Let me tell you a little story about a savage by the name of Stonebraker. A Sigourney savage named Stonebraker. A savage is defined as “a brutal or vicious person.” A “stonebraker” undeniably gives the vibe of a person who is brutal or vicious enough to break stones with their bare hands, so this story is certainly going to epitomize anything and everything that’s “tough, badass and manly.” I mean, how on Earth can a savage named Stonebraker be anything short of 100% studly and dominant? Spoiler alert, he lives up to his literal name/label… just maybe not in the way that you may be expecting. The wrestling story of Stephen Stonebraker is a pretty tragic one, but he makes up for it by being a stone-cold, hard-working, intellectual savage in the world of wrestling media.
A couple months ago, I wrote an RTW article on a guy named Brett Wheelan and made the comment that sometimes there are wrestlers out there who love wrestling more than the sport seems to love them back. The love for it seems unrequited due to how much they put into it and eternally support it despite the fact that they received nothing, but heartbreak, terrible fortune and a Rulon Gardner-sized void in their souls in return. Nothing fits this description more than Stephen Stonebraker.
In wrestling media, there are several different outlets, all with their own niches and all of them produce what seems to be a smorgasbord of wrestling enthusiasts who write about wrestling from the way they see it. A lotta passion and a lotta creativity involved, but there are also noticeable biases and egos that affect the content. Some people can’t control their egos from influencing their biases…some won’t budge from their biases, for it will be an assault on their egos. Everyone is prone to this to some level in their own ways. There seems to be social cliques, rivals, common terminologies, pacts, etc. It gets to be pretty catty, really. And I am one of the worst offenders. If there were a popularity contest held amongst all wrestling media, I am sure I would be ranked towards the bottom in terms of how well-liked I am amongst most of my wrestling media peers, this considering that any of them even know who I am, which they probably don’t. For one, I am squirrelly and have never been able to prove myself “above” throwing shade at other media people, just for the fun of it sometimes.The most antisocial thing about me is that with an exception of a couple sources, I really don’t read or watch very much content from other sources. I’ve probably been to Flowrestling like 10 times in my entire life. Really, the only people I am familiar with are the IAwrestle guys, The Predicament guys, McCool, etc. I grew up reading Sesker and Levins. They are my favorites to this day. And with that said, I heard of Stephen Stonebraker for the first time probably 10 years later than I should have, for the man has been generating quality content for years now. After I learned who he was, I almost felt guilty afterwards for learning about him in the manner that I did. I learned about him in the comment section of one of my own articles…how’s that for humbling? Another wrestling media guy posting nice things on articles written by a guy who has a long history of neglecting and being a jerk to other media sources… Stephen knows everyone behind every outlet and the work that all of them produce…I am guessing he reads their material out of respect for them and/or to keep himself updated on the “do’s and don’ts” of wrestling media while having something to compare his own work to. He knows who the players in the wrestling media game are, undoubtedly…which is a 180 from the likes of me, for I only know the names of Iowa wrestling media people.
So the first time that Stonebraker caught my radar was when I started publishing the Inside The Rivalry stories for The Predicament. I started those less than two years ago. After publishing those, I would lurk on facebook and check out how many people liked it, how many commented on it, how many people shared it, how many people liked and commented on the “shared” posts, etc. I am Curious Josh when it comes to the reception of any article I have ever posted and when someone writes a nice comment, it makes my day. One of the most eloquently written and heartfelt source of compliments that I had ever received at the time, came from this dude who knew how to spell, knew how to correctly structure sentences, knew wrestling terminology and seemed to have a great grasp of both writing and wrestling. These compliments meant a lot, for I could tell that the source that it was coming from was credible. Several times, this dude would write these well thought-out comments where he referred to me as a good writer. I just couldn’t believe that such nice things were being written about me by a guy who seemed to be every bit as passionate about wrestling and writing as I am. It meant a lot and I finally reached a point where I had to reach out to him and thank him and inquire as to whether or not he was interested in writing about wrestling himself, potentially for this site, which was in the infancy stages at the time. I didn’t realize that he had been doing just that for several years before those articles of mine were even a thought. Stonebraker had covered wrestling for WIN Magazine, Takedown Wrestling, johnnythompson#1, etc. Since he didn’t write for The Predicament, TrackWrestling or IAwrestle, I hadn’t heard of him, for those are the only other wrestling websites I recall ever venturing to with any regularity at all. I am glad I was made aware of him, for I have a lot of good material from him to catch up with. And to think that he has chosen to contribute to the site I launched opposed to another outlet that could potentially pay him, when I don’t have anything to offer him at this time, for I have never made a dime covering wrestling and don’t know how to…. It’s humbling. He believes in my mission statement, he is on-board, he is loyal and it has been a source of motivation for me to keep things going. I consider myself to be lucky to have finally met the dude, for he puts his heart, soul and spare time into covering wrestling. He is much more passionate about it than I am. I go days without thinking about wrestling. He lives and breathes it. It’s what he was born to do. I don’t know if I can say the same about anyone else.
