Cody Alesch has been successful at multiple levels of wrestling and from multiple different angles. He was a youth state champion, a 2X placer/1X finalist in HS, a 3X letter-winner for the nation’s best D3 team in history (Wartburg) and is now adding coaching accomplishments to his already phenomenal resume…and he’s succeeded at multiple levels there as well. He’s had success coaching at the HS level AND at the collegiate level. In 2006, he became the Head Wrestling Coach at Graettinger-Terril High School. In his 6-year stint as the head coach, he had 20 state qualifiers; 14 state place winners, 2 of which who were champions; 2 National High School Coaches Association Senior Academic All-Americans; 4 Team Regional Dual Qualifiers; 2 Sectional Team Championships; and, 2 District Team Championships. In 2007, Alesch was named the Northwest Conference Coach of the Year and had an overall Dual Team Record of 65-38.
After his tenure at Graettinger, he began coaching at Iowa Lakes CC. He began coaching there roughly a decade ago. Just this past season, Cody was named the NJCAA Wrestling Coaches Association’s Man of the Year. In his time at Iowa Lakes, the Lakers have produced 81 national qualifiers, 24 NJCAA All-Americans, eight National finalists, and three national champions.
That’s quite a resume! Cody was generous enough to provide us with the full story behind the resume!
What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
Graettinger HS, Wartburg College
What year did you graduate?
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
Two of my older brothers wrestled…Shane and Mike. Mike was closer to me in age and was a big reason I wrestled
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
Shane wrestled for the legendary Bob Roethler and graduated in ‘87 he never made state but did well. Brother Mike graduated in ‘94 and was a 4x qualifier and got 3rd as a JR. and SR. He could not get out of the Quarters it seemed like then beat the heck out of everyone to get 3rd. His SR year he was the man to beat and he got beat….he just could not wrestle a good quarter round match. I remember his senior year Mike beating John Whitmore from Eagle Grove pretty bad, by like 12 points or more at districts and Whitmore wins the state title. Paul Jenn got 3rd at that weight and never made it out. Paul gets 2nd year after and goes on to wrestle for Iowa and only wrestler to beat Cael Sanderson in college (unofficially). Mike then went to be a 2x AA at Wartburg getting 2nd in ‘96 when they win their first team title. He was big part of the start of what is now the dominance of Wartburg.
My son Teague is entering 6th grade and wrestles…
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
8th grade- AAU Champ
6th- AAU 2nd
5th- AAU 4th
4th-AAU 6th I think
Scott Kauffman and I wrestled a few times, I could never beat him….he dominated NW Iowa. We were close so I always knew where he was going weight wise and I went opposite him come state. The headlocks were killing me! Lol!
However we wrestled 1x in HS when we were JR.’s and I finally got him. I tell him that is the only one that really counts. Scott and I have always been close friends….he was that guy I always wanted to be. He motivated me as much as anyone.
What was your record in HS?
How did you place at state every year?
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
Losing my Dad at the start of my junior year at Wartburg. Looking back I understand now why I struggled so much, at the time I was frustrated dealing with so much and not at being able to compete at the level I was capable of because of what I lost. Looking back I was emotionally drained but didn’t even know what that was at the time. Best shape of my life but couldn’t wrestle past first period before becoming exhausted. Was a tough year but man did I learn a lot about myself, about growing up, responsibility and how fragile life was. I looked at the world a lot differently. I learned what was important. Changed my life for the better but it came with great sacrifice.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
Tried to be a hammer like my brother Mike but could never be like him fully ….so I was physical but more technical.
Good outside singles and tough on top. Occasional Head Lock—-Kauffman taught me it well! Mainly from putting me in them often! Lol!
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
Didn’t really have that type of rivalry with anyone really, kind of funny now that I reflect back on it.
Who was your most influential coach?
Coach Miller at Wartburg obviously had a big impact on me.
Coach Bergman pushed us hard in HS to be well conditioned.
My brother Mike although never was my actual coach was who pushed me to get better on the mat,in the weight room and mentally. He was always coaching me.
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
Our team was decent in HS, it could never get to the state level as a team.
Wartburg was a whole different story and that is why I went there. We won a National Title my freshman year.
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
My brother Mike for sure, he was 4 years older so he was always doing what I wanted to be doing when I got to that next level. Mike worked hard and I knew he was getting the success he had on the football field or wrestling mat because of his hard work.
Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
Too many that arguably could be that guy. I understand the sacrifices and work that went into all their successes that I don’t even feel right picking one. A guy who I was always in awe watching was Jeff McGinnis. That guy was fun to watch! Mark Ironside also…..I could go on and on but those guys just had a presence about them.
Are there any wrestlers you’ve seen, past or present that you would compare your style to?
Not really….don’t pay attention to styles much.
I appreciate guys that want to go to war every time they wrestle.
Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?
Scott Kauffman, Bob Koening, Luke Moffit, Jessman Smith, David Kjeldgaard, Jason Payne, Scott Eddy. When these guys wrestled they were fierce competitors, they would rather beat you up then really win the match and that was why they won most of the time.
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
The guys I coach. When you see what these guys put into their craft, the sacrifices they make on a daily basis, you as their coach are their biggest fan. You hurt when they hurt and you are filled with joy when they are filed with joy.
