Which of your kids wrestled or wrestles? How have they done in the sport?
Our only son, Kyler, is the only one of our kids who has wrestled.
How has he done?
That question opens a can of worms! The honest answer is all the way from really, really badly to fantastically. Kyler has been lucky enough to wrestle locally, regionally, and nationally. In addition to his high school career, he was able to compete as an individual or as part of a team in Tulsa, Hawkeye and Winter Nationals, King of the Mountain, VAC Duals, Michigan Duals, and Fargo to name a few. He was Spirit Lake Park’s 2019 State Champion and now has the opportunity to be wrestling at Minnesota State-Mankato.
Did you grow up with wrestling? What got you and your sons into the sport?
My dad and my uncle started the wrestling program at Kingsley-Pierson in 1965. Some of my earliest memories include waiting for him to return home from from meets or tournaments late at night in the dead of winter and impatiently waiting for my State Wrestling t-shirt every year when he got back from Des Moines. I was at practices, ran bout sheets, and sat in on some pretty interesting and heated seeding meetings as a little girl. I also remember every inch of small gymnasiums going absolutely crazy during rivalry meets between Kingsley-Pierson and Woodbury Central, including vivid memories of my Aunt Corrine, who is devoutly Catholic and weighing not even 100 pounds, “cheering” right in there with the best of them!
My dad and my brother Jake got Kyler interested in the sport, basically on the living room floor during holidays and family get-togethers. Wrestling was not a sport at Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn when my husband went to high school there and the school, sadly, just lost their wrestling program this year. So, that dynamic created our unusual situation of the “wrestling dad” basically knowing very little about the sport as Kyler began his journey.
What are some proud wrestling mom moments that stick out to you for each kid?
I would say that overall, seeing the progression of an innocent and wide-eyed 6-year old beginning wrestler through a battle-tested and realist state champion is an amazing journey to reflect on. During Kyler’s very first tournament, he fell victim to a vicious head lock and got pinned. It is true that Brent had to pull him out from under the bleachers to finish the tournament!
One “proud” wrestling mom moment is from Tulsa. Kyler had a couple of grinders and came to ask for some ibuprofen. I reached into my purse and gave him a couple of pills. Awhile later, I glanced into my bag and wondered why my women’s daily vitamin bottle was at the top of the bag and quickly figured out that I had dosed him up with women’s vitamins. I figured he needed the real ibuprofen so I had to come clean. After I told him of my mistake, Kyler looked at me and said, “Mom, what’s going to happen to me?!?”
Are you a crazy wrestling mom or pretty well-grounded?
If we put this up for a vote, I’m quite sure it would be a landslide as a Crazy Wrestling Mom. Not even close. Probably a little misunderstood, but still…
Do you like how the sport has shaped your kids as individuals off the mat as well as on it?
From my perspective, there is no one thing that has had more influence on who Kyler is today than the sport of wrestling. Life is hard. You usually get out of something what you put into it. Everybody doesn’t get a trophy. Don’t quit. The list can go on and on where you can show parallels between life and wrestling. I think about the relationships Kyler has developed because of the sport; his coaches, his friends and social network, our friends and social network, his college… Wrestling has basically shaped it all.
So was your reaction to Kyler winning state as calm as your husband’s reaction or were you a little more vocal? The clip of your friend’s reaction that went around on Twitter was hilarious.
There is not one person on earth that is as calm and has as steady of a temperament than my husband. How does he do it? No one really knows. So, it goes without saying that I was quite a bit more vocal than Brent. (For the gentleman sitting in front of me, I am really sorry about the repeated assault that I put upon your shoulders!) The thing is, at that State Championship moment, I wore everything on my sleeves. Wells Fargo is the most unforgiving building. The same place that gave us a deep, dark disappointment and stone-cold failure also gave us a culminating and thrilling victory that was years in the making. To see his achievement, with all of the demons and all of the questions and all of the agonizing anticipation, and with every person on this earth that meant anything to us there with us in some fashion, will never get old!