I hadn’t met Stonebraker in person until about 5-6 weeks ago. He drove to my house in Mepo and talked wrestling with me for several hours. I don’t know what kind of person he was expecting me to be or what kind of situation I am in with my life, but I doubt that he expected what he was greeted with when he arrived at my house. I don’t think he expected to encounter a man who has fallen on such hard times. To fill you in on my personal life right now, I am going through a divorce, I have my kids (3 daughters) 95% of the time, my house is presentable, but far from luxurious and my roommate is a guy who was sporting a Joe Exotic-esque mullet to match his silly sense of humor and has had some health issues that have resulted in him being on Disability, which is a far cry from the stud football, basketball, baseball and record-holding long jumper that he was for Mepo back in our day. Stonebraker had entered a house of hard times who had fallen on hard times and was there to talk wrestling with us. He may have been anxious prior to meeting, but was at ease the moment he stepped in the door and fully understood how unintimidating we were and how modest our circumstances obviously were. The wrestling talk flowed freely and easily for several hours.
I had been informed of Stonebraker’s personal wrestling career and knew that it haunted him, but the extent didn’t become fully realized until meeting him in person. He loves this sport. He would have given anything to have lived up to the expectations he put upon himself from a young age due to early success. It clearly haunts him and you can see the relentlessness to fill this void in his life by reading what he writes. He writes as if he is training to win state…which in a way, that’s not too far off. He endured nothing, but consistent heartbreak in the latter half of his career and in his writing, you can tell that he would like to make up for his shortcomings on the mat, by earning the respect he knows he deserves in his writing. And his shortcomings were a result of just tragic luck…the man broke his back. It ruined the remainder and bulk of his career.
When you are a wrestling media guy, covering and interviewing all these elite-level wrestlers, it is not uncommon to catch vibes from certain wrestlers of, “who the hell are you, what have you done and why should I stoop off my pedestal to talk to you?” As if they don’t feel you are worthy unless they feel you know wrestling. I am sure Stephen has caught this vibe several times and it likely killed him every time, for he knows how worthy he is and how well he knows the sport and those who know him, know…it just didn’t happen for him. And he knows that if the roles were reversed and he had accomplished all that he could have if he hadn’t broken his back, that he would be actively interested in everyone’s wrestling story regardless of what their accomplishments may have been.
Get to know Stephen Stonebraker. A savage on the mat, a savage with the pen, a savage with doing and expressing what he feels is right. And if you feel the urge to ignore his story, keep in mind that he would gladly write a 10 page story chronicling your own career, regardless of whether you won the Olympics or never won a match. He would be a full-fledged savage in proving how worthwhile your own wrestling story is…give this savage the respect and time he deserves and check out what he has to say. You may learn something.
1. What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
I started off wrestling for the Little Savage wrestling program in Sigourney, which I was a part of from first grade through sixth grade. In second grade I joined Paul Graham’s Team Osky & was a part of that up through eighth grade. In high school I wrestled for the Sigourney Savages. I was also a part of the Oskaloosa freestyle wrestling club & the Ottumwa freestyle wrestling club.
