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Remember The Wrestler; Brandon Haas Dubuque Hempstead ‘16/UNI

I am going to keep the intro short and to the point. Brandon’s responses make for one of the best reads I’ve ever come across and I don’t want to shift the focus away from that portion of this article. In short, the Haas family has been one of the most influential wrestling families over the past few decades and especially in the Dubuque region. Chuck Haas, the father (and longtime HC at consistently good HS wrestling program, Dubuque Hempstead) was originally from Illinois, but moved to Iowa to wrestle at the University of Dubuque and went on to coaching after that and has influenced countless young individuals to be better versions of themselves on and off the mat for decades since and all 3 of his sons; Brett, Brock and Brandon have followed his lead in commendable fashion. It has been just real cool to see. 

This one is on the youngest of the Haas boys…Brandon Haas, a 2016 state placer out of Dubuque Hempstead and former UNI Panther.

2016 3A 170
1 Marcus Coleman (Jr.) Ames
2 Deion Clayborne (Sr.) Sioux City North
3 Brandon Haas (Sr.) Dubuque Hempstead
4 Josh Edel (Sr.) Marshalltown
5 Jonah Egli (Sr.) Fort Dodge
6 Garrett Kubovec (Jr.) CR Kennedy
7 Austin Stotts (Sr.) WDM Valley
8 Nick Brushaber Sr.) DC Grimes



What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?

– I grew up wrestling in the Little Mustangs Wrestling Club. In high school, I went to Hempstead where I wrestled all 4 years and did a lot of off-season training at the Dubuque Wrestling Club with coach Mark Schultz. I wrestled at UNI for three semesters before coming back to Dubuque to finish my degree and started my coaching career.


What year did you graduate?

– 2016


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

– Wrestling was a big part of my life ever since I can remember due to my dad being a wrestler and coach as well as my older brothers being heavily involved in wrestling. I would probably have to say that my brothers are what got me into wrestling, as I was tired of getting my butt whooped on the downstairs wrestling mat all the time.


Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

– My dad won a state title for Savanna High School in Illinois and was an NCAA qualifier for the University of Dubuque (he played football all four years as well at UD). My brother Brock was a state place winner in high school and played four years of college football at the University of Dubuque. My brother Brett was a state place winner in high school and was on the team at the University of Dubuque before he transitioned into coaching. We all coach together now at Hempstead.



What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I never really had a ton of success in youth wrestling until I started maturing physically. I placed at AAU’s my 4th grade year and qualified for state each year. I started having a lot of success in 8th grade as I started taking wrestling more seriously. I won the USA state tournament in 8th grade but was unable to wrestle at AAU districts due to a broken hand. Missing the chance to win AAU’s that year seemed like a huge deal until I got into high school a couple months later and realized that youth results are youth results, and it is more about the knowledge and foundation you build upon rather than the results. I had a lot of success after my 8th grade year as I placed high at Folkstyle nationals and went 15-1 and the Schoolboy National Dual Tournament for freestyle/Greco. I never had really any “rival” in youth wrestling, it seemed like I was always wrestling new opponents at all the different tournaments I went to. A lot of this was due to my dad doing his research and giving me the opportunity to compete all over the state and eventually the country. I was never good enough to have a “rival” in youth wrestling anyways, lol. I did know though that I would never win a youth tournament if Max Lyon or Jacob Woodward were in my bracket (or I should say if I was in their bracket).  



What was your record in HS?

– My high school record was 111-37 with 50 pins. I unfortunately missed quite a bit of mat time due to a lingering back issue which resulted in surgery.



How did you place at state every year?

– My freshman year I lost in the district wrestle back (got lat dropped and pinned in 15 seconds, lol). My sophomore year I qualified for state but did not place, same thing my junior year. My senior year I got 3rdplace (2016 3A 170).



What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?

