One of the weirdest parts of my own wrestling career is this: The win that brought me the most joy in high school is a win that I don’t really like thinking about as much these days because I feel like I robbed someone who may have been more deserving given their attitude. Matt Doebel and I met in the quarterfinals at the state tournament our Senior seasons. He was ranked 3rd and had the #2 ranked guy first round. I was ranked #5 and had the #4 guy first round. The winner of this quarter with the #2-5 guys would face 3 time state champion, Cole Pape in the semifinals. How is THAT for a bad draw?! I pinned the #4 guy first round and Doebel had one of the most impressive wins of the first round when he dominated the #2 guy. So it was time for he and I to wrestle in the quarters and I wasn’t feeling well. I battled nerves terribly before matches and sometimes it was too much to handle and I would run totally out of gas in the match because I was so worked up. This felt like one of those matches. My adrenaline was so cranked up that I felt like I was going to get sick. And I looked over at Doebel warming up…for one, he looked huge. For another, I could tell…he was in the zone. He was ready to go. I was trying to avoid disaster at this point. And words can not express how badly I wanted to do well at this tournament. I had a very frustrating HS career and I wanted to cap it off with some hardware.
So Doebel and I got called to the mat and I started feeling a little better, but had to walk to the mat as if I didn’t care and was forcing myself to not think about the situation, for I knew my nerves were in jeopardy of ruining everything. We shook hands and off the whistle he immediately hit a low single and we went towards the out of bounds line and he finished the takedown, got his two and tried hooking up a cradle immediately when we went out of bounds. I walked back to the center thinking to myself, “my God, this dude is on fire right now and I feel flat as hell. Not a good start.” Started on bottom and I decided to do this little thing that I did often in practice and meets, where I would clear my near arm and try to bait them into following it so I could catch their elbow with my right hand, pull it towards me, and strike with my left-sided headlock. It worked quite a bit of the time. Sometimes it didn’t. I knew that it wouldn’t hurt to try something like that immediately because my first impression of how the match felt was not good. It worked. I barely caught his arm and the top of his head and I threw him in a headlock. I ended up recording the fall in :54. A weight had been lifted off of me. There had been tons of pressure placed on me to place or win state since I started preparing for HS and it felt like the roadblocks were always positioned in a manner that barricaded me. Well, I finally got through it. I jumped up and down with excitement, hugged my coaches, pumped my fists….and Doebel… Doebel got up with an understandably distraught look on his face, looked me in the eye and said, “good job,” shook my coaches hands and walked off…I just crushed this guy’s dreams and his heart was likely broken and I am there jumping around…and his response to show the best sportsmanship I had ever seen.
In the semis, I didn’t wrestle well against Pape. I kept trying to throw him. It was stupid. I didn’t want the matchup and was pissed that I had to wrestle him in the semis after winning my tough quarter. He beat me soundly. Went to the backside and got hit in a headlock myself in the semi-consoles when I was leading…crazy how that worked out. Meanwhile, Doebel dominated everyone on the backside on his way to the 3rd place match, which he ended up winning. Doebel got 3rd. I got 6th. Doebel beat 2 guys who placed in the top 6 the year before and dominated them. It was impressive. I swear, the only time he got out of position all tournament was the millisecond that he got out of position against me when I hit the headlock. If he would have beaten me in the quarters and wrestled Pape in the semis, he would have done just fine. He certainly wouldn’t have given Pape the respect I gave him while wrestling him.
Doebel and I talked quite a bit at the Grand March and the Awards Stands. Very cool person. He made the comment that he wished he would have beaten me because he WANTED to wrestle Pape…in which I didn’t want to wrestle him. It was that comment that made me really feel bad for him in this situation. He deserved that match against Pape. He would have fared better than I did. I robbed Doebel of his goal in that match. He deserved it so much more than I did and I want everyone to know that. I wish I would have headlocked somebody else. I have a tremendous amount of respect for this guy after how he handled all of that and how he acted towards me afterwards. You hear it sometimes that wrestling is not fair and it is true. Wrestling was not fair to Matt Doebel that week of state our Senior years. However, I don’t think it has gotten him down in the long-run, for he has gone on to be a very hard-working, respectful and influential person.
What made you start wrestling?
My dad and Gary Zimmerman used to coach a small group of wrestlers known as “The Stingers”. We spent a lot of the early days practicing in basements and traveling in the back of a van.