2. What year did you graduate?
3. Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
When I was a kid I was the biggest professional wrestling fan on the planet. I wanted to be Hulk Hogan when I grew up. My Dad convinced me that if I wanted to one day do what Hulk Hogan did, that I had to first do amateur wrestling. There’s a lot more to the story than that, including using my mom’s makeup to paint my face like the Ultimate Warrior before going to my first practice…but that’s the short of it.
4. Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
My Dad wrestled in 7th & 8th grades. My Uncle Greg Comer wrestled in high school for Davis County. My Uncle Larry Garrett wrestled for Sigourney during high school. My uncle Chris Tompkins wrestled for Montezuma in high school. Truth is though, that wrestling was not a family thing. Out of all of my cousins, I had one that wrestled for a few years as a pee-wee but most in my family played basketball.
5. What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
I was actually fairly good as a pee-wee up through the seventh grade. I qualified for the AAU’s six years in a row and placed twice at them. I took third in 1996 & fourth in 1998. I’d say my greatest rival during my youth years in wrestling was Colfax Mingo’s Michael Bucklin. From fourth grade through sixth grade I think I wrestled him over twenty five times. I’d say he probably won 15 of them and I won 10. Great guy from a great family. Loved the Bucklin’s and the friendship that I had with them during that time.
6. What was your record in HS?
65-70 was my high school record. I never kept track of my freestyle record so I have no idea what that was.
7. How did you place at state every year?
Never went. Never even came close.
8. What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
I broke my back in eighth grade & missed nearly all of the season because of it. I cracked a lumbar & had to have a 24 hour operation where bone was shaved off of my left hip & fused over my back. I was laid up in bed for three months afterwards. After that I was never the same.
9. As a guy who has worked for and is certainly familiar with wrestling media in our nation, what are some of your general thoughts on the state of wrestling’s media coverage? What areas of coverage are done well? What is it lacking?
I think it’s better than it’s ever been. I think Flo & intermat & all of the others do a tremendous job of providing coverage to the fans. I wish sometimes that we weren’t so obsessive over the elite though. I’d love to see some of the other guys get some coverage. We have this romanticized belief that everyone who works hard will get their moment, but more often than we’d ever like to admit, they don’t. Some of the most passionate guys you’ll ever meet in your life were second stringers their entire collegiate careers. God, take a guy like Ben Gillispie that wrestled for Iowa about twenty years ago or so. That guy bleeds black and gold. Loves Hawkeye wrestling & I don’t know if you’ll ever meet a Hawkeye athlete in any sport that wears his letterman jacket with more pride. Guys like him have stories to tell every bit as much as do guys like Cael Sanderson who never lost a match. I think we could stand to showcase them a little more.
I also think that we could do a better job of keeping records. One of the things that has driven me nuts over the years is trying to find out how guys did certain places. I’d love to know that. For example I’d love to see the complete history of the SICL conference. To see a listing of all of the champions over the years. The top three place-winners, ect. I don’t even know if it’d be possible to compile that information. It just doesn’t exist.
Lastly I’ll say that I feel the wrestling media is a little too cutthroat & political for my taste. I’ve had conversations with others about it & how nasty it can sometimes get. One of my greatest friends in amateur wrestling media is Joey Krebs & he and I have had 100’s of conversations regarding the topic. I’ve had conversations with two others whom I won’t mention out of respect. I even had one guy who has been involved in professional wrestling & Hollywood & he told me once in an hour long conversation that amateur wrestling media was the most cutthroat organization he’s ever been a part of.
10. At what age did you develop the desire to write? Were you a guy who wanted to spell every word correctly, never make punctuation errors, etc. from a young age?
Very little. I was never one to take spelling & grammar really seriously but even at the tender age of Kindergarten I took the art of telling a good story very seriously. I discovered at a young age I had an ability to entertain, intrigue and draw an audience with the written word. I’m not sure if I have any talents or not, but if I do, creative writing is it.
11. How would you describe yourself and how you can make your own unique impact on wrestling media? What do you perceive as your strengths? What skills would you like to develop in time?
I’m not sure honestly. I write stuff & I hope people find it interesting. I hope they enjoy it. I know I sure enjoy researching it & writing about it. I think my passion and love comes across in all that I write. Or at least I’d like to think it does.
