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By Kevin Swafford

One of the greatest things about wrestling that I found was its impact on families and how the sport of wrestling is passed on with its fervent love and passion for excellence and hard-nosed quality competition from generation to generation, from parent to child, sibling to sibling, and beyond. As a matter of fact, I could probably make a career out of writing Iowa wrestling stories that are exclusively about wrestling families. There are levels of intensities that are hard to measure when it comes to family wrestling, like a wolf-pack and for the most part, there is a strength and confidence that is extremely formidable to anyone outside those walls.

When doing research on this article’s GOAT subject, I was immediately struck by how much talent that Nick Moore had… but also how much talent he had at home (brother Nate and cousin Cliff Moore) and a father that helped him pursue his wrestling dreams, and in the wrestling room with his teammates, and with his coach – former Iowa NCAA national champion Mark Reiland. I think it’s an aspect that gets overlooked sometimes when evaluating a profile of an individual whose body of work is unquestionably great. It’s the little things that matter in the daily pursuit of those high goals which become incrementally huge difference makers in that individual’s growth like the extra work that one puts in when no one is watching – the efforts invested in success that happen outside of the 2 hours spent in the practice room. Obviously, Nick had all of the tangibles that make star wrestlers… along with his intangibles, like coachability, drive and motivation to be the best he was able to build the impeccable high school resume that gives him GOAT credibility.

Let’s take a look at Nick Moore of Iowa City West and his “Case for IA HS Wrestling GOAT”!?

Nick Moore was the state’s 19th four-time state champion, winning titles at 130, 140, 152 and 160 from 2007-10. Those were weight classes well above the normal (98 or 103) starting weight classes seen in the resumes of most our beloved 4x state wrestling champions. He finished with a phenomenal 183-1 career mark, winning his last 151 consecutive matches that spanned three undefeated seasons (52-0, 49-0, 50-0) and was a junior national freestyle champion.

Nick’s only loss came during his freshman year at the hands of 2x state champion Mark Ballweg of Waverly-Shell Rock (career 158-6), in the 2007 state duals by a score of 5-3 after  defeating Ballweg in overtime in their previous meeting a week earlier in the state semifinals. Nick of course went on to win the 3A 130 lbs weight class capturing the first of his 4 state titles. Ballweg placed 4th at 130 that year, and is the only HS wrestler to defeat both Moore brothers (beating Nate Moore in the 2005 3A finals at 103 lbs) and also went on to wrestle for the Iowa Hawkeyes (along with his brothers).

Nick was part of ICW’s talented “Fab 5” in the mid to late 2000’s, a tight-knit group of stud wrestlers for then head coach Mark Reiland… which included Nick’s brother Nate (2x state champ and 4x finalist), Derek St. John (2x state champ), Grant Gambrall (2x state champ) and Dylan Carew (2x state champ and 4x placer), and played a role in helping Iowa City West to a 2nd consecutive state duals and traditional team title sweep back in 2007… (IC West took home those same titles the previous year in 2006).

What makes Nick Moore’s climb to the list of “Mount Rushmore” 4x state title winners so impressive, is he ran the table winning two of those individual state titles with an injured right shoulder that required a pair of off-season surgeries (sophomore and junior seasons), which points to Nick’s physical and mental toughness, while also winning those titles in middle weight classes that spanned from 130 to 160.

What makes his “4-Peat” run of state titles that much sweeter from my perspective is that two of those state title years, Nick was able to share them with his brother Nate who was 2 years older. The Moore’s were teammates again later on in their wrestling careers at Iowa. Nick Moore went on to become a Big Ten finalist and three-time NCAA qualifier for the Hawkeyes.

Nick Moore was inducted into the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s Wrestling Hall Of Fame in 2020 (sharing the honor that night with his brother Nate – now head coach of their alma mater – the Iowa City West Trojans).

Personally, I love that… maybe it’s the sentimental side of me that enjoys seeing success of brothers (myself being a twin and also having a younger brother that I played an important role in helping him reach his wrestling goals) and in this GOAT case, the impact that brothers play in shaping each other’s future as well as later in life.

Nick Moore stands in nobody’s shadow while carrying an ample resume and deserves our consideration for Iowa HS Wrestling GOAT – what say you?

Here’s Nick Moore’s state tournament results…

2007 3A Results

130

  1. Nick Moore, Fr., Iowa City West
  2. Isaiah Smith, So., Newton
  3. Micah Sheffield, Sr., Sioux City North
  4. Mark Ballweg, Jr., Waverly-Shell Rock
  5. Travis Stratton, Jr., Burlington
  6. Bradley Westendorf, Sr., Oelwein
  7. Adam Richards, Sr., Johnston
  8. Colby Tofanelli, So., Des Moines Lincoln

 

2008 3A Results

140

  1. Nick Moore, So., Iowa City West
  2. Alec Hoffman, Sr., Davenport North
  3. Tyler Hardin, Sr., Cedar Rapids Prairie
  4. Travis Stratton, Sr., Burlington
  5. James Tudor, Jr., Newton
  6. Mike White, Sr., Bettendorf
  7. Tyler Middleton, Sr., Ankeny
  8. Keaton Lunn, Jr., Fort Dodge

 

2009 3A Results

152

  1. Nick Moore, Jr., Iowa City West
  2. Josiah South, Sr., Urbandale
  3. Joey Trizino, Jr., Bettendorf
  4. Quinten Haynes, Sr., Waterloo East
  5. Cody Clark, Sr., Southeast Polk
  6. Cody Marsh, Sr., Fort Dodge
  7. Spencer BeLieu, Jr., Indianola
  8. Travis Mallo, So., Mason City

 

2010 3A Results

160
1st: Nick Moore, Iowa City West SR 48- 0
2nd: Spencer BeLieu, Indianola SR 38- 3
3rd: Anthony Walther, Waverly-Shell Rock SR 39- 4
4th: Nik Pappas, Valley West Des Moines SR 32- 8
5th: Cory Devries, Dowling Catholic W Des Moines SR 31- 15
6th: Beau Gill, Sioux City North SR 34- 8
7th: Bryan Levsen, Bettendorf SO 25- 6
8th: Thomas Mayberry, Maquoketa SR 36- 7

Here’s Nick Moore interview at “Wrestling With Iowa:”

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Ryan Cummings, Mediapolis

Ryan Cummings won 3 state titles. He won them in 1991, 1992 and 1993. The interesting thing with him was that the title he won in 1991 was in Minnesota. Being a vocal Mepo Wrestling alumni and lifelong fan myself, I idolized Ryan. The entire community did. He filled up the stands by being so fun to watch. Some Mepo people who didn’t normally follow wrestling would make it a priority to watch home meets so they could witness him wrestle. He was a big deal back then. In 1992 and 1993 he was so dominant that sometimes it just looked like he was able to control every facet of the matches he wrestled. It was magical. The only year he did not win state was when he was a Freshman in 1990… He did qualify, though. This was at Mepo. The only year he wrestled in Minnesota was 1991.

 

 

 

Tom Peckham, Cresco

Tom Peckham won state titles in 1960, 1961 and 1962. The only year he did not win it was his Freshman year. He got defeated first round at state against Bill Block from Maquoketa by a score of 4-4… referees decision. The ironic thing is that the referee was Harold Nichols… Peckham’s future college coach at Iowa State.

 

 

Dan Gable, Waterloo West

Dan Gable. We all know pretty much everything about him because he is an icon in the sport of wrestling. Ok fact, I would say that he is THE icon I The sport of wrestling. He has influenced everyone from Royce Alger to Ashton Kutcher to The Brands Bros. to Tom Cruise. He is a universally respected guy and crosses the line from the wrestling world to the mainstream to a certain extent. Gable only had one loss in his high school and college career combined. This was not in high school. He was undefeated for Waterloo West. So how did he not win 4 state championships? To my understanding, it’s because Waterloo West would not let Freshmen wrestle varsity. He is the first flawless wrestler to come from the state of Iowa in terms of record.

 

John Henrich, Akron-Westfield

John Henrich was a 3X state champion who was undefeated in the state of Iowa. In fact, he only gave up maybe 15-20 points total in his entire Iowa career. 7 of those points were in one match. 2 of his 3 finals opponents are now 2X AA’s at the D3 and NAIA levels. He beat Jacob Krakow from Iowa Valley-Marengo in the finals as a Sophomore and Jacob has been an AA for D3 Loras 2 times now. He defeated Brennan Swafford from Mediapolis 8-7 In the finals his Junior year. Brennan was an AA as a Freshman and then won it as a Sophomore at the NAIA level. He defeated a Freshman named Carson Tenold from Don Bosco who likely will go on to do big things when he was a Senior in 2019. The only year John did not win state was his Freshman season. He placed 3rd in South Dakota. And before you try to say that SD doesn’t produce good wrestlers, I’d just like to tell you that Lincoln McClravy says, “hi!”

 

Nelson Brands, IC West

Nelson Brands won state titles his final 3 years of high school in 2016, 2017 and 2018. And he looked pretty dominant in the process, really. All 3 brackets he won had some tough guys in them. Nelson Brands did not win state as a Freshman in HS. He just hadn’t quite turned the corner and reached the level that most of us have seen from him since at that time. Nelson was not the same wrestler at the end of his Freshman year compared to the Wrestler he was when he won state as a Sophomore. He raised his game immensely in that one year. Heck, he wasn’t even the same guy from the first tournament of the year at Burlington compared to how he was wrestling at the end of the season. I watched him.. he had a nice win over Mepo’s Mason Buster at that one, but he and Mason were both kind of wrestling sloppy at various points of that match. Somewhere along the line that season, something clicked for Nelson Brands. I think there were two huge wins for him that helped him get the ball rolling. 1.) His victories over Clint Lembeck from Xavier at the MVC and state finals were huge. Lembeck was a proven badass. The real deal and everyone knew it and Nelson beat him twice. It was huge. Probably the biggest win of his career was his victory over Zach Barnes from SE Polk. This one was likely a big one for him mentally, for I watched Nelson a lot from the time he hit the AAU circuit in 6th grade and if it was one person that used to give him the worst fits, it was Zach Barnes. I’ve beliefs ever since that those two wins were integral for his development. Never underestimate the power of confidence.

His Freshman season, if memory serves me correctly, he was in a pretty stacked 126 lb district with Skylar DeJong from Osky, Colten Mertens from Mt. Pleasant and Cam Sadeghi from Keokuk. He placed 4th behind all 3 of those guys. Wasn’t the same kid a year later. If he had made that jump his Freshman year, who knows what would have happened?

 

INTERESTING CONNECTIONS/PARALLELS BETWEEN THESE FIVE:

* Tom Peckham and Ryan Cummings are 2nd cousins. Ryan Cummings is the son of Dan Cummings who is in the Iowa Wrestling HOF for his accolades of coaching Mediapolis for 38 years. Tom’s mom is a Cummings. She is the sister of Dan Cummings’s dad.

 

* Nelson Brands and Ryan Cummings are both sons of twins; Terry Brands and Dan Cummings. Both are legendary coaches and both are in the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame.

 

* Dan Gable and John Henrich were the only 3X state champions that I know of who capped off their wrestling careers in Iowa with undefeated records. Gable was 64-0. John Henrich tmoved to Iowa from South Dakota where he placed 3rd as a Freshman. He never lost a match as an Iowa HS wrestler and gave up a cumulative total of 15-20 points in 3 years.

 

* Tom Peckham has been referenced several times by Dan Gable as “an inspiration and the guy whose style he wanted to emulate.” Both were national champions for the Iowa State Cyclones.

 

* John Henrich and Ryan Cummings both wrestled one year of HS outside of Iowa. Henrich in South Dakota and Ryan Cummings in Minnesota. John’s grandpa is Jim Henrich who coached at Akron-Westfield for 36 years and Cummings’s father was Dan Cummings who coached at Mepo for 38 years. In 2018, Henrich defeated Mepo’s Brennan Swafford 8-7 in the finals. Brennan was coached by Dan Cummings (and Jason Payne).

 

* Peckham was the inspiration for Dan Gable who was the inspiration for Terry Brands who had a son named Nelson.

 

* In the 2018 160 lb. finals, Nelson Brands and John Henrich wrestled their finals match at the same time, Nelson for 3A, Henrich for 1A. The opponent Henrich defeated 8-7 in that match was Brennan Swafford who was coached by Dan Cummings. Brennan’s only other loss of that season was first tournament of the year vs. Nelson Brands.

 

* Ryan Cummings wrestled for the UNI Panthers and qualified for the NCAA tournament one year and met up with legendary Iowa Hawkeye, Lincoln McClravy first round, whom he lost to as most did. Lincoln’s Coach was Dan Gable and he was originally from the state of South Dakota, just like John Henrich.

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Remember The Wrestler: TJ Sebolt, Centerville

When all is said and done, the Sebolt family will go down as one of the most legendary and influential wrestling families to come from Iowa. What TJ accomplished on the mat was extraordinary.  What TJ and his father, Scott Sebolt have not only accomplished, but have done for others in the clubs they have run and continue to run is heroic when you think about it. That goes for all the guys who run clubs.  I will say with confidence, that in Scott’s work with Higher Power Wrestling Club and TJ’s work with Sebolt Wrestling Academy, they have likely saved a few lives with the values they instilled in their athletes.  There were probably kids who are in successful in life now, but would have been lost had they not discovered wrestling and met the Sebolt family.  No matter whether someone likes it or not, the Sebolt family has already accomplished and influenced so much that they are cemented in time as being one of the most important wrestling families to join the wrestling world in the state of Iowa…

And yet, they have also been the most publicly disrespected family by general fans and message board  warriors that I have ever seen go through the state of Iowa by far. I’ll get to that later…

I was lucky enough to witness TJ’s 2nd tournament of his High School wrestling career his Freshman year. This took place at The Mediapolis Invitational.  This was a pretty big deal. Every little thing he did seemed to be a big deal to some people because there were fans out there who literally seemed to track every move the Sebolt’s made so they could have ammo to post hateful messages about them on message boards. There was a group of people who were awful to the Sebolt’s. I have been an avid message board poster myself for 20 years and have had my own moments that I am not proud of, but it almost comes off as an unwritten rule of message board etiquette that  there are certain lines that you never cross, ever. Like taking jabs at someone’s personal life for example. People crossed these lines every day with the Sebolt family. And TJ entered the world of being a message board target at an early age, for it started when he was a 7th or 8th grader. With that said, when he started competing in high school, there was a lot of buzz and a lot of eyes on him at all times.

My first time ever watching TJ wrestle was one of the most memorable wrestling moments I have ever been present for. It was borderline surreal, the feel in the air and the excitement that he sparked from every fan in the gym. I’ll try my best to describe it, but it will be difficult.

TJ was in a pretty tough bracket at the Mepo tournament. He was at 103 pounds in a bracket that included the #2 ranked guy in 1A named Derick Ball, a Senior from Columbus Jct. and another phenomenal Freshman wrestler that I got to watch for the first time named Russell Weakley from Fort Madison.  Weakley went on to win a couple state titles himself in 3A. When someone pointed TJ out to me, he was warming up on the mat and an argument that I had read from a couple haters on the message boards was immediately void of any sort of merit. A few people’s undies were in such a wad about Sebolt that they actually had the nerve to hate on him for being held back when he had a Summer birthday.  Their argument was that it “gave him an age advantage.”  Keep in mind, TJ has a June birthday and had the choice to be either one of the youngest kids in the grade or one of the oldest.  Every kid with a Summer birthday is faced with that, not just TJ. I didn’t understand what the problem was at all and when I first saw TJ, it made me want to lash out at his haters myself as to how asinine they were acting.  TJ was tiny as a Freshman!!! Anyone who tried to make the argument that TJ would have an “age advantage” because he had a (gasp) early Summer birthday was just straight up delusional.  TJ did NOT have an advantage. He looked like he was about 90 lbs. soaking wet. The year before, he had the choice to either start HS wrestling and be at a disadvantage considering how small he was or allow himself to have another year to grow into the 103 lb. weight since they had eliminated the 98 lb. weight a decade or so before. That choice is a no-brainer, IMO. If you love wrestling and have plans of having wrestling as part of your life for the long-term future, you don’t start things out in a manner which you would have a significant disadvantage, which TJ would have had a disadvantage had he not been held back and STILL appeared to be at a disadvantage a year later when his HS career began. He was a very small 103 lber. Most the guys he wrestled looked bigger than him.

So the wrestling began and I was blown away by how good Sebolt and Weakley were. They appeared to be phenomenal Freshmen and the big talk in the gym seemed to be, “can this TJ Sebolt Freshman beat Senior and 2nd ranked Derik Ball???” Honestly, I was impressed by TJ when I watched him wrestle Russell Weakley in the semis, but I felt that he may have been just a bit too small for Ball. Ball was a HUGE 103 lber. And I knew Ball well. I had seen him wrestle for several years and he was really good and always improving. I had a ton of respect for him. Still do. My impression was that I thought Derick may be too experienced and too big of a 103 pounder for TJ to handle.  That seemed to be the general opinion of those who were anxiously awaiting the match-up in the gym.

So the finals match began and TJ was on Derick right away. And when I say, “on him,” I mean it took him a millisecond to work a set-up, another millisecond to shoot a shot and another millisecond to score the takedown. TJ put the packed gym on notice that he meant business right away in that match. He looked like the Tasmanian Devil out there. Just relentless and it was kind of odd to see because as mentioned, he was wrestling a great senior 103 lber who was so much bigger than him. And he didn’t let up. He just kept going and kept building his lead and would not take any sort of a breather between separations and seemed as if he really didn’t want his opponent to breathe in general. The general mood of the crowd at this point was, “oh my God, are you seeing this? This kid can’t be THAT good, can he?” For the first 4.5 minutes or so, the fans seemed to be collectively trying to make sense of what they were watching, because this cat was unlike anything any of us had ever seen before. TJ was winning big. It was at this point where something that seemed almost magical took place in that gym… The feel in the air when this happened as well as the way the crowd responded was unlike anything I had ever experienced before, and have never since. TJ and Derick had a scramble by the edge of the mat, but were not called out of bounds, and when they separated,  TJ wanted to bring the action back to the center, so he ran to the middle and waited for Ball to meet him there. Ball kind of stood up and appeared disheveled, but not necessarily gassed for he had a great gas tank and he paused for a second and looked at TJ while TJ was still in his stance in the center of the mat and gave him a look like, “ummm…kid…how on Earth is it possible that you are THIS good?” Ball was not broken and not fatigued. He just looked shocked. TJ was looking Ball right in the eyes when given this look and his response won the entire gym over. He responded by getting right back to business and circling and bobbing and weaving on the middle of the mat despite the fact that Ball was still 10 feet away from him. He just would not stop. Even if separated, he was still in the zone. When he did this, the entire crowd, meaning every fan from every school excluding Columbus Jct. gave an excited and collectively awe-struck cheer to this little guy and it continued for the remainder of the match. It’s not that they were rooting against Ball. Everyone liked Derick Ball. It was that the entire crowd was ok the same page as the one another that they were witnessing something special and that there were 4 seasons to watch of this little kid. TJ won the respect of that entire gym in that match…even the ones who hated him coming into the tourney despite not knowing him due to some toxicity they read on the message boards. They now just simply admired this kid’s skills. The atmosphere was just… electric. TJ went on to win the match and his skills were officially the big talk of the entire tournament. I was blown away. Will never forget that moment.

So when the guys all grouped up to pick up their awards, I walked over to the girl I was dating at the time, which happened to be a Mediapolis cheerleader. I was in my first year out of high school and had the appearance of the general preppy jock with blonde highlights in his hair that used to be so common in 2001-2003. And I was big at that time because I was lifting… I was weighing 190, bench-pressing 315 at the time. A stereotypical 2001 graduate jock. I looked like a meathead. And while talking to my girlfriend, TJ walked by us and since I am a guy who has never had the ability to keep his mouth shut, I blurted out something that was intended to be a joke and a reference to how impressed I was by him. I had to let him know. I loudly and with intentions of TJ hearing it, said to my girlfriend  “I don’t want you getting near that Sebolt kid! I don’t want you leaving me for him!” TJ kinda seemed off guard after I said this, as if he didn’t know if he heard me say that or not… and when he looked at me I said to him, “YOU are a badass, kid!” TJ responded like a deer in the headlights. I had for sure made him feel uncomfortable by saying that to him.  His response was something I recognized right away for it was something that I had experienced myself a few times. It was social anxiety… And it immediately hit me why he would have felt anxiety in that situation despite fact that I was complimenting him…In fact, he may not have known that my big “meathead-looking” self was joking to begin with.  Plus I was a stranger, I was older and physically, I was almost twice his size at that time. I think I had my answer to whether or not the kid had read the hateful comments about himself on the message boards. After reading the venom written from several others, mostly strangers every day for over a year at that time, you couldn’t blame the kid for being apprehensive of every stranger he encountered like that he did me in that situation. I felt terrible about it. I thought to myself, “ahhhh no, hopefully I didn’t make that poor kid feel awkward,” which I clearly did.

About 10 minutes later, TJ and I were in the same vicinity again and we made eye contact. And when we did, he kinda nodded at me indicating “thank you for the nice words.” I was relieved that he was able to take some time and make sense of the situation and what I said to him. I pointed back at him and mouthed back to him,  “I mean it, kid. You are incredible.”

Ladies and gentlemen, TJ Sebolt. One of the sport’s all-time greats and still currently one of the biggest influences in the game. A relentless competitor and equally relentless ambassador for the sport.

 

 

 

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

 -Started out in Centerville Mat club, spent some time in the Oskaloosa kids club and was part of the first core group of Hawkeye kids club with Pablo Ubasa when he first started that club in Iowa City. Wrestled for Centerville in junior high and Centerville in high school.

