I’ve always thought the name “Laramie” was a cool name… I have an affinity for cool-sounding, somewhat uncommon names and the name Laramie is one of them that fits my list of cool names. So cool in fact, that for all 3 of my children, that name was at the top for my favorite “boy names.” All 3 children ended up being girls, but if one of them were a boy, who knows…there may have been a Laramie Swafford hitting the mats soon… And prior to, I had only heard of one person who has that name… Laramie Shaffer. At least I thought he was the only person I knew of with that first name….
One of the cool things about this site for me personally, is when guys fill out their questionnaires and send them back, sometimes I get answers to questions I’ve had for decades… In Laramie’s case, I had a bunch of questions that has confused me until now… The main question being, “how were you able to manage being a monster wrestler in two different states at the same time?!” Let me explain…So my brother, Justin placed 4th in a loaded Fargo Nationals Freestyle bracket in 2000… Justin was a 2003 graduate and this took place in the summer after his Freshman year…This bracket had close to 100 guys in it. One of the guys who caught my eye was a kid named Laramie Shaffer from Missouri. He was just a match or two from placing in the top 8, so he won a lot of matches in this bracket. Justin was going to wrestle him in the placing rounds if he won his last match. So that name stuck with me and you could probably imagine my confusion when I discovered what I thought at the time to be some of Missouri’s Laramie Shaffer’s past results. Turned out, Laramie was a hammer in the 2005 graduating class, 2 below Justin… Pretty impressive showing for a younger guy like that to be making the waves he did in a deep Fargo bracket, but what didn’t make sense was that he wrestled at the AAU state tournament that same year… In Iowa… At a much lower weight than the 105.5 lb. division that he was in at Fargo. “How is this possible?” I thought to myself. It didn’t add up. I just figured that he was a guy who moved in from Missouri or maybe had a split household in which he wrestled in both Missouri and Iowa and it somehow fell between the cracks…. but didn’t get past ol’ Joshua Swafford, Wrestler Detective.
I was more or less at a loss when I noticed Laramie Shaffer making more impressive marks as both a 90 something-pound 8th grader in Iowa as well as a 120 lb. Missouri kid in the Junior division in Freestyle… My questions became increasingly more far-fetched as time went on and there and more signs of there being two Laramie Shaffer’s who were both elite wrestlers with one being from Iowa and one being from Missouri…. “Does he have 2 birth certificates?” “Does he wrestle Missouri just during the summer and Iowa during the winter?” “Why does he weigh so much more during the Summer? Does he seriously gain 30-40 lbs. per offseason and then lose it again the moment he comes back to Iowa?” “He placed at this tourney and that tourney on the same weekend? How did he do that? Is he some sort of master of omnipresence?” It never occurred to me that there could actually be two Laramie Shaffer’s in the world and that both were superb wrestlers from bordering states around the same age range.
The toughest dual team I think Mepo ever faced while I was in HS was Winterset. We faced them first round at the state duals my Junior year in 2000. They kicked the crap out of us. My brother Justin was the only guy who seemed to show up that weekend. We were atrocious that day and they were ready to go. Granted, State Duals were held a week after traditional state in those days, so our weight and behavior for some of us had been out of control since state and for most of us, sectionals/districts that year, but I presume the same was true for them as well, but they showed up and some of their guys were the most tenacious wrestlers we faced all season. Chad Hutchinson, Justin Kramer, Aaron Drain, Matt Keller, myself… we all lost. We were among Mepo’s best guys when we were there and all of us had success as kids l the way through HS and we all got throttled by our Winterset matchups. Justin Kramer was one of the best guys to ever go through the Mepo room. Despite never even placing at state, he rarely lost and he defeated 4-5 state champs from various classes in his HS tenure. When he qualified for state as a Senior, he was beaten by a kid named Colt Stephens from Winterset. An unknown to us at the time. We figured the nerves got to him, but then it happened again at state duals…. the last match Kramer ever wrestled in his life, he was defeated by Colt Stephens again. All of us ran into hammers we knew nothing about. I had no idea who most these studs were prior to the meet. I was a kid who memorized the AAU and HS state booklets and had never heard of brilliant Winterset wrestlers like Clint Manny until we hit HS and he started reeling in the hardware… Which was crazy, for he was in my grade and around my weight-range to boot. And there he was, placing and making the finals more often than not in HS competition… With the mystery that came with Winterset guys like Laramie Shaffer, Colt Stephens, The Abel’s, Clint Manny, etc. for me, I was starting to come up with some conspiracy theories, for in those “primitive internet” days, no one seemed to know anything about these guys… No one from SE Iowa, anyways… “Where in the world are these guys coming from?! Do they have some sort of Missouri connection?!” is probably the pinnacle of how far-fetched my thought process was when it came to our new Winterset friends. And it was derived from the confusion that sprouted from seeing Laramie Shaffer’s Missouri results.
