A little home-cooking, eh? Well, if that’s the case, be thankful because Kevin is awesome. Kevin Swafford is a legend to all 4 of us Swafford brothers. An absolute legend. From the time of my earliest memories, I remember thinking to myself, “this guy is so cool.” He is one of my favorite and most influential people in my life. Kevin is my uncle. My dad, Mark’s older brother. It was Kevin and his twin brother, Brian that started the whole “Swafford wrestling” thing. This was followed by them getting my father, to follow their lead. The Swafford’s were basketball players before them.
Kevin was the first ever Mediapolis wrestler to win a match at the state tournament in 1977. He was also great at other sports, most notably baseball. Kevin impressed a few people so much with his athletic talent in High School to where was talked about for decades after he graduated. Heck, it wasn’t uncommon for me to hear a “Kevin” story when I was in HS in the late 90’s/early’00’s. Apparently he hit a baseball over the press box in center field and over storage shed behind the right-center fences. Those were shots! If you ever talk to his friends from high school, most of them who haven’t seen him in years because he doesn’t come back to Mediapolis very often, all kind of have the same way of describing him. They’ll raise their eyebrows and say, “your uncle Kevin was just…..awesome. Seriously one of the coolest friends I ever had and an incredible athlete.” I heard this a lot.
Justin and I have memories dating back to when we were little where Kevin would hang out with us two and go to Lake Geode, drive around on gravel, hang out and he would always talk to us about how our lives were going. It was different with Kevin because he was this adult, who everyone we were around a lot seemed to idolize and here he is, talking to us kids as if we are at the same level as him. Talked to us kids as if we were human beings and listened to every word we had to say to him. Throughout our lives, he always made it a point to assure us that he loved us. “You are my little brother’s sons! My blood! I will always love you guys and will always be there for you,” he would say. And he meant it…and we knew it.
Kevin had a knack for getting people (I assume) to believe in themselves. I assume this because he got ME to believe in MYself. Because HE believed in us. Like HOF NCAA Basketball HC Jimmy Valvano said in his infamous speech. Having someone believe in you is one of the best gifts you can receive. And in Kevin’s case, he was the only one who I could tell believed in me so much that I couldn’t help, but believe in myself as well. I alluded to one of these stories in my article on Jeremiah Butteris. About 90% of the struggles I ever had on the mat were attributed to nerves, anxiety, panic… and it seemed as if it were impossible to control. It really felt like I couldn’t help it. Then Kevin would start talking to me and all the sudden I felt like the baddest man on the planet and guess what?! I became the baddest man on the planet. It was night and day. I am serious when I say this… I don’t think I ever lost a single match ever under Kevin’s guidance and tutelage. He took over for me two years in a row at AAU State where I lost early in the tournament. “I got this,” he’d say. Both years I dominated all the way back for 3rd place. Any time I had Kevin as my own personal Mr. Miyagi, I won. He was a miracle worker, seriously. And he played a huge role in Justin’s success in high school. Justin’s routine in high school was to get done with wrestling practice and would drive 25 minutes to Kevin’s house near Danville, IA. Justin would lift weights in Kevin’s basement 3-5 times per week and would talk with Kevin, “The Wrestler Whistler” and it paid huge dividends for Justin. Justin wouldn’t have been as accomplished as he was in high school if it were not for the influence of Uncle Kevin. I say that with 100% confidence. My biggest EVER regret from wrestling is not ever riding along with Justin to these workouts. Looking back, it was straight-up stupid of me not to. I knew the impact that Kevin had on me and I knew how much of a barrier I could be to myself when it came to match preparation. Kevin could literally fix that just by speaking to me. I should have leapt at that. But instead, I went out with whichever girl it was at the time and/or just goofed off with Aaron Drain or whoever every night. I wish I could take that back. Kevin would have made a heckuva coach.
It was a good day when Kevin told me a few weeks ago that he was reading the website diligently every single day and that he was a fanatic of it. He spends a ton of time here and has a lot of fun when he does. Other than my brother, Justin, I don’t think I have any family members who do regularly read what I post, which is fine, but it meant the world to hear this from Kevin, for I always looked up to him so much.
I am a huge fan of the early 90’s TV show, The Wonder Years. In that show, the main character’s name is “Kevin.” There were 115 episodes of that show made. I have watched every episode at least once and some of them 10+ times. I either have The Wonder Years theme song in my head and/or watch an episode of it before every time I write one of these because it puts me in the mood to do so. Yet, when I hear the name, “Kevin,” I don’t think “Kevin Arnold.” I think “Uncle Kevin” in a flash. There is not a single soul in the world that I respect more than Uncle Kevin.
Another cool thing about him is that he reminds me of my Grandpa Robert Swafford, who died in 2010…and we all miss terribly to this day. And if any of you have ever wondered where I get this writing bug, whether it’s hereditary or something I just picked up, well you are about to get your answer. I have written tens of thousands of long, detailed articles and posts on message boards and what not these past couple decades. It is probably interesting that none of my other family members have ever really done that. Justin is more into writing music. I don’t think he’s ever written a post or an article that seemed to pertain to sports in any way. Brennan and Shea have never shown this either. Mom, Dad…nah. My dad has posted a few times when someone on a message board has upset him, but that’s about it. So where do I get this passion to write about wrestling from? Welp, strap on your seatbelt and you will find out!
Oh, and I’m biased, but I firmly believe that if Kevin, Brian and my dad (Mark) would have begun wrestling earlier in life, they would have won 2-4 titles apiece. Heck, I witnessed Brian just lighting up a few of the area’s standout, state champ level wrestlers when he was well into his 30’s, maybe 40’s. All 3 of them… get them started in youth and they win multiple times. I have no doubt about that.
What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
Mediapolis HS… no clubs, we didn’t have little kids wresting programs back then.
What year did you graduate?
Graduated in the great class of 1977.
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
My twin brother… I was finishing out our 8th grade basketball season on the bench, and there was 1 week left of the 8th grade wrestling season. My twin brother Brian had quit mid-season during basketball and was talked into trying out for wrestling by Mediapolis HS and JH head Coach Ron Crooks and he loved it… So I heard about how great it was and how much fun he was having every day for 4 straight weeks. Our Dad was heartbroken that one of his boys quit a sport and I was no quitter so I stuck it out in BB till the season ended, which was on a Tuesday (I played a whole 2 minutes in that last game – yeah it’s hard to forget the tragedies).
Then on Wednesday I had my first and only wresting practice of my Jr High career, followed by my first double dual meet the next day after school. We wrestled Waco first and I lost 2-1and followed that effort up with my second wrestling match against Winfield where the scored ended in a 2-2 tie. I ended the 2 day long season with a losing 0-1-1 record. From then on I was hooked.
