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Remember the Wrestler: Corey Kalina, Belle Plaine


Corey is a guy who has, in my opinion, a brilliant wrestling mind which is evident in all of his answers to the questions. He is one of the best wrestlers from that crop of ‘02 and ‘03 guys around his weight that included; Mack Reiter, Luke Reiland, CJ Ettelson, Justin Bohlke, Mario Galanakis, Dan Davila, Justin Swafford, Jacob Naig, Dusty Pollard, Andre Avila, Dominick Moyer, Jeremy Meyer, Nick Beuter, etc. The list goes on. He gave Mack Reiter one of his only 2 HS Folkstyle losses, with the other one being to Brady Dolan. He also gave Dan LeClere the only loss in HS that I am aware of.  That’s two 4 timers! I used to smile at freestyle tournaments when someone would try to go upper body with him because I knew I was about ready to watch someone get launched. This dude is awesome.

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

Coach Al Billings. He passed out wrestling practice slips EVERY WEEK to ALL of the middle school kids inviting us to workout and learn how to wrestle. His pursuit to promote and build a successful kids club (Gold Medal Wrestling Club) was the reason Belle Plaine wrestling flourished 15-30 years ago.


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

My father, Rick Kalina, wrestled in high school. He had a high winning percentage, but didn’t reach his goals of making it to the state tournament.


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I placed at AAU state all 5 years I competed at the event and I placed at the Northern Plains Regionals in Freestyle and Greco Roman numerous times. I probably wrestled Mack Reiter more times than I wrestled anyone else in my entire career. I wouldn’t call it a rivalry because it was pretty one sided, but I did get the best of him 4 times. It wouldn’t shock me if he beat me 50+ times.


What was your record in HS?

149-17. That tied the all time wins record at Belle Plaine High School at the time, but it has since been surpassed.


How did you place at state every year?

Sr. – 2nd
Jr. – 2nd
So. – 4th


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

The most adverse challenge I experienced in wrestling was injury related. My sophomore year in college I herniated a couple of cervical discs in my neck which ultimately ended my wrestling career. It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in my life. Injuries can put you in a pretty lonely place. Nobody really knows how you are truly feeling except for yourself. There is a grief model when dealing with death and I could relate that same model to losing the ability to do what I loved for 15 years. In the end, I was able to accept the outcome. I learned so much from wrestling and it prepared me well for the real world. It took me a while, but I did come to terms with the fact that there is more to life than just wrestling.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

I’d like to think that I was entertaining. I enjoyed wrestling upper body and going for big throws. I liked freestyle/greco-roman more than folkstyle. I was better on my feet than on the mat.


Who was your most influential coach?

My high school wrestling coach, Bob Yilek. He was the type of coach that was always battling in the trenches with you. He was pumping iron at 6am, running stairs at 3pm, and doing extra pull-ups and rope climbs at 6pm when practice was already over. He made it easy to want to go the extra mile to outwork your opponent and he lead by example by living a clean hard working lifestyle.


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

It was probably one of my state finals losses. I don’t remember much of either match and have never watched video of either of them. My junior year I was undefeated and ranked #1 and lost to Aaron Helmrich. He was a senior from North Linn that cut down from 119 lbs. halfway through the year. He was a very tall wrestler for 112 lbs. and his length was a huge challenge for me. It was upsetting that he was a senior and I’d never get another chance to wrestle him. My senior year I lost to another North Linn wrestler, Dan LeClere. I beat him early in the season and then he beat me in the middle of the season. He got the best of me in the state finals rubber match. All 3 of those matches were low scoring close matches. The loss as a senior was upsetting because I came to the realization that I’d never reach my goal of becoming a state champion.


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yes, I was fortunate enough to be on both a very competitive High School and College team. We brought home a lot of state tournament hardware in high school during my time at Belle Plaine that included winning the individual and dual state championships in 2001. Wartburg College won the NCAA tournament during my short career as a collegiate athlete. Both rooms had the iron sharpens iron mentality that lead to success.


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

I was a huge Iowa Hawkeye wrestling fan growing up. I was most influenced by the Brands brothers, Lincoln McIlravy, Mark Ironside, Eric Juergens, and Doug Schwab.


How loyal and supportive is the Belle Plaine fanbase? I read somewhere that even in “down” years for wrestling in Belle Plaine, the fanbase doesn’t let up at all… state wrestling is still approached as a holiday and everyone in the community vocally supports their wrestlers. How true is this?

I remember going to the high school state tournament as a young middle schooler and thinking it was like going to a 3 day rock concert. It was very motivating being downtown and I wanted to be one of those rock stars on the mat someday. Yes, it felt like the whole town was there and it a was a very big deal. While competing I remember being able to find the Belle Plaine section after a win because they were very loud and supportive. Belle Plaine has a unique culture where even in “down” years the fanbase still gets excited for the state tournament.