Turns out Winterset was just a solid, well-coached, hammer factory of a wrestling program. In retrospect, I feel that the greatness of some of what they’ve brought through that room with guys like Manny, Ryan Jensen, Cory Christensen, Jared Abel, Laramie, etc. gets overlooked and I don’t know why. I get that “better than people give them credit for” vibe when I think back on it and I know I’m not the only person to have caught that vibe. Cory Christensen was a 3 time state champion for Winterset in the 90’s and coaches at Don Bosco now and I heard from 2 different Bosco wrestlers that none of them had any idea how good he was until Cory eventually told them after he had been there for months and they looked it up. They went out, took care of business, dominated and walked off without even a hint of cockiness or arrogance and went on to the next thing. And you wouldn’t have to worry about them throwing shade at you on or off the mat and you also wouldn’t need to worry about any of them adding your girlfriends to MSN Messenger or anything lame like that. They won and lost with dignity and respect. A very solid and consistently balanced thing they’ve had going on in Winterset, year in and year out.
And the mystery of Laramie Shaffer’s omnipresence? The answer to that mystery is in Laramie’s story! He’s a nice guy and I’m glad I met him!
FRESHMAN IN 2002 2A 103
- Justin Brown, Jr., Centerville
- Tyler Bjustrom, So., Algona
- Dane Reiter, So., Hudson
- Skylar Smith, Fr., Mount Vernon
- Tom Michels, Jr., Osage
- Laramie Shaffer, Fr., Winterset
SOPHOMORE IN 2003 2A 112
- Justin Brown, Sr., Centerville
- Laramie Shaffer, So., Winterset
- Jace Kuhlman, Sr., Maquoketa
- Mark Beatty, Fr., Maquoketa Valley
- Brandon Johnson, Sr., Chariton
- Quentin Kuhns, Sr., Adel-DeSoto-Minburn
- Tyler Bjustrom, Jr., Algona
- Andrew McDonald, Jr., Forest City
JUNIOR IN 2004 2A 119
1. Laramie Shaffer, Jr., Winterset
2. Andy Schmitt, Sr., Clear Lake
3. J.J. Krutsinger, Fr., Waterloo Columbus
4. Jake Kliven, So., NC-NK Northwood
5. Doyle Bohr, Sr., Washington
6. Josh Knipfer, Jr., New London/Winfield-Mt Union
7. Marcus Nagl, Jr., Carroll Kuemper
8. Jacob Ryan, Fr., Mount Vernon
SENIOR IN 2005 2A 125
1. Laramie Shaffer, Sr., Winterset
2. J.J. Krutsinger, So., Columbus Waterloo
3. Mike Whisler, Sr., Centerville
4. Bryan Sundall, Jr., Emmetsburg/Armstrong-Ringsted
5. Joel Anderson, Sr., Battle Creek-Ida Grove
6. Brady Schmauss, Sr., Crestwood Cresco
7. Mike Sandy, So., Spirit Lake Park
8. Zach Williams, So., Union LaPorte City
What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
In youth I just wrestled for the Winterset youth club, although I spent some time going to Iowa City to the Hawkeye Kids Club and to Des Moines to the Rail-splitters Kids Club. In High School I wrestled for Winterset and in college wrestled 4 years at Iowa State and half a year at Augustana College in Sioux Falls.