 

What year did you graduate?

-I graduated in 2006

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

-My dad. I brought home a flier from school when I was in first grade. He pretty much said I was doing it and the rest is history.

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

⁃ I have two sisters and they were never wrestlers. My dad wrestled when he was in high school. He was decent. I also have a six-year-old daughter who kind of plays around with wrestling.. we’ll see where that goes, haha.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

-Well I started off getting pinned my first 27 matches in a row. But ended up doing pretty well before entering high school. I was a two-time AAU state champion, several time Tulsa nationals place-winner. USA folkstyle national champion and had a lot of freestyle success, Etc.  I would have to say my biggest youth rival was probably Joe Slaton. We went back-and-forth all the time.  It seemed like neither one of us could win two matches in a row against each other. We ended up being training partners and close friends still today.

 

What was your record in HS?

⁃ 207-1

 

How did you place at state every year?

-1st, 1st, 1st, 1st

 

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

-Returning to the wrestling scene when I decided to start coaching was a challenge for me. I had left the sport and there were a lot of people who had opinions and negative things to say about me.  At the time I was worried about what people thought and/or said about me. That is something I had to get past and it was tough for me at first. I’ve really grown up and matured mentally since then. I think things have turned out alright.

 

How would you describe your style? 

-Technical, physical and relentless. Putting my opponent under pressure for the full duration of the match

 

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

⁃ I had one loss to Ryan Moyer of Parkhill, Missouri early in my freshman season. I never wrestled him in a official high school match again.  But the summer after he had defeated me, I had my redemption in freestyle.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

⁃ That is a tough one. I am hesitant to say my father because he was my father. I was able to work a lot with John Strittmatter during his time in Iowa City and that was huge for me. But there are several others who had strong influential roles in my career.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

 

⁃ We were in the hunt to win it my junior and senior year in high school, especially my junior year. I think we lost to Emmetsburg by two points or less and finished second both junior and senior year at the traditional state tournament.

 

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

-I was around the Iowa Hawkeyes a lot growing up. I became obsessed with Mark Ironside and then I became obsessed with Doug Schwab. I wanted to be just like them. I remember crying when Doug Schwab lost his senior year in the NCAA finals.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

⁃ I am biased… so I would say Drake Ayala, Cullan Schriever, or Cory Clark. But if I can’t include people I’ve been close with on a personal level since having coached all of those young men, I think I have to go with Jeff McGinness or Eric Juergens.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

 ⁃ All of my club kids.  But I think you’re asking college and senior level.

American wrestlers – Spencer Lee, JB, Kyle Dake, David Taylor, Thomas Gilman, Dayton Fix, and Nathan Tomasello

Others – Zaurbek Sidakov, Zavur Ugaev

 

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

-mostly classic rock or country

 

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

-I would probably have to say the one loss I had in high school. The expectation was to be an undefeated four times state champion and right out the gate I had a loss.

 

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

⁃ If I could change some things in my wrestling career I would spend less time cutting weight and more time improving at wrestling.  I would better prepare myself for college academics as well as develop stronger social skills at an earlier age.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

– The best wrestling memory competitively would be my dad running onto the floor to hug me after my finals match my senior year and the relief I felt after that accomplishment. However, now, my best memories are watching my athletes in the club work their tails off and reaching their goals.

 

Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

 –On a national level I would say Henry Cejudo, Mike Grey, Nick Gallick, and Spencer Mango

-In state level – Nick Pickerell, Patrick Makey, Russell Weakley, Zach McCool, and Zach Kressley

 

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

 -All year – I don’t remember exactly when I started wrestling year-round but I want to say probably sixth grade.

 

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

⁃ Wrestlimg has evolved so much since then it is a tough comparison.  I think if you put those same guys in today’s world, they would still be highly competitive because they were good athletes that put in the time. However, if you straight up take a 2005 version of whoever vs 2020 Drake Ayala.. haha good luck!

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

-I went to Iowa State my freshman year and wrestled under Cael Sanderson as a redshirt. I went home for the summer after my freshman season and never went back.

 

What other sports did you play?

-I just wrestled. I did some gymnastics in my early years.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

-Kansas City Chiefs

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

-riding ATVs, hunting, fishing, grilling out with my family, watching movies or Netflix.

 

How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?

It’s an honor to give back to the sport of wrestling and make an impact on kids lives.  It’s a great way to transform personal experiences to help guide others in their wrestling paths.  I find satisfaction in helping kids thrive and be successful.

 

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

 -In one word I would say, discipline. Discipline is what gets things done.

 

What do you do now?

-Owner and Head Coach at Sebolt Wrestling Academy

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

-very

Was Higher Power Wrestling ahead of its time?

-I don’t think so, we were just blessed with a lot of talented kids that wanted to be great and were willing to work their asses off to do it.

 

When you were competing, was it tempting to read the message boards when you knew people were talking about you?

-I remember reading them and I wish I would never have because it was nothing but a bunch of haters.

 

How would you compare and contrast you and your dad’s coaching styles?

I focus a lot on the technical side of things and developing skill, character and relationships. I’ve become a lot more open minded over the years while my dad’s style was more old school, hard ass, run you into the ground while outworking everyone three times over. Which, don’t get me wrong, I do a little bit of that as well.

 

Do you approach every kid in your club the same or do you handle them differently pending on which coaching approaches they respond to the best?

⁃ Yes, you have to.  Everyone responds to things differently but you have to figure out what makes them tick. How to push their buttons. How to get them to get the most out of them.

 

How much of what you learned from your dad at Higher Power WC do you implement into Sebolt Academy?

⁃ The basis is there but SWA as evolved – and we have to continue to evolve.  However, to this day we still do some of the same drills and situations I grew up doing at Higher Power.

 

What are some basic principles you have instilled into Sebolt Wrestling Academy?

⁃ accountability

⁃ attitude

⁃ hardwork

⁃ effort

⁃ the will to win

⁃ no regrets

⁃ be the best version of yourself

 

Do you have Centerville Pride still and do you still follow and root for them?

⁃ Centerville will always be where I’m from with having deep roots there. I do enjoy continuing to watch them have success at the high school state tournament.

 

How often are you approached by people who tell you how much they looked up to you growing up? How does it make you feel?

⁃ I don’t know if I get much of that anymore.  If anything I am approached more about our wrestling club these days.  I’m not much for patting myself on the back, but I do appreciate them noticing good things within our club.  But, there is always more work to do.

 

Who were some older wrestlers you looked up to growing up?

⁃ Tom & Terry Brands

⁃ Dan Gable

⁃ Lincoln Mcllravey

 

Who came up with the Superman Sebolt design? How long did it take to come up with that?

⁃ Not long at all.  I was a big fan of Superman as a kid – and still am.  When I was young, I was too nice.  In order to get me to go out on the mat and be more aggressive, my Dad always used the analogy, “take off the glasses Clark and bring out the red and blue”.  This has clearly stuck with me and has been influential.  I like everything the analogy stands for – you can be a nice easy going person, yet can be a total beast on the mat.  Not to mention the fact that Sebolt starts with  \S/.

 

What is the story about how when you first started you barely won, but eventually something clicked and you gradually became the winner TJ Sebolt that people remember and know you as?

⁃ As mentioned above, 27 losses by fall in a row, eventually my Dad got sick of watching me get my ass kicked.  He started me on a exercise routine and hired Centerville state champion Jason Hellupnik to train me and help me understand the sport.  That was the big turning point for me.  Goals, expectations and a lot of time is what lead to success down the road.

 

You’ve coached tons of kids with a variety of different goals and talent levels… does it mean as much to you when you have a guy with less talent than some qualify than when a kid wins state? What are some of the wrestling coaching memories that are most cherished by you?

⁃ Helping a kid improve and reach their full potential is just as satisfying as helping an elite athlete reach the next level.  One of my most cherished memories comes from a wrestler who wasn’t very talented, but somehow made the state finals, finishing second.  From where he started, to where he finished was amazing and nobody saw that coming.

 

What is more of a challenge? Wrestling in competition yourself or coaching?

I would say coaching is more of a challenge because if you’re competing you only have to worry about getting yourself ready – your weight, nutrition, workouts, etc.  As a coach, you are trying to help manage all of these things for several individuals.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

 – In the beginning, don’t necessarily worry about winning or losing – just give 100% effort, have a great attitude and try to improve everyday.

 

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

⁃ never say never

 

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

⁃ I’d like to give a shout out to all of our club seniors who are headed to college — keep doing things right and believe in yourself!

 

Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.

⁃ I have some good Joe Slaton stories but for his sake I’ll keep my mouth shut.

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I never saw a single person have the ability to fire up an entire arena with his heroics like Mack Reiter did several times in his HS career.  Mack was a popular wrestler in our era. Everyone, even people who didn’t know him seemed to like Mack and they cheered for him and why wouldn’t they? He always had a smile on his face and acted respectful to people while off the mat and when he was on it, the ways he would win matches and who he would win them against was enough to fire up the common spectator. I mean, when he wasn’t pinning a guy in 10 seconds or teching them out in the 2nd period, he may have had matches where he was down and it seemed unlikely that he or anyone in the world would still be able to pull off the win and Mack found whatever fire he had left within himself and won these matches much more often than not.  This is a guy who had guts and HATED to lose. And the closer someone came to sealing a win against him, the harder he fought back to ensure that it didn’t happen. Mack’s pin over Dan Davila from Underwood as a Sophomore after trailing 6-2 late in the match was the single loudest moment that I recall hearing at the Iowa HS State Tournament.  One of the things that makes Mack’s career impressive is that he was able to defeat Dan Davila 3 times…and never lost to him. He tech falled him once, he beat him by a point or two once and of course, he had that pin. If you talk to guys who were at that weight range and from that era, the majority of them who faced Davila will usually tell you that the guy seemed unbeatable. Just unbelievably good. And too physically imposing and fast to even hang with him. Welp, Mack didn’t get that memo. Davila only won one state title because of Mack… And he was talented enough to win 3-4.

Mack Reiter won 4 state titles. He won most of these matches as if it were just a routine, easy thing to do, but he did have some pretty close ones.  A lot of people may automatically cross Reiter off as a candidate for the GOAT the moment they see that he did have 3 losses, when guys like Jeff Kerber, Dan Knight, Jeff McGinness, Eric Juergens and John Meeks did not lose a single match in high school.  I hear this all the time. “Swaff, you can’t write these about anyone, but the guys who never lost. The other ones are out of it.”  Nah.  Not true. Who knows what may have influenced outcomes in regular season competition. Things happen. The best do lose.  And the best of the best use these rare losses as something to learn from, which they do.  Anyone who doesn’t see the case for Mack after reading this may be just Gopher-hating.  Not to mention, if they didn’t abolish the 98 lb. division, Mack may never have lost, who knows? Because Mack would have been 98 as a Freshman if they still had it. A couple of the undefeated guys listed above wrestled at 98 as Freshmen (Kerber and Knight) because it was available to them.  Would they have won titles as Freshman as an undersized 103 lber like Mack did? Who knows?

Here are the placers from every season that Mack won state:

2000 1A 103

  1. Mack Reiter, Fr., Gilbertville (Don Bosco)
  2. Luke Reiland, So., Eagle Grove
  3. Dan Davila, So., Underwood
  4. Corey Kalina, So., Belle Plaine
  5. Keefer Jensen, Jr., Missouri Valley
  6. Adam Bender, Jr., Lenox

2001 1A 103

  1. Mack Reiter, So., Gilbertville (Don Bosco)
  2. Adam Bender, Sr., Lenox
  3. Dan Davila, Jr., Underwood
  4. Jake Kruckenberg, Jr., Mason City Newman
  5. Brett Ray, So., Orient-Macksburg
  6. Tony Hager, So., Ogden

2002 1A 112

  1. Mack Reiter, Jr., Don Bosco (Gilbertville)
  2. Gannon Hjerleid, So., Wapello
  3. Travis Stangel, Sr., Nora Springs-Rock Falls
  4. Jacob Kruckenberg, Sr., Mason City Newman
  5. Ryan Radloff, So., West Sioux (Hawarden)
  6. Chris Utesch, Fr., Akron-Westfield

2003 1A 125

  1. Mack Reiter, Sr., Don Bosco (Gilbertville)
  2. Dan Helgeson, Sr., Lake Mills
  3. Niles Mercer, Jr., Van Buren
  4. Keith Hefley, Sr., Prairie Valley (Gowrie)
  5. Tyler Burkle, Fr., North Linn
  6. Jacob Pedersen, Jr., Hudson
  7. Logan Queck, So., Nodaway Valley
  8. Justin Hamilton, Sr., West Branch

Here is a list of how all 16 matches that he wrestled at state went downL

FR: fall, dec, maj, dec.

SO: fall, fall, fall, maj.

JR: fall, fall, fall, fall.

SR: fall, fall, fall, tech.

  • So 2 decisions, 2 majors, 1 tech and 11 falls…against great competition.

Yes, he was battle-tested. He did this against stellar competition.

Mack was one of the most successful Iowans ever in terms of national success in HS. Check this out. Mack won Tulsa in 8th grade. He won FILA Cadet Freestyle Nationals between Freshman/Sophomore year. He won Cadet Freestyle in Fargo between Freshman/Sophomore. He won Junior Freestyle between Sophomore/Junior. He got 5th in Junior Freestyle between Junior/Senior and 4th in Junior Freestyle after senior year.

Mack Reiter most certainly has a case for the GOAT. It doesn’t matter who you would choose instead of him.. if you took that person and put them against Mack, they would be in jeopardy of losing.  I don’t care who they were. Mack made things happen.

 

 

 

 

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Remember The Wrestler: Seth Davisson, Fairfield H.S.

Fairfield. Mepo has seen a lot of Fairfield over the years. For like 25 years straight it seemed like we wrestled each other 3X per year at the Mepo Invite, Sectionals and Districts. You’d think I would have covered a Fairfield guy by now considering they are local and we ran into them so much, but honestly, I don’t recall ever speaking to anyone from there in all those years. There was no bad blood between the squads or anything and the matches between the squads were always respectful, but it just seemed like socially, not very many SEI people from the Mepo, Columbus Jct., West Burlington, Wapello, Louisa-Muscatine, Fort Madison, etc. squads seemed to socialize much with the Fairfield guys. They seemed to be in the imaginary social circle of schools in the Mt. Pleasant area. It seemed like the only time we would run into a guy from the Fairfield squad would be if one of them were dating one of our cheerleaders or vise-versa. They seemed cool, though! Very businesslike and always brought very balanced squads with not many real weak spots in the lineup. They have great school colors, too (orange and black).

I followed a lot of their wrestlers and my favorite Fairfield wrestler ever was a kid named Seth Davisson. Why was he my favorite? Well, because out of any kid that I have seen wrestle since I graduated, no kid’s style has reminded me more of myself than Seth Davisson. Ya see… headlock guys pull for each other… I was a headlock guy and so was he. Therefore, I always pulled or him. Unless he was wrestling Mepo’s Adam Drain…who happens to be one of my favorite people in the universe. Seth was ALWAYS having to wrestle Drain, it seemed… and that’s a bad draw for anyone, for by the time Drain was in HS, he was already like a 10X National Champion and a multiple Trinity Award Winner. When Drain was at his best, there was no one to go through Mepo that was better than him…EVER. Adam Drain was elite. And he seemed to be the only guy that Davisson couldn’t launch with that sweet headlock he had. If he wasn’t wrestling Drain, he seemed to be destroying whoever he wrestled and man did he have some good stuff in his arsenal. I was very happy to see him on the podium as a Senior.

Glad to finally cover a Fairfield wrestler. Much respect, guys!

 

 

When did you start and who did you wrestle for in youth wrestling? Who were some of your youth rivals and how did things go?

I wrestled for the Stars and Stripes youth wrestling program in Fairfield as a kid and I started in 2nd grade. Went to about 4-5 tournaments a year until about 5th grade. At that age I started going to more. Always was throwing headlocks as a kid going for the win and it usually worked. Got into middle school and those wins didn’t come as easily. I think I went 15-17 both 7th and 8th grade years. Not sure how many times Matthew Seabold beat me by 2 or 3 points. Other kids I had rivalries with in my youth were Mitchell Hora from Washington (man that kid was an OX), Dylan Pigsley from Eddyville and Griffin Osing from ALBIA was always fun.

 

What year did you graduate and which weights did you compete at?

Graduated 2013, never wrestled a JV match. Preseason/Football injuries to Jeff Guttry  (later on my partner and placed 3rd at state) and Tanner Metcalf  (practice partner once Guttry graduated)… I didn’t do great as a freshman having to wrestle Ethan Mooreman and Mikey England on the reg at 160/171. Sophomore year I got bumped to 189 and that worked out better for me, for I won thirty matches that year.

 

Are you involved with wrestling today?

Not involved at the moment other than I help at our Fairfield invitational kids tournament every year.

 

Did you qualify for state in HS and if so, how did you do there?

1 match away from qualifying for state that year. Junior year the weight classes changed and I started the year at 182 and cut to 170 (same thing happened as a Senior). Made it to state junior year.  Tore my labrum in a 5-2 match to place vs. a freshman named Cash Wilcke. No medal. Senior year, I faced Adam Drain from Mepo at districts and sectionals took second both times then 5th at state with Wilcke taking 4th both years I wrestled at state. Wilke tech-falls me that year though. He was the strongest kid I ever wrestled.

 

 

Did you play other sports in HS or wrestle in college?

Didn’t wrestle after highschool. Was a 2 year varsity in baseball football and 1 year in soccer as well.

 

Who was your HS wrestling rival?

The biggest rival I had in highschool was Richard England. I did pin Steven Ferentz with a headlock as a sophomore.

 

What are some of your favorite sports teams and athletes?

Favorite sports teams are Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Cubs, Iowa Hawkeyes. My favorite wrestlers of all time are Ryan Morningstar, Brock Lesnar, Tony Ramos and Brent Metcalf.

 

Would you like to give a shout-out to anyone?

I’d like to give a shout-out to any coaches, friends, fans and family for always being there. My head coach in middle school and last couple years of high school, Steve Miller. Another couple coaches that were huge for me were Jeff Courtright (Stars and Stripes – freshman year) Mike Burgraff (Stars and Stripes- sophomore year), Joe Fritz and Adam Foreman for always being in my corner!

 

What do you do now?

I have moved jobs a couple times since high school. I worked night shift in a factory for 3 years and now I install solar panels.

 

Do you hold any records at Fairfield?

2nd all time for wins in Fairfield history

 

 

What were some of the most heated matches you had that stick out to you today?

Senior year I beat brad scubal by 2 at the Fairfield Invite when he was a sophomore. I beat him again the following weekend in a wrestleback to get to Adam Drain in overtime. The only reason I won that match is because I deferred my choice in the first period. I usually chose down, but Coach Miller told me to defer and I ended up with the last choice and went down and escaped and won.

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The Leclere family. That is one…tough…family. I am 4 years older than Daniel and was aware of him being really good back when he was in like 3rd or 4th grade. I actually got to know them a bit when I was a Junior/Senior in high school and Dan was a 7th/8th grader. We were in the same freestyle wrestling club, which was Mark Reiland’s “Future Hawkeye Wrestling Club.” Dan would come there with his dad. His dad was always willing to push himself and work harder on the mat than anyone else in the room. I would attend practice and a common thought I’d have would be, “why is this dad able to run more sprints than me without vomiting? Is this guy a warrior or is it because I am a dog?” The answer was both of those. Then after practice we would all hit the locker room and Dan and his dad were guys I seemed to chat with the most. After speaking with Dan every week, I’d think to myself, “I am a Senior in high school, why is it that this 8th grade kid is clearly more mature and level-headed than me? Is it because he is advanced or is it because I am a jackass?” The answer was both of those as well. So the LeClere father and son duo of Doug and Dan got me to both question my youth and question my maturity. With that said, I knew that Dan was going to be a stud. He could have competed at a high level in high school as a 7th grader. He was wise beyond his years off the mat and tenacious beyond his species on the mat. He was way ahead of everyone in his age group, it seemed.

Dan won 4 titles for North Linn and finished with a 167-2 record. He ran into all sorts of competition every year he wrestled at state. Check it out:

 

2002 1A 119

  1. Daniel LeClere, Fr., North Linn
  2. Corey Kalina, Sr., Belle Plaine
  3. B.J. McMahon, Sr., Don Bosco (Gilbertville)
  4. Joey Verschoor, Fr., Kingsley-Pierson
  5. Andy Ohnemus, Jr., Southeast Warren
  6. Wade Sundell, Jr., Ogden

 

2003 1A 130

  1. Dan LeClere, So., North Linn
  2. Charlie Ettelson, So., Hudson
  3. Mitch Norton, So., Nashua-Plainfield
  4. Justin Bohlke, Sr., Kingsley-Pierson
  5. Trevor Hickman, Sr., West Marshall
  6. Nick Kenne, Sr., Pocahontas Area
  7. Keith Hebrink, Sr., Lake Mills
  8. Corey Edwards, Sr., Bedford

 

2004 1A 140

1. Dan LeClere, Jr., North Linn (Troy Mills)

2. Mitch Norton, Jr., Nashua-Plainfield

3. David Hildreth, Sr., Rockwell City-Lytton

4. Brian Bloes, Sr., Don Bosco (Gilbertville)

5. Forrest Young, Jr., Interstate 35 (Truro)

6. Kyle Eliason, Jr., Tipton

7. Andrew Knudtson, Jr., Lake Mills

8. Eric Lennie, Sr., Belle Plaine

 

2005 1A 140

1. Daniel LeClere, Sr., North Linn Troy Mills

2. Brett Rose, Jr., Woodbury Central Moville

3. Trevor Kittleson, Jr., St. Ansgar

4. Klint Kersten, Sr., Logan-Magnolia

5. Eric Schares, Sr., Don Bosco Gilbertville

6. Joel Allen, Sr., St. Edmond Fort Dodge

7. Jacob Hall, Jr., Ogden

8. David Hutton, Jr., Interstate 35 Truro

Does Daniel Leclere have a case for the Iowa HS Wrestling GOAT?!? Well, it’s kind of unfair to assume that there are too many of any knocks against him. IMO, his case began his freshman season. What he did that year was nothing short of amazing. To start, he was a freshman who won at 119. There is a significant difference between 119 lb. Freshmen and 103 lb Freshmen in which the overwhelming majority of 4Xers start off at 103. 119 is tougher for a Freshman. And that bracket had 2X runner up and Tulsa National Champ, Corey Kalina. His Sophomore championship was even more impressive for he beat 2X state champ, Charlie Ettelson from Hudson in the finals. Mitch Norton from Clarksville was also in that bracket. He won state two years later. Most notably was Justin Bohlke from Kingsley-Pierson placing 4th. He was the returning 2002 1A 125 lb. state champion.. the bracket that also included Ryan Morningstar from Lisbon, Chad Beatty from Wilton and Mario Galanakis from Nodaway-Valley.