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
I have 2 brothers and the 3 of us were the first members of our family and extended families to give wrestling a try. From the time we were little, I think Dad was determined to make us all baseball and basketball players… It’s what he knew! We were on the small size when we were young kids, but had speed and weren’t scared to mix it up. Wrestling fit our mentality and required a lot of energy and effort, which we all had in abundance! When we settled down and started families, both my brothers carried on the wrestling tradition with their boys and my own son did some wrestling back in 4th grade.
What was your perspective of wrestling before being introduced to it?
To be honest, initially I thought wrestling was like WWF and entertainment type wrestling that you saw on TV every Sunday… you know, like with wrestling stars – “The Crusher”and “Andre The Giant”. I mean I’m laughing thinking about it, but I had no clue what folkstyle wrestling was or what it was about! I do remember the hoopla over Dan Gable’s gold medal in the Olympics, and I remember seeing some video clips of him with a bandage around his head and he looked like a tough guy! I remember the late Chis Taylor at heavyweight too, but that was about it. I couldn’t have been more wrong! I was more interested in track and baseball.
How long did it take your Dad to like wresting?
Dad was initially concerned because he had the same mental image of wrestling that I did before it was explained to me or before seeing for the first time. He went through some of our growing pains of normal sports, watching favoritism in youth league baseball and how things worked out for us in basketball. But Dad was good with wrestling when he found out there were challenge matches to determine which kid was the best at a weight class and (there would be periodical challenge matches throughout the season and after tournaments, unless the varsity kid won a tournament that weekend), and in the meantime you waited your turn on JV, there were opportunities every meet if the other school had a JV kid close to your weight class.
He saw how truly fair that system and culture was in the wrestling room, where individual achievement was the incentive, as a group or team, based on your own individual performance the team won or lost in dual meet and tournaments. Dad loved boxing and the concept was similar… there was a scoring system and the opponents decided the outcome, not a referee or a coach determining who played. The best kids ruled and that was the ultimate appeal!
How important was Coach Ron Crooks to you in your life?
I don’t know if it’s always possible to express in words how someone’s had an impact on your life and on your character, and in molding you as you grow up and mature.
Coach Crooks obviously had an impact on me and our whole family not just us 3 boys. You couldn’t measure his investment in you with the amount of time he spent working with you individually. But it all centered around hard work and fostering a family like culture – he persuaded us to buy into his process and vision for finally putting our school on the wrestling map, and that vision started with us. All of our coaches were like that but everything starts at the top.
We knew he had our backs and we followed. He showed great pride in us, treated us with respect and like I said it’s hard to express our fondness and pride that we felt putting on the orange and black colors, being associated with the Mepo wrestling program that had previously struggled in those early years in filling out a full roster sometimes. It presented immediate opportunities for anyone who was hungry and unafraid of hard work and competition, and to gain recognition for yourself, your team and school. That’s the vision he put forth for us. Coach Crooks and Coach Larry Nelson, and Coach Dan Cummings played important roles in our development, without a doubt! They all had a great sense of humors and provided friendly ribbing – they could take it as well as give it, pushed us to become better and helped build confidence.
We maintained friendships that lasted way past our high school days and have so many fond memories of them.
One of my best memories of Coach Crooks involved getting ready for the ’76 SEI Conference tournament my junior year. I remember I was upset after losing a close dual match to Jay Greene at Columbus Jct. that had gone down to the wire, and things didn’t go my… when time expired and the match was over, the ref raised Greene’s hand in a 3-1 victory. The coaches were livid over that loss. There was no brick to throw out on the mat back then. LOL
Jay Greene was a senior stud at 132 in our conference that year and had the proverbial target on his back being ranked #1 in our area by the Hawkeye Sports writers, so it was not a disgrace to lose a close match to him, but I still stewed inside about that match for a couple months and it must’ve been evident in practices as it got closer to the conference tournament.
During a quick water break, both Coaches – Crooks and Nelson came over to talk with me about conference seeding, as it looked like I would land the 3rd or 4th seed with a 13-8 record and Jay Greene would likely be the top seed with a record of 16-1 going in. When asked about my preference, I told them any seed that puts me in the finals against that Columbus kid as I had unfinished business with him.
Both coaches laughed and Crooks asked if I was looking for some payback and I just nodded my head and grinned. Nelson said they’d work that out for me even if it meant going in unseeded on the bottom and having to run into the probable #2 seed first round. Coach Crooks asked me if forgot the Columbus kid’s name and I shook my head no – it’s Greene, to which Crooks grinned and said: “Well when you get done with him they’ll be calling him Yellow”… We had a good laugh about it, but I could tell he was serious about what it was going to take to win that match against the tough Columbus senior.
I ended up with the 3rd seed… there was evidently some arguing in the seeding meeting with Highland’s coach who wanted his kid at 132 seeded 3rd on the other side of the bracket from Jay Greene. Our coaches countered and said fine, we don’t want seeded, which caused a huge uproar with the Columbus coaches! When it was all said and done, I got the 3rd seed on the bottom setting up a possible finals match that I’d been waiting for.
I won that conference title match 2-0, and when I got my hand raised my coaches’ corner was elated! They were jumping up and down, and Mr. Nelson was the first to offer congrats with my warm-up jacket and a hearty “Way to go Conference Champ!” It didn’t hit me what I’d done till the moment Coach Nelson said that… I can only reason that I was so locked in on my grudge match and so focused on the heat of the match that beating Jay Greene had a higher priority. Beating everyone to get to Jay Greene, and then tasting victory and revenge was really all I cared about till that task was complete! Coach Crooks gave me hug and told me “I knew you could do it!” He was like a father relaying his confidence in a son… It meant a lot.
Seeing the coaches being that excited for me is something that I’ve never forgotten. It meant more to me than that conference title, and it helped me finish turning the corner that year. It was all those little moments like that we shared together which made my coaches all so special to me!
Coach Crooks and his family attended Julie and I’s wedding… he stayed interested in our whole family even after he moved on to New Hampton’s wrestling program.
You have a twin brother and both of you wrestled, what was that like and how important was that in your life?
I have a twin brother – Brian, but my youngest brother Mark is only 18 months younger than us so it was like having triplets for Mom and Dad sometimes!