12. How long have you been intrigued by wrestling history, news, stats, etc.?
Since the beginning. I love history & I love wrestling, so of course I love the history of wrestling. I just love talking the sport. The past, the present, the future…if someone wants to talk wrestling, I’m usually game.
13. Who is your favorite all time HS 1A, 2A and 3A wrestlers on the state and national levels, past and current?
I’d say it would have to be kids I knew personally growing up that I looked up to and admired. Sigourney’s Adam Graham was one of my heroes growing up. He was a role model to me & someone that I wanted to be like. He was a great wrestler, a great student, a great person. Adam was liked by everyone. He always had a hot girlfriend. He took me under his wing my freshman year when he was a junior & showed me the ropes as best as he could. He came over every morning & picked me up to go run, lift weights or work on technique. Of all other wrestlers I ever had in my life, Adam had the most positive impact on me.
Ironically enough, I also looked up to Adam’s cousin Brandon Graham that wrestled for Oskaloosa. When I was a little kid, I didn’t even think of Brandon as a human being. To me he was a God. A wrestling God. When I was real little, I was afraid to even approach him. Then when I got a little older I gained the confidence to approach him at practice & he started showing me different moves & setups. My wrestling improved tremendously.
You know over the years I see kids take second place at the state tournament all the time. My mentality is almost always, “Hey, I wish you would’ve won the state title, but keep your head up. You STILL MADE THE FINALS!!!” I never let it get me down or depress me when someone I care about loses in the state finals. In fact, the only time it ever did bug me was when Brandon lost in the state finals his senior season. If anyone deserved to be a state champion it was Brandon. As weird as I am, I even wrote him a letter & mailed it to him telling him that I respected and admired the Hell out of him & that I wished he had won the state title.
There are other high school wrestlers I’ve loved over the years as well, but those two would have to be my favorites.
14. Who are your favorite all time Juco, D1, D2, D3, NAIA wrestlers of all time, past and current?
I don’t know if I have one for NJCAA. Most everyone I’ve ever followed in JUCO has gone on to wrestle at a higher level.
D1 – Johnny Thompson of Oklahoma State & Leroy Vega of Minnesota
D2 – Cliff Thompson of Upper Iowa
D3 – Mike Jahn of Cornell
NAIA – Chris Keating of Northwestern
15. Which “Gone, Lost and Forgotten” wrestling programs are most heart-wrenching to you
Everyone of them. You got to understand that these wrestlers, these coaches of these dropped programs are all real people, with real feelings & real thoughts. They achieved something for their school. Put on a uniform & wore the colors of their school, only to be told & shown years later that what they did, what they accomplished doesn’t mean anything. It makes me sick to my stomach. I know that my little “Gone, Lost & Forgotten” project isn’t much, but I want the wrestlers & the coaches to know that there is at least somewhere where they can go & see someone remembers them and acknowledges what they did.
16. What do you feel is the key to success for a wrestling media outlet that wants to succeed, but in it’s own unique niche?
Communicate with your staff. Always been honest with your staff. Respect your staff. Realize your staff is human & takes being treated fairly and adequately seriously. Telling someone you appreciate them amounts to jack squat if you don’t SHOW them you appreciate them.
As to the “unique niche” you have to be able to communicate your vision in a way that gets those who are helping you with it excited and motivated. We’re all in this because we love the sport of wrestling & we want to share it with our audience.
17. Has wrestling media portrayed wrestlers in an accurate light or do you feel there are other dimensions that need to be covered?
I think we could stand to seek out wrestlers who don’t fit the mold. For example another great love of mine in high school was theatre. I’m sure there have been other wrestlers throughout the years that wrestled all four years of high school & went out for the spring play. Yet, we rarely hear about these wrestlers because theatre isn’t something that we think a wrestler ought to be doing. Ridiculous! Theatre, band, art, rodeo, ect….I think people want to know there’s more to us than what we do on the mat! You know my favorite fact about Iowa’s Spencer Lee? The dude loves Pokemon!
18. Who are the wrestling media personalities (journalists, analysts, commentators, etc.) that you have looked up to in your time watching and covering wrestling?
