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Remember The Wrestler, Rob Hoback of Columbus Jct.

Rob Hoback… he’s a legend in Southeast Iowa. One of the best athletes to ever come out of the region. 

His 1998 Senior Year State Championship:

 

This is his Junior year finals loss vs. Frank Marchant, but I felt like both these guys had moments where they displayed crazy athleticism in this match:

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My parents were always encouraging me to try every sport. My Dad might even tell you that I learned to wrestle from watching the movie Vision Quest. LOL

 

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

Wrestling family. My oldest son is in his senior year and just won districts. Making another run a state. My brother Andy Hoback qualified a couple times and placed 4th his senior year.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals?

Made it to state a couple times but never placed. Not really.

 

What was your record in HS?

148-24. Wrestled some hammers my freshman year!!

 

How did you place at state every year?

Qualified sophomore year, 2nd junior year, 1st senior year.

 

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

Moment: Freshman year, Sectionals and I am in overtime with Drew Achenbach from North English Valley. Couple stalemates and we are down to about 15 seconds left. I hit a takedown and he fights it off at first but then I start to gain the upper hand. I get what I think was the takedown and jump up and start back to the middle of the mat. I then get tackled from behind and then hear the whistle. We meet in the center, shake hands and I go to raise my hand and the ref holds it down and raises Drew’s. The crowd went nuts!!! The ref turned to me and said, “ Don’t stop wrestling until I blow the whistle.” I was crushed! No wrestle back either. Drew got caught and pinned in the finals. I got to redeem myself at state duels and came away with a couple wins.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Greased Lightening!! LOL I am not sure what you would call it. I know that I loved being on my feet and I loved finding new ways to take people down.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I can’t pick just one because they all had skin in the game. They were the best!!

 

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

Sophomore year at state and I had to win this match to solidify becoming a place winner. I had wrestled this dude in sectionals and districts and could not beat him. Brian Ewing from Moravia. It was always close as was this match. I lost 5-4. I still think about that match. Oh yeah and when I lost in the finals my junior year. Crazy disappointed!

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yes!! Beyond competitive.

 

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

When I got to the junior high/high school years, it was Randy Pugh. He set the bar high!! But there are a lot more guys out there that definitely helped me along the way.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

The whole Hawkeye Lineup.

 

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

Junior year, state finals was pretty upsetting!! LOL

 

What sports did you play?

Football, Wrestling, Baseball, Track and Field.

 

How did you do in each of them?

Four year letter winner in every sport in high school. All state honors in all four. Would have to look at the record books. LOL

 

Who were some athletes that you looked up to growing up?

Too many to name.

 

How has your skills you picked up wrestling helped your game in other sports? How did other sports help your wrestling game?

Wrestling taught you to be in good position all the time to accomplish your objective. That helps in other sports and all walks of life.

 

What are some of your favorite memories of every sport you play?

Playing at the Unidome in football, Giving Mr. Purdy a hard time on the way to Dickinson relays for Track, and so many more.

 

What accolades are you most proud of from every sport?

Getting awarded The Hawkeye Athlete of the Year in 1998, Placed 4 times at State Track and Field meet.

 

Is your entire family athletic?

I would have to say yes. Both parents were very athletic. It was also something that drove me personally. I had some of the same teachers and coaches that my parents did when they were in school. I had to listen to stories about them and how it wasn’t going to be easy filling their shoes. My brother and sister were also amazing athletes!

 

Would you consider being a multi sport athlete as becoming more and more discouraged as time goes on for people who want to play a sport in college? What would you say to a HS athlete who is considering not going out for a sport they love because they feel like it’ll be held against them for not dedicating that time to the one sport they plan on playing in college?

Absolutely becoming more discouraged now-a-days. I believe not only is it discouraged, but it can also hinder an athlete from getting accepted into a college/program that they are more then qualified to attend and compete at.
To an athlete that is thinking about not going out for a sport they love: Don’t worry too much about it. You as an athlete will know your limitations and will make the right decisions. No one intentionally sets themselves up for failure.

 

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

Not sure what I would change. Maybe could have won more of the close ones.

 

What was your best wrestling memory/accomplishment? How hard did you work?

Senior year, 48-0, State Champ, Team duel Champs. We had a highly successful season. We worked our butts off.

 

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

From freshman to senior year. Here are a few in no particular order: Josh Dorothy, Justin Jeffs, Ryan Stevens, Tommy Hahn, Ben Scorpil and the list goes on.

 

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

Seasonal

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes

 

What other sports did you play?

Football, Baseball, Track & Field

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Anything Hawkeye!!!

 

What are your hobbies?

Crossfit!!! Anything outdoors hunting, fishing etc. Spending time with family and hanging out with friends. Love watching me some wrestling!! Can’t wait to be able to go watch in person again.

 

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

It has definitely made me a competitor in all aspects of life and has giving me the mindset of, “there’s nothing you can do to keep me from accomplishing my goals. I will find a way to succeed!”

 

What do you do now?

Power Plant Controls & Instrumentation Technician 1. I work for the Best Damn Utility Company!! Muscatine Power & Water

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Yes

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Nail the basics the other stuff will come. Have fun!

 

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

Probably not.

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Remember The Wrestler: Eric Schares, Don Bosco

 

Out of all wrestling media, past and present, if I were to list my top 5-10 favorite wrestling media writers, personalities, announcers, etc. may surprise people, but it’s heavily influenced by those I grew up reading and/or looking up to.  Some of these come to mind immediately…

Tim Johnson is far and away my favorite individual in wrestling media…actually, he may be up there with Jack Buck as my favorite in all of sports.  Tim is a born and raised Southeast Iowan like myself and has lived a life and accomplished things I could only dream of achieving.  And he reached his success by being true to himself.  The passion he has for the sport of wrestling is detectible to anyone who takes a second to listen to him for a few seconds and his takes are always spot-on and from a variety of angles, for he has worn a lot of wrestling “hats” in his day….wrestler, coach, commentator, advocate…. He is the wrestling media GOAT, to me and likely always will be.  

Jim Thompson is a man who compiled the 1A/2A rankings for The Predicament for decades and when I initially began writing about wrestling on forums in HS, he was someone I always really looked up to.  

So many people associate me with the late Dan McCool due to our shared love for wrestling history (and really, that’s basically the one thing he and I have in common), but to be honest, I never read much of his work. That’s not written with intentions of slighting or disrespecting Mr. McCool at all… He was great and I love his book, “Reach For The Stars.”  I use that book as a reference at times. He’s just not who I grew up reading… He wrote for The Des Moines Register. We rarely ever even encountered a Des Moines Register in my area.  In Southeast Iowa, we get a newspaper called The Hawkeye and 1 in 10 or so will buy a CR Gazette or QC Times. I can’t recall ever seeing a DM Register newspaper laying around my house…so I didn’t read much McCool.  The Hawkeye is based out of Burlington. With this situation, I was spoiled, for I grew up reading a couple of the state’s best ever wrestling journalists in Craig Sesker and Matt Levins.  So they are up there for me.  

There is a man named Todd Conner who used to have a wrestling newspaper and it was awesome.  

Of course, The Predicament staff, past and present…Wyatt…

I really like reading or following anything KJ Pilcher publishes.  He’s got an intriguing writing style and he was a good wrestler himself, so he receives bonus points for that. 

Lars Underbakke from IAwrestle is great and very knowledgeable.

In certain ways, Tony Hager from IAwrestle has been better to me than pretty much anyone else in wrestling media has been, which is ironic considering he and I had a rough patch there. He has given me opportunities to reach his audience, which is much larger than mine… that was pretty cool of him. He’s up there. 

In a nutshell, that is the jist of some of my personal favorites and something that those guys with an exception of Tony and Lars all have in common is that they are people I looked up to BEFORE I began covering wrestling.  Even Lars was “Fulsaas Fan” on the forums when I began. However, if I were to make a list of my favorite wrestling media personalities, it’d be incomplete if I were to leave out one of my all-time favorites who started covering wrestling AFTER I did… And that’s Eric Schares from Don Bosco. He covers wrestling for Iowa wrestling media outlet, IAwrestle.com  He is one of the most knowledgeable people you will ever talk to in regards to wrestling at multiple levels (you won’t find anyone more knowledgeable about 1A HS wrestling in IA). Even if you disagree with any take he may have, he has his own logic/reasoning to back up it up and he’s consistent with it.  And to make him a borderline intimidating presence in the wrestling media world is his cunning ability to display unbelievable wit in his responses to those who may disagree with him…. I am good at this myself and generally never shy away from a good old fashioned “flame war,” if necessary and I rarely ever encounter anyone who I would feel inclined to avoid said “flame wars” if they did in fact, unravel. I win 99% of them.  Schares is an exception. He’s a dude I won’t mess with.  Probably the only one.  I’ve seen people try to contest his takes in disrespectful fashion several times before and he just rips them to shreds.  That’s another thing I like about him. He will not hold back or paint a prettier picture for you than necessary to ensure you don’t get your feelings hurt.  He will argue with you….and he is able to push a person’s buttons and get them frazzled in doing so and 9 times out of 10, he is right about whatever topic it may be to begin with…or at the very least, has his own logic for it.  If wrestling ever grows to a point where ESPN/Fox Sports/etc. analysts are sought out, discovered and hired to cover the sport, Eric Schares should be one of the first ones contacted. He’s good. And he’s entertaining. Even if someone doesn’t like him, they can’t deny that he brings some excitement to the equation just out of his willingness to unapologetically be himself… 

And as unpleasant as he may come off to someone who disagrees with him, the man has got a heart of gold and that is observable by the way he discusses some of the individuals in wrestling who influenced him. Most notably with Don Bosco people… You’ll never find someone who genuinely loves their squad moreso than Eric Schares genuinely loves and appreciates the wrestlers/coaches to come through the Don Bosco program.  He will be loyal to Don Bosco for life and I couldn’t respect him more for it.  

I’ve observed several disputes that fans/wrestlers have had with IAwrestle in the past.  In fact, I am notorious for being part of a fairly highly publicized beef with them myself, something I am happy to have put behind me by now. A lot of times, when someone is upset with an IAwrestle take, people will resort to calling their staff out for not having a wrestling background, when in reality, these people failed to do their homework with them. The staff at IAwrestle is tougher than people realize. To start, the owner, Tony Hager was a phenomenal wrestler in HS… He was a 3X placer/2X finalist.  Lars Underbakke wrestled for Cresco, a downright wrestling history hotbed. And of course, Eric Schares. He was a state place-winner for Don Bosco in his day. A great wrestler.  So for anyone reading, keep that in mind if you want to get snippy with those guys….the IAwrestle guys have some very impressive wrestling accolades on their resumes and they DO know the in’s and out’s of the sport.  So be prepared if you are brave enough to cyber-scrap with someone like Eric Schares. He is a super bright individual who grew up in a community in which wrestling is part of the culture.  Wrestling is a second language to him and he can speak it fluently and with the speed of that guy who used to “speed talk” on the old Micro Machines commercials. The wrestlers who grew up in Gilbertville should feel proud to have grown up in the rich wrestling atmosphere they did and further, should feel proud that it’s home to passionate people like Eric Schares.  A guy I really look up to. 

And some advice for you all.  If you ever find yourself in the middle of an intense internet battle with Eric, keep in mind….he is probably laughing at how ticked off he is making you….  🙂

 

 

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

It was Bosco my whole life. Wrestled in the kids club there all the way through high school. In the summers we would practice with La Porte and Columbus a lot.

 

What year did you graduate?

2005

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

I don’t really recall what got me into it. I think maybe I saw my good buddy Joe Girsch doing it, so I decided to give it a try. I know I first started going to peewee practice in 1st grade and wrestled my first tournament in 2nd grade. I just liked going and hanging out with my friends, my dad and brother, and all of his friends at the weekend tournaments. My mom was always there supporting me too.

 

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

My younger brother (Who is much bigger than me) finished 5th in 2007 and got 2nd in 2008. My first cousin Bryce was a 2x state qualifier a few years ago for Bosco. My 6 year old son Graham just started competing a little this year. We have been to 2 tournaments so far and it makes me so happy just seeing him having fun with his buddies while spiking some dudes on the mat. My 3 year old daughter, Sloane, also participates in practice. They are both very feisty little red heads.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I qualified for AAU State my 6th grade year but went 0-2, Finished 4th at AAU my 8th grade year. I cant say as I ever really had a rival. A lot of good guys that would hand me a monthly beating maybe. Probably the closest was Trevor Kittelson. I beat him a couple of times in freestyle and Greco early in my high school career then he got the better of me later on. I must have showed him the key to being a great wrestler.

 

What was your record in HS?

75ish and 25ish. I could probably look it up but it was pretty close to that. I missed almost my entire senior year with a broken hand from football. I came back the week before sectionals.

 

How did you place at state every year?

Finished 5th place my senior year. I was ranked around 7th my junior year, but lost at sectionals and never got a wrestleback because Charlie Ettelson was also in that bracket. Would I like to have that match back? Of course, but I just flat out got beat. I just didn’t force the action. Although, I don’t feel being a 2x placer winner over just doing it once would have changed my life in any meaningful way. It probably made me appreciate things a little more my senior year down at state.

 

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

One of my biggest battles was always just finding a spot in the lineup. Mack Reiter was at the weight that would have been the most optimal for me my freshman and sophomore year. Both the weights above that each year had a state placewinner for us at them also. I tried cutting a ton of weight each year to make the next lowest weight class. My freshman year, the weight just was not there to lose to make 103 so I went up to 125. My sophomore year I actually made 119 twice, but I was a shell of myself. I took a few losses those first two weeks to kids I had no business losing to. I made the decision to go up to 135, I won my first try out but lost the spot to Phil O’Loughlin who would go on to qualify that year and then win state 2 years later. My junior year I was at a good weight, had a great season beating a lot of guys that would go on to place, I just took that one loss at sectionals and all of the sudden I was sitting back crying my eyes out knowing that 3 quarters of my high school career were gone. I was in a pretty dark place then and wrestling was not really fun anymore. I broke my hand in football before the start of my senior wrestling season. To this day I still think that breaking my hand was the best thing that ever could have happened to me. It allowed me to still work on my conditioning, but just watch wrestling for a few months again and fall back in love with it.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I felt like I was always in better shape than everyone I wrestled. I probably didn’t use that to the best of my ability in my style though. I like to go upper body a lot, but I scored a lot of takedowns with my quickness from anklepicks and ducks. I think the best way to describe my style was probably a strategist. If I had a lead late, it was over. I scored a lot at the end of periods, knew how to work the edge, could ride well enough to keep guys from scoring. I call it a strategist, you might call it a staller!

 

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

Honestly not many. The Bosco crew would always travel around to find the best competition so that usually kept us from seeing the same people too much. I think Doug Reiter made a lot of calls ahead to kids tournament directors and made sure all of our brackets were loaded. I felt like we had a truck load of great wrestlers coming home with 3rd and 4th place trophies a lot.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

That’s a tough one. Most of the coaches at Bosco now either came after I left or were just starting towards the end of my career. I would have to go with Doug Reiter though. I don’t think I ever learned a bit of technique from the guy, but he was a master with the mental aspect. The best I can put it into words was he had a way of pumping you up while calming you down simultaneously. I think the mental side of wrestling is talked about a lot and still not enough. It is absolutely everything. That’s another thing I really like to study when I watch wrestling and talk about it. I like watching and hearing about what different wrestlers mentalities are. I don’t think there is a one size fits all mental approach. My junior year I was at my best as far as technique and conditioning went and that season didn’t end how I wanted. My senior year, I probably traded in a little conditioning and technique for a huge improvement in my mentality and it paid off for me.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

We won state duals by freshman and senior years. We finished 2nd my sophomore year. It was a lot of fun winning state titles with guys I grew up with riding bikes across Gilbertville and getting into trouble just being knuckle head little kids.

 

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

I followed everyone. I knew all the Bosco guys and who their biggest rivals were. I was winning money of older guys in state champion pick ‘em tournaments back in grade school, so it is hard to put my finger on just one guy. I loved watching them all.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

It’s always going to be Mack Reiter for me. I learned a lot from him on his work ethic. That was always my goal in conditioning was to match how hard he was working or top it. I tried to beat him in every crawl, sprint, or 3 man rolls.

 

You’ve covered wrestling for IAwrestle for a few years now, how has the experience been for you?

Been a lot of fun. It is a lot of work constantly trolling Tony Hager. I just love having fun with it. I’m always looking for the perfect joke. I have fun with some of the behind the scenes access it gives me to events. I just love watching how wrestlers take big wins and losses in the bowels of an arena while nobody is watching. It something I have always studied. Not necessarily study as in sit down at a desk and breakdown film, but I just like watching it. There is something that I have never really been able to put into words about it. I love big matches that have huge consequences for the winner and also the loser. It brings out the best in people or even just who they really are. I think I can kind of feel for guys that don’t get what they want because a lot of times I didn’t get what I wanted. To me the best part is trying to figure out why it did or didn’t go well for someone.  I ask the question “why” a lot when it comes to decisions made on the mat or in training to other coaches an athletes. Sometimes it gets perceived as me second guessing, but it’s really just me trying to figure out what makes people successful.

 

In order to grow wrestling, what are some things we could do to make it happen?

Do away with the “Good Ole Boys” mentality and open up to new ideas.

 

What is a crazy or funny experience you’ve had so far in your time covering the rankings?

How mid to low ranked Western Iowa 1a guys love trading losses back and forth to make my life hell when trying to put together a top 12.

 

Do you like doing rankings or do you have a love-hate relationship with it? What is your philosophy on how you do yours?

It is a lot of work filling all of Tony’s demands. I don’t do rankings like most other people. Some of it is the same like if wrestler A beats B then A is ranked higher, but I also put a lot of my predictions in there more so than other people. At the end of the day when all the dust has settled at state, nobody will remember how I came to the conclusion of ranking a guy first instead of second. They will just remember that I had the guy at #1 who won the tournament.

 

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

Generally, I think the top end guys get better from era to era. I’m not a big fan of the back in my day stories and how much tougher they had it. Selfishly I’d always like to see how that 2005 class from my senior year stacked up against other eras though.

 

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

A lot of guys from that 2005 class. I knew how hard I worked to get where I got so it was a constant struggle I had trying to figure out if those guys really put that much more work in than me or if it was all back to that mentality. I worked out with a 4xer everyday for more of my career than I didn’t and I felt I held my own in the work department. That’s what keeps me up at nights is trying to figure out what separates those two people.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Can we switch this to favorite current high school athlete? For me that would be Cael Frost. I just love his mentality when it comes to sports. I think to be successful on the mat or the field you have to have a level of naïve confidence as Mack Reiter calls it. Some people think they are good, but Cael knows it. When the smack talk starts from the other team, he gets better.

 

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

Rock 108 was what the radio was always on in the wrestling room. Disturbed, Saliva, Godsmack, Metallica. Any music similar to that. I still listen to that on my long runs, it just sets the tone mentally for me. Even to this day certain songs take me back to some of the battles I had in the practice room with Todd Becker, Nick Weber, and Adam Weber. It didn’t hurt having a state champ, 3rd place finisher, and D3 all American to wrestle with everyday.

 

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

It’s that sectional loss my junior year and nothing else is even close.

 

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

Probably the one I mentioned 2-3 times already my junior year, but just for fun lets throw another one in. The summer after my freshman year at Fargo I was 3-0 in Greco and wrestling a kid from Oklahoma. He launched me for 5 early, but I threw him to his back late in the match. Was millimeter from pinning him as time ran out. I lost my next match too and I was done. Had I won that match I would’ve AAed at Fargo.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Probably my win first round at state my senior year, I beat the #2 ranked wrestler in the tiebreakers. I remember my Dad and Doug Reiter in the front row of the seats at Vets just going crazy.I could hear everything they were saying. Another memory that goes with that is after I pinned my guy in the wrestleback to place, I had a “Ricky Bobby, I don’t know what to do with my hands” moment. I just kind of ran off the mat past my coaches and there was my dad right there probably ready to hug me and I just ran right by him, it didn’t really fully register until I was down in the basement of Vets that I just ran right by him without acknowledging him. I didn’t know where I was running I just kind of ran with no end game.

 

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

I was a 4 sport athlete so not year round.Most of the way through high school we would get 50+ Freco matches in a summer.

 

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

Jay Borschel, Joey Slaton, Dan LeClere, Mitch Mueller, Chad Beatty, Matt Fields, etc………….you tell me

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

I am undefeated post high school. Won a match in OT at a Don Bosco alumni meet. One of my biggest regrets was not going to a smaller college and wrestling after high school.

 

What other sports did you play?

Baseball was my favorite sport and still probably is. That was the sport I was best at. I played baseball in college at NIACC.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Atlanta Braves and Iowa Hawkeyes. I am can be a very irrational fan at times.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Hanging out with family. We are always doing something together.

 

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

I think it is what makes Bosco so great. You have 10 coaches that are basically donating their time to keep Bosco at the top. Not many if any teams have as many accolades as the Bosco coaching staff and they are doing it not for the money, but because they love doing it.

 

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

I think wrestling helps people elevate when times get tough in life or at work. In my profession there are a lot of times where a dangerous part of a tree needs to be removed, and I feel like I thrive in those situations because you are so use to people looking at you expecting you to perform when it’s only you and your opponent under the spotlight. I like that pressure of being the go to guy in the toughest situations, there is a lot of pride that goes with that.

 

What do you do now?

Troll people on the internet mostly.

I work for the City of Waverly. In my position, I am the City Forester as well as in charge of conservation efforts through maintaining the towns prairies and natural areas.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I do what I can at IAwrestle although it is less now with a family. I helped Joe Reiter out coaching the 3rd-8th graders in Gilbertville for 5 or so years. Now I help Isaiah Corbin at practices with the Preschool-2nd graders which mostly consists of drilling them with dodgeballs.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Don’t ever look at a loss and use it as a measuring stick for where you think you stack up compared to anyone else. Don’t allow it to be a measure stick.

 

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

Absolutely not. I felt my conditioning was what gave me an edge when I wrestled. Since I don’t have that anymore, I’d probably get worked.

 

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

I want to give a shoutout to my wife. I feel like all my answers were geared towards my high school days before I met my wife so she never came up in them. Jacki loves wrestling too, we regularly go to wrestling meets and tournaments from Bosco to UI meets. We always make the trip to the state tournament too. I enjoy watching wrestling and spending time with her.

