Ok, so to a Southeast Iowan wrestler like myself, who idolized the people on this poster, this is absolutely awesome…and if you don’t agree, well then, you need “awesome” lessons to learn what “awesome” entails, for there isn’t a better word to describe this. There are so many cool things I can point out about this group of guys….I’m gonna intend to do just that. And holy cow, SEI was STACKED in that era.
Let’s start with the top row, Jesse Schadt on the far left from Mt. Pleasant and Bill Plein on the far right side.
Jesse Schadt: People from Mt. Pleasant still talk about how good this dude was. He qualified at least 3 times. I don’t believe he placed at state and am unsure what happened there, but I know he qualified at least 3 times and universally has the respect of every Mt. Pleasant wrestling fan to this day.
Coach Bill Plein: I am sure he was featured on several All-KBUR teams. He loves his athletes and his athletes love him. He has been very successful at the 1A and 2A level, I believe being a state champ in both…multiple times. He is now the Head Coach at West Burlington-Notre Dame which became 3A for the first time this year and they have a nice, nice program in the works…. If this team at Notre Dame reels in the accolades like I believe they will, he will be the only coach in Iowa High School wrestling history that I know of who was as a successful coach in all 3 classes. There is a very good chance of this happening. He and his partner in crime, John Siegel have always been able to get the absolute most of their athletes. Their styles complement each other perfectly to produce complete wrestlers. They haven’t always had the best athletes or most natural talent, but they have made the most of what they’ve had to work with year after year and have won several state titles as a result. Every person who was coached by the man, loves him.
2nd Row from Top, L-R: Matt Nelson (Ft. Madison), Josh Dorothy (Mt. Pleasant), Britt Marolf (Columbus Jct.), JD Pugh (Columbus Jct.), Nick Flach (Ft. Madison)
Matt Nelson: This guy was a very solid lighter guy who qualified for state 2-3 times and placed 5th or 6th twice.
Josh Dorothy: This guy was nothing short of a legend when he was in high school at Mt. Pleasant. He was their wrestling star for years. Like Shadt, people still talk about how good he was in the Mt. Pleasant wrestling community. I want to say that he placed 2-3 times, top 3 a couple times. He was good. I remember watching him destroy other good wrestlers.
Britt Marolf: Britt and his younger brother, Nick were awesome wrestlers from Columbus Jct. Britt placed at least once, maybe 2 times. I am actually trying to get ahold of him right now, for I am going to start another series called, “Remember the Wrestling Club,” where I will post stories about all the wrestling clubs that have come and gone and stuck around in the state of Iowa over the years such as Cedar Valley Wrestling Club, DC Elite, Sebolt, Young Bucks, High Altitude, Porcelli, Matpac, Young Guns, etc. Britt’s father was a key figure in one of the oldest wrestling clubs in Iowa wrestling history. This was the “Moscow Wrestling Club.” It consisted of a group of kids from Columbus Jct., Wilton, West Liberty, Muscatine, etc. They had really sharp black and grey singlets and if you had one of them in your bracket, you knew you had a match on your hands. It’s difficult for a guy from my era to think about the Marolf family without thinking of Moscow. Whoever knows this guy, let him know I am trying to get ahold of him about that.
JD Pugh: There is so much I can say here. I’ll save most of it for a later time. He is one of the most legendary wrestling figures in Southeast Iowa wrestling history. He was a 3-4 time placer and made the finals twice, winning it as a Senior. He is the younger brother of Randy. Catastrophically, he passed away in an automobile accident not long after high school. I’ll never forget when I heard the news. I was at a wrestling tournament that was starting to become heated up with people yelling at each other, bickering, fighting, etc. when a teammate of his who is actually on this poster, was being asked questions about JD’s condition, and the guy said, “I can’t even talk right now. I am in shock. I don’t even know how to make sense of the world right now.” It was that moment where I realized something terrible must have happened to JD. And when news spread, noone in the gym bickered, fought, argued, etc. with opposing fans…everyone was in a state of shock and grief…the place went from totally dysfunctional to united when the news hit. It was the saddest day in Southeast Iowa wrestling history, that I recall anyways. On a sidenote, I was so glad that he avenged the loss he took in the finals as a Junior a week later at the state duals.
