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WHO IS THE IOWA HS WRESTLING GOAT?!?! The Case For David Kjeldgaard; Council Bluffs Lewis Central

Ok, I’ve procrastinated this one long enough. You know why I’ve procrastinated this one?! Because this man put together a HS career that was so decorated with so many accomplishments while competing against the NATION’S best competition, year-in, year-out….let’s just say, I was having a difficult time deciding on where to start.

If you are wondering how I found this pic, it was just a simple Facebook search…. Lol, couldn’t believe it.

I guess we can start at the beginning. I mean, that makes sense, right? David Kjeldgaard is the son of former Lewis Central and UNO wrestling standout, Duane Kjeldgaard. David’s older brother Doug was a state champion as well. His brother, Dan was a 2X placer. Even his sister, Darci was an athlete, for she competed in soccer at the collegiate level. I don’t know when David officially began wrestling, but considering how good he was when he did it as well as how young he looks in that picture of him as a little kid wearing a wrestling singlet…I wouldn’t be surprised if he was born wearing a headgear on his head. This is a man who was born to be successful on the mat and beyond.

David was a 3X state champion/4X placer with a career HS record of 173-4. The only year he didn’t win state was as a Freshman in 1993 at 3A 119, which is a little heavier than the overwhelming majority of most guys who ended up with 4 state titles. He was stopped in the semis that year by Sophomore, Wil Kelly of Dubuque Wahlert, who won his first of 3 titles himself that weekend. Wil Kelly was seemingly the only guy who could stop Kjeldgaard all through HS, for I believe they split in a couple prestigious tournaments as Cadet wrestlers during Freco wrestling. Kjeldgaard went on to place 5th in what could be the most loaded bracket I’ve ever seen, for it also included Matt Rial from Fort Dodge, 2X state champion, Nick Flach of Fort Madison and future runner-up/D3 AA, Nick Dohrmann of IC West.

1993 3A 119

1 Wil Kelly, SO, Dubuque Wahlert

2 Matt Rial, SR Fort Dodge

3 Scott Naughton, SR, IC High

4 Greg Myers, SR, Burlington

5 David Kjeldgaard, FR, CB Lewis Central

6 Troy Carlson, SR, Mason City

After his Freshman year, David Kjeldgaard never lost another HS match. And he was battle-tested every single year. In fact, in all 3 seasons that he won state, he defeated someone who would also end up becoming a state champion themselves. As a Sophomore, Kjeldgaard defeated Sophomore, Steve Blackford of Dowling in the quarterfinals. Blackford would go on to win 2 state titles of his own and became a 3X AA for Arizona State in college. Kjeldgaard would go on to win 17-5 in his finals match against Brad Miller of Pleasant Valley.

1994 3A 135

1 David Kjeldgaard, CB Lewis Central

2 Brad Miller, Pleasant Valley

3 Steve Blackford, Dowling

4 Jay Dickey, Waterloo West

5 Jason Meier, CR Jefferson

6 Curtis Anderson, Fort Dodge

When Kjeldgaard was a Junior in 1995, he won another deep bracket at 3A 140. In the finals he faced fellow Junior, Todd Buckland of DM Lincoln, who came in sporting a 36-1 record. Buckland was a state champion himself the following year and wrestled collegiately for the Iowa State Cyclones. He was a really, REALLY tough dude and in the finals match, he came at Kjeldgaard with everything he had. Just relentlessly went after him without the vibe of fear or intimidation that a lot of guys seemed to have when they faced Kjeldgaard. And Kjeldgaard had a response for everything that Buckland brought to him. He had a response for everything as well as a plethora of attacks in which he was so aggressive stayed in such great position. Kjeldgaard was full of responses and Buckland didn’t have a response to him, in fact, he was left speechless. Buckland, for the most part, wrestled a very good match against Kjeldgaard and Kjeldgaard was still able to major him. That match was a microcosm for how efficient Kjeldgaard was at making some of the state/nation’s BEST competition seem as if they had no hope at getting anywhere with him. You watch a match like that and wonder, “how does anyone ever beat that dude?” On the way to winning this bracket, Kjeldgaard beat the guys who placed 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th.