What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
AC/DC, Def Leopard, 80-90’s rock. Still do!
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
2 matches are pretty equal.
My sophomore year losing to a guy Blair Thomeson from Eagle Grove first round of districts. I had pinned him earlier in the year. I won my sectional beating a returning state 4th place finisher at sectional finals. Going to districts I had beaten all 3 guys handily in the season and was apparently to confident going in. First round I froze, match was close after first period, I felt the pressure or something and I literally couldn’t do anything with my body, it was the only time in all my years of wrestling I had ever felt such a numbing feeling. To this day it remains a match I can’t explain what really happen….I was helpless in all I tried. I give big credit to Blair. He deserved to win and he went on to place at state that year along with another guy I beat 2x’s that year. I sat home for the 2nd year in a row when I shouldn’t have. It changed me….I grew more from that loss then any other I ever took. Next year I was in the state finals. (Whole different story)
The 2nd is Getting spladeled and upset first round at state my SR year was most embarrassing lose I ever took personally. It was just life shattering….all the hard work to get back to the finals and wrestle for a title again was gone….I nearly didn’t show up to wrestle in my consolation round….but I had the right people around me to make sure that didn’t happen. I got to wrestle the guy who beat me first round again later in consolation, that was fun! Let’s say I didn’t care that I won, I was going to dominate that match.
If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
Sacrifice more…..and not worry so much about things that didn’t matter.
You always think you are sacrificing enough but you are not. It takes the right people and you listening to go beyond what you think enough is.
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
Wrestling in the state finals was an experience hard to put into words. The whole process that leads up to that moment, from celebrating your semi-final win, to the morning waking up realizing today is a day you’ve dreamed about and worked hard for, to the Grand March and walking out for the finals match with a sold out crowd looking down on you. Seeing people from your community travel down to watch and be there to support you. Truly special!
Losing sucked and that’s when a lot of reflection begins to happen instantly again.
Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?
In HS Scott Kauffman and I only wrestled once but we kind of ruled the 160 lb weight class in NW Iowa for a few years. Winning that match was pretty awesome for many reasons. Emmetsburg was Scott Kauffman at that time, Scott was that level I was trying to get to. He was a runner up as freshman and sophomore, I watched him from the bleachers those two years trying to figure what I was doing wrong, instead of focusing on what I needed to do. I finally began to figure it out and it paid off.
Scott had always beat my butt growing up, only guy I couldn’t beat as a youth. We were good friends, practiced together often and our towns were close by. I was even dating my future wife who was from Emmetsburg at the time we wrestled, maybe I was trying to prove myself in more ways then one, unsure but whatever it was worked that day. Yep….I still give Scott shit about it to this day! Love that guy!
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
Trained a lot more year round after losing as a sophomore at districts. Only time I wasn’t wrestling was during football.
How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
The best in my day would wrestle with the best today. I believe the overall depth of talent is deeper with so many kids wrestling all year long and competing all year long. However, I believe the best then and best now would be epic battles no matter!
Did you wrestle after high school?
Yes at Wartburg.
What other sports did you play?
Football, loved football. Almost played football in college. I was one of the lucky ones who got to play 4 years underneath the lights on Friday nights. My school was class A so we were small class but playing varsity as a freshman gave me more nights in what I would call perhaps the greatest environment an athlete gets to be part of (under the lights in the Fall on Fridays is pure).
I golfed….we made state as a team my senior year.
Played baseball a couple years until I stayed home from state wrestling as a sophomore and realized I needed to wrestle in the Summers much more.
What are your favorite sports teams?
San Fransisco 49ers and San Fransisco Giants
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Hunting Whitetails, golf, supporting my two kids
How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
Love it! It is why coach. I don’t want guys making same mistakes I made. Wrestling has done so much for me.
I try to apply it all as a husband, Dad and a coach.
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
It defines how I see the world, how I respond to the world, the adversity, the good in my life. My parents gave me the foundation of my character and who I am today, wrestling is many parts of the structure on top of that foundation.
What do you do now?
Entering my 10th year as Head Wrestling Coach Iowa Lakes Community College.
Are you still involved with wrestling?
It is my career and a side gig as my son Teague is 11 and loves wrestling. He is beginning to get serious about it and I enjoy working with him and other youth.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
1- put your faith in your coaches….listen to them and believe in them even when you think they are wrong. They do it for you!
2- “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it”
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
Nope I am retired from competing. When I took over as head coach at Graettinger the kids begged me to go to a tourney…I went to 1 tourney, I won, showed them I am all in for them. Then retired from competing. Lol! My past is what it is….I have nothing to prove in that area of my life. My competing is being the best husband, father and coach I can be.
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
To all the guys and their families I’ve coached for the past 18 years, the hard work and sacrifices are appreciated but the faith in me and my coaching staffs I will forever be thankful for.
Special shut out to the Hoffman family! We lost a great man a few years ago now…Jake Hoffman was a 4x state qualifier, 2x placer for Graettinger that I had the privilege to coach. Jake gave everything he had when he competed, you always knew what you were getting when he put his wrestling shoes on. He was a competitor!! He was even a better person with a huge heart, big smile and larger then life personality! Jake was the definition of why coaches coach! He made us better by just being in his presence.