You know what’s my favorite thing about Lisbon’s legendary Light brothers of the late 80’s/early 90’s? Their names. Holy cow, they have some tough sounding names. To start, their last name is “Light.” That is so fitting for Lisbon, think about it…. LIsbon, LIons, LIght. Kind of cool. Growing up, I always affiliated that name with being tough because they literally did make it part of their lifestyles, to light people up on the mat. They beat the daylights out of pretty much everyone. And all 3 brothers as well as their cousin Vance have tough sounding first names that is given an extra edge by only having one syllable. Shane Light. Zach Light. Their cousin, Vance Light. And the toughest sounding name of them all, Ike Light.
The name, “Ike” always sounded tough to me. I don’t know why. I think there was this huge, mean dog that was always hasslin’ Donald Duck and his name was Ike. Or maybe I thought Ike Turner… kind of difficult to not think of someone getting their ass kicked when you hear his name. I was going to name my son Ike. All three times. Problem was, I had 3 girls. I’m the oldest of 4 boys and father of 3 girls. “Ike” was my front-runner for a boy’s name. You know why? Because it sounds tough. I want my son to have a name that appears terrifying to opponents when they read it on a wall chart. With that said, I wonder if any kid who didn’t know Ike Light beforehand ever looked at their wall chart before competition started at a tournament, saw that they had to wrestle Ike Light and got scared before even knowing the dude because he has such a tough sounding name. They probably had a conniption when they found out that Ike more than lived up to the tough sounding name. Something about those tough sounding Lisbon names. The Light’s, Casey Baxa, Tate Stamp, Royce Alger, etc. A Lisbon guy named Shea Stamp was one of the best guys in my grade in youth and he and I had a little rivalry. Reading his name on wall charts wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience, for his name is so tough that my mom and dad named one of my baby bro’s Shea… They got that name from Shea Stamp. Seriously. The Swaff’s are unapologetic, stone-cold, Lisbon name stealers, I guess.
Heck, maybe growing up and hearing Ike Light stories from my dad and uncle is the reason I associate that name with being tough. Probably is.
When the topic of GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) Iowa High School wrestler gets brought up, a large percentage, especially those from that era will say that they believe Jeff McGinness from Iowa City High is the best ever. When McGinness was asked about this very topic and how he sees himself in that mix, his response was something along the lines of, “it is difficult for me to think of myself as the best to ever do it in Iowa, for my entire HS career I wasn’t even considered the best in my grade. In fact, I wasn’t considered the best at my weight every year. A lot of people thought Ike Light from Lisbon was better.” That just goes to show you how high of a regard Ike Light was and still is held in amongst wrestling fans.
I don’t know Ike. I’ve never met him. Have just heard stories. But a lot of what I wrote in his brother, Shane’s intro applies to Ike as well:
One of the craziest things about doing the “RTW” series is talking to some of these guys who were more or less… folk heroes to me growing up. Like the Light family. One of my earliest wrestling memories is going with my dad to New London HS Wrestling practices, where his brother, Brian was (and still is) the head assistant coach. Dad would work out with a guy named Shane Arnold and after practice, my Dad and uncle Brian would talk “who’s who in wrestling” (as well as their glory years, of course). The Light’s were ALWAYS mentioned as being stone-cold badasses. I didn’t understand a great deal of what they were discussing at the time, but I picked up enough to understand that my dad and uncle had the utmost respect for those guys.
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
My dad and my 2 older brothers. I really had no choice back then. You did as you were told and that was pretty much how it started.
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
My dad and my uncle George wrestled back in the day for Al Baxter. My cousin, Vance won a couple state titles. My brother Shane was a 4x state champ. My other brother Zach was a 2x state champ and was a runner-up. I also had some cousins that wrestled for Lisbon.
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
I won some and lost some. The state folkstyle tournament wasn’t as big as it is now. I had more rivalries in freestyle in the Summer from guys like Darrin Coppeck (sp?) from Council Bluffs and guys from out of state like Travis Jacobs from Minnesota and others as well.
What was your record in HS?
158-6. I could be off 1 or 2 matches.