Brian and I have always been close… being a twin is both a blessing and a curse! I can say that the blessings outweigh the curses without question. It was great having a wrestling partner 24/7 to practice with or discuss matches and strategy,provide honest feedback and constructive criticism. He had my back and I had his. We are extremely competitive and it didn’t matter at what sport or games, we wanted to win. We’ve always been close to the same weight but in wrestling we never wanted to wrestle at the same weight… so early on we made a pact not to, especially after our sophomore year that ended with Brian injured and out of the lineup (nope – never again). I ended up moving up 2 weight classes our junior year and had to grow into that weight while Brian cut weight to stay at his beloved 119 class. And that’s the way things stayed throughout HS.
Brian and I had some decent go-rounds in the wrestling room, but so long as he stayed at 119 it wasn’t close… We never got into any heated scuffles or battles – it was all business!
Mark and I had some scuffles that turned in wrestling room brawls requiring most of the wrestling team and coaches to pull me off of him (only happened twice in 4 years), but we had some spirited scrambles. Strictly related to the stuff that only brothers understand, about how heated competition can get between siblings, and ya gotta remember – what happened in the wrestling room stayed in the wrestling room! There was no use bringing any butt-sore feelings home to disrupt “home sweet home”. Mark and I still are close as ever!
Brian and I’ve remained close and best friends our whole lives. We have a little saying “you’re my hero bro!” whenever we talk… just to remind each other of all the times we’ve had each other’s backs and that each of us is just a simple phone call away. I just have so much respect and pride in both my brother’s, and fortunately for me, I have the bonus of having a twin that’s been a great brother… and to others a father, husband, great Pastor, and JH & HS coach, and friend, so he hasn’t stood still or wasted any of his gifts or talents!
I told you he’s my hero!
Do you ever catch yourself rooting for twins you see wrestling because you have common ground there?
Haha – you have no idea, LOL… always root for twins! Seriously, I don’t think I go out of my way to specifically root for twins, but definitely become more interested in their matches and want to know more about them.
At the 2020 NAIA National Wrestling Championships in Park City, KS there was a set of twins that competed at the 133 lbs class and were paired up for the 7th/8th place match. They decided to resolve 7th place winner with the flip of a coin. Their names were Conner and Matt Gimson both freshmen at Indiana Tech, and Conner the younger twin won the coin flip.
I had the opportunity later to congratulate Matt for earning AA honors at the tournament and chatted for a while. When he found out I was a twin he was just as eager to hear all about my background and history as I was hearing about his, and even though there’s like 40 years difference between when Brian and I wrestled and the Gimson twins, it was amazing to find out how similar our backgrounds were and the unique relationships twins share!
I’ve always enjoyed following wrestling brothers and wrestling families too!
Some related trivia about twins –
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
Like I mentioned earlier, I had a stellar 0-1-1 record in 8th grade at dripping wet 105 lbs. As for rivals – I was just learning to survive, wrestling kids that outweighed me by 25 pounds. LOL
How did you place at state every year?
DNP at state but qualified my senior year in 1977. Was the only kid at state in my 2A 132 weight class that came in undefeated, which lasted 1 round up there.
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
One that sticks out the most in my mind was during my sophomore year. Brian wanted to wrestle 119 and I wanted to wrestle 126, but lost a challenge match to a junior named Lindsey Shelman which left me as the jv backup at that weight. My natural weight was about 128 back then. The coaches wanted me to cut down to 119 and certify so that they had the flexibility of having more depth to backup both 119 and 126.
Brian and I were both really hungry to letter as underclassmen. So as the season progressed we hatched a plan to accomplish that. After Brian had enough matches to qualify for his wrestling letter he would lose a challenge match to me. Then after I had wrestled enough matches to qualify for my letter, then I would let Brian win a challenge match so he could finish out the season at that weight. This was fine with me because it was getting harder to cut weight as the year went on to make 119.
After we made the switch the second time and Brian got his beloved 119 weight class back, I kinda coasted that 2nd half of the season on JV covering both those 2 weight classes. I wasn’t getting any matches in on JV at meets during that time while Brian “manned the reins” so to speak on varsity at 119 (sometimes schools didn’t have matchups and also the coaching staff needed to spread them around to maintain depth)… that is till Brian injured his shoulder in the semi-finals at Conference just a week before sectionals.
Guess who was not in tip-top condition when sectionals rolled around? I also had to drop some weight quicker than I normally did to make that weight class… there’s no excuses though for not being ready and waiting, but since it was my twin brother I never gave it a second thought that the unthinkable (injury) would happen!
Well to make a long story short, you guessed it… in my first match back in the varsity lineup at sectionals I wrestled a junior from Washington and was winning 7–3 in the 3rd period and I ran out of gas with under a minute to go and got reversed to my back, losing by dec 8-7.
It was a humbling experience! It was a learning experience that I never forgot. I let my team and my coaches down, and I had let myself down.
Anyway, what I took away from that was not to be bitter about the experience, but how to turn that around and use it as motivation in the future. I came into the next season with a bit of a chip on my shoulder and it helped me become a hard worker and not take opportunities for granted – to make the most of my time in the practice room. It definitely provided motivation for me later as there was no way I was going embarrass myself or let myself get humiliated again because of conditioning.
It was a lesson in adversity for me… it was valuable lesson learned by all 3 three of us boys that night – “You really do reap what you sow”, and you can sulk or make excuses, but in the end, the results depend on your hard work and efforts. It’s one of the things that you can control. There’s no short cuts to success… it’s earned!
I found out that wrestling practices really were the place where exceptional moments are earned, and took that to heart after that incident. When the coaches are pushing you hard in the practice room – those types of incidents are exactly what they are trying to help you eliminate because we control that. Conditioning is a difference maker, especially in close or tough matches.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
I would describe my style as “fun to watch”…
I was very good on my feet, strong and athletic, not flashy, but explosive when I executed a move. I could execute my shots from either side regardless of tie ups. I had a lot of confidence on my feet and if I got a take down or came close to getting a take down, I felt like the store was open for business… and things would get rolling from there!
I was also very good underneath… I can only remember a handful of times that anyone rode me out during my varsity years in HS – once my sophomore year by Scott Stephens of Wapello, 2 times by Craig Heemsbergen from Cardinal of Eldon my junior year and 2 times up at state my senior year. I might be forgetting one or two somewhere early in my career. My point is that I scored points from underneath and it was part of my offense.
I was a proficient rider but I was not what people would call a pinner. I was not as offensive as I could’ve been. I was good in scrambles and liked to grind and wear down kids, and was very physical on the mat. I liked working the arm bars and the head, worked cradles, and worked hard at making life miserable for the bottom guy. I wanted to wear them down to open up opportunities. I was a good counter wrestler, which probably held my scoring potential down somewhat.