 

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

I imagine this is that last Remember The Wrestler you will be doing since I am easily the least accomplished person to do this so you must be scraping the bottom of the barrel.

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Cullan Schriever… One of my favorite wrestlers….EVER. A technical wizard on the mat. I’ve never seen someone so efficiently utilize a spectrum of set-ups to score a plethora of takedowns each match quite like Cullan Schriever.  When he’s on and healthy, his game is systematic and borderline flawless and if you know what you are looking at when you watch him, it is quite the show.

So Cullan CAN’T have a case for the GOAT since he only won 3 titles, right?  WRONG. I refuse to put much stock in the one year that he did not win state.  It was his Junior year and he was terribly injured. A broken ankle, I believe.  And he STILL managed to place at state.  Unbelievable. On full-health, Cullan is nothing less than a legit comparison to undefeated 4X state champion and 2X national champion Hawkeye, Eric Juergens of Maquoketa. In fact, he reminds me a lot of Eric. He’s THAT good.

Cullan was able to accomplish some things that only the elite of the elite in the NATION were able to achieve.  Take a look at this resume:

  • 3X State Champion, 4x placer.
  • Fargo cadet freestyle champion in 2016…
  • Fargo junior freestyle champion in 2018…
  • 2017 Super 32 champion
  • Folkstyle cadet national champion in 2016
  • Two-time UWW Cadet All-American

Try to think of some other Iowa HS guys who Schriever’s accolades aren’t on par with…. I’m waiting.  I mean, the kid won Super 32…Who else has done that? Fredy Stroker?

Schriever is a product of Sebolt Wrestling Academy… So is current Fort Dodge Senior, Drake Ayala.  Drake is one of the Iowa HS GOAT’s in his own right and is trying to become a 3X state champion this year himself… The one year he didn’t win state, who stopped him? You guessed it, Cullan Schriever.

Does Cullan Schriever have a case as Iowa HS wrestling’s GOAT?  If you don’t think so, you are wrong… plain and simply.  In fact, he very well could be the best I’ve ever witnessed on the Iowa HS wrestling scene.  I’d love to see how he would do in some hypothetical matchups against other Iowa HS greats…. I am 100% Cullan would handle himself just fine against anyone you throw out there with him.

And my respect for him exceeds the wrestling mat, for a couple years ago when I covered 3A wrestling for The Predicament, the Mason City trio of Cullan, his twin brother Colby and 285 lber. Troy Monahan were some of the most impressive athletes I met all year.  All three were polite, well-spoken and showed patience with me when I had some technical issues. You seriously just couldn’t ask for a better trio of guys to represent your team in the manner those three did on and off the mat. RESPECT to Mason City’s wrestling community!!!!

I’m a huge fan of this kid… He is my favorite Hawkeye right now.

 


2017 3A 106

  • 1st Place – Cullan Schriever of Mason City
  • 2nd Place – Ben Monroe of Ankeny Centennial
  • 3rd Place – Cody Anderson of Waukee
  • 4th Place – Conrad Braswell of Prairie, Cedar Rapids
  • 5th Place – Nick Oldham of Valley, WDM
  • 6th Place – Evan Yant of Waverly-Shell Rock
  • 7th Place – Nathan Kahoe of Des Moines Lincoln
  • 8th Place – Hans vonRabenau of Iowa City, West

2018 3A 106

  • 1st Place – Cullan Schriever of Mason City
  • 2nd Place – Drake Ayala of Fort Dodge
  • 3rd Place – Lucas Uliano of Waukee
  • 4th Place – Devin Harmison of Southeast Polk
  • 5th Place – Ethan Wood-Finley of Iowa City, City High
  • 6th Place – Aiden Evans of Bettendorf
  • 7th Place – Rheiner Stahlbaum of Johnston

 

2019 3A 120

  • 1st Place – Carson Taylor of Fort Dodge
  • 2nd Place – Hunter Garvin of Iowa City, West
  • 3rd Place – Aiden Evans of Bettendorf
  • 4th Place – Keaton Moret of Norwalk
  • 5th Place – Thomas Edwards of Johnston
  • 6th Place – Cullan Schriever of Mason City
  • 7th Place – Nick Miller of Waukee
  • 8th Place – Nick Walters of Sioux City, North

 

2020 3A 126

  • 1st Place – Cullan Schriever of Mason City
  • 2nd Place – Carson Taylor of Fort Dodge
  • 3rd Place – Ayden Kingery of Southeast Polk
  • 4th Place – Thomas Edwards of Johnston
  • 5th Place – Bryce Parke of Linn-Mar – Marion
  • 6th Place – Grant Harbour of Norwalk
  • 7th Place – Connor Kelley of Waukee
  • 8th Place – Jackson Helmkamp of Ankeny Centennial
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Remember The Wrestler: Wes Pargeon, Montezuma HS

A lot of you have been following The Pin Doctors and what I’ve been  up to with it since the day I started it a little over a year ago. I don’t feel like I’m going out on too much of a limb when I say that many of you have had a lot of fun in your time spent here, which makes me feel proud beyond words. My brother, Shea discovered how much fun people on a wide scale level have had on the site a few months ago. He was pretty proud of what I am doing after a conversation he had with someone while coaching a football game…and he can be a bit of an tough sell for me. If he likes or dislikes something I’m doing, he’s not afraid to hurt my feelings about it. And if you do something well in his eyes, you earned it, for he will not flourish you with even the most microscopic of compliments unless he means it.  So you can about imagine my excitement when he got ahold of me one night, noticeably excited. He indicated to me that he couldn’t wait to tell me whatever it was he had to tell me. When I got him on the phone, he said that someone he had just met that night at the football game had some nice things to say about the site and about me. The way he described it, during a break, he was having a routine conversation about wrestling with the officiating crew when he mentioned that his brother launched a wrestling website. Shea isn’t necessarily an avid reader or follower of the site, so I don’t think he expected anyone to know what it was. When the crew asked him what it was called, he told them it was The Pin Doctors and to his surprise, every one of their faces lit up and it became apparent to him that not only did they all know what it was, but they all really liked it. It was one of the first signs for Shea that the site had actually been getting somewhere in terms of it becoming widespread and received well amongst the wrestling community… That there may be something to this wrestling site I was always babbling about.

When I asked him who these people were, he told me 3 names, but pointed out that one of them seemed to be a more avid reader/follower than the other two. His name was Wes Pargeon from Montezuma. Ironically, I had just become familiarized with Wes’s name within the 2-3 weeks leading to that evening, for I had recently uploaded his state finals match. Also, I almost bought a truck from a man named Zac Whitehead, who told my dad and I when we met with him that he was related to the Pargeon’s from Montezuma. So I thought this was cool.

Shea told me he was proud of me. That doesn’t happen all that often and it made my day…thanks to Wes Pargeon.

 

 

What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle?

​No clubs.  Montezuma High School.

 

What year did you graduate?

​1989

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

​It was just another sport my parents got us brothers into.

 

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? How did they do?

​Brothers ​Mike 1985 state qualifier

​​​Curt 1991 district qualifier

​​​Daryl 1992 didn’t compete junior/senior year due to kidney issues

 

What were your youth results?  Any rivals there?

I don’t recall recording my record. Delson Knowler from Bloomfield and Sage Dalstrom from Pekin were 2 individuals I remember.  Delson would get the win and Sage and I would go back and forth.

 

What was your record in HS?

​I don’t recall exactly, somewhere around 80 wins and 20 loses.

 

How did you place at state every year?

​Senior year 2nd place.

 

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

Notable to myself was losing 21 lbs. my freshman year. It was definitely a learning experience for my next 3 years.  Also not wrestling sectionals my junior year due to back injury and not being able to wrestle till after Christmas my senior year due to tonsillitis and mono.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

It really depended on who I was wrestling at that time.  Sometimes I was the aggressor and sometime I just waited for the opponent to make a mistake.

 

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

My senior year I wrestled Phil Grimm from English Valley.  I won our first encounter and he won the next two.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Jim Bond taught me as a youth and was my assistant coach in HS.  Gary Stroble was my JH and HS head coach.  Coach Stroble started our Montezuma wrestling program in 1981.  Montezuma didn’t even have mats to practice on when they had their 1st meet with 6 wrestlers.  Montezuma never won a dual meet until 1982. He got his 1st dual shut out in 1983. And his 1st state qualifier in 1985 (my brother Mike).  Some of you reading this will understand when a coach and student click, good things happen.  I was fortunate to click with 2 coaches.

 

Was your team competitive in HS?

​We had a good team in HS. Of course, there were better teams out there.

 

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

Having an older brother and 2 younger brothers I can’t just pick one.  Along with our sibling fighting at home, watching all 3 brothers practice and compete helped me become a better wrestler.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

​I can’t just say 1 wrestler. There are several that meet the requirements of a GOAT.

 

How would you describe Montezuma wrestling, past and present?

I would describe it as a struggling program past and present.  Spectators, overall, would rather watch a game not a match.

 

Would you consider a strength of yours to be your ability to scramble well and be able to hit some funky technique that works well?

​A strength of mine was being able to scramble. But as far as funky technique, no.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

​Spencer Lee for his dominance and Austin Desanto for his attitude.

 

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

​About whatever I could get reception for?

 

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

I would have to say my senior final match at state. It wasn’t the fact that I lost but because the season was over.

 

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

I would have lifted weights.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Having my parents at every tournament and meet is a great memory I will never forget. Winning my 1st wrestle off as a freshman and finishing 2nd place at the state tournament as a senior.

 

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

I met Shawn Pippert at the Louisa Muscatine tournament in the finals every year.  Unfortunately, he was victorious every time.

 

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

​Only wrestled during the season.

 

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

I would hope the guys today would kick our butts due to the excessive time they spend on the mat.  There are a lot of kids going to clubs and tournaments year-round today.

 

Did you wrestle after HS?

My second year of college I went to Buena Vista and wrestle for ½ year. My mind set and extracurricular activities outscored my college wrestling career.

 

What other sports did you play?

​Football, cross country, wrestling, golf, and baseball.

 

What are your favorite sport teams?

​All Iowa Hawkeyes and Tennessee Titans

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

​Hunting/fishing

 

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

​I taught our little kid program for about 3 yrs. It was a thrill at that time.

 

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

​One word (confidence).

 

What do you do now?

​Tool & Die Maker

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

​Just wrestling with my kids on the living room floor.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

I would start off telling them about my senior tournament results. I wrestled in 7 tournaments starting after Christmas. I only won 2 of them and placed 2nd at the other 5(sectionals, districts and state were all 2nd place).  Believe you belong with the best of them. Set your goal high but achievable. Don’t forget to have fun.

 

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

Not a chance (lol). I don’t bend like I used to.

 

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

To the late Troy Rohret from Clear Creek. I never knew him personally, but I’m sure he was a great guy. He beat me in the state finals 4-2. Rest in peace, Champ.

 

Do you have anything to add?

​One thing I want to say is thanks to you Joshua Swafford.  What you have created here brings back a lot of great memories. Thanks again.

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Remember The Wrestler: Ryan Valline, East Marshall/GMG

 

Ryan Valline wrestled for East Marshall/GMG and graduated in 2011. He was the first State Champ for EM/GMG and holy cow did he ever win a deep bracket and holy cow did he ever win an exciting match in the finals. His  wrestling story is a great one! A great wrestler who did an awesome job getting things rolling for his HS program.

 

What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle? 

I wrestled at South Tama club until my 5th or 6th grade year. Then I went to East Marshall for a year before going to Cedar Rapids Hammerin Hawks. Then I transferred schools to East Marshall my 8th grade year until I graduated. In college I went to Iowa Central for a semester and spent two years at Itasca Community College in Minnesota.

 

What year did you graduate? 

I graduated in 2011.

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try? 

My dad is the one who encouraged me to give wrestling a try.

 

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

My dad wrestled only a couple years when he was in high school. My brother wrestled from the time he was young until his senior year. I’m not quite sure how my dad did but my brother had an average career.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there? 

My youth results were not great. I lost a lot of matches when I was younger. I believe it was roughly my 6th grade year is when I started winning matches and tournaments. I finally placed at AAU state my 8th grade year. I took third.

 

What was your record in HS? 

I believe it was a 154-27.

 

How did you place at state every year? 

Soph 6th at 160

Jr 5th at 152

Sr 1st at 152

 

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

I would have to say wrestling in the finals. The guy had beaten me twice at in the prior weeks. I was down 4-3 with 13 seconds lefts. After a couple shot attempts my opponent got hit with stalling and it was his 3rd stall call which tied up the match and I didn’t know it. I took a shot and got a takedown with 1 second left on the clock.

 

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

I would have to say Chase Skoneczka from Benton. Throughout high school I beat him every time but the scores kept getting closer and closer. Then our senior year, he beat me at sectionals and districts. We both went on to make the finals and once again it came down to the end with me scoring a last second takedown to win 6-4.

 

Who was your most influential coach? 

Todd Hinegardner

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college? 

East Marshall was a very competitive team. We took 7th 3 years in a row at traditional state. My junior year we finally were able to make it to dual state after losing to Dallas Center Grimes and Denver Tripoli the previous years at regional duals. We finished 4th.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers? 

Spencer Lee and Kyle Dake

 

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

In the practice room in high school, we listened to a lot of classic rock. In college my teammates were more into the rap music.

 

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

My freshman year in high school. I won sectionals and was the heavy favorite to win districts and my first match I wrestled sloppy and it went into sudden victory and I had to ride him out. The guy stood up and I was about to bring him back to the mat and I tripped and lost my grip. Then the guy I beat in the finals at sectionals went on to place at state. I told myself I would never put myself in that situation again.

 

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

I would go back and start lifting in high school.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment? 

Being the first state champion for East Marshall/GMG. There are many wrestlers that I thought would be the first for EM/GMG. A couple that comes to mind is Brett Rosedale and Sam Upah. They both were great wrestlers.

 

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

Tanner Weatherman and Blake Soresenson

 

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

I wrestled all year.

 

Did you wrestle after high school? 

I wrestled at Iowa Central for a semester before joining the military. I didn’t compete there. Then I wrestled up at Itasca Community College in Minnesota for Dan Lovell who coached me in freestyle and greco.

 

What other sports did you play? 

Football

 

What are your favorite sports teams? 

Iowa Hawkeyes and Minnesota Vikings

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling? 

Hunt, fish, and lift weights.

 

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

Wrestling has taught me to be a hard worker at everything I do.

 

What do you do now? 

I am currently a Lineman Apprentice.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling? 

Sadly no. I was a coach for a freestyle club up north and I was a freestyle and ref for a few years.

 

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

It’s possible.

 

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

I would have to shout out to coaches Todd Hinegardner, Kelly Madison, Dan Lovell. Also shout out to a couple wrestlers that kicked my butt every day in practice, Sam Upah and Jase Schossow.

 

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

After I won state, I walked back into the locker room and on my bag was a one dollar bill with the words State Champ on it. To this day, I still do not know who did that.

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REMEMBER THE WRESTLING CLUB: THE BURLINGTON-MEPO YOUTH WRESTLING CLUB.

 

How was The club formed?

Joshua Swafford: I believe Mike Sayre started it at James Madison Middle School in 89’ or so. In 1991, the club moved to the YMCA and a few years after that, the club practiced at the high school.  On the other hand, I’ve heard of youth practices taking place at the YMCA in Burlington as early as the 70’szz

Adam Roberts: You know I am not 100% sure how it was formed.  I know that Mike Sayre was our sole head coach at first and he was dating Karen Gunn at the time who is Josh Gunn’s mom and Josh wrestled so I figure Mike got suckered in that way.  Karen did the back end stuff like running the Iron Dog Tournament and managing any other paperwork that came with the job.  I would assume Mike recruited Mark Swafford as his assistant given the Mepo wrestling connection.  From that point it was the Burlington kids being joined by the Mepo kids at James Madison before we moved to the YMCA for years and then lastly the Burlington and Mepo High School Wresting rooms in the late 90’s. I also remember practicing in the Mepo Middle School a few times.

HERE IS A FUNNY LITTLE VIDEO I MADE OF MY BROTHER AND I BEING BABIES IN OUR WORST EVER PRACTICE:

 

What colors were the singlets?

Joshua Swafford: Purple and Gold

Justin Swafford: Purple and yellow. They don’t have the yellow anymore. Unique to us.

Adam Roberts: Originally Purple with gold trim.  As we got older we started we started wearing more free style singlets and the Burlington kids stuck with purple while the Mepo kids starting wearing black and orange Bull Dog colors.

 

 

 

What are some of the names of guys who wrestled for the Club?

Joshua Swafford: Ross Patton, Ryan Patton, Josh Gunn, Jason Campbell, Buc Lee, Cody Lee, Tyler Sherwood, Justin Swafford, Joshua Swafford, Phillip Klees, Adam Roberts, Neil Johnson, Andy Hartje, Chris Sime, John McClure, Brian Glendening, Kevin Glendening, Matt Glendening, Jason Sime, Jayme Sime, Cole Simmons, Brad Lower, Chris Johnson, Chad Johnson, Caleb Martin, Mark Mueller, Jim Corder, Lee Defosse, Matt Peterson, Jim Corder, Bobby Forseen, Aaron Drain, Ryan Phillips, Ricky Cavins, Neil Johnson, Robert Johnson, Josh Britton, Ryan McCall, Steve Reynolds, David Reynolds, Nate Kramer, Justin Kramer, Brian Mehaffey, Lee Defosse, Ben Thomson, Heath Latta, Scott Hartje, Mitch Dill, etc.

Adam Roberts: Klees, Roberts, Chris, Drain, glendenings, Matt, Josh and Micah Keller, Josh and Justin Swafford, Phillip Klees, Aaron and Adam Drain, Brad Lower, Neil and Robert Johnson, Brian and Kevin Glendening, Booger Sherwood, Heath Latta, Jason, Chris and Jamie Sime, Cody and Buck Lee, Steve and David Reynolds, Chris Johnson, Andy and Scott Hartje, Nate and Justin Kramer, Josh Gunn, Brian Mehaffy, Mark Mueller, Ricky Cavins, Ryan Phillips … A ton more that I am sure I am missing.     

 

Who were the coaches?

Joshua: Mike Sayre, Mark Swafford, Jim Drain, George Bowman, Alex Sherwood, Josh Daly, Dennis Reynolds, Calvin Keller.

Adam: Mike Sayre, Mark Swafford, George Bowan, Calvin Keller, Jim Drain are who I remember.

Justin: Sayre, Dad, Bowman, Calvin, Drain,

 

Coach Mike Sayre and Coach Mark Swafford

 

How would you describe the coaching styles of Coach Sayre and Swafford?

Joshua Swafford: Coach Sayre was a mad man. He started coaching when he began dating Josh Gunn’s mom, Karen. You’ll never meet another person like him. He would piss off a lot of parents (usually new ones) or general onlookers who were running laps in the facility or something for screaming way too much and way too loud at us. He was hard core. His nickname was “Sayre Bear.” He could get away with a lot of things that most normal people can’t due to being shaped like a bear, sounding like an elephant and his absolute willingness to confront anyone who had anything to say to him. People did not want to mess with this guy and that included the kids.  If we didn’t work as hard as we could, the punishment was severe and usually consisted of a lot of stair-running and a lot of burpies. And in the few occasions someone was brave enough to run their mouths at him, he was able to make them look silly, for he has some of the sharpest and funniest wit imaginable. Off the mat (and on…it was tough love) he loved the kids.  You got to a point where all he had to do was look at you funny and you knew he meant business. I guarantee there was nothing else like it in the state. One of a kind. Mark Swafford was pretty similar to Mike Sayre, but his own version of it. Every bit as intense and a very strict and assertive way of making sure people got it. He and Mike Sayre were a formidable coaching duo. Very good technicians obsessed with the sport.

Phillip Klees: They both coached in a way that results were guaranteed. They would make sure we were the best. I owe so much in my life to the coaches of this program. Their coaching styles… borderline sadistic. Sayre would laugh the first practice year when we were huffing a puffing during up down, “this is the worst shape you boys will be in all year.” Don’t know how many times I heard, “if you got the energy to cry, you can do more up downs.” And who can forget the famous “washing machines” exercise, whatever that was, haha!

Adam Roberts: Coach Sayre was a bruiser.  He wasn’t a fancy wrestler, he was strong as an ox and would let you know it if you crossed him.  He had the most wicked, leg crumbling cross face you could ever imagine and he would throw it on you for fun. Coach Swafford was a technician. He was quick, smooth and fluid.  I don’t really remember that much about George Bowman except he used to jog to and from the YMCA for practices.

Justin: I would describe Sayre as tough, but fair. He had a way to relate to kids while being a smart ass. He wasn’t malicious, but cared deeply about us while cracking the whip on us. He’d get that little grin on his face and giggle and you’d know that he’d be up to something. Extra laps or something. He took the time to write me a letter after I won state one year that really reinforced my work ethnic, to keep doing what I was doing. It was good to hear that I was doing great things from a hardass like him. Dad was intense, passionate about the sport, good at working on the technique we needed. He bought us the best tapes to help with technique… the Granby system, Gable and a Schalles topwork video. That was my go to for top work and I would recommend it to anyone. Wade Schalles top work. Dad taught us how to do the carry series perfectly and that eventually morphed for me to everything that I considered my go to. Coach Bowman was relaxed, but expected a lot out of ya. He was the easiest to talk to, but you knew he expected you to or at least compete. He gave the best “in match “ advice. He had a good way of encouraging. Good positive reinforcement, but it was clear that he wanted 100% from us. He was a straight talker. You didn’t get any BS from him. He meant what he said.

When Mike Sayre asked Mark Swafford to be Co-Head Coach of the club.

 

Where were most of the wrestlers from?

Joshua Swafford: They were from Mediapolis and Burlington. It was very difficult when we had to split up when we got into HS. We were a family and then instantly we were heated rivals. Both squads got about half the guys… the Sherwood’s, Adam Roberts, Phillip Klees, Brad Lower, Chris Sime, John McClure, Heath Latta, Ryan and Ross Patton, Ryan Phillips, Riley Ball, etc. were all Burlington guys. Aaron Drain, Justin and Nate Kramer, Josh Gunn, Matt, Micah and Josh Keller and Josh and Justin Swafford were Mepo guys.

Adam Roberts: It was probably a 50-50 split Mepo and Burlington, maybe more Burlington kids early on. I think some kids lived in small surrounding towns like Danville and Middletown.

