Out of all wrestling media, past and present, if I were to list my top 5-10 favorite wrestling media writers, personalities, announcers, etc. may surprise people, but it’s heavily influenced by those I grew up reading and/or looking up to. Some of these come to mind immediately…
Tim Johnson is far and away my favorite individual in wrestling media…actually, he may be up there with Jack Buck as my favorite in all of sports. Tim is a born and raised Southeast Iowan like myself and has lived a life and accomplished things I could only dream of achieving. And he reached his success by being true to himself. The passion he has for the sport of wrestling is detectible to anyone who takes a second to listen to him for a few seconds and his takes are always spot-on and from a variety of angles, for he has worn a lot of wrestling “hats” in his day….wrestler, coach, commentator, advocate…. He is the wrestling media GOAT, to me and likely always will be.
Jim Thompson is a man who compiled the 1A/2A rankings for The Predicament for decades and when I initially began writing about wrestling on forums in HS, he was someone I always really looked up to.
So many people associate me with the late Dan McCool due to our shared love for wrestling history (and really, that’s basically the one thing he and I have in common), but to be honest, I never read much of his work. That’s not written with intentions of slighting or disrespecting Mr. McCool at all… He was great and I love his book, “Reach For The Stars.” I use that book as a reference at times. He’s just not who I grew up reading… He wrote for The Des Moines Register. We rarely ever even encountered a Des Moines Register in my area. In Southeast Iowa, we get a newspaper called The Hawkeye and 1 in 10 or so will buy a CR Gazette or QC Times. I can’t recall ever seeing a DM Register newspaper laying around my house…so I didn’t read much McCool. The Hawkeye is based out of Burlington. With this situation, I was spoiled, for I grew up reading a couple of the state’s best ever wrestling journalists in Craig Sesker and Matt Levins. So they are up there for me.
There is a man named Todd Conner who used to have a wrestling newspaper and it was awesome.
Of course, The Predicament staff, past and present…Wyatt…
I really like reading or following anything KJ Pilcher publishes. He’s got an intriguing writing style and he was a good wrestler himself, so he receives bonus points for that.
Lars Underbakke from IAwrestle is great and very knowledgeable.
In certain ways, Tony Hager from IAwrestle has been better to me than pretty much anyone else in wrestling media has been, which is ironic considering he and I had a rough patch there. He has given me opportunities to reach his audience, which is much larger than mine… that was pretty cool of him. He’s up there.
In a nutshell, that is the jist of some of my personal favorites and something that those guys with an exception of Tony and Lars all have in common is that they are people I looked up to BEFORE I began covering wrestling. Even Lars was “Fulsaas Fan” on the forums when I began. However, if I were to make a list of my favorite wrestling media personalities, it’d be incomplete if I were to leave out one of my all-time favorites who started covering wrestling AFTER I did… And that’s Eric Schares from Don Bosco. He covers wrestling for Iowa wrestling media outlet, IAwrestle.com He is one of the most knowledgeable people you will ever talk to in regards to wrestling at multiple levels (you won’t find anyone more knowledgeable about 1A HS wrestling in IA). Even if you disagree with any take he may have, he has his own logic/reasoning to back up it up and he’s consistent with it. And to make him a borderline intimidating presence in the wrestling media world is his cunning ability to display unbelievable wit in his responses to those who may disagree with him…. I am good at this myself and generally never shy away from a good old fashioned “flame war,” if necessary and I rarely ever encounter anyone who I would feel inclined to avoid said “flame wars” if they did in fact, unravel. I win 99% of them. Schares is an exception. He’s a dude I won’t mess with. Probably the only one. I’ve seen people try to contest his takes in disrespectful fashion several times before and he just rips them to shreds. That’s another thing I like about him. He will not hold back or paint a prettier picture for you than necessary to ensure you don’t get your feelings hurt. He will argue with you….and he is able to push a person’s buttons and get them frazzled in doing so and 9 times out of 10, he is right about whatever topic it may be to begin with…or at the very least, has his own logic for it. If wrestling ever grows to a point where ESPN/Fox Sports/etc. analysts are sought out, discovered and hired to cover the sport, Eric Schares should be one of the first ones contacted. He’s good. And he’s entertaining. Even if someone doesn’t like him, they can’t deny that he brings some excitement to the equation just out of his willingness to unapologetically be himself…
And as unpleasant as he may come off to someone who disagrees with him, the man has got a heart of gold and that is observable by the way he discusses some of the individuals in wrestling who influenced him. Most notably with Don Bosco people… You’ll never find someone who genuinely loves their squad moreso than Eric Schares genuinely loves and appreciates the wrestlers/coaches to come through the Don Bosco program. He will be loyal to Don Bosco for life and I couldn’t respect him more for it.