I had about 4-5 moves at each position in my toolbox that I was very good at and if my stuff got stopped I adjusted and moved on to something else… I made good decisions on the mat, and maintained good body position. I never panicked.
That’s the way we rolled back then, you executed sound fundamentals and maintained good body position or you paid the price for it. I was a quick learner and enjoyed drills with repetitive action and feasted on situational training which helped me pick up on the basics and hone my fundamentals. I had to because I didn’t know anything coming in as freshman except don’t get pinned!
I’ll share a little wrestling story about something that happened to me at a wrestling practice that stuck with me and helped shape my approach on my feet and it came from Morning Sun Coach John Siegel during a pre-sectional practice my junior year with several conference schools that weren’t competing against us in sectionals or districts (they were class 1A and we were in 2A), so there were Morning Sun and Wapello kids mixed with Mepo. It was more for conditioning and everyone got some exposure to other teams’ drilling methods but any instruction remained pretty basic, but with more kids in the room everyone benefited.
At some point we were working in groups on our feet for takedowns in 30 second go’s and the “Siegel” rules were used where the winner stayed out there till you got taken down, or were out there for 5 straight 30 second go’s…
Anyway, I had gone through my group winning 5 straight takedown go’s and started to walk off the mat and Coach Siegel grabbed me and said, “you’re not done, get in that group and stay out there!” That new group had mostly guys that were heavier than me, a mix of 1 or 2 weight classes above my 132 wrestling weight… After winning the first three or four go’s I finally got taken down, and as I went to go sit down to get a breather, Coach Siegel pointed at me and pointed towards another group and said it again: ”You’re not done, stay out there!”
At that point I started to wonder to myself what I’d done to piss him off, and was looking for help out my coaches, who were standing there next to Siegel, grinning like they were in on some kind of joke… (I’m sure they were doing the same to other kids in the room too – at the time I just cared about what was happening to me!)
This went on for a while and by the end of it I was soaking wet with sweat like I just climbed out of “Davy Jones’ Locker” at the bottom of the sea, my legs felt like spaghetti noodles and I was ready to plant my backside horizontal – LOL
When I finally came dragging off the mat, Coach Siegel pulled me aside and told me: “You got so much talent and potential on your feet, but you aren’t busy enough… you should be scoring takedowns every time you’re on your feet, you should be scoring multiple takedowns every 30 seconds!” And he asked me “do you understand or know why you should be taking kids down and pushing the pace?” Thank God it was a rhetorical question because I had no clue where he was going with this teachable moment… And then he gave it to me – “Because you can son, because you can! If you’re not using it, you’re wasting it!”
That was it – that was the little nugget of truth that he passed on to me… I never forgot that comment or that moment. It’s why I loved wrestling, because it epitomized everything I felt about the sport – it doesn’t matter who you’re wrestling, because you’re goal is to dominate them the whole time they’re within your reach… You take them down until they can’t stand up, you grind them when you’re on top, you score from underneath and you push the pace till they’re crawling off the mat – Because You Can!!!
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
Only a couple of guys really stand out to me as I didn’t wrestle many guys multiple times very often. I had tough time early in my junior year, started out as a 126 pounder competing at 132… Jay Greene from Columbus Jct. was a grade above me and we had a couple go rounds my junior year splitting 2 matches, with me getting revenge at the conference finals.
Tim DeHart from Van Buren was another upperclassman that I lost to the first time in the finals at the Pekin Invitational 10-8, then I returned the favor beating him at sectionals later that year 8-7. That was pretty sweet and I remembered savoring that victory because he was a very funky wrestler, tall and lean, threw legs at you from 360 degrees – seemed like it anyway. He was frustrating to wrestle for me because normally I had no problems with those tall wiry kids. It was just that DeHart wasn’t normal, he was unorthodox and funky. He gave me fits… he gave everyone fits as he had an 18-2 record coming into sectionals that year. It was also the first time I had legs thrown at me that knew how to use them, so I worked hard the rest of the year (I have Brian to thank for working with me on that) leaning how to defend against his leg attacks and all that work paid off!!!
I split a pair of matches with Jeff Bartman of Highland my junior year, where I pinned him in the first period at our dual meet and 3 days later he beat me 4-1 at a tournament for 3rd place.
Sigourney had a tough kid named Leland Decker my senior year where we had 2 close 1 point matches in which I came out on top both times. We met in the finals of the Van Buren and Pekin tournaments.
I can’t leave out some of the guys in my own wrestling room that kept pushing me. I had some really good challenge matches with Lindsey Shelman my sophomore and junior year, and as practice partners Freddy Bakerink and Ken McGuire always wrestled me hard in practice.
Who was your most influential coach?
Ron Crooks and Larry Nelson were my wrestling coaches at Mepo from freshman to junior seasons, then Dan Cummings took over as assistant my senior year. They taught us how to work hard, set goals and to win. They were like second fathers to us and you could tell they genuinely cared about us, they wanted us to grow as men as well as athletes, and wanted us to be successful. They knew when to push us when we needed pushed, but they also knew when to step back to work on finer details of technique and always finishing. They helped us enjoy and savor the great moments!
There were other coaches inside our conference that contributed. One coach that I mentioned earlier went out of his way to provide critical feedback during my HS career was Coach John Siegel of Morning Sun (our arch rivals). I remember during my senior year he came up to me at the Van Buren Invitational after the finals to congratulate me on my close win (I think I won 5-4) and told me: “Ya know, if you got in shape you could win a state title!” He had a reputation for playing head games with blunt instructions… It bugged me at first because I didn’t think I was gassed, but he got his message across, and that helped me tremendously that second half of the season where competition always gets tougher closer to state.
Also my baseball and football Head Coach Tom Coates – he made practices hard work and work like fun… All of my coaches had at least this one thing in common – they didn’t sugar coat their messages. They demanded a lot and expected you carry your own weight. They were fair in how we were treated and they made sure we understood they had our backs, and they put us in opportunities to succeed… it was always up to us to make the most of them.
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
The simple answer is YES. Now here’s the long-winded answer…
Wrestling didn’t start till the mid to late 60’s at Mediapolis HS.There was no tradition or legacy yet. Mediapolis was known during my time and for the 2 decades prior to my time in HS as a girls’ basketball dynasty with long streaks of state tournament appearances and several state titles and runner ups over that time.
This was back in the days of women’s 6 on 6 GBB and Mediapolis’s Head Coach was the legendary HOF Vernon “Bud” McClearn, who had a home court record of 333-8 and a 706-80 career overall record! Girls Basketball was king in our school and brought in revenues that paid for the rest of the school sports programs not including Football!
