The featured subject of this RTW article is a wrestler from the 1970’s named Steve Deike who wrestled at Plainfield Community High School from 1970-1973, and later at Drake, and Wartburg College where he became a 2x AA for the Knights.
It was after he finished college that I ran into Steve at an “Old Timers” wrestling tournament at Knoxville, IA back in 1979. We were both competing in the 142 lbs class that weekend. What I remember about it was that everything went great the first day of the tourney – wrestled 2 times on Friday night and won both matches, the next round was scheduled to start at 8am sharp.
When we took the mat, it was pressure from the start and we were both able to fend off each other’s shots, then right at the end of the first period I shot in on a long single and Steve stuffed my head and snapped me down and came around for a take down. I got my choice for the 2nd period and chose down. Those next 4 minutes were the most brutal and painful of my entire wrestling life!
For one… I came up to me feet quick enough but Steve countered by sticking in the legs immediately and once broke down, started cranking half’s left and right! Using power half’s from hell, really tough to fight off. He came close to turning me at one point but I managed to maintain my hips flat to the mat. A few times I managed to get his legs out and tried to get some separation but ran into a slew of arm-bars and halfs!
When the third period came and Steve got his choice, he chose down. I didn’t think this was so bad as I figured I would cut him if I got into trouble. After about 30 seconds we got into a scramble and I ended up getting reversed, so I was down 4-0 with most of the third period left. Steve was very good on top with the legs and his arm-bar attacks were relentless.
As much as Steve was trying to turn me, I was fighting not to get turned… when the match was over and we got to our feet and shook hands, I knew something was wrong with my neck physically. I could not lift my head up or turn it to the right! All the muscles in my neck and left shoulder were on fire so I went back to the locker room to ice. It helped some, I got through my next match, but as the day went on it was apparent that this was going to more than just nag me… I went ahead and defaulted out the next match and spent the rest of the afternoon on ice packs and ibuprofen (800mg). That’s what weekend warriors did when they had a job waiting for them on Monday! In my case it was a job that started at midnight Sunday night.
I watched the finals later and thought this young guy that worked me over was going to win the tourney because I didn’t think anyone could go with him down on the mat. I didn’t actually know how good he was underneath (scrambles yes), but I knew how good he was on top. Well there was an older guy in our class named Ralph Manning who was the wrestling coach at Central College in Pella. He turned out to be the beast of the 142 lbs class that day, and Steve was runner up. That’s the way these things go sometimes in those open OT tournaments. In many ways the competitors are like a box of chocolates – “Ya never know what you’re gonna get!”
The lasting memories from that tournament for me didn’t stop when it was over. I had to take 3 days of vacation time from work to recover enough to do my regular job, and I was finally able to turn my head both ways without too much pain after a week. It probably took a couple of weeks at the chiropractor to fully recover. That’s what I remember about Steve Deike…
Imagine my surprise, when my nephew writes an RTW on a great HS wrestler named Cole Deike from Hampton-Dumont? I had to check in with Cole to verify if he was related – low and behold, Steve was his Dad! As I read Cole’s article I admit I laughed when he told the story of how his Dad pushed him through an injury only to find out Cole had a fracture which was the root cause of his pain. Then I remembered my neck and shoulder from 41 years earlier… suddenly it was wrestling PTSD again. Don’t get me wrong, it was still funny to me, because that was the Steve Deike I remembered. Tough, hard-nosed, and brutish on the mat! Back then he fit the Cobra Kai motto. LOL
Here’s a few of Steve’s accomplishments from his wrestling career that I want to point out and draw attention to…
Steve Deike was the first wrestling state champion at Plainfield, IA high school at 126 lbs back in 1973 in Class A, when he defeated Dave Bierman of Marcus HS, scoring a 5-3 decision and capturing his title. Plainfield has only had two state champions in their school history… the other was 2x champion Vince Miller back in 1986 and 1987 (winning consecutive titles at 132 and 138 weight classes) in 1A.
Steve also placed 5th at 119 lbs the previous year. That weight class was won by a name some of you may remember – Mike McGivern of Iowa Valley (Marengo), who went on to wrestle for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Pretty impressive as he didn’t start wrestling till he was freshman in high school!
Steve would later go on to wrestle with the Wartburg Knights where was a 4 year letter winner, earning D3 All-American honors in 1977 and 1978, where he placed 3rd at 134 in 1977 winning by decision over Steve Holly of Augustana 4-0, and then placed 4th the following year in 1978 at the same weight, losing a 3-0 decision in the consolation finals to Andy Zook of Millersville (who was the 126 Lbs National Champion and O.W. of the tournament in 1977).