Justin Swafford: Mepo, Burlington, Danville mostly. We even got some guys from Morning Sun and Wapello towards the end there like Jared Pierce.  Logan Frescoln traveled all the way from Cardinal.

 

Front Row (L-R): Ryan McCall, Kevin Glendening, Bobby Forseen, Heath Latta, Justin Swafford Back Row (L-R): Phillip Klees, Josh Swafford, Brian Glendening, Tyler Sherwood, Josh Britton

 

How long did the club last?

Joshua Swafford: It’s still going, but has different coaches, structure, etc. It’s for sure, an entirely different club than what we had. Ours was one of a kind.

Adam Roberts: If Josh Gunn was an indicator on when the club started and he is two years older than me then it probably began around 1988 and basically ended when I went to high school in 1998. So best guess, 10 -11 years.

 

 

Have you ever thought of restarting the club?

Joshua Swafford: Mark Swafford still coaches at Mepo Youth. Would love to get him reunited with Sayre. When some of us got into HS, the club derived into a West Burlington-Mepo hybrid club that Jim Drain was the mastermind behind, which later evolved into the Mepo Youth Wrestling Club run by Drain and Mark Swafford which won several youth and a HS State title in 2015.

Adam Drain and Chris Johnson… World and National Champs for West Burlington YC.

Justin Swafford– If I were to start a club, I would do a lot of the things the same. I would put kore of an emphasis on freestyle and Greco. The main thing I would do different would be separating the new from the experienced so the new kids did not get shell shocked to start the sport. I would probably have 3 separate groups of guys based on experience and level. The complete beginners aren’t going to be excited or entertained by being screamed at for not doing a setup to a move they don’t know yet correctly.

Adam Roberts: No, I live in St. Louis now.

FRONT L-R: Jordan Carey, Lane Ranck, Winston Hostetter                      BACK L-R: Coach Mark Swafford, Justin Swafford, Micah Keller, Brad Lower, Miles Wagler

 

Did Club always have a full room for practice or were the numbers small?

Joshua Swafford: The room was always full and everyone could attend, but not everyone could stay. You couldn’t go there and expect to stay if you planned on slacking off.

Adam Roberts: Generally speaking, we always had a pretty full room.  I remember there were two groups, the older more experienced group that went with Coach Sayre and the younger less experienced group of kids who were taught by Mark Swafford. I’d say the room consistently had 20 – 30 kids in it.

Justin Swafford: We were the premier wrestling club in SEI in my day and tons wanted to join to get better and we accepted them, but you had to be tough to get through them. Some people would travel to work out in our club. We really cranked things up during districts.

 

 

Could any kid join the Club or did it require hard work, dedication and toughness? Were the practices run in intense fashion? 

Adam Roberts: Anyone could join, but at the end of the season it was only the hardworking, dedicated and toughest kids who made it to and through districts and onto state. I remember people staring at us as they walked around the track above us at the YMCA thinking we were crazy.  There were some knock down drag outs, punches thrown, crying and cussing going on with a bunch of pre-teen kids.  Under Coach Sayre we did a lot of live wrestling and conditioning supplemented with drilling the basics.  I also remember going to school my sixth grade year probably at around 5% body fat with a black eye and my Math teacher asking me if everything was ok at home.

 

Does the Club hold a special place in your heart to this day?

Joshua Swafford: Absolutely. A huge part of my heart is there with wrestling. I hated wrestling Burlington in high school. I still considered them all my brothers and wanted them all to win. I still root for Burlington. Always will. When I see my old teammates from this club, whether they were Mepo or BHS, we always remind each other that even if we don’t see each other enough these days, we are still family…some great friendships there.

* Phillip Klees: The club meant so much to me. I felt obligated to give back and coach for a season before college. Had there have been kids club state titles back then, we were perennial favorites. I can’t thank Mike and Mark enough for their selflessness. With a tear from the bottom of my heart, thanks guys.

Adam Roberts: Of course.  Some of the people I care about the most were in this club.  We still keep in touch.  We basically had a brotherhood. I often refer to this club as our “Sandlot”.  We spent a lot of time together, growing up and facing a lot of adversity.  We are all stronger and more disciplined because of this club.  Life is hard, but we all learned how to be overcomes through our Desire, Determination and Dedication… the Iron Dog 3 D’s… Go Hard or Go Home.

Justin Swafford: Of course. I loved for that club. And Mediapolis wrestling and the trips that we took. Everything about it holds a special place in my heart. It introduced me to a lot of things that became a huge part of my life. Even running on the track at the YMCA introduced me to running… I qualified multiple times in track and cross country running long distance, so that was big for me.

 

 

What are some of your favorite Club memories?

Joshua Swafford: One time, a guy named George Bowman showed up and started coaching as if he were one of the guys. Just fit right in there with Sayre and Swafford and they loved him because he had a unique personality and he knew his stuff. He seemed like a nomad. Just kind of appeared one day. Turned out, he was a 2 time state champion from North Dakota and a standout wrestler at the University of Minnesota in the 70’s. He would do fun stuff like make t-shirts with the names of some of our rivals we had battles with. For Klees it was Cody Koenig or Willie James. For Josh Swafford it was Shea Stamp or Anthony Briberesco. Justin Swafford didn’t have anyone usually because he didn’t lose much, but there was a lot of preparation for Henry Wahle and Mack Reiter a couple years. Another one… I loved it when our guys succeeded. Klees besting Willie James at state for the first time. Justin Swafford winning it every year. Roberts being a thorn in several guys’ sides like Adam Reid and Alex Grunder, Heath Latta always dominating, Aaron Drain emerging to one of the best at his age and weight range, Chris Johnson besting JJ Suiter at the blood round at state when that kid reached him out at districts, Chris winning it the next year, Nate Kramer winning state, Micah Keller battling with Kyle Anson and Joey Verschoor, Johnny McClure making noise, Andy Hartje burying guys with a 3/4 Nelson, Matt Keller placing 2nd at state, Brad Lower winning it several years, overcoming the pukes to place every year myself,  Josh Gunn launching people, etc.

Adam Roberts: A few memories that stick out in my mind are 1.) the year we qualified 20 some kids for the state tournament and brought home 10+ metals.  2.) Mark Swafford air guitar-ing it across the Mepo High School wrestling room to “Life is a Highway”.  3.) The practice right before the state tournament that Justin Swafford snapped on us and cussed us all out screaming at the top of his lungs at us for 15 minutes  for not running stairs fast enough at Burlington High  School.  Never saw Justin lose his temper like that. It was crazy. 4.) Night tournaments at Wilton and Durant. 5.) Spending  the night in a hotel the day before District tournaments in PV.

Justin Swafford: The pizza parties were awesome. It snowed real bad in April for one of those. Dropping ice down the stairway at 5 Seasons Hotel with Drain and Chris Johnson and then running to our rooms when someone would scream at us. Playing the first  Mortal Kombat game and trying to teach Klees the blood code: ABACABBA! Josh trying to get away with washing machines is everyone’s favorite.

 

 

How would the team have done if they didn’t split into Burlington and Mepo?

Joshua Swafford: In 2A we would have been up there with anyone had everyone from the club stuck together. Osage, Emmetsburg, Clarinda, Winterset, Clear Lake, etc. all would have been tough of course. The team that would have given us major fits was Lewis Central of the 1999-2002 range.  They would have been difficult for any team in history to beat. However, I mean it when I say that had we found a way to stick together, we would have been nose to nose with anyone. A lot of the Burlington and Mepo guys depended on each other quite a bit for they were the best practice partners for each other. This team would have won  state… especially if some of the top guys didn’t quit when they hit HS. That’s another thing, we had at least 5-10 potential state champs who quit wrestling in HS. If the club didn’t split, who knows, these guys may not have quit. Burlington HS and Mediapolis HS always have ad great coaching staffs in place at the HS level. Both staffs would have done great with an entire combined crew.

Phillip Klees: I am absolutely confident that no one would have ever stopped us if we didn’t split. Had we not broken up, our JV team would have held its own at varsity tournaments. if I recall, Anthony Briberesco got denied state by Nate Kramer and I. That’s just one of many examples of how our team used to shut guys from other teams down. .I didn’t like wrestling against my teammates, at all.

Adam Roberts: If we could have all come together we would have ridden a lot of momentum through high school. Instead I think a lot of  kids including myself didn’t reach their full potential. Competitive wrestling partners are the reason programs excel.  If we would have stayed together we would have been in the State  Dual Tournament several time and probably brought home medals.

Justin Swafford: We would have had great teams. Both Burlington and Mepo were tough being split. We would have been a crazy good team with DEPTH. Sky was the limit.

 

Do you have anything interesting or funny to add about the club?

Joshua Swafford: I have a few things:

1.) Our finish-ups were terrible when we started practicing at Burlington High School. We had to run across the gym, up a flight of stairs, through the hall, down a flight of stairs and that was one lap… we had to do 30 a night. If we got caught slacking, 5 more were added on. Brad Lower, Caleb Martin and Justin Swafford were the littlest guys in the room and would always lap the big guys by at least 5-10 laps.

2.) We discovered the drink All-Sport at BHS. They had an All-Sport machine and we drank a lot of it after practice.

3.) Mark Mueller started wrestling at this club. He went on to wrestle in Postville, IA and won 2 state championships and wrestled for the Hawkeyes. He was at Burlington for 2-3 years and got his butt kicked bad by Klees, Gunn, Josh Swafford and Roberts to the point where he left in tears almost every night and his dad would get so frustrated with him. After his 2nd or 3rd grade year, he vanished and everyone assumed he quit because he was getting beaten up pretty bad. Then we saw him at AAU State one year and he was huge and strong and won his bracket. We had no idea what happened to him, but the guy got good and he got really big and strong. If he would have stayed at Burlington and the club didn’t split, we for sure would have been THE powerhouse. He ended up kicking my ass in college later down the road…

4.) We had a lot of talented guys who quit in HS. Some of these guys would have won state had they stayed out. Heath Latta and Nate Kramer would have won state. Kramer was already starting to dominate AAU every Even year. Brian and Kevin Glendening would have placed at least. Andy Hartje, Robert Johnson, Brian Mehaffey, etc. all could have placed.

5.) Heath Latta was incredible. He quit his Freshman year, but he was so gifted that I guarantee he can still wrestle and do it at a high level. Tough, tough person.

 

Adam Roberts: Over 30 years later, the Burlington Youth Kids Wresting Club still refers to their youth club wrestling tournament as the Iron Dog Classic.Kids originally in the club now have kids wresting in that same tournament.

Justin Swafford: This is the club that taught me how to run up walls and do back flips. This is a shining memory of my childhood. I see any of those guys now and it’s like I saw them yesterday. Still feel close after all these years. Great comraderie.

 

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Written by Kevin Swafford

There are many inspirational wrestlers with legendary legacies throughout Iowa Wrestling history.  Growing up in Southeast Iowa, and having the good fortune of seeing so many kids come through local and state-wide wrestling programs to test their skills against great competition has been a 45 year joy for me, as well as for those who participated in the making and molding of those athletes. That would include coaching staffs, families, teammates, friends and fans.  One of the things that I admire about sports, and particularly wrestling, is that to advance and get better, there’s no way around the obvious – you have to face challenges head-on in order to achieve success.

There are no shortcuts

Sometimes it takes longer to reach our goals, sometimes they are never reached.  Sometimes the biggest challenge we face is in ourselves.  But the values gained in training and work ethic remains engrained in those who participate in wrestling because to succeed we are taught and trained to do everything with a purpose.  Wrestlers grow up learning to live their daily lives with purpose, to set high goals and develop plans to reach them, which are then put to the test and measured. Adjustments are made, then applied and put into practice if useful. The point being, you are always moving or advancing and not standing still.

It’s a tried and true repeatable pattern and a process of continual learning that can be seen in those who advance, achieve and are successful. Sounds easy right?  The key ingredients in all of that is vision, commitment, dedication, and perseverance!

That’s what I see in the life of this RTW profile wrestler…  from a talented and successful high school wrestler, who made it a habit of overcoming odds – being labeled “too small” to be competitive… the struggles, commitment and persevering throughout. Yet, it was Dan Gable that told this wrestler before his senior year that he was going to be the 118 pound national champion over and over again.  It wasn’t just crazy talk.  It was a coach intentionally sowing seeds of inspiration that made it possible for unlocking mental barriers and opening the doors to a “story book finish” for both this wrestler and that coach’s career in Cedar Falls, along with a whole team that dared to imagine themselves putting together performances that shocked the wrestling world.

As fans we’ve witnessed countless amazing moments in this sport. In a reference that will no doubt link me to an ancient bygone era… it’s what ABC’s Wide World of Sports host – Jim McKay called: “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat.” It doesn’t get any more dramatic than that, not in wrestling. Win and you experience that thrill of victory much like this RTW profile did in 1997. Lose and you feel like you’ve suffered a deep and searing agony like skier Vinko Bogataj in this WWS intro!

In competition, there’s such a great amount of preparation that goes into achieving and experiencing success.  It’s not just the battle against an opponent that fans watch, but the constant battle within ourselves to push ourselves beyond our imagined limits to reach that goal or prize.  When “battle-day” arrives, we all take part in that experience but once the lights are turned off, there’s just a brief time of reflection and then life moves on to the next event. But there are those extraordinary moments that are special, that draw on the unforgettable excitement and emotions that happen in life, yours and mine… they are lasting, and to some extent can define us or leave its mark on others.

Like when Albert Pujols hit that mammoth homerun in Houston off of Brad Lidge in the 2005 NLCS playoffs, and where we keep hearing reports from time to time that his homerun ball was seen passing Mars or other some other distant galaxy!!! That event happened over 15 years ago and folks are still talking about it…

You instantly remember where you were, who you were with, when it took place, and all the raw emotions that went with it as the event happened before us. Unfolding like a 3-part play, you remember Act I – the intro, then Act II – the confrontation or main plot, then the finale in Act III – the conclusion or resolution. Each part building upon its own unique foundation.

In sports it’s sometimes called the Road to Victory.  But I believe what makes victory taste the sweetest and lasts the longest is recognition of that great adventure and of the individual road that was traveled to reach that destination… remembering the pains and struggles and sometimes suffering that were eventually overcome, and the countless hours of hard work, perseverance and persistence that were poured into that journey and relishing in that. Learning to capture those moments and appreciate them as stepping stones towards the future. In reflection, remembering the decisions, lessons learned, the all-in commitment and sacrifices made just to get to that place where everything paid off, became worth it and culminated in triumph.

That’s what makes the story of this RTW profile subject so special!

Today, I’m talking about an Eagle Grove athlete that wrestling legend Dan Gable called: “the Strongest Man In The World!!!!” – Jessie Whitmer.

He’s one of the most well-known wrestler’s the state of Iowa has ever produced. Mostly because his career epitomizes the perseverance it takes to achieve greatness.

He was a member of the record setting 1997 Iowa Hawkeyes “Dream Team” performers at the NCAA Championships that year and was Dan Gable’s crowning achievement as a college coach. As they scored the highest points total ever amassed in a NCAA Division 1 Tourney with 170 as well as having 8 All Americans with 5 of those National Champions. That Iowa team also destroyed seeding expectations!

What made that ’97 championship that much sweeter when looking back on it, was the Hawkeyes were underdogs and not picked to win the title that year. And Jessie Whitmer was one of the biggest underdogs in the tournament, with low expectations from outside experts. The truth of that problem was that the so-called pundits and wrestling fortune tellers forgot to ask Iowa or Whitmer about it.

Jessie didn’t start wrestling till he was in 7th grade, but he took to the mat like a duck takes to water. Success quickly followed as Jessie placed third at the 1989 IA state tournament as a 103 pound freshman in class 2A, finishing with a record of 36-5. The following three years saw him go 112-3 on the mat while winning one state title at 103 his sophomore year and then placing 3rd his junior and senior years at 112 and 119 pounds and compiling an amazing 148-8 HS career record by the time he graduated in 1992.

Jessie went on to wrestle at the University of Iowa as a Hawkeye, and he redshirted as a freshman, learning his craft wrestling behind the great Chad Zaputil one of my nephew’s favorite Hawkeye wrestlers, who held down the 118 pound class till he graduated in 1993 with 3 NCAA finalist finishes …

Coming out of high school, he was deemed by many as “too small” to be competitive at 118 pounds in college.  After his freshman year at Iowa, he was stuck behind Mike Mena for 4 years, who ended up becoming a 4-time All-American himself.  “I wrestled varsity my junior year until after Midlands. Mike Mena placed second there and I placed fourth so he took over that spot,” Whitmer explained. He noted at that tournament he was beaten by David Morgan of Michigan State twice and that Morgan continued to give him trouble throughout his career.

Prior to the start of his 5th and final season, Coach Dan Gable believed the team was stronger with Whitmer in the lineup, and convinced Mena to move up a weight class. With only 1 more year of eligibility remaining, Jessie stepped up his game along with his intensity. That turning the corner focus for Whitmer can probably be placed at his dedication to an off-season strengthening program that was managed by Iowa’s conditioning and strength coach – Terry Brands.  Jessie, who by his own admission (if you listened to “Tony Hager’s Happy Hour” podcast back on September 25th  2020 with Jessie Whitmer as Adam Feller’s guest… yes shameless plug but I like these guys!) was still physically small for the 118 pound class. Whitmer filled out and put on some much needed muscle over that summer and fall.  It was one of the parts of the puzzle that was missing in his game plan for becoming a national champion, but not the most important part.

During that 1997 senior campaign, Whitmer discovered the power of self-confidence and the change from inside that occurs when athletes finally latch onto it. In Whitmer’s case it was developing and maintaining that belief that he could beat anyone that stepped on the mat with him. Developing the unshakable mental strength required to win at that pinnacle athletic level. It doesn’t guarantee you will win, but it becomes ‘The Keep’ of no retreat!  That’s what separates those who try and those who succeed. That’s probably one of Dan Gable’s greatest gifts in the sport of wresting, preparing his soldiers for battle and mentally for war on both the mat and life.

Specifically, after a dual meet at Michigan State, where his college nemesis David Morgan had again beaten Whitmer… “On the bus after the meet coach Gable went through each match but that day he started at 126. He got to my match last and said that I learned that I could take him down, turn him and escape. When Gable was done with all the positive things, it changed my outlook and I started believing in myself,” recalled Jessie.

Whitmer captured 4th place at the Big Ten Conference tournament… With 2 weeks left before Nationals, the Hawkeye team shifted gears and put the pedal to the metal with rumors that this would be Coach Gable’s last NCAA tournament.  Jessie did his part, as he went on to become the NCAA Division I champion at the 118 weight class that year.  Seeded 6th, he upset the #3, #2, and #5 seeded wrestlers in the tournament, all three returning All-Americans. Whitmer finished that final year with a 24-6 record and a national crown, and helped the Hawkeyes to a record setting national team title with 170 points.

Coach Gable would later state that the 1997 team peaked at the correct time because he changed his coaching style slightly to get the team more mentally prepared. “He was such a great coach. You didn’t just wrestle for yourself…you didn’t want to disappoint him. He told me before my senior year I was going to be the 118 pound national champion and I thought he was crazy,” Whitmer said.

What I love about Jessie Whitmer’s story is that it’s a story of perseverance.  In an interview, Dan Gable reflected on what he felt made Jessie Whitmer successful: “Whether he was the first string guy or the second string guy – which he was always the second string guy until that last year – he stayed committed to the system.  He always kept training to get better….believing in himself, believing in the system….and adding to what he did well, and he just peaked when it was time, because he was committed to getting better, committed to the system.”

I couldn’t say it any better than that…

Introducing husband, proud father and family man, a dedicated employee, and coach… Jessie’s also an Iowa Wrestling HOF inductee, Eagle Grove alum and state champ, the 1997 NCAA D1 National Champion at 118 Lbs. weight class for the Iowa Hawkeyes… and according to the legendary Dan Gable – Wrestling’s Strongest Man In The World…!

 

What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
I wrestled for Eagle Grove High School starting in 7th grade after a classmate told me he thought I would be good at it because I was short. I also wrestled for Iowa in college.

What year did you graduate?
I graduated high school in 1992 and college in 1997.

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
The classmate that told me I should try it was Matt Wadle. I didn’t know anything about wrestling other than watching George “The Animal” Steele and the Road Warriors. I remember coming home after school and telling my mom that I was going to try wrestling and she said, “Oh buddy, you are going to get hurt!”. I think she thought someone would hit me over the head with a steel chair.

Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
I had a brother that wrestled whom was two years younger than myself. He won a state title in 1994. My youngest sister tried wrestling at some point. I currently have a son that wrestles. He is in 3rd grade and he’s learning a lot. He has a ton of heart and many qualities I wish I had at his age or even now.

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
I started in 7th grade and my first loss of 7th grade was from Cory Jones of Iowa Falls. He was a bit of a rival for a few years until he grew and I remained pretty small. I wrestled him again in 8th grade and we tied. The last time I wrestled him was as a 9th grader at Iowa Falls. He later wrestled my little brother and beat my brother up pretty good. We went to a few local tournaments, but never really knew about other wrestling opportunities.

What was your record in HS?
I believe it was something like 142-8. As a freshman I lost to Troy Bennett from Ft. Dodge three times, once to Troy Frieders of Algona at the NCC Conference tournament, and once in the semifinals of state to Marty Bolin of Davis County. As a sophomore I lost to Troy Bennett again. As a Junior I lost to Jason Nurre of Dyersville Beckman, and as a senior I lost to Juan Robles of Wilton. I remember all eight. If you are looking at rivals, I guess Bennett could be one, but we only wrestled five times and he won four of those, giving me 50% of my high school losses. He was better at positions than I was and probably just plain grittier than I was at that age. He made me better each time we wrestled.

How did you place at state every year?
I placed third as a Freshman, first as a Sophomore, third as a Junior, and third 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 think you have adverse challenges in wrestling all the time. It starts with hard practices, managing your weight, maintaining grades, blending in socially, being a good son, daughter, or sibling. It’s a challenge each day to juggle all these things and still mentally be in a place to go out on a mat by yourself, in front of lots of sometimes rowdy fans, peers, town members, and teammates to put on a performance people sometimes expect from athletes.

How would you describe your wrestling style?
In high school I was probably a little more relentless and pretty aggressive. In college I tried to be more physical and I think things slowed down for me.