How would the crop of guys in your era stack up against the current guys?

One thing that wrestling has taught me is humility. With that being said, I think the advances in training and nutrition would give the current guys the edge. I can’t even imagine how awesome it would have been to be to be able log in to Flowrestling and watch the unlimited amount of training and technique videos or studying the Russians on Youtube. I remember looking at books and quarterly wrestling magazines and trying to learn technique from pictures!


*** NOTE: I absolutely LOVE Corey’s answer to the following question. When I read this, I caught myself thinking “YEAH! Put that ignorant interviewer in his place!” And then I’d remember that I was the interviewer. PERFECT answer to a stupid question that I don’t think I will ever ask anyone again.

If the topic of “best wrestler to not win a state title” is mentioned, it won’t be long before someone says your name. How cool is it that despite falling short of your goals, you are still remembered as one of THE guys of your era?

I don’t let the fact that I didn’t win a state title define my wrestling career. I had a lot of good wins in high school – I gave Mack Reiter and Dan LeClere each 1 of their very few high school losses. Not too many people can say they beat two 4-timers. I won the Cliff Keen Tulsa Classic my senior year where I defeated a young Jordan Leen (future Cornell University NCAA champ). I was a 2x Junior National All-American (2nd & 3rd). I definitely had results that I can be proud of.


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

I’m still and always will be a huge Iowa Hawkeye wrestling fan. Spencer Lee, Austin Desanto, and Alex Marinelli are my current favorites on the team.


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

I would have tried a little harder to get bigger. I lifted a lot, but I lifted for strength and physique instead of lifting for weight gain. My diet didn’t put the necessary pounds on either. I wrestled 125 lbs. in college, but only weighed about 120 lbs. on full feed.


What was your best wrestling memory/accomplishment?

Wrestling in the Junior National finals against future Olympian, Sam Hazewinkel. I remember doing introductions and running out to Kenny Loggins – Danger Zone. I was on cloud 9 thinking I was one bad dude. Then I got launched to cloud 10 by Sam. The match didn’t go as planned and I was tech-falled in the first period.


How hard did you work?

I had a great work ethic growing up. I was fortunate enough to be around coaches and teammates that were hard working as well. That made the journey a lot easier. I would lift weights 3 mornings a week and wrestle 5-6 days a week. I also did a lot of extra running on my own to keep in top cardio shape.


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

Dustin Hinschberger, Nick Lee, Brad Stockton, Shawn Monroe, Mack Reiter, Luke Reiland, Daniel Davila, Dominick Moyer, Aaron Helmrich, Moza Fay, Dan LeClere, and Justin McClintock.


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

I wrestled almost year round. I took a break from August to October. Freestyle and Greco-Roman were my preferred styles. I probably got in around 80 matches a year between all 3 styles.


Did you wrestle after high school?

I wrestled for D3 powerhouse Wartburg College for a little over a year.


What other sports did you play?

I ran cross country all 4 years of high school to stay in shape for wrestling.


What are your favorite sports teams?

University of Iowa wrestling, University of Iowa football, and New York Yankees baseball.


What are your hobbies?

I enjoy watching and following international and college wrestling, watching Iowa football, and NY Yankees baseball. but I spend most of my free time with my wife Alex and our two young daughters. They keep me very busy.


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

I think Dan Gable said it best, “Once you have wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” Wrestling has humbled me. It has taught me commitment, patience, and perseverance.


What do you do now?

I currently reside in North Liberty, IA with my wife Alex and our two young daughters Kendall (5) and Hazel (2). I have worked in the sales department with GEICO for over 10 years now.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

Just as a loyal Iowa Hawkeye and Team USA fan.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Al Billings December 17, 2019, 1:29 am

    Great article on Cory, I have great memories of working with him, he is a wonderful example of a young man that grew through wrestling. He is a real credit to his family, school and community.

    • Rico Swaff December 17, 2019, 5:10 am

      I agree 100%…

      And I thought it was really cool where he wrote about you handing out fliers as much as you did… Aspiring coaches and wrestling advocates should take note, for that’s how you start a wrestling hotbed like Belle Plaine!!! Good stuff.

  • Al Billings December 17, 2019, 1:49 am

    I have a lot of great memories of working with Corey, he worked hard and was a lot of fun! He is a great example of how wrestling can help build young men build character, a since of responsibility and love of family. He is a real credit to his family, school and community. Thank you for this article he is very deserving.

  • Adam Papesh December 21, 2019, 8:55 am

    Great write up !!

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