Dan Leclere was legit. Don’t cross him off.

 

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I witnessed pretty much every title that Carter Happel ever won.  Impressive, eh? Actually it is, considering I watched him from the time he won his first Super Pee-Wee state championship as a 1st grader and racked up about 6-7 of them BEFORE even entering high school. Carter was pretty much “the” guy of that solid 2016 class from the get-go.  I know this for a fact, he was in my brother, Shea’s grade and I had that grade broken down to a science for years. There are only a couple-few guys that I recall ever giving Carter any sort of “fit” from the time he started until he finished his epic high school wrestling career.  One was Hunter Washburn from Alburnett. It seemed like those two met 100 times from the time they were tykes all the way through high school.  They had a highly publicized quarterfinal match at state when Carter was a Sophomore going for 2 and Hunter was a Junior going for his 3rd. That was a high-pressure match…whoever won still had a shot for 4 titles while the loser’s quest ended there. And it just so happened to take place between a couple guys who were already bitter rivals for a decade leading to that match. Carter won that one. Carter won the majority of his match-ups against Hunter Washburn, but I want to say that Hunter won at least one time maybe multiple against Carter early on when nobody else seemed capable of making even the faintest smudge on his armor.  Another guy who gave him fits was a kid named Ryan McDaniel from Marshalltown… a kid who had a penchant for slowing matches down and being a mostly defensive wrestler/opportunistic scorer. He was frustrating to Carter. He was frustrating to every offensive wrestler. I tell you what, it grinds my gears a bit when talented wrestlers quit when they have obvious talent. McDaniel was a guy who did that. He didn’t go out in high school. He was one of the best in the grade who would have surely succeeded in HS and he wasn’t the only elite kid of that class to quit.  A kid named Austin Stogdill from Alburnett was one of the best in that grade as well and he didn’t wrestle much in high school.  He would have been great as well.  I don’t know what led them to make those decisions, but I always wish the best for people and I hope that the path they chose, which didn’t include wrestling, led them to happy lives now. Anyways… that was pretty much it, from what I can remember.  Maybe Matt Wempen? I know Wempen beat McDaniel in the finals at state when Carter and McDaniel were 7th graders… but nevertheless, no one really ever got in Carter’s way and if they did, the whole gym talked about it because it was rare.

When Carter hit high school, this trend continued. He finished with a career record of something like 209-1 and won 4 state championships. The only blemish he had was his Freshman season against a Wilton guy, I believe it was against Zeke Smith (and he would have wrestled up to face him). He defeated Smirh’ teammate, Brady Ruden in the state finals that year in an intense overtime match.  Ruden would go on to win a state championship of his own the following year. But that was it. Other than that, Carter was flawless in Iowa High School sanctioned events. And he was battle-tested every year… check out the results of the brackets he won:

 

2013 1A 120
1st Place – Carter Happel of Lisbon 43-1, Fr.
2nd Place – Brady Ruden of Wilton 40-7, Jr.
3rd Place – Kyler Kiner of Ogden 40-1, Jr.
4th Place – Jeren Glosser of Eddyville-Blakes-Fre 44-5, So
5th Place – Jake Hunerdosse of Southeast Warren 40-8, So
6th Place – Jared Coyle of Maquoketa Valley, Delhi 44-9, Jr.
7th Place – JD Rader of South Hamilton, Jewell 36-7, So
8th Place – Brad Kerkhoff of Audubon 44-8, So

2014 1A 132
1st Place – Carter Happel of Lisbon 53-0, So.
2nd Place – Colby McIntire of Central Lyon-George Little Rock 36-3, Jr.
3rd Place – Logan Mays of Wilton 41-6, Jr.
4th Place – Blake Meyer of Sumner-Fredericksburg 48-3, Jr.
5th Place – JD Rader of South Hamilton, Jewell 40-2, Jr.
6th Place – Jake Mulford of Audubon 30-10, So
7th Place – Gabe Henderson of Southeast Warren, Liberty Center 33-7, Jr.
8th Place – Nick Mangrich of Don Bosco, Gilbertville 31-19, So.

  • NOTE 2X State Champ, Hunter Washburn was also in this bracket, but defaulted out due to injury.

 

2015 1A 138
1st Place – Carter Happel of Lisbon 55-0, Jr.
2nd Place – Trey Brisker of Wilton 46-8, Fr.
3rd Place – Jeren Glosser of Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont 56-1, Sr.
4th Place – Tanner Abbas of Clarion-Goldfield-Dows 39-12, Fr.
5th Place – Tanner Sloan of Alburnett 38-13, Fr.
6th Place – Karsen Seehase of Sumner-Fredericksburg 25-5, So.
7th Place – Drake Healey of Iowa Valley, Marengo 51-7, Sr.
8th Place – Jake Mulford of Audubon 41-7, Jr.

 

2016 1A 145
1 Carter Happel (Sr.) Lisbon
2 Trent Johnson (Jr.) Dike-New Hartford
3 Trey Brisker (So.) Wilton
4 Tanner Hoyer (Jr.) Alburnett
5 Dylan Schuck (Jr.) Sibley-Ocheyedan
6 Dylan Mueller (Sr.) Central Springs
7 Griffen McBride (Jr.) Pleasantville
8 Braiden Tank (Sr.) West Monona

 

Carter had two or more fellow state champs in his bracket every year, except his Sophomore year and that year he had 1. He was in a shark tank every year at state and every year, he was the Great White shark from Jaws. He was a national champion as a cadet at both FILA and Fargo nationals and placed 3rd and 5th at Fargo nationals as a Junior.

 

Does Carter Happel have a case for being considered Iowa high school wrestling’s GOAT?!? YOU ARE DAMN RIGHT HE DOES!!! And if you try to dispute that, you are wrong and need to clear your head to where you can give this guy the credit he deserves.

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I conduct all kinds of hypothetical/“what-if” situations when thinking about wrestling and one of the most common “what-if” scenarios I brainstorm and have for years, is “what if I was a scout, GM or recruiter for a high level wrestling program…? Who would I recruit every year and what would be my basis for doing so?” I go through this every year and to be honest (and please understand, I generally critique myself pretty harshly and have a difficult time giving myself credit for anything), this is one of those few areas in life where I am 100% confident that I would succeed. I generally nail these. 

Every scout, recruiter, coach, etc. has their personal checklist on what they personally look for in a recruit. Most are pretty similar and my own checklist is no different, but what differentiates most is how much stock they put in to which areas. I know that two areas that I place a much more heavy emphasis on than most recruiters are “athletic upside/measurables and adaptability.” Some of the others are; results/accolades, health, consistency, academic performance, character, are they battle-tested, dedication, mental toughness, etc. With that said, I don’t know if there has ever been a HS wrestler to come out of the state of Iowa who has checked all the boxes more smoothly than Jay Borschel coming out of HS. Let’s go through some of the things that made him just totally stick out as an absolute “can’t miss” recruit.

1.) Accolades/Results: Borschel was a 4X state champ, was an AA at various national tournaments, finished with a career record of 163-1 with 95 pins… his one loss being in his Freshman season. CHECK

2.) Consistency: Borschel was one of the best and most accomplished wrestlers in the nation at his age and weight as a youth wrestler and never fell too far from being arguably one of, if not the best wrestler at his age and weight every year following until he graduated. There seemed to be no blips with him. He was consistently good.

3.) Health: Sadly, injuries derail a lot of promising careers and while it seems kind of harsh to knock a recruit heavily based on something unfortunate that happened to them that was beyond their control, the reality is that health is undeniably a huge factor that determines future success. Borschel had no injury concerns that I can recall.

4.) Character: If you read or listen to any interview from Borschel dating back to HS, it didn’t take long to be convinced that Borschel was a high character guy and wouldn’t be likely to have any “off the mat” issues.

5.) Academics: Borschel was a 3X honor roll student and a Wrestling USA scholastic AA. There likely would not be anything to worry about with Borschel in terms of eligibility.

6.) Was he battle-tested? Check out the place-winners of the 4 weight classes that Borschel won in HS and try to count the state champions, future NCAA AA’s, multiple high placers, etc. that were in his brackets and also keep in mind that Linn-Mar has always wrestled a tough schedule during the regular season… Yes, Borschel was battle-tested and he was borderline flawless…

2002 3A 103

  1. Jay Borschel, Fr., Linn-Mar
  2. Joey Slaton, Fr., Cedar Rapids Kennedy
  3. Brandon McDonough, So., Des Moines Lincoln
  4. Brady Graham, So., Oskaloosa
  5. Chris Johnson, Jr., Waukee
  6. Jeff Miller, So., Sioux City East

2003 3A 125

  1. Jay Borschel, So., Linn-Mar
  2. Jake Halvorsen, Sr., Iowa City West
  3. Kyle Anson, So., Iowa City High
  4. Christian Abrams, So., Fort Dodge
  5. Steve Arceneaux, Sr., Waterloo East
  6. Aaron Daniels, Sr., Newton
  7. Gabe Rostermundt, Sr., Council Bluffs Lewis Central
  8. Kyle Blood, Sr., Cedar Rapids Kennedy

152

1. Jay Borschel, Jr., Linn-Mar (Marion)

2. Ryan Bixler, Sr., Oskaloosa

3. Ben Hektoen, Jr., Fairfield

4. Drew Waschkat, Jr., Waterloo West

5. Tony Sims, Sr., Davenport West

6. Matt Splittgerber, Jr., Marshalltown

7. Shane Wessels, Sr., Fort Dodge

8. Jarion Beets, So., Cedar Rapids Kennedy

171

1. Jay Borschel, Sr., Linn-Mar Marion

2. Austin Boehm, Jr., Urbandale

3. Robbie Kramer, Jr., Prairie Cedar Rapids

4. Tyler Reed, Sr., Ottumwa

5. Chris Dunkin, Sr., Knoxville

6. Brett Schultz, Sr., Decorah-North Winneshiek

7. Josh Keller, Sr., Iowa City City

8. Robert Junck, Sr., Marshalltown

7.) Adaptability: This is where Borschel just totally wins me over. Borschel won state titles at 103, 125, 152 and 171. He won it as a lightweight, middleweight and upper-middleweight. That is one of the most impressive accomplishments in the history of Iowa HS wrestling and it is a direct indicator of his unbelievable ability to adapt to win. When I was a Freshman in HS, I wrestled at 112. When I was a Junior in college, I wrestled at 197. I know firsthand (and from a significantly lower skill-level when compared to Borschel) that the wrestling game changes from the weight ranges you occupy. It’s a totally different game wrestling as a lightweight when compared to a heavier weight and not everyone can learn to make that transition smoothly. And Jay Borschel is the poster boy for being able to win at different weight ranges. No one did it better than him. Some other names that come to mind who  performed at high levels in HS at lower and upper to upper-middle weights are; Drew Foster from Mepo (113 as a Freshman, 2nd at state as a Senior at 160, NCAA National Champ at 184), Willie Miklus from SEP (2nd at 119 as a Freshman, 1st at 220 as a Senior, 4X AA at the D1 level in college) and Evan Hansen from Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton (was 113 or 120 as a Freshman and won state at 182 as a Senior. He was a 4X NAIA National Champion for Grand View at 197). As you can see, when guys are able to prove that they can wrestle and do so successfully at different weight ranges, their bust-factor is low and it becomes very likely that they will succeed at the next level because of their cunning ability to adapt. When Borschel did this, it spoke volumes in terms of how good he was.

So with all that said, with my little hypothetical recruit grading scale for my imaginary job role that I will never occupy of being a scout/recruiter, Jay Borschel grades out perfectly. In fact, I don’t believe there has ever been a better recruit coming out of HS than Jay Borschel considering he checks so many of what I believe to be important boxes. With that said, if there were to be some sort of draft with every Iowa HS wrestler ever and none of the people drafting were to know the outcomes of how they ended up doing at the college level… If I were to have the first overall pick, I would confidently select Jay Borschel. You just can’t miss with a guy like that. He was a “sure thing” to accomplish something at the next level… and he did… he was a multiple AA and D1 National Champion for the Hawkeyes.

Does Jay Borschel have a case for being the Iowa HS Wrestling GOAT?!? DUH! That is an absolute no-brainer.

 

 

 

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My own wrestling experience wouldn’t have been the same, if it hadn’t been for the Hinman brothers…Dustin and Jordan.  They were a lot of fun to have around. Extremely funny people. For two years straight they referred to me as “The Leopard King” because of a dorky little leopard singlet that resembles lingerie.  We have them on VHS tape joking with me about that.  Funny stuff.  I remember the moment that I first saw Jordin wrestle.  Jordin is a very animated and competitive person and he says what he feels when he feels it and what he thinks when he thinks it. He has been like that from the start. When competing, sometimes there was no filter with him (which was refreshing) and there was no exception for a referee that kept letting a kid that he was wrestling as a 2nd grader cheap shot him for an entire match at the Iron Dog Burlington Youth Tournament.  I remember looking over at his mat because I heard a commotion from some fans and when I glanced over, 2nd grade Jordin was screaming, “he pulled my freaking hair!!!” And I thought, “wow…I thought I did see that in the corner of my eye.”  A few seconds later, “he’s chinning my back!” And I shit you not, this kid he was wrestling was doing that undoubtedly…with one of those old headgears with the chin cups… That hurts like hell and is a cheap-shot. The ref (a HS-aged looking kid) still acted like he didn’t see it.  About 15 seconds later, his opponent pinched him and Jordin looked at the ref and was like, “can’t you see this?” The ref blew him off. The kid was clearly pinching him. The Hinman corner was becoming pretty irate at this point and for good reason. Hinman and this little dirtball he was wrestling against got to their feet and the kid smacked Jordin across the head and Jordin looked at the ref and said, “screw this,” and he lost his temper with the kid finally and launched the kid on his back. The ref stopped it immediately and awarded the other kid a point for unsportsmanlike on Jordin’s behalf since he said, “screw this.”  It was the worst job of officiating that I had ever seen in my entire life. I thought a woman who I believe was  Jordin’s mom was gonna strangle the ref and the opponent. For whatever reason, this ref had something against Jordin and to this day, I would love to see this ref and Jordin in the Octagon together for an MMA fight because I’d love to watch Jordin kick his ass.  Because that’s something Jordin does well…he is good at kicking people’s asses. He is a very successful fighter and coach on the MMA scene these days and wrestling was a prerequisite for this.  

Wrestlers are limited in terms of how they can actually make money playing the sport that they love. Which is odd… baseball, basketball, football, etc. players make millions… Why is state wrestling in Iowa the most attended state event BY FAR if there is no appeal for the sport to maintain a pro league?  Because it hasn’t been done correctly…that’s why.  So wrestlers have to settle for being club coaches and MMA fighters if they have a desire using their wrestling knowledge to make money.  This is the route Jordin has taken and he is very, very good at it.  One of his nicknames is “Skeletor.”  I have also heard him referred to as “The Henchman.” One of the most badass nicknames that someone can have.  The dude has maintained and improved his self-discipline and hard work since he entered the MMA scene. He is chiseled. I am 37 years old and sometimes wonder if I am beginning to resemble the Michelin Man a little too much these days. Jordin is just a few years younger than me and looks like he has a 14 pack. He obviously trains hard.  When I see Jordin, I am always reminded of how far I have let myself go, while motivated individuals like Jordin just keep rolling with the punches. It is pretty inspirational, really… and it makes me very happy that he is relaying the knowledge, tactics, philosophies and techniques to my 2 youngest brothers, Shea and Brennan who train in his club.  They have been making some nice gains in the field of MMA in terms of fighting, yes, but also formulating a family atmosphere that has common values of respect, fun and self-discipline.  Please get to know Jordin Hinman… Great guy. I was around him a lot and as mentioned, he was always very animated, funny and sometimes plain wild, but I tell you what, if he considered you a friend and saw that you needed help with something, it is his “knee-jerk” reaction to drop what he’s doing and help you.  It has been so cool to watch him grow into the actively positive role model that he has become. He has likely saved a life or two by giving people something to be part of opposed to something that would be self-destructive that they would have been part of had they not found MMA in his club. A lot of these MMA club coaches have and they deserve more credit for that than they are typically given. Not very many people can say that they have had such influence. 

I am going to increase articles on my site of MMA fighters, for wrestling and MMA go hand-in-hand. 

 

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

I started wrestling at about 6 years old and I started in Keokuk, IA then we moved to Fort Madison, IA where I wrestled through my sophomore year.

 

What year did you graduate?

2004

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My mom was the one that introduced me to wrestling. I thought I was going to be Ravishing Rick Rude or Jake The Snake Roberts.

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

I have two older brothers that wrestled a tad bit but not quite as extensive as my tenure. My son, who is 9, wrestles. He started getting exposure at 5 years old. He wrestles hard and usually has a good attitude, I like that.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I was decent as a youth wrestler. Pretty aggressive and hard to beat. I got a lot of pins and rarely got pinned. The one name that sticks out most to me is Justin Swafford. He was so talented. I always wanted to beat him but I never got close haha. If you know who he is then I’m sure you can understand why.

What was your record in HS?

I can’t recall my HS career. I was making poor choices and wasted all the years I had put into it.

 

How did you place at state every year?

I hadn’t placed at state. I had knee surgery my freshman year and then quit my sophomore year.

 

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

I tried to treat every match the same. Each one is just as important as the last or the next. I wrestled because I liked to win at the best sport in the world.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I would say I was pretty scrappy. Like spaghetti too. I could usually get off my back if I ever got there.

 

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

I wish I had those moments.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Coach Mike Riley (some of you probably know that name) in my Middle School years. He knew I was pretty ornery but he did a good job of motivating me and keeping me on track.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Fort Madison is always competitive. Coach Ryan Smith has always done good things there.

 

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

Nick Flach, Jason Crooks, and Dan Almeida were some studs when I was a boy.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Nick Flach. He was the man.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

I like J’den Cox. That guy is so good. JB of course and I like watching PD3 scrap out there.

 

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

Same as today, a lil bit of everything.

 

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

They’re all pretty much the same. I don’t like losing at anything.

 

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

Just listen. When you think you know it all then it makes for a much harder road.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Best memories would just be from the youth days when you didn’t have anything to stress you out. Nothing like a little Mnt. Dew and running the hallways with all of your wrestling friends you make!

 

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

I played sports year round so it was seasonal. I wrestled year round now though.

 

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

That’s an interesting question. Not much has changed wrestling wise. Maybe a handful of newer moves but we all know that the good guys stick to the basics and the basics is what get ya Ws. I’d say the guys nowadays have better access to weight programming and training but guys from my day I think were tougher because we were old school and hard nosed at everything.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Not until I got into MMA.

 

What other sports did you play?

I played football, baseball, and ran track.

 

Who gave you the nickname “Skeletor?”

Lol, I really wouldn’t say it’s a nickname. More so something I get called when cutting weight. My cheek bones are high and the weight leaves my face first. Plus I’m tall and skinny. I guess an evil mofo too haha.

 

How often do you implement wrestling into your MMA training?

A lot. If I can get my hands on you you’re usually going for a ride. Definitely helps me with top control and pounding out opponents.

 

What are your MMA accomplishments?

I had a few amateur championships and defended them successfully as well. As a professional I have knocked out or submitted every person I have a victory over. All of them in the first round besides one.

 

Do you feel your life would be different today if you hadn’t been introduced to wrestling and MMA?

Most definitely. I feel it’s every man’s obligation to himself, his family and society to know some sort of combat. Not to mention the peace it brings. I hear people talk about being peaceful but they don’t do anything combat wise. To me that just means you’re harmless. The guy that can rip your head off but chooses not to is the peaceful one. I’d rather be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.

 

Is there anything you would change with the current climate of MMA or wrestling?

I wish there was a better professional opportunity for wrestlers and that mixed martial artist got paid what they deserve.

 

How proud are you of your Fort Madison wrestling roots?

Super proud. I love the Red and Black pack. Coach Ryan Smith has been producing great young men for years.

 

How proud does it make you to give back to MMA and wrestling and observe people making strides with your tutelage?

That’s my favorite part. It’s very satisfying to pass knowledge. Pretty selfish if you horde information that could help someone.

 

Will your kids wrestle?

My son does now and my daughter says she wants to. She’s 5 and she’s pretty strong and athletic but if she starts getting on the losing end idk how she’d handle it. She’s tough but still a little girl and is sensitive. Some good ol wrestling would probably help her out though.

 

What are some of the past and present MMA clubs you have sparred with and represented?