Jason Bryant & I have butted heads more than once over the last 18 years. I’m sure we will again. I’m almost positive if you ever got him in private & asked him all of his real feelings about me, not everything would be positive. Nevertheless I think he is one Hell of a journalist & I think he does a great job of covering our sport.
Mike Chapman knows that I think the world of him.
I always really, really enjoyed reading Ron Good’s work when I was growing up.
Mark Palmer of intermat is a writer that I read religiously.
19. Who was the best guy you ever beat at the youth level and HS level?
When I was little, I actually was good so I beat all sorts of great wrestlers. Have about 10 wins over state champion Michael Bucklin of Colfax Mingo. I beat State champion Travis Branson of Melcher-Dallas. I beat three time state place winner Justin Neuzil of Highland-Riverside every time I ever wrestled him. If I sat down and went through all of the kids I ever beat in pee-wee & junior high wrestling, I’d imagine I beat tons of state qualifiers and place-winners.
As to high school? Well, even though I had a rather disappointing career I still had a handful of highlights. My freshman year I pinned Zac Gayewski of West Burlington. As a senior I beat Troy Smith of Pella 9-6. I believe the Predicament had him ranked 10th at the time. The last match I ever wrestled I pinned Brandon Ball of Columbus who went on to win the state title a couple of years later. I also beat a handful of guys that went on to qualify for districts.
20. How would you describe your wrestling style?
Hesitant, timid and scared. I thought way, way, way, way too much on the mat. The best match I ever wrestled in my life was when my assistant wrestling coach Gary Jarmes pulled me aside & said to me my senior year, “Steve, I want you to do something for me that you’ve never done.”
I asked him, “What’s that?”
“Go out and wrestle this kid.” He said back to me. “Just wrestle him.”
Confused I said to him, “I’ve wrestled for you the past nearly four seasons.”
“No you haven’t.” He said back to me. “What you do is you go out on to that mat to either win or to not lose. You’re not doing that this match. You’re just wrestling.”
I promised him I’d go out onto the mat with a clear head and that’s exactly what I did. Won the match 9-6 & found out a short time later that I had just upset a ranked kid. Only time in my high school career I ever did that.
Overall I would hope that my coaches, my opponents & anyone that ever watched me would say that I wrestled with a lot of heart. I once had Belle Plaine’s Steve Carl tell me that while I was far from the most talented kid he ever wrestled, I was one he always hated to face. “You’d give it Hell the whole six minutes.” I’d like to think all of my opponent’s felt that way about me.
21. How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
I never got to wrestle guys as many times as I would have liked to. The only person I ever wrestled multiple times was North Mahaska’s Joel DeVore. He won every match we ever wrestled, but I’d still call what we had a rivalry. Our first two matches were very one sided. He pinned me & then beat me 10-4. Our next match I tossed him in a headlock & it was as if I was Popeye & someone fed me Spinach. He won that match 10-9. Then we met at conference and he beat me 12-11. Our final match at sectionals he beat me 12-9. So no exchanges, I’m 0-5 against him but I’d still call him my high school rival.
22. What single wrestling memory of yours rugged at your heart strings the most? Personally and for other wrestlers?
Personally – Getting beat out of sectionals my senior year & finishing in third place. It haunts me every day. I think about it all the time. I have a much different perspective on it now than what I did 16 years ago, but it still hurts.
For Others – There are a lot. You follow people’s careers, you get to know them on a level & you tell yourself that not everyone can be a champion. Not everyone gets have their moment in the sun. You know that & you know you’re supposed to accept that, but you never really do. A wrestler from Hofstra comes to mind as I write this. A great guy that I’ve met a few times in my life that I actually list as the best of all time to never make All American. His name was Noel Thompson (I’m beginning to realize that if someone has the last name Thompson, they’re a favorite of mine). He was one match shy of being an All American three times! His senior year he lost a heartbreaking tiebreaker to not be an AA. It’s hard to watch guys like that. Guys you know work their asses off & you know they’re good guys. You want them to succeed and it breaks your heart when they don’t.