Do you have any relatives who wrestled? How did they do?
My brothers rob and Dave. Rob was a state qualifier. He has two sons that wrestle for Wartburg now. Dave was a 4 time state qualifier and a state champion. He also placed 4th in the nation in college.
How did you do in youth? Any rivals there?
I was pretty decent as a youth wrestler. It seemed like I always ran into one of the Sturm brothers. I wrestled against Brad Helgeson and Brad Asche a lot as well.
What was your record in high school?
How did you do at state?
Did you ever deal with any moments of extreme adversity and if so, how did things turn out?
Sectionals my junior year we’re tough for me. Won sectionals my sophomore and placed third at districts so I felt pretty good going into sectionals my junior year, but it didn’t work out for me. My senior it would have to be coming back and placing third after losing my second match at state.
Who was your most influential coach in wrestling?
Mark Doebel. He was in my corner every match growing up and it was pretty amazing that Weber let him take my corner for my final high school match going for third at the State tournament.
Was your team competitive?
We weren’t bad. My freshman year we placed fifth in the state as a team. Never placed again after that but we won our fair share.
Who were the most influential wrestlers for you growing up?
Probably would be my brothers. I spent a lot of long days watching the two of them wrestle.
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
I don’t really have anyone I’m following currently.
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
Probably my junior year at sectionals. I was having a good year and it didn’t end the way I thought it would.
Would you change anything about your wrestling career?
Honestly there’s not much I would change. I enjoyed my high school career. I wish I would have taken my college wrestling more seriously. I had some great wrestlers in the room with me and I probably could have been a lot better if I had put in some more effort.
What is your favorite memory of high school wrestling?
Best memory was walking in the grand march in the barn my senior year.
Who were some of your most notable rivals growing up?
That’s a tough one. I don’t have anyone that stands out for me of course I was never very good at keeping up on my competition. My dad usually informed of who I was about to go against and how I had done against them in the past.
Who is the fiercest competitor you faced?
I wrestled against Luke Moffit as a freshman. I didn’t realize how good someone could be before facing him. It was a real eye opener.
How do you feel like the guys from this era would do against the guys from your era?
Idk. It seems like everyone always thinks their era was the best but there are some tough kids wrestling right now. The sport has changed a lot and I’m not sure how the junk I used to hit would hold up.
Did you wrestle all year round or was it seasonal?
I did one year of freestyle but it wasn’t for me.
Did you wrestle in college?
I wrestled a few years at BV but never really did a lot of damage at the collegiate level.
How would you describe your style?
My style was pretty junkie. I just did what felt right. Sometimes it worked other times I put myself in danger. I wasn’t one of those hard nose bulldozers.
Did you play any other sports?
I played some football and ran track.
Did you have good practice partners in the Clear Lake room?
In high school I was fortunate enough to have Andy Thompson, Alex Ibarra, and the Viet twins to push me my freshman year.
How proud are you to be a part of a program like Clear Lake with such rich wrestling tradition?
I’m proud to be from clear lake. Weber had a hell of a program and a lot of great athletes came out of that school district.
What are your favorite sports teams?
I don’t really watch sports. I’m one of those weird art guys.
What are some of your hobbies?
I co-teach some art at the high school level and still create in my free time. I try to run and bike when I can but it’s definitely harder with kids and with all the extra body weight I’ve accumulated over the years.
Has wrestling effected how you are as a person today?
Wrestling is one of those sports that stays with you. I think it helped me live a healthier lifestyle that’s stayed with me in my older years. I cant seem to stay away from the room and still continue to coach at the high school level and I help out with youth wrestling. I’m literally sitting at a youth tournament with my son right now as I answer these questions.
What do you do now?
I taught elementary art for 10 years and now I’m an instructional coach at storm lake high school. I worked as a tattoo artist for a few years after college.
Are you still involved with wrestling?
Yep. Talked about that a bit in an earlier question. It’s in my blood. I’ll never not have something to do with wrestling.
How did you develop your cradle?
It was just something I developed over the years. Thompson used to hit that cow catcher and showed me how to do it so the guy would prefer to be pinned. I kind of took that and applied to my cradle.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Stay with it. Regardless of how you do it will make you a better person
Would you ever wrestle at an old timers tournament?
You might see me at an old timer tournament but I would in the corner for a buddy. No way I’m lacing up again lol.