What year did you graduate?
I graduated from Winterset in 2005. Iowa State in 2010.
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
My dad took me to wrestling when I was in kindergarten and I got pounded on and quit that year. He brought me back in 1st grade and I have been doing it ever since.
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
My dad wrestled for a bit in high school, both of my sons just started wrestling and I hope they enjoy it as much as I did. My 3 year old daughter is tough as nails and I could see her putting a whipping on people in a couple years.
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
I placed 6th, 6th, 5th, 3rd, and 3rd at AAU state, I wrestled with a lot of great kids in AAU. Brandon McDonough, Joey Slaton, TJ Sebolt, Shea Minor, Patrick Makey, Nick Pickerell, Cody McClintock and Brady Graham to name a few. Some of our AAU brackets were stacked with future state champs. Placed at various national tournaments although never at Tulsa which I believe we all thought of as the holy grail of tournaments.
What was your record in HS?
I was 189-12, 9 of those losses were from freshman year, it was rough.
How did you place at state every year?
6th, 2nd, 1st, 1st
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
Freshman year was super tough, I was really young for my grade as I was an August birthday so my freshman year I had just turned 14 and weighed about 95lbs. 9 of my 12 losses in high school came that year and I got pinned 3 times. It made it a hard wrestling year, but I ended up placing 6th at state after losing first round to Tyler Bjustrom then ended up wrestling Dane Reiter and Tommy Michaels on the backside too. Junior year I tore my meniscus in my knee right before state and had to wear a brace throughout the tournament. It was more a mental challenge than physical one though and I ended up placing 1st.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
My style has changed a lot over the years. In high school I was a get some points on the board and wrestle smart kid. I didn’t win matches by big points, but if I was up I was hard to score on. In college Cael really pushed us to attack, attack, attack so I started being more of that always attacking style wrestler.
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
I only lost to Brandon McDonough and Justin Brown twice in high school everyone else only beat me once and I either avenged that loss or never wrestled them again.
Who was your most influential coach?
That is hard, as I had a lot of great coaches. Greg Stephens my youth coach would probably be the most influential as he taught me great fundamentals that I carry today. Jason Reitmeier from Augustana is probably second as he got me back to loving wrestling again. The most influential for my style was definitely Cael Sanderson at Iowa State, he made how I wrestle change a lot.
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
Winterset was always competitive in high school we finished 4th, 3rd, and 2nd at state duals while I was in high school. At Iowa State we won 3 big 12 championships and got 2nd, 5th, and 3rd at the NCAA championships. At Augustana we got 2nd at the NCAA championships.
How would you describe the Winterset wrestling fan base?
Winterset fans are awesome, our home meets were always packed and there was always a ton of Winterset supporters at away meets and tournaments too. They were the best kind of fans, super enthusiastic and loud, but not unruly or disrespectful to other teams. Running out to the mat at Vets with all my friends and fans right there by the mat side cheering me on is one of my best memories of high school. I’d like to add that Logan-Magnolia fans are great too. They have been super welcoming since we moved here and have been very supportive of my transition to running the LO-MA Youth Wrestling Club.
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
Although he wasn’t much older than me and I doubt he knew this, I really looked up to Jesse Sundell. I knew him and his family growing up and always followed his career. He was and still is a great guy and I always wanted to be 4 time champ like him. I loved watching his matches with Mario Galanakis they were always exciting.
Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
That is a super hard question as there have been so many great wrestlers from Iowa. I would have to say Jeff McGinness or maybe Jay Borschel.
Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?