I’ve observed several disputes that fans/wrestlers have had with IAwrestle in the past. In fact, I am notorious for being part of a fairly highly publicized beef with them myself, something I am happy to have put behind me by now. A lot of times, when someone is upset with an IAwrestle take, people will resort to calling their staff out for not having a wrestling background, when in reality, these people failed to do their homework with them. The staff at IAwrestle is tougher than people realize. To start, the owner, Tony Hager was a phenomenal wrestler in HS… He was a 3X placer/2X finalist. Lars Underbakke wrestled for Cresco, a downright wrestling history hotbed. And of course, Eric Schares. He was a state place-winner for Don Bosco in his day. A great wrestler. So for anyone reading, keep that in mind if you want to get snippy with those guys….the IAwrestle guys have some very impressive wrestling accolades on their resumes and they DO know the in’s and out’s of the sport. So be prepared if you are brave enough to cyber-scrap with someone like Eric Schares. He is a super bright individual who grew up in a community in which wrestling is part of the culture. Wrestling is a second language to him and he can speak it fluently and with the speed of that guy who used to “speed talk” on the old Micro Machines commercials. The wrestlers who grew up in Gilbertville should feel proud to have grown up in the rich wrestling atmosphere they did and further, should feel proud that it’s home to passionate people like Eric Schares. A guy I really look up to.
And some advice for you all. If you ever find yourself in the middle of an intense internet battle with Eric, keep in mind….he is probably laughing at how ticked off he is making you…. 🙂
What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
It was Bosco my whole life. Wrestled in the kids club there all the way through high school. In the summers we would practice with La Porte and Columbus a lot.
What year did you graduate?
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
I don’t really recall what got me into it. I think maybe I saw my good buddy Joe Girsch doing it, so I decided to give it a try. I know I first started going to peewee practice in 1st grade and wrestled my first tournament in 2nd grade. I just liked going and hanging out with my friends, my dad and brother, and all of his friends at the weekend tournaments. My mom was always there supporting me too.
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
My younger brother (Who is much bigger than me) finished 5th in 2007 and got 2nd in 2008. My first cousin Bryce was a 2x state qualifier a few years ago for Bosco. My 6 year old son Graham just started competing a little this year. We have been to 2 tournaments so far and it makes me so happy just seeing him having fun with his buddies while spiking some dudes on the mat. My 3 year old daughter, Sloane, also participates in practice. They are both very feisty little red heads.
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
I qualified for AAU State my 6th grade year but went 0-2, Finished 4th at AAU my 8th grade year. I cant say as I ever really had a rival. A lot of good guys that would hand me a monthly beating maybe. Probably the closest was Trevor Kittelson. I beat him a couple of times in freestyle and Greco early in my high school career then he got the better of me later on. I must have showed him the key to being a great wrestler.
What was your record in HS?
75ish and 25ish. I could probably look it up but it was pretty close to that. I missed almost my entire senior year with a broken hand from football. I came back the week before sectionals.
How did you place at state every year?
Finished 5th place my senior year. I was ranked around 7th my junior year, but lost at sectionals and never got a wrestleback because Charlie Ettelson was also in that bracket. Would I like to have that match back? Of course, but I just flat out got beat. I just didn’t force the action. Although, I don’t feel being a 2x placer winner over just doing it once would have changed my life in any meaningful way. It probably made me appreciate things a little more my senior year down at state.
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
One of my biggest battles was always just finding a spot in the lineup. Mack Reiter was at the weight that would have been the most optimal for me my freshman and sophomore year. Both the weights above that each year had a state placewinner for us at them also. I tried cutting a ton of weight each year to make the next lowest weight class. My freshman year, the weight just was not there to lose to make 103 so I went up to 125. My sophomore year I actually made 119 twice, but I was a shell of myself. I took a few losses those first two weeks to kids I had no business losing to. I made the decision to go up to 135, I won my first try out but lost the spot to Phil O’Loughlin who would go on to qualify that year and then win state 2 years later. My junior year I was at a good weight, had a great season beating a lot of guys that would go on to place, I just took that one loss at sectionals and all of the sudden I was sitting back crying my eyes out knowing that 3 quarters of my high school career were gone. I was in a pretty dark place then and wrestling was not really fun anymore. I broke my hand in football before the start of my senior wrestling season. To this day I still think that breaking my hand was the best thing that ever could have happened to me. It allowed me to still work on my conditioning, but just watch wrestling for a few months again and fall back in love with it.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
I felt like I was always in better shape than everyone I wrestled. I probably didn’t use that to the best of my ability in my style though. I like to go upper body a lot, but I scored a lot of takedowns with my quickness from anklepicks and ducks. I think the best way to describe my style was probably a strategist. If I had a lead late, it was over. I scored a lot at the end of periods, knew how to work the edge, could ride well enough to keep guys from scoring. I call it a strategist, you might call it a staller!
