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I posted an article on Chuck Yagla back in March that chronicled his wrestling career starting in HS. The interesting thing about Chuck Yagla is that he never won state, but won 2 NCAA D1 Titles for The Hawkeyes in 1975 and 1976. He placed 2nd as a Senior in HS in 1972 and apparently was bot satisfied with that showing, for boy did he ever make up for not winning a state championship. He did win a Junior National Title after he graduated though, which may have sparks Iowa’s attention.

On top of winning 2 NCAA championships, he also won 3 Big 10 Championships and was named the OW of the 1976 National Tournament.

After college, Yagla continued to compete and won the Midlands championship in 1976, 1977 and 1978 and was an  international Greco-Roman champion in 1978. He qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. After he qualified, President Carter decided that the USA  National team should boycott the Moscow Olympics. So Chuck never got to compete for the gold.

Chuck was also an Assistant Coach at Iowa 1977 thru 1982.

AND GUESS WHAT?!?!?! Chuck has reeled in some nice fish in his day, mostly bass! Check out some of these dandies!



 Trever Anderson is an absolute warrior. He is one of the most ferocious and persistent competitors in the Iowa HS wrestling scene right now and has won 2 state titles and placed 3rd the one year he did not win it, which was his Sophomore year. For some reason, Trever has had to do a lot more than the average wrestler to prove how incredibly good he is to certain fans and I don’t get it. I understood it to an extent his Freshman season, for he was at 3A 106 that year and the main two wrestlers in his grade/weight range that had been considered unbeatable by the parents and fans that followed that crop of kids were Carter Fousek of Crestwood and Aiden Riggins of Waverly-Shell Rock. Those two were perennial winners for years at that point and people just simply didn’t think they could be beaten… That year, Fousek was at 2A 106 and Riggins was at 3A 106.  Anderson was also at 3A 106, so he would have to get through Riggins if he wanted to win state. Anderson’s wrestling development was gradual, but steady and never plateaued…He usually placed at AAU, but never won it.

So Trever had some doubters coming into state, despite the fact that he had actually won his last match against Fousek during the regular season and Fousek beat Riggins at that same tournament. It seemed they were all neck and neck, but fans still seemed to think it was a foregone conclusion that Anderson would not beat Riggins at state. And when he actually DID beat Riggins in the semis that year, I think the general spectators finally started coming around to Trever a bit. Fousek and Riggins were elite-level wrestlers….but so was Trever Anderson….and so was Blaine Frazier from Notre Dame as well as Marcel Lopez who won 1A 106 that year. There were a lot of Freshmen who made a splash and proved themselves that year. Anderson went on to claim the 3A 106 title after defeating Jace Rhodes of Mason City in the finals.

As a Sophomore in 2020, Trever was at 3A 113. That year he was defeated at state by Ryder Downey from Indianola. This upset Trever quite a bit, but he took his anger out on his opponents in the consolations and placed 3rd.

As a Junior in the 2021 season, Trever came in with a hunger to bounce back from the season before in which he fell short of accomplishing his goal of winning state. However, he would have to get through some adversity in order to accomplish this, for he tore the labrum in his shoulder.  And as much pain as Trever was in, he was still able to grind through it and he ended up winning his 2nd state title at 3A 120. And he had to beat a kid who was on fire named Chad Bellis from Hempstead to do so. Bellis was new to Iowa and had won a title in Illinois prior to moving to Iowa. He also took out the retuning state champion, Bailey Roybal from Waverly-Shell Rock in the semis. With Anderson ailing from a shoulder injury as well as having 2 blemishes on his record coming in, people were starting to count him out again. And guess what happened?! Trever Anderson brought the fire again and beat Bellis by the score of 3-2 to secure his 2nd state championship.


So there’s some background info on Trever, now let’s hear from him! And on a sidenote, I’ve done a lot of these Senior Spotlights over the years and Trever is hands down, one of the best writers I’ve come across. I didn’t even have to correct one typo.


When did you start wrestling? Who introduced you to the sport?

I started wrestling when I was five years old. My Dad was a wrestler and I’ve also been friends with the Rathjen family since I was born basically, so wrestling has just always been in my family.


Do you have any family who wrestled before you? How did they do?

My Dad was a wrestler at Des Moines East. He was a three-time qualifier (1990, 1991, and 1992). He placed fourth in 1991. My older brother Spencer, who is now a senior at Simpson, wrestled for Ankeny and placed seventh in 2018 at 132 lbs. My younger brother Jace, who is a junior at Ankeny, is a two-time state qualifier (2020, and 2021) and placed seventh at 138 lbs last year.


Did you catch on to wrestling quickly or was it a gradual process?

I didn’t catch onto wrestling very quickly. I always enjoyed it but I was never really good. I placed at the AAU state championships multiple times but I never would beat the really good kids when I was growing up. It’s been a gradual process.


What club did you wrestle for growing up and how would you describe your experience with the club?

I wrestled for Ankeny Wrestling Club my entire youth career and High Altitude from sixth grade to my freshman year. My experiences with those clubs helped my development a lot. Topher Ewing and Mitch Mueller we’re both great role models throughout my youth career and I still look up to them to this day. High Altitude helped me really get a love for wrestling. Going up there every Sunday made me start to love practice and the grind and process that comes with the sport.


What are a couple memorable moments from youth wrestling?

My memorable moments from my youth wrestling are definitely AAU state just because Topher and Mitch and the club would bring everyone down and we would all watch each other. As a club we also did some dual tournaments, which were very fun. Taking the bus down to the dual tournaments together was always fun. Getting the team aspect involved in the club rather than just individual tournaments was fun as well.


How did you finish at state tournaments in youth?

Throughout my youth I think I placed twice at USA state (3rd in 2017, 2nd in 2018) and I placed 5 times at AAU state (7th in 2014, 7th in 2015, 5th in 2016, 5th in 2017, and 3rd in 2018). I only made one state finals in my youth and that was in 2018 at USA state and I think I lost to Carter Fousek.


What are some of your more memorable moments from high school wrestling to this point?

Some memorable things from the start of my high school career are definitely the 2019 State Tournament when Caleb and I became the first duo to win state since 2003. I enjoyed my freshman year a lot. The 2021 State Tournament was awesome as well with being able to overcome a lot of obstacles that I endured that year. But most of all the best thing throughout my high school career is the relationships I’ve developed with my coaches such as Austin Anderson, Ryan Sheldon, Derrick Huber, and Jack Wignall. I’ve developed some friendships with my teammates such as Sam Kallem and Caleb Rathjen that will go on past my high school and college career.


How did you finish at the state tournaments you wrestled in at the HS level to this point?

My freshman year I finished first at 106 lbs. Sophomore year I got upset in the semis at 113 lbs. and ended up finishing 3rd place. My junior year I finished first at 120 lbs.


Who were your wrestling heroes growing up? Who are your current wrestling heroes?

My wrestling heros growing up were Topher Ewing and Mitch Mueller. With them being my club coaches my whole youth career they inspired me a lot and still helps me to this day. My college wrestling heros were Cory Clark and Thomas Gilman, I grew up watching them and loved the way they wrestled. A person I look up to is TJ Sebolt because of his heavy involvement in my development.


Was there ever a point in your career where you noticed yourself jumping levels and making huge strides?

I would have to say I made a huge jump after my sophomore year. Once COVID hit, I began to train a lot with Sebolt Wrestling Academy during the summer, which has helped me not just look at state titles as goals but rather put myself on the National level and try to win national titles. The change in mindset has been the biggest jump for me after I lost at state my sophomore year. TJ Sebolt has helped my wrestling drastically and helped me change and reinforce the mindset of trying to be the best in the world. He also preaches to bring that mindset into every aspect of your life no matter what it is, which is something I try to do.


Who have been some of your toughest competitors in HS to this point in your career?

In high school I’d say my toughest competitors were Nate Jesuroga and Carter Fousek. Nate I only got to wrestle once but as everyone saw this summer, he’s a really tough competitor. Carter I’ve wrestled 4 times in high school and each time it’s a fun match to wrestle in.


What was your most memorable state tournament?

Last year’s State tournament was my most memorable just because of all the adversity I faced with tearing my labrum and trying to avenge what happened my sophomore year. It’s close but I would have to say the 2021 tournament was just a little better than 2019.


What are your wrestling goals for this coming season?

My wrestling goals for this season are to win a Super 32 title this October, win a third state title this winter, and win a Fargo title this summer. I’ve been out for a while and I’m stoked to be back.


How would you describe your wrestling style? Who would you compare yourself to?

I would say my wrestling style is more loose and focuses on counter attacks. I’ve been known not to score lots of points but my goal is to continue working on that with TJ.


Do you have any regrets from wrestling that you want to make up for as a Senior?

I wish I could make up the 2020 state tournament. Losing in the semis was one of the worst experiences I’ve had. Although that loss did have its benefits. It has helped me and continues to make me jump levels with my wrestling and mindset.


What other sports do you play and how have you done at them?

I play soccer where I played as a freshman, we made state that year and lost to the eventual runner ups. I haven’t been able to play for two years though due to COVID and my shoulder.


What are some of your hobbies besides wrestling?

I enjoy watching wrestling, playing PS4 with my friends, and watching football.


What is some of the best advice you ever received?

The best advice I’ve ever received was actually not too long ago. TJ said at practice “greatness is for the few, the few that are willing” and it’s stuck with me ever since. I have it as my background on my phone now.


Do you have any advice for up and coming wrestlers?

My advice to upcoming wrestlers is stick with the process and don’t sell yourself short, train to become the best in the world rather than just your state. Most of all, train to become the best version of yourself. Incorporate the wrestling mindset into every aspect of your life no matter what it is.


PINDOX PROFILE: Ken Bradley; Traer-North Tama ‘84

PINDOX PRIFILE: Ken Bradley; Traer-North Tama ‘84

In 1951, Elmer Bradley of Traer HS, made history when he became Traer’s first ever state champion by winning the 155 lb. division… and he would be the last Traer wrestler to win state until Courtney Risk won 1A 132 in 1982. That ended up being a nice little stretch where Traer had 4 State Champions from 1982-1987. And not only did Elmer Bradley start seeing some guys from his alma-mater of Traer wrestling start to make a splash, but he also started seeing some of his family members reeling in the hardware around that time as well. Gavin Bradley, his nephew (I THINK) was a state runner-up for Jefferson-Scranton in 1995 and his brother Garrett became a state qualifier for Jefferson Scranton.

And then Elmer’s nephew, Paul Bradley entered the mix. Paul became a 3X state finalist in 1999-2001 and won state as a Senior in 2001. He eventually went on to become a successful collegiate wrestler for The Hawkeyes and had a successful MMA career to boot. And when those three, Gavin, Garrett and Paul did so well in their own careers, they were actually following the footsteps of yet another Bradley that came before them and after Elmer who also won state. His name was Ken Bradley and he was a state champion for Traer-North Tama in ‘84.

Ken Bradley was coached by Jeff Selby. Bradley made his first appearance at state as a Sophomore in 1982 at 1A 126, but was eliminated after being defeated first round.

The following year, Ken qualified for state again at 1A 132. Ken was undefeated coming in with a record of 32-0 and looked the part when he won his first match, but was stopped by Dave Tool from Gilmore City-Bradgate in the quarterfinals. In the consolation side, Ken fought back hard with some big wins over some good wrestlers and ultimately placed 4th at state in a very balanced bracket.

In 1984, Ken qualified again at 1A 132 and was undefeated coming in for the 2nd year in a row and came out swinging, for he pinned his first two guys to stampede into the semifinals. The guy he pinned in the quarterfinals was Bill McLaughlin from Avoca who was making his 3rd appearance at state that year. This set up a semifinal showdown between Ken and the guy who placed two spots above him at his weight the previous year, Rick Swalla from Stuart-Menlo. Bradley apparently came ready to rock and roll, for he defeated Swalla by the score of 7-2, advancing him to the finals where he was set to face Wes Andrew from Monroe who placed 3rd at 3A 126 the year before. And the match between them ended up being epic.

1983 1A 132
1. Dave Tool, Sr., Gilmore City-Bradgate
2. Rick Swalla, Jr., Stuart-Menlo
3. Craig Nelson, Sr., Minburn-Central Dallas
4. Ken Bradley, Jr., Traer-North Tama
5. Wayne Braet, Sr., Durant
6. Jeff Decker, Jr., Winthrop-East Buchanon

Wes Andrew of Monroe was the returning 3rd place finisher from 1A 126 and just like Ken Bradley, he was undefeated on the season. Also like Ken Bradley, he had some familial history with wrestling. A guy having a family history in wrestling wasn’t as common in 1984 because back in 1984, there just weren’t as many wrestlers who had fathers with wrestling history. The sport was younger. Anyways, Wes Andrew was the nephew of Coach Bill Andrew who coached some of the best teams and individuals ever in his days at Osage.

So as soon as the whistle blew to start the match, it looked like these guys were like butting heads due to both being so aggressive. Both of them just firing hay-makers at each other, and countering their haymaker with one of their own haymakers. One guy would get thrown to their back and would counter by throwing the other guy to his back and while he was still on his own back. Haha yeah it was wild. And Monroe had a wicked fireman’s carry… so he kept hitting Bradley with that to go ahead at the beginning of the match. But Bradley just kept firing away and just kept coming. He ended up winning a back and forth, close and fun state finals match to become the second Bradley to win a state championship.

1984 1A 132
1. Ken Bradley, Sr., Traer-North Tama
2. Wes Andrew, Sr., Monroe
3. Shawn Govern, Sr., Riceville
4. Rick Swalla, Sr., Stuart-Menlo
5. Kevin Gray, Sr., Woodbury Central
6. Doug Benjamin, Sr., Gilmore City-Bradgate



PINDOX PROFILE: The Amateur Wrestling Career of Bret “Hitman” Hart; Ernest Manning HS/Mount Royal University

To start, there will likely be two groups of people reading this one… WWE fans and HS/College wrestling fans. To avoid confusion, I am going to refer to the WWE style as “professional wrestling,” and the HS/college style as “amateur wrestling.”

Bret “Hitman” Hart… The legendary professional wrestler. He was one of my all-time favorite athletes/celebrities of the 90’s. He was so cool.  My brother, Justin and I used to fight over which one of us got to use Bret Hart as our character on all of the WWE games we had for Sega Genesis. Back then, I hated the color pink… I thought that color was for girls and sissies, but when Bret Hart sported the pink and black, nothing looked cooler. And the fact that Bret was an amateur wrestler before he became a professional wrestler supplied him with yet another element of cool for us. To make it things yet even more coolerer, Bret was a second generation wrestler for his family. His father, Stu Hart, along with being a legend for his influence in the professional wrestling world was also a successful amateur wrestler during the 1930s and early 1940s and won many national championships in his day. Bret’s brothers also had varying degrees of success on the mat. Bret Hart stated that the reason he started wrestling to begin with at the age of 9 was because it felt like an expectation from his father to do so. Bret has referenced the moment he showed one of his initial City Championship medals to his father as one of the most powerful and life-changing moments of his life. To this day, Bret’s medals she earned while competing in wrestling are among his most prized possessions.

As most of us know, Bret “Hitman” Hart is primarily famous for his accolades in the world of professional wrestling. Ok, so I am guessing that when those of you who are amateur wrestling fans read that this article would be about a professional wrestler, the reactions were split evenly. I bet half were like, “sweet! The Pin Doctors are gonna start covering WWE wrestlers now!” And the other half, I’m assuming became instantly annoyed and thought, “BRET HART?! HE’S NOT A WRASSLER! WWE isn’t REAL wrasslin!’ It probably makes the professional wrestling-haters livid to know that Bret is considered by many professional wrestling fans to be the best “technical” wrestler ever.  In fact, Hart’s technical prowess and agility earned him the monikers “The Excellence of Execution,” and “The Best There Is, The Best There Was, and The Best There Ever Will Be.” For those of you wrestling fans out there who despise professional wrestling to the point where you are incapable of giving these guys credit as skilled athletes, check out what Olympic Amateur Wrestling Champion, Kurt Angle had to say about Bret Hart:

KURT ANGLE: I used to watch matches of Bret Hart so that I could learn the psychology of [pro] wrestling… in that ring, as a technician, there wasn’t anybody better than him.

You can think what you want, but I think it’s rather unlikely that a take coming from a wrestling phenom like Kurt Angle would be lacking validity.

I wonder what Kurt Angle thinks Bret’s ceiling as an amateur wrestler could be?

Anyways… Bret is a member of the legendary Hart Foundation, which was started by his father, Stu Hart. The Hart family is essentially professional wrestling royalty. Bret has 11 siblings who were all integral components of The Hart Foundation. Bret will likely always be considered one of the best and most entertaining professional wrestlers of all time.

I don’t see why amateur wrestling fans wouldn’t be proud of Bret’s professional wrestling accomplishments, for his experience in amateur wrestling most certainly played a role in his ability to become the universally respected professional wrestling technician that he is, for not only was Bret an excellent professional wrestler, he was also a very successful HS and collegiate amateur wrestler. Bret attended Ernest Manning High School in Calgary, Alberta (Canada) where he was a wrestling legend. In high school, Bret won the city and provincial championships in three different weight classes: 145, 154 and 177 lbs. He won his first city championship in grade 10, following it up with a provincial title. In grade 12 he would finish second at the city championship, but redeemed himself by defeating the opponent who had defeated him, when he won his second provincial title. One of Bret’s most notable wins was over Bob Eklund of Central Memorial HS/University Of Calgary…

Eklund would go on to become a Canadian National Champion and was named the “Outstanding Wrestler Of The Year” in 1980-81. He’s one of the best amateur wrestlers to ever come out of Canada.

Bret went on to wrestle in college for Mount Royal College where he continued to show some legit ability to eventually become one of the best in the country.


After a couple year hiatus of training, Bret got back into the grind and wrestled Bob Eklund again at the collegiate level after Eklund had won Nationals and was beaten, but almost pinned him. He surprised even himself that he came so close to beating him, especially since he almost pulled this off without having any cardio training at the time. Bret’s talent was so obvious that there were hopes that he could eventually compete at the Common Wealth Games or even represent Canada in the Olympics. Bret eventually quit wrestling to pursue the career that made him famous…professional wrestling. He joined up with his father, Stu’s promotion, Stampede Wrestling.  We will get to the reasons that led to this decision in a bit. Since Bret’s competitive days, he has spoken of how helpful his amateur wrestling background was in his professional wrestling career, and also of what a positive effect amateur wrestling has on junior high school and high school-aged boys in terms of building self-confidence. A true advocate for our sport!

Ok, so to switch gears a little bit, how many of you amateur wrestling fans out there are fans of professional wrestling or at least respect them as being skilled athletes? How many of you hate everything about it? It seems like the amateur wrestling community is split evenly in terms of those who like it and those who hate it. I loved it back in the 90’s and 00’s when the characters seemed more entertaining and likable. For whatever reason, since that era, I just haven’t been able to get into it… I haven’t been able to get into many of the storylines or characters in years, but I will always respect what they are able to do athletically. So while many of us love or respect professional wrestling, an equally large amount of wrestling fans tend to despise it to the point where they are incapable of giving the WWE performers a mere fraction of the credit they deserve as being considered the incredible athletes they are. The primary reason the WWE-haters will give you for their disdain of professional wrestling is that they can’t wrap their heads around the fact that it is scripted or “fake,” as they may refer to it. However, I think another major underlying factor for these wrestling fans’ hatred for professional wrestling is the fact that it receives more mainstream media attention than wrestling receives, which makes the WWE athletes more popular than our athletes, which results in the successful WWE performers being paid much, much, much more money than our successful athletes, which IS very frustrating. As we all know, it takes a ton of hard work and perseverance to become successful in amateur wrestling and the rewards for the hard-earned success that an amateur wrestler may achieve is generally measured in “pride” and “honor” opposed to something that can help you on your quest for financial stability. This is why we lose some of our best amateur wrestlers like Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar to professional wrestling. No one understands this more than Bret Hart himself. He endured this exact type of frustration when he was a collegiate wrestler and it was a factor in his decision to drop out of college and pursue a career in professional wrestling. He was so focused on his collegiate wrestling career that his grades struggled as a result. And when you factor in the wear and tear that wrestling can take on a person’s body as well as the agony of weight-cutting, you can’t blame someone for finding the sport of wrestling to be unrewarding. Here is what Bret Hart had to say about that particular phase of his life:

BRET HART: I focused more on wrestling and the college championships than I did on schoolwork. I was discouraged and spending my money and I remember I just quit after one semester and said, ‘I’ll get more money and do the whole plan again, but this time it will be better organized.

Ok, so with that said, Bret Hart, if you happen to be reading this article, one of my biggest longterm goals of this site is to help promote and grow the sport of wrestling to where our athletes can have the same career opportunities as professional athletes in other sports. If this is something you would like to promote as well, I would like to ask you to partake in a series we have called “Remember The Wrestler,” which will consist of a set of questions that chronicles your own wrestling journey, how wrestling has impacted your life and your thoughts on what we can do to grow the sport in terms of popularity and mainstream appeal. Would be a cool way to not only tell the world about your amateur wrestling journey, but it’d also give you an opportunity to showcase your commendable writing skills. If you are interested in doing this, please email me at thepindoctors@gmail.com Thank you very much for your ongoing support and encouragement of the sport of wrestling. Apologies in advance if I got any of the facts wrong in this article.

Author: Joshua Swafford aka RicoSwaff




PINDOX PROFILE: Tyrell Gordon; Waterloo East/UNI Panthers

PINDOX PROFILE: Tyrell Gordon; Waterloo East/UNI Panthers

Tyrell Gordon didn’t start until later than most wrestlers do… Or at least that’s how it appears according to the past results. About the furthest back you can trace things back with him are his Junior High days and it appears that he did pretty well for his initial times being thrown into the mix with guys who had been wrestling since Kindergarten. It appeared that he qualified for USA and AAU as an 8th grader and won a match of two at both against good kids.

When Tyrell initially got into HS, he struggled and/or wrestled some JV in his first two seasons. He finished out his Sophomore season on varsity and placed 4th at districts with a season record of 25-17. And then, just like that, he took an astronomical jump between his Sophomore and Junior seasons. If I had to take a guess, there were 3 huge contributing factors which led to the jump in his development between those years: 1. He was now an upperclassman-upper-middleweight opposed to an underclassman-upper middleweight which meant he likely made up a lot of ground physically. 2. He had yet another year of experience. And 3. He heavily increased his freestyle and Greco wrestling in the summer of 2016 and never looked back.

And how astronomical was the jump you may ask? Well he went from a Sophomore who went 25-17, placing 4th at districts to a Junior who finished 4th at state with a 43-6 record and picked up huge wins over quality competition all season long. He won his first of what ended up being 2 MVC Conference Championships that season as well. Tyrell Gordon had arrived and he wasn’t going away anytime soon. He hit the Freco scene hard again, placing 3rd at Freestyle State and was a Greco state champion that year.

As a Senior, Tyrell continued to leave his foot on the accelerator and came into the state tournament with only 2 losses, both to Tanner Sloan from Alburnett who was steam-rolling through everyone at the time. The positive take-away from that, though was that his first loss to Sloan was at the first tournament of the season and Sloan beat him 6-0, but Tyrell closed the gap and gave him a much more competitive match the 2nd time they wrestled and he only lost by a couple points to him. Tyrell bulldozed through several eventual placers and future state champions that season. Heck, it looks like he beat future 3X state champion, Gabe Christensen of SE Polk at least 3 times his last two years of HS. Gordon won his 2nd MVC title that year and major decisioned a high quality wrestler who had done well at the state level for years to that point named Jacob Dykes of IC High.

Tyrell came into the state tournament with a sparkling record of 43-2 and had two close wins over great opponents, Ashton Stoner-Degroot of CR Prairie and Christensen. This set up a rematch with his MVC finals match, Jacob Dykes of IC High, who he, as mentioned, majored a couple weeks before at the MVC. Unfortunately for Tyrell, he did not have the same result against Dykes this time, for he lost 6-4 this time, putting him in the consolation rounds, which ironically the two guys he wrestled in the consolations were the guys he beat the first two rounds. He spread the gap with Stoner-Degroot, beating him 8-0 this time and then beat Christensen in OT for 3rd place at state, making him a 2X state placer. Although 3rd was obviously not what he wanted either year and you could clearly see the disappointment on his face while standing on the podium, it was still a helluva HS career.

Tyrell went on to have an incredible offseason in the Freco scene. He won a couple tournaments in Freestyle and Greco. Won both Freestyle State and Greco State. Performed awesomely at Junior National Duals for Freestyle and Greco, only losing 1 out of 12 matches between the two… he ended up finishing his Freco career at the HS level as a 2X Fargo Freestyle AA and a 1X Greco AA which is better than MANY 3-4X State Champions have done there.

Tyrell went on to wrestle at UNI where he has had some good moments, but has taken lumps here and there which should be alarming to no one, for he has shown several times now that he’s capable of making huge jumps in his development when he puts his mind to it. He has won some nice tournaments in his collegiate career to this point. I would keep paying attention to Tyrell at this point. He’s still in this.

One thing that I read about Tyrell that brought a smile to my face is that he volunteers as a youth coach at the Future Trojans Wrestling Club. The fact that he does this as a current collegiate wrestler or just a college student in general is a great indicator of just how big his heart must be. Most college students don’t have time to be volunteering with the youth, for they are too busy with their social lives. Most collegiate athletes don’t have time either, for they have their own careers to worry about… Tyrell apparently considers it important to work with the youth and has likely changed a few lives already by doing so… and he’s managed to compete at the D1 level simultaneously…. huge props to this man… Not everyone has it in them to be so selfless. I know I didn’t.