23. Do you see wrestling growing or dwindling down in the future? What factors will influence this?
That’s a very difficult question to answer because you can approach it from a variety of different angles. I think from a participation standpoint we need more coaches that want to teach wrestling to any kid that wants to learn it. We need guys like my pee-wee wrestling coach Larry Bird, who welcomed anyone into his wrestling room that wanted to be a wrestler. We need coaches like my high school wrestling Coach Jeff Kirby who took a kid like me & despite my lack of talent & ability still did everything he could in his power to help me succeed. That’s what our sport needs. We don’t need these coaches who look at kids & wish that they’d just quit cause they’re no good. We don’t need these coaches that only care about winning & if you’re not going to win them championships, they don’t want any part of you. The sport doesn’t need that. If a kid wants to be a wrestler, work hard & be a part of the team we have to encourage that. We’ve got to get away from the mentality that winning is everything & some might think that I’m only saying that because I myself wasn’t worth a hoot. That’s ok. I’m cool if they think that. This sport still did tremendous things for my life. I could write a novel on everything positive wrestling ever did for me. I’m sure a lot of other nobodies in the same boat that I’m in feel the same way.
As to an audience? I think we need to keep figuring out ways to appeal to a broader audience. I think some of the rule changes that have made wrestling faster paced and more exciting has helped a ton. I think it’ll only get better.
Attend wrestling duals/tournaments!! ESPECIALLY at the collegiate level! A.D.’s that drop wrestling often state “lack of attendance.” If we get our butts into seats, then they can’t say that can they?
24. In Iowa, the HS State wrestling tournament is hands down, the most rabid and attended tournament of all HS sanctioned sports. With that said, why is it that the most appealing HS sport in Iowa has had such a difficult time formulating a professional league where the athletes are paid? The appeal is obviously there and Iowa proves that, so why hasn’t it spread as much as other sports such as basketball? How do we promote wrestling to the point where our athletes are paid?
Wrestling is too regional and too personal of a sport. That’s why it’s never worked and that’s why it won’t work now. I’m an anomaly in wrestling. A kid from Iowa whose favorite wrestler wrestled for Oklahoma State? I’d imagine other than Brandon Mason’s friends & relatives, I’m the only Iowan in the history of collegiate wrestling than can ever claim that. Our sport doesn’t really have fans. We have guys that wrestled that keep up with their teams & other local programs. We have the moms, dads, uncles, aunts, grandparents, friends & girlfriends of wrestlers, but we don’t have people that are fans just to be fans. Football does. Basketball does. Baseball does. Hockey does. Wrestling doesn’t. You could go to an Iowa Hawkeye wrestling dual with 15,000 people and I don’t know if out of those 15,000 you’d find a single person who was simply a wrestling fan. That means they didn’t wrestle themselves & they didn’t get into the sport because of a friend or family member. I’d wager to say that you’d find less than a handful if you found any at all.
We as a wrestling community are to blame for this. We often don’t allow people to just be fans. I’ve observed a group of people watching wrestling before & one will say, “Oh, man! Why’d you do that!?!? Terrible shot.” As soon as he says that he is bombarded with, “What did you ever do in wrestling? How many state titles did you win? How many times have you pinned Cael Sanderson?” If you weren’t a four time Olympic Gold medalist, then shut up, you don’t have a right to an opinion. No other sport is this way. Hell most of the armchair quarterbacks watching football at the bar never stepped on the gridiron, but they’re allowed to have an opinion on a bad throw or a missed block. People like to get excited. They like to cheer & be loud. Allow them to be.
As a guy that was also involved in professional wrestling, I have heard people gripe & moan about how pro wrestling draws audiences and amateur wrestling doesn’t. You know why? It’s pretty simple. Because pro wrestling realized something 90 years ago that amateur wrestling has only recently caught on to. The fans are what it’s all about. The fans. When Pa grabs Billy & Bob and hauls them two hours to come watch a wrestling dual they want to see the best matches. If #1 Vs #2 is going to happen at 141 lbs, that’s what they came to see!! If the coach of #1 ends up sitting #1 because he’s afraid that he might get beat & that might affect seeding, that puts Pa & his two sons in a sour mood. This truly is a have your cake & eat it ordeal. If we want butts in the seats, then we have to deliver what’s on the marquee. That may mean taking risks.