Team Conflict was the original. Derek Doherty is a guy I grew up wrestling with and we actually practiced at the FM High School. Another good wrestler, Ryne Vincent, got a hold of me when I moved back to town and let me know they had something going on. I’ve never looked back.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Iowa Hawkeyes, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago White Sox, and the Las Vegas Raiders (going to be weird saying)

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Anything that has to do with scrapping. MMA, jiu jitsu, boxing, etc.

 

How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?

One of my favorite parts is teaching/coaching others. It’s very humbling to have people or kids believe in what you’re saying and then put it to use in their own ways.

 

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

Wrestling gave me the principles I use and share with my family. We work hard and get what we earn, not what we think we deserve.

 

What do you do now?

I trim and remove trees for the City of Burlington.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Yep, I coach the Burlington youth wrestling program and have done so for the passed couple of years.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Listen and be disciplined. Doing what’s right instead of what you want will get you what you want in life. Everything doesn’t have to be “right now”. Just quiet your voice, open your ears, buckle up and hold on because it’s a wild ride.

 

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

I’ve thought about Corn Cob Nationals and the Pickford tournament. Definitely something I am interested in.

 

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

Not personally but I would like to thank everyone that I have met along the way. Everyone that coached me and believed in me. Definitely my MMA coaches and teammates for working hard and grinding with me. It’s singles competition but you can’t be successful without the help of great people.

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Remember The Wrestler: Rob Kamerling, Lisbon

 

Rob Kamerling is someone I just met recently while putting the Iowa HS State Finals videos together. He has always been supportive of everything I’ve done on here and I am thankful for that.

I do not know Rob personally, so the intro may be vague, but I spoke to his HC, Brad Smith one time and his name came up and he commented on Rob being unbelievably strong and possibly the best guy he ever coached to not win state. That’s a huge badge of honor coming from Brad Smith for he has coached tons of wrestlers that did not win state and were still phenomenal.

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

Rudy and George Light. Shane was one of my best friends growing up, so being around the Light family and being from Lisbon I was gonna wrestle. Not sure if I was encouraged or just told that I was wrestling.

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

I have a son Keean that wrestles 220 at Mount Vernon. He just finished his Junior season and came up 1 match short of placing at State this year.
My daughter Kelsey is in 8th grade and just started wrestling this year. Mount Vernon just started a girls program.

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I don’t remember too much about my youth results. I had some success in freestyle. My only rival was probably Chad Thurn from Mount Vernon. He kicked the crap out of me growing up until about Junior High. Then the rolls were reversed. Actually I never kicked the crap out of him, but I did win the last match, and that’s the one everyone remembers.

 

What was your record in HS?

I was 99-19-1 in high school

 

How did you place at state every year?

I placed 3rd in 1989 and 2nd in 1990.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I guess my style was more of a hammer. I wasn’t really a technician, but more in your face.

 

Did you face any guys you exchanged wins with?

I didn’t really have anybody I went back and forth with. I did lose a couple tough ones to Craig Lamont from North Scott and Keith Woods from Mount Vernon. Funny how you always remember the guys that got the best of ya.

 

Who were your most influential coaches?

I would have to say Rudy and George Light were my most influential coaches. Rudy and George coached us every weekend from elementary through high school. We would load up in Rudy’s van every Saturday with any kid that wanted to go, and travel across the mid west to wrestle.

 

Was your HS team successful?

We were pretty dominant throughout my High School career. At the traditional state tourney we finished 3rd-1st-1st- and 1st from 1987-90. In State Duals we finished 1st-1st-2nd-2nd. In 1990 we broke the team pt record at State with 158-1/2 pts. I think that record stood for about 20 years. That same year we sent 8 guys to State and all placed in the top 6. This was before the true wrestle backs too.

 

Who did you look up to in wrestling growing up?

Growing up in Lisbon we had State Champs to look up to in the room every year. Mine was Greg Butteris. Greg was tough and mean. He would battle with Coach Smith every day of practice, and just scream when Coach would get the best of him. He hated to lose, even in the practice room. I wanted to be just like him.

 

Who is the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

The GOAT of all time in Iowa High School is a tough one. Each generation has one. In my wrestling days I saw Vance Light as the GOAT. A few years after I graduated I’d say Jeff McGinness took that title. Currently I’d have to say Cael Happel reigns.

 

Who are your current favorite wrestlers?

Aside from my kids I’d have to say Michael Kemerer is my favorite wrestler. He’s always all business. Spencer Lee would be a close second.

 

What music would you listen to before matches?

AC/DC was music back in the day

 

What was the loss that upset you the most?

I had 2 hard losses in my career. First was my Junior year to Jason Nosek of Mount Vernon. We were #1 in 1A and they were #1 in 2A. It was a huge rivalry dual for bragging rights, and I got pinned. Next was obviously my State finals match.

 

If you could change anything about your career, what would it be?

If I could change one thing about my wrestling career I would have went to Iowa. Not to disrespect UNI, but I always dreamed to be a Hawkeye.

 

What was your favorite wrestling memory?

My best memory was placing at Junior Nationals my senior year and becoming an All American.

 

Who were your most fierce competitors?

I wrestled a ton of great wrestlers growing up. The 2 most notable in high school were probably Ray Brinzer and Les Gutches. Brinzer was the national wrestler of the year and Gutches went on to become a World Champ and Olympian.

 

Was wrestling all year for you or seasonal?

Wrestling was pretty much an all year sport with a little break for football season.

 

How would the guys from your era stack up to the new era?

I would like to think we would be competitive with today’s wrestlers, but the kids today know so much. My style wouldn’t have matched up well. Kids today have unbelievable technique.

 

Where did you wrestle in college?

I wrestled briefly at UNI after High School.

 

Did you play any other sports?

I played football throughout high school and a little baseball. Baseball always to a back seat to wrestling freestyle all summer though.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Dodgers – Cowboys – and Iowa Hawkeyes.

 

What are some of your hobbies?

My hobbies pretty much consist of whatever school activity my kids are involved in. Wrestling and football go hand in hand. Both sports help to improve the other. I’m big believer that every football player should wrestle!

 

How has wrestling influenced your life?

Wrestling teaches you so much. It teaches you to be successful in life you need to work hard, set goals, and not to be scared of adversity.

 

What do you do now?

I work at General Mills as a production operator.

 

Do you have any advice for young wrestlers?

My advice for upcoming wrestlers is to set goals. Everyone has different goals, but give yourself something to push for. Listen to your coach! Believe it or not they usually know you better then you know yourself!

 

Any chance we may see you at an old timers tourney?

No chance you will ever see me at an Old Timers tourney. Unless maybe it was a charity event. Even then it wouldn’t be pretty.

 

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone?

I’d like to give a shout out to my Old man Lawrence Kamerling. Times were always tight growing up back in the day, but somehow he always scraped up the money so I could go wrestle. Looking back I’m not sure how he did it, but thanks dad!
Also I’d like to give a shout out to my uncle CT Campbell. Growing up he always made sure I had new wrestling shoes and whatever else I needed. He always took care of me.

 

Do you have any trivia or stuff you’d like to add?

Interesting trivia…not sure it’s the only time in State history, but one of my high school buddies Scott Webster entered the State tourney in 1988 with a losing record. He was like 11-14. He lost a nail biter in the semis to I believe Bobby Short, and eventually place 6th. Entered with a losing record and left with one, but had a medal to show for it.

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This is a cat that I always had a great deal of respect for. In fact, the entire Ball family is legit… Hopefully soon, I will get his brother, Derick Ball’s RTW article going. I grew up on a song by Billy Joel called “Honesty” where he sings, “honesty, is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue.” Well, Billy Joel is lucky that he didn’t meet Brandon Ball around the time he was writing that, because the song he was in the process of writing would no longer make sense to him. What you see is what you get with Brandon. He tells it like it is and unless he has an ax to grind with you, he will do so cordially even if it may be something you may not want to hear.  And if you don’t like it, you can talk to someone who will lie to you, because Brandon won’t. It’s refreshing when a guy who accomplished all the great feats that Brandon did prioritizes being himself and doing things the way that works best for him personally, opposed to getting caught up in the attention and/or just going about life telling people what they want to hear…

Brandon is a perfectionist when it comes to competition and performance and this will be blatantly obvious when you read how he truly feels about his own accomplishments… The guy won state, was a D3 AA and is a great MMA talent and he has not yet accomplished enough to where he feels like he succeeded the way he has always wanted to. He is very hard on himself and maybe that’s how great ones like Brandon are driven… by never being satisfied. Because personally, I’d be elated if I had his career resume. You all know that I am a pretty flexible critic, but for what it’s worth, I thought Brandon was awesome.

I hope you all enjoy this as much as me. This man is very interesting. You will never read a more “real and honest” take on wrestling. And he’s a great writer, too…

 

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

Columbus Wrestling was my base. I learned the most from Coach Plein. He was like a second father to me in high school. Always directed me in the right way when it came to wrestling. I don’t agree with how we cut weight back then, but that would be my only complaint on my coaching coming up. From Columbus we had the Dungeon Wrestling Club that was run by Jason Payne while he was still helping Plein out at Columbus. It was freestyle and was the main reason I made such a jump in high school. Put a lot of time in over the summer when I wasn’t playing other sports. The golf team I played for actually got fourth at state between my junior and senior year, but that applied to my life when I didn’t go out to focus on freestyle wrestling. I still wonder if I should have tried to handle both, but the state title my senior year really made it worth it. Between my junior and senior year I wrestled a lot with Cedar Hawk wrestling in Cedar Rapids. Johnny Siegel would always drive and I ended up getting a lot of mat time with Matt McDonough. We had some crazy goes back then. Would be much different down the road a little ways after I got the brakes beat off me by him and Ramos over a summer at Iowa in which I was trying to get back on the mat. That leads to my college career. One I am not very proud of. I was young and the summer after I was an All American at Coe College I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. After being under Dustin Hinschberger and Coach O for a year, I got good. I no longer was just a on the feet wrestler. They had taught me how to ride. How to put matches out of reach. I should have won it all my sophomore year at Coe. And we should have challenged Wartburg that next year for a title, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. Still feel bad about it to this day. I struggled at school and away from it for a couple years and wound up even trying to come back for the rival school Cornell for another chance. I tried. Wrestled with Tigue Snyder and spent time at Iowa wrestling all summer, but just never felt like I had it back. The medication I was on seemed to be holding me back. Just didn’t have it anymore. I decided to give up wrestling for good after Cornell. Can’t thank Mike Duroe enough for extending a hand and giving me the opportunity. He was truly a great man and knew everyone in the wrestling circle and used his resources to try to make me great again. Was very sad to hear of his passing. That’s when things really got interesting and I would realized all the work I had put in over the years wasn’t for nothing. I could keep fighting. I would get that fire back.

 

What year did you graduate?

2007

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

It was just the prestige of our program. We were good. I remember looking up to guys like Jason Payne and Nick Lee growing up. I wanted to be as good as them. It was a very large mountain to climb, but day by day even if it was just me and Plein wrestling down in the Dungeon with nobody else there, we did it. We made it happen. Hard to find something like that in small town Iowa. That’s why you see all these kids moving around to find a good coach. I had one. And I believed he could get me to where I needed to be.

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

My cousin Justin Scheef was part of the 95 team at Columbus that won State. He placed fourth. He always said I had the most raw talent in the family. Seth and Zack Pugh are my first cousins and always were really good wrestlers. Zack placed eighth and Seth was probably the best wrestler in the family placing I wanna say fourth and fifth before winning it his senior year. My brother also placed fourth twice. I didn’t wrestle much from like 3rd grade to 6th. Started up in junior high and wrestled around 150 or 160. But Seth was always the example to follow. By my sophomore year we were battling during conditioning and really starting to push each other and things started to click from there. Just hard work paying off.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Made it to state once as a kid. Was in the heavier weight classes growing up. The year I made it there was only one kid in my bracket. Caught fire in high school, but just wasn’t too interested growing up. Could call me lazy.

 

What was your record in HS?

132-26. I know I lost 12 matches my freshmen year. Think I was 12-12. Beat Caleb Martin my sophomore year at sectionals and lost to him and districts to come up a match short of qualifying as a sophomore. Choked as a Junior and pulled it off as a Senior. Think I’m off a couple on my record though. Think I lost 5 times my Sophomore and Junior Year. And then twice as a senior. Unsure if the wins are right.

 

How did you place at state every year?

7th as a Junior and 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?

Probably the weight cutting at the beginning. I was bulimic for a couple years at the beginning of high school when I was very green. Didn’t know how to be disciplined. Just would puke up what I ate and drank, but mostly just drank. Ruined me for practice. Had nothing in the tank all the time. Just was trying to make weight. And back then we did it by manipulating our water intake. Now a days I drink a gallon of water a day. Don’t know how I did that for the couple years I did and still wrestle hard. Just is a testament to this day for me when I think I’m beat and tired to keep pushing. I did that, I can do this type of thing. I still cut out water intake to make weight to fight, but that is usually one day and then I have a day to recover. Wrestling, I feel like finally has that problem under control and kids don’t deal with that, but it was still a huge part of the sport when I was in it. It took me realizing that if I ate and drank correctly then I would be able to do more and lose more weight. It just took me a couple years to get that discipline.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I like to take people down and get on top of them. I feel like I can get out on anybody and if I get a couple turns on top I can put a match out of reach. But if you turtle up and I have to I will take you down and let you up.

 

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

Caleb Martin beat me pretty good as a Sophomore. Kept me from going to state after I pinned him the week before in a fluke at sectionals. Eric Davis was 1A State Champ and we wrestled a couple times as a junior and I beat him both times but then got seventh at state. Biggest rival was my senior year, Brett Kautz. I remember the first time I lost to him I had messed up ligaments in my ribs. Think I lost by one at the Centerville tournament. I remember I had a notebook that year and I had a few pages written out, “I will beat Brett Kautz.” Even had the second place medal up in the room for a little while from Centerville. I met him in the state finals and cradled him up in the first period and held on to win 8-6.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I don’t know, Plein comes to mind but I’ve been with some of my MMA coaches much longer. Keoni Koch is someone I haven’t utilized lately but had always been a huge part of my development. Dave Sherzer is MMA version of John Siegel. Then I got my main dude Gabe Lemley who took me in and kept me in the sport when I thought I was done. MMA is the hardest sport on the planet. Wrestlers can say what they want.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Both. Still remember Osage celebrating after beating us by one point in the state dual finals. We should have won it. Then in college Coe was a good dual and individual team when I was there.

 

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

It would have to be my cousin Seth. He was good as a kid, think he won it in sixth grade. May have only been a couple years older than me but I was trying to be as good as him. This just wasn’t in wrestling. We played every sport you can think of. Even had some badmitten rivalries back in the day.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

TJ Sebolt wasn’t bad, remember getting pinned by him in high school. Probably the best high school wrestler from my era. Even beat my brother too. But you gotta go Tom Brands or Dan Gable for overall effect.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers? High school? College?

I don’t pay much attention. I have gotten a couple goes in with Brennan Swafford lately though. Hope he has some more success. Think I’m gonna have to stop throwing subs to get him back in the room though. Just kids that come in and keep me sharp. Fans of them.

 

What MMA club are you part of?

Currently I am training at Skunk River Grappling Dojo. I started my career in Cedar Rapids with Hard Drive Mixed Martial Arts and still will be training up there when the time comes. Just a struggle to find guys my size anymore so I do a lot of traveling to find good practices.

 

Has wrestling helped more than other martial arts for your MMA skillset?

Everybody would like to start with a base for MMA and many say wrestling is the best base to start with. I would say it is one of the most important staples in grappling. Keeps you in good positions. But it was taken me ten years to be a decent striker. I wish I would of started on that sooner.

 

How would you describe your MMA style?

I’m trying to round out my game but I would say I am still and always will be a wrestler. I can dominate on top in the guard position. Have won most of my fights from there but as competition grows I need to be able to do everything well. That is what makes the sport so difficult.

 

Who are your past and present favorite MMA fighters?

BJ Penn. Hoping he doesn’t fight again. Just an amazing competitor. In his prime the best in the world.

 

Was it cool cheering on your older bro, Derick growing up?

Derick cut more weight than I ever did. How he stayed at 103 for four years is beyond me. I remember watching him use a spray bottle to drink his water so he wouldn’t drink too much. Crazy amount of discipline. Always a better runner than me. If he wouldn’t of went out for cross country I wouldn’t of. Huge reason I had so much success in wrestling was because I never really got out of shape in high school. Always had another sport to play. That’s why all these kids are getting burnt out on wrestling. My brother played multiple sports and so did I. I don’t think I would of had near the success if I wouldn’t of participated in other sports. That was probably his biggest influence on me. Was to not just be a one sport athlete. That’s not how it was back then. I wrestled a lot in the offseason, that shouldn’t be an excuse to not play a sport you love.

 

In your experience, how are MMA and wrestling alike and different?

It’s where you have your chin. I have been preaching this to a guy I am working with for a year now probably. Chin down! In wrestling no one is gonna try to come under your chin and choke you. So when you hit a shot in wrestling they always say head and chin up, well in MMA that leaves you open to getting choked. Chin down and hand control. I do a lot of dumps in MMA. Driving through sometimes puts you in a bad position. Then you gotta worry about your arms and legs. So really just focusing on good position, hand control, and having your chin down and your neck protected are paramount.

 

What do you feel you would need to accomplish with your wrestling and MMA career to be happy with your accomplishments?

I would like to make a big promotion. Fight on Bellator or the UFC.

 

Are you proud of your Southeast Iowa roots?

I love small town Iowa.

 

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

Would go to my brothers house in Iowa City and illegally download some CD’s. Mostly rap and rock, and a little country. I can remember One More Silver Dollar playing on my boombox.

 

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

Probably my only loss as a fighter. Kid didn’t make weight and my coach told me not to take the fight but I did anyway. Lost by arm bar early in the first round. Should of walked away. Probably still be undefeated.

 

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

The way it ended. I should of at least won it in college. Looking back ten years later there is a lot of regret there. But I went down another path and am still competing today so it is what it is.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Best memory would be the state title. Greatest accomplishment would be being an All American. We’ve had a lot of state champions at Columbus but I was only the fourth to place collegiately.

 

Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

Lost to TJ Sebolt by fall as a junior. Lost to Daniel Dennis by one as a sophomore in College. Probably one of the main reasons I had so much confidence that year.

 

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

All year. Wouldn’t of had the success I did if it was seasonal.

 

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

I think they would be bigger. I think guys at 49 today would of been at 41 or 33 tens years ago. A lot of people don’t cut anymore. I feel like I can compete with guys a lot easier at higher weight classes today.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

3 years.

 

What other sports did you play?

Baseball, Golf, and Cross Country. Was decent at baseball and made all conference my junior and senior year. Sometimes I wish I would of taken baseball a little more seriously. Would of made life a lot easier.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Steelers got a shot this year with Big Ben back. Liked the Mariners since Griffey.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

I play a lot of Golf. Seth and I get together for wiffle ball still to this day, maybe a game of hoops now and again. Really enjoy slow pitch but with the virus haven’t found a team this year.

 

How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?

I recently tried out coaching kids and may continue that, but I like to wrestle. I still got a few years at a high level so I like to test myself. So when wrestlers come in the gym and want to work on MMA that is where I find a lot of joy these days. Helping people make the same transition I’ve been working on for ten years. But most of them don’t come back after a few days. But I still get a lot out of old wrestlers. Jake Kadel is moving back to Iowa shortly and should be one of my main training partners soon. He is one that made the transition to Jiu Jitsu but didn’t want to strike. Very talented. I like testing myself, so coaching is still down the line a little ways.

 

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

Just keeps me keeping on.  Be a few years before I put on 30-50 and start rambling on the bar stool.

 

What do you do now?

Currently I work for a food pantry called the Fellowship Cup. They are supported through a second hand store called the Quarter Store that I also work at. Mornings doing deliveries for the Quarter store and afternoons picking up food donations for Henry County that goes to the food pantry. Free food for anyone who needs it Thursdays 10am-2pm. Then training. Once or twice a day.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I give what I can. If somebody wants to get some good goes in I’m always ready. I just feel I’m best suited for collegiate wrestlers or high level high school kids.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Gallon of water a day.

 

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

Maybe, more likely a jiu jitsu tournament.

 

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

Anybody that is looking to mix it up my gym is open Mondays and Wednesdays 630-? In Lowell, Iowa. Driveways at the bottom of the hill.  I’m looking for guys under 170 but my buddy Jordin can take care of everybody else.

 

Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.

Keep an eye open for tickets. Looking to fight at the end of the summer.

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Who Is The GOAT?! The Case For Alex Thomsen, Underwood

 

 

Alex Thomsen, Underwood. I’m sure no one has forgotten about him yet… heck, he’s still kicking it at Nebraska. I remember THE MOMENT this kid showed everyone that he had stepped up a level compared to the other guys in the 2018 class. The moment he separated himself from the pack and he dug through some frustration before reaching that point. He was in my brother, Brennan’s grade so I saw hundreds of his matches over the years. He was always one of the top guys at his weight since he was a Pee-Wee, but had a little lull in there around 5th grade where he went 0-2 at state, losing to a couple guys he would normally be capable of beating with his eyes on most days. I remember when that happened… I was reading some of the wall charts and heard an interesting conversation about it.. Some of the funniest and most interesting conversations I’ve heard in my life has taken place while tuning in to people talking to each other near wall charts. In this conversation, a guy said, “man, you see Alex Thomsen is already beaten out? I didn’t see it coming, but I think it’s fair to say that kids have finally caught up with him and that we won’t be hearing much from him much more in the future.” The other guy agreed. I wish I would have recorded that…. that prediction aged so poorly that it is just…hilarious. They were saying this about Alex Thomsen after he had a bad tournament as a 5th grader… a 5th grader….. Wow.