There is quite a list of guys I wrestled with or knew during high school that I had a lot of respect for, but one stands out. I grew up wrestling Brandon McDonough and his brother Brent. Brandon also handed me two of the biggest whippings I received in high school. I actually won state before I won the Harlan tournament because I always had him in the finals. He taught me a lot of what I know of wrestling when I would go to Des Moines to train with him and his brother. It saddened me greatly when I learned a few years ago that he had passed away. The dude was a true warrior and I respected him a lot.
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
International I would say Jordan Burroughs, high school would be Briar Reisz, though I might be biased there, and Drake Ayala.
What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
I never listened to music before I went out and wrestled. I felt it distracted me.
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
I would say either first round at state freshman year or in the finals sophomore year. That finals match was a tough pill to swallow.
If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
That is a hard one, there are multiple things I would change, but I think cut less weight would be the top thing.
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
My best memory was wrestling and beating, Jesse Sundell who I had looked up to growing up, in my first wrestle offs at Iowa State. My best accomplishment was winning my second state title and finishing the year undefeated.
Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?
I wrestled a lot of hammers in high school. Dan Davila put a whooping on me freshman year, same tournament Patrick Makey and I had a good scrap. Brandon McDonough was always tough and Justin Brown gave me two of my biggest losses in my career. Derek Moyer and I had a good match and Austin Bair and I wrestled 3 times senior year and we were both ranked #1 and both ended up with titles. College pretty much everyone I wrestled was tough lol, some of my teammates being the toughest ones.
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
Depended on the year, I wasn’t big into freestyle and I played a lot of other sports so wrestling was more of when I had time during the off season.
How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
I think the class of 2005 could compete with the guys today. Things evolve and change, but I think most of the good guys back then could adapt and change and have as coaches and would give the guys today a run for their money.
Did you wrestle after high school?
Yes, I was a letter winner with some varsity matches for Iowa State for 4 years, then took a semester off and ended at Augustana College in Sioux Falls were I was an All-American. During that semester off I started training for MMA.
What other sports did you play?
I was pretty active. Played football, soccer, baseball, ran cross country, rode bulls during summer, did gymnastics until I got into high school, was a pro MMA fighter, and jiu jitzu competitor after college.
What are your favorite sports teams?
My wife has me rooting for the Huskers which I never thought I would see the day. I don’t really have favorites though I just like to watch sports in general.
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
I like to read, hike, hunt, snowboard, jiu jitzu, and do muay thai.
How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
I like coaching quite a bit, I just started coaching a youth club, but before that I was a voluntary coach at Iowa Western Community College. I like passing on the tips and tricks I have learned over the years. I think wrestling is the greatest sport there is and I love seeing kids being passionate about it.
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
Honestly, I don’t know where I would have ended up without wrestling. I was kind of a wild kid and wrestling gave me a lot of purpose in life. It really helped me get through some tough times and gave me the perseverance to get to where I am today.
What do you do now?
I am a Social Science and Career teacher at the Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility in Omaha, NE and I run a small landscaping business on the side.
Are you still involved with wrestling?
Yes, I coach the Logan-Magnolia Youth Wrestling Club and I help with the Logan-Magnolia high school wrestling team.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Cut less weight and have more fun. If you don’t have success at first keep working at it. I have known a multitude of wrestlers who weren’t very successful until they got older.
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
Sure, I am game to wrestle anytime.
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
All my former teammates, thanks for being great guys and making memories with me.
Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.
I just want to say Todd Becker has probably forgotten more about Iowa Wrestling than I have even known about it. Also since you brought it up the other day, Swafford, there was another wrestler with the name of Laramie Shaffer from Missouri, I think he was two years older than me and I actually met him at Tulsa Nationals one year when they called the name to the head table.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Decades-long questions ANSWERED! There were TWO Laramie’s that I have known of and they were both hammers in the wrestling world in the early 2000’s and both of them had the last name of Shaffer!!! How’s THAT for a coincidence!!!