The early wrestling program struggled to fill lineups but would manage to qualify one wrestler for state each year going back to 1970 or 1971 so it’s fair to say the teams competed hard, but they also got dominated every year. The program finally started to blossom my freshman year as we brought in a dozen kids from our class.
In 1973, the coaches argued for and eventually got approval from the school Superintendent to purchase new wrestling team varsity singlets for the first time since the wrestling program began, replacing those 60 style 3-piece black tights w/orange diaper look – and new wrestling mats so the school could host the conference wrestling championships at Mediapolis in 1974.
Prior to that we held all wrestling meets in the Yarmouth grade school gymnasium and for the Mediapolis home tournaments those older mats had to me hauled in buses to the HS gym and we would borrow another wrestling mat from another conference school!
Those changes created more enthusiasm for the program in the community and was followed up with the success of the ‘75 senior class, having 4 outstanding athletes (most of which came from an undefeated 9-0 football team) and we competed for the conference title in wrestling for the first time.
That year Mediapolis sent 3 wrestlers to state. The ‘76 season we qualified just one wrestler.
Then in ‘77, my senior year, we qualified 5 wrestlers, Conference runner ups in the dual season and the Conference tournament to Highland Riverside, we were 2nd at sectionals behind Wilton but won at districts. In the ‘78 season Mediapolis qualified 2 wrestlers again (one of which was my younger brother Mark).
From that point on the wrestling program just continued to grow and prosper, and eventually became one the great dynasty programs in southeast Iowa, and won team and individual state titles, and coach Dan Cummings honored with induction into the IA State Wrestling HOF.
One of the things that I think made a huge difference during those early years was the support of the parents and fans. There was a group of parents and school boosters that went out and purchased brand new weight room equipment and multi-station Universal weight machines to support the athletic department, specifically for the football and wrestling programs. This happened around my freshman or sophomore year. It transformed our athletic facilities and all the sports teams at school took full advantage of it. It takes a lot of different resources, parental and community support and student athletes that buy into vision put forth by coaching staffs to be able to build a strong wrestling program (any sport really but wrestling requires it). That includes buy in from administration too!
You’ll have to forgive the history lesson, but context helps…
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
From Mediapolis, probably Lonnie Scheitlin and Jon McCall who were 2 grades above me and wrestled at 167 and 145 respectively. They were state qualifiers as seniors, along with Randy Schulte at 185. They provided leadership and winning examples for us younger guys in the wrestling room.
The wrestlers that I admired from others school were Bruce McClure (126 for Morning Sun) he was a stud, Kevin Schrader (wrestled 126 from Columbus Jct) – he could dominate kids on his feet and on the mat. Also, Clarke Yoder from Sigourney, who was without a doubt one of the toughest and most talented wrestlers pound for pound in the state during my high school days and later. He was an inspirational wrestler as well, he sure had an impact on my twin…
We used to watch all of the Iowa Hawkeye and Iowa State Cyclone wrestling meets that IPTV carried. Dan Gable coached wrestlers like 2x NCAA Champs Chuck Yagla at 150,probably the wrestler that I tried to emulate most. Chris Campbell at 177… he was just a beast! Mike Land and Kelly Ward of IA State were great.
Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
That’s just too hard… Iowa’s had so many spectacular and great wrestlers over the years. If I had to pick I’d say Eric Juergens gets my vote – he was the complete package. There’s been so many phenomenal 4X’rs like Jeff McGinness… Mack Reiter was one the best pinners I ever saw, and Mark Schwab was fantastic, and Greg Randall was awesome on his feet. Jeff Kerber was exceptional during the time I was in HS and I got to see him win two of his 4 state titles while I was there watching or competing... I remember a bunch of us just dropping what we were doing just to go watch him – he was a pinning machine and was super impressive to watch! I’m missing a couple but those are the greatest that I’ve watched and seen! Who can forget Dan Gable? He would garner votes for some… I never got to see Cael Happel from Lisbon his last 2 years but I know others might pick him as GOAT in IA HS wrestling history!
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
Spencer Lee at U of Iowa – he’s phenomenal, and of course my nephew Brennan Swafford at Graceland University.
What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
I listened to all kinds. My folks liked country mostly and had all kinds of different genres that we could listen to, but I grew up in the rock n roll era that produced the greatest music – it’s funny they call them classic rock now! LOL
Favorites were: Boston, Journey, Bob Seger, BTO, ELO, Supertramp, Queen, Eagles, Styx, Aerosmith, REO Speedwagon, Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner, Foghat, etc…
I didn’t really listen to music before I wrestled… I used to shoot pool to relax before home dual meets. At tournaments I just relaxed and rested after weigh-ins and between rounds. I had 2 brothers that were lighter than me so they would wrestle earlier or just before me so I had to learn to compartmentalize emotionally and relax so that I wasn’t exhausted when it was finally my turn to open up the jets and hit the mat.
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
Wow, that’s a really good question… I think every loss stings a bit, some more than others like at state – that’s me personally! That said, I think I took my brothers’ losses harder than mine. That used to really set me off and I was ready to take it out on my opponent!
If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
Start wrestling when I was a lot younger, a little kid. Four years weren’t enough!
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
Made my family proud, earned the respect of my coaches and peers.
My best memories are of winning conference multiple times that was really satisfying.
Winning my first match at state – it was so exciting and chaotic in “the Barn” at the state tournament! Being the first wrestler from Mediapolis to win a match at state and seeing my name and victory on the big scoreboard at Vet’s… it’s the only record that I know won’t be broken at my HS – lol
What were some of your favorite moments watching each of your nephews in wrestling?
I have a lot of great memories of my nephews wrestling… some of which will just stay with me because of time constraints, etc… but I’ll mention a few here…
I’ve been fortunate as an uncle to watch them grow up wrestling from little kids tourneys through HS, qualifying for state and all of them placed, and where two of them made the state finals multiple times and were able to bring a state title home (they earned 13 state medals in all between the 5 boys). Several went on to wrestle in college to compete. They all worked their butts off and earned academic honors to boot.
This past spring I was privileged to watch Mark’s youngest son – Brennan earn his 2nd AA honor and won a national title at 165 in the NAIA national championships as a true sophomore.
I can’t help but be proud of all my nephews’ accomplishments over the years! Brian, Mark and I have great kids, and now 5 of them – have kids of their own. The nephews created our family legacy and hopefully the grand kids will continue it.
