PinDox Profile: Cory Connell; Iowa City High HS/Iowa Hawkeyes/Wartburg College
I’ve been meaning to put something together for Cory for a long time… whether it was a “Remember The Wrestler” article, one of these, etc. I mean, it was just a matter of time, for anyone who has known me and talked wrestling with me since I was a kid, one thing that has always remained constant was how high of a regard I hold this guy in. I’ve stated, on several occasions, that Cory Connell was the best wrestler I ever faced in my entire life…And I stick to that. I wrestled him competitively in youth and practiced with him during the off-season in HS. There is not a wrestler I ever faced who I would consider better than this man. And he’s one of the best people you’ll meet.
So what better time to pay tribute to someone who I consider to be one of the best wrestlers I have ever met than his BIRTHDAY!!!! Today is Cory Connell’s birthday…. Number 40, I assume! If you see him around, make sure to throw him down and give him 40 birthday spankings!!! Good luck with that, btw. Unless your name is Jeff McGinness or something similar, I don’t expect you to get very far with this quest.
Ok, to start… when I was a 3rd grader and Cory was a 4th grader, we met at AAU State in the quarterfinals and he beat me 5-4. The match was so close and so heated that there was a flurry at the end of the match where I think I almost scored a TD which would have won the match for me, but it was called out of bounds or time ran out or something. Whatever the case, one of my coaches, “Coach John,” had me convinced that I had been ripped off in that match and boy, was I ever mad about that. Funny thing is, the match was probably officiated perfectly. I think Coach John just liked to get me riled up.
Fast forward a year and a half to the Mt. Pleasant Youth Tournament at the beginning of the season my 5th grade year. I looked at my bracket and immediately got fired up. That Connell kid was in my bracket. “Finally I can get my revenge,” I thought to myself. I started warming up and possessed the intensity of a crazed chimpanzee who’s territory had been raided and his bananas stolen. I was ready to go. I couldn’t wait to kick the crap out of this kid. How dare “the ref” let this kid beat me at state 2 seasons ago.
So I took the mat with an unshakable snarl on my face, shook hands with Cory and boom…. I was taken down and pinned in :45 seconds. That’s right… I was taken down, put in some sort of arm bar that was basically foreign to me, went to my back without realizing how I got there and pinned as if my shoulders were metal plates and the mat was a magnet. He recorded the fall in :45 seconds. 45….. seconds…. I ended up wrestling until my Junior year in college and that was the ONLY time I ever had a match where I was simply taken down, turned and pinned right away like some jabroni… I think it was the only time I was ever pinned in the first period…ever. Cory, to me, went from being this kid that I thought I could beat to the absolute prototype of the wrestler I wanted to become. My entire youth and HS career, if my parents or I mentioned the name “Cory Connell,” he was THE standard of wrestling greatness. I never held anyone in higher regard than him in his wrestling career. That season ended up being a great one for me… I didn’t lose another match until state, where I was beaten 10-0 by JJ Butteris second round, but then I wrestled back like 6 matches to take 3rd place. JJ took 7th, somehow. The winner? You guessed it… Cory Connell. He breezed through it. Cory went on to win several more big tournaments in his youth career.
When Cory got into HS, he started out as a very undersized Freshman with some log-jammage in the IC High lineup if memory serves me correctly. He’s one of these guys who would have been better off had they not gotten rid of the 98 lb. division a few years before. He wasn’t able to make a splash at the state tournament until his Sophomore year in 1998 at 3A 103. He started out by beating Tom Paulson of Urbandale first round by the score of 10-0. The next round, he pinned Adam Olson of CR Prairie in :45 seconds. :45 seconds… hmm, that sounds familiar. That’s just the speed he operated at I guess! That was a big win, for Adam Olson was good… he wrestled a lot of freestyle and did well in that scene. In fact, they used to have him show freestyle technique before tournaments being started. In the semis, Cory was pinned by Brian Hessenius of Le Mars. I don’t know what happened in this match, nor do I know what the score of that match was before the fall, but I do know that Brian Hessenius was a very dangerous wrestler who put a lot of people away quickly… He holds the records to this day for the fastest fall at the state tournament. Anyways, Cory rebounded and fought back to place 3rd. His loss to Hessenius was his only loss on the season.