PINDOX PROFILE: Caleb Rathjen; Ankeny HS/Iowa Hawkeyes

Caleb Rathjen; Ankeny ‘21/Sebolt Wrestling Academy/Iowa Hawkeyes

The Rathjen family has quite the wrestling legacy going! Well, Ankeny Wrestling in general has quite a thing going and HC Jack Wignall is doing a brilliant job with that program and there’s a ton more to come about them, but this one is about Caleb Rathjen…the 2nd of 3 Rathjen boys, all standout wrestlers from Ankeny. To start, their father Kirk Rathjen was a 2X placer and State Champion in HS. He wrestled for Iowa Valley where he placed 4th as a Junior in 1991 and capped off his HS career as an undefeated state champion at 1A 171 as a Senior. There’s older brother, Cole Rathjen who was a good wrestler for Ankeny a couple years ago… he was a state qualifier for them. There’s the youngest, Calvin, who is already raking in state titles on the youth circuit. And then, of course, there’s Caleb… one of the best HS wrestlers around.

Caleb Rathjen caught my radar when I heard a wrestling mom in the stands at AAU State having a panic attack because her son was in Caleb’s bracket and she was frustrated because she felt it gave her kid no chance of winning the bracket since he was in it. And she was right. I don’t know how many AAU State titles Caleb won, but it had to have been at least 5? Seemed like you NEVER heard of that kid losing a match from the time he began. And each and every year he just adds on to his seemingly infinite wrestling arsenal.

Sometimes when I watch Rathjen, I question how on Earth he ever loses a match. I remember watching one of his matches from the first half of the 2018-2019 season and saw him do something where I was sitting there thinking, “what on Earth is he doing and what is he gonna make of it?” Like 10 seconds and a couple set-ups/counters later, Rathjen put this kid on his back out of nowhere and it became somewhat clear to me that he straight-up baited or knew the match was going to unravel the way it did or just felt it or something. Its hard to explain, for it was over my head a bit. Whatever it was, I realized there and then that this kid operates 2-3 moves ahead of his opponent and I think wrestling is very instinctive for him…either that or he is that good at studying his opponent. He seems to have an elaborate, productive response from any position against any opponent. There is not a more intelligent wrestler in the state than Caleb Rathjen. It’s difficult for me to make sense of for he operates at a level that is much higher than I was ever personally capable of. He reminds me so much of my brother Justin’s HS rival, Moza Fay from Anamosa ‘02. Moza was a 4 time placer, 2 time state champ and AA for UNI.

Caleb concluded his HS career as a 4X state finalist/2X state champion. There were not very many guys who beat him in HS. In fact, I can probably name them off the top of my head…. His Freshman season, Will Zerban from out of state beat him at The Indee Invite and Nick Oldham from Valley beat him in the state finals at 3A 113. The next year when Caleb was a Sophomore, Cael Happel from Lisbon beat him at Indee. Caleb went on to win his first state title that year, avenging his finals loss to Oldham from the year before in the finals that year at 3A 126. Caleb’ Junior year, Happel got him again at Indee… I think both of those two battles they had were 1-2 point matches. He won his 2nd title that year at 3A 138. As a Senior this past season, he had 2 close losses to phenom, Aidan Riggins from Waverly-Shell Rock. One of these took place in the state finals at 3A 152, which broke his heart, I’m sure. To anyone reading this, Iowa fans especially, don’t look too far into those losses to Riggins for those matches didn’t indicate anything negative at all about Rathjen, but rather it showed just how good Riggins has become. You gotta remember, Iowa HS wrestling right now is better than it has EVER been and Caleb Rathjen, despite falling short of his goals this past season, is STILL one of the best pound-for-pound wrestlers our state has recently produced. Nobody worry, Iowa DID get a phenomenal one with Caleb Rathjen.

And those were his losses… If I were to include his notable wins, this article would end up taking me about 100 hours to complete. There are tons, trust me.

So Rathjen went 2-1-1-2 at state in HS, but has accomplished equally impressive feats in offseason work. On the national level, Rathjen has been a consistent force. In 2017, he was 3rd at Cadet Folkstyle Nationals at 106 lbs. He followed this with a 7th place finish at Freestyle Nationals. Crazy thing is, those two feats took place BEFORE he entered HS. In 2018, he placed 5th at Folkstyle Cadet Nationals and 2nd in Freestyle. A year later, he tacked on another accolade by placing 3rd at Junior Folkstyle Nationals and placed 4th at the Cadet World Team Trials. Most recently, he won the Iowa Freestyle State Tournament Junior 145 and beat phenom, Hunter Garvin from Iowa City West in doing so. He also placed 2nd at Fargo Junior Freestyle Nationals this past month. He went on a run where he won his first 5-6 by tech, won the next one by 5-6 pts. to make the finals and was winning his finals match by a point or two and lost the match on a questionable call at the end to place 2nd.

Rathjen was also a standout on the football field. A key contributor for a successful HS football team. He was 2nd team all-state on defense for an Ankeny team that won the 2020 Class 4A State Championship.

Pretty incredible.

2018 3A 113
1 Nick Oldham (Jr.) WDM Valley
2 Caleb Rathjen (Fr.) Ankeny
3 Nick Miller (Jr.) Waukee
4 Dillon Gottschalk (Sr.) Dubuque Hempstead
5 Carson Taylor (So.) Fort Dodge
6 Jakey Penrith (Jr.) Cedar Falls
7 Nathan Kahoe (Jr.) DM Lincoln
8 Caleb Helgeson (Fr.) Johnston

2019 3A 126
1 Caleb Rathjen of Ankeny
2 Nick Oldham of Valley, West Des Moines
3 Matthew Jordan of Des Moines East
4 Dylan Albrecht of Waverly-Shell Rock
5 Brooks Cowell of Fort Dodge
6 Caleb McCabe of North Scott
7 Noah Blubaugh of Ankeny Centennial
8 Carson Murray of Dowling Catholic

2020 3A 138

1 Caleb Rathjen (Jr) Ankeny
2 Dreyzon Phillips (Jr) Fort Dodge
3 Carter Martinson (So) Southeast Polk
4 James Edwards (Sr) Johnston
5 Grifen Molle (Jr) Notre Dame/W.B./Danville
6 Christian Stanek (So) Xavier – Cedar Rapids
7 Dylan Whitt (So) Cedar Falls
8 Leo Blawou (Sr) Des Moines – Lincoln

2021 3A-152
1st Aiden Riggins of Waverly-Shell Rock
2nd Caleb Rathjen of Ankeny
3rd Carson Martinson of Southeast Polk
4th Graham Gambrall of Iowa City, West
5th Abass Kemokai of Linn-Mar
6th Abraham Dirkx of Carroll
7th Colin Driscoll of Waukee
8th Sam Zindel of Johnston


PINDOX PROFILE: Drew Bennett; Fort Dodge HS/UNI/Iowa Hawkeyes

PINDOX PROFILE: Drew Bennett; Fort Dodge HS ‘18/UNI/Iowa Hawkeyes

Many wrestlers will experience in their careers, what my dad has always called, “peaks and valleys.” When someone uses that phrase, what they are referring to is “highs and lows.” Someone may have moments where they feel like they are on top of the wrestling world and then suddenly, things change and they feel as if their wrestling situation couldn’t possibly get any worse. And then of course, things can shift back and forth between awesome and awful quite a few times before their career concludes. Peaks and valleys. That’s one of the first things I think about when I hear the name, “Drew Bennett.”

Drew Bennett got off to a blazing start to his career in the youth wrestling scene. Over the past few decades since the origination of the tournament, I don’t know how many guys have won 6 AAU State titles, but I know it can’t be many. I remember the first two guys to ever win 6 of these were Trent Paulson from CB Lewis Central and Ryan Morningstar from Lisbon. It’s a pretty big deal. Essentially, when a kid wins 6 AAU titles, it means that they won AAU state every year they competed in the tournament, which unless they were bumped up as 2nd graders, they wrestled in the AAU state tourney 6 times from 3rd grade through 8th grade. Drew Bennett won 5 AAU titles and seemed to be on track to winning 6 during his 8th grade season. The kid was seriously a step above the rest of the guys in that grade skill-wise, pound for pound from the time he was in 2nd or 3rd grade and basically for the majority of that grade’s youth career.

Everything was smooth sailing for Bennett. He reached a peak and a plateau seemed to form at the top of it. Bennett was the best in the grade and everything seemed to be falling into place for him to have a borderline flawless career if he kept it up…. All the way until a couple weeks before the AAU State tournament his 8th grade year, when all hell broke loose for him. You know why he didn’t win 6 AAU titles? Because he broke his arm a couple weeks before the AAU State Tournament his 8th grade year. If someone wants to downplay how much of an accomplishment it is to win 1 AAU State title, let alone 6, then I would just like to emphasize that there have been youth clubs that I have been part of or seen over the years that worked every bit as hard to reach their goals as high schoolers and college-aged wrestlers. And the primary goal for most of these kids is to win an AAU state title… and they work their butts off to do it. If you would have told any of us at the time we were in youth wrestling that AAU Youth State didn’t mean anything, we likely would have all wanted to collectively thrown you threw a wall.

So Drew Bennett had unexpectedly entered a valley, but he was a tough kid and had proven this several times already, it was likely he would get things back on track and he wouldn’t have to deal with something out of the ordinary like that again, right? Unfortunately, that’s not how it played out for Drew. Drew was a lighter weight for his grade. Not the lightest, but lighter and was probably banking on hitting a growth spurt between 8th grade and freshman year so he could fit into 106 lbs comfortably. This didn’t happen. In fact, he wrestled 95 lbs. at FloNationals that very season, so he was very undersized as a Freshman. And this was a problem for Drew because his teammate in his grade who had been in Drew’s shadow a bit since they began wrestling, Brody Teske, had grown into the weight perfectly. And this is by no means an attempt to slight Teske, for he was a great youth wrestler himself, but when you have a guy on your team and around your weight who won 5 AAU state titles and likely would have won 6 if he hadn’t been injured, then it’d take something near perfection to stay clear of that kid’s shadow. And when these two entered HS, these roles flipped. Brody Teske went on to become a 4X state champion with only 1 career loss. Bennett wasn’t able to crack the starting lineup at Fort Dodge until his Sophomore year, for he spent his first HS season as a 95 lb. Freshman who was 2nd string behind a guy who ended up becoming one of Iowa HS wrestling’s most decorated ever. If that isn’t a string of sudden awful luck, I don’t know what is.

Bennett grew into 106 by the time he was a Sophomore and had a great year, placing 3rd at state. His loss at state was a nail-biter. He lost 3-2 to future 3Xer Kyle Biscoglia from Waukee in the quarterfinals and dominated his way on the backside for 3rd place. He defeated Biscoglia during the regular season.

As a Junior, Drew Bennett went on a tear during the regular season at 113 lbs. He was undefeated coming into state that year and 2 of his regular season wins were wins over the guy who beat him in the quarterfinals at state the year before (Biscoglia). He also had a 14-7 win over future 4Xer Cael Happel…one of only 2 losses Happel ever took in his career to an Iowan. However, Bennett dropped a 6-3 decision to Biscoglia in the semis and had to settle for 3rd place again.

As a Senior, Drew Bennett’s frustration was presumably at an all-time high considering how the first 3 years of his HS career had gone. He was at 3A 132 and was off to a fast start to the season when he was named Outstanding Wrestler at USA Wrestling Preseason Nationals after winning the 126-pound weight class. However, if he were to win his first state title as a Senior in HS, it wasn’t going to come easy for him, for he had to contend with a kid named Zach Price from Johnston. Price had placed at state the previous 3 years and he and Bennett had split wins during the regular season. They met in the semifinals and Bennett pulled off a 5-3 win and capped off his HS career with a state championship by defeating Eli Loyd of Pleasant Valley by a score of 9-4 in the finals.

Bennett committed to wrestle at UNI. He wrestled 3 seasons there, redshirting his first year there. That first season he finished with a respectable 14-4 record. The next two years, he wrestled his share of varsity matches at 141 and 149 and won some nice matches while there.

A month or two ago, Drew Bennett transferred to the Iowa Hawkeyes and IMO, Iowa may be a perfect fit for him, for a lot of things that Iowa does well are things that if Drew were to perfect them in his own arsenal, it may just shoot him to another level from where he is at now. Although Drew has yet to accomplish anything near what he has wanted to at the D1 level, he has endured the “peaks and valleys” of wrestling before and has come out on top. The book is not closed on him and it will be very interesting to see how he does the next 2 years at Iowa.

2016 3A 106
1 Kyle Biscoglia (So) Waukee
2 Nick Oldham (Fr.) WDM Valley
3 Drew Bennett (So.) Fort Dodge
4 Conrad Braswell (Fr.) CR Prairie
5 Kobey Pritchard (So.) Indianola
6 Paxton Whiteaker (Sr.) Lewis Central
7 Dillon Gottschalk (So.) Dubuque Hempstead
8 Riley Thomas (Jr.) North Scott

2017 3A 113
1 Kyle Biscoglia (Jr.) Waukee
2 Jacob Schipper (Sr.) North Scott
3 Drew Bennett (Jr.) Fort Dodge
4 Kobey Pritchard (Jr.) Indianola
5 Jacob Close (Sr.) Western Dubuque
6 Eric Owens (So.) Ankeny Centennial
7 Jakey Penrith (So.) Cedar Falls
8 Ryan Steffensmeier (Jr.) Fort Madison

2018 3A 132
1 Drew Bennett (Sr.) Fort Dodge
2 Eli Loyd (So.) Pleasant Valley
3 Zach Price (Sr.) Johnston
4 Caleb Corbin (Fr.) WDM Valley
5 Matthew Jordan (Jr.) Dm East
6 Graham Gambrall (Fr.) Iowa City West
7 Spencer Anderson (Sr.) Ankeny
8 Ryan Strickland (Jr.) SE Polk


PINDOX PROFILE: Adam Gottschalk; Dubuque Hempstead ‘03/Loras College

Adam Gottschalk is one of my all-time best friends. We were roommates in college for a couple years, he was a groomsman in my marriage to my ex-wife, I was a groomsman in his marriage to his ex-wife, we are both St. Louis Cardinals and KC Chiefs fans, etc.

Adam and I were more or less inseparable for a few years in college, to the point where a lot of people referred to him as my “mini-me.” We had some crazy, silly, utterly ridiculous, but always fun times in our day… that’s when we weren’t fighting with each other over something stupid like a couple of sisters.  And a lot of you guys think I am a wrestling Encyclopedia…heck, I have NOTHING on Gotch. I don’t think there is a match he has ever wrestled, witnessed or read about that he can’t recall vividly. He’s the same way about Major League Baseball. A very smart dude. The difference between Gotch and I is that he doesn’t really like to write like I do.

I actually became aware of Adam for the first time ever when he was in my brother, Justin’s bracket at districts and state. He would stand there before his matches looking straight ahead and would have one of those corporate eyebrows going. You know when one eyebrow rests and the other is raised? It was kind of intimidating in a way.

He and my brother actually became friends before he and I did, for they hung out while going to the Disney Duals and Fargo together… so that’s how I knew him already when I arrived at Loras.

Adam was a 3X placer/1X State Champion in HS. He placed 4th as a Sophomore, 1st as a Junior and 3rd as a Senior. He was always competing with guys like Jake Halvorsen from IC West, Joe Slaton of Kennedy, Mitch Mueller of Kennedy, etc. Most of those guys went back and forth with each other and all of them won at least one state title.

Adam was coached by Chuck Haas and developed a nasty, sometimes unstoppable carry series that he was very dangerous with. He was also good about staying in good position and not giving up points. Another thing he had in his arsenal was a left-sided sag headlock. He could turn and pin people on top. He was just a good, well-balanced wrestler with no real weaknesses.

When Gottschalk wrestled in the finals as a Junior against returning state champion and rival, Jake Halvorsen of IC West, he got things going quickly with a fireman that put Jake to his back for a 5 point move. And how did things go after that? I won’t lie…he coasted a bit… and he won the state title.

Here’s an interesting story that Gotch always told me about what went through his head the moment he won state. Gotch is a huge fan of the band, “Filter.” When Adam knew that the match was over and that he officially became a state champion, the song, “take a picture” by the band Filter became stuck in his head. Im sure most of you remember that song. It’s the one that starts out with the lyrics, “awake on my airplane, awake on my airplane, my skin is bare, my skin is their’s.” If you haven’t heard that song, check it out… It’s one of my all-time favorites. Anyways, the part that went through Gotch’s head when he won state was the part where Filter singer, Richard Patrick wails, “HEYYY DADDD WHAAAATTA YA THINK ABOUT YOUR SON, NOW!!!” His dad was obviously elated about the win and it meant the world to Gotch that he made him proud.

On a side note, I’m surprised that he got the song he did in his head and not a metal song… he’s probably the biggest “metal-head” that I know. He’s introduced me to some great metal bands that I still listen to today, most notably Killswitch Engage. Gotch is an Encyclopedia with metal music, too.

Adam finished with a career record of 144-19 and will always be held in high regard by the wrestling community in Dubuque.

Adam went on to wrestle at Loras where he had a good moments here and there, but just didn’t really want to do it anymore. His shoulder always gave him trouble and frankly, he just wanted to have fun in college. I did, too.

Adam continues to help as much as he can with the wrestlers in the Dubuque region…son, Landon, was wrestling for a few years and won a couple of youth state championships, but he decided the past year or two that he wanted to take a break from it. Hopefully we see Landon on the mat at Wells someday. He also has a daughter named Elliana. His cousin, Dillon Gottschalk was also a placer for Hempstead.

Last I knew, Adam was still helping out via coaching the Dubuque area kids/Hempstead kids.  I need to catch up with this dude. It’s been way too long.



Justin Decker was a 1995 graduate from Maynard, West Central who later went on to wrestle for the Iowa Hawkeyes from 1995-1998, took 12 years off and spent several years as a Head and Assistant Coach at 2 High Schools before competing yet another season at Upper Iowa University. It’s one of the most interesting and unique careers I have ever heard of. There are things that happened or paths taken in Justin’s career that I’ve only ever heard about happening with him. The big one would be this: Justin won two state titles in HS, wrestled for The Hawkeyes for a few years, quit wrestling, got hired shortly after as the Head Wrestling Coach at West Central HC for a couple years, then as an Assistant at North Fayette for a few more years and then coached as an Assistant at Upper Iowa University before deciding to compete one final year for Upper Iowa, 12 years after the last time he competed at Iowa.  That’s incredible. I’ve never heard of someone having a career like that. Another example would be the way he won his 1st state title. He won his second state title over Todd Foster
 from Riceville by the score of 6-0, but get this…The match was tied 0-0 to start the 3rd period….And Justin started the period in the top position… Knowing the outcome, you’ve probably connected the dots by now that Justin Decker won his 1st state title by scoring 2 three point near falls in the later part of the match to win 6-0.  You just don’t hear of that very often. 

Off the mat, Justin is an extremely nice person and has helped me out a bit in terms of good suggestions and providing me with content to post. He’s a good dude. 

I can’t imagine someone not liking this man’s story, told in his own words. It may be my favorite Remember The Wrestler article to date. Consider me a huge fan. 

1992 1A 119 (Freshman year)

1993 1A 140 (SOPHOMORE YEAR)

1994 1A 152 (JUNIOR YEAR)

1994 1A 152

1 Justin Decker, Jr., West Central, Maynard

2 Todd Foster, Sr., Riceville

3 B.J. Miller, Sr., Buffalo Center, North Iowa

4 Jesse Nason, Sr., State Center, West Marshall

5 Curt Pote, Sr., Guthrie Center

6 Denny Sanford, Sr., Lawton-Bronson


1995 1A 152 (SENIOR YEAR)

1995 1A 152

1 Justin Decker, Sr., West Central, Maynard

2 Jacobs Knight, Sr., Mount Ayr

3 Will Steinkamp, Sr., East Buchanan, Winthrop

4 Brandon Christopher, Sr., North Linn, Coggon

5 Scott Nichols, Sr., Wayne, Corydon

6 Mason Stine, Sr., Lisbon







Here we go, the wrestling journey of Justin Decker… you’ll never read another one quite like it! 

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

West Central (Maynard) High School
Wahawk Wrestling Club (Waterloo West)

PINDOX: What year did you graduate?