– Looking back on it now, there were quite a few moments that changed the course of my life for the better. My freshman year I lost in the district wrestle backs to a guy who I beat twice during the year, which really was a big motivator for me. I decided to quit football and put all my energy into the sport of wrestling. I noticed the payoff pretty quickly as I got 3rd place in Fargo that summer. Not placing my sophomore year and junior year was hard because I felt like I was a top wrestler in the state both of those years but just didn’t have the confidence to perform in the post season. I was ranked as high as #3 both years but still hadn’t placed at the big dance, which made me rethink a lot of things. I ended up getting back surgery immediately after state my junior year which was a blessing in disguise. I think anyone who followed me my sophomore and junior year noticed that I started off both seasons with a lot of energy and big wins, then progressively got worse as the seasons went along. I think a lot of this had to do with how mentally exhausted I was, constantly stressing about the herniated disc in my back and if it would hold up if I did a certain leg attack, downblock, etc. It took me until September to step back on the mat (a 6 month layoff), but it felt like I was better than ever when I started wrestling again. I took my rehab very seriously and spent a lot of time watching film and constantly going over different ways that I could get to my sweep single, which is something that made a difference at state my senior year in comparison to my sophomore/junior years. I was hardly wrestling before I entered the pre-season nationals tournament in October my senior year, didn’t even wrestle live until a couple days before the tournament. I went out and had one of the best tournaments of my career, making the finals and ultimately losing to a tough opponent from Missouri. This gave me a ton of confidence entering my senior year, knowing that I finally competed to the best of my abilities at the national stage again. The biggest challenge that I faced in life was the struggle of balance as a college athlete. I felt like I would be considered a guy you could label as a hard worker when I was a high school wrestler, but when I got to college there got to be a lot of distractions. I already was a step behind at UNI as I did not come in with the accolade as many others. It was extremely hard adjusting to the college life and trying to balance wrestling, classes, a social life, injuries, and being away from my closest friends and family members. I let it beat me up to the point where I really started disliking wrestling. This was very difficult because in my personal experience, when your heart isn’t in it, bad things happen. This is especially true in a division one room. I kept getting annoying injuries like a torn knee, high ankle sprain, more back problems, and a broken hand. My redshirt year was a struggle and it felt like many of the guys I wrestled were leap years in front of me skill wise and mentally. The summer after my freshman year I really started focusing in and finding that love for the sport again which helped me gain a lot more success in the room going into my second season at UNI. Season started and I started having pesky injuries again and started losing focus mentally again as the season went along. I knew that I needed to make a change in my life and get back to my roots, so I transferred back to UD where I got my degree and began coaching at Hempstead. This was another huge blessing in disguise. I originally thought that people would judge me and label me as this or that when I transferred back, but it ultimately brought back structure in my life and changed my mindset back to thrival mode which I always seemed to have in life except for my first couple semesters of college where I was in survival mode. There is something blissful about life when you wake up motivated and passionate about the people and things around you, and that was what I found again when I transferred back to UD. I am extremely grateful for my time at UNI and the guys who tried to take me under their wings, but ultimately life happens and sometimes you fail, but it isn’t your failures that define the life you write. I take pride in knowing now that I graduated with honors, found a job right out of college, and have had a lot of success in my early coaching years.  



How would you describe your wrestling style?

– I would describe my wrestling style as a unique blend of athleticism, strength, and plenty of scrambling. I think that this is due to me taking bits and pieces of skills from people with these different skill sets. My brother Brock was athletic and powerful, my dad was very solid technically, my brother Brett taught me a lot of different scrambling positions, and others just added to my wrestling.



How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?

– There are a few guys that come to mind when I think of high school wrestling battles. One person that I wrestled probably 10+ times (mainly in freestyle/Greco) was Donovan Doyle from Iowa City West. I seemed to have the upper hand early on in our battles, but he got the last one on me. Always have had respect for him and his family. Another person from the same school that I had some battles with was John Milani. Another guy that I had a lot of battles with in high school was Max Lyon, even though he got the better of me every time. I always knew I was in for an all-out war against Max, which was a lot of fun. I have an immense amount of respect for all of these guys and all of their successes in life.



Who was your most influential coach?

– I think that the obvious answer here is my dad. He has influenced me in so many ways that I can’t really put it into words, I am just extremely grateful that he has laid the foundation for me to walk on. I thought that I learned a lot from him as a wrestler, but that seems small in comparison to the amount that I have learned from him in my time coaching with him.



Was your team competitive in HS/college?

– My freshman year our team at Hempstead was pretty average I would say. We improved a lot every year while I was at Hempstead to the point where we were a top 10 team my junior year and got 4th at the state dual tournament my senior year. That was a fun group of guys to be around. We had a lot of great upperclassmen like Gannon Gremmel and Nate Feldman as well as some young studs like Joe Pins, Alex Ward & Dillon Gottschalk. My redshirt year at UNI we won the MAC dual title, but I would say that I contributed very minimally to that title.



Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?

– The most influential wrestler that I grew up watching was my brother Brock. He had a ton of success in all of his sports growing up which only built as he turned into a beast in both high school wrestling and football. As coach Schwab talked about with Drew Foster, I think that Brock winning an AAU state title and having all of the high school success that he had was the tip of the sword and showed me that people from my lineage can have a lot of success in this great sport. He probably doesn’t know how much I idolized him as a kid growing up.



Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

– From all of the stories and tape that I watched of Dan Knight in high school, I would have to say him. It is incredible to think about the amount of success he had in the sport of wrestling and is now just as successful as a coach for Bettendorf. I have a lot of respect for coach Knight and all that he has done for the sport of wrestling.  



Are there any wrestlers you’ve seen, past or present that you would compare your style to?

– I don’t necessarily think that my style is one that compares to any person out there. As a high school wrestler, I think that my style changed a lot from year to year as I developed physically and mentally, as well as how much my back could withstand.  



What are some interesting hypothetical matchups between guys from different eras that you would have been interesting in seeing?

I would love to watch Dan Gable wrestle against any of the great wrestlers in today’s era.



Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?

– A couple guys that I will always have a ton of respect for are Max Thomsen and Bryce Steiert. I was fortunate enough to be around them in my time at UNI and it made me realize the amount of energy and time that they put into the sport of wrestling. I have never quite felt pain like pain the day after live wrestling practices against Bryce Steiert. It was awesome to watch them have the high school and college careers that they had.


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

– Chad Bellis, Joe Pins, Ben Faber, GGrem (if he isn’t retired), and all other DH past, present, and future wrestlers.



What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?

– If it was time to relax, I was probably listening to some pop or country music, but if I was working out or getting ready for a match, always hip hop.



What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?

– I can vividly think of three matches that I lost that stick out more than others in my memory. The first one was that district wrestle backmy freshman year. The second came when I got cradled and pinned in the round of 12 match my junior year, which I kind of already spoke about previously. The third one came in a college open up in Wisconsin my second year at UNI. I felt like I was starting to turn the corner as a college wrestler, then a lot of problems started coming again within my wrestling. I lost my first match at this small little college open and then had an opponent who was one of those guys who you kind of just look past in the bracket. I got a quick takedown then put a leg in, next thing you know we got into a scramble and I got pinned. This broke me mentally and lead to a lot of embarrassment for the people following my wrestling career. I was always concerned about how others would view my career back then and the losses ate at me more than they should’ve.



If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?

– I would honestly change nothing that has happened to me so far in life. I always get asked why I didn’t finish my college wrestling career or try being a successful D3 wrestler, which honestly made me wonder for the first couple of months why I wasn’t still competing. I now realize that all of these adverse experiences in my life have gotten me to this point, and I am extremely grateful to be in the position that I am in today. Yes, I could’ve had some short term happiness by winning a state title or changing the way my college career went, but it wouldn’t have made me look at myself and change the way that I did things. I always thought that it was cliché when I heard people say that the tough moments and how you respond to them are what will shape your life, but it is 10000% true.



What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

– My favorite wrestling memory was after my third place match at state my senior year. Even though I always envisioned myself winning state in high school, it was cool to end up winning a tough third place battle and looking over seeing my brother and my dad in my corner. We got to take in the moment for a while and I think that we were all grateful that I was able to have the success I had after going through my back surgeries and all of the mental obstacles that I had overcome.


Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

– I’ll list off a few here. Beau Breske whooped my butt in the Fargo semis my freshman year and was a beast, Nathan Traxler beat me at Pre-Season Nationals my sophomore year, I had quite a few battles with Max Lyon and Isaiah Patton, I lost to Marcus Coleman my senior year at state, and had quite a few battles against Josh Edel in high school. Our third place match at state my senior year was an all-out war.


Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

– It was seasonal to some degree until I got to high school. Once I got to high school, it was 12 months out of the year every year to this day now as I coach.


How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?

– There isn’t a lot of time between my class of 2016 compared to these 2021 guys, but I think there would be a lot of fun battles. I thought that I was in a pretty good recruiting class but coaches like T.J. Sebolt, Dylan Carew & Cruse Aarhus are really accelerating the growth of Iowa wrestlers by the day, which is why you see the success that Iowa has had recently.