How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
I didn’t really exchange with anyone. Bennett pretty much lopsided those matches and he deserved to win all of them. I will say, as a freshman at Eagle Grove, we had some tough people in the room already and those were true battles every day. I will add more below when I talk about our team.

Who was your most influential coach?
I had great coaches, but my first coaches were my parents and they will always be my most influential coaches. The people below are all people that I care deeply about. They all gave me a piece of themselves to make me better. They gave me “TIME”, which is no greater gift you can give someone, and with that “TIME”, you knew they cared. My parents gave me so much and didn’t ask for anything. This started me in the right direction and put me in front of all the other great people below. I had plenty of great coaches through the years and all gave me tools. I started 7th-8th grade with Coach Jim Neighbors and Coach Dick Messerly. They got me going in the right direction and grew my love for the sport. Coach Marv Reiland was there at the same time and showed me how to be slick and remain calm. Coach Mike Woodall came in when I was a freshman and showed me how to love wrestling. Coach Woodall would grab you after your match while you were all sweaty and show you technique, never worrying about getting blood, sweat, or tears on him. Coach Dave Morgan came in for the remainder of high school. He taught us to be intense and to not stop wrestling.

I went to college and I had Coach Dan Gable and Coach Terry Brands for a majority of the things that I did. Both taught me to believe in myself and gave me the skills to compete with some of the best people in the nation. They all taught me how to prepare for the time on the mat and get ready to perform. I still believe today when I run into other coaches, I am still learning from them. I help with the Clear Creek-Amana program and I learn stuff from Coach Kyle Forness. I also help out at Big Game Wrestling Club with Dylan and Tyler Carew. I learn something from them every week. They all have been influential and provided pieces to me as a puzzle to make me into the wrestler and person I am today.

Was your team competitive in HS/college?
In high school I believe we got 2nd in the traditional State tournament when I was a Freshman and as a Senior we won the State Dual tournament.

Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
I looked up to the Eagle Grove wrestlers. Mark Reiland, Rick Coltvet, Chris Mickelson, Denny Asche, Shawn Angell, Dave Vrba, Don Schmanke, Jason Olson, Jason Thomason, Dave Messerly, Heath Chelsvig, Rich Bol. The college guys at the time I loved to watch were the Brands brothers, both Terry and Tom. I also looked up to guys like Brad Bruhl, Doug Black, Stacy Rice, Mark Schwab, and Tim Ascherl.

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
I would say Mark Schwab. I actually wrestled with him at UNI when I was an 8th grader and I was there for a wrestling camp. We wrestled on our knees because he had surgery at some point prior to that day. He probably doesn’t remember this because I am confident he wrestled more kids than just me. He was that kind of guy. Sometimes the smallest of gestures can mean the world to people. He was someone that I always pulled for as a kid.

Who are your favorite current HS wrestlers?
I would have to say Drake Ayala. Who couldn’t like a guy that goes out and wrestles weights above to give fans matches that we all want to see. I enjoy watching the CCA wrestlers and many of them are my favorites. I also like Hunter Garvin, Kael Scranton, Wyatt Voelker, and Millie Peach. I get the privilege of seeing some of these kids during club season. I do want to point out one CCA kid that is a favorite of mine because he constantly puts in work to get better and that’s Max Carlson.

Who are your favorite current college wrestlers?
I enjoy watching Spencer Lee, Austin Desanto, Nate Carr Jr.

When you started, some of the guys in the club not only had years of experience, but were some of the best kids in the nation. Did you ever feel frustrated having to play catch-up or were you able to maintain a positive attitude?
When I started in 7th grade, I listened very well and we had great partners. I can’t express how beneficial a good partner is. It doesn’t have to be a great wrestler, just a good partner.

What wrestling move worked best for you?
Probably the fireman’s carry in high school along with a near cradle. In college I used underhooks and the front head and arm.

What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of The Heart

What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
I don’t remember ever feeling horribly upset about the losses themselves. The feelings I felt were from letting down the community that sacrificed time and money to come watch the performance.

If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change a single thing. Each thing that happened made me into what I am today. All of the stuff made me better as a wrestler, father, son, husband, employee, and coach.

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
My best memory was being able to acknowledge my parents by pointing at them after the national finals. It was also a chance to be able to direct the crowd that their applause was for what the coaches in my corner were able to accomplish by getting someone to believe in themselves.

Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?
In college I wrestled Lindsey Durlacher, Dave Morgan, Mike Mena (In the room), Teague Moore, Cody Sanderson, and Sheldon Thomas.

Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
It was always seasonal. My senior year I wrestled in the summer a bit.

How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
I think the guys from the past were tough and gritty. I think they would be fine today, but would have to evolve like the sport has to remain competitive.

What other sports did you play?
Football and track

What are your favorite sports teams?
Hawkeyes and the Atlanta Falcons

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Lifting weights, hiking, biking

How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
I love helping other people grow in the sport.

How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
It has given me a great foundation or base to build on. I think I work harder because of it and I have a higher expectations for myself.

Your NCAA finals victory has become a fan favorite moment in Iowa Hawkeye wrestling history, not only because of your story leading to it, but because of Dan Gable’s emotional reaction and referring to you as “the strongest man alive.” Could that moment have been any sweeter for you?
I don’t believe so. I knew I had to come off the stage at some point, but the roar of the crowd was one of the coolest things ever.

How often when you go to wrestling events do you hear the words “strongest man alive” from fans?
I usually hear it as I walk around a few times. My son thinks that makes him the strongest kid. LOL

Does it get old or is it always cool to hear?
It’s always great to hear! Makes me feel good that people remember those moments like I remember them. It’s an underdog moment.

Were there any Hawkeyes you looked up to prior to becoming one?
Mark Reiland, Bart Chelsvig, Chad Zapitul, Terry Brands, Tom Brands, Tom Ryan.

Who is the GOAT Eagle Grove wrestler?
Wow, that’s a tough one. Coach Dave Morgan will always be up towards the top. I never got to see him wrestle. Mark Reiland was pretty incredible and I did watch him. It would be a toss up for me.

What do you do now?
I am a Special Agent in Charge for the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement

Are you still involved with wrestling?
I help coach at the Clipper Wrestling Club in Tiffin and Big Game Wrestling Club in North Liberty.

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Listen, work hard on being a good partner, and try to get a little better each day.

Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
No way. This body was never a BMW in the first place. It has way too many miles on it.

Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
I used to wrestle a kid from Hampton-Dumont named Matt Showalter. I pinned a lot of kids in high school and I don’t know if I ever pinned him even once. I will forever remember his toughness and the fight in him and I have always respected it. Those kind of people are built from within and they are special!

Tell us something about yourself that folks might not know about Jessie Whitmer?
I am pretty much an open book. I usually am pretty shy and don’t like big crowds. It has taken years of work to come out of my skin a little bit and open up more. I thank all of you that have helped pull me out. Wrestling is just an extended family, and I don’t think anything is more important than family

Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.
I have a daughter that’s 11. She doesn’t wrestle, but she is pretty tenacious. She plays softball and she pitches. She also finds herself out in front of people on the mound by herself, surrounded by teammates and fans. It’s similar to wrestling when you face off with each batter. She also has more courage than I did as a kid. I also have a wife, she was my girlfriend in college and also the painter of my toenails.

Here’s a brief glimpse of a young Jessie Whitmer winning his 2A state title in 1990 at 103 Lbs. over Brian Benitz of Jefferson Scranton in resounding fashion with a 11-4 decision. It was the same night Jeff McGinness of IC West in 3A won the first of his 4 straight titles, with Ike Light of Lisbon in 1A winning the first of 3 state titles. All on the mat at the same time… great company!

 

Jessie Whitmer Wrestling Career Notes…

Jessie Whitmer was inducted in the Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2019 along with Joe Corso, Don Buzzard and Dr. Gary Steffensmeier.

HIGH SCHOOL- EAGLE GROVE HIGH SCHOOL
COACH MIKE WOODALL, DAVE MORGAN

1989 36-5 3RD AT STATE TOURNAMENT 103 LB
1990 38-1 1ST AT STATE TOURNANEBT 103 LB
1991 34-1 3RD AT STATE TOURNAMENT 112 LB
1992 40-1 3RD AT STATE TOURNAMENT 119 LB
HS Record of 148-8

COLLEGE – UNIVERSITY OF IOWA
COACH DAN GABLE, JIM ZALESKY, TERRY BRANDS
1997 NCAA 118-POUND CHAMPION (24-6)

1989 2A Iowa State Tournament Results (Freshman)
103
1. Donni Donahue, Clarinda
2. Marty Bolin, Davis County
3. Jessie Whitmer, Eagle Grove
4. Jaysson Gurwell, Saydel
5. Ryan TeBockhorst, Mid-Prairie
6. Vin Chem, Roland-Story

1990 2A Iowa State Tournament Results (Sophomore)
103
1. Jessie Whitmer, So., Eagle Grove
2. Brian Benitz, Jr., Jefferson-Scranton
3. Jason Nurre, Jr., Dyersville Beckman
4. Brad Canoyer, Fr., Carson-Macedonia
5. Leung Prim, So., Grinnell
6. Jason DeVos, Jr., Estherville

1991 2A Iowa State Tournament Results (Junior)
112
1. Jason Nurre, Dyersville Beckman
2. Dave Morgan, New Hampton
3. Jessie Whitmer, Eagle Grove
4. Brian Benitz, Jefferson-Scranton
5. Dee Clarke, Knoxville
6. Bob Edens, Camanche

1992 1A Iowa State Tournament Results (Senior)
119
1. Juan Robles, Wilton
2. Tony Milcoff, Cedar Rapids LaSalle
3. Jessie Whitmer, Eagle Grove
4. Matt Albright, Lisbon
5. Jamie Cochran, Moravia
6. Mike Dukes, Bedford

Some interesting trivia regarding the 1997 Iowa Hawkeye’s historic run at the NCAA Nationals Championship…

That 1997 team was Dan Gable’s crowning achievement as a coach. As they scored the highest points ever amassed in a NCAA Division 1 Tourney with 170 points as well as having 8 All Americans with 5 of those National Champions. That Iowa team also destroyed comparative seeding expectations vs results.

118 Lbs. Jessie Whitmer, a one-year starter, a farm boy, won the title as a 6 seed, beating the #3, #2, and #5 seeds along the way.
126 Lbs. Mike Mena, a 4 seed, finished 2nd against Eric Guererro of Okla St and felt (with some good reason) that he let one slip away
134 Lbs. Mark Ironside was seeded 1st and finished 1st
142 Lbs. Kasey Gillis, unseeded, finished 6th
150 Lbs. Lincoln McIlravywas seeded 1st and finished 1st
158 Lbs. Joe Williams was seeded 1st and finished 1st
167 Lbs. Mike Uker was unseeded but finished 5th
177 Lbs. Tony Ersland, unseeded, finished one overtime loss away from the podium
190 Lbs. Lee Fulhart was seeded 5th and finished 1st
277 Lbs. Wes Hand was, like Ersland, an unseeded wrestler who finished one loss away from the podium

Those are ridiculously good results against seeding.
Iowa’s cumulative record in the tournament: was a phenomenal 45-9

Even their two non-AA wrestlers contributed well to the win total. Wes Hand added to the bonus points by winning one match by forfeit and another by fall. Mike Uker and Kasey Gillis (who struggled for much of the year) won two matches by fall.

Iowa wrestlers earned 22 bonus point victories in the 1997 nationals.
Iowa’s 5 champs scored 117 points.

An underdog to Oklahoma State, Iowa clinched the title Friday night, winning 24 of 26 matches – including an incredible 23 in a row that started the night before.

In the end the great coaching, great teammates, a great family support system, and a tremendous effort resulted in what was indeed an impressive NCAA championship.

 

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When my oldest daughter Kaiya Swafford wrestled at the AAU Girls State Tournament as a 2nd grader, she ended up scoring the fastest fall of the tournament. It was the fastest out of all girls and it was tied for fastest if you include the boys. It was an 8 second pin. However, it would have been a 2 or 3 second pin if she had any other official in the world other than Steve Farrell. 😂😂😂😂😂

Big thanks to Tony Hager from iawrestle.com for granting me permission to use that.  But see! I wasn’t lying! I suppose after multiple long days of officiating a gigantic youth tournament will make a guy feel a little sluggish when it comes to ensuring that a 3 second pin is called in 3 seconds. 🙂 No need to be Usain Bolt.  

I’m kidding around, but for real, Steve Farrell was part of my family’s best overall wrestling memories just by being the appointed official for that match.  Kaiya was beyond excited and still talks about that match to this day.  

I’ve known Steve forever, it seems like. He was in my grade…Class of 2001. I have no idea how I met him or where, but it seemed like we ran into him a lot, which was odd considering he was from the Waterloo region, which is nowhere near tropical Southeast Iowa where I am from. Ran into him in college a lot as well with him reppin’ Upper Iowa and me being a Loras Duhawk… And now he’s reffing my daughter’s and nephew’s matches. I can’t get away from this guy! And I’m 100% cool with that.

Every time I’ve been around Steve, he’s making people laugh. Always making me laugh, anyways, which I don’t know if that’s something to be proud of or not considering how zany my sense of humor tends to be. But yeah, I always liked him. I don’t recall meeting anyone who didn’t. From his days of reppin’ the Wahawk Club til’ now in which he represents the Zebra Club (with his speed to get down and look for a fall, it’s more like a Zebra-Sloth Hybrid Club)… He’s always been a fun presence to have around the Iowa wrestling scene. Very kind-hearted individual, too. He’s offered to assist or help  me with a few things over the years without me even asking and it has meant a lot to me. 

And on top of all this, I have been very impressed the last couple years with a few of his wrestlers that he coaches. I did the rankings for 3A a couple years and followed it closely. They are in good hands at Waterloo West!

 

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

I started wrestling in 1st grade at the YMCA in Waterloo. Then wrestled at the Wahawk Club at Waterloo West HS from 3rd-8th grades. I went to Cedar Falls HS and Wrestled 4 years at Upper Iowa.

 

What year did you graduate?

2001 HS 2006 College

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My Dad and brothers.

 

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

Dad state qualifier 1965 for Charles City HS in Iowa Brother Jim 2nd at state 1998 HWT.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

AAU state qualifier 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th grades. AAU state placer 6th grade. 7th place 105 pounds. 8th grade 3rd place 135 pounds.

 

What was your record in HS?

99 wins and a lot of losses.

 

How did you place at state every year?

Jr year state qualifier hwt, Sr year 6th place 215.

 

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

My sophomore year of HS I was hospitalized, gained a bunch of weight. I wrestled 140 as a freshman then 160/170 as a sophomore, junior HWT and Senior 215. I always wrestled like an upper weight so it worked out fine. My Freshman year of college my brother passed away and it was tough for me to return to college, but I did and I continued to wrestle.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I am a holding position aka stalling Okie State style.

 

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

Adam Welbes from Hempstead.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I was blessed with a lot of great coaches. Jim Trainer, Greg Haslor, Jeff Gard, Jay Lewellen, Gene Doyle, Heath Grimm and Ken Gallagher.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Freshman year of HS in 1998 we were state champions. Freshman year of college 2002 Upper Iowa D3 National Runner-ups.

 

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

Ray Brinzer

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Dan Gable

 

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

I am a poor’s man Okie State wrestler that stalled a lot.

 

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

Mark Ironside vs Brent Metcalf

 

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

Paulson Twins

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Austin Desanto

 

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

None

 

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

Freshman year wrestle back at districts in overtime.

 

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

Have more offense!

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Placing at state senior year and senior of college winning my last college match at UIU.

 

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

Akeem Carter and Mike Engelman.

 

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

I wrestled freestyle freshman-senior in hs. During The summer of my senior year I went to a lot of camps.

 

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

Psh! Of Course beat them 3-2!

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes at Upper Iowa.

 

What other sports did you play?

Football, Track, Baseball and Soccer growing up.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Cubs, Washington Football Team.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Hanging out with my beautiful wife and playing with my son!

 

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

I love it! I spend a good amount of time helping the little kids programs and setting up camps and tournaments.

 

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

Wrestling has made me a better man. I have learned a lot of life lessons through wrestling and have had some great coaches help shape who I am today.

 

What do you do now?

Teacher and Coach at Waterloo Community Schools.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I am the head coach at Waterloo West HS and I am Co-Owner of ISI Team Camps.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

School first, athlete second. Respect all and fear none.

 

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

I have lost 60lbs, but my wife said not unless there is a paramedic or AED on site. She refuses to feel sorry for me if I cannot move or break something.

 

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

I would like to give a shout out to Joel Allen. Baldy to the head table.

 

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

\When I lost my wrestle back freshman year, my whole team and family left me at Waterloo West where I currently coach. I had to use the pay phone to get a ride home. Moral of the story, Win.

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2X state champion from Anamosa and UNI All-American, Moza Fay left an interesting comment somewhere that I use all the time now. He wrote that in wrestling, the line that separates things always tends to be razor-thin. He made this comment in a discussion where people were comparing and contrasting a few placers with state champions and was basically his way of saying that there is not a huge difference between your average state placer and your 3-4 time state champions. The line that separates these guys in terms of talent is razor thin, closer than you would expect them to be.

I think this can apply to several different scenarios in wrestling. This includes a wrestler’s reputation and legacy. In other words, sometimes in wrestling, the circumstances and sequence of events will align in a manner where a guy can go from the “good guy” to the villain… just like that… And wrestling is such an emotional sport, it’s not fair that people can be judged or remembered in that  manner. There is no better example of this than with North Scott’s 2X state champion, Wyatt Wriedt. 

I am not going to beat an already beaten dead horse by going into one of his matches that he will always exclusively be remembered for by some, but I’ll say this: 1.) Yes, he was one of the combatants in a highly publicized, controversial match in which he was the victor. 2.) Yes he did react to the win in a manner which upset people considering the outcome and he was villainized big time because of it when the media got ahold of it, but give the kid a break… His adrenaline was likely through the roof when it went down and that happens to the best of us… People have moments where they react to something in a manner in which they later regret. I’ve had hundreds… Wyatt had a moment there. 3.) As soon as this situation and the coverage went viral, people forgot all the positive things Wyatt accomplished to that point and it’s not fair. There were no winners in this situation and this includes Wyatt Wriedt along with North Scott wrestling given the way the situation was covered and how the fans responded. 4.) I watched the footage of the full match last week and noticed that watching it this way, it’s obvious that Wyatt’s behavior was not as bad as it was portrayed on that video that went viral. Yes, the “broken” hand gesture was bad timing, but it happened a lot faster and the sequence of events was different than depicted in that film. I will say with 💯 confidence, that the video that went viral was edited in a manner that portrayed a clear-cut “good guy vs. bad guy.” It is obvious to me that the “good guy vs. villain” narrative was part of the intentions of whoever put this together and it affected the way people perceive Wriedt and North Scott and that was wrong for them to that. These kids were in high school.

It’s amazing that a high school kid who was the “feel-good, Cinderella Story” of the state tournament just a short year before could be so universally villainized by a large percentage of the wrestling community as he was.  Wriedt pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the tournament the year before when he defeated nationally ranked, Ethan Anderson of SE Polk. 12-10 in the finals.  Anderson was a state champion as a Sophomore and Junior, which is crazy-impressive for an upper-weight and was a Folkstyle National Champion as well as Pan-Am Bronze medalist.  Most people predicted him to walk through that tournament unscathed, but Wyatt Wriedt put an end to that narrative when he beat him.  Wriedt also defeated Lombardi in the semifinals that year. Lombardi and Anderson both defeated Wriedt handily on multiple occasions coming into the tournament, so this was a definite “feel-good” story of the tournament.  Couldn’t write it any better. The type of thing that inspires hope for other wrestlers who may need to defeat the odds in order to accomplish their goals.  Wyatt Wriedt’s celebration and smile after winning that match warmed the hearts of 90% of the fans in attendance that year. However, what Moza Fay mentioned in terms of the line that separates things in wrestling being “razor thin” in wrestling was on full display in the aftermath following his finals match vs. Rocky Lombardi the next year. The wrestling community was way to eager to transform him from “The Cinderella Champion” to “The Wicked Step-Mother” and it wasn’t cool at all, to be honest. 

You all can remember Wyatt Wriedt however you want to, but I am going to choose to remember who for who he is.  He is one of the best upperweight wrestlers to ever hit the Iowa HS wrestling scene in the 2010’s. He was a fun wrestler to watch. He was an upperweight, yet the way he moved around on the mat as well as the technique in his arsenal was more consistent with something you would see from a 152 lber.  An incredibly athletic individual. If he were to have the frame he does now, but were maybe 2-3 inches taller, he’d likely be a D1 standout in football right now.  He had a blast-double from the feet that sent plenty of big guys’ feet airborne the moment he made contact and had an array of pinning combinations that he would systematically utilize from the top position. And he has a seemingly endless motor and is one of the best wrestlers I’ve seen in a long time in terms of capitalizing on positive momentum when it’s there. If he gets on a roll where he starts scoring, good luck stopping him, for it seems like with every point he racks up, it adds fuel to his fire and he is quite capable of tacking on a ton of points before the other guy even knows what hits him.

I feel obligated to make it right for Wyatt Wriedt and North Scott wrestling. Not to mention, the “D3/D2/NAIA Weighs-In” series is something I’d like to do more of. Wyatt Wriedt is currently at D3 current powerhouse, Loras College where he is under the tutelage of “legend in the making” head wrestling coach, TJ Miller and the rest of the incredible Loras staff they have in place. As a former Duhawk myself, it is a very cool thing to see that the reigns were handed from a great coach who I have the utmost respect for in Randy Steward to someone like TJ who will continue to keep Loras Wrestling on the map as one of the top D3 wrestling teams of the present and foreseeable future. 

 

Here is a reel I put together for Wyatt. He chose the song, “Sweet Caroline,” and it worked PERFECTLY. 

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My father back in kindergarten.

 

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

No

 

How proud are you of your North Scott roots?

Words can not describe how proud I am and will always be say I am from North Scott.

 

How would you describe your coaches at North Scott? How much of an impact have they had in your life?

Coach Kelly and Ambrose are two of the best coaches I have ever had and it goes deeper then just wrestling,

but outside of wrestling. They helped coach me through life. They showed me what hard work really is and how much you can push yourself. Also Coach Denison, Coach Kriter and Dan Mashek were great. Like, come on name a better staff!

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Only placed and kids state like 2 times.