PINDOX: Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

JUSTIN DECKER: My mother was always the ‘pusher’ in my family but I don’t think one specific person ever encouraged me to wrestle.  I chose to do it in my own. My three older brothers were all significantly older than me so when I was 6,7,8 years old they were competing in JH and HS. I loved it at an early age and followed the sport very closely. I lived it…..breathed it….and could probably tell you about every great wrestler in the mid to late 80’s when my brothers wrestled.
PINDOX: Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
JUSTIN DECKER: My Dad wrestled and I guess was pretty good.
*Derek (brother) placed 4th at State in ‘88
*Jason (brother) placed 5th at State in ‘87 and wrestled for a real solid Simpson College team (88-91)and was a NCAA Qualifier
*Tracy (brother) has coached wrestling at Sumner, Postville, and is currently an assistant at MFL.
*Nephew Karter Decker is a junior at MFL this season and is a 2-time state qualifier
*My son Kanen will be a freshman at Wapsie Valley HS this season.
PINDOX: What were your youth results?
JUSTIN DECKER: AAU Folkstyle State: 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, then was a State Champ as an 8th grader.
Freestyle: I won several freestyle state titles and won the Northern Plains Midwest Regional in JH.
PINDOX: What was your record in HS?
JUSTIN DECKER: 150-7 with 89 falls
PINDOX: How did you place at state every year?
Freshman: State Qualifier
Sophomore: State Qualifier
Junior: State Champ
Senior: State Champ
PINDOX: What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling?
JUSTIN DECKER: At Iowa, the biggest challenge was definitely trying to balance academics, wrestling, and my social life. I did a poor job at it.
At Upper Iowa, I had a herniated disc in my neck right after Christmas and had to compete the last 2 1/2 months of the season in a lot of pain. It required surgery and a disc fusion a couple weeks after the NCAA tourney.
The same season I also lost my dad to pancreatic cancer the day of weigh-ins for the NCAA Qualifier in Aberdeen, South Dakota. It was a long 8 hour bus ride out there to say the least.
The most adversity I have ever been through in the sport of wrestling probably happened as a youth coach a few years ago. We lost a 12 year old boy in our wrestling club in a tragic lawnmower accident.  He impacted my family and our wrestling club and community in a giant way. He was my son‘s best friend and it really sent a lot of us in a little bit of a tailspin. He was a coaches’ dream. We now have the Carson Mcgrane Memorial Wrestling Tournament every year at Wapsie and this past season we had 625 wrestlers compete.
PINDOX: How would you describe your wrestling style?
JUSTIN DECKER: I was pretty physical. I liked to bang on the head and hand fight. Snap downs, front headlocks, and lots of pressure on top. I was more defensive than offensive and forced opponents into a bad shot.
PINDOX: Who was your most influential coach?
JUSTIN DECKER: I have been blessed to have been coached by some of the best coaches and to have been in the same corner coaching with some great ones.
*Marty Dickey (youth Wahawk Wrestling Coach) He was one of the best youth coaches in the state of Iowa back in the day. He ran a tight ship. Kids were disciplined. He was probably the closest thing to a ‘TJ Sebolt type’ coach back in the day.
*Gary Rima (voice of the UNI panthers)- I know this is a Wrestling website but he was my youth baseball coach and he was phenomenal.
*Larry Munger- (high school coach) maybe the most mentally tough man I know. He was like a second Dad to me
*Dan Gable (the GOAT)- The only guy I’ve ever seen who could elevate the intensity of a room just by walking past you training or giving you a word of encouragement.
*Heath Grimm- (UIU head Coach) Coach Grimm could make every single athlete and coach on the team feel like they were critical to the overall success of the team on a day-to-day basis. A ‘glass half full’ guy!
*Rhino Cox- (Wapsie) I’ve coached with Rhino the last seven years and he really understands what it takes for a program to be successful at all levels….and truly cares about the kids’ best interest like they were his own.
***The thing all of these guys have in common is they are extremely PASSIONATE about what they do! They all had a plan of progression for the athletes.
PINDOX: Was your team competitive in HS/college?
JUSTIN DECKER: In High School we were not. We struggled with numbers and gave up too many forfeits….Although we always had a couple real good individuals.
In college, we won the NCAA Championship each season I was at the University of Iowa.
We placed 3rd in the NCAA DII Championships the season I was at Upper Iowa.
PINDOX: Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
JUSTIN DECKER: 2 time NCAA Champ Royce Alger was my childhood idol. Loved his style and his personality/swag.
Tom & Terry Brands and Lincoln Mcllravy probably influenced any wrestler my age in the state of Iowa as they revolutionized the sport.
PINDOX: Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
JUSTIN DECKER: Jeff McGinness. There are probably at least 10 other guys in the discussion but I don’t believe anyone was more dominant from his freshman year through senior year like Jeff. He was always two steps ahead of his opponent. When he would make an offensive attack, it was like he knew what the guys ‘counter attack’ was going to be and was already planning on ‘countering his counter’ if that makes any sense. Only a wrestler might understand that terminology.
PINDOX: What are some interesting hypothetical matchups between guys from different eras that you would have been interesting in seeing?
Joe Williams vs Jordan Burroughs
Spencer Lee vs Terry Brands
John Smith vs Tom Brands (in their prime)
PINDOX: Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?
JUSTIN DECKER: This is easy. Doug Schwab and Mark Ironside. Both guys are molded the same. They warmed up hard, drilled hard, wrestled hard, trained in the off-season hard, didn’t party, and were as mentally tough as anyone I’ve ever met. Both of them were outstanding teammates and that goes a hell of a long ways in my book. Great human beings off the mat as well.
PINDOX: Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
*Spencer Lee- I think he has done more positive for Iowa Hawkeye wrestling then any wrestler I can remember
*Austin Desanto- wrestling needs more guys with personalities like Eierman, Steveson, and Desanto….love em or hate em, they grow our sport!
*Kyle Dake and J’den Cox
*Kanen Decker, Karter Decker, UIU’s Donny Schmitt, and any Wapsie Valley Wrestler
PINDOX: What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
JUSTIN DECKER: I was never a big music guy during wrestling. Metallica and AC/DC  would always fire me up if I had to pick something.
PINDOX: What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
JUSTIN DECKER: 3 matches vividly stick out.
When I was a freshman in HS, Jeff Meyer of Sumner beat me in my home gym. It was the only match from youth through my senior year that I ever lost in that gym and my oldest brother was in the opposing corner. I beat Jeff at sectionals and districts a week or two later and Jeff went on to become a state champion in high school but I remember that one hurt pretty bad.
My sophomore year In the state quarterfinals I lost to a guy named Corey Starrey from Cedar Rapids LaSalle. I was ahead 3 to 0 with about 30 seconds to go and ended up blowing it 5 to 3. He went on to become the state champ and I truly felt that I was the best kid in that bracket.
At Iowa, I wrestled John Lange of Penn State in Carver Hawkeye Arena and it was the worst performance of my life. It was the one time in my life where I felt that I was not physically ready to step on the mat. I had cut a lot of weight in the last couple hours prior to weigh in and my body was just shutting down. My feet felt like they were cemented in concrete and almost every muscle in my body was cramping up from dehydration. He beat me by major decision and it was pretty embarrassing.
PINDOX: If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
JUSTIN DECKER: Don’t be afraid to lose. I was so competitive that it often held me back. I should have been seeking the toughest tournaments and toughest competition every single day in practice and there were many days I did not because I was too scared to get beat.
PINDOX: What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
JUSTIN DECKER: My first state title my junior year there were 4 undefeated wrestlers  in my bracket and three of us were on my side Including the defending champ. It was a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders finally winning one.
Winning the starting spot to make the Hawkeye starting lineup in 1997 will always go down as a pretty big memory as well. It was a lifelong goal that had finally come true.
PINDOX: Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?
JUSTIN DECKER: Jessie Whitmer of Eagle Grove was my opponent in the state quarterfinals my freshman year of high school. He was the defending champion and had 29 straight pins I believe before he faced me. I was number 30 and he was the only guy to ever pin me. I remember he clubbed me so hard in the back of the neck that I literally saw stars. He literally bounced me right to my knees.  I was about 9 inches taller than him but man he was strong!
In college I beat Joe Heskett of Iowa State in overtime in the Semis to win the UNI open. He was ranked #1 the next season.
PINDOX: Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
JUSTIN DECKER: I would wrestle 9 months out of the year. I didn’t get on the mat during football season.
PINDOX: How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
JUSTIN DECKER: hate debating one era to the next in sports. Gable vs. Cael, LeBron vs Jordan. Whatever. It’s unfair and pointless.
Athletes today are far technically superior compared to the guys from my era. Training routines have changed and improved. It’s amazing how much the sport has evolved. Although, I will say I think we were much more ‘hard-nose’ back then. I think it’s more fun to compare who was more dominant to their peers of their particular era. I hate to take anything away from a great athlete from one era because some guy 20 years later may have done more vs different competitors.
PINDOX: Did you wrestle after high school?
*University of Iowa 1995-1998
*Took 12 years off competing while I coached then I wrestled at Upper Iowa in 2009-2010
PINDOX: What other sports did you play?
JUSTIN DECKER: Football, Track, and A LOT of Baseball
PINDOX: What are your favorite sports teams?
JUSTIN DECKER: Iowa Wrestling, Iowa Football, Upper Iowa Wrestling, Wapsie Valley Athletics, and the Dallas Cowboys
PINDOX: What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
JUSTIN DECKER: Working Out/Running, Kayaking with friends, I enjoy a good country concert.
Honestly,  the last several years I have been so busy volunteer coaching several sports that I don’t have tons of time for too many hobbies.
PINDOX: How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
JUSTIN DECKER: I guess I have just enjoyed it more than anything. I have never felt giving back is ‘work’ to me. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am extremely passionate about the sport of wrestling. The thing that makes ‘giving back’ most enjoyable is watching you coach a wrestler that progresses and loves the sport all at the same time. I have probably built a lot more relationships and lifelong friendships giving back to the sport than I even did as a competitor….and I made a lot of friends competing so I guess that’s probably been the most rewarding.
PINDOX: How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
JUSTIN DECKER: Wrestling gives a person much heartbreak and the ‘lowest of lows’ feeling. I guess that helps me deal with any adversity in my life….and I have definitely had my fair share. Wrestling has taught me that ‘opportunity is what you make of it’. It has taught me to be confident person and to be passionate about everything you do. The sacrifice, work ethic and grit I have put into the sport of wrestling carries over to my job and everyday activities. I am fortunate to come from a family with a strong work ethic and I have married into a family with the same values. I think the fact that both of our families come from a farming/ wrestling background has a lot to do with that. Wrestling has shaped me to be a guy who makes sure to find reasons to get something done rather than make excuses for it not to get done. The wrestling mentality of ‘never settling and always reaching for more’ are lessons that I try to apply to my every day life.
PINDOX: What do you do now?
JUSTIN DECKER: My two brothers Jason, Derek and I own and operate Top-Deck Farms in Westgate. We milk about 675 cows and farm about 1,800 acres of corn, beans, and hay ground.
PINDOX: Have you been involved with wrestling since college?
*Head Wrestling Coach West Central (98-99), (99-00)
*Assistant Wrestling Coach North Fayette (2001-2006)
*Assistant Wrestling Coach Upper Iowa University (2007-2012)
*Youth Wrestling Coach Wapsie Valley (2013-2021)
*I have also been the TV commentator for the Upper Iowa home meets on KCRG the last 7-8 seasons.
*This will be the first year I will not be coaching wrestling since I was competing.
PINDOX: Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
JUSTIN DECKER: This is the greatest sport. You are in the right place. Whether you are a state champion or a state qualifier or a JV wrestler, don’t give up on it. You will go through the ultimate lows on a wrestling mat and you will want to quit at times. You will hate it certain days.  Most guys I know that have wrestled wish they would have done things differently, wish they would have stuck with it longer, wish they would have went about things harder. Don’t be that guy in 15 years regretting his wrestling career. Leave it all out there right now.
PINDOX: Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
JUSTIN DECKER: Old Timer’s Tourney? No.
Butttt….our wrestling club has done a couple fundraisers over the last several years with an alumni meet outside during our ‘town day’ celebrations in the summertime in Fairbank and Readlyn…..much like North Linn just did a few weeks ago. It was a huge hit with large crowds and a lot of money raised for good causes. I wrestled in both of these events and we are probably due to have a another one here very soon. Who knows? I’ll see how my body feels by then…
PINDOX: Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
JUSTIN DECKER: So many to name but here’s a few that pop in my head…..Matt Grimm, Mike Moser, Ryan Phillips, Mitch Norton, Mitchell Schultz, Mark Mueller, Nate Skaar, Joe Williams, Lee and Daryl Weber, Kasey Gilliss, Wes Hand, and Fred Lima are all guys that I would love to sit down at a bar table and talk old wrestling stories with.
PINDOX: Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.
JUSTIN DECKER: I have two stories.

Story 1: People sometimes ask me what one of the craziest stories Dan Gable made the team do when he coached.  One story sticks out. I can’t remember exactly what sparked it but I believe some guys were struggling mentally with managing their weight. At the end of practice Gable stuck the entire team and all his assistant coaches in the sauna and said we were all to stay in there for one hour. We were packed in there like sardines and it was the hottest sauna I have ever been in in my life. We stayed in there a really long time. He shut the lights off after about 15 minutes and I remember guys whimpering and breaking mentally. He didn’t keep us in there a full hour but it was close to 50 minutes and it was probably one of the hardest things I ever had to do.

Story #2My high school wrestling coach Larry Munger was a real hard ass. One night we had a triangular up at Postville and had meets with Postville and Tripoli. We had some guys on the team not wrestle up to our potential and after the meet Coach Munger took us all in the wrestling room and had us go through a wrestling practice. It probably lasted 2 hours. He told our lone JV kid on the team (who wrestled 135 lbs) strip off his singlet and Munger strapped it on. It was at least two or three sizes too small and he could barely get the straps over his shoulders. He proceeded to go around and wrestle every single guy in our room for about a 20 minute ‘live go’ and he literally beat the crap out of every single one of us. I remember it felt like he was trying to rip my shoulders out of socket. He probably would be fired for things like that this day and age but that’s why I love the guy.

Author: Joshua Swafford

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Senior Spotlight: Lane Scorpil; Columbus Jct.

Senior Spotlight: Lane Scorpil; Columbus Jct.

So which Senior was the quickest one to get their Senior Spotlight Questionnaire sent to me? A Southeast Iowan of course! Lane Scorpil! A kid I always root for due to being a fellow Southeast Iowan as well as these  son of a SEI wrestling legend from the 90’s, Ben Scorpil of West Liberty. I watched Ben wrestle quite a bit as a kid. A guy from West Liberty who I wrestled all the time named Jeff Wiele used to always talk about how awesome he was. He was a hero in West Liberty and it surprised nobody that his son, Lane also became a good wrestler.

And on another note, Lane’s uncle, Jason Utter (Columbus Jct.) gave me my most memorable “welcome to HS, kid” moment when I was a Freshman, for he tech-falled me. I don’t think anyone else besides him ever tech-falled me… He had me totally confused when I wrestled him. One of the best guys I ever wrestled.

And I do need to add something… Lane has stated in various interviews before that Columbus Coach, Andy Milder has had a great impact on him. Andy Milder has been a key part of Columbus Jct.‘s success for decades now and if it’s one person that I have unintentionally left out or acknowledged to this point, it’s him. I’ve posted tons of stuff about former Columbus Jct. coaches, Bill Plein and John Siegel, but I don’t think I’ve ever posted anything on Milder and he’s been along for the ride this entire time as well! Props to him and his family and my apologies that it took me way to long to acknowledge him.


SO! Meet Columbus Jct. standout Senior, Lane Scorpil!

When did you start wrestling? Who introduced you to the sport?

My dad, Ben Scorpil, started in Kindergarten.


Do you have any family who wrestled before you? How did they do?

My dad Ben Scorpil was a 3X State Finalist and 4X time place winner: 1994 2nd, 1995 1st, 1996 2nd ,1997 3rd.. Dad was the first West Liberty wrestler to place all 4 years at state. He was 158-9!  My uncle Jason Utter (5th), and cousins Randy Pugh (1st,3rd) & JD Pugh (5th,3rd,2nd,1st). Currently my brother Ty who is a sophomore this year wrestles as well.


Did you catch on to wrestling quickly or was it a gradual process?

It took awhile but I finally caught on beginning of Sophomore year.  It also helped that I finally was able to put on some weight.  I’ve always been the lightest guy in the weight classes.


What club did you wrestle for growing up and how would you describe your experience with the club?

Catpac Wrestling Club and DC Elite.  Each Club had its benefits.  Catpac taught me the fundamentals and DC Elite just has a lot of talented athletes in the club.


What are a couple memorable moments from youth wrestling? 

Only thing I took away from youth wrestling was the friends I gained.


How did you finish at state tournaments in youth?

I never placed, but I never cut weight either.  I was always trying to put the weight on.


What are some of your more memorable moments from high school wrestling to this point?

Most memorable was the match that qualified me for state my sophomore year.  I had put so much time and effort into the sport, it was one of those moments where it all paid off.


How did you finish at the state tournaments you wrestled in at the HS level to this point?

Freshman year didn’t make it out of districts.  I broke my hand the day before practice started, so I only got to wrestle half a season. I also was 95 pounds and that was eating breakfast before weigh ins. Sophomore placed 5th and Junior 3rd.


Who were your wrestling heroes growing up? Who are your current wrestling heroes?

My dad is my hero on and off the mat.  I love to spend time in West Liberty and listen to Coach Diemer tell stories about his wrestling days.  He was a force to be reckoned with and still is.  My dad has worked hard his whole life and built a successful business.


Was there ever a point in your career where you noticed yourself jumping levels and making huge strides?

Between my freshman and sophomore year.  My main focus was to put the weight on.


Who have been some of your toughest competitors in HS to this point in your career?

Bryce Thompson from Highland, we went back and forth.  Bryce spent a lot of time at my house working out in our wrestling room.  So we both knew what the other one was going to do.  We finished 3-3 when Bryce graduated.  Never got our tie breaker match in.


What was your most memorable state tournament?

This last year I got 3rd. I got caught in the quarters by Stangel from Osage.  I pinned everyone on the back side to beat Stangel 10-6 for 3rd.


What are your wrestling goals for this coming season?

State Champion


How would you describe your wrestling style? Who would you compare yourself to?

My style is a combination of Columbus and West Liberty wrestlers.  I like wrestling on my feet best.


Do you have any regrets from wrestling that you want to make up for as a Senior?

No regrets really.  I was disappointed last season in the quarter finals, but just went back out with the mindset I’m gonna get the next best thing.


What other sports do you play and how have you done at them?

Cross Country and Track.  Our Cross Country team this year is looking strong.


What are some of your hobbies besides wrestling?

I enjoy riding bikes.  Motorcycles and Bicycles


What is some of the best advice you ever received?

Don’t come off the mat with any regrets


Do you have any advice for up and coming wrestlers?

Put in the extra work when no one else will.


What is your favorite style of wrestling? Folkstyle, Freestyle or Greco?



Who were some of the most influential coaches you worked with?

Siegle and Coach Milder.


What are your college plans? Is wrestling in your future whether it be competing or coaching? Do you have interest in MMA?

Future plans are to become a diesel mechanic and as for wrestling time will tell.


PINDOX PROFILE: Austin Even; Jesup HS ‘12

PINDOX PROFILE: Austin Even; Jesup HS ‘12


For those of you who have read some of the stuff I have put together since my days at The Predicament, you may already know that one of my favorite wrestlers of all-time is a dude who graduated from Don Bosco in 2019 named Tommy Even. He’s one of my favorites ever because of just how absolutely confident and fearless he was on the mat as well as 100% true to himself both on and off the mat. It didn’t matter what the score was, what the situation, who he was facing, etc. Tommy was gonna come at you with everything he had and when he did, he was going to do so HIS way, whether it was the standard or conventional way of doing things or not. He was going to beat you and he was going to do so by being himself…Some of the rules that apply to a lot of wrestlers, especially in situational wrestling just simply did not apply to Tommy, for he was so relentless, athletic and quick in his execution of every move he hit, that it forced his opponent to wrestle in HIS wrestling world…which is a place where Tommy was straight-up Paul Bunyon amongst a bunch of tree-dwelling dwarves. (And he and his bros were born and raised as lumberjacks to boot!) And it didn’t end there. Off the mat, he was the same way. If he was feeling a certain way or thinking a certain thing, as long as it didn’t cross the lines of disrespect, he wouldn’t hesitate to show the world how he was feeling or what he was thinking. Always himself, no matter where he was at or who he was talking to. On the mat, the gridiron, off the mat and gridiron, he’s one of the most entertaining HS wrestlers/athletes I’ve ever seen.

So after watching Tommy’s brother, Austin’s finals match from 2011 (that I can’t remember watching in person for some reason despite being there), it’s obvious that when the Even family chops down an apple tree, the apples don’t fall very far away from each other. The way Austin wrestled was absolutely FEARLESS. Confident in his offense at all times and certainly never afraid to express that. And just like Tommy, he was an upper-middleweight with the sheer power of The Incredible Hulk, but with the speed of The Flash. An obviously incredible athlete… and one of the most strong-willed wrestlers you’ll hear of considering what he accomplished in the thick of extreme physical adversity.

So as a Sophomore in 2010, Austin qualified for state at 1A 160. He made it all the way to the semifinals and was stopped by eventual state champion and 3X finalist, Levi Peters of Twin River Valley Bode. He fought back hard and placed 3rd. That bracket was DEEP.

As a Junior, Austin pinned his way to the finals, which is amazing in itself, but to add on to that is the fact that in the Semifinals, he pinned the returning 1A 152 lb. state runner-up, Tyler Ogburn from Corning and in doing so, severely tore the labrum in his shoulder. He apparently was able to ignore the pain immediately, for he ended up pinning him shortly after…in the first period still. The mission was far from complete though, for he still had an incredibly tough opponent to wrestle in the finals named Brett Roberts from Eddyville-Blakesburg. To make this task even more daunting, he would basically only have use of just one of his arms for this match.

After severely tearing the labrum in your shoulder the way Austin did, the possibility of forfeiting any recent future matches would be within question for a lot of competitors, even if it is the state finals. For not only would you be totally distracted having to work through the pain, but you may injure it worse if you are not careful. However, the thought of forfeiting was something that Austin Even couldn’t even wrap his head around. Here is Jesup Coach, Brent Meyers’s take on the conversation that took place between he and Austin immediately following his semifinals win:

COACH BRENT MEYERS: Austin’s performance at state as a Junior was all guts. He totally dislocated his shoulder in semis. He came off the mat and said, “Meyers my shoulder is out! It’s all the way out!” I said, “what do you want to do?” He looked at me and asked, “what do you mean?” I asked, “do you want to forfeit?” Austin responded, “hell no I’m going to win a state title!” The Even’s are tough as nails! The kid was a very fierce competitor and always wanted to get better and wanted us coaches to push him. Hands down one of the most competitive kids I ever was around college or high school!

Take into consideration that Brent Meyers is a man who has worked with some of the toughest wrestlers you’ll ever meet from a competitor’s AND coach’s viewpoint…. So a statement like that from a guy like Brent Meyers is saying A LOT.

Given the severity of Austin’s injury, most logical wrestling fans would likely expect a performance from Austin in which he was extremely limited and played the entire match safely…. As in “wrestling to not lose” opposed to “wrestling to win,” because let’s face it, most of us would be close to defeat before the finals match even began if we had a severe shoulder injury like the one Austin had… So is that how it unfolded for Austin? Maybe that’s how it went down for “Austin Odd” in “Opposite-land.” Austin Even, despite being severely injured, was very aggressive in his finals match. He shot countless powerful singles and doubles and it took everything in Roberts’s power to not be straight-up blown through by them. Even at the end of the match, when Austin was up by 1 point with 30 or so seconds left… Austin kept shooting nice, powerful shots that kept Roberts on his heels a bit. And it’s not like Roberts was being overly defensive…Roberts wrestled a good match, really. It’s hard to get your own stuff going when you have someone relentlessly attacking you, not giving you a second to execute your own offense. Even in a short-time situation with a permanently damaged shoulder, Austin Even refused to wrestle like anyone other than his normal, aggressive, fearless self…one of many examples of what makes the Even family one of my all-time favorite wrestling families to come out of the state of Iowa. Austin ended up winning the match 4-3. If Austin’s performance in the state finals doesn’t epitomize toughness, I don’t know what does.

Austin’s injury ended up becoming so severe that he got surgery on his shoulder after the season concluded and he never physically recovered from it. He couldn’t even wrestle his Senior season due to it. Think about that… the injury Austin Even endured in the Semifinals at state as a Junior was so severe that it ended his career after his state finals match was completed. How he managed to conjure the strength to work past that adversity to win the state championship is a form of toughness that few of us will ever know.

As mentioned, Austin’s brother, Tommy won state in 2019, making him a 3X placer/2X finalist/1X State Champ. Their brother Ryan was a 2X state qualifier and their brother Ronald also wrestled. His parents are Ron and Samanda and they have owned a tree/logging business in which the Even brothers worked for growing up. You hear all these generalizations about wrestlers with certain backgrounds such as farming or construction or whatever that instills toughness within them… However, nothing seems to instill more toughness than a background in working as a lumberjack… And if I’m going on a limb by making that statement, I’d fully expect that limb to be cut down by one of them.

2010 1A 160

1st: Levi Peters, Twin River Valley Bode JR 42- 1

2nd: Jason Frain, Riverside Oakland SR 47- 5

3rd: Austin Even, Jesup SO 46- 5

4th: Jayden DeVilbiss, South Winneshiek Calmar JR 44- 3

5th: Blake Faucher, Guthrie Center SR 46- 3

6th: Dylan Schrader, Wapello SR 22- 4

7th: Gabe Fell, AHST Avoca SR 30- 7

8th: Jayson Madsen, West Branch SR 33- 8


2011 1A 160

1st: Austin Even, Jesup JR 45- 2

2nd: Brett Roberts, Eddyville-Blakesburg SO 45- 3

3rd: Marrick Loftus, Logan-Magnolia SR 49- 4

4th: Cody Hubrich, Twin River Valley Bode SR 36- 4

5th: Tyler Ogburn, Corning SR 38- 6

6th: Christian Miller, Nashua-Plainfield JR 18- 8

7th: Dillon Anderson, Clarion-Goldfield SR 32- 10

8th: Cody Schurman, SE Warren Liberty Center SR 37- 10


Remember The Wrestler: Logan Mulnix; North Linn HS ‘12

“Winning. No matter what I’m doing I want to be a winner at it. I don’t like to lose at anything.”

-Logan Mulnix in an interview from The Gazette in 2012

Logan Mulnix was an incredibly talented, fiery competitor who wrestled for North Linn and graduated in 2012. He was the younger brother of Ryan Mulnix, a 2007 graduate who placed 8th, 2nd and 3rd at state. Logan was accomplished pretty early in the youth wrestling circuit. He placed 2nd to Tyler Shulista one year at state and was a 2X AAU state champion, winning it as a 7th and 8th grader. In the finals as an 8th grader, he defeated a guy named Willie Miklus. This was one of the biggest matches to ever take place in the history of the AAU State tournament, for Willlie was a 5X AAU State Champion coming in and was going for his 6th title…which means you won it every year. It doesn’t happen very often. And Logan Mulnix prevented that from happening.

Mulnix qualified all 4 years he was in HS, placing 7th, 1st, 2nd and then first again. And every year, he had a match or two at the tournament that would amaze those in attendance. Heck, his first ever match as a Freshman at state was a huge win for a Freshman and he did it against my 1st cousin, Senior Jon Swafford from New London, who was coming off an 8th place finish from his Junior season. When a Freshman beats a returning place-winning Senior at state at a weight like 125 lbs, that’s making an early statement. Jon was good. Logan put the place on notice immediately at state that year. Logan lost a 1 point match to the eventual runner-up the next round and then did what he had to do to place 7th at state that tourney. He finished the season with a record of 41-3.

As a Sophomore in 2010, Logan came in with a record of 35-2 and dominated his way through a very balanced 1A 125 lb. bracket. His closest match was a 6-2 win over Jake Kadel in the finals. That bracket also included several other guys who either placed or made the finals at some point of their HS careers. He dedicated his state championship to his brother Ryan, which as the oldest of 4 right-knit brothers, I thought this was so cool of him.

As a Junior in 2011, Logan came in with a 37-1 record and had the tournament that probably stung the most considering he lost a close match in the finals to place 2nd, but still…There were some positives for him in the tournament. In the semis he beat a kid named Trevor Paulson Tri-Center, Neola who was on fire that year… Most importantly, losing in the finals was probably a great learning experience for him that he may have needed at the time.

As a Senior, Logan came into state with an undefeated record and was on top of his game. He officially left his mark as one of the baddest dudes to ever step foot on a Wells Fargo mat after this tournament. He won his 2nd state championship that year and after his first round match, the guys he defeated went back to place 4th, 3rd and of course, runner-up. The kid he beat in the finals was Payton Rice from Sioux Central, Manson. Payton is the son of Stacey Rice, a 3X state champion from the 80’s and to this day, one of the best to come out of our state. And Payton learned well from him. He was really good…a 4X placer, and he didn’t have an answer to anything he encountered vs. Logan in the finals. Logan was on fire that tournament. Great way to end his HS career. He finished with a career record of 163-7.

Logan Mulnix was a pretty entertaining wrestler to watch. If you compared the person he is off the mat to the person he was while on it…it’d seem like a total oxymoron. Like night and day. Every time I saw that kid around when he was not on the mat wrestling, he seemed to always be having fun, goofing off and being funny. However, when it was time to compete, he was locked in and programmed for systematic destruction. His approach was not to get his hand raised after time was up or a pin was called. No, time was something he didn’t want to waste in securing his wins. He wanted to either pin the guy quick or rack the score up and break the other guy mentally as soon as logically possible… His mission was to alleviate any fragment of hope the other guy may have as quickly as possible. And he had the skill set to do so, for guys used to just get frustrated out of their minds with him. His length, leverage and speed just had guys at a loss. Sometimes you’d see a guy attempting a shot and a millisecond after they lunged forward to attempt this, Logan, in a flash would be in on their legs and grabbing their ankles and basically putting them on their butts without even having to put his hips into it. The kid seemed like he had a crazy strong grip…once he got ahold of a guy’s heel on a shot, it was over.

And that’s only the beginning… We haven’t gotten to his ability to ride, yet. Logan had to have been one of the best riders in the entire 2012 graduating class. I mean, he was like a spider playing with his prey. He had an answer for everything and was proficient at every series you could utilize on top whether it be cradles, tilts, bars, legs, etc. He did them all well and what made him borderline impossible to get away from was his ability to go from one series to the next as if it were instinctive to him. This fluent style on top just seemed to leave his opponents broken, lost and without having any answers.

Here is a cool quote I read from Logan Mulnix that he made as a Senior in HS:

LOGAN MULNIX: “What I’m doing differently this year is trying to separate myself. I’m trying to win by large margins every single time. Go out and dominate and make sure no one thinks they can hang with me. I don’t want anyone thinking they’re in the match with me. I’m just going out trying to score more points and more points. I want the kid to be out of the match by the second period.”