As far as favorite moments, I’d have to say watching Justin winning a state title after 2 runner ups was a great moment for our whole family… Our Dad was grabbing me and celebrating and I had to calm him down a bit (heart issues), but we laughed and giggled. I imagined how it must’ve been for him all those years up in the stands watching us 3 boys! I never realized that he could get that animated…
Finally seeing Josh medal his senior year throwing a headlock from hell to advance to the medal rounds. I also remember a moment at a kid’s tournament where Josh lost a tough semifinal match, and had a short break before his next consolation match and was really down and upset, focused on his previous loss… just a total recipe for going into that next match and getting smashed! Mark was giving instructions and scouting info but Josh was mentally on Mars beating himself up over the last match.
About 5 minutes before he had to report at the officials table, I sat down next to him and asked him if he had forgotten to breathe? And he looked at me funny like “are you stupid?” I went ahead and told him to take a couple real deep breaths, which he did. Then he was ready to listen. I just told him to keep it simple… go out, shake hands, and off the whistle shoot your best double leg and on the way down reach for a half – it’ll be there! Can you do that? Can you see yourself doing that? He nodded yes and I had him repeat it out load about 10 times, cause you never know if they really got or not. LOL
Five minutes later he was at center mat and the ref blows the whistle and BOOM… Josh blows through this kid with a double and when the kid hits his behind on the mat – there’s Josh’s half nelson waiting and right to his back the kid goes and VOILA pin! I couldn’t draw it up any prettier, and I was more surprised than that kid about what happened! Josh and I still laugh about that little moment… It just resonated that we always need to be focused on what’s ahead of us, especially in competitions.
I missed Jonathan’s big moment in person when he placed at state… but I got to see him stand on the podium on video tape at Brian’s. My family and I moved out of state in 2005 so keeping up in person was difficult to do from then on… I’m extremely proud as an uncle (I know his Dad is). I come up from Missouri from time to time, and was able to watch and enjoy a few meets and saw Jon’s wrestling at New London during the SEI Conference tournament and he wrestled really well… very proud of him! I remember Jon taking care of my son James and rolling around with him at kid practices for 4 weeks every morning. We were getting up at 5:30 am to get ready for a kid tournament in Mount Pleasant. It was James’s first taste of organized wrestling practices when he was in 4th grade and Jon was in 6th grade. Good times!
All the state finals matches were down to the wire and amazing to watch… watched Shea wrestle at state and place online. Continuing on at Graceland University had some personal pride for me because he wasn’t as athletically gifted as Mark’s other 3 boys so he had to really work a lot harder for results and his successes. It meant a lot to me that he stayed with it and pushed through and earned his way… plus was a great student. I know he will be successful in whatever he puts his hands to in the future.
Watching Brennan’s Heartland Conference championships this year where he beat the #2, #5, and #6 ranked kids in the nation to win it – the 2nd year in a row. Watching him follow that up with wins in tough matches to reach the finals match at the NAIA Nationals where he beat the #1 ranked kid in the nation 4-2… That finally closed the door on any bitter disappointments for me of some of our family’s “so close” moments and with Brennan specifically, not winning a state championship his junior and senior years in HS where he finished 2nd. That whole nationals experience was amazing to see… I’ve probably watched that ESPN3 finals match 20x’s now on YouTube (both versions)… It never gets old! LOL
Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?
I think the best kid that I wrestled in high school had to be Dan Kauffman from Emmetsburg. He was the only underclassman that I lost to in HS, and that was 3-0 second round match at state my senior year. He went on to place 3rd for the second year in a row and won it the next 2 years. Emmetsburg is just a tremendous wrestling program in 2A and always brought a team of studs to state every year I was in HS, and Dan Kauffman was certainly in that group.
My junior year the most notable competitor I had was Craig Heembergen of Cardinal of Eldon, who placed 5th at state that year at 132. As a sophomore my best friend Mike McCall was wrestling 132 at the Van Buren tournament, we were both sitting the stands watching the finals, lol and I remember Mike telling me how – “Kip Buster from Morning Sun was going to beat the tar out of that Cardinal kid!” Heemsbergen proceeded to beat Buster by 10 or 12 points and Mike was in shock. The next year I was at 132, and both Mike and I watched Heemsbergen beat Tim DeHart in the finals of that same Van Buren Invitational that he pounded Kip Buster the year before. It made an impression because I lost to DeHart two weeks later in the Pekin Invitational finals.
When sectionals came around, I was able to knock out and eliminate DeHart in the semi’s. Which setup a finals match with Heemsbergen. Before the match Mike told me how “that Cardinal kid was going to beat the tar out me!” We both started laughing, cause we both remembered how he thrashed Buster the year before and we both understood how good that Cardinal kid was now. It gave me some incentive not to embarrass myself! He did beat me 3-1 and then again at districts he beat me 2-0 and knocked me out of qualifying for the state tournament, so yeah he qualified as a notable competitor in my book!
I should give Jay Greene of Columbus Junction some props here, he was a stud at 132 in our conference my junior year. We had 2 really good head to head matches that we split. He was 18-1 when we met up the second time, and I happened to be ready for him – prepared!
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
No, it was just seasonal for me. I was in 3 other sports (football, track and baseball) and I managed to squeeze in a couple of freestyle tournaments following the wrestling season and before track. Our track coach didn’t like us competing outside of track once the season started. As a multi-sport athlete in HS, I stayed within the realm of the sport I was in at the time and devoted my time and energy to compete in them.
I also worked multiple jobs in the summers so between baseball and work (which included Saturdays) it really left me with no time to take advantage of doing freestyle and greco wrestling tournaments like some of the big prep wrestling stars back then. That’s what you needed to do back then after the 2 local freestyle tournaments were done. There were no local wrestling clubs in our area, so you had to get in with some wrestling families that were into that and travel extensively on weekends around the nation. I would’ve enjoyed that but it was more than I could commit to.
How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
Ha! That topic comes up a lot for some reason… It’s so much different today than it was back in the 70’s. I think kids today are much more technically advanced than we were, and are committed almost year round to the sport of wrestling, they travel and are part of wrestling clubs that draw upon large geographical talent pools, plus they all start when they learn to walk, whereas the earliest we got exposed to organized wrestling was in 7th grade.