How would you compare and contrast you and your brothers; Brett and Brock’s styles?

– I would say that I am a mix of all of my family’s wrestling backgrounds. Brock was much more powerful that I ever was, my dad was just flat out better than all of us, and Brett had a lot bigger heart and passion for competition than I had as a high schooler.


The Haas family has been so involved with Dubuque Hempstead wrestling for so long now that it is difficult to imagine the Hempstead program without you guys.
Do you feel that Dubuque Hempstead wrestling has reached a level where it’s part of your identity and could you imagine where you’d be without Hempstead wrestling?

– I would say that DH wrestling is definitely a huge part of my identity. I grew up in that wrestling room as a kid, developed my skills in that room as a high schooler, and now try to be a leader of young men in that same room. Although it is just a room and a program, it is the relationships that make me feel so attached to it. I have so many great memories of DH wrestlers before me, peers that wrestled with me, and DH wrestlers that I have had the opportunity to coach.


Who is the best guy to go through Hempstead in the Chuck Haas era?

– Maybe I am biased because I grew up with him, but Gannon Gremmel being a division one AllAmerican solidified him as one of the best to ever come through the Hempstead wrestling room. Some other great names that my dad has coached are Adam Gottschalk, Ryan Heim, Joe Pins & now Chad Bellis.


How proud are you of your father with the prolonged and consistent success he has attained coaching at Dubuque Hempstead?

– Just like as a talked about above, I can’t really put into words the amount of respect I have for my dad and my appreciation for all that he has done for me and thousands of other students, wrestlers, and other people that have had the opportunity to be around him. The success has just come with the great person he is. It is obviously cool to see how successful he has been as a coach, but what is cooler in my mind is the countless people that he has developed into successful adults who have taken invaluable experiences from the DH room and used it in the real world.  



How would you describe the Dubuque Hempstead program to someone who doesn’t know it? Is there anything that you feel is unique just to Hempstead and no other wrestling program?

– I don’t think you can describe Hempstead wrestling to someone who has been around a different high school wrestling program. I know that Hempstead wrestling is unique and different from any other school because of the amount of respect that the coaches, athletes, managers, and others involved have for each other. It is truly a family atmosphere that goes well beyond people’s years as high school wrestlers.



Did you wrestle after high school?

– I wrestled at UNI for three semesters.



What are your hobbies other than wrestling? 

– To be honest, most of my life still revolves around the sport of wrestling. When I am not coaching or watching wrestling, I am probably working out. I am getting prepared for the Quad Cities Marathon that is going on in the end of September.



How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?

– It gives me purpose to give back to the sport of wrestling and try to help develop young men into adults. I think that I owe it to all of those who have done the same for me.  



How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?

– Wrestling has given my life direction when it seems like there is no direction to go, and keeps me grounded at all times. Without wrestling, I would not be the hard working and focused individual that I am today. I don’t really know if wrestling has “shaped my life”, because wrestling is my life. I loved competing and now love giving back to those who have lofty goals in the sport of wrestling.



What do you do now? Are you still involved with wrestling?

– I just accepted an elementary teaching position in Dubuque and still am an assistant wrestling coach at Hempstead High School.


Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?

 – Not a chance! My body is already sore enough from all of this running that I am doing.



Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

– My advice to any wrestler reading this is to set a goal, write down ways to get to that goal, find those who have accomplished those goals and surround yourself with those people. After you accomplish those goals, go set the bar higher. You can only do this sport once, don’t settle for anything less than you can achieve. The sky is the limit for any person in our incredible sport, regardless of your skin color, SES status, physical abilities, or background in the sport. Know that just because you didn’t reach your goals doesn’t mean that you need to lower your expectations. Drew Foster never won a state title and ended up being an NCAA D1 champion.


Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

– I think that I have shouted out every wrestler ever in this article already, lol. One more shoutout to all of the people who continue to lay the foundation for our sport and understand that your coaching is giving people a lot more than just wins in the sport of wrestling.  


Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc

– Nothing more to add. Thank you for all you do for the sport of wrestling. I truly admire all of the articles you write and the amount of energy that you pour into our sport.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Carole Snodgrass August 4, 2021, 10:37 pm

    This was a wonderful article about an amazing young man!!!

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