2009 2A 125
1. Cole Welter, Jr., Don Bosco
2. Nolan Oviatt, So., Logan-Magnolia
3. Jake Demmon, Sr., Eddyville-Blakesburg
4. Levi Richards, Sr., Nodaway Valley
5. Sean Schneider, Sr., Twin River Valley
6. Dallas Houchins, So., Interstate 35
7. Logan Mulnix, Fr., North Linn
8. Nick Winter, So., Central Elkader

2010 2A 125
1st: Logan Mulnix, North Linn Troy Mills SO 39- 2
2nd: Jake Kadel, New London/WMU JR 49- 1
3rd: Brandon Welter, Don Bosco Gilbertville JR 42- 4
4th: Jordan Johnson, Interstate 35 Truro JR 36- 5
5th: Jack O’Brien, Belle Plaine SR 42- 5
6th: Dillon Lorentzen, Logan-Magnolia JR 42- 8
7th: Zach Ryan, Woodbury Central Moville SR 39- 13
8th: Kyler Deutsch, Nashua-Plainfield JR 37- 11

2011 2A 135
1st: Drew Proctor, Tipton SR 44- 2
2nd: Logan Mulnix, North Linn Troy Mills JR 40- 2
3rd: Brandon Welter, Don Bosco Gilbertville SR 43- 3
4th: Trevor Paulson, Tri-Center Neola JR 31- 4
5th: Steven Brockshus, Sibley-Ocheyedan SR 34- 4
6th: Jared Hefler, Ogden SR 30- 6

7th: Nick Becker, Wilton SR 33- 8
8th: Zach Hatcher, Logan-Magnolia SR 43- 9


2012 2A 138
1st: Logan Mulnix of North-Linn, Troy Mills 45-0 Sr.
2nd: Payton Rice of Manson Northwest Webster 46-4 So
3rd: Scott Weber of Don Bosco, Gilbertville 45-9 Sr.
4th: Sam Solis of Clarion-Goldfield 40-2 Sr.
5th: Ryan Hall of Jesup 30-11 Sr.
6th: Lance Hinschberger of Belle Plaine 39-15 Jr
7th: Carter Funke of Maquoketa Valley, Delhi 44-10 Jr
8th: Logan Loftus of Iowa Valley, Marengo 50-8 Jr

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

CVMC and North Linn HS


What year did you graduate?



Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

Doug Leclere got my brother involved and I followed!


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

My brother Ryan Mulnix… he got 8th, 3rd, and 2nd! And was a D-3 national qualifier, and his sons, Sawyer and Landon are also wrestlers. Look out!

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I won aau 2x, placed at Tulsa multiple time as high as 3rd, had some amazing team Iowa results in elementary/middle school duals with class of 2012!


What was your record in HS?

163-7 I think


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 in finals my junior year, was extremely tough on me mentally, but I came back to go undefeated and win state as a senior!

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Mark perry is who I tried to wrestle like! I was good scrambling, good from space and tough on top!

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

Three people: Cole Welter, Jack O’Brien, Jake Kadel!

Who was your most influential coach?

Dwight Sorensen

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yes, we got 4th at state as a team 1 year!

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

Dan Leclere

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Brandon Sorensen

How influential was the Cedar Valley Mat Club to you?

Life changing! The battles we had in that room daily were amazing! Without that club I never would’ve accomplished anything I did!

Would you say you were better on your feet or on top?

Top for sure I took pride in it!!

When you wrestled someone, you were a master at breaking your opponent. Is this a skill you developed in time? Could you tell when you “broke” an opponent?

I always thought there was nothing worse than getting ridden out or turned! So I became a master on top and when someone can’t get out it mentally breaks them pretty quick!

Was there ever a win you had that gave you the confidence to bring things up to another level?

Cole Welter my freshman year. I lost in triple overtime at sectionals, but beat him at districts! He already had all the credentials and that win gave me a lot of Confidence!


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

Not really I felt Like my style was unique.

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

Drake Ayala vs Cory Clark! Both sebolt guys and match up wise would be amazing!

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

Might be biased but Brandon Sorensen! 4xer, 4x AA at Iowa the best wrestler I’ve ever seen!

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Spencer Lee, Jayden eiermen love his funky style

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

T.I was my go to.

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

Freshman year quarter finals. Lost my dream of being a 4 timer!

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

Work ethic, I wasn’t a slacker, but I didn’t train the way I needed to either!

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Winning state my senior year with my brother in my corner!!

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

Grant Henderson from Alburnett! We had some amazing battles and the atmosphere from our fan bases during those were unreal!


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

All year, loved freestyle.

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

I’d take class of 2012 over any one ever!


Did you wrestle after high school?



What are your favorite sports teams?

St Louis Cardinals, Chicago Bears.


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Golf and just being with my family!


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

Amazing I love this sport!


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

Wrestling forms every aspect of you! Hard work, dedication, respect, it’s the best sport in the world!


What do you do now?

I work at Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

Yes I coach for Cedar Rapids Kennedy


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Summer wrestling is where you make the biggest gains! Get into freestyle!


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

No I wrestle enough of these young guys in practice!


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

Just wanna remind Levi Wolfensperger of the Jesup takedown tourney!


Author: Joshua Swafford

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Twitter: @pin_dox (business), @ricoswaff (personal)

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The Gambrall family is one of the most “sneaky-good” wrestling families that’s ever gone through the state of Iowa. 4 brothers, 3 who have finished their HS careers. 2 out of those 3 state champs. All 3 of them state finalists. 9 combined place-finishes between the 3 of them. And the youngest has yet to begin his HS tenure. 

Grant Gambrall is the oldest Gambrall brother and with the wrestling resume he has put together combined with his tenacity that was on full display every time he took the mat, he has a case for being the GOAT as far as I’m concerned. He solidified his candidacy for that when he proved himself as one of the best in the nation at D1 Nationals as a Sophomore in college, placing 3rd. 

It’s an honor to put this together for Grant. A true wrestling great.

2006 3A 160

1. Kevin Kluesner, Sr., Epworth Western Dubuque

2. Grant Gambrall, So., Iowa City High

3. Riley Lindner, Sr., Fort Dodge

4. Billy Lewis, Jr., Bettendorf

5. Mike Stamp, Sr., Council Bluffs Lewis Central

6. David Zachary, Sr., Dowling Catholic WDM

7. Travaris Haywood, Sr., Davenport West

8. David Negrete, Sr., Des Moines North/Hoover


2007 3A 171

1. Grant Gambrall, Jr., Iowa City West

2. Dylan Wrage, Jr., Waverly-Shell Rock

3. Jesse Swanson, Jr., Knoxville

4. Cory Stonebraker, Sr., Cedar Rapids Prairie

5. Derek Nightser, Jr., CB Lewis Central

6. Ethan Bass, So., Southeast Polk

7. Byron Tate, Jr., Clinton

8. Taylor Drahn, Sr., Cedar Rapids Washington

2008 3A 171

1. Grant Gambrall, Sr., Iowa City West

2. Justin Rau, Sr., CB Lewis Central

3. Lee Averhoff, Sr., Waverly-Shell Rock

4. Adam Houser, Sr., Mason City

5. Alex Schwerdtfeger, Jr., Bettendorf

6. Riley Banach, Jr., Ames

7. Matt Riley, So., Des Moines Roosevelt

8. Brandon Abernathy, Fr., Indianola

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

City High Mat-Pac with Brad Smith, Jeff Bradley, CT Campbell, Tony Brown, & Willie Gadson

Hawkeye Kids Wrestling School (which became Ubasa Trained) with Pablo Ubasa.

Trojan Kids Wrestling Club with Mark Reiland.

Johnny Galloway Sr. also helped with City High Mat Pac and ran a phenomenal club that I got extra training in throughout my kids and high school wrestling years.

Iowa City City High School (Freshman and Sophomore years) with Coach Brad Smith and many other great coaches.

Iowa City West High School (Junior and Senior years) with Coach Mark Reiland, Matt Orton, and many other great coaches.

University of Iowa with Coaches Tom Brands, Terry Brands, Doug Schwab, Mike Zadick, Kurt Backes, Jared Frayer, Luke Eustice, and Ryan Morningstar.


What year did you graduate?

2008 from Iowa City West High School.


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My dad and Iowa Wrestling get all the credit here. Dad used to take my brothers and me to Iowa wrestling meets all the time as I was growing up and that really stoked my passion for the sport as a fan. I couldn’t wait to get on the mat and try to become like those great Iowa wrestlers of the mid-90s. My mom is amazing for supporting all of that wrestling passion in the house then and all throughout my career, as well as to this day with my brothers and their careers.


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

I think I was the first in my family to start wrestling. My dad went to Southeast Polk High School and had wanted to wrestle, but his parents thought it was too dangerous. But now, I have three younger brothers who have made and are making their own name for themselves on the mat.

Gradey was a two-time placer in high school, including a runner-up finish.

Graham was a four-time placer and a state champion in his newly completed high school career.

Gordon is about to begin his own high school wrestling career at Iowa City West High School as well.

I also have some cousins who have tried out the sport and some are still coming through.


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I started in first grade and my first rival was Tyler Carew. He and his brother Dylan became some of my best friends throughout high school and college and we remain good friends with the Carew family today. They are just awesome people.

I was mediocre at first. The best part of my first grade season is that I went to 5-6 kids tournaments and did not finish last at any of them.

In second grade, I took fifth at districts for 3rd and 4th grade, one spot away from qualifying for the AAU state tournament. I was starting to get the hang of the sport.
I took 4th at state in 3rd grade. Some rivals at the time and in the following few years included Cal Beatty, Ryan Mulnix, and Cody Stanley.

I won AAU state in 4th and 5th grade and took 2nd in 6th grade. I wrestled Brody Verschoor in the finals all three years I think.

I took 3rd in 7th grade, losing to Eddie Reiter in the semis.
I won it again in 8th grade.

I took 2nd at Tulsa a couple times as a youth wrestler.
I won or placed at various other national tournaments in all three styles, including winning the USA Wrestling Schoolboy Division National Triple Crown award as an 8th grader.


What was your record in HS?

I am not sure of my exact record. I believe it was in the 150-16 range. I know I lost a lot as a freshman (around 12 times), twice as a sophomore, and once each my junior and senior seasons.


How did you place at state every year?

DNP as a freshman.
2nd to Kevin Kluesner as a sophomore.
1st as a junior
1st as a senior


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

I’ll try to list just a few.

Winning districts and then failing to place at state my freshman year was tough. I had beaten some of the placers during the year and did not wrestle well at state.

I did rebound with a great next season on the mat, only to come up short in the finals as a sophomore after blowing a big lead in that match (another tough moment).

Those experiences definitely helped me grow into a much better wrestler, especially in the more high-pressure matches.

That summer I went undefeated in cadet freestyle and greco national duals (combined 17-0) I won greco and took 3rd in freestyle in Fargo as a cadet.

I won high school state the next two years and had great success in freestyle and greco as well, placing in both styles each year at Fargo and going undefeated at Junior national duals.

I finished out my high school career at the top of the 171 pound rankings after defeating Jordan Blanton and Quentin Wright in All-Star duals about a week apart.

I also had many ups and downs and challenging moments in college.

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I like to imagine I was a crafty and creative wrestler, and I think I was on a good day, at least until college.

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

I only remember a few opponents that I actually exchanged wins with in high school.

Jarion Beets, who went on to All-American for Northern Iowa (a really awesome guy that deserves his own pin doctors interview if it hasn’t already happened).
Cam Simaz, who went on to win nationals for Cornell University.

Chris Spangler, who went on to wrestle at Iowa State.

There were many other tough opponents I had battles with as well, but not that I exchanged wins and losses with.


Who was your most influential coach?

This is a very difficult question to answer because I was very truly blessed with a whole host of amazing coaches that poured so much into me and my wrestling abilities.

If I have to choose just one, I will have to go with Johnny Galloway Sr. because he taught me how to have fun while being a mat-rat. From early morning lifts and drills to late night practices, he invested countless hours. His practices were tough, but fun (just like he is). He helped me learn to change pace, directions, patterns, and levels in my wrestling to keep my opponents off balance and open up attacking opportunities. He also made sure I could move my feet faster than a turtle so I was at least semi-athletic on the mat.


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

I was always involved with teams that placed in the top 4 or 5 at state or nationals in high school and college, including state champions at Iowa City West my junior year of high school.


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

Mark Ironside. His tenacity and endless energy on the mat made him someone I really looked up to as a youth wrestler. He taught at some local wrestling camps I attended as a kid as well and I just thought he was awesome.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Nick Moore. He was my teammate and he is as tough (and funny) as they come.


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



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

Desanto vs Ironside would be a lot of fun for the energy levels they have.

As far as high school match-ups, maybe Jeff McGinnis vs Nick Moore. Both had such outstanding high school careers and both were from Iowa City and I think they were relatively similar weights in high school, though Nick wrestled a higher weight in college.


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

My teammates, including Tyler and Dylan Carew, Nate and Nick Moore, Derek St. John, Jeremy Garvin, Matt Behnami, Brad Lower, Vicente Chaires, Kyle Anson, and Zach McKray. Those guys lived it with me and I learned from all of them. I also have great respect for Josh Ihnen, who I had a lot of battles with in high school and college. Marshall Koethe and TJ Moen are guys who inspired me with their toughness and approach to the sport as well. Shoutout to Justin Koethe also. He was right after my era, but I love how he let it fly on the mat.


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

My brothers, Graham and Gordon, are favorites for obvious reasons.

I’m in California now so I don’t get to see as much of the Iowa High School guys as I used to, but I like Wyatt Voelker and I was able to wrestle with him at Big Game Wrestling Club when I last visited Iowa.

In college, Spencer Lee and Nelson Brands are fun to watch.



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

Whatever the mood called for. From Offspring to Eminem to Merle Haggard and most everything in between.


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

Probably after Kile Beaver headlocked me for the win when I had a big lead late in the match in around 3rd or 4th grade.


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

To understand from a much earlier age how important the trust and comfort between wrestler and coach is to the long-term success of the wrestler.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Defeating Quentin Wright in the Dream Team Dual at my home high school gymnasium at Iowa City West my senior year of high school. I dominated the match over the #1 ranked wrestler in the country at my weight class which resulted in my #1 national ranking at that weight leaving high school. It was in front of my family and friends. It was just an overall awesome experience and it was the culmination of years of investment by me and my parents and my coaches and my teammates.


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

High School in Iowa included Matt Ballweg, Kalvin Hodge, Jarion Beets, Robert Kellogg, Mike Stamp, Kevin Kluesner, Billy Lewis, Dylan Wrage, Joshua Ihnen, Jeff Rau, Adam Martensen, and Willie Argo.

High School outside of Iowa included wins over Kevin Steinhaus, Travis Rutt, Cam Simaz, Hunter Collins, Quentin Wright, Ed Ruth, Ben Bennett, Chris Spangler, Cody Yohn, and Jordan Blanton. It also included losses to Chris Perry, Mike Benefiel, Cam Simaz, and Kirk Smith.

College included Sonny Yohn, Kevin Steinhaus, Chris Perry, Robert Hamlin, Steve Bosak, Quentin Wright, Ed Ruth, Joshua Ihnen, Ryan Loder, Joe Leblanc, Travis Rutt, and Austin Trottman.


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

Even though I played many other sports as a kid (baseball, soccer, football, basketball), wrestling was something I still made time for year-round starting in about 4th grade and it stayed that way the rest of my career.



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

I have a feeling not that well, given that I think wrestling is always evolving. But if we grew up in today’s world, I’m sure we’d do just fine.



How would you compare and contrast you and your brothers; Gradey and Graham’s styles?

I think both Gradey and Graham were/are more naturally athletic than me. They probably move more gracefully than I ever could. Maybe I was a bit more stubborn though and maybe that helped me compensate a bit.


What was it like when you first started practicing with the Iowa Hawkeyes? How long did it take for you to find your footing at the D1 level to become one of the top guys at your weight that you became?

It was certainly a more tense environment than what I was used to and I never really adapted to that. When I look back at my college career, I think it took a couple months to really be able to withstand the grind of those Iowa practices and to be competitive the whole practice with the best guys in the room near my weight. I feel like I consistently improved as a ‘practice-room wrestler’ each month and each year throughout my career. As with most, it took a while to get up to speed my first year there. But then it got to the point where, by sophomore year, I was rarely surrendering any points to anyone in the room who didn’t outweigh me by at least fifteen pounds. But, as a competition wrestler, I’m not sure I really improved at all during my college career. I feel like I came in close to the level of an All-American and I remained at or near that level all throughout my time at Iowa. Ups and downs occurred but the improvements in the practice room didn’t seem to translate to competitions.


Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes, at the University of Iowa.


What other sports did you play?

As a kid, I played soccer, baseball, basketball, and football.
In high school, I played football through Junior year.


What are your favorite sports teams?

Liverpool Football Club
Green Bay Packers
Boston Red Sox


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Exploring places with my wife and daughter.
Enjoying Movies and TV shows.
Enjoying (and singing along with) all sorts of music.
Following NASCAR and English Premier League.
Sharing stories with friends.


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

It’s an awesome feeling. I was given so much from so many in this sport. I feel it’s only right to try to give back as best I can. I love coaching. I learn much more from coaching than I did as a competitor.

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

Well, it’s hard to separate who I am today from who I would have been without wrestling because of how important it has been to me since I was 5 or 6 years old and because of the amount of time and energy I’ve devoted to the sport. I can definitely say wrestling taught me what true perseverance is and has helped me a great deal in life. I think wrestling also helped me to not just take the easy road, but to stand up for my beliefs no matter the consequences or opinions of others.


What do you do now?

I am an audiologist (test hearing and fit and manage hearing aids), a husband to my amazing wife Kimberly, a father to the sweetest little nine-month-old girl named Aurelia, a son to awesome and supportive parents, a brother of some very cool dudes, and I still coach wrestling.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

Yes. I still help coach a kids club called USA Gold and a high school team (Del Oro High School) in the Sacramento area (Loomis, California). I also do private lessons. It is a blast to stay involved with coaching this awesome sport.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Love the sport and the results will come. Have a good time with the process. It’s tough, but it can be tough and very enjoyable at the same time.

Never take a back-seat to anyone. Ever. You’ll surprise yourself with what you’re capable of when you decide you always belong in the front seat.

Never cut corners. You’re only cheating yourself.
Be yourself. Find what works for you and master it.


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

Why would I put anyone through having to see such a spectacle?


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

Coach Michael Colleran and Coach Justin Swafford are great guys and I enjoyed my time coaching with them for West HIgh’s kids club. Good luck to all the younger guys from that club who are entering high school soon.

I’m thankful for the entire wrestling community in the state of Iowa, from youth clubs all the way through the collegiate level. I was spoiled with amazing people to help me out all along the way.

Also, out here in California I’ll give a shout-out to the USA Gold Kids Club and Del Oro High School wrestling communities. I’ve gotten to meet tons of awesome people out here and they love wrestling as much as I do.


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

So, Brodie (Snowplow) Ambrose swears to this day that I dodged wrestling him back in ‘06 or ‘07. In fairness, I had told him I was going to bump up to wrestle him in our tri-dual that week. It didn’t happen. But, I want to set the record straight. I did not dodge him. I hyper-extended my elbow in practice, the day before the tri-dual, when Brad Lower hit a really nice and unexpected standing switch. So, I didn’t wrestle that night. It’s a shame because Brodie would have been a sucker for my sweep single.

Interestingly, since I didn’t wrestle that night, I instead had the opportunity to go to a different tournament the next weekend when our varsity was supposed to have an off weekend. I bumped up a weight and wrestled Willie Argo and Adam Martensen at that tournament. Those were some tough dudes!


Pat Miletich; Bettendorf HS ‘84/Kirkwood/Miletich Fighting Systems


Pat Miletich and Dan Gable

Pat Miletich is a well-known name across the globe, really for being one of the most influential pioneers of mixed martial arts ever. Pat has been a success as a competitor in MMA. He has been a success as an MMA trainer. He has even been a success as a commentator for MMA. Through the martial arts academy that he founded, “Miletich Fighting Systems,” Pat Miletich became arguably the most successful MMA trainer of all time given the accolades that his fighters went on to accomplish. Through Miletich Fighting Systems, Miletich has helped provide lucrative MMA career paths for countless individuals and has likely saved the lives of several people who were instilled with a sense of direction, positivity and work ethic by him, which are qualities some of them may have never found had they not met him. And whenever there is an individual like Pat in the world who has made such a positive impact on so many lives, there is usually always a source that provided the same kind of impact on them… And in Pat’s case, one of the primary sources was Bettendorf Bulldog wrestling, led by legendary Head Coach, Franc Freeman that planted the seed in Pat Miletich.

1980 Bettendorf JH Wrestling. Pat Miletich is 3rd from right in the back row, I believe.

Pat Miletich was born in Davenport Iowa on March 9, 1966 to parents of Croatian descent. His Croatian descent along with his fighting/competitive prowess earned him the nickname, “The Croatian Sensation” later down the line. He was raised in what has been described by his wrestling peers as the “tough” part of Bettendorf. An area that produces blue-collar, hard working individuals who are perfectly suited for wrestling. Pat began wrestling at the age of 5 and continued all the way through the Middle School and High School wrestling scenes at Bettendorf as well as some collegiate wrestling at Kirkwood.

In high school, Pat attended Bettendorf HS and was coached by Hall Of Fame Head Coach, Franc Freeman. Freeman made such a profound, positive impact on Pat’s life that when Freeman passed away, Pat wrote a public statement on Facebook about the crucial, positive role that he played in Pat’s life. Here is Pat’s statement:

PAT MILETICH: Cannot say enough about how this man (Freeman) impacted my life in a positive way. Bettendorf became the home of monsters in Iowa HS wrestling and he was the scientist behind it all. A great moment I remember is when we wrestled Iowa powerhouse wrestling school, Cedar Rapids Prairie in Cedar Rapids. The gym was packed to capacity and several of the University of Iowa’s wrestlers were in attendance to watch the meet. The Zalesky brothers, Barry Davis and several more were there. Men we all idolized at the time. Needless to say, we were all very nervous as a team for these were very unfriendly waters. Coach Freeman knew exactly what to say to us. He stormed into the locker room and yelled, “you know why these people are here?!?!?!” We patiently waited for the answer as he glared and scowled at us all. Then the words of enlightenment bellowed out of his mouth, “all these people are here because YOU are here!!!” Carried by his words we went out and crushed CR Prairie. It wasn’t even close. Rest In Peace, Coach Freeman. You did so much for so many young men that it’s impossible to calculate the amount of positivity you brought into this world. We are all indebted to you for instilling work ethic, toughness and grit into all of our lives. Thank you.

If anyone for whatever reason had any doubt as to the impact that wrestling had on Pat’s life before reading this article, all doubt should be alleviated after reading that statement.

Pat was a very competitive wrestler and as a Senior in HS, he qualified for state for the first time with a 17-5 record and ended up placing 5th there. In the first round, he was defeated in a nail biter by Tony Hanson of Waterloo West who was the eventual state champion. He lost by the score of 3-2. A couple months ago, I posted a bio about Tony Hanson’s wrestling career on my Facebook page and Pat commented on the article, which sparked the following exchange between the two:

PAT MILETICH: Hanson was a smart wrestler and tough as nails.

TONY HANSON: That was a tough match. It could have gone either way and I remember it like it was yesterday. Congratulations on the great success that you are having.

PAT MILETICH: Hope you and the family are doing well. Losing to you made me hungry later in life and I have you to thank for that.

TONY HANSON: I hope you and the family are doing well, too. I hope to see more successes from you in the future.

I thought that was one of the coolest exchanges I’ve seen on my page since I started The Pin Doctors. I don’t know if those two had ever even spoken to each other after the match took place in 1983 or heck, I don’t know if they ever met before it! Whatever the case, that was so cool and a lot of people could learn a great deal from the maturity that both of those men showed in that exchange.

Following his loss to Hanson, Pat was sent to the wrestle-backs where he had to face a wrestler named Randy Ewing from Fort Dodge in the blood round. Pat ended up defeating Ewing and this secured Pat’s eternal status as an Iowa HS State Wrestling place winner. He was officially top 6. This was a huge win, for Randy Ewing would win state the next year. Pat’s next match was against Chris Geneser of WDM Dowling, which he lost, which put him in the placement match for 5th and 6th place. He ended up defeating Dave Christ, a Junior out of Dubuque Wahlert, securing a 5th place finish at the state tournament for Pat.

1984 3A 167

    1. Tony Hanson, Sr., Waterloo West

    2. Russell Steven, Sr., New Hampton

    3. Chris Geneser, Jr., WDM Dowling

    4. Blair Early, Sr., Davenport West

    5. Pat Miletich, Sr., Bettendorf

    6. Dave Christ, Jr., Dubuque Wahlert

I ended up asking one of Pat’s friends and teammates out of Bettendorf named Craig Cervantes to describe Pat Miletich as a wrestler and as a person. This is what Craig had to say in regards to his old teammate, Pat Miletich:

CRAIG CERVANTES: Pat Miletich came from a really tough part of town in Bettendorf!! It was a neighborhood with “blue collar” tough kids who were perfect for football & wrestling at Bettendorf Middle School and HS. Pat was definitely a brawler on the mat at Bettendorf HS. He had ok technique, but definitely more of a scrapper/brawler. Big time foreshadowing before he became a famous UFC World Champ in the mid ’90s. When he got into the UFC in the early stages of its infancy, a lot of Bettendorf guys weren’t surprised. At Bett back then, our legendary late coach Franc Freeman kept it pretty simple with snap downs & spins, doubles, singles, half nelsons, arm bar series, & especially cross face & near side cradles. I remember Pat doing mostly double legs & then going for the half or arm bars, pretty simple moves – “bread & butter” moves. To further elaborate, Pat would work the head a lot with snap downs & go behind takedowns. And he’d hit stand-ups from underneath. His first love was football & he was the nose guard starter on defense his Junior & Senior year. He was a terror on the football field & not real big either. Maybe 180 lbs. in the fall. I think he wrestled at 167 his Sr. year. As a teammate & person, Pat was all about Bettendorf pride & loyalty. He bled black & gold Bett football & wrestling. He was a very supportive teammate & years later this would come out when he was a UFC coach. He was the nicest guy back then & still is today, very down to earth. Always kind to every single person he met.

Pat had aspirations of playing football in college, for he was an All-State nose guard on the gridiron, but despite these aspirations, he went on to wrestle collegiately for Kirkwood CC. However, his mother developed heart problems, he left school to care for her. Miletich has stated in past interviews that he actually began fighting to help pay her bills.