1995 3A 140

1 David Kjeldgaard, CB Lewis Central

2 Todd Buckland, DM Lincoln

3 Jess Hargrave, Spencer

4 Dave Myers, Keokuk

5 Josh Grandstaff, Mason City

6 Rob Kenworthy, Clinton

As a Senior, Kjeldgaard continued his reign of domination. He pinned or teched everyone he wrestled en route to winning his 3rd state championship. In doing so, he defeated the guys who placed 2nd, 3rd and 5th place in the bracket. The guy he defeated in the semifinals was a guy named Mitch Peyton, an undefeated Junior from Manchester, West Delaware, who would go on to place 3rd after losing to Kjeldgaard. Peyton would win a state title of his own the following year as a Senior. Kjeldgaard pinned him in 1:15 in the semis.

1996 3A 152

1 David Kjeldgaard, Lewis Central

2 Todd Gelner, Charles City

3 Mitch Peyton, West Delaware

4 Matt Thoene, Pleasant Valley

5 Mike Malone, Clinton

6 Cliff Wilcox, SC Heelan

Now, what sets David Kjeldgaard apart from a plethora of the other 🐐‘s across the nation, is his absolutely incredible resume when it came to wrestling at the National/World level. He won three Cadet National championships and five Junior National championships and placed seventh at the Junior World Championships in Russia in 1996. THAT’S EIGHT COMBINED NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS!!! That was and still is, a record. No one in the entire nation has EVER won more! As a high school junior at Junior Nationals, he defeated T.J. Williams, a two-time national champion with a career record of 98-1 at the University of Iowa. In his senior year at Junior Nationals, he defeated NCAA champion and four-time Top Three finisher out of Iowa State, Joe Heskett to reach the finals. In the finals, he defeated a guy who would have a career that was so consumed with accolades and void of flaws, that he ended up on a Wheaties box. It was a kid from Utah named Cael Sanderson. Big win, right?

Off the mat, Kjeldgaard was like a crystal-clear depiction of an individual who was borderline perfect. I mean, not only was he one of the greatest wrestlers ever, but he was the Valedictorian at CB Lewis Central, vocal about the importance of working hard at academics, well-spoken, nice to everyone…. If there were ever a person on this earth who fit the criteria of what my parents considered to be the quintessential perfect human being, it was David Kjeldgaard. And he’d prolly be the last person who would say that about himself. It is crazy to me that someone who was so good and dominant at what they did, could still be so humble and down to earth. I mean, he would get done dismantling some opponent, and when he’d be interviewed, of course the person interviewing him would want to talk about how awesome he is and he would ALWAYS take a moment to talk about what his opponent was doing right out there. I mean, from a spectator’s standpoint, his opponent could appear completely hopeless, but to Kjeldgaard, he found things about them that he thought they did well and would always make it a point to talk about it and give them credit. I’ve never met the guy, but he has got to be one of the nicest, most respectful human beings I’ve ever heard of. I bet his parents are/were so proud of him. They should be. They obviously did a great job raising him and his brothers.

Kjeldgaard went on to wrestle at Oklahoma. And IMO, his collegiate career was littered with misfortune that a good person like him just simply didn’t deserve.  Just doesn’t seem fair. He started out as a Freshman with a bang, going 17-1 and living to every bit of the well-deserved hype before disaster struck. He injured his knee… badly. And back in those days, certain knee injuries that are easily repaired today, were career killers back then… And it’s happened to a couple of the most non-deserving wrestlers. Mark Schwab was another. The type of thing where if they were wrestling today, the injury wouldn’t have sabotaged them the way it did. He was never the same after his knee injury. To any young readers out there, be THANKFUL for the advancements made in medical procedures/surgery. Some very talented people who were deserving of great things were not fortunate enough to compete in an era where certain injuries could be treated as successfully. David Kjeldgaard is a perfect example of this.

