I can go on forever about the seemingly endless amount of personal connections I have with Evan Shaw. My brother Justin helped coach him a bit at IC West, we were in the same freestyle program over the summers, his cousin Nate Houston is a great friend of mine and lives next door to me with his sister Kara, his grandpa drove the bus for the Mepo wrestling team for a while, his aunt and my mom are co-workers, etc. His grandfather is one of the greatest people I have ever met in my entire life. Actually, I can say that about his whole family, for every one of his family members that I know are great people. I used to listen to some of his Grandpa’s stories and life advice for hours on end. Like I said, I can go on and on about various connections I have with this man.
Evan was a part of the IC West wrestling program when Coach Mark Reiland got them to their absolute peak. They were undeniably a powerhouse around that time. One of the best squads to ever grace the state and consisted of wrestlers who were some of the best to ever step on a mat… and Evan played a very instrumental role on this team. He was one of the studs on that team and has been described by a couple IC West wrestling affiliates as being the “glue” that kept the squad together and functioning efficiently. He was part of a team that had guys like Derek St. John, Nate Moore, Nick Moore, Dylan Carew, Grant Gambrall, Kody Pudil, Mitch Mueller, Greg Coleman, Alex Kanellis, etc…. Think about that… I heard multiple people say that Evan was “the glue.” THAT is an outstanding compliment and a testament to the respect he received from some of the staff, fans and athletes in the IC West wrestling community.
I can’t believe it took me until now to meet Evan considering all of our mutual acquaintances and hobbies. He has said some very encouraging things to me about the site which is something I will be eternally grateful for because that’s the type of thing that will spark me to keep at it. He reminds me of his family…good people. And he’s a great, eloquent writer! Not much proofing had to be done with his responses.
Be on the lookout for a poetry book that he will be releasing this Spring sometime. I will probably post something about it around the time it releases.
What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
Trojan Wrestling Club, Hawkeye Kids Wrestling Club, Future Hawkeyes Wrestling Club, Iowa City West, and Coe College.
What year did you graduate?
2007 from Iowa City West…what a team! I remember growing up with all those guys and I’m so glad they all came to West. I was very fortunate!
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
All my classmates in 1st grade got a flyer about joining the Trojan Wrestling Club, and I thought it would be fun to try. Bruce and Peter Kinseth, my best friend and his dad, were a big inspiration as well, since Bruce was Most Outstanding Wrestler his senior year at the NCAAs for the Hawkeyes in 1979. I always tell people he was the only guy to pin his way through both the Big Tens and the NCAA Tournament on his way to a National Title. I wonder if that record will ever be broken.
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
Nate Houston, my cousin, wrestled for Mediapolis. My older brother tried it for one year. And one of my uncles wrestled at Burlington back in the ’70s. I was the only one to qualify for State.
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
In AAU, I qualified after 4th grade, but always came up a match short in placing. It was tough getting to the podium, but it helped me grow and become a better wrestler. Some guys I had lots of good matches with were Brady Jacobi, Ryan Mullnix, Jeret Chiri, Michael Hemingway, Sean Weber, Michael Silverstein, Travis Hardin, Colton Smith, and Clayton Rush. I had a lot of great matches over the years, but those are the ones that stick out in my mind. And I gotta remind Derek St. John, although we were younger, I beat you in the only match we ever wrestled.
What was your record in HS?
103 – 67. Over half of those losses came in my freshman year, when I weighed 114 tops, and had to wrestle at 119 most of the year. There was a senior at 112 that I just couldn’t beat, and there was a spot in the varsity lineup at 119, so I took it. I had 14 matches against 10 state ranked kids, and 5 matches against state champions (2 from MN, 2 from IL, 1 from IA). That first year was tough, but it made me better in many ways I couldn’t appreciate until later.
How did you place at State every year?
Sophomore year, one match from the podium. Junior year, made it to the finals, lost by one point. Senior year, one match away again, lost to a kid I had pinned the year before. I’m just glad I was able to wrestle in The Barn Sophomore year the last year they held State there, that I had my shot in the Finals, and that we did so well as a team all those years.
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
Probably my senior year–I wrestled a kid at Districts who was sick–his parents called mine on Sunday morning and told them about it–and then it caught up with me the next week at State, and I didn’t wrestle the way I could have. Also, getting suspended for 1/3 of the season for drinking during winter break, I was disappointed with that. But I always felt that I wrestled every match to the best of my ability, so I’m very thankful. My senior year, I wish I could have gone into State strong, like I did every other year. But the way we did as a team made up for everything.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
Hard handfighting and defensive first. Maybe like Randy Lewis, who I’ve learned in recent years is a great guy as well. Shout out Lewbo!