At age 26, Pat began his MMA training. He started out at Tarpein’s Dojo in Davenport, IA with Grand Master Nick Tarpein. A lot of what he knows about karate was learned there. This is also where he was introduced to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the first time. With Pat’s extensive wrestling background, BJJ came naturally to him. When he paired wrestling with BJJ and added to it his strong foundation of boxing and karate, he decided that the route he was going to take for his future path would be MMA. This route ended up being the correct one to take, for he became one of the most successful Mixed Martial Artists and trainers in the world. As a competitor Miletich Compiled a 29-7-2 Mixed Martial Arts record from 1995 through 2008, becoming the first Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight champion at UFC 16 in 1998. Eventually, he founded Miletich Fighting Systems-based out of the Quad Cities in Iowa. Miletich Fighting Systems was a mixed martial arts training organization. Miletich Fighting Systems has trained over 90 televised fighters and 11 MMA world champions. It has been the training camp for fighters such as Matt Hughes, Tim Sylvia, Jens Pulver, Robbie Lawler, and Jeremy Horn. MFS is widely regarded as one of the most successful MMA camps of all time.

Pat also went on to other ventures, such as providing color commentary for MMA, hosting a podcast and becoming a motivational speaker. Pat has always taken a very firm stance against bullying.  He is a vocal advocate for programs and activities that could teach kids self-defense that could help protect them from any potential bullies they encounter. One of his main “go-to’s” in terms of programs that he encourages kids to try out is none other than the Bettendorf Youth Wrestling Club. Miletich has never lost site of where he came from and is very proud and supportive of the Bettendorf wrestling community (as well as the wrestling community in general) to this day.

In 2011, Pat was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall Of Fame. He received the George Tragos award, which honors wrestlers who have adapted their skills to excel in mixed martial arts. In 2014, Miletich entered the UFC Hall Of Fame. And with as historically great as Pat’s career has been to date, he has the sport of wrestling and the positive role models who were part of his life through wrestling to thank for so much of his success.



Author: Joshua Swafford aka “Rico Swaff”

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Gary McCall; CR Washington ‘85/Iowa State Cyclones

Here are a couple of incredible inspirational stories about 2X state champion for Cedar Rapids Washington and 3X All American for Iowa State, Gary McCall!!!  Some of the account is written in the words of Gary McCall himself!! One story is from his Junior year in HS for Cedar Rapids Washington and one from his Senior year at Iowa State.



PINDOX: In 1984, Gary McCall of Cedar Rapids Washington was beaten in the semifinals at districts, 8-3 by Joe Whitters of Prairie. He needed a break to even qualify for state. To qualify, Gary first had to win his 3rd and 4th place match and hope for Whitters to defeat Rich Deutsch from Cedar Rapids Kennedy to set up a wrestle back match for true 2nd  between McCall and Deutsch.

GARY MCCALL: “Right after the semifinals loss, I thought, ‘oh no, I blew it,’ but I went into the locker room and coach Hal Turner told me to not give up and that I still had a chance.”

PINDOX: And he did get that chance. Whitters defeated Deutsch, 3-2, McCall won his 3rd place match and then defeated Deutsch 4-0 to earn true 2nd and qualify for state.

To make things sweeter, McCall ended up WINNING state that year and then repeated in 1985. He was recruited by Iowa State, who he became a 3X AA for in 1988-1990.

Had McCall hung his head and given up hope at districts, who knows what would have happened with the rest of his career. He wouldn’t have qualified in 1984 to start, Iowa State may not have recruited him, his confidence may have been halted going into the 1985 season and who knows how that could have affected him that year… But things worked out for him due to an optimistic coaching approach by Hal Turner as well as Gary’s ability to be coachable and mentally tough.

So to all of you upcoming wrestlers out there, if you feel that a goal may have become out of reach following a setback, get your chin up, for you never know what could happen. Gary McCall is proof of this.



PINDOX: Do you have any stories of overcoming adversity in your career?

GARY MCCALL: I tore both of my groins at the beginning of my sophomore yr @ ISU and had to redshirt that year. Then I tore them again my senior year (126 lb. weight class) after starting the season 13-0, ranked 3rd in the nation and had just beaten Terry Brands from Iowa at the Wisconsin open. I was out for 2 months, then Dan Knight and I decided to switch weights. I went down to 118lbs and he went up to 126. At 118 I lost 13 straight matches, finished the Big 8 in 5th place and made it to NCAA’s on a wildcard (returning 2x all-American). I went into nationals unseeded with a losing record and ended up beating returning all-American Steve Martin (Iowa) 1st rd, then went on to upset #1 seed Jeff Thieler of (NC) in the quarterfinals. I lost in the semifinals to Jack Griffith (Northwestern), then wrestled back to Ken Chertow and beat the #1 seed Thieler again for 3rd place! At the time it was the 1st time an unseeded wrestler defeated the #1 seed twice at the NCAA’s. It was a great ending to a rough season and to end my wrestling career!


The Interesting Connection Between 4X State Champion, Dan Knight of Clinton ‘87 and 4X State Champion, Brody Teske of Fort Dodge ‘18

At the state tournament in 1987, Dan Knight of Clinton won his 4th state title, making him the 6th ever 4X state champion in Iowa HS State wrestling history and the 2nd ever to go undefeated in his entire HS career, with the first being Jeff Kerber of Emmetsburg. And when he won his 4th state finals match, the crowd at Vets Auditorium gave Dan a much-deserved traditional standing ovation to show their respect for such an amazing feat.

21 years later at the 2018 Iowa HS State Wrestling Tournament, a kid named Brody Teske from Fort Dodge won his 4th title at Wells Fargo in Des Moines. He ended up with only one loss in his entire career, which is still obviously incredible. And how did the crowd react? The same way. They gave Brody a much-deserved standing ovation. Dan Knight was among the people in attendance giving Brody this standing ovation, for he was the HC at Bettendorf at the time and still is currently.

So there is a very interesting connection between not only these two wrestlers, but these two events… Can you guess what it is? No I’m not referring to them both being 3A. No, I’m not referring to them both being 126. No, I’m not referring to both of them having red in their school colors. No, I’m not referring to the fact that there was a Dan Knight-coached kid, TJ Cole (Bettendorf) standing on the 8th place spot on the podium. Nope, the connection is much more interesting…

So get this…

The guy that Dan Knight defeated 2nd round ended up wrestling back and placing 4th. He was a Fort Dodge kid and just a Junior at the time. His name? Dan Teske…

Dan Teske is Brody’s dad. Dan was standing on the #4 spot on the podium when this standing ovation took place and with a front row seat like that, it probably gave him an idea as to what his son, Brody experienced when he stood on top of the podium after winning his 4th state title in 2018.


And to think that there was another guy on the podium named Les Staudt from Charles City who Dan Knight defeated in the Semifinals and then Dan Teske defeated in the consolation semifinals…

Staudt would later go on to have a son named Adam (Charles City) who would go on to place 2nd at state, falling in the finals to a guy named Jacob Marlin from Creston who won his 4th title.


Jacob Marlin is the son of a man named Randy Marlin from Creston who won a state title in this weight range the year before in 1986… haha ok, now I’m stretching it.

It should also be noted that Dan Teske beat a Sophomore, Doug Kjeldgaard first round… Kjeldgaard would win a state title of his own a couple years later, and his brother, David is without question one of the best HS wrestlers the NATION has ever produced.

2018 3A 126: 1 Brody Teske (Sr.) Fort Dodge 2 Kaleb Olejniczak (Jr.) Perry 3 Joe Pins (Jr.) Dubuque Hempstead 4 Caleb McCabe (Jr.) North Scott 5 Cody Anderson (So.) Waukee 6 Brock Espalin (So.) Dm East 7 Colby Schriever (So.) Mason City 8 TJ Cole (Sr.) Bettendorf

It’s a small and crazy world, isn’t it? You know what would be really weird? If the guy who got 4th place in Brody Teske’s bracket, Caleb McCabe from North Scott, went on to have a son that became a 4 timer someday!


1987 3A 126

1. Dan Knight, Sr., Clinton *** 4 Time State

Champion ***

2. Andy Price, Sr., Burlington

3. Robb Watt, Jr., Ames

4. Danny Teske, Jr., Fort Dodge

5. Les Staudt, Jr., Charles City

6. Chad Payne, Sr., Iowa City West



2018 3A 126

1 Brody Teske (Sr.) Fort Dodge

2 Kaleb Olejniczak (Jr.) Perry

3 Joe Pins (Jr.) Dubuque Hempstead

4 Caleb McCabe (Jr.) North Scott

5 Cody Anderson (So.) Waukee

6 Brock Espalin (So.) Dm East

7 Colby Schriever (So.) Mason City

8 TJ Cole (Sr.) Bettendorf


Author: Joshua Swafford

*** The Pin Doctors does not and has not ever monetized and does not include a subscription or charge a fee for premium content. If you would like to donate to ensure that we can continue producing content in this fashion, you may do so by donating to us via our Venmo account. Our Venmo username is @thepindoctors. Thank you!


Remember The Wrestler: JJ Krutsinger; Waterloo Columbus HS ‘07/Iowa Hawkeyes

* Note: This is derived from the answers he provided for an Inside The Rivalry article from a couple years ago.

JJ Krutsinger is one of the most decorated wrestlers to ever go through the Waterloo area, which is pretty cool, for he wasn’t one of these guys who started out real strong in the youth wrestling scene… In fact, he started out struggling a bit at first. However, whatever hiccups he may have had after starting wrestling, he was eventually able to work his way through prior to entering HS. He started out his high school career at 119 lbs, a weight that can be rather tough for a freshman. And he did great from the get-go placing 3rd that year and never placing below 2nd the next years.

JJ is widely remembered by many for his postseason rivalry with MFL-Marmac’s Kyle Pedretti, in which they had a 3-week collision course that unraveled during the postseason of their Senior seasons. This article is derived from the responses he gave for an Inside The Rivalry article I wrote a couple years ago about their rivalry, so you’ll see some of his thoughts on that.

After high school, Krutsinger wrestled at the University of Iowa. He was never a starter, but did win some nice tournaments while wrestling for the Hawkeyes including the Grand View, Wisconsin, Duhawk and William Penn Opens. He was also a Big 10 All-Academic selection every year he was in college.

JJ was inducted into the Battle of Waterloo Hall Of Fame in 2013.

Since his competitive career, he has spent some time helping coach at Rocky Mountain High School (as of 2 years ago).


2004 2A 119

1. Laramie Shaffer, Jr., Winterset

2. Andy Schmitt, Sr., Clear Lake

3. J.J. Krutsinger, Fr., Waterloo Columbus

4. Jake Kliven, So., NC-NK Northwood

5. Doyle Bohr, Sr., Washington

6. Josh Knipfer, Jr., New London/Winfield-Mt Union

7. Marcus Nagl, Jr., Carroll Kuemper

8. Jacob Ryan, Fr., Mount Vernon


2005 2A 125

1. Laramie Shaffer, Sr., Winterset

2. J.J. Krutsinger, So., Columbus Waterloo

3. Mike Whisler, Sr., Centerville

4. Bryan Sundall, Jr., Emmetsburg/Armstrong-Ringsted

5. Joel Anderson, Sr., Battle Creek-Ida Grove

6. Brady Schmauss, Sr., Crestwood Cresco

7. Mike Sandy, So., Spirit Lake Park

8. Zach Williams, So., Union LaPorte City


2006 2A 125

1. J.J. Krutsinger, Jr., Columbus Catholic Waterloo

2. Blake Hilmer, Jr., Denver

3. Matt Stillman, So., Emmetsburg/Armstrong-Ringsted

4. Cole Deike, Jr., Hampton-Dumont

5. Zach Williams, Jr., Union LaPorte City

6. Dylan Azinger, So., Central Clinton DeWitt

7. Brock Mason, So., Shenandoah

8. Matt Mougin, Fr., Columbus Junction


2007 2A 125

1. Kyle Pedretti, Sr., MFL MarMac

2. J.J. Krutsinger, Sr., Waterloo Columbus

3. Quin Leith, Jr., Creston/O-M

4. Trenton Moses, Sr., Saydel

5. Jacob Hannah, Sr., Grinnell

6. Colby Pedersen, Jr., Clarinda

7. Taylor Eichinger, So., Ballard

8. Adam Parker, Jr., Aurelia-Galva-Holstein

PINDOX: When did you start wrestling? Was it easy for you from the start?

JJ Krutsinger:  I began as a 4th grader and it was anything, but easy from the start. I had to work hard for it. I remember going 2-7 in my first year as a 4th grader. I got pinned a lot. However, I gradually made progress each year and fell in love with the sport as a result.

PINDOX: Did any of your family members wrestle before you?

JJ KrutsingerI did not come from a wrestling family. My parents did not really know much about wrestling when I went out. I remember when I went to AAU State in middle school, noticing a lot of fathers coaching their kids in the corner who seemed to know what they were talking about. I had my dad, who didn’t know what he was doing, but he stayed in the corner for support and held on to my uniform while I wrestled.

PINDOX: How did you do in HS? Record? State placings? What was the highlight of your career if you had to choose one?

JJ KrutsingerI placed 3rd at state Freshman year in 2004 at 2A 119.  I spent the next three years at 125 and placed 2nd, 1st and 2nd. I was undefeated my Junior season when I won state. This was the highlight of my career. I finished with a career record of 124-11.

PINDOX: Which coaches had the most impact on your career?

JJ Krutsinger: I was impacted by every one of my coaches in one way or another. To name a few: Bernie Stroh and the coaching staff at St. John’s Middle School helped me to fall in love with the sport. My middle school coaches took me to his first Iowa wrestling meet. Chris Ortner and his staff in high school is another group of individuals that stick out as being influential. They had a way of making wrestling fun while simultaneously working hard. They also knew how to settle down a nervous Freshman.

PINDOX: Who were some wrestlers thst influenced you or that you looked up to?

JJ KrutsingerI was heavily influenced by ex-Waterloo Columbus wrestler, Kyle Forness, a four time place-winner. Growing up, Forness was the older brother of one of my best childhood friends. He was a role model that I looked up to in the way he displayed leadership and work ethic. I am glad that Kyle continues to coach for Clear Creek Amana HS, where he continues to grow the sport.

PINDOX: Were you a part of some competitive teams in HS and college?

JJ Krutsinger: I was a part of some great Waterloo Columbus teams in HS. My freshman season, Waterloo Columbus won state and in the process, we beat a future good friend of mine, Aaron Janssen’s team, which was Emmetsburg. At the time, they were on quite the winning streak. To this day, I like to give Janssen “stuff” about it. I was also a part of some very competitive Iowa Hawkeyes squads that won 3 NCAA Championships when I was there.

PINDOX: How would you describe your wrestling style?

JJ Krutsinger: My style consisted of this: Fireman’s and arm bars. Keeps pushing. I had a good gas tank. 

PINDOX: Were you a hard worker when you were training?

JJ Krutsinger:was a pretty hard worker. I would stay after practice to jump rope, run sprints, or do a quick lift. 

PINDOX: What are some of your thoughts regarding your HS rivalry with Kyle Pedretti of MFL-Marmac? Did you know him coming in? What were the results? Match scores?  How would you compare and contrast you and Kyle’s styles? Did you have a gameplan against him? Which ones stick out to you as being the best matches?

JJ Krutsinger: I did not know Pedretti off the mat. First thought that comes to mind is that Kyle must have been looking for a challenge.  He was the returning 2A State champ at 119 and came up to 125 knowing that I was there.  I respect him for that.  Unfortunately, the second thought that comes to mind is his that he won the important matches. We were 2-2 our senior year with him beating me at my high school and again in the state finals.  I do not recall a lot of the scores, but I know that every one of them were close.

The first time I wrestled Kyle on my home turf at Columbus High School I was at 99 career wins and I did not get to celebrate my 100th that night in front of my home crowd because Pedretti beat me. Then we wrestled 3 Saturdays in a row, each in the finals of sectionals, districts, and state.  We were definitely familiar with each other by the end of the season.  I knew he was a returning state champ and that I respected his wrestling ability. 

Whenever we wrestled, I would say I felt a mixture of confidence, nerves, and excitement each time. My gameplan against Pedretti was to stay where I was good at and wrestle my match.  He was good on his feet so I wanted to make sure I was the one attacking. 

If I’m being honest, the best match we had from an outsider’s perspective was the state finals.  Two returning state champs looking for their second title.  I believe it went into multiple overtimes with Kyle getting his hand raised and the 2A most valuable wrestler of the tournament. After the finals loss I wanted to have a rematch, but knew it was over and had to be at peace with it.  The most upset I ever felt after any loss was after losing to Kyle in the finals.  I learned a lot about myself from the entire experience.


PINDOX: Did you wrestle after HS?

JJ Krutsinger I wrestled for The University of Iowa. I never made the lineup or was in the limelight, but had some good moments where I won some nice matches and tournaments. My time at Iowa was a period of my life where I learned a lot about myself.


PINDOX: Do you follow other sports besides wrestling? Who are some of your favorite athletes for each sport? Favorite teams? Did you play any other sports? How did you do at them?

JJ Krutsinger Yes I do follow other sports.  I don’t really have any favorite teams, moreso favorite athletes. In wrestling my favorite is Jordan Burroughs, in basketball, I like Lebron James, in football I like Russell Wilson and in baseball, I am a fan of Mookie Betts.  I played football for two years, cross country for two years, baseball for four years, ran track for four years and went out for tennis one year, which did not make the track coach very happy.


PINDOX: What are some of your hobbies besides wrestling?

JJ Krutsinger:  Some of my hobbies include hiking and camping with my wife and dog, mountain biking and trail running.

PINDOX: How has wrestling shaped you as a person today?

JJ Krutsinger: It has taught me about my character and it has improved by ability to respond in challenging situations. In wrestling I have learned to be uncomfortable.  In life I am still trying to push outside my comfort zone, attempting to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Knowing that when one door shuts another opens.


PINDOX: Is there any advice you would like to give to upcoming wrestlers?

JJ Krutsinger: Knowing that sometimes working smarter, not harder, can get you there.  I think I focused too much on conditioning and fitness, instead of slowing down and focusing more on being technically sound.


PINDOX: Will we ever watch you wrestle at an Old Timers tournament?

JJ Krutsinger: I have my coaching hat on now.  Probably not, but never say never.


Author: Joshua Swafford

*** The Pin Doctors does not and has not ever monetized and does not include a subscription or charge a fee for premium content. If you would like to donate to ensure that we can continue producing content in this fashion, you may do so by donating to us via our Venmo account. Our Venmo username is @thepindoctors. Thank you!


Remember The Wrestler: Brady Wilson; Logan-Magnolia ‘17

Brady Wilson was a 2X placer out of Logan-Magnolia who graduated in 2017 and impressed me the two years he wrestled at state due to his ability to grind away at guys during a match as well as take a lot of stuff away from some of the stiff competition he faced and more often than not, beat. He was in my youngest brother, Brennan’s bracket at state when Brennan was a Junior and out of everyone in his bracket that year, he was Brennan’s favorite one because he was so funny. Logan-Magnolia… they sure have produced some sneaky-good wrestlers over the years. I don’t think people fully realize.

2016 1A 152
1 Conner Shulista (Sr.) Alburnett
2 Zach Axmear (Jr.) English Valleys
3 Karsen Seehase (Jr.) Sumner-Fredericksburg
4 Sawyer Phillips (Jr.) Pleasantville
5 Hunter Robinson (Sr.) Lisbon
6 Drew Anderson (Jr.) Westwood-Sloan
7 Dalton Nelson (Jr.) North Butler
8 Brady Wilson (Jr.) Logan-Magnolia

2017 1A 152
1 Zach Axmear (Sr.) English Valleys
2 Brennan Swafford (Jr.) Mediapolis
3 Drew Anderson (Westwood Sloan
4 Kaden Kilburg (Jr.) Lisbon
5 Skylar Solko (Sr.) Alta-Aurelia
6 Brady Wilson (Sr.) Logan-Magnolia
7 Tyler Van Houten (Sr.) Panorama
8 Sawyer Phillips (Sr.) Pleasantville

How did you start wrestling? What club(s) did you wrestle for?

I wrestled for Shenandoah until 5th grade. I moved to Logan in 6th. I wrestled for Matt fletcher at cb panthers, who was from Shenandoah.


What year did you graduate and from what school?

Graduated from Logan in 2017.


Did you have any family members who wrestled?

My family all wrestled but my dad Terry Wilson got me going when I was six. I have younger cousins that wrestle.


How did you do at the youth level? Any rivals there?

Youth rival was Mac Southard he wrestles at iowa state now. I beat him the very first time we wrestled and never again 😂.

What was your record in HS? How did you do at state?

Not sure what my high school record was. I placed 8th and 6th at state.


Did you encounter any adversity in HS wrestling? How did you deal with it?

Figuring out weight-cutting my freshman year was a challenge for me.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was a rider could ride just about anyone. Pretty solid on my feet more of a counter wrestler.


Who were some of your most influential coaches?

Kent Kersten, Jeff Kuhl, and my dad, Terry Wilson were my most influential coaches.


Who were your favorite wrestlers growing up?

My cousin Nolan and Jordan Burroughs were my favorite wrestlers growing up. Nolan taught me to be tough-nosed. I wasn’t as slick as him, so I had to be a grinder to be successful.


Logan-Magnolia wrestling has been just phenomenal in its history. Do you feel they get the credit they deserve?

I don’t think Logan gets as much love as they should. We do well at the state level every year and we’re never pulling kids out of the school district. (Cough! Don Bosco and Lisbon! Cough!)

Were you satisfied in how your career turned out?

Have always felt like I could’ve done more but honored to have got the opportunity to wrestle in Logan.


What was the toughest loss you ever took?

Losing to Drew Anderson at state deflated me pretty good.

Was wrestling an all-year thing for you or seasonal?

Wrestling was seasonal for me did a couple camps in the summer. But I always had summer jobs.


Did you play any other sports?

Played football and ran track as well.

How has wrestling affected you as a person today?

Wrestling makes everything in life easier.I don’t care what anyone says.

Each passing year, it is becoming more and more popular for common fans to assume that 3A is a more dominant class when compared to 1A and 2A. Do you agree with this?

1a can go toe to toe with any class in iowa.Hypothetical matchups. I’d love to see the 2011 Logan team against any dual or tournament team in Iowa in the last decade. That team sent 10 to state and placed 8. We won both tournament and dual titles that year and did so without a state champ on the team. It was a total, balanced team effort. 


I know a lot of you remember this rivalry, for I can’t count the amount of times someone has said to me that their rivalry is the first thing they think of when they hear either of their names. When some of you hear the name “Moza Fay,” to this day, you may think “Justin Swafford.” If some of you hear the name, “Justin Swafford,” you may also think “Moza Fay.” This was an intense, emotional roller-coaster of a rivalry that has left them eternally connected/associated with each other by the memories of wrestling fans. I mean, I just had someone ask me about it two days ago. It still happens.

Their differences in wrestling style combined with their personality differences was a perfect concoction for a heated, memorable rivalry that several fans seemed to have a very firm stance with in terms of who they were pulling for or rooting against. There was Justin, from Southeast Iowa, who came off as a bit of a hot head on the mat due to his absolute willingness to stare opponents down with the most viscous of stink-eyes before the match and walked around the mat like angry junkyard dog when it was time to roll. He was intense. And in terms of his wrestling style, he was long and lanky, so he had good leverage, he had good rhythm, good balance, was a technician and was always naturally in such good shape, that he never got tired. I’ve always said his rhythm and coordination were his best attributes… I am not even joking when I say that Justin Swafford is the best breakdancer I’ve ever met in my life…he has perfect rhythm and is the best dancer I’ve ever seen. That stuff had to help him out there. Southeast Iowa just loved him. The rest of the state who didn’t see him around locally or know him off the mat seemed to perceive him as some sort of Zabka type (Karate Kid/Cobra Kai) and he was the furthest thing from that imaginable if you got to know him.

Then there was Moza Fay, who I would consider to be a crowd favorite and for good reason.  People loved him because of his friendly personality that he displayed to literally anyone who spoke to him, his approachability and his calm demeanor while warming up. He gave the vibe that he was happy to be out there competing and having fun regardless of how big the stage was. He’d even smile while standing on a podium for a tournament that did not go the way he wanted. Justin was the opposite….if he was anywhere other than on the top spot, he appeared like he hated his life at the moment. Moza’s wrestling style was the work of a genius, IMO. He was calculated, analytical, strong and knew when to strike with some of his bread and butter finishes at the perfect time. His timing was about the best you’ll see from anyone. And he also had a lanky build. This was pretty much the only thing they had in common in terms of their styles.

So Justin and Moza’s rivalry went back further than most people realize. I will list each match they had and the outcome of the match.

Moza Fay, Anamosa/UNI: 4-5-1-1 at state, D1 AA at UNI.

Justin Swafford, Mepo/UNI: 2-2-1-7 at state, Fargo AA, National Folkstyle runner-up, fought injuries his entire time at UNI.


The first time these two met up was at the AAU State Tournament when Justin was. 6th grader, Moza a 5th grader. Both were returning state champions coming into the tournament. Justin defeated Moza in a hard-fought 5-3 match. Justin had a winning streak around that time that exceeded 100 consecutive wins and that match was the closest one he had out of all of those wins.


1.) Justin Swafford, Mepo

2.) Jerod George, Boone

3.) Dane Reiter, Hudson

4.) Bryce Carruthers, CB Abe Lincoln

5.) Wade Sundell, Ogden

6.) Moza Fay, Anamosa



Second ever match… This was Justin’s Sophomore year and Moza’s Freshman year. Justin was the returning runner-up at 2A 112, Moza an AAU Hammer. Justin won this match 6-0 and didn’t really get close to being in any danger of giving up any points the entire match. He basically scored at will and was able to keep Moza far from scoring. Moza was more upset after this match than I had ever seen him before or after that match. Justin won 6-0.