How did you do at state?
I won my first 3 years and took 3rd my senior year.
Who was your most influential coach?
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
We were state champs 3 out of the 4 years I was there. The 1990 team which was my freshman year was one of the best to come out of Lisbon.
Who was your most influential Lisbon wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
All the older guys from Royce Alger, Dean Happel, my cousin, Vance Light, Greg Butteris, etc.
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
Tanner Sloan of SDSU, formerly of Alburnett HS and Trey Brisker, Air Force formerly of Wilton HS.
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
My senior year.
What were the battles like in that Lisbon wrestling room?
They were pretty competitive. We never had big numbers so we all pretty much wrestled each other. It got more competitive when we traveled to other schools to practice. I remember Rob Kammerling and a guy from Prairie about got into a fight one time.
Which state title that you won gave you the most joy?
All 3 of them, but my Freshman year was pretty cool because my 2 older brothers were in the finals the same night.
You and your brothers had so much fire and were so animated and obviously hate to lose… you all look like guys who could excel on the MMA scene… have any of you ever tried that out?
Shane and I didn’t. My brother Zach has fought in all the big promotions like UFC, Strike Force,etc. He also trained Rampage Jackson and Mike Bisbing for a while.
Were you and your brothers both supportive and competitive with each other?
Yeah in our own way, I guess. Not a lot of high fives or hugs if that’s what you mean.
If the Light bros ever got into a fight, what was it over?
Not a lot . If we ever got into trouble from our dad, Shane and I would just blame it on Zach…
Shane, Ike, Zach…your cousin Vance… this is a loaded question, but how would things go in a round robin bracket with those 4?
We might all come out with one loss ya never know. But what kinda competitor would I be if I didn’t say I would be holding the chart at the end?!
Who is Lisbon’s GOAT HS wrestler?
There have been a lot of great wrestlers come from that school. As of today, I would say Cael Happel because of his dominance in the state tournament all four years.
Brad Smith… is he Iowa HS’s GOAT wrestling HC?
I believe so. The records don’t lie. He just brings the right things out of the right kids and it works. I know I enjoyed him as my coach.
What was your best wrestling memory/accomplishment?
Probably our 1990 team. Also winning Northern Plains Regionals in 8th grade.
Who was the fiercest competitor you ever faced?
Jeff McGinness and Mark Ironside.
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
We wrestled all year from 3rd grade on.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
Not a specific style I guess. I had just real good technique from wrestling all those years.
What other sports did you play?
Football, baseball and track.
Did you have good practice partners to help push you in the room?
Sure did. If ya don’t, then your teams not going to be very successful. Too many to name.
What are your favorite sports teams?
I really wanted to delete this question, but have to say the Detroit lions…
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Hanging with family and friends, grilling some food, watching sports, etc.
What do you do now?
I am a union sheet metal worker.
How fun is wrestling history to you?
I try to keep up, but the older ya get it gets harder to remember.
Are you still involved with wrestling?
I coached in California for a couple years when I lived there. I helped out at Alburnett Kids Club for many years and also at Marion High School. When my 2 sons started getting older and developing their own interests, I’ve become less involved. I help out here and there when someone asks me to.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Stick with it and have fun. If you don’t put in the work, don’t get mad when your results aren’t what you wanted. My main advice, however would be more for the parents. Let the coaches coach and you take the role of being the parent.
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
My body would say no, but never say never.
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
Yes. A guy I coached in California named Josh Jarrett and Alburnett’s 3X state champ, Tyler Shulista. Both of those guys were in my wedding.
Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.
I have plenty, but I might get into trouble for saying them. Shane Light was a 4xer, but wasn’t ranked first until his Senior year. I bet a lot of people didn’t know that about him.
Don’t forget their little sister Stacy. I won’t. She handed my ass to me on a paper plate at a kids’ tournament when I was like in fourth grade so it would have been in the late eighties. Her brothers were already legend. Just seeing that last name on the bracket canceled out any confidence I may have otherwise gained from being matched up with a girl. I will never forget walking into that mat and seeing her steely eyes staring me down. I felt like a bait dog.