Alex bounced back and re-raised some eyebrows when he won state as a 6th grader…However, it was a match he won in the semifinals as a 7th grader that started getting people chirping about Alex being “on another level.” He had an OT win in the AAU semifinals over a guy who was considered by a large percentage of people at the time as the best guy in the entire 2018 graduating class alongside Anthony Sherry from Glenwood and Drew Bennett from Fort Dodge. That kid’s name was Gable Sieperda, from Central Lyon and he became a wrestling stud and Cross Country legend in HS. As a 7th grader, Sieperda was cruising. It seemed like he hadn’t taken a loss to a guy in his grade in years. He seemed impossible to score points on and had an offense, to boot. When those two met up as 7th graders, the entire crowd started roaring in a manner that I can only recall having the same electricity 2 other times at AAU in decades prior to… one being my brother Justin Swafford’s finals match vs. Mack Reiter when they were in 7th grade and the other being when Cory Clark and Thomas Gilman met in the semis at state as 8th graders…. Thomsen vs. Sieperda was a big deal. And when Thomsen pulled off the win in OT, there was so much buzz in that arena. Everyone was watching that match. And after he won, I’ll never forget it… Alex did that confident, Hollywood walk that he became notorious for in high school (Alex Thomsen had more mat-swag than about anyone I had ever seen, that’s for sure). He wasn’t cocky, but you could just tell he was confident by how he carried himself… And after he got his hand raised, he calmly walked back to the corner as if he had no doubt in his mind he was going to slay that dragon. Most people were surprised…Southwest Iowa wasn’t. Golden Eagles people weren’t surprised. Head Academy folks weren’t surprised. The Cobra club in Council Bluffs knew it was coming. The Berley Boys knew what was up. SW Iowa called that shot. They were the only ones. And with Alex, his wrestling game was so smooth and fluent that he made it look cool. It was all business and he did it as if he were some Hollywood badass like James Bond. Put it this way… if all the 4 timers were compared to Mortal Combat and Street Fighter (those are video games for those of you who don’t know), characters, Alex Thomsen would have Johnny Cage on lockdown. You expected him to put on sunglasses immediately after his matches finished. The kid is has such versatile athleticism, he would have surely been a multi sport athlete had he not been so set on wrestling.

JOHNNY CAGE FROM MORTAL COMBAT

Then the next year, Alex started making waves on the National scene. He and my brother were on the same DC Elite NUWAY Duals Team and Alex was like a “for sure” win every match. No matter who they were wrestling, we knew we would win with Alex… the only guy who seemed to give him fits that year was a kid named Rhyker Sims from Sergeant Bluff-Luton. Not sure what that was all about, but I am pretty sure Alex raised his game another additional couple levels after their rivalry. He got beat for 3rd and 4th at state in 8th grade by Grant Stotts from Valley by a score of 1-0… that was a match that kind of needed 6 minutes to get a clearer comparison between those two… Alex placed 4th that year and it was one of the biggest surprises of the tournament, but everyone knew dang well that he was the real deal… Ironically, Brody Teske placed 3rd his 8th grade year… Teske, as you’ll read later is someone who Thomsen became forever linked to in high school.

By the time Alex was a Freshman, he started out impressing so many people with so many big wins that people started doing what seemed like the unthinkable at the time… they started debating who would win between Alex and the returning state champ from Highland, Drew West… This was considered unthinkable at the time, for the West twins had been so dominant and so acrobatic and fun to watch for 5 years leading to that, not only on the state OR National level, but the WORLD level… and Alex was making people actually believe that someone could actually defeat one of the West twins at state… and he did it in the quarterfinals at state as a Freshman… While Bryce West’s only barrier to perfection at the state tournament was Joshua Portillo from Clarion-Goldfield Dows, West’s barriers were Alex and Michael Blockhus. My goodness that group of guys had some WARS.

Fast forward to Senior year. Alex was an undefeated Senior… not for the season, but for his CAREER. If he finished his season undefeated, he would join the likes of Jeff Kerber, Dan Knight, Jeff McGinness, Eric Juergens and John Meeks as undefeated 4X state champions… the catch was, there was another guy in his grade that was on the path to doing the same thing. His name was Brody Teske from Fort Dodge and he just so happened to be at the same weight as Alex and it just so happened that Underwood and Fort Dodge were scheduled to meet twice… once at the Council Bluffs Invite and once at the CR Jefferson Invite. Those two guys earned the respect from EVERYONE when they decided to not dodge each other in either of the matches. The fans wanted that match and were almost skeptical that it’d actually take place, for both guys had so much on the line and if they wrestled, one of them was going to fail to go their entire careers without a blemish. Long story short, Teske had a huge scare in the semifinals vs. an out of state kid and showed up in a big way when he beat Alex in the finals. I’d say at the time, the predictions seemed to be 75-25 in Alex’s favor… And shortly after, those two were scheduled to meet again at the CR Jefferson Invite and despite the fact that Brody Teske could have very well chosen to just sit that one out and essentially secure an unblemished HS career, he chose to attempt to silence the skeptics and a second battle did, in fact take place. Alex won the second matchup. Both of these matches were absolute barn-burners and those two deserve eternal credit for their courage in putting it all on the line like they did, for not every wrestler, even at their level would have been brave enough to do that. If there are two wrestlers who should be universal fan favorites given their willingness to give the fans a show despite what they had on the line… it was Teske and Thomsen.

And keep paying attention to them… Alex is going to be a redshirt Sophomore at Nebraska and Teske transferred from Penn State to UNI… their careers are far from over.

Does Alex Thomsen have a case? He won 4 titles, he only lost one time at the hands of another 4 timer, he was a Junior Fargo National Champ In Greco, he placed multiple times in other various national tournaments and won a couple-few folkstyle national titles. You are fooling yourself if you believe Alex Thomsen does not have a case.

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Remember The Wrestler: Tyler Shulista, Alburnett

My mom and dad had 4 boys. Me (37), Justin (35), Shea (23) and Brennan (21). Obviously, quite the age gap between the first two and the second two. I’m telling ya, if I wouldn’t have bought my parents that dang Boyz 2 Men CD, the younger two may not have happened. Anyways, this was unique, for it was like when Justin and my careers ended, Shea’s and Brennan’s began. And so many things changed from Justin and I’s youth days to theirs. For one, they started a state tournament for the Kindergarteners-2nd graders called Super Pee Wee. We didn’t have that and I was amazed at how good some of those Kindergarteners were. One thing that stood out immediately was that there was a purple squad that you saw everywhere. They had like 70 kids and their fanbase was 100% excited with what they had going on. You could tell. They were so happy for every one of their guys who did well, and all of them seemed to do that. I wondered who this team was and asked someone. “That’s Alburnett… a club from a small town in Alburnett, IA. They are a future powerhouse.” This was so interesting and cool to me for I hadn’t even heard of that town until then. I love it when something sparks in a small community like that. Later, I learned that a lot of them practiced at a facility called “The Barn” and it was orchestrated by a man named Shulista… an apparent genius wrestling coach. And he had two sons, Conner and Tyler… Tyler being the oldest. And they were both studs. Alburnett Wrestling is one of the most impressive waves that we have seen in the new millennium, for they were homegrown and had so much depth and talent at every weight. In that era of youth wrestling, Alburnett, Mepo and Fort Dodge were the best “home grown” programs that you don’t see as often anymore. And Mr. Shulista is the primary mastermind behind that. Let’s hear about his son, Tyler!!!

 

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

Alburnett Mat Pack, Prairie Hammerin’ Hawks, CVMC

 

What year did you graduate?

2012

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My father

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

My dad wrestled but never made it to state. My younger brother Conner was a 4 time state place winner and 1x state champ. 4th, 4th, 2nd, 1st.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Placed at super pee wee all 3 years, placed at aau state every year and won it twice. 2006 and 2008.

 

What was your record in HS?

187-6 I believe.

 

How did you place at state every year?

3rd, 1st, 1st, 1st

 

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

Freshmen year making weight was my biggest and most adverse challenge. Also losing in the semi finals freshman year and getting through adversity and coming back to get 3rd.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Aggressive, always going forward, little bit of funk.

 

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

Sawyer Farris beat me at state freshman year and never beat me again. Other losses were to a few 3a guys.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Every one of my coaches had influenced me in their own way.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yes we went to state duals my junior and senior year and we placed 3rd 3 years in a row at the traditional state tournament.

 

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

Joe Slaton

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Cory Clark

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Spencer Lee and Alex Marinelli

 

Alburnett had so many great wrestlers for a long run there… who are some of the best guys to come from Alburnett wrestling?

Chris Halblom, Hunter Washburn, Dylan Windfield, Conner Shulista, Bryce Paul, Tanner Sloan. Those were some state champs, then there was Colton Martin, Grant Henderson, Jaymus, Tanner Hoyer,  etc.

 

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

Classic rock and country.

 

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

Winning 4 state titles instead of 3.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Winning my 3rd state title, winning mr wrestler of the year award. And winning 1A wrestler of the year.

 

Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

Connor Ryan, Eric DeVoss, Jack Hathaway, those were my top 3 losses.

 

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

Wrestled most of the year but took breaks as well.

 

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

Most guys today wouldn’t stand a chance maybe that’s biased but the kids aren’t as tough now as they were back then.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

1 year a Coe College.

 

What other sports did you play?

Football and golf.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Iowa Hawkeyes, Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Vikings

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Golfing, off roading, farming.

 

How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?

Pretty good knowing I’m influencing the younger generation.

 

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

It has taught me to never give up always keep working hard.

 

What do you do now?

Raise hogs.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Coach Mat Pack and high school all at Alburnett .

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Never give up and say you can’t!

 

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

Probably not but never say never

 

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

Ike light, Kane Thompson, Matt Ironside, Charlie Falck. Thank you guys for all your dedication in helping me and getting me to where I am today! Coached by some of the best guys out there!

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With all of these GOAT articles, that I’ve been writing, hopefully it’s understandable that my mind drifts off from time to time to thoughts like, “is there anything I am the GOAT at?” And I came up with one thing…. I am the GOAT at playing truth or dare with myself. I am quite the daredevil. And will say pretty much whatevs. Wanna see my mad skills?!!!

TRUTH OR DARE?!

TRUTH!

“Nobody has a better case for the GOAT than Jeff McGinness. When you look at resume and checking of the boxes, he’s got them all covered and then some. Please… someone come up with someone who has a better case? Humor me…”

DARE!!!

“I DARE YOU TO SAY JEFF MCGINNESS ISN’T THE GOAT!”

Oh how the mighty hath fallen. I would never do something so crazy. Ya see, Jeff McGinness has something that you can call a rabid fanbase and they will seriously toilet paper your house if you say Jeff McGinness is not the GOAT…. people believe firmly in this… and why not? No one has a better case.

I was so excited when I started converting the Jeff McGinness state finals matches to YouTube. It brought back so many memories. I loved his interviews… He was like a tougher version of Robert Deniro. A rich man’s Robert Deniro. Watching his interviews brought me right back to being 10 years old and at a McGinness camp at the YMCA in Burlington. Went to a camp run by him and Mark Ironside… the rich man’s Joe Pesci. Cool guys. 

I grew up with an array of different farm cats. Hundreds of them. I have probably watched twice as many cat wrestling matches than human ones. And they are fun. Cats always impressed me with their cunning ability to maintain their balance and position and they are always able to land on their feet in flawless form. I always thought these would be super qualities for a wrestler to have. And I was right because we had Jeff McGinness and he was able to wrestle like a cat!! Absolutely amazing. A big cat that could not be contained. Joe Exotic tried and McGinness suplexed him…and landed on his feet of course. Then he wrestled all Joe’s cats and dominated like usual. Carole Baskin tried to cage the incredible Jeff McGinness and Jeff McGinness put Carole Baskin in a spladle, back-flipped out of it, landed on his feet, growled at Carole Baskin before he freed all of her big cats. He freed them for the sole purpose of finally having some specimens that could somewhat test him in a wrestling match. In fact, I heard just last week that Jeff McGinness barged into Mike Tyson’s house and knocked him out. Tyson tried throwing an uppercut at McGinness. McGinness hit a nasty duck under and suplexed him… it’s the fastest Tyson has ever been knocked out… 2 seconds. Why did Jeff McGinness do this? Well, it wasn’t to rob him… McGinness is a standup guy. Nah… it was to wrestle his tigers. He pinned both of Mike Tyson’s tigers in a little under a minute. Ya see, people don’t understand the stress that Jeff McGinness had to endure in his career. He was hard up for competition and forced into a career of wrestling tigers for fun, considering he could pin everyone else in the world in 2 seconds. The tigers he wrestled generally lasted 10 seconds. For a man as competitive as Jeff McGinness, this was torture, not being able to find anyone that he couldn’t use as his own ventriloquist dummy. One…tough… cat. One of a kind. Jeff McGinness. 

McGinness was a 4X state champion. He did not lose a single match in HS. He won Cadet and Junior national titles and I believe was voted the OW in one of those tournaments. He was also a member of the USA Dream Team as a Senior…. He was a 3X AA and 2X National Champion for the Hawkeyes. He was borderline flawless. Yeah, that’s a good resume, if I were looking to hire someone for something that demanded wrestling experience, I think Jeff McGinness would be worthy of consideration!!!

DARE!!!

I dare anyone reading to claim someone else as the GOAT… and while doing so, consider the risks… your house, will for sure be TP’d by a mob of angry McGinness fans if you complete this dare. Don’t say you weren’t warned. And can ya blame them?

TRUTH!!! I was VERY close to making a highlight reel of McGinness’s finals match to the song, “stray cat strut,” by the Stray Cats… I still might. 😎 I chickened our at the last second because I don’t want Jeff McGinness thinking I am a dork. That’s probably wayyyy too late though. Just imagine, Jeff McGinness just toying with guys in the finals like a cat pawing at a ball of yarn with this background music 😂😂😂:

He was pretty close to perfection.

 

 

 

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Remember The Wrestler: Matt Davis, Dubuque Senior

Matt Davis was in my grade. The class of 2001. He was also at the same weight as me…literally every single year since we began. I wrestled Matt a lot. Maybe more than I have wrestled anyone and until 9th grade or so, I think I won every matchup against him.  Listen, there are not many wrestlers, if any that I personally respect more than Matt Davis and there is a reason for that.  For one, he and his dad are nice. Secondly, I know firsthand, that this guy never, ever, ever stopped improving.  The improvements were gradual at times, but they never stopped.  Every year he was fine-tuning new, valuable skills and it used to impress the hell out of me.  By the time we were Seniors, he was one of the best technicians in our grade.  And I’m telling you, it was a snowball effect with him.  His improvements were direct results of having a good attitude, putting in the extra time, listening and working his tail off. He earned every stride he gained. By the time we hit high school, he was beating me more often than not when we would meet up at freestyle tournaments.  Every year he incorporated a new set of elements to his game.  That Dubuque Senior duo of Matt Davis and Nathan Specht, people need to remember them.  They were absolutely awesome wrestlers and people.

I went to college in Dubuque and worked at a pizza place called Falbos to help get me by through college.  One of my happiest days at work was when the Davis family came in and immediately recognized me and asked how I was doing.  Just the nicest people and I was so glad that they didn’t forget me because I sure as hell won’t ever forget them. 

 

 

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

I wrestled for Dubuque Senior in high school. We didn’t really have any clubs in youth wrestling, but had good coaches and practices around Dubuque.

 

What year did you graduate?

2001

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My dad encouraged me to give it a shot when I was in third grade, so I signed up for a program through the YMCA.

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

My dad wrestled in high school, and my son Owen is 6 and just getting started. He does a good job, works hard and has a great attitude.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I did well, but not great. I think I made it to AAU State 3 or 4 times, but never placed. A lot of names come to mind, I wrestled Brett Wheelen about 100 times, but we were always friends off the mat. There was also a kid from Mediapolis named Josh Swafford I could never get past.

 

What was your record in HS?

122-27, I believe. I could be off a couple matches.

 

How did you place at state every year?

Freshman- Qualified
Sophomore- DNQ
Junior- 2nd
Senior- 3rd

 

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

Not a lot of adversity, I was lucky enough to stay pretty healthy.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was aggressive on my feet, legger on top, and liked to work the granby from bottom.

 

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

I traded wins with Ryan Sallis from Waterloo East a lot my freshman and sophomore year.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Tim Hejhal had the biggest influence on my style, he was a great teacher and coach. Denny Moore (Nate and Nick’s dad) was my youth coach and had a huge impact as well.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Freshman and sophomore year we were competitive, junior and senior not so much. I always had great practice partners though.

 

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

Being a Dubuque Senior guy I looked up to Keith and Eric Weber and Rick Healey.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Probably an unanswerable question, but I remember seeing Eric Juergens at practices and tournaments when I was younger, and he was awesome. I think he would get my vote.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

My son Owen, also the Iowa Hawkeye and Western Dubuque Bobcat wrestlers.

 

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

Red Hot Chili Peppers and Blink 182

 

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

State my senior year. Your goal your whole wrestling career is to win a state title, tough to take when it’s over.

 

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

Nothing really, a few matches I would have liked to go differently, but that’s life.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Making it to the finals my junior year. I beat Jake Hobbs in the semis, who kept me from going to state when I was sophomore.

 

Describe the wars you and Specht had over the years… could you have asked for a better practice partner?

There were battles, but probably not what you would think. We wrestled each other everyday for years, so we knew what the other person was going to do. It became pretty boring. He has been my best friend since first grade and I think I can count on one hand the number of times we have gotten mad at each other. Great partner, better friend.

 

Do you have a lot of pride in Dubuque area wrestling?

Yes, growing up there weren’t a lot of kids that wrestled regularly, but the ones that did were very good. There are great coaches and programs in the area now. I live in the Western Dubuque school district and have a ton of respect for Coach Cleary, his staff, and Coach Gotto. They run a great program.

 

How much did freestyle help your folk style game?

It helped on my feet, which was probably my weakest position. By the time I was a senior it was my best. Freestyle teaches you to finish your shot or get the hell out of there. It was also the most fun I had wrestling.

 

Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

Being from Dubuque, I had the pleasure of wrestling Cliff Moore and Ryan Heim on a regular basis. It helped me when I was younger, but created a lot of losses in high school. Tim Halligan and Johnny Galloway as well.

 

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

Seasonal when I was younger, all year in high school.

 

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

I think we would do fine.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

No, I had enough. A lot of work for a lot of years, I was ready to be a regular college kid.

 

What other sports did you play?

I played baseball when I was younger. In high school I ran cross country to help me get in shape for wrestling.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Hawkeyes and Cubs

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Spending time with my family and friends, golf.

 

How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?

I haven’t been involved for a long time, but recently started getting back into it with the youth program at Western Dubuque. It’s great to be around the sport again.

 

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

Dan Gable said “Once you’ve wrestled everything else in life is easy”. I think that sums it up pretty well.

 

What do you do now?

I’m an insurance adjuster.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I’ve recently started getting involved with the Western Dubuque youth program.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Work hard, be coachable, and believe in yourself. Confidence is a powerful thing.

 

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

Absolutely not.

 

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

My practice partners Nate Specht, Coalton Olson, and Louie Fischer. I owe a lot to Louie, he was a couple years older than Nate and I and he would haul us around to lift and to practices even when we didn’t want to go.

Most of all my dad, he spent a lot of time taking me to practice and tournaments. He was always supportive, and found a good balance of helping me get better without pushing too hard.

 

Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.

A lot of good times, I hope he doesn’t get mad at me but one of my favorite stories is Louie Fischer’s battles with the hydraulic door. If he was having a bad day, he would storm out of the wrestling room and slam the door behind him as hard as he could. About halfway shut, the hydraulics would catch the door and it would close gently behind him. We always got a good laugh, I think Louie did also.

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BRODY….TESKE!!!

 

In 1987, Dan Teske from Fort Dodge was standing on the podium at the Iowa HS State tournament and got a glimpse as to what the standing ovation experience  was like for a guy standing on the podium who won their 4th title… thing is, Dan Teske was standing on the #4 spot on the podium when this standing ovation took place. The guy receiving the standing ovation was a hammer named Dan Knight from Clinton who is now the HC at Bettendorf.  So in a way, he kind of had an idea as to what his son, Brody experienced when he stood on top of the podium after winning his 4th state title in 2018. It’s a small and crazy world, isn’t it?

Go to 4:00 mark to see Podium segment:

 

Brody Teske was one of the best “tiny guys” of that class since he was a Kindergartener. The first time I ever saw him was when a wrestling dad and great person named Reese Strickland tapped me on the shoulder and pointed at a couple tiny Kindergarteners and said, “those are two future elite wrestlers for the future. I guarantee it.” It was Brody Teske from Fort Dodge and he was wrestling against Kyle Biscoglia from Waukee. Lol and Reese was right… they were only 38 lbs. and Kindergarteners at the time, but Reese hit the nail on the head. That was the first time I saw those two butt heads. It probably happened another 20 times. Biscoglia and Teske had WARS!!!