Steve was an Iowa Conference champion in those same two years and was named the conference’s Outstanding Wrestler in 1978. He finished his collegiate mat career with a 78-19 record. He’s a member of the Wartburg Wrestling Hall Of Fame.
Here’s our RTW interview with Steve Deike, another great Iowa wrestler from one of the great wrestling decades – the 1970’s… and a great family man who’s had an impact on more folks than he could possibly know because of his values and relentless pursuit of excellence!
What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
Plainfield Community High School, Drake University, Wartburg College
What year did you graduate?
Plainfield 1973; Wartburg 1978
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
The funny thing with this is I played basketball both years in Junior High, but all my buddies wrestled. They all encouraged me to make the change in sports as a freshman. Somehow as a rookie I beat two other guys out for a varsity position- however I would go on to lose all 6 of the first varsity matches I wrestled, finally winning on my 7th attempt. I guess this goes to show one can learn from a loss.
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
Back in my school days I had several cousins who wrestled. As a parent my son Cole Deike wrestled for Hampton-Dumont earning 3 medals at state.
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
As mentioned above I began wrestling as a freshman
What was your record in HS?
81-19 We didn’t wrestle near the number of matches as they do today!!
How did you place at state every year?
I placed 5th at 119 as a junior- back in those days only 8 wrestlers qualified for state. That year I suffered a first round 2-1 loss to Dave Howlett, so wrestling back 5th was as high as I could place . My Senior year was the one year when 12 wrestlers qualified for state- that year I won the State Championship at 126
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
Coming out of high school I was first signed up to wrestle at Drake, however during Christmas break that year my Dad had a heart attack. I was an only son and our family farm had 200 head of cattle, 1,500 head of hogs and 200 acres of cropland, so I left Drake to go back home to take care of the farm as my Dad recovered. In the mean time Dick Walker the Wartburg coach, who had earlier tried to recruit me, came back to out to our house and said “Steve you can do this- take care of the farm, be a Wartburg student, and wrestle”. So I did just that!! That year I grew up a bit, as my Dad would return back to farming 18 months later. So all turned out for the best!!
How would you describe your wrestling style?
I always felt no one could ride me out, and if I scored that ever important first takedown I had you beat. I had a lot of falls – for example I pinned my way through the Iowa Conference Tournament both my junior and senior year at Wartburg.
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
Ironically the first 6 matches in H.S. would include losses to three opponents I would later wrestle at Sectionals- I defeated all three of them to claim the Sectional title as a freshman. Another quality opponent I wrestled was Larry Bergman from Turkey Valley. He defeated me our junior year and I defeated him our senior year. Bergman was a 2A State Champ, while Plainfield was in the 1A class.
Who was your most influential coach?
My high school coach Jim Fisher was fresh out of college at Westmar and began his coaching at Plainfield. His enthusiasm and energy level were contagious as we enjoyed tremendous success at Plainfield. I would be amiss if I did not include Dick Walker at Wartburg for his persistence in recruiting me to go to Wartburg- I loved it there
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
I was fortunate enough to wrestle on teams with so many talented wrestlers- the dual meet record of the high school and college teams I wrestled on was a combined 90-5. I never wrestled on a Wartburg team that lost a dual!!
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
Like many freshman in high school I really looked up to some of the seniors on our squad. In both high school &college I was amazed with that which Dan Gable was doing – college, to Olympics, to coaching; every wrestler knows what I am talking about here.
Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
Looking at the list of 4 timers in Iowa makes it difficult to pick, but I have to stay with Gable when you look at the big overall picture.
Who are your favorite current HS wrestlers?
I still immensely enjoy watching our local high school Hampton-Dumont Bulldogs (Coach Patrick Hansen is doing a great job with team composed of many young upcoming wrestlers). I also enjoy a couple of trips a year to watch the Wartburg Knights . I certainly enjoy watching the wrestlers on the Bondurant-Farrar team which my son helps coach!
Who are your favorite current college wrestlers?
I don’t think I would get to much of an argument if I say Spencer Lee at Iowa!! He is fun , make that incredible to watch!!
What did you view as your strengths in wrestling?
Competitive spirit- mental toughness and psychology of the sport is huge!
What wrestling move worked best for you?
Single legs and bar arms- not fancy but awfully effective!
What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
Good old fashioned Rock!!
