I don’t know how many know this, but for the last two years I’ve written a series for another publication called Inside the Rivalry. These were posted on the other outlet, but I submitted them after I posted it on my own blogspot site in case I ever wanted to use my own material for my own site someday. With that said, I’m gonna revisit the 7-8 that I’ve done already and will do more of these.
It is always fun when two returning state champions meet up at the state tournament. Fans spend all year wondering if it’s really going to happen, or if one of them will eventually bump a weight that would be easier for them to win. It’s refreshing to see guys who are strong-willed and confident in themselves to the point where they claim a weight as their own, regardless of who they have to get through to win state again. It’s refreshing when these returning state champions take the mat with each other at the state tournament and the situation finally becomes real. Like, “holy cow…this match is actually going to happen.” Kind of like with what we saw with the historical Thomsen vs. Teske match-ups twice this year,
As exciting as it is when two returning state champions clash at state, things are brought to an entirely new level when not only do these returning state champions meet in a dual meet during the season, but they also end up meeting in the finals at Sectionals, Districts and the state wrestling tournament. Which is exactly what happened with our next rivalry: JJ Krutsinger vs. Kyle Pedretti. This was a rivalry that lasted one season…2007.
JJ Krutsinger is one of the most decorated wrestlers to go through the Waterloo Columbus program. Krutsinger started out his high school career at 119 lbs, a weight that can be rather tough for a freshman. And he did well. He placed 3rd at state that year. He spent the next three years at 125 and placed 2nd, 1st and 2nd. Krutsinger was undefeated his Junior season when he won state, which he considers to be the highpoint of his career. He finished with an outstanding record of 124-11.
When Krutsinger first started wrestling, success was anything but easy for him to accomplish. He had to work hard for it. He remembers going 2-7 in his first year as a 4th grader. He recalls getting pinned a lot. However, he gradually made progress each year and fell in love with the sport as a result. Krutsinger did not come from a wrestling family. His parents did not really know much about the sport when he went out. When he went to AAU State in middle school, he remembers a lot of fathers coaching their kids in the corner. JJ had his dad, who didn’t know what he was doing, but he stayed in the corner for support and held on to his uniform while he wrestled.
Krutsinger was impacted by every one of his coaches in one way or another. To name a few: Bernie Stroh and the coaching staff at St. John’s middle school is the man he credits with getting him to fall in love with the sport. His middle school coaches took him to his first Iowa wrestling meet. Chris Ortner and his staff in high school is another group of individuals that stick out as being influential to him. They had a way of making wrestling fun while simultaneously working hard. They also knew how to settle down a nervous Freshman. He was also heavily influenced by ex Waterloo Columbus wrestler, Kyle Forness, a four time place-winner. Growing up, Forness was the older brother of one of his best childhood friends. He was a role model that he looked up to in the way he displayed leadership and work ethic. JJ stated that he is “glad that Kyle continues to coach for Clear Creek Amana, where he continues to grow the sport.”
JJ was a part of some good teams. His freshman season, Waterloo Columbus won state and in the process, they beat a good friend of his named Aaron Jansen’s team, which was Emmetsburg. At the time, they were on quite the winning streak. To this day, JJ likes to give Jansen “stuff” about it.
After high school, Krutsinger wrestled at the University of Iowa. He never made the lineup or was in the limelight. He describes his time at Iowa as a period of his life where he learned a lot about himself.
Wrestling was mostly seasonal for Krutsinger. He would participate in a few freestyle tournaments here and there. He wrestled at Fargo. He was never successful there. He describes it as a very tough tournament.
Krutsinger also played football for two years, cross country for two years, baseball for four years, ran track for four years and went out for tennis one year, which did not make the track coach very happy. Some of his hobbies include hiking and camping with his wife and dog. He loves to go mountain biking and trail running. He also helps coach at Rocky Mountain High School when he has the occasional day off of work. Krutsinger follows sports as well, but doesn’t really have any favorite teams, moreso favorite athletes. In wrestling he likes Jordan Burroughs, in basketball he likes Lebron James, in football he likes Russell Wilson and in baseball, he is a fan of Mookie Betts.
Kyle Pedretti began wrestling as a 6th grader. He caught on quick for he qualified for AAU state as a 7th grader and won 2-3 matches and was a runner-up as an 8th grader. Some rivals he had in those days included: Blake Hilmer, Alex Stormoen, Zach Eliot, Jason Schmelzer and Johnny Roberts. Unlike Krutsinger, Pedretti has a lot of family who wrestled. His first cousin, Eric Pedretti was a state champion for Crestwood in 2003. He went on to wrestle at UNI. His older brother Josh wrestled in high school as well as his senior year at Buena Vista. His cousins Andy and Chad Breitsprecher wrestled for Central Elkader as well as his uncle Steve Pedretti (father of Josh and Eric). His uncle Danny Nielsen on his mom’s side also wrestled.