Teske, Biscoglia, Noah Fye, Michael Blockhus, Drew Bennett, etc. seemed to run the show for the “little guys” in that 2018 graduating class for years and all of them made the jump to HS and became very well-decorated wrestlers in HS. Teske  became the most successful by winning 4 titles and only being beaten 1 time, by Alex Thomsen from Underwood who was also a 4Xer with one career loss…to Teske. Both guys just never let off the accelerator in their careers, ever. When they were Seniors, both Alex and Brody were undefeated 3X state champs coming into the season. If they finished off their last season unblemished, they would join the likes of Jeff Kerber, Dan Knight, Jeff McGinness, Eric Juergens and John Meeks as undefeated 4X state champions… those two just so happened to be at the same weight and it just so happened that Underwood and Fort Dodge were scheduled to meet twice… once at the Council Bluffs Invite and once at the CR Jefferson Invite. Those two guys earned the respect from EVERYONE when they decided to not dodge each other in either of the matches. The fans wanted that match and were almost skeptical that it’d actually take place, for both guys had so much on the line and if they wrestled, one of them was going to fail to go their entire careers without a blemish. Long story short, Teske had a huge scare in the semifinals vs. an out of state kid and showed up in a big way when he beat Alex in the finals. I’d say at the time, the predictions seemed to be 75-25 in Alex’s favor… And shortly after, those two were scheduled to meet again at the CR Jefferson Invite and despite the fact that Brody Teske could have very well chosen to just sit that one out and essentially secure an unblemished HS career, he chose to attempt to silence the skeptics and a second battle did, in fact take place between those two despite many fans thinking it wouldn’t happen. Alex won the second matchup. Both of these matches were absolute barn-burners and those two deserve eternal credit for their courage in putting it all on the line like they did, for not every wrestler, even at their level would have been brave enough to do that. If there are two wrestlers who should be universal fan favorites given their willingness to give the fans a show despite what they had on the line… it was Teske and Thomsen.

 

Does Brody have a case for the GOAT?! Of course. The state of Iowa is lucky to have a couple of fearless competitors that gave the fans what they wanted and seemingly consistently dominated every other match they wrestled in.  I wonder if it ever occurred to Dan Teske while he was standing on the 4 spot on the podium as a Senior, that he would have a son and his son would receive the same treatment 21 years later.

And keep paying attention to them… Alex is going to be a redshirt Sophomore at Nebraska and Teske transferred from Penn State to UNI… their careers are far from over.

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Inside the Rivalry Chapter 7, Part 6: What Have Sundell, Galanakis and Helgeson Been Up to Since and Where Are They Now?

After the Sundell-Galanakis-Helgeson three car collision course at state, Helgeson and Sundell finished their high school wrestling careers and went on to college. Sundell at Iowa State, Helgeson at UNI. However, Galanakis, being a JR., still had another high school season left. At that point, Mario had finished 5th, 3rd and 3rd in his first three years of high school and was the obvious and clear-cut favorite to win state as a Senior. Unfortunately though, things just never fell into place at the right time for Mario. He was upset by future Hawkeye, Chad Beatty in the quarterfinal round. This was a bracket that consisted of three future varsity Iowa Hawkeye wrestlers: freshmen Ryan Morningstar and Chad Beatty, and Senior Mario Galanakis.

Mario Galanakis: I lost to Chad Beatty in the quarters came back and pinned my way back through the back side pinning Ryan Morningstar for third. The next week at State Duals, I pinned Beatty.

Prior to Drew Foster of Mediapolis winning a national title for The University of Northern Iowa in 2019, Mario was widely believed to be the best Iowa high school wrestler of all time to never win a state title. If this isn’t a correct assumption, then it’s got to be unbelievably close.

These two haven’t associated a lot since high school, but haven’t been total strangers to each other since their epic rivalry in high school.

Mario Galanakis: Jesse and I met once again in college. He wrestled for Iowa State, I wrestled for Iowa. We have spoken a couple times since then and everything is mutually respectful. He is a great guy and one of Iowa’s best ever wrestlers. The only reason I pursued our matchup was because of the respect I have for him…if I were to win state, I didn’t want to take the easy route. I wanted to beat the best. And Jesse was the best. So I took the challenge. Tons of respect for him and I was happy to see him win his 4th title.

Jesse Sundell: I do not know Mario that well off the mat. We have a lot of mutual friends. I follow up on him and see how he is doing and what he has been up to through our friends. I recently reached out to him congratulating him on his marriage/family/business. I let him know that I would like to make it down to his bar/restaurant and sit down and catch up with him.

SO WHAT ARE THE CHANCES THAT WE SEE A REMATCH BETWEEN MARIO GALANAKIS, CHRIS HELGESON AND/OR JESSE SUNDELL?!?!?! WILL WE SEE THESE TWO AT AN OLD TIMERS TOURNAMENT!?!?!

Chris Helgeson: Ha I’m to overweight for a rematch so I would say no, maybe we will cross paths coaching.

Jesse Sundell: Not sure if that will happen. However, my wrestlers are always trying to talk me into wrestling at the Corn Cob.

Mario Galanakis: I am pretty out of wrestling shape these days! Especially compared to Jesse who probably works out with his guys all the time. I think it has been two years since I have been in a wrestling room. But I’m always up for a challenge and I would be willing to train for rematch!

So how has life been for Jesse, Chris and Mario been since their wrestling days? Well, the paths they chose were different, but as to be expected from two of the most mentally tough warriors that Iowa High School wrestling has ever produced, they have become influential, successful and widely respected citizens who still contribute to the sport of wrestling.

 

JESSE SUNDELL

I am back at Ogden working as the District Technology Director. Married with three kids, 6th grade daughter, 4rd grade boy and pre-school daughter.  I am also the head coach of the Ogden wrestling team. I spent nine seasons as an assistant to my old head coach Brian Reimers and took over after he retired.

CHRIS HELGESON

I’ve been out of coaching for about six years but will be getting back into it this year. My family and I just moved back to Lake Mills this April. I have a son that is in Kindergarten so I will be helping with the youth wrestling and some with the high school as well. I’m still a huge fan of college wrestling. We have a college fantasy league and have a group of about ten sometimes that goes to watch NCAA. I am a residential lender in Lake Mills and love being back to the small town that I grew up in.

My advice for up and coming wrestlers would be to take in as much coaching as possible and make it fun. You don’t need to cut a ton of weight to be good especially at the youth and high school level. It takes away from getting better as a wrestler in practice and competition.

 

MARIO GALANAKIS

I went to Ellsworth Community College after high school. I never paid attention to college wrestling growing up, but learned quickly when I wrestled at that level. My second college tournament at the Iowa State Open, I wrestled in the open division and had to wrestle Zach Roberson from Iowa State. I had no clue who he was and my coach decided not to tell me until after the match. I remember taking him into overtime and almost taking him down to win, but time ran out. I ended up losing the match but then I started paying attention to results and Division 1 wrestling, and this guy ended up becoming a national champ. That boosted my confidence a little to say the least. I had a good season there and won a lot of tournaments.

I took a year off my second year, though, for my family endured a catastrophic loss. The week before regionals, my brother Manolis lost his life. He and I were close and had so many wrestling memories growing up, that it was hard to see a wrestling mat without thinking of him and realizing that he was gone. I had to take a break. When I came back the following year, I took third at Junior College Nationals. I was still classified as a Sophomore. Then I decided to transfer to Iowa. I have had the opportunity to wrestle for many many great coaches! All who were very influential. Gable, Brands, Zalesky, Stiener, Schwab, all of them were amazing and I could never be thankful enough for the opportunity to wrestle for them. The one that sticks out the most and probably pushed me and brought out the best in me was always Mike Zaddick. The guy just knew what to say and how to make you want to work hard and be the best. Sometimes he would kick the living shit out of me in practice but at the end of the day he was doing it for me! Wrestling at Iowa was such an honor, for the history and culture is unmatched. For example, legendary Iowa wrestling coach, Dan Gable was quoted saying something that I have and always will take to heart in life. He said once you have wrestled everything else in life Is easy. This is so damn true, committing yourself to a sport that is so demanding, time consuming, tough, and never ending. It is NOT an easy thing to do, but if you do it and you really, really commit your life to it, you will learn and reap the benefits of the hard work, dedication, and sacrifices that have to be made! So when you incorporate all that into your daily life after wrestling you can do anything you want. You know how to work hard, you know what it takes to be successful! This did and continues to carry over to life off the wrestling mat. I roofed houses for two years after college. This was probably one of the hardest jobs I have ever done, but I loved it and I went from the “groundhog” to the top guy in less than a year. This wasn’t because I was Mario Galanakis and I wrestled for Iowa, but because I worked my ass off, I showed up every day at 6 AM, I worked harder than anyone on the job and I was always the first one on the roof and the last one off. These are the same skills I learned in wrestling! Currently, I own a sports bar in Creston, Iowa. I just got married to an amazing woman and we have four kids together. She owns a hair salon in Mt. Ayr, so between the restaurant, her salon and four kids we stay pretty busy!

When I’m not working, my hobbies are spending time with my wife and kids. We love to go fishing, camping, river walking, and basically do anything outdoors. When winter comes, my wife and I love to do home renovations and try and build things that she finds on Pinterest.

As far as my contributions to the sport since college, when I first graduated and was the assistant coach at Creston. I was all about it and loved coaching. I had the opportunity to coach Jake Marlin to four state titles and that was just as rewarding as wrestling myself! Hopefully I can get back into wrestling when things calm down a little bit.

Lastly, I would like to share some advice for wrestlers who are currently pursuing their goals at whatever level it may be, whether it’s youth, high school or college. My advice for kids today is to be fully 100% committed. If you truly want to be the best or maybe just be a state champ, don’t just think it, don’t just say, “I hope I am.” You have to make it happen and you have to do it your own way and remember that no one in the world is better at wrestling like you, than you. Everyone has their own unique talents that gives them potential. The inner drive is most important. You can do it. Allow yourself to.

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Remember The Wrestler/Bus Driver: Dan Taghon, Sigourney

 

BY: Stephen Stonebraker 

There was a triangular dual meet against BGM-HLV & Wapello where we had a different bus driver but other than that for every away dual  & tournament throughout my entire high school wrestling career, our bus driver was Dan Taghon.  A big burly man with a voice that would carry throughout the entire gym, Taghon did more than simply drive us to our competitions.  He was one of our biggest fans & someone you could always hear yelling encouragement for you.  In a lot of ways, many of us on the team thought of him as an honorary coach.   I sometimes go back and watch my old matches & I hear Dan Taghon loud & clear in every one of them.

“Come on Stephen!!” With encouragement & “Half!!!” with instruction.   Dan’s favorite move was the half nelson & he loved watching Savage wrestlers turn their opponents over with it working for the fall.

In the sport of wrestling we get so wrapped up in our wrestlers & our coaches that we often forget to recognize the many others who make this sport great.  We’re lucky if our officials ever get the pat on the back they deserve & bus drivers like Dan Taghonnever get any recognition.  I think they ought to.  Taghon always made sure that come Hell or high water, we always got to our competitions on time.  It could be the nastiest of Iowa’s winter weather, & he always got us home safe.  About 16 years later than it should have been, this is the thank you he is owed.

 

What is your background in Wrestling?

My sophomore year of high school the wrestling coach Jack Smith approached me & told me that he thought I should go out for wrestling.  I did & I immediately fell in love with it.  On the junior varsity that year I lost every match but my last one.  My junior year I got to wrestle some varsity & I won four matches.  My senior year I made the varsity & I won the Sigourney invitational & I took second at sectionals to qualify for districts. I believe my record was 10-8.   I wish I had gotten started in wrestling sooner.  I think with more experience I might have been able to make state.

 

What Year did you start driving the wrestling team to duals and tournaments?

Sam Stull drove the wrestlers to all of the away competitions for years & years.  When he decided to no longer do it, not many others were interested.  I guess some don’t like to sit in a gymnasium all day watching high school wrestling. I loved it.  To be honest, I never thought of it as a job.  To me it was entertainment.  I got paid to drive the wrestling team to & from duals & tournaments.  I got paid to do it & I’m glad to have made the money, but I loved it so much I’d have done it for free.  My first season I think was 1992-1993.   I had about a five year layoff when I was assigned the transportation director at the high school, but other than that I’ve always done it.  I still do it to this day.  Only time I miss is if I have something going on with my family.  I also attend all of the home matches too.

 

Wrestlers can sometimes be a rowdy group.  Do you have any funny stories going to or coming home from a dual or tournament?

At the Van Buren tournament back when Tong-uk Yi was coaching, he saw a kid from Kirksville hit a move that he had never seen before. He got real excited & was determined to learn that move.  I got a kick out of how he refused to leave the gym that day until he knew what that move was and how to do it.  I really enjoyed it when Jeff Kirby & Gary Jarmes ran the program.  They were a lot of fun to talk to on the way home from duals & tournaments.  They had nicknames for all of the conference rivals & they’d often play cribbage on the longer bus rides.   As to the wrestlers, they were always very respectful.  Wrestlers are usually good groups of kids.  I took a lot of pride getting them to & from competitions safely.  Sometimes the Iowa weather can be bad. I’ve driven them through more than one snow storm.  Always got them back safe.  That was important to me.

 

Any fun memories you have of watching the matches?

Sigourney made the Regional Duals & placed at team state a few years back.  The Dual was held at Sigourney & it was an awesome experience. An electrical atmosphere.  It was also always fun whenever one of our kids would pull off an upset or to watch it when there were two ranks kids going at it.

 

Do you follow just Sigourney wrestling or do you follow other teams?

I pay attention to the high school rankings. I enjoy good wrestling no matter who it is but always cheer for the Sigourney kids. I enjoy high school wrestling more because it seems the kids aren’t afraid to take risks and try things.  I like college wrestling too but there’s not as many moves & a lot more hand fighting.  I don’t find it as exciting.  I follow the Iowa Hawkeyes & watch their matches on TV whenever IPTV or BIG 10 plays them.  I go to Carver Hawkeye every once in a while.   My son Trevor married former Iowa wrestler Phil Laux’s twin sister.  So I was a big fan of his.  He’s going out to Cornell, so I guess I gotta also be a Big Red fan now too.

 

What do you think the sport of wrestling teaches someone who participates in it?

Most of all I think it teaches you mental discipline.  It also teaches you teamwork, how to work hard, train your body and weight control.  I see so many of these smaller schools have difficulty filling lineups.  I wish kids would be able to see how much wrestling would benefit them in their life.  I think if they knew a lot more kids would do it. It’s a great sport

 

When You’re not hauling the wrestlers around, what do you do these days now that you’re retired?

I spend time with my wife & my grandkids.  I also own a motorcycle and enjoy going on trips. I’ve been to Wyoming to see Yosemite and I’ve been to Sturgis about twenty times.

 

Anything You’d like to Add?

I feel very lucky that I got to be the one that drove the wrestling team around.  It’s been a very rewarding experience that I’ve enjoyed a lot.  It’s never been a job to me. I’ve enjoyed every second of it.
I also want to say that I thought about wrestling in college, but I didn’t because I didn’t figure I was good enough.  So I went to A.I.B for a year instead.  If I had it to do all over again, I would’ve picked a junior college with a wrestling team & I’ve had done it.  I loved wrestling & it’d been nice to have done it for a few more years.  If you want to wrestle in college, wrestle.  Don’t worry about if you’re not good enough.

I’m also excited about Indian Hills fielding a wrestling team next season. Kids in this area need a good junior college program they can wrestle at close to home. A lot of the kids around here from Sigourney, Tri-County, Pekin, English Valleys, ect are farm kids.  Indian Hills has an excellent agricultural program that these kids can study.  It’s awesome to know that they can now wrestle too.  Hope they take advantage of it.

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Inside the Rivalry Chapter 7, Part 5: Chris Helgeson Crashes the Collision Course and Sundell Wins His 4th

 

After the first two battles took place and ignited the wrestling world the way they did, it was only fitting that these two would have their most epic battle on the biggest stage, the state finals, with one man putting his four time state champion aspirations on the line to another man who had proven himself to be a legitimate threat. This was not only an anticipated matchup, but more or less a foregone conclusion. It was gonna happen. That is, unless, people got so caught up in the Sundell-Galanakis hype that they failed to notice another crucial piece of the 2001 1A 119 lb. puzzle. A guy with the same goals, the same determination, the same elite skill level, the same confidence as Sundell and Galanakis, but was from a very different geographical location. In fact, he may have gone unnoticed, for he made his noise on the opposite side of the state, where the discussion didn’t revolve around primarily 1A 119.

CHRIS HELGESON, LAKE MILLS: At the start of the season I just had my sights set on Sundell. I got third my junior year at 119 and was disqualified in the quarterfinals for a slam that was called illegal and the wrestler chose not to continue. The guy that won my bracket went up to 125 my senior year and I was undefeated against him in my career. I chose to stay down at 119 for my senior year because I wasn’t cutting much weight and I wanted to beat Sundell and stop him from getting his 4th. I knew Galanakis was good but didn’t start thinking about him until I heard he beat Sundell. It was a surprise because Sundell hadn’t lost in his career. After he beat him, I felt a little overlooked because everyone was expecting that match in the finals. I was pumped when the brackets came out. Sundell was on the opposite side and a potential semi with Galanakis was what I wanted. I was very confident that I could beat both. I wrestled a smart match in the semis and got an early takedown and stayed out of the positions he was good at and ultimately won the match. In the finals match, I was very confident and that was what I had envisioned all year. I started the match strong and had a lead in the second period. I made a big mistake on bottom trying an inside switch for a second time and he was waiting with his patented neck wrench and he pinned me. I wrestled hard and had a chance to win but you can’t make mistakes like that against a great wrestler. No regrets I got the shot I wanted. I was very upset after the match but I got my opportunity and revenge in a dual meet against ISU my senior year in college at UNI. This was a match that I really wanted as well.

The Lake Mills wrestling community was very confident in Chris, despite him being overlooked by many and the growing general consensus being that it was a two horse race between Galanakis and Sundell. The thinking in Northeast Iowa, especially Lake Mills was drastically different than it was across the state. They knew they had a horse in the race and they firmly believed that their horse was the future champion. And they had very good reasons for thinking this. Brad Helgeson was a very good wrestler for Lake Mills who graduated in 2001. He was a place winner for them and he and Chris are not only cousins, but great friends. He was 100% confident in Chris.

BRAD HELGESON, LAKE MILLS (Chris’s cousin, teammate and best friend): .Well I personally had no doubt that Chris was gonna beat Galanakis. In our minds, Chris was a returning state champ even though he got third the year before because of a terrible slam call in the quarterfinals. Chris was the hardest worker in the room and was very mentally tough. Our team was pretty loaded that year, so Chris had some great practice partners in the room. We had: David Back, Keith Hebrink, Myself and even our 103 pounder Jason Sprecher to name a few. Everyone in Lakes Mills knew how good Chris was and felt like he was even better than Sundell. Chris got caught in the finals and that stuff happens. Chris proved how good he was in college by being a three time national qualifier at UNI … And he won at least one match every year. He defeated Sundell when they met in college.

Mario Galanakis: Jesse and I were in the same district so obviously I knew we would be on opposite side of the bracket at state. Going into that state meet I had no doubt in my mind that we would meet up in the finals and that I was going to beat him in the third showdown. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, I was beaten by Chris Helgeson in the semis and that was probably the worst I had ever felt in my entire life after losing a match. I was so confident and sure that I was gonna win a state title that year that when I lost I remember just wanting to crawl into a hole and hibernate until the next season. Sundell went on and pinned Helgeson in the finals and captured his fourth title and I’m glad that he did! He deserved it and like I said before it was nothing personal against him. It was just two guys wanting the same thing, somebody wins and somebody loses. That’s what makes wrestling so challenging and rewarding at the same time.

Jesse Sundell: I went in, took care of business and won my fourth. . I got off to a slow start in my finals match against Helgeson, but was able to execute a move on him that I had a lot of success with called the neck-wrench and pinned him. Helgeson and I wrestled two more times after that. Later that year, I accepted the challenge of wrestling him again at the North-South All-Star Meet. I wanted to prove that my pin wasn’t a fluke. I succeeded for I pinned him again, this time with a tight-waist to a stack. To give credit where it is due, he did defeat me once in college. I was so proud to have joined a group filled with elite wrestlers as I did when I won my fourth and it is so neat when I am around the other four timers Iowa has produced. I look to all of them a lot and when they approach me and tell me they had fun watching me wrestle, it’s a funny feeling, for maybe it hasn’t hit me that I am also part of that group.

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Scott Morningstar became the 3rd four-time state champion in Iowa wrestling state history in 1980, just a year after Jeff Kerber of Emmetsburg became the second. Morningstar’s titles came at 98 pounds his freshman year, 105 his sophomore year, 119 his junior year and 126 his senior year. For his HS prep career, his record stood at an amazing 115-1-1.  He helped establish the groundwork for a new era in Lisbon wrestling winning his first 2 titles under HOF wrestling coach Al Baxter, and then his final 2 titles at Lisbon under the greatest wrestling coach in Iowa High School wrestling history – Brad Smith… where that winning tradition continues today.

Scott Morningstar was dominating throughout his high school career, he was offense minded and scored lots of points, wrestled smart and maintained good body position like all Lisbon taught wrestlers. He was great at punishing his opponents when they made mistakes and was much stronger that he looked. To sum things up, he was exceptional at winning…  Just as you’d expect for a 4-time state champion. Let’s take a brief look at each of his state finals matches.

In the 1977 class 1-A state finals at 98-lbs, the freshman Scott Morningstar beat Vince Kimm a very mature looking senior from Iowa Valley (Marengo) in a close 4-2 match, winning his first state title and finishing his freshman season undefeated at 33-0. His coach commented that his opponent “had a three day growth of beard and looked like he was 21 years old,” and Scott rode that kid out to nail down his victory! Not bad for a kid that was weighing around 97 or 98 lbs soaking wet… It was just the beginning of a brilliant HS wrestling career.

There’s always something special, almost magical about experiencing that first victory and on that grand stage in the “Barn” atmosphere… and this was the year that this young man from Lisbon found himself and experienced his first taste of that magic with a coach that inspired him to cross over that threshold into wrestling history… one that requires championship skills and championship confidence.