Kjeldgaard finished his college career with 75 wins against 18 losses. He qualified twice for the NCAA tournament and was a Big 12 Conference runner-up in 2000. Nothing to hang your head about at all!

And while I’m sure that David’s career took some negative turns that likely left him devastated at times, he didn’t let it stop him from continuing to be successful off the mat. David moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area as an analyst for Trammell Crow Company, a commercial real estate development company. At one point, he was named among the Top 30 Real Estate Professionals in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and has been promoted to Vice President with the firm. Things may have even improved since then, my source for that information is a bit dated.

I swear, one of the Paulson twins once told me that he actually invented the rubber found in volleyball knee pads. I can’t 100% confirm this, but if this is true, it just goes to show you how he took something negative in his own life (his own knee issues) and did something positive with it that aided countless athletes in potentially not suffering the same fate as him. My dad always told my brothers and I growing up, “you get bitter, or you get better.” Kjeldgaard not only got better himself from the unfortunate adversity he endured…he made the world a better place as a result of his negative experiences. Never underestimate the power of a positive attitude, intelligence and determination.

DOES DAVID KJELDGAARD HAVE A CASE FOR BEING THE IOWA HS GOAT?!?! Kjeldgaard has one of the more interesting careers compared to some of these other guys who have been featured in this series, for he’s a guy who you can make a case against him being the GOAT HS wrestler in Iowa, BUT you can also make a case FOR him being the GOAT HS wrestler the NATION has ever produced. His 8 National championships and who he defeated to win them (Heskett, TJ Williams and Cael Sanderson) cements his status as having a case as the nation’s best ever… However, his 4 losses and 3 titles compared to some other Iowa guys’ lesser amount of HS losses and 4 state championships makes him difficult to compare to certain guys… The main two Iowa guys who would have a case for being a better HS wrestler than him are Jeff McGinness of IC High and Wil Kelly of Wahlert. McGinness was an undefeated 4X state champion who won a world title and was the OW at Junior Nationals… and the kicker with him when being compared to Kjeldgaard is the fact that he actually beat Kjeldgaard when they faced each other at state freestyle one year. Granted, McGinness is a couple years older than Kjeldgaard, but still… It did happen. And the other one, Wil Kelly was essentially the only repetitive thorn Kjeldgaard had in his side throughout his HS career, for Kelly beat David more than once, I believe, when the stakes were high. In fact, Wil was the primary reason that Kjeldgaard didn’t win 4. In which Wil also won 3 himself.  But at the same time, how can someone not be considered the best ever in their own state, when they may have a stronger case for being the best the NATION has ever produced. To reiterate, he’s won more National titles than ANYONE. In short, though… Kjeldgaard does have a case, yes and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone in SW Iowa to say anyone else even remotely compares to him. He is held in the absolute highest regard in SW Iowa.

Heck, the man has a case for being the GOAT person, from my perspective. This man has made a great, lasting impact on the world and has been the primary influence for other individuals who accomplished comparable feats, such as the Paulson twins who may not have done what they did had it not been for looking up to David as a role model.


And on a side note, you know who is career kind of reminds me of? And I doubt anyone has ever made this comparison….Mark Schwab. Both were one of the best HS wrestlers in their days on a state and National level, both had 2 brothers and 1 sister (both sisters were athletic and rumored to have huge potential as female wrestlers), both had career altering knee injuries and both make it a priority to help

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Richard Lang November 2, 2021, 10:12 pm

    I went to Lewis central HS the same years as David and one thing I would like to add to your account of his HS Career is David sustained a devastating Shoulder injury had surgery in either freshman or sophomore year playing HS football and worked relentlessly to rehab that injury then went on to dominate Wrestling without ever missing a match !!

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