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
Didn’t go back and forth with too many guys in HS, not like I did in my younger years, but I did have quite a few matches with Drew Harney from City, and he came close to beating me once. Never lost a match to a City High wrestler though, or a City High dual, in 4 years on varsity, thankfully.
Who was your most influential coach?
Pablo Ubasa–all the years in kids club, and working out in the mornings before school. Love Mark Reiland, though–both have had a huge impact on my life, and I couldn’t ask for two better coaches.
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
Very much so in high school. Won traditional state my junior and senior years, and state duals my freshman, junior, and senior years, for 5 championships in 4 years. I was really thankful to be there for the peak of Iowa City West wrestling. We were even ranked in the top 10 in the nation my senior year. I would like to have seen how our teams did against the all-time greats in Iowa history, even my freshman year, with Mitch Mueller, Greg Coleman, and Alex Kanellis on the squad. We had some really tough teams, and I know that few have swept both the traditional and dual titles in a single year, yet alone in back-to-back years. So it would have really been a test of character and our talents to see us stacked up against some of the great teams in Iowa history. We could always feel the tempo of a meet, and usually someone would step up in the thick of things when it counted. Or someone would get bonus points when needed, or a key match would be won that might not have been won otherwise. It was really remarkable what we could do.
Who was your most influential wrestler/s that you looked up to growing up?
Bruce Kinseth, Joe Williams, Mark Ironside, Doug Schwab, Wes Hand, and Steve Mocco. I really got to know a lot of those Iowa guys while sitting with them in the sauna at Carver before kids club practice, or while cutting weight. It was such a privilege to have access to the Hawkeye wrestling room all those years as a kid. I still remember one of the pass codes! It was great to talk with some of your role models–Mark Juergens, Eric’s brother, was a great guy as well. I loved sitting in the sauna with them all. I also remember beating Tom Brands in ping pong at an Iowa Wrestling summer camp in Mason City in like 6th grade. He got heated, but it was a lot of fun. Gotta be always competitive right?
Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
It seems like Nick Moore has been mentioned a lot, I’d have to give my vote to him. But I always thought that TJ Sebolt and Jeff McGinnis were great, too.
You’ve been described as “the glue” of the dominant IC West teams that you were part of. What does this mean to you?
It made me feel real good to hear that, after all these years. I don’t think we really elected a team captain my senior year; but I grew up wrestling with all those guys, and I was always good at encouraging them and keeping them together. We learned what worked as a team, and what didn’t.
Describe some of the battles you had in the IC West wrestling room.
I remember one time I rode Nate Moore for about 10-15 minutes straight, and another time when Denny Moore broke up a fight between me and Nick, but that’s all I can say! I still love the Moore brothers like my brother. We were close and our room always had good matches. Shout out to Kody Pudil and Grant Gambrall!
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
Graham Gambrall is who I’ve been rooting for, along with Spencer Lee. Those guys are just tough. If Graham stays sharp, I really think he can compete well at the college level. But he’s got to stay sharp and work his butt off. That’s my message for him, stay focused, work hard, and you’ll be rewarded. You’ve got one shot at this, so make the most of it, and really give it your all. You know you’ll only improve if you go 100% at all times, so keep that up and push yourself. Then you’ll grow, bud!
What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
Thunderstruck, Eye of the Tiger, and The World’s Greatest by R. Kelly were my go-to songs while warming up. I used to listen to those three before every match like a ritual, along with a couple of other things. But anything rap, and some rock, would get me going. I’ll save country for after the match.
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
Losing in the State Finals, by far. I’ll think about it now and then, more so in recent years, but I really felt like it was my night that night. So it still stings sometimes.
If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
My overall confidence in my shot, I realized later on that I was too defensive as a wrestler. That’s what I wish I could teach young kids today, to trust your shot. It should be like a mantra to them–over and over, trust my shot, trust my shot. I really think it could make a difference for them.
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
I was probably the best singlet trader from Iowa at national tournaments! But seriously, I was proud of making All-American at Topeka (folkstyle) and Enid (freestyle), and making it to the State Finals. One great memory was a tournament at St. Louis where our hotel was next to a Hooter’s, and we all went back and forth between the restaurant and the hotel, bugging our parents throughout the night. Going to Fargo, and to Tulsa was a lot of fun, too. I’m also proud that I won my last high school match (to seal our State Duals win against W-SR), and also my last college match at Coe.
Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?