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
Probably my senior year at Wartburg in the semi-finals of the national tournament. I led nearly the entire match against the returning National Runner-up, only to some how get taken down with 6 seconds left and failing to make the finals. I had 5 minutes riding time and still found a way to lose it!! That match haunts me!!
If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
I would fix the outcome mentioned just previous!
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
Any of the following: State Championship, 2 time All-American at Wartburg, Iowa Conference Outstanding Wrestler, Wartburg Hall of Fame, selection as one of the “16 Legends of the Sport” at Wartburg.
Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?
College – Wrestling two Division 1 National Champs and both won the OW at Nationals…
Nick Gallo – Hofstra D1 Champ, OW & Olympic team- I lost a 2 point match to Gallo
Ken Mallory – Montclair State 2-time D3 champ, D1 National Champ and OW- I lost to by 4 points (back in these days the D3 & D2 National Champs were invited to the D1 Nationals). However with these guys sometime claiming titles it was ended!!
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
Upon high school I began summer wrestling- camps and freestyle, once wrestling Jim Miller (later Wartburg Coach) in the finals, and Mike Duroe (later Cornell College) on the same day at State Freestyle meet.
How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
Technique is better with todays wrestlers, but eleven of the 12 varsity (only 12 weights back then) wrestlers on my high school team were farm kids who were strong, tough and knew how to work – they would bring you a match!!
Did you wrestle after high school?
Yes at Wartburg
What other sports did you play?
Baseball, Football and Track
What are your favorite sports teams?
I have been a Yankee fan for as long as I can remember. I follow the Hawkeyes closely and of course still follow the Knights!
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Following sports in general, hunting, fishing, woodworking, family and Grandkids (Shout out to G-kids Russell Deike, Della Deike and Arlo Steven Monaco)
How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
I am proud of that which my son Cole has done with coaching in Cedar Falls and now Bondurant-Farrar, and coming back to Hampton each summer to do a clinic for K-8th grade wrestlers. I was Head Coach for Hampton-Dumont for 15 years and coached Junior High for 3 years more. Mike Schimp and Jerry Shafrath (H-D head football coach) coached with me in Jr High when our sons Cole, Bryce Schimp, and Ross Shafrath were coming through. But the questioned posed is right on – I owe wrestling so much for all it gave me, whatever I put back in it was something the sport deserves in return.
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
Immensely!! I used to say I could travel to almost any city/town in Iowa and know someone due to coaching, my own wrestling, or that of my son Cole’s wrestling. It taught me discipline, dedication, to work hard towards a goal- elements instrumental for success in wrestling and in life! My philosophy while coaching wrestling was “give me someone who is coachable and willing to work hard and I can make a wrestler out of them”. A few aches and pains I have today tend to be reminders of the days gone by as well
What do you do now?
I taught Social Studies for 33 years at Hampton Dumont and coached wrestling and J.H football for 26 years, retiring from that to take a position of Executive Assistant to the CEO at ABCM Corporation for the next 8 years having now retired recently from that.
Are you still involved with wrestling?
Yes in various ways. I did announce for J.H & H.S. meets for several years after I stopped coaching wrestling, and helping with the Kid’s Tournament which I earlier started.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Make the most of your opportunity, and embrace the challenge of the sport (as Horace once said Carpe Diem) – you only get the go-round of H.S. wrestling for the 4 short years. You want to minimize the chance for the statement “I wish I had done this or done that”- I have heard that comment too many times from wrestlers years later out of H.S. . I always like the quote of Babe Ruth (one of my Yankees) who once said “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game”. You can’t hide on the wrestling mat like you may in most other sports – this scares some wrestlers, to me this is a beauty of the sport. Also set goals for yourself to work towards each day, week and season. Share these goals with a coach or parent so they may help you strive towards meeting these goals
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
NOPE! Been there done that!!
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
The hundreds of wrestlers I have coached here at Hampton Dumont and on various Iowa All-Star teams I coached! In particular Coach Jim Fisher and the three State Champs I had the honor to coach (Gary McLaughlin, Jason Wedgbury and Mike Dombrowski)
Tell us wrestling fans something about yourself that folks might not know about Steve Deike?
I am one of the luckiest people in the world! Blessed with a great family, and “working” at jobs throughout my career that were not work but occupations I enjoyed going in to perform on a daily basis!!
Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.
I could mention so many funny stories between H.S. , to College wrestling , to coaching! We here in Hampton have the saying every fishing trip or hunting trip has a story to tell- well every practice or meet has a story to tell as well!!