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Remember The Wrestler: Matt Davis, Dubuque Senior

Matt Davis was in my grade. The class of 2001. He was also at the same weight as me…literally every single year since we began. I wrestled Matt a lot. Maybe more than I have wrestled anyone and until 9th grade or so, I think I won every matchup against him.  Listen, there are not many wrestlers, if any that I personally respect more than Matt Davis and there is a reason for that.  For one, he and his dad are nice. Secondly, I know firsthand, that this guy never, ever, ever stopped improving.  The improvements were gradual at times, but they never stopped.  Every year he was fine-tuning new, valuable skills and it used to impress the hell out of me.  By the time we were Seniors, he was one of the best technicians in our grade.  And I’m telling you, it was a snowball effect with him.  His improvements were direct results of having a good attitude, putting in the extra time, listening and working his tail off. He earned every stride he gained. By the time we hit high school, he was beating me more often than not when we would meet up at freestyle tournaments.  Every year he incorporated a new set of elements to his game.  That Dubuque Senior duo of Matt Davis and Nathan Specht, people need to remember them.  They were absolutely awesome wrestlers and people.

I went to college in Dubuque and worked at a pizza place called Falbos to help get me by through college.  One of my happiest days at work was when the Davis family came in and immediately recognized me and asked how I was doing.  Just the nicest people and I was so glad that they didn’t forget me because I sure as hell won’t ever forget them. 



What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?

I wrestled for Dubuque Senior in high school. We didn’t really have any clubs in youth wrestling, but had good coaches and practices around Dubuque.


What year did you graduate?



Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My dad encouraged me to give it a shot when I was in third grade, so I signed up for a program through the YMCA.


Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

My dad wrestled in high school, and my son Owen is 6 and just getting started. He does a good job, works hard and has a great attitude.


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I did well, but not great. I think I made it to AAU State 3 or 4 times, but never placed. A lot of names come to mind, I wrestled Brett Wheelen about 100 times, but we were always friends off the mat. There was also a kid from Mediapolis named Josh Swafford I could never get past.


What was your record in HS?

122-27, I believe. I could be off a couple matches.


How did you place at state every year?

Freshman- Qualified
Sophomore- DNQ
Junior- 2nd
Senior- 3rd


What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?

Not a lot of adversity, I was lucky enough to stay pretty healthy.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was aggressive on my feet, legger on top, and liked to work the granby from bottom.


How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?

I traded wins with Ryan Sallis from Waterloo East a lot my freshman and sophomore year.


Who was your most influential coach?

Tim Hejhal had the biggest influence on my style, he was a great teacher and coach. Denny Moore (Nate and Nick’s dad) was my youth coach and had a huge impact as well.


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Freshman and sophomore year we were competitive, junior and senior not so much. I always had great practice partners though.


Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?

Being a Dubuque Senior guy I looked up to Keith and Eric Weber and Rick Healey.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Probably an unanswerable question, but I remember seeing Eric Juergens at practices and tournaments when I was younger, and he was awesome. I think he would get my vote.


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

My son Owen, also the Iowa Hawkeye and Western Dubuque Bobcat wrestlers.


What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?

Red Hot Chili Peppers and Blink 182


What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?

State my senior year. Your goal your whole wrestling career is to win a state title, tough to take when it’s over.


If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?

Nothing really, a few matches I would have liked to go differently, but that’s life.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Making it to the finals my junior year. I beat Jake Hobbs in the semis, who kept me from going to state when I was sophomore.


Describe the wars you and Specht had over the years… could you have asked for a better practice partner?

There were battles, but probably not what you would think. We wrestled each other everyday for years, so we knew what the other person was going to do. It became pretty boring. He has been my best friend since first grade and I think I can count on one hand the number of times we have gotten mad at each other. Great partner, better friend.


Do you have a lot of pride in Dubuque area wrestling?

Yes, growing up there weren’t a lot of kids that wrestled regularly, but the ones that did were very good. There are great coaches and programs in the area now. I live in the Western Dubuque school district and have a ton of respect for Coach Cleary, his staff, and Coach Gotto. They run a great program.


How much did freestyle help your folk style game?

It helped on my feet, which was probably my weakest position. By the time I was a senior it was my best. Freestyle teaches you to finish your shot or get the hell out of there. It was also the most fun I had wrestling.


Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

Being from Dubuque, I had the pleasure of wrestling Cliff Moore and Ryan Heim on a regular basis. It helped me when I was younger, but created a lot of losses in high school. Tim Halligan and Johnny Galloway as well.


Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

Seasonal when I was younger, all year in high school.


How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?

I think we would do fine.


Did you wrestle after high school?

No, I had enough. A lot of work for a lot of years, I was ready to be a regular college kid.


What other sports did you play?

I played baseball when I was younger. In high school I ran cross country to help me get in shape for wrestling.


What are your favorite sports teams?

Hawkeyes and Cubs


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Spending time with my family and friends, golf.


How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?

I haven’t been involved for a long time, but recently started getting back into it with the youth program at Western Dubuque. It’s great to be around the sport again.


How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?

Dan Gable said “Once you’ve wrestled everything else in life is easy”. I think that sums it up pretty well.


What do you do now?

I’m an insurance adjuster.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

I’ve recently started getting involved with the Western Dubuque youth program.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Work hard, be coachable, and believe in yourself. Confidence is a powerful thing.


Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?

Absolutely not.


Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

My practice partners Nate Specht, Coalton Olson, and Louie Fischer. I owe a lot to Louie, he was a couple years older than Nate and I and he would haul us around to lift and to practices even when we didn’t want to go.

Most of all my dad, he spent a lot of time taking me to practice and tournaments. He was always supportive, and found a good balance of helping me get better without pushing too hard.


Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.

A lot of good times, I hope he doesn’t get mad at me but one of my favorite stories is Louie Fischer’s battles with the hydraulic door. If he was having a bad day, he would storm out of the wrestling room and slam the door behind him as hard as he could. About halfway shut, the hydraulics would catch the door and it would close gently behind him. We always got a good laugh, I think Louie did also.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Bob Davis July 12, 2020, 7:22 pm

    Matt always had a great attitude and worked very hard! He never seemed to get discouraged and was very coachable! Sometimes he would do things I told him even when HE knew it was bad coaching! He was always improving and working to get better! When he was younger he was thin and not real strong. He had no choice but to learn technique. When he developed in late junior high he had the technique to go along with the strength. Also he had a lot of good coaches and workout partners! I could not be prouder of Matt and I could not ask for a better son and friend!!!

  • Ryan Ahlers October 12, 2020, 9:30 am

    I was great friends with Matt and Nate in high school (still am!). They were the ones that got me into wrestling, and even though I was never good, they taught me the work ethic that it took to be good at other things. Matt’s dad (Bob) and Nate’s dad (Rudy) were great examples of parents that supported their kids and the DBQ Senior program, but kept wrestling fun and exciting. They had a great balance of pushing, and allowing room to grow and improve on your own. I got to see a lot of great wrestling, and I still love the sport thanks to Matt, Nate and their families!

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