Just prior to that 1977 state tournament Lisbon coach Al Baxter was going over details with the team in their wrestling room and what would be needed by all of his wrestlers to win that coveted class 1-A team title. That’s when Baxter’s talk turned to their 98 pounder – “And Morningstar, hell, the way your wrestling you can win the damn thing,” Scott recalled Baxter saying.

It was at that moment the (wow factor) kicked in… the power of someone believing in you and verbalizing that belief in front of others and then that realization sinking in becomes a defining moment, a revelation of sorts in one’s life that is never forgotten! That’s what Morningstar took with him in each match at that 1977 state tournament, till he finished the job and got his arm raised, seizing the first of his 4 consecutive state title victories. It was the beginning of a young man’s dreams fulfilled!

As a sophomore in 1978, the final season under his legendary coach Al Baxter… Morningstar won his class 1-A 105-lbs finals match capturing his 2nd straight state title by defeating Duane Grant of Britt 10-5, finishing the season with a 32-1 record. Grant would go on to a 3rd place finish the following year in 1979 and continue his wrestling career at UNI. Morningstar’s only loss that season came at the hands Paul Kreimeyer of Wilton by referee’s decision.  Kreimeyer, if you remember was a two-time state champion, a runner up and a fourth place finisher.

In Morningstar’s junior season, he bumped up 2 weights, and under the tutelage of new coach Brad Smith, went on to win his third consecutive state title by beating Mitch Woosley of BCL (Conrad) in the 1979 Class 1-A 119-lbs finals match 8-4, and again finishing the season unbeaten with a nearly perfect 31-0-1 record. The lone blemish – a draw, resulted from a match against a Durant wrestler (Skeet Smith) who was noted for a neck wrench. Scott recalled, “I was up 8-4 with four take-downs and I went in for another take-down and found myself fighting for my life. I fought off my back and then got an escape for the tie. Sometimes you learn more from your mistakes.” Here’s the thing… if that match would’ve been wrestled under today’s tie breaker rules, who do you think would’ve won that match?

In 1980, Morningstar closed out his senior season unbeaten and unblemished, winning his 4th state title in the class 1-A 126-lbs finals match against a very tough Tim DeLarm of Midland (Wyoming) in a close battle 4-3.  Morningstar’s record was 20-0 in his final season, mainly because he missed time in the lineup recovering from a broken ankle and a bout with pneumonia. A fact that reveals his physical toughness, determination, and his will to win in finishing what he started 4 years prior, completing the astounding achievement of becoming just the third 4-time state title winner in Iowa HS wrestling history. He was also an All-American at 132-lbs placing 4th in the National Freestyle tournament and made the High School All-American team that year.

Scott Morningstar was inducted into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2008.

I enjoyed reading and researching information about Scott Morningstar and getting reacquainted with his high school career. Scott was a fantastic wrestler and deserves consideration for IA high school wrestling GOAT…

Some additional thoughts about that state tournament in Scott’s senior season… There were also a number of other great wrestlers that were on the wrestling scene at the same time that were garnering lots of attention and well deserved accolades like Barry Davis (Cedar Rapids Prairie) and Clark Yoder (Sigourney), who were going for their 3rd state titles. It was a tremendous evening that all Iowa wrestling fans got to share in back in 1980. Morningstar was also following Lisbon’s own Jim Lord, who won his 3rd title just 2 years prior. Those studs will undoubtedly get more coverage in the 3-timer (almost 4) series. But even with the spotlight focus moving around from one legend to another, I’m here to say that Scott Morningstar doesn’t stand in anyone’s shadow! The red-hot spotlight of that state tournament tells me that 1980 was a banner year for Iowa wrestling and the sport was on the rise.

Scott Morningstar’s high school career is as close to perfect as you can get while just short of perfection. He climbed that “Mount Everest” peak and conquered its glory, and did it 4-times… he was an exciting, tough and talented wrestler to watch, and is one of Lisbon’s GOAT’s… He’s deserving of this spotlight and his candidate consideration for Iowa HS wrestling’s GOAT!

One of my favorite quotes I found while researching this article involved the subject of how a coach motivates his wrestlers. This one came from Scott Morningstar, in Dan McCool’s book – “Reach for the Stars”, while discussing Morningstar’s freshman year state finals opponent with Lisbon coach Al Baxter… “Baxter was one tough son of a bitch. I was deathly afraid of him, but I loved him. He never did anything to hurt me, but I’m telling you when he’d put his big paw on your neck, and here I’m a shrimpy little 98-pounder, and he’d say,You’re going to make him cry in front of his mom and dad and grandpa and grandma’, you could beat anybody!”

It reminded me of that McDonalds commercial where the father trainer is trying to get his boxer son to turn that beast mode switch on, and tells the youngster – “Remember when someone stole your fries son? Well THAT’S THE GUY!”

Man I love wrestling… LOL

Scott Morningstar “Wrestling with Iowa” interview

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This is one of the most interesting, thought-provoking set of responses that I have received to the questionnaires I send out and that’s out of the “close to 100” RTW articles that I have written so far. I was blown away by Bradley’s responses. It was completed on elaborate fashion with the type of info and insight that interests me personally. Heck, if I did one of these myself, it would likely resemble something like what Bradley wrote.  I wish I would have known that he was such an interesting person to talk wrestling with, for Bradley was one of these guys in my grade who seemed to be at the same exact weight as me every single year from 3rd grade all the way until we graduated. We were in the same graduating class and with that said, we were in the same bracket at state in youth wrestling almost every year and were in the same freestyle brackets in high school a few times and somehow we only managed to meet up on the wrestling mat twice.  Once as 6th graders and once at a freestyle tournament our Junior years in HS.  And I have mentioned several times that I was overly chatty with the competition. There weren’t too many people that I grew up wrestling with that I didn’t approach and sometimes annoy the hell out of at one point or another.  I probably encountered Bradley hundreds of times over the years in passing or in the holding area and I never spoke to him once until the very end of our freestyle match in HS, in which he said to me, “good job,” and I just said “thanks.”  Why didn’t I ever approach Asche?  For whatever reason, he came off as intimidating to me.  I don’t know what it was.  For one, he always looked like the biggest dude in our bracket physically, so he had that going for him.  For another, his demeanor was not one that gave the vibe of arrogant or rude, but there was just something about him that made me not want to say the wrong thing around him.  He appeared stoic, confident and businesslike and just didn’t seem like a person that I would want to bother.  There were only a few people who I tip-toed around like that.  Ryan Heim, Paul Bradley, anyone from Lenox, Chris Wernimont, etc. All GREAT guys. In retrospect, I really wish I would have “cowboy’d” up and approached some of these people instead of being apprehensive and Brad Asche is the prime example of this, for now that I have been getting to know him a bit, he and I surely would have talked a lot of wrestling and likely been pretty good friends. 

I never wanted to wrestle Asche.  I was thinking about that the second and last time I wrestled him in our freestyle match our Junior season. That match is remembered by my best friend, Aaron Drain and my brother Justin due to something embarrassing that I did during our break between periods.  In freestyle back then, you got this 30 second break where the coaches are in your ear trying to tell you what your doing wrong and what to do next and are usually blurting this information while using your t-shirt as some sort of fan to cool you down with.  This always annoyed me and I didn’t want to go about things that way at all during break.  I needed total relaxation with nobody saying anything to me. I would have rather sat down and sang “Kumbaya” and relaxed for that 30 seconds that felt like 3 or 4 seconds epecially when you are wanting a breather. And I most certainly didn’t want someone hitting me with my shirt.  So Asche and I had this pretty wild, back and forth type of match going on where it seemed like a minutes-long struggle for positioning with sudden attacks where we’d both put each other in trouble.  It was exhausting. A really good freestyle match. He and I would have made great practice partners. Anyways, when I got back to the corner for the break, Justin was in my ear about a bunch of stuff and I didn’t want to hear any of it and he started beating me with my “I’m Easy” Abercrombie T-shirt, which immediately began to annoy me when one of the “shirt-snaps” hit my nose.  When this happened, I looked at Justin and said, “stop.”  He didn’t understand what I was referring to, for what kind of weenie is too soft to be able to withstand the discomfort of being aired off with a t-shirt? A few seconds later, Justin accidentally slapped me with the corner of my shirt right in my left eye and my knee-jerk reaction was this: I blew up and screamed at Justin in the corner, “STOP HITTING ME WITH MY ****ING ‘IM EASY’ SHIRT!!!” My eye hurt like hell from that.  My brother and Drain started laughing because my voice squeaked BAD when I said the words, “I’m Easy.”  Probably a puberty thing. So there I was, in the corner for a break in the middle of a hard-fought freestyle match with Bradley Asche and flipping out on my brother with some major voice-squeakage for everyone in the perimeter’s comedic delight.  My face got red and I looked around to see if anyone else saw or heard it and of course, there is Trent Goodale sitting down near our corner with the biggest smile on his face and laughing.  I laugh every time I think of Trent because he always caught my most embarrassing moments on the mat that I didn’t want anyone else to see and he always thought that it was funny…which it was.  For about a year, if Drain wanted to razz me, he would yell at me in a purposely squeaky voice, “I’m EEE-EEEEAASY!”

So then off I go to wrestle the final period against Asche and we went the full match without there being a tech or a pin… just a really solid wrestling match by both guys…  It was a good match for both of us. We scrambled a lot. And as mentioned, Bradley telling me “good job” at the end of that one is the only time we ever spoke.  If I could do it over again, I would have spoken to him at every state tourney that I saw him at. But hey, can’t change that and I am thankful that I asked him to do one of these, for it’s cool reading his insight.  He saw a lot of things in our age and weight range the same way that I did.  It was very refreshing to see.  

I don’t think I’ve met a nicer person in my time spent doing all of these. 

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

Eagle Grove Youth Wrestling, Eagle Grove High School, Buena Vista University, Coached at Glenwood High School 

 

What year did you graduate?

2001

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

When I was growing up Eagle Grove had some great wrestlers going through at the time. Late 80’s early 90’s Mark Reiland & Jessie Whitmer time frame. Eagle Grove also has a great tradition. To grow up in small town Iowa with a wrestling tradition, it was like a right of passage to wrestle. Home of the Eagle Grove Invitational and names like Nelson, Siddens, Gray, Reiland, Morgan, Kist, McCart, Coltvet, Whitmer. I know I’m leaving a lot out, but I will attach those two boards that one of my teammates in a previous article alluded to that hang in the Eagle wrestling room. I used to go watch those teams during the 80’s and 90’s and then try to emulate them on my living room floor at home. My parents have some pictures of me showing them how certain wrestler’s stance would be when they were on the mat or with my headgear on like Mark Reiland after he won his matches. Reiland with his headgear turned sideways was ingrained in my head like the coach himself having Nelson Brands Headphones in the corner while coaching. I also had some great friends/families that we grew up traveling and wrestling together. 

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

The family ties to wrestling go way back, and I never got to watch some of them wrestle but heard many stories, You always have to try to keep the family traditions going. My uncle Donnie Reed who got 4th and wrestled for Clarion. Uncle Kevin Reed who got 3rd and wrestled for Eagle Grove. My dad’s Cousin Mike Asche was a State Champ. Denny Asche I think qualified, but never placed. I had two cousins that wrestled for Coach Ewing at Ankeny; Mike and Mitch Reed. My Cousin Kurtis Williamson, we grew up wrestling together and his dad Ray took us everywhere to wrestle on weekends and hauled us to the Cedar Rapids every year for AAU state was a SQ as a freshman, Runner up to Tim Matthys as a sophomore, State Champion in one of the finals matches that I remember. When he picked top in Sudden Victory to ride out Seth Evans as a Junior, and then placed 3rd in 2000 as a senior. My Brother Bart wrestled for a couple of years in High School, but chose not to continue, and now I have my son Brody who is 9 years old and going to practices in Glenwood, IA with the Glenwood Wrestling Club, but he hasn’t competed yet. 

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Youth results were nothing special. I qualified for AAU state every year from Third Grade thru 8th grade. Never placed, every year I’d run into kids like you (Joshua Swafford), Jacob Smith, Brian Hessenius, the Sturm brothers, Matt Doebel, Garrett South; Looking back on some of those AAU brackets that you post is fun. It’s like a time capsule, and to see those brackets full of State Champions and medalists, it’s pretty amazing. We could be here all day talking about the kids I used to wrestle, I’m usually great at remembering people I’ve wrestled and the matches, but there were some great youth wrestlers that I used to have to face regularly at weekend Tournaments.

I think Matt Doebel from Clear Lake and I had the most matches out of anyone I wrestled consistently as a kid. I always used to run into Ryan and Mark Sturm from Emmetsburg A-R, Bobby Miller and Stecker from Boone, Bratland, Humboldt, the Harris brothers, Justin Porter, Nick Mason, Duran Barlow all from Fort Dodge, McCrady from Fort Dodge St. Eds. I’m sure there were many more. 

 

What was your record in HS?

I have no Idea, but it’s in a book somewhere or on the internet. I never reached the 100 wins mark back when 100 wins was a big deal, but there are more wins than losses. My coaching record is the same, I have no idea what it is, I’d have to take the time to look back and add it up, but there are more wins than losses. I like to think that my Wins and Losses are just numbers and they don’t define me as a wrestler or a coach. Looking back, I just hope that I made an impact on my teammates throughout my career and an even larger impact on my wrestlers that I coached. 

 

How did you place at state every year?

DNQ, DNQ, SQ, Runner-Up 

 

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

Cutting weight was difficult. I had a lot of anxiety when I cut weight. My parents bought me a scale and I used to use it all throughout the night before dual meets and tournaments. Some of the matches that were the most challenging. 

Andy Thompson, Clear Lake;  Regional Duals my freshman year, LBF I was a JV All Star and we faced Clear Lake at Regional Duals. We bumped the line up and I got the pleasure of wrestling Mr. Thompson after his state title. 

Dustin Bliven, Columbus Junction; State Finals my senior year; LBF

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

A well rounded wrestler. I was defensive at times; presented my leg and reached too much to get into a crackdown position or into a front headlock position; I still did have some takedowns that I could hit; Tough on top with the legs, and could get out and would in most cases except for when I got thrown on my head in the finals by Dustin Bliven in a couple of highlight reel throws or when Bart Mehlert threw the legs in and ripped my arm off, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one in either of those cases. 

 

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

Brian Thacker, Algona We had some back and forth matches in high school. Not sure there was anyone else that I went back and forth with in High School. 

 

Who was your most influential coach?

There are so many coaches that I could name here and each one of them had a hand in making me the person I am today. In High School, I was coached by Dave Morgan, Dan McCart, Bruce Rholl, Jessie Whitmer, Rich Dellaca, Darin Shreck, Linc Morgan. In college, Al Baxter, Tim Jagr, Sevond Cole. There was even my dad and other fathers at the youth wrestling level that were great. There are even some coaches that I’ve coached with like Ty Seaman, Matt Dyer, Adam Buthe, and Brad Gregory.  All of them definitely made an impact on my life. 

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

We were competitive in high school. We had some very good individuals on our team. At state I think 4th place 2000 is the highest we were as a team. That year we had Reiland, 2nd; McClintock, 2nd; McGonegle, 4th; Williamson, 3rd; and then we had some other qualifiers that added some team points, but that year we didn’t reach our goals. We were definitely good enough you hoist a trophy in Des Moines. To this day I have yet to accomplish this. As a coach the best we finished was 4th. 

In 2001, at State Duals we got 4th as a team. I believe we got beat by Don Bosco in the Semifinals and wrestled Bedford-Lenox in the 3rd/4th place dual. That year I’m unsure what we got at Traditional State, but we had a lot of qualifiers/placewinners that year. Reiland, Oleson, Morgan, myself,  I might be missing someone, but we had the qualifiers to do something with it, but didn’t get it done that year either. 

In College at Buena Vista, but I wasn’t very competitive. I did have some great teammates there as well that were very successful. Jamie Taxted, Taylor Wood, Aaron Loewens, Pat Wilsbacher, My college roommate and fellow coach Adam Buthe just to name a few. 

 

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

There were many that I looked up to because they were all successful, but probably due to when I was growing up I would have to say, Mark Rieland & Jessie Whitmer, “The strongest man in the world” -Dan Gable. Both who left their mark on the sport at Eagle Grove as well as the University of Iowa. 

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Mark Schwab. I wasn’t able to see him wrestle in High School, but I have heard many stories about him, and was able to personally meet Coach Schwab and be around him during my time at Buena Vista University. Listening to him talk and watching him train in the wrestling room and weight room. After watching him work out at his age, I can only imagine what he was like when he was in high school. 

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

I’m a big fan of the sport, so there are many. This list could go on and on, but I really like watching wrestling. My former wrestlers who are wrestling in college; Matt Malcom (UNK National Champion) , Anthony Sherry (Iowa State), Trevor Anderson (Grandview), Brett Mower(Utah Valley State RTC), Caleb Sanders (South Dakota State Football) Other college guys I enjoy watching are Yianni Diakomihalis, Spencer Lee, Kyle Dake. 

 

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

There were all different genres, I listened to Tupac, Bone Thugs, Metallica, some country. 

My Junior year we listened to Godsmack in the wrestling room and wore out the CD, and my Senior year we wore out the Nelly CD. Kids these days have it good with the ability to make a playlist on your phone, we would have to have the managers switch the CD or burn a CD to get all of our favorite songs. 

 

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

The night I joined the Runner-Up club, as I like to call it. In fact, I first started following what you were doing when Brad Gregory, my former Assistant coach sent me Bliven’s article. Coach Gregory and I  were in the club together. We used to be good sports about it. He would always quote Dan Gable; I believe on the telecast said something about high flying action, and be sure to watch the 1A mat, and before you know it… the rest is history. 

My Senior year in the finals. Hands down the worst I’ve ever felt. Like I told you before; I think the state finals is a different demon, whether you like it or not, you want to think of it as just another match, but it isn’t. It’s hard to describe. In Vets everyone was able to walk next to the mats during the first 5 sessions of wrestling and then, during the finals they were all in their seats. You go through the Grand March before the finals (still to this day) sends chills down your spine. When you warm up, etc. is all different during the finals. You have kids coming off the podium and carrying the large bracket that you’ve dreamt about hanging in your bedroom, down to their teammates. In 2001 Lewis Central and Emmetsburg had all those champs and I was warming up right next to them. My eyes would wander while warming up watching them celebrate with their teammates.  It’s the match you’ve mentally prepared yourself, but have you all these other things going through your head. It ended up being a bad night, I was definitely very hard on myself after that match. 

One of the biggest quotes to understand for high school kids was that you either “Win or Learn”

Needless to say, I definitely learned a lot from my experience, and I was fortunately able to coach a couple of kids to achieve their goals and with that State Title. 

 

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

I don’t think I would change anything to be honest. I loved my childhood and growing up in Eagle Grove. Being a part of the tradition. Even after growing up in Eagle Grove the amount of great wrestlers that came out of that town is very vague to me. I used to love talking to the late Dan McCool about the rich history of the North Central Conference, and Eagle Grove. I think one of my former teammates eluded to it before, but  Like I said earlier, Eagle Grove only has State Champs and Runner-ups on a board in the room. I grew up not knowing a lot of GREAT wrestlers that weren’t on those boards. Everyday I remember walking into that room and looking at those boards. I just wanted my name to be a part of that tradition, and I did it. It wasn’t the board I wanted to be on, but my name is on a board in that same room that MADE a lot of great wrestlers and is still making some to this day. 

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Coaching… There are many. I’m not going to be able to point out any one particular accomplishment, because when you are a coach there are many different things people consider accomplishments and there are different levels of accomplishments that will positively impact individual people for the rest of their lives. I could go on and on, but I don’t want to do too much rambling or people will probably stop reading. 

 

Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

High School; JD Naig, JJ Butteris, Dustin Bliven, Nate VanDyke.  I’m pretty sure my 2001 bracket a couple more state champions in it, Drahos, Linden, not sure who else. College; Tom Meester, Ryan Sturm, TJ Miller, Ken Ware.

 

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

Seasonal, I played football, Golf/Track, and baseball. Knowing now how much freestyle wrestling helps you. If I could go back I would wrestle a lot more year round. 

 

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

This is a question that I always say it’s tough to compare, because wrestling has evolved so much. There would be GREAT matches regardless! 

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yeah for a few years I wrestled at Buena Vista University for Al Baxter. Then I started coaching at Storm Lake with Ty Seaman, then Glenwood with Matt Dyer, and later became the Head Coach. 

 

What other sports did you play?

Football, Golf/Track, Baseball 

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Iowa State, I was born in Ames and have been a little cyclone since I was young. New England Patriots, I always got the bandwagon comment when I said this, but I have my Starter jacket to prove it. As I’ve grown up though I’ve just become more of a fan of Sports in general and I think that is just because I’m competitive. 

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

It’s not a hobby but I’m a Husband to Breann, a father to Brody(9) and Brynn(4), I do enjoy playing with my kids, some good family time, golfing, and cattle.

 

How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?

I love coaching and I feel like I gave back a little bit to the sport, or I at least tried my best. My giving back will continue in the future though with my son Brody still wrestling. 

Luke Reiland and I also gave something back to the infamous Eagle wrestling room wall in 2001, We made large cutouts that are still there. It says “Eagle Wrestling Room of Champions”, and he was then able to become that Champion in 2002.  I hope it continues to make those young men/women believe that they can put their name on those boards one day.

 

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

The quote “Once you’ve wrestled, Everything in life is easy! Is 100% true. Without this sport it would’ve been very hard to get through some of those tough situations and times. Wrestling made me very mentally tough. The conditioning was not only physical but mental. People truly don’t know what wrestlers are talking about, and wrestlers are often looked at as unique individuals. . 

 

What do you do now?