We were generally sound fundamentally and all the good kids were solid in all 3 positions and many of us excelled in one or more positions just like kids today. What strikes me now is how kids today challenge every shot and takedown on their feet to the point where they expose themselves or put themselves in potential near fall danger! Intuitively it appears like shear recklessness to me, and then you see their poise and calculated strategy at work. I shake my head in amazement at the level of their scrambling abilities… We never did that… we would strenuously contest shots and takedowns but as soon as you went to a hip – boom you bailed or bellied out to reset for better body defensive position to stay away from giving up any back points. Sometimes I’m critical of how often kids today can’t finish a takedown, that kind of grinds on me a bit and is frustrating at times to watch… but counter techniques are better today and kids do a great job at contesting every angle and position change. Again, I think a lot of that can be attributed to the years and thousands of hours these kids today have put into their craft that allows them to advance beyond the fundamentals that we all held so dear to in my generation.
I think without a doubt the kids today are just so much better prepared than we were at the same age. It’s not uncommon for them to come into college as freshman and challenge for a national title. The talent level is so deep and so experienced at such young ages today, and as the sport of wrestling has advanced and changed, so has today’s kids adapted and thrived. The changes made by the sport to promote more wide open offense and scoring have definitely helped kids of today, but under those same rules I think we could adapt as well and thrived.
There was only one 4x state champion in Iowa (Bob Steenlage, Britt 1959-1962) when I graduated back in 1977… My generation had our share of 2x’rs and even 3x’rs but we never had or saw a 4x champion. Then came Jeff Kerber from Emmetsburg in 1979! That kind of opened the floodgates and all the wrestling youth that watched with awe and amazement began to dream of their future moments on the podium. And since then there have been 26 4x’s! Just in the last two decades there have been 17 4x’s (7 in the 2000’s and 10 more since 2010 counting Cael Happel’s 4th title this past February 2020)… I don’t think that accomplishing that feat has somehow gotten easier over the decades and years! That’s not a disparagement against my era or the great kids that competed back then, it’s just the facts with a little perspective thrown in.
I think my era was on the cusp of the greatness that would follow it, and we certainly had great kids at all levels. We were inspired by the likes of Dan Gable and those that wrestled before us. The only problem was there was only 1 Dan Gable, so in HS we watched Iowa and Iowa HS State wrestling on TV or went to college meets to see the best wrestlers in action!
I think the turning point came when coaches and boosters started youth wrestling clubs as a means of supporting future wrestling programs. What naturally followed was competition in youth tournaments, and then at the state and national levels… that’s when growth in the sport of wrestling followed, along with all the wrestling camps kids could go to get college level training from great instructors. It inspired the next generation of great HS wrestling, along with the great fans, wrestling families, and the support they’ve received since then have improved immensely just as the quality of wrestling! Just one man’s opinion…
So what’s my final answer: The majority of good kids today would mop the floor with my generation. The reason I say that is because it comes down to the immense volume of experience and national level of competition the kids today have and the technical training they are exposed to over the level of experience back in my era is night and day.
If all things were equal in those departments (my generation having access to today’s training, nutrition and weight management, video technology, camps and national exposure) it would give us some things to talk about and debate, but that’s all it is – talk and the kids today have been doing it since pre-school! The outstanding kids of my era were great and they would excel in any generation. I think top kids from the late 80’s on up would do great today.
Just some thoughts on this experience topic from my perspective… In an average 1974-1977 prep career, a wrestler would have about 20-28 matches a year in a full varsity season before rolling into the state tournament. That same kid would have an opportunity to accumulate around 80-120 matches (+ or -) in their 4 year varsity prep career. (Freestyle was going but you had to be living in RV’s all summer like the Gibbon’s and Kerber families did to go on the road nationally, so we were limited mainly to a few local tourneys which us multi-sport athletes would have available to us after a wrestling season)
Today it’s not uncommon for kids to wrestle 40-50 varsity matches a season before state.
In a HS prep career, many kids today will have as many as 170-220 (+/-) matches under their belts – that’s double the amount of maximum matches of my era… and that’s not counting their little kid career from ages 4-13. I think one of my nephews had over 300 little kids, cadet, AAU/USA matches before starting high school. That boggles my mind!
Did you wrestle after high school?
No – I went to college on a baseball scholarship…
I took some Judo classes while in college my freshman year that helped with footwork, etc. and incorporated some trips, tosses into my wrestling. I was required to compete and took a 2nd place in my first tourney and got 4th at the state level (Brian beat me for 3rd and qualified for and fought in the National Judo tournament), competing as a bottom rung white belt… LOL
Brian and I never fought anyone that was not a black belt rank… possibly my first match was against a brown belt, but that’s just the way things rolled. Maybe our Judo class was a little unique in that regard as – in order to pass that elective class and earn those 3 credit hours you were required to compete.
I did do a number of old timer tourneys for several years… winning 1 and runner up once, placing in several others. I took the worst beating of my life in one of those old timer tournaments. Lost 4-0 to a guy (Steve Deike) that was a 3x AA in Div III (placed 3rd and 4th), but it felt like it was 40-0 for about the next week! Score doesn’t sound bad but he stuck in the legs and stayed in a half nelson ride for almost 2 periods. It felt like he twisted me into a dozen pretzels.
What’s funny was I thought that kid was going to thump everyone that was left but he got thrashed in the finals by the Central Pella coach Ralph Manning – like 12-0 or 14-2! He was the old guy in our weight class (142), and a beast.
What other sports did you play?
Football, track, and baseball – was my favorite sport
What are your favorite sports teams?
Lifelong STL Cardinals – MLB
Long time Chicago Bears fan – NFL (not so much anymore)
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Horses – been involved with quarter horses since 1998 and have a 24 acre farm down in the Joplin MO rural community, but we’re out of the breeding business now, we still haul horses and trail riding and still do some camping. We have an RV and 3-horse trailer with living quarters that we use.
Love classic cars because of the era I grew up in which was the tail end of the “muscle car” era… All of the kids I grew up with had late model 60’s and early 70’s cars – Chevelles, Camaros, Mustangs, etc… Just bought a 1982 Chevy Corvette that I tinker on and is my daily ride to work (twins again Brian owns a 1978 corvette.)
Keeping up with our adult kids still keeps Julie and I very busy… I’m toying with the idea of starting a small orchard and garden to have some extra outdoors activities as I get closer to retirement.
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
It definitely prepared me better for facing the rigors of life… it taught me that there is reward in efforts and hard work, helped develop the drive and motivation to succeed, the desire to continually learn new things an improve myself and my own situations, and helped me tap into my competitive hunger to be the best at whatever I put my hand to. It reinforced real life lessons that nothing is handed to you and advancement is earned – life isn’t always fair…
I think the sport of wrestling and competition can teach you some of the skills required to become successful because it forces you to apply what you’ve learned and challenges you to match or exceed those results each time out. It develops self-confidence…
Mostly it helps bring focus to our character and virtues, or lack of them, and amplifies them in us. Wrestling to me is a true and honest sport because it tests you and applies pressure to your physical and mental abilities, stamina, work habits and your character (heart) and it reveals what’s already in you as well as your flaws for everyone to see. The stress of competition provides instant feedback and helps you measure your progress, and reveals who you are.