 

What was your record in HS?

No clue.

 

How did you place at state every year?

3rd sophomore
1st junior
1st senior

 

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

The hardest challenge so far has been tearing my knee up and taking so much time off the sport and trying to find my “old Wyatt wrestling style” and it has been hard for me. Confidence is key in wrestling and when you don’t go out on the mat with that, 9 times outta ten you won’t win. Still a work in progress.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

My two biggest influential coaches would be Dom Bradley and Brodie Ambrose.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

North Scott always placed top 10 at state. Loras is arguably the best d3 college in the nation so I’d say yes.

 

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

I’d probably have to say Gwiz.

 

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

That’s a hard question to answer because when I go wrestle I don’t leave anything on the mat so if I lose, I find the positives out of the match and then also work to fix the mistakes, but off the top of my head probably last year at regionals against Duncan Lee.

 

How do you feel your skills have changed since going to Nebraska and Loras?

My endurance and ability to move and scrambling ability has gotten much much better.

 

How are you liking Dubuque?

Dubuque is amazing the views here are incredible. You can drive 5 minutes outside town and your in the country or on the river and it’s also hour away from our family farm so that is nice to be able to go home a lot more.

 

Does D3, D2, NAIA, etc. have potential to grow the fan base?

The fan base at the division 3 level is still crazy and I think after Covid ends the fan base will grown for everyone.

 

Who was the fiercest competitors you have faced at the D3 level?

My wrestling partners.

 

Do you feel some D3 guys can compete at the D1 level?

Absolutely, I believe so.

 

Where was your best performance this year?

I would have to say last year at regionals beating the number 2 ranked kid in the nation.

 

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

Out of all my wins and losses in my wrestling career the one thing I would go back and change everything with is how I acted after the whistle blew in my state finals match against Rocky Lombardi. I watch that match every once in a while and get sick to stomach when I see how I acted.

 

Do you see yourself coaching someday?

I would very much like too.

 

What is your best wrestling memory/accomplishment? How hard did you work?

My best memory so far is beating Wartburg last year at Wartburg for the first time ever so that was awesome and the family I have made at Loras is one of a kind and I will never forget them. We as a team worked harder than we ever had before to accomplish that.

 

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

Seasonal I played football and also ran track. I ran in the 4×100 4×200 and 110 hurdles.

 

What other sports did you play?

First off I’d say I’m basically an amateur golfer, but also track, wrestling, football and also basketball in junior high.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Oklahoma Sooners

 

What are your hobbies?

Love to hunt and be on the farm.I also just got a new puppy…a black lab named Beaux.

 

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

Wrestling has shown me how much you can do if you one believe in yourself and push yourself past that mental wall. It has also shown me how to be a better leader on and off the mat shown how to show respect to Someone even if I don’t like them, shown me that no matter how hard you try and fight you will fail sometimes, but you can get right back up and do it over.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

My advice for any upcoming wrestler would be:

1.) GET YOUR SCHOOL WORK DONE!! I wish I would have done this one better.

2.) You need to have a purpose in your life. This needs to take place when you drill, when you compete, in school, etc.

3.) You need to be thankful for what you have in life and don’t waste the limited time you have.

 

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

This past year I lost my best friend Christian Miller. He was in a car accident in November. Chris was a 4 time state champ from Nebraska and my best friend, along with Mac Hughes. Shout out to him!

 

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

I wanna thank Rico for giving me this opportunity.

 

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Additional Intros by Athletes He Coached: Justin Portillo and Tanner Abbas of Clarion Goldfield Dows

 

 

Justin Portillo of Clarion-Goldfield-Dows/Grand View:

Dan Gabrielson. Coach. Doctor. Father and friend. A true hero to many. An underdog. A history maker. Many remember Dan Gabrielson for one reason and one reason only. But there is a lot more to the man than his most iconic 6 minutes on the mat.

 

Tanner Abbas: Clarion-Goldfield-Dows/Grand View

I started wrestling around 7th grade and Dan Gabrielson had already started the Team Valley Wrestling Club in my hometown of Clarion, Iowa. Dan has always been passionate about wrestling and has always made it a priority of his. What he did for the community, Clarion, and Northern Iowa is incredible and provided me and so many others with an awesome training opportunity by bringing in Carl Valley. Right off of the bat, I had an awesome coaching staff in Dan, Kurt Morgan, Kyle Ruiter, Jordon McLaughlin and Carl as my club coach. Dan kind of steered me towards wrestling in the first place considering my younger brother, Reed had always been pretty good growing up. He definitely had an impact on me before I even got onto the high school scene. I was excited to get into the high school room watching guys like Joel and Jake Haberman, Brady Brott, Taylor Lehman, Matt Odland, and many others scrap really hard and wrestle at a high level. As soon as I got into high school, Dan took me under his wing right away, and he was extremely tough on me the first two years in high school. He definitely helped shapes me into the person I am now from the soft kid I was at the beginning. The way he approached being tough and facing challenges head on was admirable. I frequently remember him and Coach Morgan talking about dual strategies as almost a science.They had every scenario played out in their heads and had guys move up and down the lineup to give ourselves the best chance and we always were in every dual because of this. Not only that, but dan helped create a championship culture within Clarion Wrestling had high expectations each year. He wanted to win badly and I loved that. As I got into my junior and senior year we developed an even better relationship and I got to know him on a level outside of just wrestling. He knew exactly what I needed in matches, told me what I needed to hear, and knew how to coach me. Even after high school he stayed in touch and even guided me towards Grand View. He said that it was a perfect fit for who I was and would allow me to become much much better. He still messaged me after duals or tournaments and he usually follows a long with most of the competitions. Word on the street is that this is his last year being in his prime so he’s training for a match with me at Christmas break or something so we’ll see how that goes 😉. Dan has done so much for the city of clarion and wrestling as a sport in general!

 

Joshua Swafford (PinDox Owner/Creator): 

Last year when I was on the fence about starting a new wrestling website, it was a conversation I had with Dan that officially inspired me to pull the trigger and go forward with it. The first step was naming the site, which for an over analytical person like myself, this was a long, grueling, tumultuous process. I eventually got down to roughly 10 names for the site down from a couple hundred…no joke. I jotted The Pin Doctors down, for I was a huge fan of the band, Spin Doctors as a kid and used to listen to them before wrestling matches. The deciding factor in choosing the name “The Pin Doctors” out of the remaining names was when I thought of what Dan told me before I decided to start the site. He had 100% confidence in my ability to pull it off and I could tell. To be honest, when I brought up the idea of starting a new site, there weren’t many people in my immediate circle who were very supportive of the idea. Most people basically talked about it as if it’d be a waste of time and something I wouldn’t follow through with. Dan was one of the very select few who supported the idea and thought I could do it. Without his words of encouragement, who knows if I ever would have started the site… At that moment, it hit me… The Pin Doctors was the perfect name for the site, for it pays homage to my favorite band as a kid AND the man who inspired me to start it…Dr. Dan Gabrielson… This site was inspired and loosely named after him and I’ve never told anyone except the Portillo twins about that. He has been very, very good to my family. Big thanks,  Dan.  Also, it impresses me how polite, professional, classy, well-mannered and intelligent EVERY single kid I’ve ever met who has been coached by him turns out to be. Tanner Abbas, Joshua and Justin Portillo, Spencer Trenary,etc. They are all very impressive human beings and it says a lot that Dan has had the influence he has had on them.

 

 

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

Belmond kids program, Belmond Klemme high, Central college.

 

What year did you graduate?

1993

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

I grew up next to the Yoder family.  John was head wrestling coach at Belmond and they are like my second family.  My dad wrestled in high school (coached by Don Jones).  My moms family is Kinseth, Bruce is her first cousin.   So when you find out that your cousin is Bruce Kinseth and he was a D 1 champ at Iowa pinning his way through big tens and nationals….and maybe Olympics talk?!?  Well….I just figured I should do this!!  Cory and Colby Yoder were my first partners and I started when Bruce was finishing up….maybe 1980. 5 or 6 years old

 

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

I just mentioned Bruce Kinseth national champ and state champ.  My late father, Mack Gabrielson was 18-3 his senior year but didn’t make it to state.  My nephews, the Tenold twins look just like him and built like him as well.  Carson (2, 2) and Cade Tenold (4, 2).  My step brother Jay Lefevre and his son Tyler.  And then my youngest son Bradan was a 2x SPW champ, IA FS champ and multi-national placer as a youth.  He is in 10th grade but put the shoes up after 8th grade.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I wrestled 8th grade year at AAU and was 5th at 95 pounds.  Corey Kammerer beat me in semis and won it.  2nd place was Paul Peterson who I beat 3 or 4 times as a youth from cedar rapids Prairie.  Not many opportunities to wrestle bigger tourneys.  I lost to Chad Kraft in emmetsburg tourney.  Beat Will Smith who was known to be the stud in our area in 8th grade and I didn’t lose in junior high.  MY biggest rival was 2 years behind me and he almost never lost to anyone…I think he won about 200 straight.   IT  WAS My training partner and best buddy, Colby Yoder.  He won AAU in 8th grade and was 5th as a 6th grader losing to Jeff McGinness, 3- 0 in semis.  Jeff won it the next year in high school and of course made history after that.  But little colby, 2 grades behind, gave him a tussle!!  I never lost to colby in our matches but I am certain it was the older brother mentality.  He gave me plenty of fits in the room and as an 8th grader was better than any kid I wrestled my 10th grade year…..by the way I placed 4th.

 

What was your record in HS?

124-17  losses  10, 4, 3, and 0

 

How did you place at state every year?

SQ, 4th, 2nd, 1st

 

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

1. Weight cutting in college became a bit legendary.  126 was a bit tough at 6 feet. Not sure how I made weight my freshman year at nationals but I owe alot of people.  Made it and won in the semis to become a national runner up, as a skinny immature 18 year old.

2. I think most people would want to know about the challenge to beat Ike Light.  We were at the same weight all 4 years.  But I will be honest it really wasn’t even on my radar until he beat me my junior year in the finals.  I was just trying to win a title and help our team be better!  I will discuss some of the Light stuff a little later, but I really had a lot of respect for what Lisbon was doing at the time.  Losing my 10th grade year in the semis changed me forever, which I will describe in a bit as well.

3. The biggest hurdle that I have dealt with in all of my years with wrestling is my home town high school, Belmond-Klemme.   It was both heart breaking and emotional for me.  I started coaching Clarion in 2008 because Kurt Morgan asked me to be the head assistant and I just built a house in between Belmond and Clarion.  It is in the BK district.   It now is one of the worst decisions I have made.  We go on to have some pretty good success coaching CGD.  Multiple attempts to have them share with us were met with angry, bitter outbursts.   I had my son coming up and they knew that.  Our club trained many of their kids for years for free.   I personally invested many nights with these kids. Their most recent teams were in shambles.  And to this day I can not think of anything I ever did to one person in that town?  Of course saying that, will be met with, “we dont like him…..” and why? Because our team destroyed you, because we won, because you are jealous?? It will always boggle my mind that your last two state champions, myself and Jordan McLaughlin, would be cast aside like enemies of the state because we wanted to help.  OH, And by the way, coach my son!!  Like it was such an awful thing to do.  So, my son, didn’t want to transfer before high school.  He wrote a letter to the superintendent and school board and said he would not wrestle if we did not share.  There is literally like 10 kids that are out and very few that have any real wrestling background.  I told him I would quit coaching and, he is very mature…..he said, “dad you love it more than me. I had fun and great success as a little guy but it hasn’t got me excited for quite awhile.” To clarify, my ex-wife also lives in and works for BK district.  Its behind us and Bradan is doing awesome and is smart as a whip!!!

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Great on the mat!!  Always was a work in progress on my feet.  But #1 was being in great shape, better as the match went on!!

 

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

I wrestled Jeff Pederson from lake mills 8 times my 9th and 10th grade.  Was 3 and 5 against him and he never made state.  He was 2 years older, super athletic but I found a way at the end of year to beat him….especially my 10th grade year.  Peter Taft was a stud.  My good friend dusty rhodes.  Both, state champs, they gave me 5 losses.  And I never beat them.  10th 4 losses (2 to Pederson, 2 at state, jamie cochran and brad Canoyer,  2 to dusty and 1 to Ike junior year.  Nobody senior year.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

John Yoder HS coach was tough as nails and a great motivator for me!! He grew up in Woolstock and went to Eagle Grove where his best friend was Marv Reiland and also Denny Christiansen.  Of course the wrestling world knows their sons Mark and Jason as ICW and SEP Hall of fame coaches.  I remember Mark coming in our room and helping.  Jason went to Central a few years ahead of me but we were both coached by….Kevin Azinger.   He was an absolute stud, technically.  Knows the sport very well and I improved on my feet with his help.  Both John and Kevin are still very active in my life and I speak to them often.  I had some good assistants, Mike Sinwell, Joel Griner, Ed Severson and Kevin Braner in high school and Matt Diehl in college.  Grew up going to Al Baxter camps!! Great man!!

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

High school teams were Belmond’s best dual teams by far.  10th and 12th grades made regional duals.  Senior year lost to Rock Valley in a heart breaker.  Only 4 teams made it back then so technically we were top 8.  My junior year we had our best team but a returning place winner and senior HWT had season ending injuries.  We easily beat West Hancock in a dual, but they had some great individuals and beat us at sectionals.  Eagle Grove won the dual title that year.  They beat Lisbon and I would’ve liked to see us wrestle both in duals that year.  We were very balanced. College years we had some really decent kids.  We were 3rd in conference and had guys like Brian Reece, Lance Eidem, Brent Dunlap, Perry Numendahl, Brent Lawrenson, Chad Jensen, Jason Coy, Darren Glenn, and other quality wrestlers.  We really missed out on some good recruits because the college was going a different way in those years.  Wartburg was just starting to be dominant and Central was the last team to win conference.

 

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

Belmond guys were Mike Shimp, Shane Baum, and Cory Yoder.  Mike won a title in 9th grade and was a hammer.  He went 2nd and 3rd his last two years losing to paul kreimier and Greg Randall.  Shane was 2nd and 3rd 11th and 10th and top guy his senior year, but was beat at districts and it was the most devastating thing I witnessed.  He went on to san Jose state and was looking to do great things at 167 and they dropped the program.  He and I reconnected and I am part owner in his very successful eye wear business, Baumvision.  We produce leisure society frames and also distribute TOMS frames.   Cory is like a brother to me and placed 5th and 3rd.  I really loved the Steiner Brothers and other Hawks!!

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

I think the most college ready, world ready guy was Jeff McGinness!!  I mean he trained with the Hawkeyes….won everything and was my grade and same weights….so of course I am biased.  I really think its hard to say that the smaller guys are the GOATs…..I mean in boxing the hwt champs are the greatest ever.  ALI, TYSON,etc.  My nephews are always ranked (grade rankings) behind some of the smaller guys and I am not sure how.  Carson went 2nd and 2nd at 160 and 170 as a 9th and 10th grader and Cade 4th and 2nd.  Honestly, it doesn’t make a lot sense.  3x champs Austin Blythe, Brian Moretz, Sindlinger, and some other big cats would smash the smaller dudes!!

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Of course, all my current kids I coach at CGD. My nephews at bosco.  And then guys scrapping at the college level that I have rolled with… Tanner Abbas, Spencer trenary, Portillo twins, Teske, Lara, Leisure, Sam Cool, Drew Bennett, Slade, Moose, and all our Team Valley club kids!!

 

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

Whatever the other guys wanted

 

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

Without question was my 10th grade year in the semis.  Jamie Cochrane is a great guy and his son won the title not too long ago and I had a chance to congratulate him right after!!  But that night I was up 5 to 3 with short time and was wrestling a pretty smart match.  John Monroe was the ref and I tend to shoot like 50 times a match.  He was notorious for calling stalling especially against the guy that was WINNING and also in tight matches.  I shot a single and got dinged with 20 seconds left.  How in the world could you call stalling on the guy that shoots?  Then I shoot again and with no time left Jamie jumps around to try and hook an ankle which he really didn’t and I kind of kelly through and he got 2 points and I lost 6 to 5.  THE only match of my entire career that I have ever said I “should of won” or “got screwed”.  It motivated me like nothing else ever had before.  I have watched alot of old matches that you have posted and am still struck by how John Monroe could be that ridiculous with stalling when a guy was behind and a few others use to do that as well.  Glad things have mostly changed for the better.

 

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

Winning that semis match!!  Other than that I got out of it what I put into it and would not change much of anything!!

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Without question winning the state title.  It’s such an emotional relief and satisfaction.  Let’s be honest, most of wrestling and sports end with a loss.  I am happy to have ended my high school and college careers with wins.  My sophomore year at Central I was 5th and had a nagging shoulder, but zinger talked me into competing and I am glad he did as I won that match.  It would be my last competition.

 

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

High School: Ike Light, Dusty Rhodes, brad Canoyer, Peter Taft, chris Jones, Jeff Pederson, Jamie Cochrane, Frank Kisley, Mickey Yilek

College:  Jesse Armbruster, Dusty Rhodes, Scott Steffal, Chris Ristau, Raphael Wilson(best i ever touched),  Kurt Schneck  Nate Skaar

 

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

Mostly seasonal but did more year round the last couple of years.

 

Elephant in the room… To this day, how often are you asked about your semifinal match from your Senior year?

Often I am asked about the Light match our senior year.  It has faded a touch, but came up again this past year after Aidan Noonan beat Adam Allard.  Crazy thing was that I went matside to watch my nephews and was sitting by Rhanavardi’s dad and I look behind me and the Noonan stud is right there.  I took a picture and I am sure he was thinking, “this CGD coach was a good wrestler?”  He probably had no idea that for the past 27 years I was essentially defined as the “ONE” that stopped a guy during his last try at winning 4x.  As Ike responded, I too kind of felt a relief for both of us.  I am sure he was tired of it and to be honest I sometimes was irritated that so many felt that it was some crazy upset.  I was ahead, the year before, most of the match.  I went on to be a national D3 runner up as a true 18 year old freshman backed it up the next year by jumping a weight and placing 5th, losing a close one in the semis to the national champ.  So, it wasn’t like I was some chump that tossed him and got a little lucky.  Ike, was very slick and and hard to wrestle, but I think I was too.  We both handled all the strong kids pretty easily.  Did I have a little luck in beating him?? Maybe… but it wasn’t controversial. I was down 2 and body locked him to his back for 5 with 20 seconds left.  So as much as he got irritated with all the interview requests, I was understandably beaten down hearing that it shouldn’t have happened.  I was pretty close to winning 3 titles…that 10th grade semis loss would of given me a good chance that year against him and I was very big at 112.  I honestly hope the talk of it…is now just historical and over.  I have nothing but respect for Lisbon, the lights, and how they competed.

 

How long have you been coaching? How would you compare and contrast how it feels being on the mat and being matside?

This will be my 4th year as head coach for Clarion Goldfield Dows.  I was head assistant, with Kurt Morgan, the 9 years prior.

This is my favorite question.  I certainly had zero plans to ever coach…but I always said if someone asked it would be hard to say no.  Kurt asked, and I really jumped all in.  I get more into the kids success then I ever did my own.  Its easy to control yourself.  But coaching and getting kids to believe that they can be better then they think is a real challenge!!   When I won, or had success, it seemed more of a relief and that the next step was to do it again.  I don’t know if wrestlers always appreciate some of the moments, hence giving us such crazy disgust when we lose, or don’t achieve what we believe we can.  Heck, all wrestlers eventually quit.  You look at like a Terry Brands and his awesome accomplishments, but when Kendall Cross beat him he literally about jumped off the train.  Maybe not literally, but we all know the story.  I try not to live life with these life and death momemts…its not healthy.

So, coaching… What coaching does for me is give me moments of deep emotions and tears of what a kid may have done.  Not just our state champion teams, or kids, but every little thing.  We had a heavyweight that started one year for us in 2016. We jumped to 2a that year and nobody thought we had a chance at the dual title.  This kid worked his tail off and when you looked at him…I am sure people said, “omg this kid will fall over,etc.”  We have a semis meet against #1 New Hampton and Nick Heman puts out a great kid who was coming back from knee injury.  I am certain everyone thought this wasn’t going to be close.  You know what? That kid won 1 to 0 and we won that meet!! He didn’t wrestle varsity his senior year as we had a pretty good kid named Spencer Trenary, but when I spoke about him at our year end banquet my tears were real and that kid may have proved to me more than anyone that sometimes the very little “wins” are the best!!!!

I have toned down some of my craziness since the 2012 stud team lost first round at duals.  I think We are the only number 1 seed to ever lose first round.  Horrible coaching mistakes and we were very willing to take THE blame….and then things just kept getting better!!  We now have a program that is highly competitive, year in and year out, and the kids understand where I stand so my loud angry moments are much less.  Although, not completely gone!!

 

What are some success stories from coaching that have brought you the most joy?

See above….too many more to tell but here is a few.

1. You can’t talk about success without the highest achievements.  Winning back to back dual titles in 2014 and 2015 confirmed all the work!! We had kids that would not give in, whether it was not getting pinned, or giving up a major, or getting the bonus points.  They just wanted to do it as a team!! Beating my good friends at Don Bosco both those years and at a dual in 2012, in Gilbertville, helped our kids believe, and got the kids thinking. “why not us?!”  Those two titles came with quite the hatred as the Portillo twins moved to town in December of 2013.  Guess what?  7 years later Gino Portillo is still living in Clarion.  Thinking back to all the mean things said, death threats (likely from a crazy kid), Pocahontas mom accosting me at districts, Belmond coach(Tony Andrews) throwing a water bottle at Josh [the St. Edmond kid beat your child, not Josh], Ray Fox and Schares saying and doing some childish things (although I still love Ray!!), Lake Mills assistant berating us without putting his name to things, Williams’ dad from Lisbon completely being inappropriate, North Central Conference coaches completely losing their minds, and culminating into a couple state investigations I would say our team handled things pretty well!! Lol  Through it all nobody heard from me until now….the thing is they moved here, they still live here, I didn’t buy them a house (only did that for my ex wife and my current wife), and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to help change those kids lives!!!