This was Justin’s Junior, Moza’s Sophomore year. Justin was returning 2X runner up, Moza was returning 4th place.This was the day where the Moza Fay vs. Justin Swafford rivalry was officially sparked and widely discussed state-wide once the news of the outcome hit the message boards. Justin was ranked first comfortably and had a winning streak going where he hadn’t let anyone get within a MD of him for many matches in a row. When Justin took the mat with Moza that day and gave up the initial takedown, we all thought it was a fluke and all of the Mepo fan base was perfectly calm with the situation. But Moza kept tacking points on and even scored some near fall points which put the match out of reach. It stunned us. Moza Fay meant business and the entire state was on notice after this match. He won this one 8-2.


This was an absolute squeaker of a match where I believe they were tied up on their feet with less than a minute left in the match when they got into a scramble that initially appeared as if Moza was going to get the takedown, but somehow Justin managed to stop his entire body in mid-motion, swivel his hips and change directions from where he was at and it resulted in a takedown and the win. I believe the final score was 4-3, Justin won. Justin went on to win the bracket.

Justin went on to win state. Moza ended up being stunned in the semi-consoles by a newly emerging Jay Bjustrom from Algona and had to settle for 5th place.

2002 2A 125

  1. Justin Swafford, Jr., Mediapolis
  2. Brady Dolan, Jr., Independence
  3. Jay Bjustrom, Jr., Algona
  4. Dallas Kuper, So., Osage
  5. Moza Fay, So., Anamosa
  6. Tony Bolen, Jr., South Tama


I don’t remember this one well, but I do believe Justin won this one fairly handily.



This was Justin’s Senior year in which he was returning state champ. This was Moza’s Junior year where he was a 2X placer coming in. The fact that these two drew each other in the quarterfinals two years in a row was just wrong. This was a likely finals match both years. They had no business meeting in the quarters, let alone 2 years in a row. Justin actually got off to a quick start in this one. He scored the first takedown and almost put Moza to his back in the process. At the end of the period, Moza tied it up. The turning point of the match was when Moza was in on a shot with Justin on his butt, locked up around Moza’s chest and the two were battling for control for what seemed like forever. Finally, Moza broke Justin’s grip and as Moza worked up, Justin continued to try to save his grip in the process and gave up 2 points plus near fall. This situation was what determined the outcome. Justin spent the rest of the time trying to play catch up, but it was out of reach. Moza won 9-4 and went on to win his own state championship.

2003 3A 135

  1. Moza Fay, Jr., Anamosa
  2. Tyler Brewer, Sr., Carlisle
  3. Maury Noonan, Sr., Emmetsburg/Armstrong-Ringsted
  4. Robbie McIntire, Jr., West Liberty
  5. Daniel Scarberry, Jr., Creston
  6. Eli Kilburg, Sr., Grinnell
  7. Justin Swafford, Sr., Mediapolis
  8. Pat Blanchard, Jr., Glenwood


Moza defeated Justin in what I believe was a hard-fought match. I didn’t see it, just heard about it. But this was the last one.

So that’s the rundown of those two’s infamous rivalry. The two went on to become friends and teammates at UNI and both had a mutual respect for each other. In fact, Moza was one of my brother’s favorite guys on the UNI team. I always thought that was pretty cool.

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Maurie Tomke was right in my back yard in his HS days.  In fact, his mother was a music teacher at my HS. A very respectable wrestler from a good family. He actually came from a family with some pretty rich wrestling history. His uncle John Yoder is in the Hall Of Fame and his sons (Maurie’s cousins) Cory and Colby Yoder were absolute hammers in their day as well.  Maurie actually didn’t get started until rather late, for he didn’t hit the mat until he was a 7th grader, which makes his already very respectable wrestling career, that much more respectable. He had a pretty unique HS wrestling experience, for he wrestled at 3 different high schools in 4 years. These schools included Southeast schools; West Liberty and Burlington HS and then he moved to the opposite corner of the state (NW) to Sioux City where he wrestled for Bishop Heelan. He graduated in 2004 from Bishop Heelan… this is who he competed for when he qualified for state as a Senior.

Since Maurie’s competitive days, he has coached at a variety of schools in both Head and Assistant roles at both the HS and collegiate level and I’ve heard nothing, but good things about him in this role from those who wrestled for him or know someone who did. 

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

Burlington HS- 2000-2002

West Liberty HS- 2002-2003

Bishop Heelan HS- 2003-2004

Morningside College- 2004-2005


Sioux City Bishop Heelan– 2005-2006

Sioux City East/Morningside Raiders WC- 2007-2009

Bridgewater State Univ.- 2009-2010

Ellsworth Comm. College- 2010-2018

Waldorf Univ.- 2020-2021


What year did you graduate?

2004- Bishop Heelan (Sioux City) HS

2009- Morningside College

2014 & 2020- Concordia Univ.-Irvine


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My Uncle, John Yoder (Long time coach at Belmond-Klemme, 2003 Inductee, National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Lifetime Service to Wrestling) and cousins, Cory and Colby Yoder (B-K State Placers). Also, a friend of mine growing up, Andrew Lundgren (Current Spirit Lake HS Head Coach) was a good wrestler. His dad was the high school head coach.


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

Like previously mentioned, my uncle and cousins, the Yoders. My dad grew up in Eagle Gove, but was a basketball player, but he would always talk about how great the wrestling was there when we would go back for family holidays. My unlce John wrestled for Eagle Grove, placing a couple times, and went on to be an All-American for Wayne State College. Both my cousins, Cory and Colby placed at state a couple times. Cory was an All-American runner for Northwestern College, and Colby wrestled at Wartburg, and finished at Buena Vista.

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I didn’t really wrestle youth. I maybe wrestled 9 matches before hitting 7th grade/middle school.

What was your record in HS?

99-50, with 62 pins.


How did you place at state every year?

I only qualified as a senior at 119. FR– 103 & SO– 112 year, Jake Halverson- Iowa City West (State: 103-1st & 112-2nd) & Cody Smith- Iowa City High (State: 103-6th & 112-5th) qualified out of my district. JR- 112, I fell in the sectional semi’s to my rival that year, Jeremiah Barr, 2-1. He didn’t even make it out of districts, as Jace Kuhlman, Maquoketa (State- 3rd) and Mark Beatty- Maquoketa Valley (State-4th) qualified through our district. Year I qualified, I went 0-2…


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

Loaded question!

Well, I was the only freshman on varsity my first year. To be expected when you are one of 2 guys that can make 103. I hit a growth spurt with one month left in the season, and really struggled to keep making it down.

Junior year we moved to West Liberty, and I happen to fit into the line-up at 112. Had to cut some weight, but I was not big enough for 119, and we had Chuy Lira there to fill that spot. I dislocated my shoulder at the end of football, so I struggled with that all season, and right after Christmas, my dad lost his job, the reason we moved to West Liberty. That was really tough on me. I carried that baggage with me more then I should have, but when you are 17, you don’t know how to deal with those things. I felt it was my job to keep his spirits up by winning. Had my “best” season, going 29-6 w/ 20 pins, but I feel like I choked in the Sectional semi’s.

Senior year, we moved again, and I had my pick of any weight from as low as I could cut to 135 at Bishop Heelan. I started at 125, but got mono, and couldn’t keep my weight up. Ended up wrestling 119 as I could barely get my weight above 122 on a normal day until I got over it. I ended up dislocating my shoulder again, right after Christmas break, and this time it was bad enough I had to sit out for about two and half weeks. I finished out the season, won the conference, qualified for state, and then fell apart at the state tournament. Had shoulder surgery that summer to put 4 screws in to hold it in place.

I was overly accident prone through out my entire athletic career. Still am a bit today!


How would you describe your wrestling style?

Very funky and unorthodox. I remember a handful of the Mepoguys would call me Gumby , like the cartoon cartoon.(My mom taught at Mepo, so they would talk wrestling with her.) I would put myself in positions that seemed wrong, but would come out on top or put the other guy on his back. Sometime it didn’t work! Live by the sword and die by the sword my dad would say.


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

Brandon Garrett from Muscatine. I won the first one by pin… I was losing, for some tournament championship. He got the next 3, by 1, 2, & 3 points, in that order. We trained together the summer going into our Senior year. Good guy, just after wrestling each other so much, he really started to pull away from me.

Jeremiah Barr from Mount Vernon. My Junior year I only had 6 defeats… and 4 of them came from Jeremiah, other two were to Brandon Garrett and Brock Reiter- Union, LaPorte City. Barr gave me my first (12-5, worst loss of the year.) and second (9-4) losses back—to-back match, and my fifth (8-6) and sixth (2-1) losses, again, back-to-back matches (Conference finals and sectionals semi’s). He just had my number.  


Who was your most influential coach?

Mike Richart at Burlington is the first! He still impacts me today. Great role model, mentor, and example of what an impactful coach is supposed to be like.

Morgan Deprenger at West Liberty. He really gave me the confidence and help me adapt my style so I could be more successful. He was the right kind of tough on me.

Lyle Lundgren at MOC-FV. He was just a great role model, who kept telling me that I would be a wrestler some day. Doing most of my growing up in Orange City, I truly thought a short kid like me could defy the odds and make the basketball team. Coach Lundgren knew better!


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

FR and SO Burlington teams were pretty competitive. My Freshman year we went 17-1 in duals and finished 3rd in the district. Sophomore year we were still tough, I believe we beat Keokuk 73-0. I believe we won a couple tournaments both years as well. I had guys like Ross Patton, Adam Roberts, Philip Klees, Riley Ball (Main workout partner, or guy who put a whoopin’ on me most days!), and Ryan Phillips.

JR West Liberty team- we won the conference (9 finalists), and finished second in the sectional. We were a much stronger dual team. We won a few other tournaments that season as well. We had hammers like, Kurt Simon, Robbie McIntire, Brett Simon, Rubin Chavez, Chuy Lira, and Jovani Galvan.

SR Bishop Heelan team was very young and inexperienced. A lot of older talent had graduated from the 2002 state dual team, before I moved in, so we were not very good. Having to move up to wrestle our 135 and 140, who were both state qualifiers/placers, was a daily chore just to get a decent workout in. I had never won my match and the team lost the dual until that year. It was a weird year.


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

My uncle John and cousin Colby mostly. “You didn’t win them all, so you can always do more.”


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Gable, hands down.

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

I may be way off on this, but I would say Ben Askren. I did things that don’t make sense, and looked liked they shouldn’t work, and they did… most of the time.

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

There is always the debate of Dan Gable vs. Cael Sanderson. I would even say Gable vs. Spencer Lee, or Lee vs. Sanderson. If they were all on the same weight.


Who are some wrestlers that you had an immense amount of respect for?

I had a lot of respect for Ryan Phillips. Worker! Head down and get to work. Prove it on the mat! Wneh I was a freshman I asked him why I didn’t wear his medals on his letterman’s jacket like a lot of the other guys did. He said, “Two things freshman, 1. I people know how good I am when I beat them on the mat. 2. If I put my medals on my jacket, it would be too heavy to wear!” And he laughed. He was not cocky about it, but simple was telling me to just work hard and wrestle.


Who are some of your favorite current wrestlers?

Currently, I have like following some of the recent 3xer’s and 4xer’s.

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

I couldn’t listen to music. I needed quiet to keep my mind focused. Riley Ball tried getting me to listen to Three 6 Mafia a couple times. I would get too pumped up, warm-up super hard trying to match the intense music, and would be dead tired before the match started. It was worth a try!

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

When I choked at state senior year. Was up 7-2 end of the 1st period. Lost 17-13… I didn’t know how to stop attacking. The guy figured out how to counter me a couple times, I kept trying to score, and next thing I know the match is over and I lost. Followed that up with my next match with getting put feet toback for 5 in the final 20 seconds, lost 8-5, went 0-2, and finished with 99 wins on my career.

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

Focus more on year-round wrestling. I saw I made big jumps my last two summers (Basically when I was at West Liberty.) I usually lifted and tried giving my body down time. I was not good on my feet, and my style was bad for Freestyle. I should have developed that instead of staying away from it.

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

First, making the state tournament. Even though it didn’t go as planned, I still made it!

Second, coaching my first National Champion. As a coach, that is such a cool moment.

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

Gannon Hjerleid from Wapello, JJ Krutsinger, Waterloo Columbus, Andre Avila, Dav. Assumption to name a few. All high school matches.

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

I was primarily in season. I started doing summer workouts when I moved to West Liberty, but I was so new to freestyle and Greco that I only did one freestyle tournament.


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

Technique, I feel like guys today have the edge. But when it comes to grit and toughness, guys from my days have it all the way.

Did you wrestle after high school?

I technically did not. I had shoulder surgery summer after I graduated high school. Didn’t really get to practice until the season was done due to recovery, you could call it a redshirt year. Second year, I got through pre-season, and the first week we were to compete, I reinjured the same shoulder and hung up my shoes. Had surgery again later that year. That’s when I got into coaching.

What other sports did you play?

I played football, and ran track. Ran in the Drake Relays and State Track. Senior year, track team finished second in the state in 3A.

What are your favorite sports teams?

Iowa Hawkeyes, and I don’t really follow pro sports. I enjoy the Olympics. Weightlifting, Track and of course wrestling.

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

I love music. Was actually on a partial wrestling and music scholarship in college. I love Legos. Now that my daughter is getting older, she plays with me.

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

I love it! I have been blessed to have coached at least one athlete at almost every level (Youth-Senior), I have had the privilege of working national events for USA Wrestling, and I am usually the Tournament Director for the Iowa JUCO wrestling conference, the ICCAC, National Qualifying Tournament. Anything wrestling I love it!


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

I don’t give up. Sometime to a fault, but I just refuse to give up. That’s what I learned in wrestling. If I am not mistake, about 1/3 of the pins in my career were when I was losing, by a lot. I learned to just keep going, because you never know when you make the right move and you come out on top!

What do you do now?

I am the Department Chair and Asst. Professor of Sport Management at Waldorf University. Also, I am a husband and a father to two wonderful kids. Charlotte, 4, and Jacob, 1 ½. This last year I was the Interim Head Men’s Wrestling Coach. Helping fill the position while the head guy volunteered for a deployment overseas.

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Like I mentioned, I was Interim Head Coach this past year. When I have time, I stop in and help the men’s and women’s program here at Waldorf. Also, I run the ICCAC Conference/National Qualifying Tournament each year as the tournament director. I try to get to USA Wrestling events when I can, and work them in what capacity they need help.

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Keep balance in your life, but focus on being your best! You never know when an injury might end your career, or it just stops being fun. So, go for your peak performance so you have nothing to regret.


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

I have done two of them. Took 2nd at the Omaha Tournament of Champions a few years back, and then 3rd at another one somewhere. After two shoulder surgeries on my right shoulder, just had one on my left shoulder from coaching this past season, and a torn MCL in my left knee from a few years ago… I will answer how my wife does, “The hell you are wrestling anymore after this last year!”.


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

Cole Spree, Head Coach at Indian Hills. I coached with him at Ellsworth CC. He is the reason I was successful. He pushed me to be a better every day as coach and professional.

Mike Richart, for giving me the love of wrestling and believing that this scrawny short kid could be a key piece to his team. He never let me get too down on myself.

Vince Pederson, former head coach at Sioux City East. Vince really gave me a love of coaching. Tough love guy, who would go the extra mile for his team and assistant coaches.


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

To say the least, I have been very VERY lucky with my wrestling and my coaching. I can only thank God for his blessings to let me do what I do. My body hurts every day, I can’t get back the time away from family, and it has been really tough when I look back. With all that, I would not change a thing. Greatest sport ever, and I appreciate what wrestling has done for me!


I don’t know Mark Griffin yet, but I surely will in the future, for this cat just took over the Mediapolis HS wrestling program! Since 1980 or so, there have only been two HC’s at Mepo. HOF’er Coach Dan Cummings was in charge from 1980-2016. Jason Payne was in charge from 2017-2021. And now Mark! Seems like an awesome dude and with his extensive Greco Roman knowledge/success, it’s gonna be fun watching Mepo wrestlers LAUNCH guys!

I asked Mark to do a Remember The Wrestler article in one of the first conversations I had with him, so the Mepo wrestling community as well as myself could learn about who he is and what led him to Mepo. Can’t wait to see what this man brings to the table!


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

College: University of Dubuque

Clubs: Izzy Style and Pinnacle Performance

High School: Glenbard South High School (Glen Ellyn, Illinois)


What year did you graduate?

2008 High School

2019 College


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My middle school football coach encouraged me to try it!


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

I do not.


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I started competing in 8th grade. I was one win away from being a state qualifier.


What was your record in HS? How did you place at state every year?


Junior Year 2006-2007 

140 LBS

Team Captain



Rank Honorable Mention

Conference Champion

Regional 1st Place Winner 

Sectional Qualifier

3rd at Freestyle State

2nd at Greco State

Fargo National Qualifier Both Styles

Represented Team Illinois and Took 1st at TEAM Greco Nationals


Senior Year 2007-2008

140 LBS

Team Captain



Ranked #7

29 Pins

120 Takedowns 

Holds Most Wins in a Single Season at 42 at Glenbard South High School

Conference Champion

Regional 1st Place Winner 

Sectional 2nd Place Winner

State 2A Qualifier Placed in the Top 12

Senior National Qualifier (Virginia Beach) (Folk Style)

Greco National Champion Northern Plains Iowa Regional Qualifier 

Greco State Champion

Fargo National Qualifier (Greco)

Did not wrestle freestyle

Represented Team Illinois and Took 1st at TEAM Greco Nationals


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


Since I started in 8th grade, freshmen and sophomore year were big learning years for me. I went about .500 each year.  With the amount of time, I spent putting into the sport, I wasn’t getting the results I thought I deserved. So instead of quitting I put everything I had into wrestling and joined both clubs during the summer and did Freestyle and Greco.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was a sweep single guy in high school for Folkstyle. I love to scramble. 2 on 1 and throws for Greco.


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

I was only able to face 2 opponents that I lost too. Both of them I beat the 2nd go around. (Geneva and Willowbrook)


Who was your most influential coach?

I’ve been very blessed with great coaches.

Mike Powell OPRF (Team Illinois Coach)

Izzy Martinez (Izzy Style)

Derrick Crenshaw (GBSHS Coach)

Jon McGovern (College Coach UD)

Paul Cleary (Mentor and Coached with Western Dubuque)


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Unfortunately, no. We never had a little kid’s program which made it tough to get kids interested in the sport. Could never fill a line up. The other Glenbard’s (North, West, East) were all power houses with having big little kids program.  I did come back and coach the team to its first conference championship ever in 2012-2013. That was awesome to be a part of!


Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up? Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

My high school coach Derrick Crenshaw wrestled at U of Illinois. I looked up to him and wanted to follow in his footsteps to represent the state I grew up in. I enjoyed watching Mike Poeta and Troy Tirapelle. Of course, Dan Gable is the GOAT, but I’m excited to see what Spencer Lee accomplished over his career.


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

You never know what you’re going to get from me. I train to capitalize off my opponents mistakes, so it depends on what they do. I always make it exciting to watch!


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

Tony Ramos. I grew up with Tony. He was 2 years younger than I was. His brother and I were the same age. I loved his attitude and passion that he brought to the Hawkeyes.


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

I listened to a lot of punk/rock to get me going.


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

When I was eliminated from the state tournament my senior year. It was a big goal of mine to place at the tournament. It was heart breaking. I learned from it and made sure I didn’t lose in Greco and took home the state title.


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

Haha, don’t have a girlfriend.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Winning 2 National Championships with Team Illinois my junior and senior year. With not being on a good high school team it was an awesome and fun experience to win as a team and not just as an individual.


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

The year I graduated was the last year Illinois only had 2 classes. They now have 3 which has spread out a lot of the competition. I wrestled 2A as a small school in a STACKED class.


Did you wrestle after high school? What other sports did you play?

I wrestled at University of Dubuque at the age of 26 for 2 seasons. (Sophmore, and Junior Year)

I enjoyed playing football and baseball.


What are your favorite sports teams?

Chicago Cubs, Bulls, Blackhawks, and Bears! Iowa Hawkeyes are growing on me!


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Staying fit! Love to eat! Haha enjoying time with the family and girlfriend.


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

It feels extremely good! If it wasn’t for the life lessons that I learned off and on the mat, I don’t think I would be in the position that I am today.


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

#WrestlingIsLife I approach life like it’s a wrestling match.



What do you do now?

I was just hired at Mediapolis CSD to teach PE and be the new Head Wrestling Coach. I will also be coaching JH football.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

I am currently volunteering time at DC Elite.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Take a chance and get out of your comfort zone and try wrestling. You wont regret it.


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

I will always wrestle to help my students out, but as far as tournaments, I think I am done. College career ended with a torn pectoral muscle.


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

I’d like to give a shot out to my mom and dad. Without them none of this could be possible! I owe everything to them!



PinDox Presents: How Pat Downey III Got Wrestling Down Pat

To start, Patrick will be wrestling in the main event at the Stalemates Street League meet which will be held next Friday, August 13th at 7p at the Forte Event Center in Des Moines, IA. His opponent will be former teammate and NCAA Champion, Kyven Gadson out of Waterloo East HS/Iowa State. 

You can purchase tickets at this link:


You can stream the event by going to this link:


Patrick Downey III AKA PD3; North County HS/Loch Raven HS/Iowa Central Community College/Nebraska/Iowa State

Patrick Downey Jr. and PD3

Patrick Downey the 3rd aka PD3 is the son of Tia and Patrick Downey Jr. He also has two sisters named Jasmine and Marissa. It’s reasonable to assume that PD3 was born to compete and become successful in a combat sport of some sort. His grandfather, Patrick Downey Sr. and father, Patrick Downey Jr. were competitive in the Baltimore boxing scene. Both of them boxed at the amateur and semi-pro levels and both did well at it.  So when PD3 began wrestling at a young age, he likely had the unique situation of being trained as a wrestler, but with elements of physical and mental boxing tactics in his game, given the influence of his family’s extensive boxing background. Not to mention, he was raised in East Baltimore. People from East Baltimore have been known to say that if you grow up in East Baltimore, you have no choice, but to learn to use your hands to fight or box, for if you don’t, you will inevitably find yourself on the receiving end of constant beat-downs at the hands of other kids in the neighborhood. With that said, PD3’s extensive familial boxing background as well as the importance of learning how to fight in the area he lived in to avoid being taken advantage of, likely influenced his wrestling style and added an element of fun to it.

PD3 started wrestling when he was 6 years old and the sport has been his favorite thing to do ever since. He has excelled on the wrestling mat since very early on in his career. Ever since he was a little kid, he routinely won a plethora of prestigious youth wrestling tournaments on the state and National scenes.

PD3’s first of what ended up being 5 total state championships that he won in Maryland.

Along with immediately loving the sport of wrestling, he also caught on to it pretty quickly. His ability to catch on so quickly was presumably a result of a few factors, most notably the way he was raised as well as the fact that he possesses an extraordinary amount of natural athleticism. I believe his entire family tends to be naturally athletic. And the fact that his father and grandfather were accomplished athletes in a combat sport themselves, provided PD3 with at-home coaching/tutelage from a source (his father) who knew from experience how to work hard to accomplish goals and how to prepare mentally and physically to be able to compete at the highest level you can.  Another thing that Pat had going for him was the fact that from Day 1, it was always made clear to him by his family that no matter what the situation or circumstances, his family would always love him, his family would always be proud of him, his family would always be loyal to him, his family would always be there to protect him, his family would always have his back and his family would always be dedicated to helping him accomplish his goals. In PD3’s own words:

PATRICK DOWNEY III: They love their PD3 and I love them. Loyalty and loving our family is all the Downey’s know.”

PD3 was so good at wrestling from a young age that he even ended up on the cover of Takedown Magazine in 1998 for some of his youth wrestling accolades.

Since the beginning, PD3 was successful at pretty much every level of wrestling that he has competed at and at every style; youth, JH, HS, JUCO, D1, International, folkstyle, freco, etc.
  In fact, he has been successful at multiple sports, for he operated at a high level in football and lacrosse when he was in HS.  In football, he was one of the most dynamic high school quarterbacks of his grade in all of Maryland. In fact, when he was a Senior, he was one of only 3 total Maryland High School QB’s to be selected for their prestigious Super 22 team. He even set a school record for total offensive yards in a game with 420 yards (315 yards passing, 105 yards rushing).

From an athletic talent standpoint, there just really doesn’t seem to be much that PD3 is, was or will ever be incapable of accomplishing. He has the competitive drive, stubbornness, lack of fear, mental toughness, hatred of losing and oftentimes criminally overlooked intelligence to pair with his gift of natural athleticism and the end result is a man who usually always wins at whatever he competes in, just as long as he doesn’t inadvertently get in his own way and end up defeating himself…which has happened from time-to-time throughout his career.

In HS, PD3 was a 3X state champion out of Baltimore, Maryland. He also placed 4th as a Freshman in HS. His Sophomore year, he became Loch Raven’s first ever state champion, compiling a 35-0 record with 28 pins. The next season, he recorded another unblemished record at 34-0 with 25 pins en route to his second state title and did the same thing a 3rd time as a Senior. He didn’t lose one single match in his final 3 years of HS wrestling. That’s insane.  He broke and still holds quite a few school records including career wins, fastest fall (:08) and career falls.

2010 MD State Champion

PD3 was accomplished at the National/World level as well as the state level in HS and that’s what really started getting him noticed by college recruiters across the map. In 2011, PD3 was the NHSCA Senior Nationals champion. That same year he was also the USAW Junior Nationals champion. In 2012, he was a silver medalist at the Junior World Championships in Thailand.

NHSCA Senior National Championships

2nd at World Championships in Thailand.