Nick Flach: Ask anyone from Ft. Madison about Nick Flach and they will tell you that the dude was like a superhuman. He was able to destroy everyone he wrestled at will. He was an incredibly gifted athlete and a gamer…he did things that you just didn’t see other guys doing, for they weren’t capable of it. Seriously…wrestlers in Ft. Madison talk about Nick Flach as if he were a generational talent and the evidence support those claims given the fact that he placed 3-4 years and won 2 titles.
2nd Row From Bottom, L-R:
Joel Baker (Mediapolis), Rocky Hamilton (Wapello), Damone Manning (Burlington) and Jason Crooks (Ft. Madison)
Joel Baker: A 3 time state qualifier from Mepo. He placed 4th and 3rd at state. One of his most notorious matches was when he pinned Justin Stanley from Wilton at the state tournament. Stanley rarely lost and held the career wins record for a couple years. Stanley is actually one of the best technicians/athletes I’ve seen. Baker is one of Mepo’s ULTIMATE TRIO of Iowa Conference JV Champs, and he did it twice (it’s a tougher tournament than people realize). Another member of the trio is on this poster as well and the 3rd member is the man who is writing this article. 🙂 Baker wrestled at Simpson after high school.
Rocky Hamilton: If you had only been around Rocky for say, one dual meet, you’d probably still remember him to this day because he was a big-time exciting wrestler and had a big-time personality. Was never afraid to express himself or say what he thinks or wear his emotions on his sleeves and it was straight-up refreshing. The dude was fun, not only with his superb wrestling, but with his personality. He is a guy who I will reference if I feel like I need to keep myself in check with how I am covering wrestling and want an honest opinion from someone…because he will give me his opinion with no problem and he’s a smart dude, so his insight is valuable. You can read his “Remember the Wrestler” by clicking here.
Damone Manning: I had no idea Damone wrestled. He is my cousin. I’m sure you all already knew that since we look so much alike, but for real, he is my cousin and I had no idea he wrestled, let alone that he must have been pretty good to make the KBUR team. He married my biological cousin and they had a son together named Damone Manning Jr. who qualified for state for Burlington about 10 years ago. He’s a cool dude.
Jason Crooks: Jason Crooks is a guy my family rooted for every time he took the mat, considering it wasn’t against a Mepo guy. There is a reason for this. If it weren’t for Jason Crooks’s father, Ron, it’s likely that you wouldn’t have ever heard of a Swafford stepping on the wrestling mat. Ron Crooks was the head coach for Mediapolis before Coach Dan Cummings took over in 1979 or 1980. My dad and his 2 brothers, Kevin and Brian were basketball players until Ron Crooks persuaded them to give wrestling a try. And they all 3 became state qualifiers and all of them site Ron Crooks as one of the most influential people in their lives. So Jason Crooks’s dad is the reason why Mediapolis has had Swafford wrestlers. He used to write my brother Justin and I very heartfelt letters when he would read in the newspaper about what we were up to on the wrestling mat and it meant a lot to us. And I haven’t even started to describe how good his son, Jason Crooks was. Jason placed 3 times and won state twice. I never saw him lose. Never saw him come close to losing, ever. I run into him every now and then and if it’s a wrestler at any level who makes me feel almost “starstruck,” it’s Jason Crooks… the Crooks family as well as the Cummings family are like demigods to us. Incredibly nice person, too.
Bottom Row, L-R: Bobby Forseen (Columbus Jct.), Randy Pugh (Columbus Jct.), Brandon Cummings (Mediapolis), Dustin Graber (Mt. Pleasant), Jason Payne (Columbus Jct.)