Were you a wrestling manager or cheerleader or anything when you were in school?
I was a high school wrestling and football cheerleader and also cheered in college.
Would you have wrestled if given the chance in HS? Do you feel like you could wrestle now if you had to from watching?
I would not have wrestled competitively if given the chance. It may not be a popular opinion, but I choose to have a more traditional view of wrestling and gender roles. I would also add that for those females who have the choice and do wrestle today, go for it!
I’ve learned from the living room practice sessions that my stance sucks. I also had to tap out a couple of years ago but still get the duck under and gut wrench when I go in for a hug these days.
Who are some influential people in the wrestling scene who have made a positive impact on your family?
I can’t say enough about the structure and guidance that Terry Pack at Legends of Gold provided for us. We live in Northwest Iowa which is in No-Man’s Land. The opportunities that we had beyond basic, local training were/are hard to come by. We chose to make the commitment to drive 100 miles each way to Beresford, South Dakota to provide an expanded opportunity for Kyler under Terry’s guidance. Terry provided us with the best technical expertise and paired it with in-your-face realism that was both necessary and priceless. While there, Kyler was able to interact with the biggest past, current and future names that wrestling has to offer. My take from what Kyler has told us is that TJ Williams was one of his all-time favorite clinicians and that he laughs the most when he talks about practice sessions with Mike Mena.
In a different way, Coach Andrew Lundgren at Spirit Lake is the finest example of a coach and upstanding human being that you could imagine. With all of the pressures that kids face today and in the presence of having substantial goals with very little room for error, having our son surrounded by a constant, humble, supportive and Christian person like Coach Lundgren was absolutely critical to Kyler’s success.
When did you notice Kyler stepping it up a level in his wrestling game? Was it a gradual or immediate process?
Kyler’s wrestling has been an evolution, without any doubt. For instance, the first time he entered AAU districts, I don’t think he won a match. Then the next year he almost qualified for state. The next year, he qualified but didn’t place. Then, he placed. Eventually as an 8th grader, he won an AAU state championship. He probably made the biggest relative jump in the 5th to 6th grade which coincided with his involvement at Legends of Gold. Probably from 8th through today, we see him making those incremental adjustments, getting smarter about match strategy and not always swinging for the fence.
Did you play any other sports growing up?
I went to a small high school where everybody basically played every sport. I did also play softball in college.
Where does “watching your sons wrestle” rank in your favorite all time memories of your life?
The whole of our 2019 Iowa State Wrestling Tournament can’t be topped at this time. There is a lot to everyone’s journey and Kyler is no exception. Kyler’s goal was to be a State Champion. He placed 4th as a freshman, posted a well-documented DNP has a sophomore, and placed 2nd (right where he probably should have placed) as a junior. He had one more chance to fulfill his dream in February with no mulligans left. His best friend and close family fried, Kory Van Oort, also had all of his chips on the mat next to Kyler on finals night. To have it all come together—to deliver a whooping AND propel his team to a runner-up finish AND have Kory also win just moments later, was just priceless.
How crucial of a role does the wrestling mom play?
Oh boy! I am a Medical Technologist by trade. Never did I anticipate being an administrative assistant, travel agent, scheduler, strategist, nutritionist, weight loss consultant, scout, psychologist, trainer, coach, and mother all-in-one!
Any advice to other wrestling moms out there?
Last spring, I stumbled on a Facebook post from a wrestling mom (who I don’t personally know but we have common friends). She wrote about how Little Johnny, who was in elementary and was 70-some pounds, finished his wrestling season with a couple hundred matches and like a 60 or 70% winning percentage. The post was several paragraphs long and the little boy really loved wrestling and his wrestling bag with all of the pins on it.
Look, wrestling is hard enough. It takes enough time. It takes enough money. It takes enough energy. It takes enough emotion. It takes enough pressure. But please, don’t forget to buy him the fishing pole.