Kyle finished his high school career with a record of 170-10. He placed 3rd as a Freshman, 2nd as a Sophomore, 1st as a junior and 1st as a senior.
Kyle describes himself as fortunate enough to be on some pretty good teams in high school. He was blessed with having many influential coaches in his life. Chet Bachman, Tim Hejhal and and Heath Grimm are a few of them. Some of the wrestlers that stick out to Kyle as being most influential includes: Paul Fisk, Travis Eggers and Steve Crozier. The three of them were teammates of his who were two grades ahead of him. He describes them as being guys who were great examples of what hard work looks like and what it can accomplish. His favorite current Iowa high school wrestlers include: Colter Bye, Clay Schemmel and Kaden Anderlik.
Kyle’s favorite wrestling memory in high school was getting that state gold and his most painful memory is when he got beaten by Tyler Halversen in the finals at state as a sophomore at 103 lbs. Another good memory is placing 3rd at DII Nationals. He wrestled at Upper Iowa University.
Kyle is an avid Green Bay Packers fan and loves to go camping, kayaking, canoeing, hiking , mountain biking and snowboarding. He also likes to play disc golf.
It was 2007 when these guys collided…4 times. They were 2A wrestlers. That year in 2A, Andrew Long won his 2nd of 3 titles. Joe Colon beat Levi Wolfensperger in the finals at 2A 103 by a score of 11-9 and those two would go on to meet several more times for the next several years. Creston Orient-Macksburg won state that year and this was the year before the Ballard bunch began to emerge.
In 1A in 2007, Don Bosco won the traditional state title again. Cole Welter from Don Bosco, made his entrance into the high school state wrestling tournament in a big way when he beat fellow freshman, Deric Thomas at 1A 106. Both of those two went on to win three titles apiece. Bart Reiter won his 2nd of four titles. Marshall Koethe made the finals for the 3rd straight year as a Junior and proceeded to win his 2nd state title.
In 3A in 2007, Iowa City West won the team first place trophy. This was the year before Waverly Shellrock trotted out one of, if not the best team that this state has ever seen. Nate Moore won his first of two titles and his brother Nick Moore, a Freshman at the time, won his first of four titles.
In 2007, the Pedretti-Krutsinger rivalry was a big deal and was widely discussed amongst wrestling fans throughout the state. Wrestling fans had never seen such an intense collection of dual/sectional/district and ultimately state finals matches that were as close and hard fought as the ones we saw between Kyle Pedretti and JJ Krutsinger.
Kyle Pedretti: “JJ Krutsinger was a very tough, competitive opponent. Having that rivalry my Senior year was a lot of fun and it was great motivation to work hard every single practice. I knew of his previous results placing 3rd, 2nd, and 1st at state his first three seasons. I knew he was tough, I watched a lot of his matches at previous sectional, district, and state tournaments. When we were both juniors he beat a friend of mine, Blake Hilmer, in the sectional, district, and state finals. I knew from those matches he knew how to win tight matches and beat the same guy week after week. I knew I was in for some battles. The game plan included a lot of getting him off my head on our feet and controlling his wrists, looking for elbow control as well and finding set ups from there. Getting that first takedown was an emphasis in the plan. From week to week we worked on different things based on how the matches went so the game plan was tweaked a bit from week to week. I don’t remember all the little details but I had great coaches that had me well prepared. My style was like this: I was a tactical and smart wrestler.. I stayed in good position and had good technique. I was also good in scrambles/finding a way to score or not get scored on. Quickness and flexibility are definite advantages to my style I worked very hard, I always pushed myself. I did wrestle year round, but looking back not as much as I wish I had outside the season.. And while I was working hard, I figured JJ was as well. I did not know Krutsinger off the mat, but I had tons of respect for him.”
JJ Krutsinger:” I did not know Pedretti off the mat. First thought that comes to mind is that Kyle must have been looking for a challenge. He was the returning 2A State champ at 119 and came up to 125 knowing that I was there. I respect him for that. Unfortunately, the second thought that comes to mind is his that he won the important matches. We were 2-2 our senior year with him beating me at my high school and again in the state finals. We wrestled at Columbus High School, my school. Then 3 Saturdays in a row, each in the finals of sectionals, districts, and state. We were definitely familiar with each other by the end of the season. I knew he was a returning state champ and that I respected his wrestling ability. Whenever we wrestled, I would say it was a mixture of confidence, nerves, and excitement each time. My gameplan against Pedretti was to stay where I was good at and wrestle my match. He was good on his feet so I wanted to make sure I was the one attacking. My style consisted of this: Fireman’s and arm bars. Keeps pushing. Gas tank. Anyways, that’s what I think. I was a pretty hard worker. I would stay after practice to jump rope, run sprints, or do a quick lift. This is where maybe I should have focused more on drilling and technique afterwards.”