Between Cory’s Sophomore and Junior seasons, he took a huge growth spurt from 103 to 130. Lurking in those waters was a foe who he had a history with. In fact, this was the guy who beat him in the AAU State finals when he was a 4th grader and I was a 3rd grader. His name was Ryan Heim from Dubuque Hempstead. After beating Matt Sharp of Cedar Falls first round (he wrestled back for 6th) and Joe Malsam of SC Heelan in the quarterfinals (he wrestled back for 4th), Cory and Heim met up and had a match that my mom always described as one of the closest and most intense matches she ever witnessed. I don’t know what the final score was, but my mom remembers that match to this day and apparently, Heim pulled out a squeaker to advance to the finals. Connell fought back hard on the backside and had to settle for 3rd place again.
As a Senior in 2000, everything finally fell into place for Cory Connell. Cory defeated Josh Pratt of Spencer in the first round 9-4, Josh Peterson of Clinton in the semifinals via TF and defeated Adam Olaby of DM Lincoln in the finals by the score of 9-2. However, the match that sticks out above all others in this one was his 1-0 win over Travis Paulson of Lewis Central. This match is the ONLY match that prevented Paulson from being a 4X state champion. A huge win for Cory. Cory concluded his HS career with an undefeated, state championship season. He finished his HS career as a 3X placer with a career record of 146-12.
Cory went on to initially wrestle at The University of Iowa. After a couple years there, he transferred to Wartburg and had a great collegiate at the D3 level in which he became a 2X AA and a National runner-up.
After Cory’s competitive career was finished, he went on to coaching. He started out at Waverly-Shell Rock High School for a year where he helped coach the Go-Hawks in 2006 to a third place finish at the State Tournament and a fourth place at State Duals. He then went on to accept the Eddyville-Blakesburg HC position, where he built one of the best programs in the state. Under Coach Connell EBF had the six best years in the history of the program. He coached the first three State Champions in school history, 17 State Place Winners, 27 State Qualifiers, and 43 District Qualifiers. Cory was named the Iowa HS 1A State Coach of the Year in 2010. He was the District Coach of the Year in 2009 and 2010.
Cory took over the head coaching position at his Alma Matter, Iowa City High in 2012. Since then, the Little Hawks have prospered under his tutelage. Connell was voted District and MVC Conference Coach of the Year in 2018. In 2018, City High won their first Conference Dual and Tournament Championship since 2002. They finished 8th at the Individual and Dual State Championships and won a District Championship in 2018 & 2019. He also coached Individual State Champions in 2018, 2020 and 2021.
Cory has also spent some time coaching several Iowa National Teams on the Freco scene and has spent some time working on the USA Wrestling board. He is also staple as a referee in Freestyle/Greco. Seems like you’ll see him officiating every Freco tournament around in the Eastern Iowa region.
He’s one of the greats, in my book… from multiple angles (wrestling, coaching, administration) and is a perfect example/reason as to why the sport of wrestling prospers in the state of Iowa. We have been blessed to have him here. I have two nephews, Jensen and Asher Swafford (Justin’s boys) who wrestle for the City High MatPac Youth Wrestling Club and live in the IC High school district. I couldn’t be more happy about that, for I know they will be in good hands with the legend, Cory Connell as their Head Coach.
Happy birthday, Cory! You are THE MAN!!!
1998 3A 103
1. Brian Hessenius, LeMars
2. Chad Davis, Lewis Central
3. Cory Connell, IC High
4. Sullivan Baccam, DM North
5. Nick Voss, Pleasant Valley
6. Cody Lowman, Johnston
1999 3A 130
1. Ryan Heim, Sr., Dubuque Hempstead
2. Matt Vasey, DM Lincoln
3. Cory Connell, Jr., Iowa City High
4. Joe Malsam, Sr., Sioux City Heelan
5. Matt Sharp, Jr., Cedar Falls
6. Rob Holub, So., West Des Moines Valley
2000 3A 130
1. Cory Connell, Sr., Iowa City High
2. Adam Olaby, Sr., Des Moines Lincoln
3. Brett Stedman, So., Sioux City Heelan
4. Jim Tripp, Sr., Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln
5. Travis Paulson, So., Council Bluffs Lewis Central
6. Josh Petersen, Jr., Clinton