(Editor’s Note: I think Dan was being nice to me by not mentioning my name since I run the site and he and I have talked things out and what-not, but I won’t let myself off that easy. Not when I know dang well that I was more asinine than anyone on the forums in that situation. Mepo had a stacked team and I was so salty that CGD had something that had potential to (and did) beat us if we were to meet up. I publicly, vocally and actively rooted against every one of their guys at the time and for putrid reasons. 3 people from CGD were hurt as a result of my ignorance and hypocrisy and all 3 of these people have ironically helped me out a ton with this site. I have regretted this deeply since and it was a valuable lesson I learned… Don’t say mean things about anyone… especially if it’s someone you haven’t met. You never know what kind of damage your words can do to someone and if you have a conscience, you’ll regret it.just thinking that).

2. The Portillos were not shoe ins to win titles.  Justin wasn’t on varsity in Ohio and was the main reason they were wanting to leave.  Josh did not make it to state as a 9th grader.   They were definitely awesome but the combination of Carl Valley, kurt, myself, our other club kids from dirty dodge and the clear lake trio and are own kids in the room….Haberman, Brott, Lehman, Abbas, as well as a better living environment enabled the success!!  Josh beat 2 kids that could of been 4x champs, West and Blockhus and Williams who could have won 3.  Justin won his second title on a torn MCL during the semis.  They are unbelievable students, great humans, and likely to finish their careers as 4x AAs.  I could not be prouder of them and our relationships!!

3.  Joel Haberman’s state title win, stopping Hunter Washburn from winning his 3rd title, was one of our greatest coaching moments!!  Joel was an incredible athlete who didn’t place in AAU, not even close, he was a 4x SQ placing, 2nd his junior year, champ as a senior and a 4x NCC champ.  He was ornery and hated losing. His senior year he thought he was going to dominate at 152(lol)!.  Kurt and I slowly put the coaching moves on over the year.   First getting him to 138 and then realizing that Happel was going to 138.  It mostly left that weight open and we thought our freshman kid, Tanner abbas could place.  He did, 4th.  So we switched it up and convinced Joel to go to 132.  He lost twice in the duals the day before and was not happy, even though we won the title.  So, he goes and beats studs in the quarters and semis.  Kurt was great at breaking down tape.  We convinced Joel to wrestle super strategic.  Washburn appeared to never take a shot if his left hand wasn’t free.  And we kind of always had Alburnett’s number in duals…..other than 2013.  I think we were like 4-1 against them.  We always knew they had super studs but always were the bully type wrestlers.  Come out hard as hell. Try and bulldog/cowcatcher/strangle you to death.  That can get you very tired!!!  If you remember the match….the key was us getting out early when we went down.  Not giving up late period scores.  And then OT we hit a perfect back door leg pass when Hunter was tired.  I am not sure if we wrestled him 20 times we could beat him more than once….but that was big time coaching, listening, and competing!!   STATE CHAMP!!

4. Spencer Trenary….6 foot 6, 275 pounds wrestled only year round and one of our early Team Valley club kids with a 33 ACT and a 4.0 student!!  Really a coache’s dream!!  Pinned his way to the title his senior year!!  I could go on and on with so many kids and other success stories, but I thought the state champs need to be told!!

 

At what age did you decide you wanted to become a doctor? How much did your experience in wrestling prepare you for med school?

6th grade I knew I wanted to be a doctor.  When working 100 hours per week, or staying up 36 straight, I would often joke to my fellow OBGYN residents, “try doing it not eating!!”  Enough said.

 

Do your nephews, Carson and Cade Tenold remind you of yourself at all when they wrestle?

They talk like me and ask lots of questions.  They look like my dad and get their size from both their dad and my dad(their grandpa).  We trained them to wrestle like little guys and coach carl Valley had them very prepared!!  The Bosco guys like Bart Reiter and Welter’s have really polished it up!!  They think they can beat anybody and keep wrestling always which is very similar to me!

 

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

Guys now are so much technically better, but definitely not as tough!!!!

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Central College. 2nd as freshman and 5th as sophomore…those were the only two years I wrestled for I went to medical school early.

 

What other sports did you play?

Golf, football, baseball.

What are your favorite sports teams?

Chicago Cubs….was at game 7 when they won the world series!!

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Water skiing, snow skiing, golf too much, and entrepreneurship ventures!!

 

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

For some time, after the Portillo’s came into town, I wondered, “why are there so many mean people in this sport?” It took a little time for me to appreciate that I started a wrestling club, coached for 13 years, donated over a million dollars to the sport I love….I then came to the conclusion I don’t really give a damn about the hurtful things because very few people would of given so much of their time, resources, and energy to make wrestling better and for the kids to have greater opportunities!!  Its really that simple!!

 

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

If you have read my long winded answers it should be obvious!!!

 

What do you do now?

I am an OBGYN and own the Gabrielson Clinic for Women at multiple locations in North Central Iowa.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Head coach CGD, founder of Team Valley wrestling club and will always be a fan.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

You can be a part of it whether you make the Olympics or wrestle a few years as a youth!!  Try it out!!

 

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

I may have done this in my early coaching years!!  I pounded all of our CGD and club guys, but Sam Cook got the best of me and I didn’t try and wrestle Big Spencer in a match his senior year.  I think those days are done.

 

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

I hope that Ike Light can be at peace.  It was a bit unfair that everyone was cheering against him and the main reason, I believe, was Lisbon’s success.  I know in my years coaching we have definitely had a fan base loving to see us lose.  Its part of all sports.  Maybe he can now appreciate that my only desire was to win a title too!!

Shout out to some of  my kids that came from zero wrestling background to big time!! Dillon Anderson 7th in state(didn’t hardly win a match as a kid), Brady Brott state runner-up, 4th and cried after many matches in junior high, Taylor Lehman 3rd and 5th did everything to get better, Tanner Abbas (his title will come), Caleb Hanson, I should never have kicked you out of practice.

Please, fellow coaches, vote the best coaches even if you don’t like them.  Kurt Morgan should have been coach of the year as well as Gary Weber and Pete Bush.  Those are just 3 that come to mind.  Its not a popularity contest….for those 3 and many others not to win coach of the year is absurd!!

Thanks to Kurt Morgan for getting me coaching and all of our late night strategy/recruiting (lol) sessions!!  Shout out to Carl Valley for his friendship and truly teaching kids how to wrestle!

Thanks to the Yoder family and my own family, especially my talented son, Bradan!!

 

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

I want to apologize for these long answers, but it was the first and likely the last time you will get any response.  Since so much was said about me on The Predicament Boards in the past and Swafford goes on and on about Mediapolis and his brothers, I thought I should join the fun and put in a little extra!!!  Haha

Finally, I want the younger generations to understand a little about where this all started.  Although Don Bosco and Lisbon have had great success they are relatively babies to the sport.  As well as SEP, Waverly, West Delaware and IC West.  Add in Rico’s Mediapolis and mostly all the corners of Iowa and wrestling in the above places is kind of new.  Why do I say that?? The 1970s or even into the 1980s seems forever ago, but back 50 to 60 years before that the sport really began.  It was Humboldt’s Big Frank followed by the great programs in North Central Iowa that really got this going.  Clarion hosted the state tourney for 5 years before WW2.  You have the Fort Dodge, Waterloos, Eagle Grove, Britt, Algona, Osage, Clarion, Humboldt, etc. teams that really started the sport of Wrestling!!  I bring this up so that each of us does not forget the historical perspective of where it really began and the foremost Clarion historical writer, the late Dan McCool!!!   Thanks to all who help make the sport so very special!!!  Wrestle on….Dr. Dan Gabrielson

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Remember The Wrestler: Eric Ehlen, Belle Plaine/Iowa Hawkeyes

 

“Oh that Pin Doctor guy, he sure does know his wrestling history.” FALSE… Before ever making a statement like that, keep in mind that I hadn’t ever heard of Eric Ehlen before starting this site and he is one of the best wrestlers in Iowa HS history AND a Hawkeye. The Pin Doctor must have been out of the office and on a deserted island whenever Ehlen has been mentioned around him. 

Eric Ehlen is a man that I have only met and interacted with via the site and to be honest, I don’t know him very well at all other than I know he’s a very nice person. He wrestled in HS when I was 4-7 years old, so I don’t recall watching him.  He’s one of these HAMMERS who I hadn’t heard much about before and this is crazy to me, for after watching all of his finals matches, he is SO fun to watch. Such a diverse skill set with no real weaknesses at all. Just in watching his finals matches (he won 3 titles), I saw him storm the mat with confidence and intensity and successfully executed an array of moves including; a high crotch, a fireman’s carry, a Pererson roll, a cradle, a snatch single, etc. And everything just flowed for him. He’s go from one move to the next, to the next, to the next. If something didn’t work, he had a backup plan that almost seemed instinctive to him. And he could scramble with anyone. He knew what to do in every position imaginable.

He is one of the all-time greats. A guy, whose finals matches you should show your kids if you want them to observe a total package of a wrestler who did so many things perfectly. He was also very good at interviews. Very respectful and well-spoken.

He wrestled a guy in the finals who is a legend in my area named DJ Wade from Morning Sun. I couldn’t believe someone was capable of wrestling Wade as well as he did. Now Wade I do remember watching, for he was at most the local tournaments my dad took me to and I remember enough about him to confidently say, DJ Wade was awesome and Ehlen’s dominant win was an indicator of greatness.

I am proud to play a role in preserving the legacy of all-time great from a wonderful program, Eric Ehlen of Belle Plaine!

 

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

I had a great neighborhood of athletes which we encouraged each other to do sports, we had 2 D1 wrestlers, 1 D1 football player and several small college athletes all in a small area of Belle Plaine. Also I have three brothers, two which were wrestlers. Both brothers had teams with great wrestlers that inspired me to wrestle. Kurt and Kevin Shedenhelm and several others.

 

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

Two of my brothers wrestled, Andy was a state qualifier and a nephew, Josh, who also was a state qualifier. I now have two sons who are in HS and are now wrestling, Trae a Sr is a three time qualifier and one time placer. Drew is a sophomore and is a placer as a freshman.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

As youth I won a lot of tournaments but never really kept track of wins or losses,  but I do remember wrestling the likes of Shane Light and Boomer Kortemeir from Lisbon. But my rival was probably my friend and neighbor, Brett McKinney as Brett’s dad was a BP coach and took Brett and I nearly every week to peewee tournaments. We were exactly the same weight and wrestled nearly every time. He was a yr older than me and it was an awesome thing as we got older to have such a workout partner. His sr yr and my Jr yr we were both state champions and that was an awesome feeling.

 

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

My HS record was 112-4 all 4 losses were my freshman yr. My Fr yr I lost first rd to a boy from Lo-Ma 15-7, I remember being nervous and telling my Coach afterwards that I ran out of time, and losing sucks, I don’t ever want that feeling again. My sophomore thru sr yr I went 98-0. I had bronchitis my Sophomore yr at the state tournament, and battled through with a pin in the finals. Then another was my quarter final match my sr yr I wrestled the same kid that I wrestled in the finals my Jr yr and first period tired a firemen’s carry and ended up on my own back fighting for a minute and half. Down 5-0 he chose down and I somehow ended up putting a full nelson to put myself down 6-0, I battled back and won 9-6 scoring back points in the 3rd period, I had several people who watched the match say that was the best comeback they had seen.

 

How would you describe your style?

My style was pretty much attack and score.

 

Did you have any opponents you exchanged wins with?

Mike Clayton from BGM beat me in conference tournament and sectionals and I beat him at districts my Freshman yr.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Most influential coach would have been in Elem-HS Al Billings and Don McKinney because they took me around the state as a kid, the coach that made me who I am as a coach and person would be my college coach the Legendary Dan Gable!

 

Was your team successful in HS and college?

In HS BP didn’t fill a team while I competed so it was difficult to have success. My College team I couldn’t have asked for a better team. From 1990-95 Iowa Hawkeyes were one of the most dominant team in the world.

 

Who were your  most influential wrestlers growing up?

The most influential wrestlers as I grew up were all the BP wrestlers that came before me. I also watched the Iowa Hawkeyes and tried to do what they did.

 

Who is the Iowa HS GOAT?

GOAT hmmm, too many to pick from, there have been so many styles and talent and I have been fortunate as a hs coach to see them.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

My favorite current wrestlers are those that go out and give it everything they got and leave it all out there, those that dominate, that’s my style. The wrestlers like Spencer Lee, etc.

 

What tunes did you listen to before matches?

The two songs I listened to as I warmed up was  “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leopard and “Lunatic Fringe” by Red Rider.

 

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

The most upset I felt after a loss was the state tournament loss, I immediately started to prepare for next yr that day.

 

If you could change anything about your career, what would it be?

If I could change one thing I would have beaten my teammate Brett McKinney so I could have wrestled 98 instead of 105, As I weighed 95 that year and had to wrestle 105, as McKinney was a placer that yr.

 

What was your best wrestling memory? Best accomplishment?

Best Memory winning first title by fall, Best accomplishment was being inducted in the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame at the same time as Al Billings, my coach.

 

What were some of your most notable intense matches?

Most notable matches were beating Boomer Kortmier of Lisbon in a tight match my sophomore year and Ty Lettow of Alden 1-0 as he took me down with 0:00 on the clock. We gave it everything we had and neither of us knew who won, I thought I had won and he thought he had won.

 

Was wrestling all year or seasonal for you?

I was mostly a seasonal wrestler but I did do a few freestyle meets every yr but never cut weight or took it very serious. Which made my coach mad as he was the head of the Iowa freestyle.

 

How would guys from your era do against guys today?

I think the Champions yr in and yr out would be fairly close because great wrestling is great wrestling.

 

Did you wrestle in college?

Yes I wrestled after hs at U of Iowa.

 

Did you play other sports?

In hs I was a 4 sport athlete playing football, wrestling, golf, and baseball. My Jr yr actually golfed and ran track the same time.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

My favorite sports teams, college Iowa, pro football Dallas Cowboys.

 

What are you your hobbies?

Hobbies: hunting, fishing, bowling, golfing.

 

Did wrestling help you with your football game?

Did wrestling help football? Absolutely, tackling and my aggressive style, just wish I was bigger.

 

Does it make you feel good giving back to the sport?

Giving back- I love being a coach and teaching this sport and all the life lessons that go with it.

 

How has wrestling shaped you as a person today?

Wrestling has shaped my personality, it has taught me to persevere, be self reliant, push myself, self disciplined, humility.

 

What do you do now?

I now teach at Creston MS/HS and coach wrestling at Mt Ayr HS.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

My advice is to stick with wrestling it teaches you a lot about life and it will challenge you each and every day.

 

Any chance we see you wrestle in an Old Timer’s Tournament?

I am retired as far as wrestling, no more competitive matches other than in my wrestling room.

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Have you ever pooped your pants or had to go poop really bad while you were in the middle of a wrestling match? If not, be thankful for that. I know I am thankful that it never happened to me, for I’ve seen it happen to a few people and it was always pretty embarrassing for them and very funny to the rest of the team. 😂

It can happen to anyone on the wrong day… It doesn’t matter how good you are at wrestling, if your digestive system decides it has to poop, then well, your wrestling skills will not be of any benefit for you in terms of making that go away. I’ve been in the wrestling world for decades and not once have I ever seen someone coach “sphincter control” in a practice…haha, that’s one of those things in wrestling where you are on your own.

One of the first guys to do a Remember The Wrestler article was Charlie Falck from Apple Valley HS/Iowa Hawkeyes. He was a stud. 4X MN State Champion, won several national titles, was a multi-AA for the Hawkeyes, etc. When he answered the question about whether or not he has any funny wrestling stories, he responded with this:

Charlie Falck: I once bumped up to wrestle Jay Broschel when Apple Valley came down to Cedar Rapids for a tourney…. I pooped my singlet going into 2nd or 3rd period……..continued the match…I lost….shitty call……………

😂😂😂😂😂😂

Ya see? It happens to the best of us! And when one of my best friends was wrestling in the placing rounds at AAU State as a 7th grader, it happened to him… And what made this story as funny as it is today was his opponent’s parents’ angry, “crazy wrestling parent”  response to it.

To start, these two guys were wrestling for 5th and 6th at state and it was one of several battles they had. They wrestled a lot, the matches were always close, my buddy always seemed to squeak out a 1-2 point win, and the two guys HATED each other as did the parents. They always ended up chirping at each other or throwing shade at one another, any time they met… So the emotions were running pretty high prior to the start of the match. The high level of  stress may have actually played a role in my friend’s pants-poopage.

This match unraveled in the way it usually did.  It was a very close match with my friend leading by a point or so the majority of the time and both corners were heated as always.  With about 30 seconds left in the 3rd period, an expression came over my friend’s face to indicate that he was not feeling well, and he was encouraged by our coach to just keep going and stay tough. With about 15 seconds left in the match, my friend still held the lead when all the sudden, a stain that has the color of the standard mud puddle became noticeable on my friend’s singlet… and it was located right on his ass…. and it grew larger with every second that went by…. It was pretty clear that my friend had pooped his pants in the middle of a very important wrestling match in which he was leading by a point and still had to hold on for the win. When this became noticeable, our corner kind of became quiet, for there’s not really a whole lot you can say to coach or comfort someone who had just pooped their pants on the mat… We just sat there kind of expecting the match to be stopped, but somehow the official failed to notice the shit-stain on his butt that had begun running down the side of his leg as well as the terrible smell that was pungent enough to the point where we could smell it from the side of the mat… His opponent looked grossed out to the point where he was going to pass out or maybe even puke and contribute to the mess, but he kept going for he was down by a point still and needed to score quickly in order to win the match…. and the match was never stopped. Despite the sight of it and the smell, the ref didn’t notice it. The other kid’s parents were INFURIATED from the moment they noticed it and were yelling about how disgusting it was.

Somehow my friend hung on for the win and when he did, a huge spat broke out. The other guy’s parents were not only disgusted, but ANGRY because they felt like my friend pooped his pants on purpose to give himself an advantage to hold on for the win… Let me repeat that…. These people SERIOUSLY thought that my friend did it on purpose as a distraction to win a close match. Never underestimate the insanity of a wrestling parent…it has no bounds. I seriously can’t understand how anyone could be so stupid to where this would even cross their minds. I mean, it boggles my mind. If you poop your pants on the wrestling mat…I am going to assume that there is a 99.9999999% chance that the guy didn’t do it on purpose. I mean, I don’t know what would even prompt a person to think anyone pooped their pants on purpose. It’s icky. It’s embarrassing. It’s a mess. It’s not ever, EVER an option or part of ANY wrestler’s strategy to poop their pants on purpose to win a match. I can’t imagine assuming that someone literally thought to themselves, “ok I’m up by one with about 25 seconds left…screw it, I’ll just poop my pants so he doesn’t want to shoot on me…. Then I’ll win for sure!”  Yet, here was this kid’s parents being restrained and running their mouths angrily and incessantly, yelling stuff at us like, “YOU ARE DISGUSTING!” “LEARN TO WRESTLE BY THE RULES!,” “YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF!” “CHEATER!!!”  “SOME PEOPLE WILL DO ANYTHING TO WIN!” “WE WOULD NEVER COACH OUR GUYS TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT EVER!!!” It was pretty heated… and pretty freaking bizarre, for while you can expect someone to be grossed out by something like this, you wouldn’t expect them to assume that they did it on purpose and better yet, that the coaches TRAINED us to poop our pants as part of our strategy. It was one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen in my life and because of these people’s ridiculousness… It was also hilarious.  My friend promptly made his way to the bathroom, noticeably clenching his butt cheeks,  with a poopy singlet to the sounds of a couple grown ups yelling at him and calling him a cheater for pooping his pants…a 7th grade kid they were screaming at…

I can’t help, but wonder how these parents described this match to others who didn’t see it… “yeah, our boy SHOULD have won. It was close and he was about to make a comeback, but the other guy cheated and pooped his pants so he lost. If you ever wrestle a Mepo guy, watch out, they are dirty… they train their guys to poop their pants over there!”

😂😂😂😂😂 Holy…..crap.

Good thing my friend was a pretty thick-skinned kid. After changing his clothes and cleaning himself, he found us a few minutes later and when he did, he smiled and the first sentence that came out of his mouth was, “well that was shitty. I can’t believe I won that. From the moment the ref started the match I was spending just as much energy clenching my buttcheeks to hold that in as I was trying to wrestle. That was hard! Those people seriously thought I did that on purpose?!!!” All we could do from that point on, is laugh hysterically…as we had been since the match finished.

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This one started out as an email exchange with someone and myself. This person asked me to explain how Brennan’s Senior season went down and eventually we discussed it so much that I had enough for an article…and it just happens to fit the criteria for one of my new series about the best matches in HS wrestling history.

So this match may be THE most heartbroken the Swafford clan has ever been following a loss that any of us 4 brothers had. Brennan is the youngest of us 4 and probably the best of all of us…he’s most certainly the most naturally athletic of the 4 of us… Kid was an NAIA National Champ last year as a Sophomore and he’s there on a football scholarship if that tells you anything. Brennan was good, pretty much from the day he started at age 5. With Brennan, he caught in to every sport he played immediately from a young age and it seemed like everyone from the area just kind of considered it a foregone conclusion that he would probably win 2-3 titles when he got into HS. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that he would do it and reality didn’t set in that this wouldn’t ever happen until the last 5 seconds of this match vs. Henrich when his legs gave out on him. This loss was indescribably painful for us and we couldn’t believe that in decades of us Swafford bro’s wrestling that this was our family’s farewell from Iowa HS wrestling…it was just brutal. There were a lot of tears that night. If it weren’t for Brennan winning NAIA Nats last year, I would likely have a hard time talking about this match still today.  Fortunately though, time has granted me with an ability to see this for what it was….This match was legitimately one of the best matches I’ve ever seen in the Iowa HS State Finals. 4 lead changes, constant action, down to the wire, etc… It had everything a fan could ask for.

Funny thing was, although it was a state finals match, it wasn’t exactly watched by very many people.  Ya see, at the same time and on the 3A mat, the guy who was trying for his 3rd state title was someone named Nelson Brands.  Nelson is Terry’s son and all of us know about the Brands twins.  They have been wrestling celebrities for decades. Most of Iowa LOVES the Brands twins as they should and when Nelson took the mat, it made the general spectator straight-up giddy to watch him, for they felt like they were reliving the days of his dad by watching him since their styles are so similar.  Sure, Brennan probably had most of Southeast Iowa watching him and Henrich likely had most of NW Iowa watching him, but the common spectator…I’d say that 90% of them would prefer to watch Nelson Brands over anyone in the building. It doesn’t even matter if he’s expected to have an easy or difficult match… people tune in because he is a Brands and they love him for it. So if you are competing at the same time as him, unless you are wrestling against him, the attention is likely not focused on you.  Most of it will be on Nelson. Nothing wrong with that, for it’s not like the kid ever disappoints.  And man, did the overwhelming majority of people who watched Brands destroy his opponent ever miss a good one in 1A between John Henrich of Akron-Westfield and Brennan Swafford of Mepo.