It taught me to go above and beyond what is expected to achieve my goals or to achieve excellence because there will always be obstacles in front of you. You find out quickly in life that doing what is expected doesn’t always cut it – so you learn to become a “and then some” individual because it takes more than is expected to get some things done!
It taught me to put away my fears and to have courage to do the hard things – the right things. I learned about self-discipline, perseverance… to never give up!
Wrestling forces you to learn how to adapt to situations as well as structurally, and to do it on the fly... those are skills that can be applied in rapidly changing environments like science and technology, which is the job market that I got into as a career.
It teaches you about humility and about overcoming failures because the truth is everybody experiences failure in their life, and everybody will experience loss… wrestling instinctively teaches you get back up when you’re down and helps develop a winning attitude and to realize that the best is still ahead of you not behind!
Wrestling also provides opportunities for building important job skills like leadership and how to work well as part of team, to expand your world and look outside yourself so that you can be effective in helping others – service and friendship.
Wrestling teaches you that you need to pursue life with great intensity but also requires great balance to become well rounded… that’s why faith and family are so important to me, to keep me grounded and maintain perspective, understanding that there’s a bigger picture for me.
I think it unlocked a lot of things in me… maybe two of the biggest were the desire to continually improve and commitment!
What do you do now?
I’ve been a computer software engineer for the last 32 years. The last 15 years with CFI in Joplin, MO – a truckload freight transportation company.
I was kind of a late bloomer when it came to a career and deciding on what to do with my life… I worked at the US Gypsum plant in Sperry, IA for about 9 years. It provided me with a stable income and flexibility while I figured things out.
I got into horse racing and bloodline genetics, then went out and got my private pilot license and even bought a plane to help advance my growing interest in aviation. I eventually settled down and married, and it was my wife Julie that encouraged me to explore computer programming. I enjoyed it so much that it stuck with me… always listen to the wife – LOL.
Are you still involved with wrestling?
Strictly as a fan, supporting my nephews… sometimes serve as a shrink for my brothers LOL.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Listen to your coaches, work hard in the practice room and trust your coaches. Understand that all your hard work and efforts will pay off. Be that wrestler that goes the extra mile – and then some! The skills you develop in repetitions and situational drills are what you take with you out on the mat, so master those fundamentals and good techniques, work them and do them 1000’s of times. Set high goals for yourself, believe in yourself, be prepared… and learn to enjoy your time in wrestling. Make the most of your opportunities.
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
Ahhh… let me think about that for a moment – nope.
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
Just a big thanks to the all the Mepo wrestling fans that supported us back in the 70’s and the community which has continued through the decades, all the wrestling alum and current wrestlers on the team – you’re all amazing! Coach Cummings and his family for all their success and how you built the program and invested in all of us through the years… My twin brother Brian – You da man bro! and my nephew Josh for putting Pin Doctors together with your crew and keeping fans updated and providing great video work that’s not been available to fans outside of personal family history (literally can’t see anywhere else and that library is growing), and by showing and sharing great stories of wrestlers and great wrestling from the past! Keep up with that work! Brother Mark and his wife Jacinta for continually producing BOYS – that played a great part of Mediapolis’s wrestling dynasty for 2 decades.
Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia?Etc
Got a lot of stories but probably couldn’t publish most of them – LOL
One story that I’ll share… as wrestlers in HS we were always doing some friendly hacking on our coaches, and wanted to hear about their exploits in HS and or college, like how kids ask their dads what it was like back when they competed or were in sports… This went all throughout high school and it was fun to talk trash back and forth because they could give it back as well as take. It was great, and always in a friendly manner where we all would get a good laugh over stuff.
I remember after graduating from HS and later doing some “Old Timer” tournaments… several of us were going to the school to practice and work out and one of the guys was competing at HWT so Coach Cummings was there to help out. That’s when we talked Dan into going to one with us. It was more of goading him because he talked about his wrestling days when he competed at Mankato State, etc… and in the practice room he was so much bigger than the rest of us middle weights that he just kind of rolled around on the mat with us – gave us the impression sometimes that’s all he had, that is unless you really pushed him… then he was kinda scary!
Anyway, we were excited we were finally going to see the REAL coach Cummings… I think he was in the 30 and over age class at 197LBS… I’m not sure which tournament but was thinking it was at Belle Plain. When the brackets were posted Dan only had 2 other competitors, so it was a round robin bracket. First opponent was this big guy, grizzled looking, and a bald head. First period Dan goes out and locks up with this monster and promptly tosses him to his back and sticks him!
All of Dan’s former protégés are just stunned and we’re laughing as Dan comes off the mat. Dan looks at us with this fierce game face and says “What – I told ya I was gonna pin that guy!” Man, we just fell about the place as the song “The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy goes… LOL
In the finals – Dan wrestled this big heavy muscled guy that had a super hairy back – we’re talking hair so think the guy would need a lawn mower to clip it! Sorry, some folks are frightened of clowns… just don’t stick me in an elevator full of huge super hairy azz’d men… I won’t be responsible, just saying! I’m laughing as I’m writing (I’m not that scared) LOL Anyway, before the match we asked Dan for a prediction, and he looks at this big hairy animal and turns back to us and says “I don’t know he’s really big… but to shut you guys up, I guess I’ll have to pin him too!” We started laughing and slapped him on the back and said “Go git em coach!” with fecal matter grins on our faces…
That match started out as kind of a barn burner… where both traded takedowns and escapes. When Dan came back to the corner for the short 30-60 second break between periods to get a drink and quick breather, we’re asking him stuff like – “how he feels” and “when’s he going to put this guy away?” Dan tells he needs to do something or he’s going to run out of gas and get stuck himself…
When the next period starts they tie up and start pushing each other around the mat again, then Dan catches this guy in a scramble, body locks and pins him! We were ecstatic in his corner… Coach Cummings proved he still had it! After the awards and Dan got his 1st place award, we told him “we never doubted you for a second!” He laughed and we never razed him about his good ol days ever again because he earned every moment of our respect and friendship!
awesome to read and I so remember many names, after being reminded of course. Kip Buster was the one who got me interested in wrestling due thru his girlfriend 🙂 at that time
What a great article!! Enjoyed “reliving” some of those high school moments and matches… seems like yesterday! Kevin is right about not being able to share some of those high school stories….lol..but what fun times we had!