As mentioned, they met four times. Every match was decided by a point or two with an exception of the Sectional match, in which Krutsinger defeated Pedretti 5-1. The first time they met up was at Waterloo Columbus. Pedretti won a very close match in front of Krutsinger’s home crowd.
Kyle Pedretti: “I don’t remember the score of the match, but I know it was close. Although I won, I battled nerves in that match, big time. I wasn’t as nervous in the last three matches we had compared to this one. I was glad to get it out of the way.”
JJ Krutsinger: “The first time I wrestled Kyle on my home turf at Columbus High School I was at 99 career wins and I did not get to celebrate my 100th that night in front of my home crowd because Pedretti beat me.”
Several weeks went by and Pedretti got off to a 1-0 lead in the Pedretti vs. Krutsinger series of 4. The next time they met up was Sectionals. This ended up being the only match that ended up not being a 1 or 2 point match.
JJ Krutsinger: “I do not recall a lot of the scores, but I know that every one of them were close.”
Kyle Pedretti: “The Sectional match was probably the least intense match we had, for it wasn’t a 1-2 point match. He beat me 5-1. I didn’t wrestle my best at Sectionals. My mindset surely contributed to that. After the loss at sectionals I was pretty bummed and disappointed with my performance.”
A week passed by and Krutsinger had evened the score. They were 1-1 against each other on the year and had one and most likely two more matches to go against each other. While the score narrowed a bit from sectionals to districts, it was still Krutsinger to win a close match, one that would put him up in the series, 2-1.
JJ Krutsinger: “I felt good after that win, but I knew there was more work to do because I was going to see him again in a week.”
Kyle Pedretti: “After my loss at districts, like any loss I wasn’t happy with the outcome. I also felt immediately hungry for a rematch.”
So after districts, JJ Krusinger went ahead in their series of four matches on the year, but as he mentioned earlier, he knew there was still work to do, for it was likely that they would meet each other again at state. There was a lot on the line for both wrestlers. Not only were both of them going for their 2nd state titles, but it was widely believed that whoever won that particular match would be awarded the 2A outstanding wrestler of the year award. The match did not disappoint the crowd. It came down to the wire. It went all the way to the 30/30 second OT series.
JJ Krutsinger: “If I’m being honest, the best match we had from an outsider’s perspective was the state finals. Two returning state champs looking for their second title. I believe it went into multiple overtimes with Kyle getting his hand raised and the 2A most valuable wrestler of the tournament. After the finals loss I wanted to have a rematch, but knew it was over and had to be at peace with it. The most upset I ever felt after any loss was after losing to Kyle in the finals. I learned a lot about myself from the entire experience.”
Kyle Pedretti: “I was very pumped after I won state. I was pretty pumped after both wins against Krutsinger. I won the 2A outstanding wrestler award that year. The state finals match I would say was the most intense, it was a super tight match that came down to the wire. I think we traded leads a couple times and went into OT at 4-4. No takedown in the minute so it went to the 30/30 seconds. I was very excited to win that match.”
When both guys were asked if there was anything they would do differently if they could go back to their wrestling careers:
JJ Krutsinger: “Knowing that sometimes working smarter, not harder, can get you there. I think I focused too much on conditioning and fitness, instead of slowing down and focusing more on being technically sound.”
Kyle Pedretti: “I wish I would have done more freestyle and greco.”
When asked how wrestling has shaped them into the people they are today:
JJ Krutsinger: “It has taught me about my character and it has improved by ability to respond in challenging situations. In wrestling I have learned to be uncomfortable. In life I am still trying to push outside my comfort zone, attempting to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Knowing that when one door shuts another opens.”
Kyle Pedretti: “I always think of a Dan Gable poster that reads something like “once you have wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” I haven’t really encountered anything to disprove that. It helps me stay positive if I’m ever dealing with something challenging, mentally or physically.”
So is there a chance that we may see another match between these two? Will we see who wins best of matches?
JJ Krutsinger: “I have my coaching hat on now. Probably not, but never say never.”
Kyle Pedretti: “Could be possible, I could see myself wrestling in a few down the road.”