And on paper, really…fans should have seen a barn-burner between those two coming.  The writing was on the wall. Check this out:

* Brennan was a Senior and the returning runner-up at 1A 152, John a Junior and the returning state champion at 1A 160.

* John was undefeated on the season coming in and Brennan had one loss to Nelson Brands first weekend of the season. Coming into the match, both guys pinned almost every opponent they faced during the season and at state.

* Both guys had health issues with Brennan breaking his hand in his last football game and then re-breaking it a couple weeks before state. Henrich had some lingering knee or shoulder problems, I believe.

* John Henrich wrestled in Iowa for 3 years. He moved to AW from South Dakota as a Sophomore. He placed 3rd at state in SD as a Freshman. In his Iowa career, he never suffered a single loss and only gave up 16 pts. to opponents TOTAL in 3 seasons… 7 of those points were scored against him in this finals match.

* Brennan had shattered the SEISC record for career pins 2 weeks earlier and notched his final HS wrestling pin in the semifinals against Austin Hellman from Don Bosco. It was his 128th career pin.

* These guys were from completely opposite corners of the state with Brennan being from SEI and Henrich being from NW Iowa. Both won regional awards given by their region’s newspaper, with Henrich being named Wrestler Of The Year by the Sioux City Journal and Brennan being named the 2018 Male Athlete of The Year by The Hawkeye for his accolades in wrestling, football and track.

* They had one common opponent that season coming into their finals match. That was Ryan Schott from IC Regina. He was a returning state qualifier who ended up placing 6th in this bracket. Brennan was up by 8-10 points in the 2nd period when he pinned him in the district finals. Henrich defeated him 3-0 in the semifinals… one of his closest ever matches in HS. We didn’t take much from these two results by means of comparing Henrich and Brennan coming into their match for we knew what the situation was with Schott. There was familiarity with Brennan and Schott. Those two were practice partners that year at the Eastern Iowa Wrestling Club. Henrich presumably didn’t know much about him being from the opposite side of the state. Schott was one of the more underrated guys in the state. A great multi sport wrestler. He likely would have racked up more hardware than he did in HS, but it always came off to me as if he was always cutting way too much weight. There was some log-jammage in the middle weights for Regina when Schott was in HS, so he may not have had much of a choice. Schott was a solid wrestler with a reputation of being good at keeping the match close if necessary and not giving up many points. A 3-0 win over Schott by Henrich was a nice win for him and we knew that. Coe College landed a good one with Schott. He is doing well there and it doesn’t surprise me at all.

* Henrich is one of two wrestlers to win 3 state titles and never suffer a loss in the state of Iowa.  The other one is Dan Gable.  Henrich is the most notable “South Dakota to Iowa” move-in since a guy from SD moved to Iowa to wrestle for The Hawkeyes. His name was Lincoln Mclravy.

* Both are still currently wrestling. Brennan Swafford is wrestling at the NAIA level for Graceland University and so far he is a 2X AA, 1X National Champ. John Henrich is wrestling for Nebraska and to my knowledge, has battled the injury bug.

*  The singlet Brennan wore in this match was the same one his brother Justin was wearing when he won state as a Junior in 2002.

* Both were under a lot of stress and pressure to win, but for different reasons.  John Henrich had a perfect Iowa record at the time and didn’t intend for that to change any time soon, in which it didn’t. He also had to deal with the fact that no matter how much he won or how convincingly, there was always someone there to downplay his accomplishments because he was from NW Iowa and for whatever reason, some people have this belief that NW area guys never wrestle good competition, which is not true. He also wanted to prove to the state of Iowa that he was more than just a “South Dakota boy” and could compete with our state’s best as well as South Dakota’s. He was also a 3rd (I believe) generation wrestler and his last name is synonymous with Akron-Westfield Wrestling because of all that his family has done for them over the years. Brennan Swafford was on his last attempt at a state title. The combined record of the Swafford brothers in state finals matches coming into that one was 1-4 and Brennan wanted to reverse that curse. He too has a last name that’s highly associated with his school’s wrestling program and had a great deal to live up to from the moment he began wrestling.

* I think these two would have been awesome practice partners for each other.

* Both guys were very hard on themselves after the match. Brennan was obviously because he lost. Henrich was upset with himself because it wasn’t a dominant win.  Both guys not only love to win, but they like to be dominant in doing so.  It’s kind of unfortunate that they were so harsh on themselves, for I felt BOTH guys wrestled great and put on a good show for those who watched it. Brennan went hard and fell short. It happens. Henrich displayed great mat-smarts and awareness, did what he had to do to win the match when he had to do it and won a big one. I think all of us will likely agree that neither of these guys had anything to be ashamed of.

Ok, so before diving into that match, I will post their matches from the earlier rounds that year.  For Henrich it will just be a highlight reel that I made for him when we awarded him “Best Of The Best In 1A” at The Predicament.

 

JOHN HENRICH

HIGHLIGHT REEL:

 

2018 State Tourney First Round:

 

2018 Quarterfinals vs. Ethan Fulcher of Hudson (Fulcher won a title himself 2 years later):

 

 

BRENNAN SWAFFORD 

 

2020 NAIA Championship Reel:

 

2018 State Tournament 1st Round:

 

2018 State Tournament Quarterfinals:

 

 

2018 State Tournament Semifinals:

 

HERE IS THE EPIC 1A 160 STATE FINALS MATCHUP BETWEEN JOHN HENRICH OF AKRON-WESTFIELD AND BRENNAN SWAFFORD OF MEDIAPOLIS. HENRICH WON 8-7 WITH THE DECIDING POINT COMING IN THE LAST FEW SECONDS:

1.) John Henrich- Akron-Westfield
2.) Brennan Swafford- Mepo
3.) Austin Hellman of Bosco
4.) Cam Rasing of Rockford
5.) Ethan Fulcher of Hudson
6.) Ryan Schott of IC Regina
7.) John Ebaugh of Denver
8.) Luke Jones of Central-Decatur

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Remember The Wrestler: Jimmy Rodgers, Oakland-Riverside

You know what’s one of the coolest characteristics that many wrestlers possess? Their ability to shift their demeanors, moods, attitudes, etc. depending on the reality of the situations they are in. I’ve seen guys who seem to transform into different people the moment they step on a mat…generally speaking, the shift is from nice and cordial to intense and competitive.  My brother, Justin is one of the nicest, most harmless people I’ve ever met….when he’s not on a wrestling mat.  It was so entertaining how the moment it was time to compete, he could seemingly flip an inner “switch” that changed him from “nicest guy in the world,” to “a total madman hell-bent on crushing your dreams to prevent you from crushing his.” To succeed in wrestling, especially at the level Jimmy Rodgers did, generally people have to possess a “mean” streak or have tendencies of being a hard-ass. I mean, it goes with the territory with wrestling being a sport in which the outcome is decided via battle of wills.  You have to be tough to just get through this sport and when it comes time to compete, most guys almost need to have a swagger or unshakable confidence if they have any intentions of being great.

Most of us have heard the negative stereotypes and perceptions that some non-wrestlers have about us.  A lot of people associate wrestling and wrestlers with being cold, robotic, remorseless, stubborn, etc. And let’s be real, we’ve all met our share of wrestling pals who can be described with one or more of those terms, but for most wrestlers, this terminology only applies to how they carry themselves on the mat, for they are nice off of it. However, these labels will follow them off the mat as well in terms of the non-wrestler’s perception/opinion, for some of these descriptive terms almost become part of a wrestler’s identity in the eyes of non-wrestlers who lack a legit frame of reference. 

Whenever a non-wrestler goes off on a “wrestling is for mean robots that like to roll around with other men in swimsuits” rant, I always wonder which wrestlers they met that gave them this impression. It’s hard to think of who these guys may be… It’s MUCH, MUCH easier to think of the wrestlers that you know did NOT influence these peoples’ perceptions of wrestlers.  And with that said, if a non-wrestler makes a comment like this, I will immediately assume that they never met Jimmy Rodgers…and if they do someday, they would likely feel stupid once they realize how far off they were in their generalizations of wrestlers.  I am not exaggerating when I say that Jimmy Rodgers may be the nicest, most empathetic and kind-hearted people I’ve ever met in my life. Not just in wrestling…ever. One of the nicest people I’ve ever met. When I talk to him, I almost have to remind myself repeatedly about who he is, for when I watched him compete in HS, he seemed like an intense, stone-cold gamer who would unflinchingly inflict any intense legal discomfort necessary on his opponents to ensure that he would walk off the mat with his hand raised. Kind of intimidating, really. I figured he would be a nice guy, for off the mat, most wrestlers are nice, but possibly the nicest person I ever met in my life? I wasn’t expecting that. In my limited conversations with him, it became clear almost immediately just how thoughtful and empathetic he is of other people.  He is the type of guy who may catch a life-changing break in life, but would still turn down if it meant that someone else would be hindered in any way by him accepting the “break.”  Helping other people and being considerate is not something Jimmy Rodgers has to remind himself to do…. It’s just the way he is. He is a naturally great, down to Earth dude with a heart of gold…. and he also happens to be one of the toughest wrestlers this state has ever seen at the HS level. Just beamed with confidence and self-awareness out there. Here is one example: When he was a Junior, he did one of the most courageous things I’ve ever seen someone do in the state finals. He was on top and leading 6-5 with 19 seconds left and instead of riding his guy out for the state title, he decided to let him up and try to take him down, which he DID!!! THAT’S confidence! Jimmy Rodgers is the man!!!

Also, he runs a youth club these days, and I want everyone to be aware of it, for I fully believe he has a unique approach to the sport that will be a success.  Click on this picture and it will lead you to his wrestling club’s page:

 

 

 

 

He put his heart into this! I hope you all enjoy his story as much as I do!

 

 

 

 

What year did you graduate?

1997

 

How did you do in youth wrestling? Did you compete at state? How did that go?

I think I won AAU State approximately 7 times…and had just as many freestyle and Greco titles in there as well growing up. I also won some Regional titles in Freestyle and Greco also. But I was an athlete. And when summertime hit, I was ready to play baseball with my friends. So after Regional was done. I was done. These days they would have said your crazy…win Regionals and not go to Fargo! But back then…it wasn’t like it is now. I was just done and ready for baseball and mom knew that. Lol!

Oldie but goodie .. Daren Kopeck, Dean Leaders, Chad Ryan, Gary Eliff, ? Woods, David Kjelgaard, and I. We might have won it. I know 3 of us did and 4 top 3. 🤯

 

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

As a kid I started off Wrestling for the Omaha Chargers…Then I moved to Council Bluffs and Wrestled for The Hawks…The Martinez Boys were amongst my teammates and after that I went on the wrestle for the Panthers and Keith Massey. Keith introduced me to Freestyle and Greco and took me all over the Midwest! Winning many State and Regional Tittles on the way to HS. At the Panthers David Kjelgaard and the Paulson Boys were some of my teammates 🙂

 

Who were some of your heroes growing up? Did you have any family members involved with wrestling?

My mom is my hero! Single mom that raised 3 kids! She took my older brother to practice when I was 5 and they asked what I was doing…brought me out on the mat and that was it..never looked back from there on. I was a natural. My brother, not so much lol. But he was always my biggest fan as I grew up! He was always in my corner. His name is Justin Thompson. Different dads. His dad died of cancer early on in life. My brother and I have always been super close in life! My sister the same! She was the team manger in HS! She saved many matches in HS by knowing the score better than the scoring table did! Honestly! She should be inducted to our town’s hall of fame for all she did for our team over the years! And you can quote me on that! Her name is Eva Rodgers and I’m her biggest fan as far as a team manager and what she did for our team!

My brother wrestled in youth and some in HS. He was always there for me! I remember him always being in my corner at State Youth Tournaments and Regional Tournaments. When I moved to Oakland when I was in 1st Grade the stories of my uncles began. My uncle Terry Eyberg placed 2nd at State in HS for Oakland his Sr yr and 4 conference championships. And my uncle Martin 2 conference championships 2nd jr year and 1st senior year at State. We have to be one of the stronger families in Southwest Iowa in regards to Wrestling tradition and we are proud of it! And now my son Maxum Rodgers is wrestling as I coach and lead his team across the country to have fun in a sport that we fun together! We make it fun with his teammates! We make it a real family feel! It’s all in the name Warriors Wrestling Family! And my Son is my driving force behind it all!

 

What was your record in HS?

159 – 11 . 82 pins . 432 takedowns.

 

How did you do at state in HS?

6th Freshman, 1st Sophmore, 1st Junior 46-0, 1st Senior

 

Any notable rivals you faced in Youth/HS Wrestling?

Rivals… Mark Rial…Friend, but we were head lock rivals at times when younger!

Nick Mitchell was a Rival that always had Mike Land coaching him in his corner as kids. Jason Evans from Bettendorf was a tough Rival when younger at AAU State! I wrestled a Bob Koenig I think when I was younger at AAU state as well in the finals. In HS-Thad Anderson from Logan Magnolia and Matt VanMeter from Guthrie Center. One thing I will mention…Mark Van Beek won my bracket my Freshman year…I beat him 13-2 my Jr. Year in the semis and I was picked to lose as Gable watched in the stands. The guy who beat me for 5th/6th my Freshman year…I beat my Sophomore year in the Finals. So the comeback trail was sweet!

Oh! And Matt Sterling! Duh!!! Big rival! Wrestled Sterling in my Junior Year State Finals match and then ended up having to wrestle him first round my senior year because he lost to Tyler Nixt at Districts and I barely got by him again! Tim Backer was the guy from Clarksville along with Sterling that I beat my Sophomore year in the finals. He beat me my freshmen year for 5th and 6th. Clarksville can’t like me too much lol…

 

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

I remember my Sophomore year cutting way too much weight and losing matches I knew I shouldn’t be losing because of not being mentally focused. I was wrestling not to lose instead of wrestling to win and for love of the sport! I still recall that bus ride up to the state tournament…looking out the window upon the fields. I thought to myself, “I’m done cutting weight like this ever again! I want to wrestle for me! Because I love the sport! I love being out there letting it go!” And that’s what I did when I got up there to the barn! Won my first on the way to 3!

At ISU I still look back and wonder what things would have been like if I would have just kept getting stronger and not cut to 141! I was 160 and a strong 160 walking around! I had no right cutting my body to 141! 149 was ok and I should have kept battling for varsity there! But that’s life! You live and learn! And hopefully I can pass my life lessons down to my wrestlers along the way!

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was very tough on the feet! Great hips! I could throw! Good double legs, high clothes, and single legs. On top I was a bar arm guy! I was very hard to keep down! Great stand up and a good standing switch also!

 

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

Thad Anderson and Matt Van Meter my Sophomore year were the only guys in HS that I really went back and forth with. Other then Blu Whale that upset me w/ a headlock my senior year at Griswold Tourney…boy you know an upset in the making when you here a gym erupt like it did that day….I tried to come back but just couldn’t recover from it

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Mitch Anderson was my most inspirational coach! He was like a father figure to me through HS…if I didn’t have a ride to a morning workout….even if there was a foot of snow…he would drive an hour out of his way to get me to get me to a morning workout! He was more than a coach! He was a great role model! I have modeled a lot of what I do with my youth program after his methods. I think a little more outside the box with the technology we have these days. But his roots are still there as building blocks to what I do for my youth program today. I owe my coach Mitch Anderson a great deal for helping me be the man I am today to my family and wrestling program! I also want to mention and give thanks to Dave Putnam for all his words and pump up moments! And Ryan Danker for all the work he spent in the room with us especially the mat time!

I also owe Keith Massey a world of credit also! Not only Keith but Keith had a supporting staff of many that helped me as well…Dave Paulson, Chuck O’Hara, Dwayne Kjelgaard, and Barry Coates. One thing about Keith is that he always made it fun for me and interesting! Made me look at it with open eyes and want more! That’s my approach with my wrestlers today! Make them fall in love with it so they keep wanting to come back for more…if they don’t then why are we doing it?

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

HS Team…won the team title in 96’ dual team runner up in 96’
I always say…if you have seen the movie HOOSIERS…that’s what we got to live in Oakland when we won it in 96’ in Wrestling,

In college, I was part of the #1 recruiting class in the nation 1997 ISU Cael Sanderson, Joe Heskett, Carlos Blanco, Jesse West, Jimmy Rodgers…

 

How cool was it when Oakland Riverside won state?

I remember getting back to the hotel after winning the state title…it was the Embassy Suites. So it was hollowed out in the middle. All the way up each floor was going crazy! It was unbelievable! I think they almost shut the place down! I also remember how loud the barn got! It will never be the same…I don’t care what any wrestling fan says about Iowa HS state wrestling. Vets/the barn is special! When something special happened in that place it was like a firework went off in that place!

Story time…before my semis final match my Junior year with Mark Vanbeek, chosen to win I might add. My assistant coach came down all fired up and pulled me aside! He grabbed me and looked right into my eyes and said Gable just sat mat side to watch your match…now go show everyone up there why they are wrong for choosing him to beat you! Out the gates…hit him for 5 on a headlock, then ducked him for five to his back. Then another late takedown. Ended up with an escape also. Won 13-2. I was so pumped for that match! Never forget it!

 

How is your wrestling club coming along? What are some of the names of the guys you have in your club?

My wrestling Club is Warriors Wrestling Family. We are just that…Family! Growing up wrestling was like a second family to me. And is to a lot of people out there today! Most understand this in our sport today. I had family in Ft. Dodge, family in Omaha, family in Oakland, and family in Council Bluffs. Was I related to them all? No but they were wrestling family. And at times we spent more time together then real extended family! My club means the world to me! I want to give my son and these kids an experience that they will never forget! Something that they will have to build upon for the rest of there life! We work hard but have fun doing it! It’s kind of a thing but I do give out a lot of nick names…my son is White Tiger…we have Chisel, Beastin, Coy the Destroyer, Sway, Queen Izzy, Kong, and Metcalf! There have been many others and there will probably be many more. I have learned so much from my interaction with these kids! Probably as much as they have learned from me! I pour all I have into our practices! And I never thought I would love being a coach more than I loved wrestling, but it’s true! These kids are special to me! They are our future! And it’s up to me to give my best to them! Thank you God for the opportunity to do what I do with them!

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Overall I have 2 best wrestling accomplishments. Yes I may have won 3 state championships but that’s not one of them.

1. I earned my college degree because of wrestling! That was the most important thing to achieve! Wrestling was always supposed to be a tool to get me to college and get that degree! I graduated HS with a 3.78 GPA bc I worked hard for my grades. And the same with college! At one time I was working a full time job as I was a student athlete at UNO bf stepping away from the sport. At 42 years old we still joke around that I still have one more year of eligibility left. And I still have thoughts of going back to get my teaching degree. Who knows stranger things have happened!

2. I pride myself on accomplishing getting a youth program off the ground. And taking kids from not knowing a stance to competing on the youth national stage. It had been an amazing past 4 years and I hope this year 5 can still be something special with the current Covid situation bc the kids need a healthy outlet like wrestling in their lives! It has been life changing for not only the kids but also for this coach!

 

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

In HS Matt VanMeter and I went back and forth with some good rivalries as stated before. I think I did get the last win on my way to win my fist state title. Mark Van Beek was a huge win since he did win my Freshmen year bracket and he was picked to win my Junior year. I do have to give a shout out to the upset win against me by Blue Whale! After years of taking his lumps by Oakland Riverside and our guys, he upset me my Senior year with my one loss. And if one guy was going to do it. I guess I wouldn’t of had it be anyone else! To this day I still think as Blue as a brother in the sport! Great family and will always enjoy our time in the sport together between our families! In college I was able to be in rooms at ISU, NE, and finish out at UNO before finally stepping away to finish up earning my degree. While I did not break the varsity lineup at the college level I did absorb much while at that level that I pass down to my club today. Training with guys like Dwight Hinson, Cody Sanderson, Joe Heskett, Bryan Snyder, Billy Maldonado, David Maldonado, Luis and Carlos Blanco, Chris Bono, Tom Ortiz, and Cole Sanderson are just some of the big names that come to mind that I absorbed from along the way! I thank them all for the time we spent!

 

Tell me the story about your AAU State finals match with Ben Shirk… Was it Jason Payne that was arguing with your brother about who would win between you two? Were you pumped for that match? When I saw that commentary, I thought it was funny because Payne and Shirk are from my area and Payne is now HC at my old HS (Mediapolis). Do you have any other funny stories like that?

So the Jason Payne and Ben Shirk AAU story…lol I have to be honest, I didn’t know who Ben was because he was from so far away on the other side of the state.  But when Payne bumped into my brother there it got hot fast.  Payne started in saying that an upset was about to happen and that I had no idea who Ben Shirk was.  He was right.  And I was really not worried because I was in the zone that year.  I really was.

Pause…this reminds me why I was in the Zone!  I did break my ankle that year before going to Tulsa! I made it a goal to try and knock of Shane Roller that was a 7 or 8 time Tulsa Champ.  Earlier that year Todd Kohl (Kasey Kohl 4x NE STATE Champ)’s dad took a bunch of us to a tournament in Miami, Oklahoma where they shut down the tournament for an exhibition between Shane Roller and I.  I ended up beating him 13-0.  And I really wanted to beat him at Tulsa that year.  Only to have my ankle broken right before we left.  That was really one of my only major injuries in wrestling ever.  After my comeback from the injury I was on fire my 8th grade year! I won Tulsa 1 time and got 3rd twice as a youth wrestler.

I remember my brother really getting me pumped up for the Shirk semifinals match!  I also remember at one point in the match him letting me up.  No one really ever let me up and I remember smiling at him and as he shot on me, I don’t think I ever spun so fast around someone that year! At state that year no kid scored an offensive point against me.  Felt pretty good about that.  Looking back on my career, there are two years that I can honestly say it would have been very hard for anyone to beat me! My 8th grade year and my Junior year in HS.

 

How honored did you feel when you were inducted into the HOF?