I wrestled Derek Moyer, a state champion, in my second varsity wrestling match, and only gave up a major. Wrestled Charlie Falck two weeks later. Senior year at the Dvorak tournament in Illinois, I wrestled Lucas Roth, state champ from Illinois, and lost by decision to Anthony Meza, a two-time state champ from California.
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
All year, after 5th grade. Got a concussion on the way to regionals that year and had to forfeit in Greco, but Reiland got me into the Freestyle bracket where I just injury defaulted, I think to Dak Adamson once, and after that I wrestled both Freestyle and Greco all through high school.
How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
I think we were really tough, and we had a lot of competition in the room all the time. I don’t know what these guys today could do, but I’d like to see them go against a couple of our teams. Our elementary school teams for Pablo were tough, all-timers on there all throughout the team, and we went all over the nation to compete against people. Not to mention our high school teams. And I wonder if some of these guys today are even going to regionals. I know that the top competitors are, but I don’t think they have the same depth nowadays that we had back then. I wish them the best, though, and hope they keep growing. There’s so much potential out there.
Did you wrestle after high school?
I wrestled at Coe College for a semester, then decided I was done with wrestling. But Coe was a great experience, and I really thank them for the opportunity.
What other sports did you play?
I played football for a couple of years in high school, but really loved paintball, too. Even traveled around the Midwest on a competitive team that placed high in tournaments. Also played baseball before wrestling freestyle in the summer, and a lot of soccer all through elementary school.
What are your favorite sports teams?
Any team from Dallas or Iowa. Always been a big Cowboys fan, and of course, nothing beats Iowa football. I also like the Chicago White Sox, North Carolina basketball, and keeping up with ICW sports.
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Reading inspirational books, writing poetry, and trying to get people to live their best lives. Find a good book! Really, please! Happiness is all about putting your virtues into action, and feeling like you’ve lived your best!
How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
Absolutely wonderful. I have been struggling with some things these past years, but it has always helped me feel better to get in the room and help those kids practice. There’s nothing like building a positive habit to get your day going well, or wrap it up well, and wrestling taught me that so well.
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
It’s made me mentally tough, and has given me a lot of self-esteem, and it taught me all I needed to know about discipline. I couldn’t be more thankful for that. Everywhere I go, friends still introduce me as a state champion wrestler. Those were some of the best years of my life, and I’ll never forget them. Checking your weight, warming up, checking other kids’ hands for their weight, traveling all over with friends, all of that was very special.
What do you do now?
Well, now that I’m out of prison, I’m working on becoming an author and public speaker. I’m in the process of getting my second book published this Spring, and you can find the first one on Amazon, or in the Iowa City Public Library. I want to inspire people to live their best lives, and hopefully we can all serve others a little, too.
Are you still involved with wrestling?
I’ve helped out with my old kids club, Ubasa Wrestling, for a few winters, but have taken a break from that. It was a great learning experience though, and I love helping the kids.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Concentrate on building your strengths, focus on improving your weaknesses. Trust your shot, have faith and believe in yourself. Confidence is a big part of it, so trust it. And be good with your counters, you should be able to rely on them in any moment. That voice of guidance you have is always the right thing to trust. Really, you can’t have enough faith in yourself, so remember your successes well and learn what went wrong if you lose.
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
I’d love to wrestle again, if the time is right.
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
I’d just like to thank my coaches, Pablo Ubasa and Mark Reiland, for all the great coaching over the years, and all the lessons learned. You guys really taught me a lot. Also, my teammates at Iowa City West High and all the members of Hawkeye Kids Wrestling Club. You guys are doing great, it’s great to see how active you still are in the sport, and all that you guys are up to these days. Dylan Carew, keep in touch. Spencer Manning, hope you’re doing well. And Cindy Johnson, too, even though you kicked my butt a couple of times. And I’d like to thank God for looking after us all these years, and I just pray that we find His purpose for our lives.
And for everyone else, a lot of us found our passion in our youth with wrestling, but now, in our later years, what will we give our time to, what will we devote ourselves to, how will we give back? What is it that you find special in life? Well, stick to that with all your heart and believe in God’s promises, and what you wish for your life will come to pass. That’s what I believe, that’s what I hope in. I hope you do too!
Anything can happen, really, if you first show some dedication–we’ve all learned that. So go and use it now, pick something and stick to it. You’ll see results. Promise. God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. Romans 12:6
I hope some of you guys read my poetry over the years, and maybe you’ll get something out of it, too. As Tony Robbins says, the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your questions. Like, how do you want to serve? How do you want to give back? And, where do you excel? So, just maybe, we’ll meet each other on down the road, and we’ll both have something good to share about our lives. Peace, Evan