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
Honestly not many. The Bosco crew would always travel around to find the best competition so that usually kept us from seeing the same people too much. I think Doug Reiter made a lot of calls ahead to kids tournament directors and made sure all of our brackets were loaded. I felt like we had a truck load of great wrestlers coming home with 3rd and 4th place trophies a lot.
Who was your most influential coach?
That’s a tough one. Most of the coaches at Bosco now either came after I left or were just starting towards the end of my career. I would have to go with Doug Reiter though. I don’t think I ever learned a bit of technique from the guy, but he was a master with the mental aspect. The best I can put it into words was he had a way of pumping you up while calming you down simultaneously. I think the mental side of wrestling is talked about a lot and still not enough. It is absolutely everything. That’s another thing I really like to study when I watch wrestling and talk about it. I like watching and hearing about what different wrestler’s mentalities are. I don’t think there is a one size fits all mental approach. My junior year I was at my best as far as technique and conditioning went and that season didn’t end how I wanted. My senior year, I probably traded in a little conditioning and technique for a huge improvement in my mentality and it paid off for me.
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
We won state duals by freshman and senior years. We finished 2nd my sophomore year. It was a lot of fun winning state titles with guys I grew up with riding bikes across Gilbertville and getting into trouble just being knuckle head little kids.
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
I followed everyone. I knew all the Bosco guys and who their biggest rivals were. I was winning money of older guys in state champion pick ‘em tournaments back in grade school, so it is hard to put my finger on just one guy. I loved watching them all.
Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
It’s always going to be Mack Reiter for me. I learned a lot from him on his work ethic. That was always my goal in conditioning was to match how hard he was working or top it. I tried to beat him in every crawl, sprint, or 3 man rolls.
You’ve covered wrestling for IAwrestle for a few years now, how has the experience been for you?
Been a lot of fun. It is a lot of work constantly trolling Tony Hager. I just love having fun with it. I’m always looking for the perfect joke. I have fun with some of the behind the scenes access it gives me to events. I just love watching how wrestlers take big wins and losses in the bowels of an arena while nobody is watching. It something I have always studied. Not necessarily study as in sit down at a desk and breakdown film, but I just like watching it. There is something that I have never really been able to put into words about it. I love big matches that have huge consequences for the winner and also the loser. It brings out the best in people or even just who they really are. I think I can kind of feel for guys that don’t get what they want because a lot of times I didn’t get what I wanted. To me the best part is trying to figure out why it did or didn’t go well for someone. I ask the question “why” a lot when it comes to decisions made on the mat or in training to other coaches an athletes. Sometimes it gets perceived as me second guessing, but it’s really just me trying to figure out what makes people successful.
In order to grow wrestling, what are some things we could do to make it happen?
Do away with the “Good Ole Boys” mentality and open up to new ideas.
What is a crazy or funny experience you’ve had so far in your time covering the rankings?
How mid to low ranked Western Iowa 1a guys love trading losses back and forth to make my life hell when trying to put together a top 12.
Do you like doing rankings or do you have a love-hate relationship with it? What is your philosophy on how you do yours?
It is a lot of work filling all of Tony’s demands. I don’t do rankings like most other people. Some of it is the same like if wrestler A beats B then A is ranked higher, but I also put a lot of my predictions in there more so than other people. At the end of the day when all the dust has settled at state, nobody will remember how I came to the conclusion of ranking a guy first instead of second. They will just remember that I had the guy at #1 who won the tournament.
What are some interesting hypothetical matchups between guys from different eras that you would have been interesting in seeing?
Generally, I think the top end guys get better from era to era. I’m not a big fan of the back in my day stories and how much tougher they had it. Selfishly I’d always like to see how that 2005 class from my senior year stacked up against other eras though.
Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?
