school. I dominated the match over the #1 ranked wrestler in the country at my weight class which resulted in my #1 national ranking at that weight leaving high school. It was in front of my family and friends. It was just an overall awesome experience and it was the culmination of years of investment by me and my parents and my coaches and my teammates.
Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?
High School in Iowa included Matt Ballweg, Kalvin Hodge, Jarion Beets, Robert Kellogg, Mike Stamp, Kevin Kluesner, Billy Lewis, Dylan Wrage, Joshua Ihnen, Jeff Rau, Adam Martensen, and Willie Argo.
High School outside of Iowa included wins over Kevin Steinhaus, Travis Rutt, Cam Simaz, Hunter Collins, Quentin Wright, Ed Ruth, Ben Bennett, Chris Spangler, Cody Yohn, and Jordan Blanton. It also included losses to Chris Perry, Mike Benefiel, Cam Simaz, and Kirk Smith.
College included Sonny Yohn, Kevin Steinhaus, Chris Perry, Robert Hamlin, Steve Bosak, Quentin Wright, Ed Ruth, Joshua Ihnen, Ryan Loder, Joe Leblanc, Travis Rutt, and Austin Trottman.
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
Even though I played many other sports as a kid (baseball, soccer, football, basketball), wrestling was something I still made time for year-round starting in about 4th grade and it stayed that way the rest of my career.
How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
I have a feeling not that well, given that I think wrestling is always evolving. But if we grew up in today’s world, I’m sure we’d do just fine.
How would you compare and contrast you and your brothers; Gradey and Graham’s styles?
I think both Gradey and Graham were/are more naturally athletic than me. They probably move more gracefully than I ever could. Maybe I was a bit more stubborn though and maybe that helped me compensate a bit.
What was it like when you first started practicing with the Iowa Hawkeyes? How long did it take for you to find your footing at the D1 level to become one of the top guys at your weight that you became?
It was certainly a more tense environment than what I was used to and I never really adapted to that. When I look back at my college career, I think it took a couple months to really be able to withstand the grind of those Iowa practices and to be competitive the whole practice with the best guys in the room near my weight. I feel like I consistently improved as a ‘practice-room wrestler’ each month and each year throughout my career. As with most, it took a while to get up to speed my first year there. But then it got to the point where, by sophomore year, I was rarely surrendering any points to anyone in the room who didn’t outweigh me by at least fifteen pounds. But, as a competition wrestler, I’m not sure I really improved at all during my college career. I feel like I came in close to the level of an All-American and I remained at or near that level all throughout my time at Iowa. Ups and downs occurred but the improvements in the practice room didn’t seem to translate to competitions.
Did you wrestle after high school?
Yes, at the University of Iowa.
What other sports did you play?
As a kid, I played soccer, baseball, basketball, and football.
In high school, I played football through Junior year.
What are your favorite sports teams?
Liverpool Football Club
Green Bay Packers
Boston Red Sox
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Exploring places with my wife and daughter.
Enjoying Movies and TV shows.
Enjoying (and singing along with) all sorts of music.
Following NASCAR and English Premier League.
Sharing stories with friends.
How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
It’s an awesome feeling. I was given so much from so many in this sport. I feel it’s only right to try to give back as best I can. I love coaching. I learn much more from coaching than I did as a competitor.
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
Well, it’s hard to separate who I am today from who I would have been without wrestling because of how important it has been to me since I was 5 or 6 years old and because of the amount of time and energy I’ve devoted to the sport. I can definitely say wrestling taught me what true perseverance is and has helped me a great deal in life. I think wrestling also helped me to not just take the easy road, but to stand up for my beliefs no matter the consequences or opinions of others.
What do you do now?
I am an audiologist (test hearing and fit and manage hearing aids), a husband to my amazing wife Kimberly, a father to the sweetest little nine-month-old girl named Aurelia, a son to awesome and supportive parents, a brother of some very cool dudes, and I still coach wrestling.
Are you still involved with wrestling?
Yes. I still help coach a kids club called USA Gold and a high school team (Del Oro High School) in the Sacramento area (Loomis, California). I also do private lessons. It is a blast to stay involved with coaching this awesome sport.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Love the sport and the results will come. Have a good time with the process. It’s tough, but it can be tough and very enjoyable at the same time.
Never take a back-seat to anyone. Ever. You’ll surprise yourself with what you’re capable of when you decide you always belong in the front seat.
Never cut corners. You’re only cheating yourself.
Be yourself. Find what works for you and master it.
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
Why would I put anyone through having to see such a spectacle?
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
Coach Michael Colleran and Coach Justin Swafford are great guys and I enjoyed my time coaching with them for West HIgh’s kids club. Good luck to all the younger guys from that club who are entering high school soon.
I’m thankful for the entire wrestling community in the state of Iowa, from youth clubs all the way through the collegiate level. I was spoiled with amazing people to help me out all along the way.
Also, out here in California I’ll give a shout-out to the USA Gold Kids Club and Del Oro High School wrestling communities. I’ve gotten to meet tons of awesome people out here and they love wrestling as much as I do.
Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.
So, Brodie (Snowplow) Ambrose swears to this day that I dodged wrestling him back in ‘06 or ‘07. In fairness, I had told him I was going to bump up to wrestle him in our tri-dual that week. It didn’t happen. But, I want to set the record straight. I did not dodge him. I hyper-extended my elbow in practice, the day before the tri-dual, when Brad Lower hit a really nice and unexpected standing switch. So, I didn’t wrestle that night. It’s a shame because Brodie would have been a sucker for my sweep single.
Interestingly, since I didn’t wrestle that night, I instead had the opportunity to go to a different tournament the next weekend when our varsity was supposed to have an off weekend. I bumped up a weight and wrestled Willie Argo and Adam Martensen at that tournament. Those were some tough dudes!