I was a Teacher/Coach at Glenwood Community Schools for 13 years, but I changed routes and I just finished my first year in a new role as Director of Operations at Brumfield Angus Farms, based out of Michigan and Montana. 

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I am at the youth level. I try to help the Glenwood Wrestling Club when I can, but I’ve also tried to allow the new staff to transition without me being involved at any of the other levels. 

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

I like to use quotes. As a coach I would have quotes posted throughout the wrestling room. Some of my favorites are very long, so I won’t write those and I’m sure you’re going to think I’m long winded. “You only get what you earn!”-Brands I believe said this, and I used to always tell my kids that you either Win or you learn, I’m not sure who quoted that. These kids need to take advantage of all the opportunities that are available, not only in wrestling. We only live once, so why would you want to live the rest of your life with regret. Read books; There are some great motivational books out there. Do anything that motivates you, and do good in school because you’re a Student/ Athlete. 

 

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

I think I wrestled in one of these after college. I still continued to wrestle a lot year ‘round when I was coaching. I would’ve definitely been in shape to wrestle in one, but I’m going to have to say that my body wouldn’t be able to handle it anymore. 

 

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

I would actually like to give a shoutout to my parents and all of my other family members that came to support me throughout my career. I’m pretty sure they watched every match I wrestled, no matter where it was. I tried my best to thank them everytime they came, but thanks for your support. My teammates and the Eagle Grove Wrestling Family/Fan base. It was a blast, and I would do it all over again if I could. To the wrestlers I coached, thank you for all the great memories.

 

Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to reminisce about my wrestling career. Like I told you before, I’m surprised we’ve never really officially met, (other than a couple times on the mat with you being the victor), but I really enjoy reading these articles and other things you post about wrestling in the state of Iowa. There are many more worthy people than myself to hear from and I can’t wait to read them all. I wish you the best of luck and look forward to following more from The Pin Doctors in the future.  

 

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In 1995, Jason Keenan became the  first of two 4X state champions from Ogden, the second being Jesse Sundell when he won his 4th in 2001. The total amount of combined losses between those two wrestlers is 2, with both of them having one loss apiece. To my understanding, Keenan’s only loss was by a controversial disqualification for running an illegal chicken wing. So the man was never actually beaten in a conventional manner. He was as close to flawless as a guy can get… So why is it that you don’t hear his name as much as you hear other 4X state champions that won their 4th titles around the same time he did, like Jeff McGinness from IC High who won his 4th in 1993 and Eric Juergens from Maquoketa who won his on 1996? My guess is because Keenan decided to ride bulls professionally after graduating high school opposed to wrestling in college. And in my opinion, when discussing the greatest Iowa HIGH SCHOOL wrestler of all-time, you can’t hold that against someone. I will never hold something against someone that is beyond their control OR if they pursued other ventures in life that brought them more happiness. It does not take away the fact that Jason Keenan was a borderline flawless wrestler who won 4 titles and was absolutely dominant in doing so.

Both Ogden guys, Keenan and Sundell had a couple of the most emotional 4th state title matches in terms of when you watch it, you can just tell that they were feeling an immense amount of pressure to win and when they did so, a gigantic weight was lifted off their shoulders. And Keenan was an inspiration for Jesse Sundell to the point where Sundell has credited Keenan as being a guy who was so influential that it enabled him to find it within himself to win his own 4 titles.

The way Keenan wrestled was fun to watch for a guy like myself who loves watching wrestlers who are persistent on pinning their opponent from the top position opposed to the “takedown clinic” style that more and more wrestlers implement into their games as time goes on. Jason Keenan almost resembled Dan Knight from Clinton in that regard and seemed to operate by the philosophy that Wade Schalles from the University of Pennsylvania preached of providing “intense legal discomfort” to give himself an edge and an advantage to accomplish what it was that he was best at… winning. Not to say that he was mean or dirty, for he was most certainly not that. He was just physical, tough and would put opponents through a gauntlet if he had to in order to ensure that he walked off the mat victorious.

So does Jason Keenan have a case for the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler? 119 wins, 1 loss by means of an illegal arm-bar, 4 state championships and surely passes the eye-test. Can someone provide an argument as to why on Earth he wouldn’t have a case?!

 

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Sundell and Galanakis were two elite wrestlers with one common goal and a mutual burning determination to reach it and they both had their own unique ways of attaining it.

Jesse Sundell: My style was very calculated. I was the ability to never get panicked or scared during a match. Even if I was behind, I knew I had to keep wrestling my style. If I panicked and started getting desperate I was going to take myself out of the match and I was always aware of this.

Mario Galanakis: I let things fly and didn’t think much. I just wrestled. I remember being a little nervous before the first match, but out of all the matches I ever wrestled in my entire life I have never stepped onto the mat with anyone who I didn’t believe I could beat. Losing never crossed my mind whether it was to my opponent or myself. I had full confidence in myself that I was going to win every match against Jesse. Even knowing that he was a three time undefeated state champ going for his fourth. And it was never anything personal against him, it was the challenge that fueled me!

So after months of intense flame wars on the wrestling message boards, the first battle took place at sectionals. The grueling 3 months of the regular season, in which hundreds of arguments, threats, personal attacks, troll-jobs, etc. had taken place between wrestling fans not only from Nodaway Valley and Ogden, but across the entire state, had concluded. The moment for the first battle had finally arrived.

Mario Galanakis: The first match was at sectionals and it just so happened to be at my home school of Nodaway Valley. Our gym was pretty small compared to a lot of schools, but I remember there was not an empty spot inside there including the floor. There were people from all over the state that had skipped their own sectional just to come watch this match. Just like the saying goes, to be the best you have to beat the best, and that’s what I was intending on doing that day. I won a close match that day and still to this day that is one of my most memorable matches of my entire career. I’m pretty sure it was 1-1 with maybe 30 seconds or so left and I scored a takedown to win the match at the end.

Jesse Sundell: We wrestled our first match in Greenfield. This did not go well for me. I was undefeated in my entire high school career leading up to that day which happened to be two weeks before my high school career was to conclude. Looking back on my first match, I realized that I was not prepared for it. At the time I felt confident, but I really didn’t have a game plan. There wasn’t a lot of tape available back then. I wasn’t ready for Mario to wrestle on the edge. Every shot I had on him it seemed like we would be called out of bounds. He got a takedown on me right at the end of the third and was able to hold me down to get the win.

The verdict was in. The Mario believers were correct. Mario was the real deal and was a legit threat to defeat anyone he faced and he proved this by beating who was widely believed to be and just may be the best pound for pound, class for class wrestler in Iowa high school wrestling in that era. Mario had wrestled what he described as one of the most memorable matches of his career, while Jesse had experienced a personal nightmare that would be tough for anyone to swallow, given what was on the line. But Jesse was a tough person and was hit hard, but was able to recover in a situation where a lesser man would have been broken.

Jesse Sundell: I felt a lot of mixed emotions. At first I was crushed that I wasn’t going to be able to finish my career off undefeated. I remember getting up shaking his hand and then I sat in a hall right outside their gym. The longer I sat, the more I realized that my goals and season were not over. I might have lost the chance to go undefeated but my ultimate goal was to win 4 state titles. I could sit there and cash everything in or I could get to practice and work on finishing what I had set out to do.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still think about that match a lot and at times wish I could wrestle it over, but at the same time it made me refocus and took some of the pressure off of me and let me have fun again. The next week we created a game plan and we had my step brother, Tyler Grieser, wrestle a similar style to how Mario had wrestled me the first match. We knew if we were going to be able to win I had to get some takedowns on him.

So Mario won the first match. That means he proved he belonged in the discussion with Jesse and that anyone who believed otherwise naturally accepted this as fact and did so with total peace, right? The fans no longer had anything to fight about, right? Everyone got along from this point forward, for the results were in…and those results indicated that both guys were elite. No one could possibly dispute this, right? WRONG. The arguing became more incessant. The fans inched even closer to their side of the fence. The insults became more venomous. The emotional investment multiplied as did general interest for fans on a state-wide level.

Jesse Sundell: The second match (districts) was at Guthrie Center. I remember the second match at Guthrie being the most intense, loudest environment I have ever seen in a school gym. Guthrie had bleachers brought out on the one side of the mat, so all three sides were surrounded. I remember looking back at tape and noticing everyone in that gym was watching that match. Both our fan bases were getting into it and our Superintendent had his arms around my brother to make sure he was kept in check and refrained from fighting! I had a game plan this time. My game plan the second match was to make him wrestle in the center of the mat. If he would back up to the edge, I would go back to the center and make him come back to me. I had to keep the action in the center if I was going to get TD’s. The part that stands out the most for me in the second match was getting in on a single leg and pulling him back toward the center to finish the shot. Once I finished the take down, I could feel the momentum change.

Mario Galanakis: The next week we went to Guthrie Center for districts. Another close match that came down to the wire, I think I was trailing 3-1 and I hit him with a pancake type move right at the end of the match to tie it up, but I couldn’t keep him down and he escaped to win 4-3. The atmosphere for both matches was just electric. I had never seen or experienced anything like it before and certainly haven’t since. Fans from our squads were seething with intensity, several of them having to be restrained from fighting. Fans across the state prioritized witnessing these matches over watching their own kids at Sectionals/Districts. It was insane.

So the first two anticipated battles came and went and to any wrestling fan with a pulse, they did not disappoint. The next anticipated matchup would be the Grand-Daddy of them all. At “the barn” in Des Moines the following Saturday…the state wrestling finals. By this point, the tension may not have been eased, but surely, it didn’t progress, did it? The fans could stay away from each other’s throats, at least until the following Saturday, right? Ha, well… if you think that was even a possibility of being the case, then you haven’t been reading.

Jesse Sundell: One thing that alot of my teammates/friends still talk about was a t-shirt he wore at state. Now I don’t know the whole story or if it is even true because I never saw it, but they say Mario had a T-shirt he wore at state that said “You can’t ride this Bull”. Coming from me breaking my leg my Junior year bull riding.

Mario Galanakis: The rumors about the T-shirt were 100%…true. All my Creston boys like Chris Louden, Gustafson the Larkin’s and Boone Hayes had them made after I beat him at Sectionals. Then they all wore them at state. They said “Watch Out Sundell, You Can’t Ride this Bull”…with a picture of me on them.

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I originally knew Mario as “Manolis Galanakis’s brother.” Manolis beat me in the consolation semis at state as a third grader and I never saw him again. Never heard the last name, Galanakis until 3-4 years later when Manolis’s younger brother, Mario, beat one of the best guys in our youth club, Chris Johnson (WB-ND) at AAU state. He reminded me a lot of his brother.  INSANELY tough to score on. Mario appeared to be the same way… he was also able to rack up the score with his offense. Just an incredible wrestler.

Mario Galanakis: I wrestled for the first time when I was four years old. My older brother, Manolis started doing it when he was five and I was immediately on board. My dad didn’t know anything about the sport at first so it was always my mom waking us up at five am traveling to all the local little kids meets. A few years went by and my brother and I were making a name for ourselves around the area. My dad caught the bug and started making my mom stay at home so he could take us. We were both very successful at a young age. We both made it to state every year. The best I ever got was second, losing to Trent Paulson. I’d say he was one of my bigger rivals as a kid. Having my brother, Manolis as someone to look up to and us two always trying to out-do one another is something that I believe made us both very good!

When Mario and Jesse collided, Jesse had already won three state titles already and hadn’t lost a high school match. Mario’s resume did not match Jesse’s, but he had a reputation of having an incredibly high ceiling. People knew he was really good. He had his share of believers, despite not having the resume Jesse had coming in.

Mario Galanakis: I placed fifth as a Freshman. I lost to Joe Reiter from Don Bosco in the Semis and Luke Foor from Wapello to go for fifth and sixth. Sophomore year, I was undefeated going into state and lost to Dustin Hinschberger from Belle Plain in the Quarterfinals. I came back and got third.

Jesse Sundell: I knew he was a great wrestler. He had placed all two years prior to us meeting and he had been in my bracket before and had seen the wrestlers he had defeated. I knew he was going to come at me with everything he had.

Mario Galanakis became a household name to my family when I was a sophomore in high school. The year was 1999 and one of the best things to happen to Mediapolis wrestling occurred. Mediapolis hired a new superintendent who was an avid, passionate wrestling fan and had an extensive wrestling background. His name is Fred Whipple, a former DIvision II National Qualifier, wrestling official and wrestling coach. He came to Mediapolis from Nodaway Valley. One of Fred’s sons is named Kirk who quickly became one of my best friends. When Kirk was at Nodaway Valley, he was best friends with Mario Galanakis. And he and his dad swore that Mario was one of the most gifted wrestlers they had ever seen. The guys on the Mediapolis wrestling team heard approximately 10,000 stories about Mario and what he did and/or was capable of doing. And we believed every bit of it, for the Whipple’s knew wrestling.

Fred Whipple: The seven years I spent at Greenfield-Nodaway Valley were great years. The next seven were great years. They had a rich tradition of Baier’s, Christensen’s, Swoyer’s, Benton’s, Wallace’s, Riley’s and of course Mario Galanakis. Kirk and Mario were and still are great friends as is my son-in-law, JJ Cooper (state champ from Wilton) and Mario. I loved those years and Mario was clearly a key to keeping the tradition alive. Ironically, prior to that, I was a wrestling coach at South Hamilton Jewel where I became good friends with Brian Reimers, Jesse Sundell’s coach.

When the Sundell-Galanakis debates started to unravel on the message boards, many people took the stance of, “Sundell has never lost a match and dominates everyone. Why should he worry about Galanakis? The kid is a year younger and has yet to win a title.” I understand this logic, especially since I knew precisely how good Jesse was. If the conversation were about ANY other wrestler in the state, I would have likely just thought, “stupid debate, no one will ever beat Jesse in high school, for he is the best wrestler that I’ve seen” and moved along, but this was the Mario Galanakis kid we heard so much about. And that whole year, the Whipple’s insisted that Mario was capable of going with Sundell. So I paid attention. I didn’t dare get in the middle of the arguments, for both sides were becoming progressively infuriated with each other as the year went on, but my interest was surely sparked, if not for the matchup itself, for the Jerry Springer-esque cyber-fights that took place every day on the message boards leading up to the matchup.

Jesse Sundell: It really started my Senior year. The online message boards had just started to come out. Looking back on it, sometimes I wonder if it would have exploded as big as it did if it weren’t for the message boards. Lots of people were trash-talking each other, picking sides, etc. It is crazy to think how crazy things got with Mario and I when neither one of us had done anything at all to get it started.

Mario Galanakis: I have always respected Jesse and always will. A very good person who treated me with respect as well. I had tons of respect for him back then, which may surprise people, for there was a lot of talk about us. A lot of message board flame wars about us. I was never involved in any of that and as far as I know, I don’t believe Jesse was either. Whoever it was, they sure did a good job of building up our matches!

This war was scheduled to take place in the postseason, starting with sectionals, followed by districts and if all went as everyone expected, concluding in the state finals. On paper and according to their resumes at that time, Sundell had the upper-hand, but Mario was set on changing the course:

Mario Galanakis: Going into my Junior year, Sundell was the target I was aiming for. A lot of people may not know this, but the year before, I took third in the bracket where he won his third title. And I would have wrestled him that year at state had I not been beaten in the quarters by Dustin Hinschberger from Belle Plaine. I was winning that match 4-1 with 12 seconds left and riding him out when he hit me with a whip over or something. I lost in the last seconds. Sundell beat Hinschberger in the semis and went on to win the bracket that year. Luckily I wrestled Hinschberger for third and got a little redemption back from the loss, but had my mind set on a state title that year also. I knew Sundell would be in my bracket again the next year and I was gonna prepare myself to be ready for him.

Mario had several supporters, believers, etc. throughout the entire season, but his uncle stood out as being someone who went above and beyond when it came to helping him prepare to defeat Sundell.

Mario Galanakis: My Uncle Dan Hayes helped me prepare a lot. He is Creston standouts, Boone and Beau’s dad. He is Creston state champ, Andrew Hayes’s uncle also. After my sophmore year Dan was the one getting me prepared for Sundell. I remember him making me tape a picture of Sundell that he had clipped out of the register on my bedroom door so that I would work harder that off season. He always pushed me to be better and had a huge impact on the success I had! Definitely my number one fan! He skipped Boone’s sectionals and districts that year to be at mine.

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In 1979, Jeff Kerber became the state of Iowa’s second four-time state champion. A drought that lasted 17 long years from the time that Bob Steenlage of Britt, became the first to accomplish that feat back in 1962. Kerber’s mid to late 70’s performances elevated the threshold for both greatness and perfection.  During his high school prep career, Kerber went a spectacular 126-0 between 1976-79 to become just the second multiple-state titled wrestler on record to finish a career without a loss. Got a clue as to who the first was?  Ah, yeah – Dan Gable (finished his prep career undefeated but won only 3 state titles).

At the pivitol moment in Kerber’s young wrestling journey, it just so happened that Dan Gable, was coming off his 1972 Olympic gold medal victory, and was the role model that Jeff Kerber had in mind when he began his assault on the Iowa state record books, becoming the first “undefeated” four time state champion in Iowa history in 1979… Gable provided a new model, one of inspiration that focused on dominance and perfection. It was his model of “doing BIG things” on the wrestling mat in regards to setting his goals, and ultimately becoming one of the young studs that helped Emmetsburg capture four straight class 2A team titles at the same time he was showing the rest of the Iowa wrestling world what the new standard looks like.

The sport of wrestling was beginning an evolution in the early 1970’s that would pave the way for Iowa wrestling nationally in the future, building on and using youth programs to advance the sport. Kerber would ultimately create a new “road map” for how to prepare one’s self to be a valid contender for winning a state title right out of the gate, ready to compete as a 9th grader against all comers.

The road map revolutionized Iowa wrestling and was the product of a father’s unselfish and unwavering dedication to helping his son (and anyone who wanted to come along for the ride when car space was available) advance and improve. It really was a road map, as it was a plan based on lots of travel… with the goal of gaining competition experience wrestling nationally and throughout Iowa from 3rd grade through 8th, and going to lots of camps with excellent coaches and instructors. Then bringing that knowledge back home and introducing those advanced techniques to the Emmetsburg wrestling team. It was Jeff’s dad, John and Bill Gibbons who rented a gym and held a state AAU tournament so that wrestlers from Iowa could qualify for the national tournament. And as a result, Jeff Kerber was miles ahead of his fellow freshman when the 1975-76 wrestling season began.

Raising the bar in Iowa high school wrestling is what the GOAT discussion is all about, and Jeff Kerber is THE candidate that opened the floodgates for the next round of 4-Timer’s to push through.

Over the next decade, Iowa wrestling would see five more 4-Timer’s get crowned following in the wake of Kerber’s footsteps and opening the door to their own claims as Iowa wrestling’s GOAT.

Jeff Kerber won his 1st state title in the 2A 98lbs weight class with a (1-0) decision over Jeff Hannum of Pleasant Valley in the 1976 state tournament and finishing with an unblemished record of 31-0.

In 1977, Kerber moved up 2 weight classes to the 2A 112lbs class and locked horns in the finals with 1976’s returning state champ at 105lbs – Tracy Moore of Roland Story and became a feature match of 2 state champions, both with aspirations of becoming future 4-timers. Kerber came out victorious beating Moore by a score of 6-2. This solidified Kerber’s standing as a legit contender for a 4-title crown earner. From this point on, you could bet ALL eyes would be on the young man from Emmetsburg and their program as they dominated the class for the 2A team title. Kerber again finished the year with an undefeated 31-0 record.

The next season (1978) would turn into a doozy as Kerber locked down his 3rd straight state title at 119lbs, advancing through the rounds and capping his junior season off with an 11-3 victory over Bill Pfantz of West Marshall, finishing his season with a perfect 32-0 record.

In his 1979 senior season campaign, Kerber left nothing to chance and pounded his way to that pinnacle moment by pinning his field of opponents and achieving what no one else had done in 17 years. In the finals of the 2A 126lbs weight class Jeff pinned his opponent Todd Fey of Central (Dewitt) in 5:18 and brought the full capacity crowd to their feet in a long standing ovation that celebrated his tremendous achievement with him, and his team, and of course his coach – Bob Roethler, who the E-Hawks lost for most of the 1978-79 season because of an aneurysm and just made it back via wheel chair to inspire and spur on his team! Kerber capped his final season with another perfect 32-0 record and his HS career, ending with a phenomenal 126-0 record.

During his HS career he also was a 3-time national high school champion and wrestled for the Junior World team in Mongolia in 1979.

Having watched 2 of his state titles and performances in 1977 and 1978 personally, I can attest to his tenaciousness and his technique… he was one of those wrestlers that you made time for watching his matches. I didn’t watch many lower weight kids back then, mainly because of their youth and seeming inexperience. But Jeff Kerber was different!  He wasn’t just a phenom that first year… he was impressive in a manner of wrestling maturity that separated him from the rest of the field at his weight, and you literally stopped what you were doing to watch him go about his business on the mat – and brother, “business was a booming” when it came to the talent he displayed throughout his high school career!

Jeff Kerber was the Iowa HS Wrestling GOAT of the decade in the 1970’s… there should be little to dispute that. Whether he is the all-time GOAT???  His case can be made by what he accomplished, and he definitely raised the bar for how “ELITE” level competition in Iowa is defined. Kerber was the second IA high school wrestler to join that elite group called 4x-State Champions, and the very first to accomplish that feat going undefeated!

He became the model and the “trailblazer” of his time, and an example that others used to follow in his footsteps and the new standard to measure greatness at that level, and was honored as such with his 2007 induction to the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Jeff Kerber winning 4th consecutive IA wrestling state title

Jeff Kerber at “Wrestling with Iowa” – wonderful interview!

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