If you haven’t been presented with enough evidence by now to be convinced that PD3 has been one of the best wrestlers in the world for over a decade, then I’m assuming your hatred for the man may be clouding your judgment or you just haven’t been paying attention. There seemed to be no stage that was too big for him. In fact, a more applicable question for him may be, was there a stage that was big enough for PD3? His on-mat accolades in high school catapulted him to “blue chip recruit status with some off the mat concerns” We will get to the off-mat stuff in a little bit.”

In college, PD3 was initially a member of the D1 Nebraska Cornhuskers wrestling team, but was weighed down by the temptation to party as well as other social distractions that go hand-in-hand in situations like these. In Pat’s case, it was basically, “a young guy with an impulsive and wild streak coming out of the tough area of East Baltimore who found himself in a geographically and culturally different region than what he was used to and as a result, he felt different than everyone else, misunderstandings ensued, mouths ran and eventually fights erupted because of it.”  PD3’s “off the mat” concerns in high school were mostly affiliated with his tendency to either party or get into fights with people. As mentioned, PD3 grew up in East Baltimore. He was raised into a different lifestyle than most of us in the Midwest were raised with. East Baltimore can be a tough place to live. People who live there have to prioritize self-defense and social assertiveness much more than we do in the Midwest, just to maintain their ongoing ability to survive, protect themselves or establish themselves as someone to not be threatened, crossed or taken advantage of. And with “survival” arguably being our most prominent innate instinct as human beings, PD3 developed a different code to live by than than most of us in the Midwest because the means to survive were different for him growing up. The
 lifestyle he grew up with as well as the code he lived by did not always translate well with the people he encountered at Nebraska and because of where and how he grew up, he was different than almost everyone there and he wasn’t easily understood by many of the people he crossed paths with. And to be fair, PD3 probably had a difficult time understanding most of the Nebraska people that he met as well. With constant, ongoing misunderstandings that were inevitably going to occur as well as PD3’s inclination to indulge in the party life, his lack of fear and his willingness to fight anyone that he may have clashed with, it just seemed like the combination of PD3 and Nebraska was a potential recipe for disaster from the start, unless he had a like-minded mentor there to help him get through it…someone who actually understood his background and way of life. In which, I don’t think he had someone like that there, but I don’t know that for sure. With all that said, his first year at Nebraska was derailed by some regrettable decisions he made that conflicted with the the good behavior policy or “code” the staff had in place that the members of the team were required to follow in order to ensure the program’s ongoing survival.  PD3 was eventually kicked off the Nebraska team. The behavior that led to his departure from the team was, as expected, his inclination to party and get into fights. Here is what PD3 had to say to teamusa.org about what went down, a year or two after the fact:

PATRICK DOWNEY III: I got sidetracked in my time at Nebraska. I wasn’t doing what I was there to do. I was caught up in other things like partying. I was really under a strict lifestyle at the OTC and getting thrown into that college environment kind of caught me by surprise. I started to get back on track but then I had a real bad injury, getting into an altercation and broke my thumb. Ultimately, Coach Manning had to let me go. They had to do what was right for them and the program and I have no grudges against anybody there.  Coach Manning just told me ‘Go start your MMA career. You like fighting.’ It made me appreciate wrestling a lot more and lit a fire under me because I wasn’t ready to start fighting. I have a lot of goals in wrestling. I’m not an NCAA champ. I’m not a World champ. I’m not an Olympic champ. So when I feel like I’ve accomplished what I can, then I’m ready to go fight. That time at Nebraska, despite what went down, will always be a motivator in my life.”

The following year, Iowa Central Community College coaches, Troy Bennett and Luke Moffitt reached out to PD3 and brought him aboard their squad. It was there where he found what has been to date, the best fit for him from a team/community perspective both on and off the mat. As a redshirt freshman 
competing at 197 pounds, he compiled an undefeated record and became the 2015 NJCAA champion. He also went 10–1 against NCAA Division 1 competition, recording notable victories over opponents from Iowa, Penn, Nebraska, Arizona State, etc. Here is what PD3 said to teamusa.org about his time at Iowa:

PATRICK DOWNEY III: For me, even bigger than winning the individual title was winning the team title. I can’t explain it, but the camaraderie and the bonds that were made will last forever. Our whole team got matching tattoos after winning, even Coach. There are some things that happened at Iowa Central and some connections that are really special. That’s what I appreciate most about my time at Iowa Central. As a team, we really bonded and we accomplished a huge goal, bringing a national title to Iowa Central.


When Downey made the leap from JUCO back to D1, the rumor was that he was given two options, the Iowa State Cyclones or the Iowa Hawkeyes. Patrick ended up deciding to wear the Cyclones’ cardinal and gold. He placed third at the Big 12 championships and entered the NCAA championships unseeded. He performed greatly, taking out multiple high-seeded wrestlers to place fifth, earning D1 All American. The next season, as a Junior, he was finding success at 184 pounds during the regular season, posting seven wins and no losses. On February 23, 2017, it was announced that Downey had been kicked off the team by Kevin Jackson due to “repeated violations of team rules” as quoted by head coach Kevin Jackson. Despite some talks about a potential run as an Iowa Hawkeye, this finished Downey’s collegiate career and he earned his degree from ISU via online courses.

After his collegiate career was finished, he competed on the international scene and continued to perform at an elite level. In 2017, PD3 was Fifth at the U.S. Open and third at the Dave Schultz Memorial International. In
2018, PD3 was the Final X True Third runner-up. He was also 3rd at the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament and Seventh at the U.S. Open. In 2019, PD3 became a World Team member. He was also Final X champion and U.S. Open champion. He won bronze at the Pan American Games as well as the Dave Schultz Memorial International champion… He was fifth at Yasar Dogu (Turkey), seventh at Cerro Pelado International and Ninth at Senior World Championships.

Downey, as of semi-recent times, has been trying his hand at MMA and submission grappling.


Now, it’d be like ignoring an elephant in the room if I were to not mention the extreme effects he has had on wrestling fans for a decade now. Due to some of the trouble PD3 has gotten into in the past as well as the unfiltered, “no BS” manner in which he chooses to publicly portray himself on social media platforms, he tends to have an effect on people in which all grey area is disintegrated. Some people love him and consider him one of their favorite wrestlers because they love how willing he is to speak his mind, regardless of where he is or who he is talking to. Many fans respect that, for it’s admirable when someone is able to be so unapologetically true to themselves. PD3 and his siblings were raised by their father with a primary emphasis placed on valuing family and loyalty. Now, with that in mind, how loyal can a person actually be to other people if they are unwilling to be true or loyal to themselves? Fans do pick up on that and they love PD3 for it.

And then of course, some fans, despite not knowing PD3 personally, hate him with a passion to the point where they would be happy if something bad happened to him. Some fans have even publicly expressed this…have gone as far as wished ill upon him. He has a way of cutting pretty deep on both sides of the coin. FWIW, I have had a few interactions with PD3 and he has always treated me with the utmost respect…and I’m not always the easiest person to deal with myself. It is very unlikely that PD3 even remotely cares whether fans hate him or not, unless their extreme hatred for him became so strong that they started crossing boundaries. However, if you do decide that you feel PD3 is disgraceful to the point where you feel your time and energy is best spent by hating him, please consider the possibility that there is a lot about this man that you may not fully perceive correctly due to the significant cultural differences between someone like Pat who is from a tough boxing family out of East Baltimore and someone who is from Iowa or wherever it is that you may reside. I personally think there are more productive ways to spend your time and energy, but that’s just me. You don’t have to approve of what PD3 does or says. You don’t have to root for him. You don’t have to like the guy, but before you start literally hating him to the point where you wish ill upon him, don’t lose sight of the fact that there is very likely a spectrum of factors that you know nothing about that may have a direct influence on the way he is… and that can be applied to anyone.

I asked PD3 if he had any advice for any upcoming wrestlers who have to deal with fans who genuinely hate them, this is the advice PD3 had for them:

PATRICK DOWNEY III: Don’t ever give up on yourself and never listen to the opinions of people who you would never listen to any advice they had to give about anything.

I’ll say this, some of the shenanigans that have gone on in the past with PD3 has led him to a point where he has seemingly become a convenient scapegoat for those who welcome turmoil with open arms, but avoid accountability at all costs. That has got to annoy the hell out of him.

I am excited to watch PD3 compete. It’s always refreshing  to see when someone literally seems to be at their absolute peak of happiness when they are out on a mat imposing their wills on the opposition, competing relentlessly and simultaneously having fun like Patrick Downey the 3rd. The wrestling mat is truly his happy place.

When I asked PD3 how much of an impact wrestling has had on the person he is today and where he would be today without it, he replied with this:

PATRICK DOWNEY III: Wrestling saved my life. Without it, I would either be dead or in jail today.

If you see him somewhere like maybe the Stalemates Street League event, don’t be afraid to say “hi” to him. Despite the impression you may have of him, he’s not some monster to be scared of. I wouldn’t steer you wrong, for I mean it when I say that he has been 100% nice and respectful to me in every exchange I’ve ever had with him. And I can be more annoying than the Donkey from the Shrek movies, so that is probably a testament of his patience.

PD3 and Kyven Gadson are going to put on a show for fans next week. It should be fun.



Drake Ayala, here we go!

At the Iowa HS State Wrestling Tournament of 1994, the #1 ranked guy at 3A 125 coming in was Fort Dodge’s Sam Ayala. Ayala was a state qualifier at 3A 125 as a Junior the year before and won a match at state that year, but lost in the quarterfinals and eventually was eliminated from the tournament. Sam came in to the 1994 state tournament with an undefeated record of 30-0 and looked to be in good position to make the finals, for nobody on his side of the bracket had a season record that was close to being as good as his. Everyone had anywhere between 3-12 blemishes on their record coming into the tournament. His first round opponent, Tuan Pham of Ankeny came in with 11 losses. 4 of those losses were to Sam during the regular season. So, it was fair to assume back then that Sam would be perfectly safe that first round, but a thunderstorm chose a pretty awful time to start raining on Sam’s season, for he lost his first round match to Pham and was beaten out of the tournament a round or two later. Sam ended his HS wrestling career as a 2X state qualifier who had the potential to be a state placer, if not a state champion, but it just wasn’t in the cards for him. With the heartbreak that weekend presumably caused for Sam, he probably had fleeting thoughts at the time of never wanting to see a wrestling mat again or at least never wanting to attend a wrestling event in the DM area again, for all it would do is remind him of his own shortcomings. It probably never occurred to him at the time that some of the best moments of his life were down the road and that many of these moments would take place at the state tournament, the very tournament that gave him so much heartbreak. With that said, Sam’s son, Drake Ayala wrapped up his HS wrestling career a couple weeks ago and it was one of the most impressive runs that any Iowa HS wrestler has ever had. Drake accomplished some things at the HS level, that no one from Iowa has ever done before. Sometimes, it’s cool to observe how time finds a way to heal old wounds for people.

Drake Ayala is the son of Sam and Angie Ayala and had two younger brothers, Dru and Knox who also wrestle. The first few years Drake wrestled, he was “pretty good.” He would place in the top 3-8 or so most years at AAU State. He had a year or two where he was eliminated. There were a couple years where he won USA or GSS State… All the way until his 6th grade year, he was a good wrestler in his class, but by no means one of the top dogs.

I believe it was around 5th or 6th grade where Drake became a very dedicated member of the Sebolt Wrestling Academy… this may shed some light on why Drake started making leaps in his wrestling game when he did.

B 5th-6th Grade – 65 1st Place – Carter Fousek of Sebolt Wrestling Academy 2nd Place – Damon Huston of DC Elite 3rd Place – Brandon O`Brien of DC Elite 4th Place – Drake Ayala of Sebolt Wrestling Academy 5th Place – Joseph Ebaugh of Trophy Hunters 6th Place – Cole Whitehead of DC Elite 7th Place – Trever Anderson of Ankeny Wrestling Club 8th Place – Marcel Lopez of DC Elite

When Drake was a 7th grader, he accomplished something that until that point, he had always fallen short of. He won the AAU State Championship at division C-75 lbs. And this was just the start of a reign of mat-terror that eventually led Drake to the realm of “historically good HS wrestler.” As a 7th grader, Drake was still losing matches here and there and was barely getting by in some close matches in some of the matches he did win, but he had officially gotten the AAU State monkey off his back and it was all uphill from there. In fact, it was set on a steep incline.

Drake’s 8th grade year is when we saw him really start taking form of the utterly dominant Drake Ayala that we have all become accustomed to. It was around this time where Drake started winning pretty much every big tournament that he wrestled at. And he was wrestling on both, state-level and national-level stages. The biggest, most prestigious stage came during the summer of his 8th grade year and Freshman year of HS. Drake Ayala became the 2017 Fargo Cadet National Freestyle champion at 88 lbs. The Iowa wrestling community saw the writing on the wall with how good he was becoming, but the Fargo Cadet National Championship officially put Drake on the map as an elite-level wrestler on a National scale. Drake was one of the best wrestlers in the country and the party was just getting started. He still had an entire HS career to wrestle yet.

As a Freshman in HS in 2018, Drake was an undersized 106 lber, but this didn’t seem to affect him much, for he had a borderline flawless Freshman season in which he finished second at state. He lost to the finals to his practice partner at Sebolt Wrestling Academy, Cullan Schriever of Mason City, who happens to be another one of the best wrestlers the state of Iowa has EVER produced in his own right. Drake finished his Freshman campaign with a record of 41-2… both losses coming to Schriever.

2018 3A 106
1 Cullan Schriever (So.) Mason City

2 Drake Ayala (Fr.) Fort Dodge

3 Lucas Uliano (Fr.) Waukee

4 Devin Harmison (Jr.) SE Polk

5 Ethan Wood-Finley (So.) Iowa City High

6 Aiden Evans (So.) Bettendorf

7 Rheiner Stahlbaum (Fr.) Johnston

8 Austin Kegley (So.) CR Prairie


In 2019, as a Sophomore in HS, Drake Ayala was at an even higher level than the already astronomical level he was operating at the year before. Drake pinned or tech-falled everyone he has wrestled that year with an exception of now 2x MN state champ, Joey Thompson of Totino-Grace who he defeated 5-4. He pinned or tech’ed every wrestler he faced from Iowa. He won his first state championship this season and pinned 2 guys and tech’ed two guys at the state tournament on his way to the title.

2019 3A 113

1 Drake Ayala of Fort Dodge

2 Devin Harmison of Southeast Polk

3 Austin Kegley of Prairie, Cedar Rapids

4 Thurman Christensen of Waukee

5 Bailey Roybal of Waverly-Shell Rock

6 Jacob Penrith of Cedar Falls

7 Grant Harbour of Norwalk

8 Jackson Bresson of Ankeny Centennial


In 2020 as a Junior in HS, Drake became an undefeated state champion for the second year in a row. Drake went 45-0 that season, pinning everyone he wrestled at state in the first period with an exception of his 1st round opponent, who he teched halfway through the 2nd period. Of the 45 wins he had that season, 43 of them were either by fall, technical fall or major decision and 40 of them were by fall or technical fall. All 5 guys who managed to not get pinned or tech’ed by Drake were from out of state. This meant that Drake Ayala, for the 2nd year in a row, either pinned or tech’ed every in-state opponent that he faced. That’s incredible and I have no clue if it’s ever been done before.

2020 3A 120

1st Place – Drake Ayala of Fort Dodge

2nd Place – Austin Kegley of Prairie – Cedar Rapids

3rd Place – Thurman Christensen of Waukee

4th Place – Peyton Westlin of North Scott – Eldridge

5th Place – Adler Kramer of Dubuque – Hempstead

6th Place – Cael Cox of Ankeny

7th Place – Kaden Karns of Waterloo – West

8th Place – Donovan Card of Norwalk

As a Senior in 2021, Drake continued his dominant ways and ultimately became a 3X Iowa HS state wrestling champion by the time he finished. However, his season wasn’t perfect… which was interesting, for Drake had reached a level at this point where fans were basically expecting perfection from him. Drake had a match at the Rick Caldwell Invite where he bumped up a weight to wrestle one of his teammates from Sebolt Wrestling Academy named Ryder Block, a Sophomore from Waverly-Shell Rock who won the 3A 106 state championship the year before as a Freshman. Block grew all the way from 106 to 132, where he was ranked 1st in the state and was completely dominant all season long. Ayala, being ranked 1st in the state at 126, presumably bumped up to wrestle Block, for it isn’t often for someone like Drake to have the option to wrestle someone who is actually capable of giving him a good match. And Block gave him that. In fact, Block shocked the nation when he defeated Drake by a score of 9-7. This win put Block on the map in a huge way. With only a few weeks remaining in the season, it didn’t appear that Drake would ever get a chance to avenge the loss to Block since they were at different weights, but Ayala being the competitor he is with something to prove, ended up unexpectedly weighing in at 132 lbs at districts so he could attempt to have a rematch with Block at state so he could avenge the loss. His plan was executed perfectly, for Drake dominated his way to the state finals for the 4th time, where Block awaited him. This time, it was Ayala who got his hand raised. Ayala major decisioned Block in the state finals by the score 11-3. He finished his HS career as an utterly dominant 3X state champion with a career record of 171-3. He was named as Iowa’s Bob Steenlage Wrestler Of The Year twice, winning the award as a Junior and Senior.

2021 3A-132

1st Place – Drake Ayala of Fort Dodge

2nd Place – Ryder Block of Waverly-Shell Rock

3rd Place – Bryce Parke of Linn-Mar

4th Place – Ryder Downey of Indianola

5th Place – Jace Rhodes of Mason City

6th Place – Ayden Kingery of Southeast Polk

7th Place – Grant Harbour of Norwalk

8th Place – Connor Kelley of Waukee

Although Drake Ayala had one of the most dominant runs in his HS folkstyle wrestling tenure, that isn’t what sets him apart from the rest of the pack in terms of determining if he has a case for being Iowa’s GOAT HS wrestler. What sets him apart are the off-season accolades vs. National competition. To start, Drake won the Super 32 Challenge this past year…a feat that only one other Iowa HS wrestler has accomplished, which was ironically Cullan Schriever. Drake also beat California wrestling star, Richie Figueroa 5-3 at the “Who’s No. 1” wrestling meet. He also won 3 Fargo National Freestyle Championships. He won 1 as a Cadet and the other 2 as a Junior.

Drake committed to wrestle collegiately for the Iowa Hawkeyes and I, for one, could not be more excited about that.

So does Drake Ayala have a case for the Iowa HS wrestling GOAT?!?  Haha, I don’t think anyone in the right mind would say that he doesn’t.


I’ve mentioned several thousand times by now that I went to Mediapolis HS and was in the graduating class of 2001. Now, if someone were to mention something to me about a guy from out of town that one of the girls in my grade used to date in HS, there’s a 99.9% chance that the first image that would pop into my head would be of some dude sitting at a table at a game or Prom or something with nobody to talk to, appearing as if he is bored out of his mind and anxiously waiting to leave whatever activity or function they accompanied their Mepo girlfriend to. The reason being, generally, guys who dated girls in my grade were more or less treated like they didn’t exist by the guys in my grade. Mepo (at least in my grade) was pretty stand-offish to new people. They weren’t mean to them, but it surely wasn’t a priority for anyone to go out of their way to meet and/or get to know them either. I don’t think half my classmates even noticed that these guys would be left out as much as they were, for I think with Mepo being such a small, tight-knit community, most of them were so used to not meeting new people, that when they were around new people, it felt awkward…so they ignored them. And don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not “Mr. Holier-than-thou” when it comes to this. I didn’t go out of my way to make these guys feel more comfortable at our functions either. And I did notice these people being left out. And why didn’t I go out of my way to include them? Usually it was because I just didn’t feel like it and had my mind on other things. So yeah, I’m not trying to proclaim myself a saint here. And to add another component of awkwardness to everything, the way my graduating class socialized with each other was heavily based on a plethora of “inside jokes,” and if you “got” them, great! For some of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life were classmates of mine with their patented “inside” jokes. However, the chances of some “new guy” to come to any function and hang around my classmates and have the slightest clue as to what on Earth they were talking and laughing about, was pretty slim. As I mentioned, 99.9% of these guys seemed to be bored out of their minds at any class function of our’s and that percentage would be an even 100% if one of the girls in my class hadn’t dated a guy from the opposite corner of the state named BJ Strandberg.

So during my Senior season, a classmate of mine, my 2nd cousin, in fact, started dating a guy named BJ from out of town. To be more specific, BJ was from way, wayyyy out of town. From Storm Lake, IA to be exact which is on the Northwest part of the state.  With Mediapolis being located in the Southeast part of the state, there were hundreds of miles separating these two communities. When I first heard about this new couple, I only knew that the guy’s name was BJ, but hadn’t yet connected the dots that it was actually Storm Lake state placer, BJ Strandberg. I had been well-aware of BJ Strandberg for a while by that point because the man was an absolute machine on the mat and of course I followed everything closely back then as I do now. It wasn’t until he attended one of our class functions for the first time that I was able to put it together. I immediately knew who it was the moment I saw him sitting down with his girlfriend across the room.  Now since BJ was a wrestler, I actually did want to talk to this guy. My initial thought when I saw him was to come up to him and try to shamelessly, yet slyly try to find a way to recruit him and his family down to Mediapolis, for I knew that he had recently graduated, but had a younger brother we could use in our upper-weights.  Before I could even devise a plan to try to recruit BJ’s family into Mepo, he did something which was unheard of for “out-of-towner,” boyfriends who dated our female clsssmates….He approached the table I was sitting at and initiated conversation with me first. This was a total 180 in comparison to how these guys usually behaved… Usually an “out of towner” would be sitting st a table, fighting off sleep after being there for 30 seconds. Not BJ Strandberg. He came right up to me and introduced himself, for he also knew who I was from wrestling and I talked to him for probably 30 minutes. He was one of the most friendly and personable people I had met in a long time and I wasn’t alone in thinking that, for BJ seemed to be able to converse with everyone in my grade about anything… he even seemed to understand our “inside” jokes. I never saw any “new” guy fit in with my classmates as effortlessly as BJ was able to. And it wasn’t because he was fake or good at “BS-ing” either. He was just a genuinely nice guy who could talk to anyone about anything and it didn’t hurt that he would remember everyone’s name after hearing it the first time and wouldn’t forget it. He was an incredibly impressive person. An absolutely impossible person to not like.

It was a lot of fun having BJ around the Mediapolis community for the limited amount of time that we did. And the amount of time we had him around was limited, not because our he and our classmate broke up or anything… No, it was because towards the end of our Senior year, we were given some of the most tragic news that I recall ever hearing in my entire life. BJ had gotten into a tragic car accident and had passed away. I first heard about this at church and a lot of people, including myself were very shook up by the news. I just couldn’t believe it and couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that out of anyone this could have happened to, it happened to this undeserving man who was just beaming with positivity and obviously had limitless potential in life. It didn’t seem right and really, it still doesn’t. This was an absolutely devastating loss for many people. 

So almost a year had passed and around came the 2002 state wrestling tournament. Mediapolis had a good year that year. We sent 3 guys to state and all 3 placed. We even had two state finalists/one state champ…my brother, Justin won state at 2A 125 and Chad Hutchinson was 2nd at 2A 130. Tons of Mepo fans came to watch/support these two.  Most of the Mepo fans in attendance were “casual” fans. Not die-hards and generally speaking, when the last member of the team wrestles their last match, the casual fans tend to clear out of the stands and start heading home. In which with our last wrestler being Hutchinson at 130, it looked as if our casual fans would be clearing out before the finals were even half way over with. However, and I’ll never forget this, the Mediapolis fans in attendance all seemed to have an understanding that year that they weren’t going to go home immediately after Hutch’s finals match… because if they were to do this, they would miss out on another important match that they all wanted to see…which was BJ’s brother, Ben Strandberg’s finals match at 2A 189.  I don’t know if Ben ever met very many, if any Mepo fans before that weekend, but the Mepo fans were clearly invested in how his weekend was going. And the majority of Mepo fans stuck around all the way until his match, in which they outwardly cheered on “BJ’s little brother, Ben.”  

To this day, it amazes me, the positive impression BJ Strandberg left on every single member of the Mediapolis community that was fortunate enough to meet him. And after getting to know Ben a bit, it has been a cool realization that he seems to have a personality that’s a lot like his older brother. Ben is one of the coolest and personable dudes you’ll talk to. He was a warrior on the wrestling mat and is currently a great leader to the wrestlers that he coaches. And he’s multi-talented, to boot. He owns and operates a graphic design business called “Strandberg Design,” which is among the most popular graphic design companies in the Iowa Wrestling community. 

The Strandberg family… You’ll be hard-pressed to find better people. 


Ben won an extremely tough bracket here in 2002. This is back when this tournament was a National Qualifier and brought in sometimes 60-70 people per weight class.

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

Storm Lake High School 98-2001

Emmetsburg High School 2001-2002

University of Nebraska-Omaha  2002-2005

Buena Vista University  2005-2007

I did a short stint with the Golden Eagles and Coach Massey after my junior year before moving to Emmetsburg.


What year did you graduate?

High School 2002

College 2008


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

I remember bringing home a flyer from school in 2nd grade and my brother B.J. and I decided to give it a try.  Once we liked it, our dad made sure to get us as much mat time as possible.


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

My dad, Jerry, wrestled a little in high school.  My two brothers wrestled in high school and college.  B.J. was a 2x State place winner for Storm Lake and wrestled at Buena Vista.  Brad spent some time on varsity at Storm Lake High and wrestled for a season at Buena Vista. My son Charlie is in 3rd grade and just getting started with the Earlham Wrestling Club. My 4 year old son will start going to practice this coming year.


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I qualified for AAU from 4th-8th grade.  Placed 7th in 4th grade and 8th in 8th grade.  A few rivals would be Ben Haywood and Nick Ohrtman.


What was your record in HS?


I would bet half of those were to Ryan Sturm of Emmetsburg/AR.  Spent a lot of time trying to stay off my back wrestling him as a Freshman and sophomore. Now that he is a physician I should have him check out my shoulders.


How did you place at state every year?

I qualified as a freshman and placed 2nd as a senior.