A lot of guys from that 2005 class. I knew how hard I worked to get where I got so it was a constant struggle I had trying to figure out if those guys really put that much more work in than me or if it was all back to that mentality. I worked out with a 4xer everyday for more of my career than I didn’t and I felt I held my own in the work department. That’s what keeps me up at nights is trying to figure out what separates those two people.
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
Can we switch this to favorite current high school athlete? For me that would be Cael Frost. I just love his mentality when it comes to sports. I think to be successful on the mat or the field you have to have a level of naïve confidence as Mack Reiter calls it. Some people think they are good, but Cael knows it. When the smack talk starts from the other team, he gets better.
What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
Rock 108 was what the radio was always on in the wrestling room. Disturbed, Saliva, Godsmack, Metallica. Any music similar to that. I still listen to that on my long runs, it just sets the tone mentally for me. Even to this day certain songs take me back to some of the battles I had in the practice room with Todd Becker, Nick Weber, and Adam Weber. It didn’t hurt having a state champ, 3rd place finisher, and D3 all American to wrestle with everyday.
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
It’s that sectional loss my junior year and nothing else is even close.
If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
Probably the one I mentioned 2-3 times already my junior year, but just for fun lets throw another one in. The summer after my freshman year at Fargo I was 3-0 in Greco and wrestling a kid from Oklahoma. He launched me for 5 early, but I threw him to his back late in the match. Was millimeter from pinning him as time ran out. I lost my next match too and I was done. Had I won that match I would’ve AAed at Fargo.
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
Probably my win first round at state my senior year, I beat the #2 ranked wrestler in the tiebreakers. I remember my Dad and Doug Reiter in the front row of the seats at Vets just going crazy.I could hear everything they were saying. Another memory that goes with that is after I pinned my guy in the wrestleback to place, I had a “Ricky Bobby, I don’t know what to do with my hands” moment. I just kind of ran off the mat past my coaches and there was my dad right there probably ready to hug me and I just ran right by him, it didn’t really fully register until I was down in the basement of Vets that I just ran right by him without acknowledging him. I didn’t know where I was running I just kind of ran with no end game.
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
I was a 4 sport athlete so not year round.Most of the way through high school we would get 50+ Freco matches in a summer.
How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
Jay Borschel, Joey Slaton, Dan LeClere, Mitch Mueller, Chad Beatty, Matt Fields, etc………….you tell me
Did you wrestle after high school?
I am undefeated post high school. Won a match in OT at a Don Bosco alumni meet. One of my biggest regrets was not going to a smaller college and wrestling after high school.
What other sports did you play?
Baseball was my favorite sport and still probably is. That was the sport I was best at. I played baseball in college at NIACC.
What are your favorite sports teams?
Atlanta Braves and Iowa Hawkeyes. I am can be a very irrational fan at times.
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Hanging out with family. We are always doing something together.
How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
I think it is what makes Bosco so great. You have 10 coaches that are basically donating their time to keep Bosco at the top. Not many if any teams have as many accolades as the Bosco coaching staff and they are doing it not for the money, but because they love doing it.
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
I think wrestling helps people elevate when times get tough in life or at work. In my profession there are a lot of times where a dangerous part of a tree needs to be removed, and I feel like I thrive in those situations because you are so use to people looking at you expecting you to perform when it’s only you and your opponent under the spotlight. I like that pressure of being the go to guy in the toughest situations, there is a lot of pride that goes with that.
What do you do now?
Troll people on the internet mostly.
I work for the City of Waverly. In my position, I am the City Forester as well as in charge of conservation efforts through maintaining the towns prairies and natural areas.
Are you still involved with wrestling?
I do what I can at IAwrestle although it is less now with a family. I helped Joe Reiter out coaching the 3rd-8th graders in Gilbertville for 5 or so years. Now I help Isaiah Corbin at practices with the Preschool-2nd graders which mostly consists of drilling them with dodgeballs.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Don’t ever look at a loss and use it as a measuring stick for where you think you stack up compared to anyone else. Don’t allow it to be a measure stick.
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
Absolutely not. I felt my conditioning was what gave me an edge when I wrestled. Since I don’t have that anymore, I’d probably get worked.
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
I want to give a shoutout to my wife. I feel like all my answers were geared towards my high school days before I met my wife so she never came up in them. Jacki loves wrestling too, we regularly go to wrestling meets and tournaments from Bosco to UI meets. We always make the trip to the state tournament too. I enjoy watching wrestling and spending time with her.
Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.
I imagine this is that last Remember The Wrestler you will be doing since I am easily the least accomplished person to do this so you must be scraping the bottom of the barrel.