Bobby Forseen: Another guy my brother Justin and I really looked up to growing up. He was in our youth wrestling club when we were real young and was one of the best leaders I was ever in the same room as. He placed at state 3 times, was a state finalist and is one of the most well-remembered wrestlers to go through SEI, by all SEI wrestlers, regardless of school. Universally well-liked by everyone, it seems. He is a great dude from a great wrestling family. He was highly influential in training his nephew, Sawyer Farris of New London, who was a state champ, 4 time placer and 2 time finalist. Bobby was the 2nd “Remember the Wrestler” that we posted and you can read that by clicking here.
Randy Pugh: I’ve never met Randy, but several people who I am close to think the world of him. He was at the start of what ended up being a pretty lengthy pipeline of wrestlers from SEI who went on to wrestle at UNI. I think it all started with Ryan Cummings from Mepo in ’93-94. Then Randy Pugh, Jason Payne, Justin Swafford, Seth Noble, Seth Pugh maybe?, Adam Drain and of course, Drew Foster. Randy was the man who recruited everyone from SEI who came after him, for he is now a long-time assistant coach at UNI. He placed 3rd at state and won it, I believe. I never saw the guy even close to losing. He did well on the international scene and placed 4th at Nationals for the Panthers. You can tell that this guy has a lot of SEI pride given the fact that he always recruits the area and takes them under his wing. Just look at how happy he was when Drew Foster won nationals.
Brandon Cummings: When Brandon was a Senior, he was so cool that everyone wanted to be like him. He was an all-around stud athlete. In fact, he was the All-Hawkeye Athlete of the Year when he was a Senior. When he pitched, he had a unique way of winding up and delivering the baseball. I remember every kid who pitched in JH at the time, me being one of them, trying to emulate his style. His dad is Hall of Fame coach, Dan Cummings…which was my wrestling coach. Love the guy as a coach and a person. I don’t recall a time in my life where “Brandon Cummings” wasn’t a part of my vocabulary, for my grandma McLaughlin loved him so much and had pictures of the Cummings bros posted all over her refrigerator. The Cummings family lived right next door to my grandma and grandpa McLaughlin and they were all very good neighbors to them. When my grandma got older, she sadly developed a condition called agoraphobia, which essentially means that she had a fear of leaving the house. All 3 Cummings boys made life better for her by visiting with her regularly and it meant the world to her and in turn, meant the world to our entire family. Brandon qualified for state 3 times and placed 3rd as a Senior…he was good enough to win it each year. And the dude is funny as hell.
Dustin Graber: To be honest, I don’t remember much about this cat, but I think he was pretty good. A state placer, I think?
Jason Payne: I don’t know if I’ve met anyone who’s name fits them so well. Jason Payne…sounds intimidating…Jason…as in Friday the 13th-Jason Voorhies….Payne…as in making someone hurt. Well, it makes sense because he intimidated the hell out of anyone brave enough to look his way in high school. The dude could make you want to run for the hills with a simple glare. Guys used to feel straight-up scared to wrestle him and if they weren’t scared, they felt hopeless…and hopeless was usually what they did, in fact end up becoming when they’d step on the mat with him. He was an upper-weight guy who placed 6th-1st-1st and was an AA for UNI. Like Cummings, he was the All-Hawkeye Athlete of the Year himself as a Senior. He became Mediapolis’s head wrestling coach after Cummings retired and coached my brother Brennan in the finals his Junior and Senior years. My brothers love him to death. My entire family really likes him. I remember when he first started coming in the room, it felt surreal talking to the dude, for I remember everyone being scared to death of the guy because he treated every opponent he faced as if they were insulting him by stepping on the mat with him. Just tore people apart. I learned though that he’s a very nice dude with a lot to say. Has his own spin on things and it’s great. He’s been very influential in my brothers’ lives and I think that’s awesome.
- Interesting note…The last 3 head coaches for Mepo were Ron Crooks, Dan Cummings and current coach, Jason Payne…. this poster has connections to all 3. Ron’s son, Dan’s son and Jason himself.