25. When you injured your back, did you know it’d be a lingering injury or did you think it’d be temporary?
I had no idea how much of an effect it would have on me. My doctor didn’t want me lifting weights because he thought that the stress of squats, powercleans & deadlifts could possibly cause the two titanium screws in my back to pop out. He told me if that ever happened, that I’d be in a wheel chair the rest of my life. So I didn’t lift weights at all my freshman year & barely lifted weights my sophomore year. My junior year I was finally able to start hitting the weights, but I really had no idea what I was doing. Then to make matters even better I tore my groin & then followed that up by tearing my left bicep. Oh the joys of injury! The spring before my senior year I met and befriended Dave Rempe & Jeremy Towsley. Those two guys showed me how to pump iron. I learned so much during that summer with those two guys teaching me the art of lifting. It made a huge difference. My senior year was my best year. I really think that had I met them earlier in my life & not dealt with all the injuries I did, that my career would’ve turned out better. My technique was solid. My conditioning was phenomenal. I simply had no strength. To give you an idea…. When I graduated high school my max bench press weighing 16 5 lbs was about 170. That’s all I could do & I needed a spotter for that. Today I weigh about 215 lbs & I’ve done as much as 385.
26. Who was your most influential coach?
I was very fortunate to have great coaches all throughout my wrestling career. Larry Bird my pee-wee coach taught me the love & passion for the sport. Paul Graham another pee-wee coach taught me confidence & the power of believing in myself. My high school wrestling coach Jeff Kirby is one of the most influential and inspiring people I’ve ever had in my life. I know someday I’m going to publish a novel or do something else great in my life. I can just feel it. My day will come & I know in partial it’ll be because I was fortunate enough to have people like him in my life. I’m not going to give out near enough thank you’s but trust me I mean to. Gary Jarmes, Shawn Williamson, & the list goes on. I had some great coaches.
27. Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
That’s a tough call. I think it’s hard to argue against Jeff McGinness.
28. Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
I always root the loudest for the guys that everyone else has given up on. The seniors who have yet to have their success & fans treat them like they never will simply because they haven’t yet. Nothing pleases me more than to watch a senior who everyone has already written off silence his critics. I love that.
29. What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
Believe it or not but I work out best to easy listening. If you ever catch me at the gym you might see me doing military press or hang cleans. I’m intense. Got the growl on my face & I’m pumping heavy iron. You’d think I’m rockin’ to AC/DC or Metallica. Yet if you take my headphones off you’ll hear “Thank you” by Ditto.
30. What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
SICL conference consolation finals my senior year. I was wrestling Brett Allison of Tri-County. I had beaten Allison 14-4 in a dual & then was beating him 9-4 when he threw me and pinned me at the Oskaloosa duals. This was the rubber match. I took him down three times that match & in the third period led 7-3. All I had to do was not get pinned. That’s it. Yet, I was angry about being pinned the time before & wanted to see if I couldn’t get the major. I figured I can escape, I can take him down. I can let him up and take him down again. I went for a granby roll, Allison followed me on through put me on my back and pinned me. I love Allison and think he’s a great guy. No ill will towards him at all, but I’d give anything to have that match back.
31. If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
It’s fun to speculate sometimes. As a writer, you can’t help but speculate. I think I’ve come up with at least 1,000 different scenarios of what I’d do different. Of how I wish things had been different for me. How I wish this and wish that. No, I’m not happy about how my wrestling career turned out. There’s no use trying to lie about that, it comes across easily enough when you talk to me. Yet, I think something else great is in store for me down the road. I want to believe that it’ll be in writing. I love to write and write all the time. I write novels, novellas, scripts and screenplays all the time. Not to mention all of the blogging I do & wrestling articles. I honestly believe one day I’ll be the success I work so hard to be. I’m so determined, stubborn & Hell bent. I’m almost certain that had I succeeded in wrestling I wouldn’t be. So in the end, I think things turned out the way they were supposed to.
32. What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
If anyone actually reads this all the way through, I’d say that! Lol
Seriously though it was being named the hardest worker of the year by my coaches and teammates my freshman, junior and senior years of high school.
33. Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
All year round. In the spring I attended both Oskaloosa’s and Ottumwa’s freestyle practices & went around to local tournaments. I also attended two wrestling camps every summer & in four years of high school wrestling never once missed a summer practice unless I was attending a wrestling camp.
34. How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
I have no idea. I know there are days when I walk out of the weight room feeling pretty tough. I look at a kid and wonder how I’d do against him. I think it’d take him all of thirty seconds to show me.
35. Did you wrestle after high school?
Believe it or not, I actually got offers to. To this day it still surprises the Heck out of me considering that I had a losing record & I had never done anything. Nevertheless Dubuque College sent me a letter requesting that I walked on. Ellsworth Community College & Lawrence did as well. Even when I went to Northwestern College, I was offered a small $1,500 per semester scholarship to wrestle.
Now I did attend a handful of practices but I never officially wrestled. When I graduated high school, I had a long talk with my theatre teacher. I thought at the time that it wasn’t fair to try and do both wrestling & theatre. I thought if I did, I’d be half assing them both. I had given it my all in wrestling & I had never been that great at it. I only did theatre part time & was pretty good at it. I thought maybe if I dedicate myself to theatre the way I did wrestling that I might turn out to be great at it. So that’s why I didn’t wrestle in college.
36. What other sports did you play?
I did baseball up till seventh grade. Love the sport & wish I would’ve stayed with it through high school, but I was worried about not being good.
Played football in junior high and my sophomore year.
My real love though was theatre! Love acting!
37. What are your favorite sports teams?
I like all sports but the only ones I really pay attention to are college wrestling and college baseball. No real bias for or against any particular teams, just love attending duals, tournaments & games.
38. What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Lifting weights. Reading. Creative writing. Spending time with my dog and cat. Spending time with my girlfriend. Movies & friends.
39. How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
I give back to the sport in the only way I know how to do it. We’re a sport that cares so much about how you did as an individual. What accomplishments do I have? Where are my medals and bracket sheets? I have none. Therefore in most situations I’m not wanted as a coach. I think things may be different now, but that’s what I faced when I did try getting into coaching 10-12 years ago. My talent & my ability, where people trust me is with my writing. So I use it to the best of my ability to help the sport I love.
40. How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
I can’t count the ways. It’s given me a great work ethic. If anything I think it’s made me a more empathetic person. Wrestling is one of the loves of my life & like love often does, it breaks your heart. It ruptures your spirit. It’s certainly no fun to go through & it sucks to endure but I think it’s essential to experience. I think it’s a part of growth.
41. If you feel that you have a void in your life due to not feeling satisfied with how your own wrestling career ended up, do you feel there is a way to fill it?
There is a void. I fill that through my writing. I write all the time. All sorts of stuff. Like I said earlier, novels, novellas, scripts, short stories, blogs, screenplays. I write all the time. Don’t know if I would, had I succeeded at wrestling. I think had I been a state place-winner like I had wanted to be since I was little, that I would’ve been satisfied with life. That, that would have been good enough for me. Yet, I didn’t and now I seek more. I long for more. Failure at wrestling I think one day will turn out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.
42. Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Have fun. Believe in yourself. Give it your all & realize whether you end it on top of the heap or at the bottom, you were still a wrestler. 225-0, four time state champion or the guy that never saw varsity once in your career. Either way, you’re a wrestler. Don’t ever let anyone take that away from you.
43. Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
Austin Uphold has been trying to get me to go to one for years. If I ever do, I’ll be a rattlesnake. All I have left is strength. That’s it. I have no wind & my gut is so big that I can’t shoot. My only hope would be to go for a headlock & pray I caught my opponent along the way.
44. Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
I met so many great people in this sport. Made so many friends. People like Ryan Groom, one of my favorite people in wrestling come to mind. I could name 100 more.
45. Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.
I can’t believe how long this is! 45 questions! When I write one of these it’s usually 8 to 10 questions! I wonder how many people will read this. Can’t say I blame them if they start it and don’t finish.
I’ll end by saying that I love talking wrestling & I’d love to hear from any of the guys I used to wrestle back in the day. Love to hear how you’re doing and what you’re up to these days. Want to talk any old wrestling memories with me, I’d love to.