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

My freshman year of college I qualified for the DII Championships and didn’t pass skin checks due to a cold sore. My team went on to win the National Championships, which was awesome, but it sucked that I didn’t get to step on the mat.


I qualified for the State Tournament as a freshman and didn’t go back until I was a senior.  I even held the top ranking my Junior year for awhile.  In the end those losses made me better.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

Consistently attacking.  I won a lot of matching on conditioning.  In high school I was fairly one dimensional with carry/kelly and an arm bar.  In college I had a lot of great coaches that taught me misdirection, situation wrestling, and how to scramble.


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

The most notable would have been Travis Hinners from Emmetsburg when I was a Junior and Nate Buys from Western Christian. Travis and I ended up 2-2 at the end of that year. I took the first two and he beat me in the regional dual and district semifinals. He went on to win State that year. I lost in the wrestleback to Jacob Brosamle.

I beat Nate a few times early in high school and then he beat me pretty bad the first time we wrestled my senior year.  I was able to pin him in the Lakes Conference finals and beat him at districts.  Nate was tough.  I am pretty sure he lost the first round at state and wrestled back to 4th.   Our last match together was in college and he beat me in another close one.  Pretty sure he ended up a JUCO Runner-up and then a 2x DII All-American.


Who was your most influential coach?

I couldn’t narrow it down if I wanted to.  I had the pleasure of wrestling for Ty Seaman (Storm Lake), Keven Besch (SL and BVU),  Bob Kenny (Emmetsburg), Bob Rothler (Emmetsburg), Tony Stubbs (Emmetsburg),  Mike Denney (UNO), Ron Higdon (UNO), Jason Brilz (UNO), Chad Wallace (UNO), Zac Dominguez (UNO), Zach Stalder (UNO), Mark Schwab (BVU), Pat Wilsbacher (BVU), Jamie Taxted (BVU) and Sevond Cole (BVU)

I know that is a big list but all of them played a role in my wrestling career.  I have also taken something from every one of them when it comes to how I coach and run a program.


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

My high school team won the individual State Championships in 2002 and placed 3rd at State Duals.  I was a starter for two NCAA Division II National Championship teams at UNO and BVU placed 5th at Nationals in 2007.


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

I spent a lot of time going to local high school wrestling tournaments as a kid in NW Iowa.  I remember looking up to Steve Wilbur (Storm Lake), Scott Kauffman (Emmetsburg), Justin McAtee (Storm Lake), and Luke Moffitt (Estherville).  I also spent a lot of time looking at Stacey Rice’s name on the Storm Lake wrestling room wall.

I have been an Iowa Hawkeye wrestling fan for as long as I can remember. My dad took me to the D1 National Tournament every year.  My favorites to watch were Doug Schwab, Tom Brands, and Terry Brands.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Mark Schwab


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

Not that I can think of.  Not that I was all that special.  I personally wouldn’t coach anyone to wrestle like I did.  I spent a lot of time in a front headlock trying to get my kelly to work.  I am sure this drove a lot of my HS coaches crazy. I had success with it but I probably should have just circled up.


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

College/Freestyle – JB vs Smith, Gable vs Lee, Sanderson vs Nichal, Banach vs. Steveson.

High School – Mark Schwab vs Kerber


As difficult as it may be to put into words, how would you describe the impact that your brother BJ had on you as a wrestler and overall person?

Being two years older than me, BJ was the wrestler I looked up to the most.  He was a multiple time AAU State Champion and a 2x State place winner. BJ was hard nosed on the mat but was extremely nice and likable off the mat. We were just starting to be comparable in size when he passed away.  I wish I would have had more time with him for so many reasons in and outside of wrestling.  I know we could have made eachother a lot better.  I think a lot about the different paths I would have taken if he would have been around.  I had some great experiences going to Emmetsburg and UNO but nothing would have compared to having more time with him. When you experience that kind of loss at a young age it can be very hard to process.  I used wrestling as an outlet for that.

Like a lot of siblings, we spent a lot of time together as kids.  We were wrestling around 100 matches a year from 4th grade to high school.  This involves a lot of road time.  We spent most of our summers working construction for our dad and as much time as we could on the lake skiing.  I can only hope that my three kids are as close as my brothers and I were.  After 20 years, I still try and live life in his honor. Wrestling was our greatest passion together and I do my best to give back to the sport that made us so close.

BJ Strandberg


What got you started with Strandberg Design? How long did it take you to become as good at it as you are?

I started designing graphics and doing highlight videos to promote my team at Sibley-Ocheyedan. The NWCA had a competition called The Best of Brands, and I thought it would be fun to try and get S-O recognized nationally. In the three years that we entered it we won for best team poster, best highlight video, and placed 2nd for best overall social media presence.  After that I started getting messages from other teams to design their posters.  Kids started reaching out for commitments and achievement graphics. Then I started getting calls from clubs and colleges looking for graphics. I have designed graphics for IAwrestle events, the HWC Showdown, and even a handful of book covers for Craig Sesker. It took a lot of practice and youtube videos to figure things out.


What are some coaching philosophies that you have absorbed from your coaches at Storm Lake, Emmetsburg, BV, etc. and which philosophies/tactics have you implemented into your own coaching game?

I try and run my program like Mike Denney. That program really felt like a family.  He focused on clean values and comradery. Coach Denney also surrounded himself with great people. I have been lucky enough to do the same as a head coach. A lot of great dads and assistant coaches have helped me along the way. I build my practices off of Bob Kenny and Mark Schwab. The hardest practices I ever went through were thanks to those two.  It must be an Osage thing.  Coach Kenny was great about developing an individual’s technique rather than making cookie cutter wrestlers. I learned a lot about situational wrestling from Coach Schwab. Also, I have never met anyone that can compete with him when it comes to the mental side of wrestling. That was the difference maker for me my senior year of college. All three coaches were extremely positive.  I try and bring as much positivity into my coaching as possible.


How would you compare the emotions/feelings experienced from accomplishing wrestling feats as a competitor compared to coaching an athlete who ultimately ends up accomplishing their goals?

There is so much more that goes into being a coach than being an athlete.  That is why it is so much more rewarding to me.  As a wrestler it is hard to focus beyond the wins and losses, but as a coach there are a lot of little moments involved. I have had the opportunity to coach some great high school wrestlers. I have had a few make the State Finals and one win a Pan-Am title.  Those were great moments, but I get just as excited to see a wrestler win his first match or make his first State Tournament.


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


JD and Jacob Naig were two of the hardest working wrestlers I ever had the pleasure to be around.

Jacob Naig, Dustin Finer, and Maury Noonan’s run on the backside of the State Tournament in ‘02 locked up the team title for us. I have had people through the years give me credit for this. Naig and Finer were defending champs.  Noonan has to go down as one of the best wrestlers to never make a final. That is not an insult, he just always had one of the toughest brackets.  All three wrestling back to 3rd shows the kind of people they are.

Nick Ortman was an awesome training partner. We went back and forth in grade school so it was awesome making the finals for the same team.

Other teammates that come to mind would be Paul Reedy, Robert Struthers, Tony Webker, Mark Hobart and Josh Ludwig.  I have a ton of respect for all of those guys.

Outside of my teammates I had the opportunity to watch and train with a lot of wrestlers at Fargo camp.  Here is a list of a few that I always enjoyed watching and being around:  Paul Bradley, Grant Turner, Corey Kalina, Gabe Rostermundt, Dustin Hinchberger, Wade Satern, Aaron Wernimont, and Ryan Fuller.

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Eierman, Lee, Kem, and Yianni. New to my list is PARKER KECKEISEN. That guy has a tank.


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

System of a Down, Godsmack, Breaking Benjamin, Tim Mcgraw, Disturbed, Lincoln Park, Garth….


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

State Finals.  I was tied 5-5 and got pinned by Clint Sellers with about a minute left in the match. Gotta keep that head up with a whizzer. Lesson learned. I have to give Bob Kenny credit here. I think it hurt so bad because he made me believe I couldn’t lose.


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

A win in the State/National Finals would be nice.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

I had three falls, four if you count getting pinned in the finals, at the State Tournament.  When I made the finals in college I was unseeded.

Greatest memory would have been wrestling on the same team as my brother.


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

High School – Ryan Sturm, Travis Hinners, Mark Vanoort, Nate Buys, Paul Bradly (freestyle), Tyler Babb, Jacob Brosamle, Rodney Grap, and Roger Kish (freestyle).

College – Jake Rosholt & Sean Stender (wouldn’t call these matches competitive), David Zabriskie, Drew Anderson, Ryan Phillips, Akeem Carter, TJ Miller, Jeff Selvester, Tim Boldt, Josh Janousek, and Nate Buys.


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

All year


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

I think we were a bit more hard nosed in my day but with the club and easy access to technique online the sport has evolved.


Did you wrestle after high school?

Yep, UNO and BVU


What other sports did you play?

I played football and summer swim team.


What are your favorite sports teams?

Always been a diehard Hawkeye fan but I cheer for all our in state wrestling teams.  I married into a Chiefs family, so I can be seen in red from time to time.


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Graphics, photography, fishing, and anything else I can do with my family.


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

It’s what makes me tick. I have had a lot of great coaches and I strive to be like them.


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

Wrestling has opened a lot of doors for me.  It is what sent me to college and part of the reason I have a job. It has given me life long friends and helped me develop into the person I am today.


What do you do now?

I will be starting a new teaching and coaching job in Earlham this fall.  Go Cards!

I also design graphics as a part time gig.


Are you still involved with wrestling?

Yep, Earlham will be starting a new program this year.  I am pretty excited to join the great group of coaches that they already have over there.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

I would just tell them to enjoy the process. Trust in your coaches and put in extra time.


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

Nope. I won the BV Old Timer’s a few years back and I am going out on top.  That and I don’t want to pay for any more surgeries.


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

I think I named a bunch up top but to add a few: Steve Conlin, Nate Oviatt, Eli Dominguez, Dustin Tovar, Derek Keasling, Wade Hammen, Kody “Osage” Koster, Austin Hayes, Josh Murray, Kyle Forness, Jestin Hulegaard, Matt Naig, Kyle Green, The DeJong, the Schucks, the Brockshus boys, Garrett Sayler, Trent Kruger, Jose Flores, Mitchell Paca, Cole Sackett, Carson Wadle, Dean Sackett, Cody Nelson, Matt Finch, Mike Finch, Doyle Naig, KJ Besch, András Lukács-Farkas, Eric Carillo, and Jake Larson.

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

One of my favorite things about high school was jumping in a few cars and heading to freestyle meets with my friends.  A lot of funny things happened on those trips.  One that stands out is seeing Josh Ludwig finish a Monster Burger from Hardees in between periods.  It was pretty impressive.  Sadly, I can’t remember if he won the match.


Adam Manz was a great wrestler out of Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln. One of the most influential people in the SW Iowa wrestling scene in terms of both the way he competed and trains up-comers on how to compete. The cool thing is, his family has been an influential presence to the wrestling scene in SW Iowa for generations now, for his grandfather was the one who first started a youth program in the Council Bluffs area. Think of all the great wrestlers to come out of SW Iowa who have displayed greatness on the wrestling mat.  Last names like Kjeldgaard, Paulson, Mason, Carruthers, Watters, Rodgers, Canoyer, etc. I wonder if they would have found wrestling if Adam’s grandpa hadn’t started a youth program in the area decades ago. I don’t have any knowledge as to what led to any of those last names getting involved with wrestling, but it’s fun to think about.  

I’ve interacted with Adam here and there for a couple years now and have always been impressed with his insight/knowledge of the sport, general intelligence, the way he treats people, etc. And what’s just as impressive as his familial history in SW Iowa is his SW Iowa wrestling pride and his determination to keep the ball rolling for wrestling in that region. To any current, past or prospective wrestlers from the SW Iowa region who may be reading, be thankful for guys like Adam Manz… they don’t grow on trees and if it weren’t for guys like him, who knows where wrestling would be in your region… This is a great guy right here! 

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

As a youth I grew up in Council Bluffs.  I wrestled for the CB Panthers, St. Albert Youth Wrestling Club, and Golden Eagles Wrestling Academy.  In high school I wrestled for Abraham Lincoln and in college I wrestled at Iowa Central and Dana College.


What year did you graduate?

I graduated from Abraham Lincoln in 2005.  I graduated from Iowa Central in 2007 and Dana College in 2010 but it was actually Midland University because Dana closed.


Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My grandfather, Leo Cash first started youth wrestling in Council Bluffs so I naturally started wrestling because of him.  My brother also wrestled so he along with my parents put me in wrestling for the CB Panthers.  If it wasn’t for my brother I’d just probably be an average Adam.


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

Leo Cash was my grandfather and he started the first youth program in Council Bluffs.  I am very proud to mention that.  Leo was a state qualifier in 1940 for Abraham Lincoln High School.  He then wrestled for the Navy’s Alameda Hellcats during WWII and competed at the national tournament, which I believe was the AAU.  My mother never wrestled but was on the first cheerleading squad for Abraham Lincoln Wrestling.  My father never wrestled but was a blessing in disguise because he could balance the family’s nack for wrestling and put everything into perspective.  My brother wrestled in Council Bluffs and was a 2x state qualifier and wrestled for Chuck Haas at University of Dubuque.  My nephew and niece wrestle, Mahri and Zander Manz.  Watching them wrestle is quite special because they have so many more talents then what my brother and I have so it is exciting to see them compete, develop, succeed, and even struggle.  My cousin also wrestled about the same time as me who had a lot of success, his name is Jimmy Watters.  I also have a son on the way that is due December 13, 2021 and if he chooses he might be a wrestler too, Cash James Manz.


What were your youth results?  Any rivals there?

As a youth I was pretty average or below average.  I was a 2nd or 3rd place king at most tournaments, but I had family and future high school coaches that always looked at the big picture for me.  My biggest rival at the youth age would have been Jared Clark from Harlan.  I could never beat this guy in youth.  He kept me out of the AAU tournament a time or two.  I only qualified once for the AAU tournament which I feel helped me in the long run.  I would really like to look back at that bracket.   My first match in high school was Jared Clark.  I thought, “here we go again,” but after the most tiring high school match I had I prevailed for the first time and it helped set the tone for the rest of my high school career.


What was your high school record in HS?

I believe it was 147-40???  I can’t quite remember.  I just know I took lumps.


How did you place at state/nationals every year?

9th- State Qualifier

10th- State Qualifier- one of the toughest state brackets of all time

11th- 7th

12th- 2nd

Qualified 3x NAIA National Tournament


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

I can remember two transition timeframes that could have made me or broke me.  The transition from 8th grade to high school and the transition from high school to college wrestling.  When making my way from 8th grade to high school I had my future high school coach, Clark Allen who cared about me greatly.  His son was one of my best buddies Logan Allen.  They took me to the state tournament as an 8th grader and I saw the barn and said, “this is where I want to be.”  A switch just changed for me and all those youth struggles began to come together.  My second transition period was high school to college.  I went from being the man at Abraham Lincoln to being a backup at Iowa Central.  However, if you are trapped in a room with some of the baddest dudes on the planet and can come out alive making it through the entire season you can transfer to any 4 year school but only if you have the grades, which is why so many went on to be great mma fighters.  My transition to Dana College was a bit different and I was ready wrestling wise but needed to adjust academically.  In this case I went from being the man academically at Iowa Central to being a backup academic student at Dana.  Long story short I adjusted and graduated with a 3.0 at Dana.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

RT1.  I might not always win but you will be sore tomorrow.


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

Tough one here but I have to say the Barber twins from Winterset. I’m not sure if I wrestled just one or both. I snuck one out with one of them in high school and one in college but I’d say they got the best of me after that.  They were tough and it always went down to the wire.  Also, Luke Stamp, on paper, is always better than me but I managed to sneak two out on him but he won when it counted at districts.  Same deal with Jay Sherer, I beat him 2 out of 3 times in college but then he went on to win a D2 title.


Who was your most influential coach?

I have to say Clark Allen, hands down.  He is a legend of Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln.  AL used to be the school to go to and it was because of Clark.  Besides my brother, I never met a guy that believed in me more.  I learned how to be “tuff” from this guy.  He was like Clint Eastwood and John Wayne mixed into one.  He helped me become confident in who I was as a wrestler and I always knew he had my back.  Still to this day I look up to Clark and I knew the first day I stepped into the high school wrestling room I wanted to take his spot as a head coach at AL.  I can’t go without mentioning a few other coaches I had that impacted my career, Leo Cash, August Manz, Tom Harm, Jimmy Rollins, Beau Vest, Luke Moffitt, Troy Bennett, and Keith Massey.


Leo Cash and August Manz helped pave my passion for wrestling.  August helped me get through some great times and some very tough times.  Tom Harm lugged me around with his boys and took me in.  Jimmy Rollins and I have become great friends but helped me through my Dana days.  Luke and Troy made me understand what “tuff” means and you have to work through your peaks and valleys.  Beau made me understand the importance of family.  Keith Massey helped me polish up my technique while being a wooden roller coaster.


Was your team competitive in HS/College?

While in high school we had a stout team my sophomore year.  We came close to beating an in town rival that I believe won dual state.  It came down to the last match but we just didn’t have enough to get the job done.

While at Iowa Central we won Nationals both years along with national duals and I believe the team won it the next 3 years.

At Dana, we finished 5th, an unmentionable year, and 8th as a team.  We had placed each of the three years at national duals.


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

Of course Dan Gable is right up there. I was just a huge fan of wrestling and loved taking it in.  When I was young I was able to watch a lot of great events in my area.  I went to my first Division 2 National Championships where I was able to watch some great wrestling at an early age.  I was also lucky to watch the Kauffman/Brand Open every year.  One of the most memorable matches was Tony Davis vs Trent Paulson, epic.  Davis wasn’t aware of the new overtime rules introduced that year. I was also very lucky to have a brother that lugged me to the D1 National Tournament each year and still to this day.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS Wrestler?

This is a tough one but I’d have to say David Kjelgaard.  The amount of Cadet and Junior National titles he won was quite impressive.  After the fact, I realized he beat Cael Sanderson for one of those titles was mind blowing. Winning the Junior Hodge put him in a short list category.  I wish David’s knees held up over the years so that we could have seen his potential, however, it sounds like he is getting along quite well.  Him and his family are a well respected family and held to high regard.


How proud are you of your SW Iowa roots?  Do you feel the future is bright for SWI wrestling?

I am extremely proud to be from Southwest Iowa.  I feel that we have great wrestlers here and you see notable teams like Logan Magnolia, Underwood, Creston, and Atlantic do well each year. I would like to help put Abraham Lincoln back on this list. One factor that we run into is that our population doesn’t compare to eastern Iowa.  I think our bigger schools have some work to do to get back where they used to be but I am confident in what my coaching staff and I are doing at CB Abraham Lincoln to do our part to be a notable force in the state.  The last several years (minus COVID) we have put together the SWI Wrestling Series.  It is a traveling series in the summer where all of us schools get together and scrap.  This year the turnout was great and us coaches will look to evolve this series.


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

I am going to pick a couple of SWI wrestlers here:

Alex Thompson vs Chad Zaputil

McGwire Midkiff vs Josh Watts

Colton Clingenpeel vs David Kjelgaard

I could go on for days.  This would be a good conversation piece.


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

Mitch Mueller, Brad Stockton, Christian Abrams and Andre Vandervelde.  Mitch is just a nice guy but I used to compete against him in high school and he’d kick my butt.  I was in ahh watching him dismantle his opponents.  I remember I was one of the next matches when Zach McCray upset Mitch.  I felt like the air was moving and I couldn’t even hear myself think.  Mitch sucked it up and came back to take 3rd.  Brad Stockton was very similar to Mitch.  Brad was dominant and fun to watch score points.  Andre Vandervelde now coaches with me but he was such a good teammate to me that it really made my freshman year experience special.  Christian Abrams was just a tough Dodger that I was impressed with managing to take 4th  place (2003) in what I feel is one of the toughest state wrestling brackets to date.  I wrestled him my senior year in the quarter finals and it was such a fun battle.  I moved to Fort Dodge the next year to attend Iowa Central and briefly got to know Christian.


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Ronnie Gentile, Abner Romero, Spencer Lee, Thomas Gilman, Yianni Diakomiholis, Adam Coon, Jordan Burroughs, Kyle Dake, Kyle Snyder, etc…


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

Well I grew up in the non skip cd player era and let me tell ya, it skipped unless I ran with it level in my hand.  Everyday I would get up early in the morning and run to Guns N Roses, Appetite for Destruction.  Then one day when my cd player took a crap.  I was trying to cut weight and I felt sorry for myself.  Luckily I had a dad that set me straight and found a way to motivate me.  My dad treated me and bought me my first mp3 player.  Having a dad that didn’t wrestle really helped me out.  My mom was the one that would let me have my ear full when I needed it.


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

Probably my junior year in college at Dana College.  My match to be an all-american, I had majored the guy 3 weeks prior at the conference meet.  I wasn’t prepared and reflect back on that match still to this day but I’ve come to terms with it and have learned.

My senior year in college I was in the same situation, a match before being an all-american I lost a close match to the number 1 ranked wrestler and I left my career not being an all-american.  At the end of the day it didn’t matter if I beat several all-americans/national champs I didn’t do my job.  Those matches trump my state finals loss.  I think the state finals loss made me hungry to be a college wrestler.  I think if I won I would have been content.


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

Tough saying because I think any successes or failures helped shape me into the person I am today.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

I would have to say all of the friends I have made over the years in high school and college.  I still stay in touch with all my coaches and a lot of teammates.  It has been a fun experience but now that I am a coach I have had a lot more fun experiences.  Helping coach a top 10 3A team and having coached 2 state champions was pretty special.


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

Once I got to high school it became year round.  No doubt in my mind that my freestyle and greco seasons helped me accelerate my career.  The Golden Eagles Wrestling Academy was ahead of its time.


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

Winners win.  The sport has definitely evolved but your top notch guys from any era would find a way to win.


Did you wrestle after high school?

Iowa Central from 05-07

Dana College 07-10


What other sports did you play?

I was a 3x Junior Varsity Award winner in Cross Country haha.  With wrestling year round it made it difficult to do other sports without having to sit out.  I’m not much for sitting so I focused my efforts on wrestling once I made it to high school.  Prior to high school I did pretty much all your normal sports.  All my wrestling buddies and I were on the “C” team basketball team in junior high.  That was a spectacle in itself.


What are your favorite sports teams?

I’m not much of a sports fan but I do enjoy the UFC, the Iowa Hawkeyes/HWC, Oklahoma State Cowboys, and the NWTC..  It probably helped that I had a bunch of buddies fight mma to hold my interest.


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

I enjoy home repairs.  I am about as amateur as it gets but with the power of YouTube I can make it look like a crapier version of what I watched.  I am a big collector and enjoy going to antique/ flea markets.  I probably have one of the biggest key collections most people have seen.  I collect regular/skeleton keys and my buddy Scooter Davis got me into collecting my hotel key cards.  I’ve been doing that since 7th grade.


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

It feels great giving back.  I am very proud to have coached so many wrestlers over the years.  With my grandfather and brother being a coach it makes it even more special. For me it doesn’t matter if the wrestler is wrestling for a state title or for his first junior varsity win.  If they are willing to work hard and put the time in then I got their back.

I am super proud to have two former wrestlers coaching with me.  Nick Mitchell who was a 2x state qualifier and wrestled 4 years at Buena Vista.  I am also coaching with McGwire Midkiff who was a 4x placewinner and state champion.  McGwire just finished up his degree at North Dakota State and competed for the Bison.


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

Well it has made me very sore each morning waking up but it’s worth it haha.  Wrestling has paved the way for me when it comes to getting the most out of each day.  I like to stay busy and think of my glass always half full because it could always be worse.  I owe my parents, coaches, teammates and wrestling so much because it has allowed me to reflect back on myself and my accomplishments and be proud.  Now I look forward to being a father and continuing to live that championship lifestyle.


What do you do now?

I work for the Council Bluffs Community School District and work for a program called TAP.  I help 14-25 year olds with different abilities find meaningful work.  I take a lot of pride in my job and enjoy it very much.  When I was in school I wasn’t much of a Science, Math, Social Studies, or English type of guy but I did know I could work.  Now I get to teach people how to develop their skill set.  It’s great and I am thankful my district has taken on this program.


Are you still involved in wrestling?

For sure and have been since I was 6 years old.  I coached at CB Thomas Jefferson for a long time but now I am back at my alma mater, Abraham Lincoln.  I am very blessed to get to coach with the staff we have at AL.  I have to give them a shout out because they are always helping our wrestlers.  Nate Harm, Luke Harm, Mike Childers, McGwire Midkiff, Nick Mitchell, Mat Daniels, and Andre Vandervelde.

I also coach the Cobra Wrestling Program and have coached at SWIFT for a number of years.  The Cobra youth program has some great coaches as well and I am sorry if I miss anyone but I also coach with August Manz, Colton Downing, Nate Kelso, Jeremy Clingenpeel, Aaron Anderson, John Schorsch, Shea Minor, Andre Vandervelde and Mike Childers.


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Wrestling is hard and it doesn’t come easy.  Learn to enjoy putting yourself in uncomfortable situations in a controlled environment and learn to be intrinsically motivated.  I would tell new wrestlers this in a much simpler way depending on the age.


Any chance we see you wrestle again at an old times tournament?

I highly doubt it.  My typical rule of thumb is I only work out with you if you still have eligibility.  I try to preserve my aches and pains for wrestlers that compete, however, I’m never against settling a late night bet.  Ask Luke Harm.


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

A shout out to my parents and brother for keeping me in line.  Another shout out to all my coaches throughout the years.  Without all that help I would probably struggle.  Last shout out to my wife, Mandy Manz for putting up with me.  I am probably hard to live with and she is barring my child.  I’m sure that’s not easy.

Also, thank you Swaff for doing all these articles and all the content that you have put up.  You have the best intentions in the world and I always look forward to the content Pin Doctors has up.


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