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Inside the Rivalry: Mario Galanakis of Nodaway Valley vs. Jesse Sundell of Ogden with Chris Helgeson of Lake Mills (PART 1: INTRO)


“I remember the second match at Guthrie Center being the most intense, loudest environment I have ever seen in a school gym. Guthrie had bleachers brought out on the one side of the mat, so all three sides were surrounded. I remember looking back at tape and noticing everyone in that gym was watching that match. Both our fan bases were getting into it and our Superintendent had his arms around my brother to make sure he was kept in check and refrained from fighting! People skipped out on watching their own squads compete at districts, just so they could see our match.”

– Jesse Sundell, Ogden


”The atmosphere for both matches was just electric. I had never seen or experienced anything like it before and certainly haven’t since. Fans from our squads were seething with intensity, several of them having to be restrained from fighting. Fans across the state prioritized witnessing these matches over watching their own kids at Sectionals/Districts. It was insane.”

– Mario Galanakis, Nodaway-Valley


“I wanted to beat Sundell and stop him from getting his fourth. I knew Galanakis was good, but didn’t start thinking about him until he beat Sundell. After Galanakis beat Sundell, I felt a little overlooked because everyone was expecting a repeat of that match in the finals. I was pumped when the brackets came out. Sundell was on the opposite side, for a potential semifinal matchup with Galanakis was what I wanted. I was very confident that I could beat both.”

-Chris Helgeson, Lake Mills

This rivalry was one of the most heated ones I remember. The year was 2001 and like every year, the pool was filled with a variety of wrestlers who had goals of making up for their shortcomings or securing their perfection at the high school level. This rivalry was between a couple guys who were from squads with fanbases that were loyal, vocal and emotionally invested in the outcome. People (fans) lost sleep over this match-up, whether it was due to being anxious about it, contemplating it or being upset because an opposing fan disagreed with their opinion…and in venomous fashion. And most of the vigorous fighting amongst fans took place on something that was fairly new at the time…the Iowa wrestling message boards.

Now, I am widely associated with message boards. I have posted on the Iowa wrestling message boards since their emergence in 2000, when I was a junior in high school. This is how a lot of people either know or will always remember me…a longtime message board guy. With that said, I have seen some heated flame wars on the forums in the past 19 years.  I have participated in them and have never shied away from stating my opinions or even engaging in flame-warfare myself on these boards. However, this is one battle that I wouldn’t even consider commenting on. Things got nasty and personal. People legitimately hated each other in these debates. Not only was it the most rabid and intense that I have ever seen people act on them, but the arguments pertained to two people that I really liked and respected on a personal level as well as having the utmost respect for their wrestling talents.

This is a story about a three week demolition derby that initially involved two wrestlers, with a third wrestler busting down the door and joining the mayhem at the end. This collision resulted in a fire…a fire that was already intense and uncontainable, but was made more so uncontrollable when gasoline was thrown on to it in the form of message board flame wars between the fans. This is the story of the war between an actual cowboy from Ogden and the son of a man who came to America from Greece on an oil tanker in the 1970’s. This was between an accomplished bull-rider vs. a prodigy in the restaurant business It was The Wild West meets Ancient Athens. Billy the Kid meets Alexander the Great. And an additional warrior crashed the war at the conclusion, when everyone thought it was a foregone conclusion that the victor would either be the cowboy or the Spartan…catching several fans and spectators by surprise. Brace yourselves, for you are about to relive the unforgettable three week collision course between Jesse Sundell of Ogden and Mario Galanakis of Nodaway Valley in 2001 as well as collision course crasher, Chris Helgeson of Lake Mills.

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