Being Inducted to the Hall of Fame was special because I got to share it with Family and Friends!  Unlike being on the mat by yourself in the moment, I was there with my mother and my immediate family.  And then sharing it with my club and others that joined us for the event as well.  It was a special night shared with friends and family and want to thank them all again for making the trip.  You know who you are!

In regards to the Hall of Fame I do want to say it took an entire team and town to help in my journey!  My teammates were amazing!  I could say names but I know I will forget someone and it’s just not fair!  I just want to say thank you to each and everyone of my teammates for any and all the time spent in that wrestling room!  It was a battleground!  It was very intimidating at times to those that may have not been at that level and still wanted to be part of it.  And for that I commend any and all that stuck it out in a room that was very demanding and gave so much to one that would give right back!  Thank you Riverside! I’ll never forget where I came from!

 

Who were some of your wrestling idols growing up?

Growing up my 2 wrestling idols were John Smith and Kenny Monday! That low single style that John Smith dominated with!  And that explosive power that Kenny Monday blasted people with inspired me to want to do the same to people on the mat!  As I got into Freestyle and Greco I had many people older then me that surround me that I looked up to along the way.  David Kjelgaard was a teammate in youth that I looked up to!  Brad Canoyer was someone in HS that I looked up to as we entered HS and began our climb at Riverside.  But it was also my friendships and family like relationships that made my journey special and the sport special for me along the way!  This where I wish I could name drop hundreds of names that are special to me for many different reasons that have impacted my life!  But it just wouldn’t be fair bc to leave one name out I would feel bad.  You all know who you are and what moments in my journey you have shared with me and I truly say thank you all for each and every one of those moments!  From the bottom of my heart, thank you for this wresting journey we’ve all been together on in our lives!

 

Who is the Iowa HS wrestling GOAT?

I’m going with Eric Juergens…really a toss up between him and McGinness to me.  I just felt like I followed him a little more through HS and was inspired more by him.  Just something about his run vs McGinness’s.

 

Favorite Current Wrestlers?

Going to answer with my son on this one.  We love to watch Roman Bravo Young and Austin DeSanto!  Yes we know they wrestle each at times!  But they both have there own styles and ways about approaching the sport.  My son loves to watch their highlight videos to get pumped up.  If I would of had highlight videos to get pumped up when I was a kid, wow what a difference it would of been.  I always talk to my club wrestlers about using YouTube and social media to study up bc we had none of that growing up!  What a game changer these days for them!

 

What tunes would you listen to before matches?

Music back in the wrestling days…I would actually listen to it all like today.  I lot of rap and hip hop. Rock and even sprinkle in that country!  Back then Garth Brooks hit big…if you didn’t know Garth you just didn’t know squat! I do remember go to drill at ISU and Cael always wanting me to bring Ozzy to listen to…momma I’m coming home!

 

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

The most upset ever after a loss was probably my first loss at state my freshman year.  My goal was to be a 4 time state champion.  But when I got there I could tell I was not there yet physically.  These guys were at another level as far as strength.  I knew I needed to make up some ground there in the off season and I made a promise to myself to do just that! I remember after my 6th place finish…Frank Bachman from Glenwood comforted me and told me I would be back and make it worth it! I guess you can say I did!  Thanks Frank!

 

Is there anything with your wrestling career that you would change if you could?

It’s hard to say what I would change in my wrestling career bc I truly believe in God’s plan!  And I love that it has led me to my kids club and helping kids and them find love for the sport!  But when I look back there are a few things that stand out…Jason Payne and I became friends on our recruiting trip and I was really leaning towards UNI.  They really wanted me there.  I wish I would not have cut to 141 at ISU.  It was the first year hydration became part of weigh ins and I could not pass it.  I wonder what things would have been like if I would have stayed at ISU instead of transferring to NE.  I was beating their starter at opens and wanted to wrestle with my former teammate Kyle Canoyer.  But I think if I would have stayed at ISU and continued to get stronger and better I would have eventually been an All-American.  Could of-Should of-Would of’s, Right! But like I said it’s all part of the plan…I get to pass it down now and that’s what I’m trying to do.  It’s about leaving behind a legacy now.  A piece of me.  I love my kids!  My family means everything to me and my wrestling family is something very special as well!

 

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

I wrestled pretty much all year round until baseball hit. Regionals was it for me back then. I would do Northern Plains and usually be in the top 3 in both styles. But when Regionals was done. I wanted to be with friends in my small town of Oakland and playing baseball. I enjoyed all sports! Heck, I was even the 8th grade MVP in basketball. If it meant compete I was in! If Fargo would have been as big as it is today, I probably would have gone on in Freestyle and Greco. I just wasn’t as big as it is today back then. At least it wasn’t to this small town boy.

 

How would the guys from your era do against the wrestlers of today?

The wrestling game is changing for sure! I think it’s easy for me to say that the talent level has escalated from the past to now! I think some have used technology to enhance their skills and use it to train more wisely these days. I know I do and if you don’t as a coach, then your living in the past! Today athlete are also using a lot more gymnastics in their wrestling and the lower level wrestling is apparent! We practice lower level wrestling a lot also! It makes for crazy scrambles and some great defense in matches that call for it! The game of wrestling has evolved and will continue to evolve as next generations pass it down and continue to grow as coaches.

 

Did you wrestle after HS?

After HS I wrestle at Iowa State for 2 seasons before transferring to NE. As stated previously I do look back wondering if I made a mistake in doing so. But God has his ways! I tried cutting to 141 for the team at ISU but couldn’t make the hydration testing that was implemented for the first time ever that year. After going back up to 149 my strength just wasn’t the same and my mind was not focused as well the way it should have been. After transferring to NE to be with my former HS teammate Kyle Canoyer, he ended up stepping away from the sport and NE just didn’t feel like home to me. I took a year of from school to figure out if I still had the fire in me. While in Omaha, Kasey Kohl and others convinced me to give it one more shot at UNO. So at that point I was working a full time job and wax a full time student athlete. Talk about burn out factor! That lasted a little over a semester before I just couldn’t keep up with the work load. I finished out my schooling though! I got my degree from UNO! And began my life into the real world! What wresting did for me to get my degree was nothing short of amazing though! The people and memories I have met and made from wrestling will always be cherished! Thank God for this sport! That’s why I owe it to pass it down!

 

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

To be able to give back to the sport means the world to me these days! My wife wants to boot me in the caboose at times because of it! It’s just a part of me that is hard to ever put to rest! It has given me so much in life! And I feel like God has given me a true gift to pass down to kids and if I didn’t listen to him then I would be ignoring him. I have had a lot of families bring there kids to practice to try our room out only to tell me that they have finally found a home! To me that means the world! I’m not saying I’m the best coach in the world! But I can say that I have created a culture in our room that is contagious to want to be apart of! Heck I can’t wait to go to practice! We currently have crew that drives an hour from Iowa to train with us and it’s bc of that contagious culture! It took one night for them to experience what we do in our room for them to want to make the drive 3 times a week and that makes this coach work that much more for our kids every night I’m in there with them!

 

What are some of your hobbies besides wrestling?

My hobbies other then wrestling are spending time with my family and our pets! Going to the lake near by! Biking! Playing football outside with the kids. Soccer with my daughter! Pretty much anything family and sports is where it’s at for this this dad! That includes fishing or golfing as well! My daughter loves driving the cart all over the place!

 

Favorite Sports Teams?

NCAA FOOTBALL- My brother Justin Thompson and our Family have been Buckeye Fans for 20 plus years! OH!!!

NCAA WRESTLING-ISU/NE/IOWA-Respect bc I wrestled there and grew up watching Iowa wrestling. But Penn State as of recent bc my son’s hero’s are Roman Bravo Young and Austin DeSanto. Plus what Cael has done is remarkable and how he is doing it is the right way! He makes it fun and brings the best out of his wrestlers without intimidation tactics etc! He’s got the right recipe for success!

PRO-They play for $ and not enough for the love of the game these days! So I’ll just leave that there…

 

Did you play other sports? If so, which ones and how did you do?

God blessed me with the ability of being athletic. I pretty much love all sports! Played golf in HS, ran track, played football, and even ran cross country. My cross country story was a touchy one. My Jr. year I had spent some time in the backfield running the ball and was probably going to do the same my Sr. year. But I knew I was not going to go to college playing football and our HS team was not much for size that year. Hence I was warned I could possibly be jeopardizing getting hurt for wrestling. So why not stay in shape running cross country. After choosing to do so, let’s just say I wasn’t a town favorite during football season until wrestling rolled around. It was all good. I was used to this living in a small town. Plus I really did have some fun running cross country with wrestling teammates getting ready fir the season. You guys know who you were!

 

Has wrestling shaped you as the person you are today?

Wrestling has shaped me in so many ways! But I’ll try to just outline a few. First it has made me very determined in life! I have always found a way to be successful in life! When I’ve been knocked down in the business world, in relationships, and in sports I’ve always found a way to bounce back! This is something I instill in my wrestlers today! Determination to never give up! Always find a way! Wrestling has taught me to care about my fellow human beings/teammates! I always talk to my wrestlers about pushing each other and being there for each other like family! Hence the name Warriors Wrestling Family! I think our world needs more of this in general! Helping one another instead of being at odds with one another! Wrestling has also taught me to be thankful! I thank God for this talent he has given to me! I thank God for allowing me to be able to pass it down! And I thank God for this sport to bring so much joy to our family! Yes it has also brought stress at times, I can’t lie. But the joy it has brought out weighs that stress ten fold! And the families it has brought joy to as well I think would agree.

 

Any chance we may get to watch you wrestle again in an Old Timer’s Tournament?

Last year I may have participated in my last old timers tournament for my wrestlers. When this 41 year old wrester, at the time, went up against a 29 year old I felt my age. I know the question…did I win. Yes…but I was gassed! Age is real like any sport on the mat! I would like to go out on top with a first place at the old timers tournament at Buena Vista. This being the same year I was inducted to the IHSSA HALL OF FAME. A lot of my wrestlers were there to watch coach participate which was special, just like they were at my hall of fame induction. And I was so honored to share both with them and my family. I love having two families in this world! My immediate family and my wrestling family!

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

My advice for upcoming wrestlers is keep it fun while training hard! That’s the recipe for success! If you can get through a workout with sweat dripping, muscles pumping, and your mind focused….all the while ending it with smiles and joking around with your workout partners and coaches. You just might of found a recipe for success! Yes there are also times to focus and have those mental edge moments. But the recipe to train and get to those moments are crucial to the sport!

 

How do you feel about things with your wrestling club this season so far?

This is year 5 of our Warriors Wrestling Family and with Covid it has been a real challenging start to the season! Very few tournaments but we are practicing and keeping the kids spirits very high with positive thoughts and great energy in the practice room! We have added some great new talent this season to our club that makes our practice room very competitive! So the mentality had been this! Even if there is not a lot of tournaments…we have some of the best partners in the metro sharpening in the practice room! So when we do go to a tournament we will be ready to showcase our skills and have fun doing so! It’s all about how you can spin a situation. And right now we have the right parents making the right feel with our club to make our kids feel great in these difficult times.

 

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

* Dan McCool was an amazing ambassador to the sport! He always stayed in touch with me and really took notice to the amazing room we had our 1996 year! It was one of a kind and he witnessed it first hand at one of our practices! I can’t tell you how I truly feel about this man and our sport! He holds a special place in this wrestlers heart! God speed Dan McCool…gone but definitely not forgotten!

* In closing I would like to say thank you to everyone that has been part of my journey in this sport! As mentioned earlier I just can’t say names bc there are too many to list and it’s just not fair to mention a few and not the rest! Because all of you have played an important roll in my life! Thank you for being part of it! Someday when this wrestler is put into the ground and his life is being celebrated…I want people to know I wish I could have had a moment to say thank you in person if I had not been able to along the way. Every moment leads to another in this life for the right reasons…I truly believe that! Thank you for our moments in this sport and long live wrestling! God Bless!

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The first time I heard about this match was after it happened when I was a little kid. I was about 6 years old when it happened. The only thing I was able to gather about it was that it was a big deal. Why this was, I didn’t know, for I didn’t fully understand the basics of wrestling yet, but I knew it was important, for it was angrily discussed by so many people in the Southeast Iowa wrestling community. 10 years later, I was filled in on why this match was so widely discussed at the time.

My friend, Nick Breuer and I were camping out at the Des Moines County Fair in the year 1999. We hung out by various campfires all night and listened to a spectrum of stories from several different people. The topics we all shot the bull about varied from baseball to gas money, to the animals at the fair, to girls to you name it, but naturally, we ended up settling on discussing wrestling more than anything. And there were some great wrestlers hanging around who came and went that night. 1999 state champ from Columbus Jct. Nick Lee was there… So was Aaron Drain and a couple other wrestlers came and went. The camper/campfire we hung out with for the majority of the night was owned by a family member of one of Southeast Iowa’s most well-known wrestling families to this day… the Malone family. To be specific, it was Jay Malone’s sister, Joni.  Joni opened up about her brother, Jay’s finals match in 1990 which ended in controversy. Jay was a Senior and was defeated in the finals by an incredible wrestler and athlete,  Brian Moretz from Northwood-Kensett on what many people consider to be a questionable call… To make a long story short, when Joni told this story, she had a few of us rugged, tough-guy, wrestlers in tears due to it hitting us so hard in our collective “feels.” It was difficult for Joni to tell the story without sobbing. It was clear to everyone near the campfire that night, that the outcome of that match cut deep for her family and the Morning Sun wrestling community and considering that Joni told us this story 10 years after the fact and was still torn up about it indicated to me that the void that was planted in the hearts of the Morning Sun wrestling community after this match was likely gonna stay and grow limbs for a while. Time hadn’t healed this wound yet. 

Jay was a Senior in 1990, so not only was this Jay’s last match ever as a wrestler, but it was Morning Sun’s last ever HS match, for they shut down the entire school the following year, which meant that the Morning Sun wrestling program went with it. The future of Morning Sun Junior High and High School wrestlers were to be in the hands of a combination of Wapello, Mediapolis, Columbus Jct., New London, Winfield, etc.  Wherever they decided to enroll. Morning Sun wrestlers have been HUGE factors for the success of every one of those programs since then. I know Mepo for one wouldn’t have won state in 2015 without the help of Morning Sun-Mepo wrestling star, Mason Buster placing 3rd. Wapello had Paul Wilkerson in the early 90’s, Columbus Jct. had Nick and Eric Lee, I can go on forever about the impact of Morning Sun wrestlers in whichever lineup they may have been in since the school closed. The school may have shut down in that community, but wrestling has remained strong. Morning Sun was, still is and will always be a wrestling community, despite no longer having a high school.  A huge part of their identity to this day is wrestling. When you think of certain towns or schools, it’s natural to associate them with what they are known for.  For example: Mepo was known for it’s girls basketball for decades, Applington-Parkersburg, Sigourney, Bettendorf, etc. are all known for having consistently elite football programs. Communities like Lisbon, Don Bosco, Osage, Columbus Jct., etc. are communities that are widely associated with wrestling. When you hear the name of any of those communities, it’s not long before you think, “wrestling.” Morning Sun will always be associated with wrestling and it’s difficult to see that ever not being the case given their storied history.

Get this… the Morning Sun program was started in the 60’s by a man named Bob Darrah. Bob Darrah had success in Morning Sun and eventually moved on to start another powerhouse in a much larger community…Des Moines Dowling. One of the wrestlers Darrah coached was  standout named Al Baxter. Baxter went on to start a powerhouse of his own that is still raking in the hardware…. A little program called Lisbon.  Morning Sun had another HOF coach who got his start there. A man named John Siegel. Siegel had an incredible Head Coaching career at Morning Sun and since the school closed has spent the majority of his years as the perfect complementary assistant coach to HOF HC, Bill Plein of Columbus Jct.  Those two are both coaching at Burlington Notre Dame currently. Siegel also spent some time helping out at Wapello and New London. He has achieved success with literally program he has been part of, for he is a known mastermind of the mental approach to the game.  And he got his start at Morning Sun. Another huge name to get their start there was “The Voice of College Wrestling” himself, Tim Johnson. He was a state qualifier himself for Morning Sun in the Al Baxter era and coached for a few years at Mt. Vernon and did well.  While at Mt. Vernon, he coached Greg Randall to 4 state titles as well as had success with several other wrestlers. He shifted from coaching to commentating in the 80’s, which was a decision I’m personally glad he made, for if there is anyone in the history of wrestling that I would consider to be my #1 inspiration for whatever it is I do now, it is Tim Johnson…and this is because of his post-coaching work with commentating. Before I started commentating Mepo wrestling/baseball and softball games myself for “The Dogcast,” I studied hours of Tim Johnson’s work prior to my first meet. His knowledge of the sport, the passion he has for it that’s easily detected in his voice, his likability, his ability to disguise any potential biases he may have while commenting on a match while still being himself in the process, etc. is just phenomenal. Out of anyone who has ever wrestled or been part of the sport in any way, Johnson is certainly one of my all time favorite wrestling figures/personalities. And the fact that he is a fellow Southeast Iowan makes it even cooler for me. Straight outta Morning Sun!!!

Dowling…Lisbon…Columbus Jct….Tim Johnson…. all traced back to Morning Sun origins. Pretty impressive.

So at the 1990 state tournament, the last ever Morning Sun HS wrestling match to ever take place was to unravel in the state finals…. in the very last match of the tournament, for Morning Sun had a finalist in the HWT division, in which most of us know that the HWT’s are the guys who wrestle last at the state tournament. Head Coach John Siegel had Jay Malone ready to go for the 1A HWT finals match and it seemed as if things were falling into place in a manner that would result in a fairytale ending for one of Iowa’s most storied programs… I mean, you couldn’t write this anymore perfectly. They had the last match of the tournament on lockdown and it was to be called by none other than Morning Sun’s own Tim Johnson. It didn’t seem or feel like things would end on anything, but a positive note… and the thought of things ending on a tragic, catastrophic note just didn’t seem plausible. As you will see, they didn’t receive the farewell they rightfully expected or deserved. Things played out in a manner which almost seemed as if a cruel joke had been played on them.

And none of this is to discredit or throw shade at Jay’s opponent. The wrestler that Jay Malone met in the finals is one of the best heavyweight wrestlers to ever come through the state. Actually, he’s one of the best ever athletes to ever come through the state. His name is Brian Moretz from Northwood-Kensett. While a lot of Morning Sun fans have been vocal in their disagreement with the way the match was called, I’ve never heard one of them say a negative thing about Moretz. He didn’t make the call. He just wrestled… and as usual, he did well until the last few seconds. He is one of the all-time greats and everyone knows it. At the time this match took place, he was a Junior and the returning state champion. He won 3 state titles from 1989-1991 and placed 4th his Freshman year. What makes this more impressive was the fact that he started out as a Freshman at HWT and stayed there his entire career. He finished with a career record of 116-7 with a winning streak of 88. He chose to play football at UNI after HS and was an AA lineman. His accomplishments are incredible. I assume, this match wasn’t how he would have preferred to win, considering how dominant he was. A guy like Moretz probably wanted to win in undeniably dominant fashion… Not in a manner in which the debate was so prevalent and ongoing to where it is still discussed 30 years later as it is right now…

Here is a good look at just how tough he was by the time he was a Senior going for his 3rd state title:

Brian Moretz was and will always be a wrestling legend in the state of Iowa and is in the Hall of Fame. And there isn’t anyone more deserving of that, than him. 4-1-1-1 at HWT is a HUGE feat, and while someone can argue with the call the official made in this match, no one can argue the fact that Moretz more than solidified his status as an all-time wrestling great in his HS wrestling career.

While commentating the tail end of the match, Tim Johnson was noticeably unable to contain his excitement at the end of the match. Johnson is about as good as a person can possibly be when it comes to being a wrestling commentator and when a moment is so huge that it causes him to momentarily lose his composure due to excitement from his personal feelings, then that’s saying something. If a Morning Sun wrestling fan were to watch this match and not go crazy with excitement, I would question whether or not they even cared about wrestling.

So here is the match… This is how the legendary Morning Sun wrestling program ended… Keep in mind that when the video begins, there are roughly 15 seconds left in the match and Moretz has a 5-2 lead:

 

A few years ago, my brother, Justin wrote and recorded a song called “Til’ The Sun Goes Down” and I thought it’d be cool to use for a tribute video I put together about Morning Sun wrestling (particularly this match) one night while learning how to edit video with Camtasia… Check it out:

 

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This was originally supposed to be an Inside The Rivalry with both Josh Budke and Jesse West’s takes, but I can’t get a response from Jesse West and Budke has had his turned in for a long time now. Budke’s takes are so  interesting and insightful, not to mention he obviously worked his tail off on it given how well thought-out his responses were…  I would be silly to not find a way to use this content, for what he turned in is really good stuff. I refuse to let this stuff go to waste. I decided that I will write an article with Budke’s perspective, and if Jesse West reads it and would like to provide his own input, then maybe there will be a Part 2: Jesse West Weighs In. I sure hope so. 

A rather big storyline of the 1997 Iowa HS State Wrestling Tournament was a highly anticipated 3A 130 lb. finals match with Iowa City High Senior, Jesse West and Cedar Falls Senior, Josh Budke.. Budke was not only the returning state champion, but he had won it the previous two years coming into that tournament. However, West was also a returning state champion and had beaten Budke 3 times over the course of the regular season. This provoked collective and mostly shared feelings of anger amongst wrestling fans across the state of Iowa, for West wasn’t Iowa’s returning state champ….he was a transfer from Kansas. These days, people don’t get as worked up as they used to about guys who moved into the state or transferred there, but back in 1997, the act of someone transferring for wrestling seemed like such an uncommon, foreign idea that the transfers weren’t treated like the rest of the Iowan wrestlers by the general spectators, but treated like…well, foreigners. With Jesse West, some people were so dramatic about it that it was like we were being invaded by the evil Russian from Rocky 4, Ivan Drago and it gave a lot of people who weren’t used to it a feeling of, “why did THAT GUY move to OUR state to compete in OUR sport! He must be booed!!!” People got ugly with it. Transfers received very cold unwelcomes back then and in retrospect, it wasn’t fair to them. Not to sound holier than thou, for I have been guilty of being overly unwelcoming of transfers myself until about 5-6 years ago, when something that changed my mind about it. 

With all that said and no offense to Jesse West, he is probably a great guy, but most Iowan wrestling crews at the time were entrenched in the Budke corner of that rivalry if they had a preference at all in the matter. There were some fans sprinkled here and there who were rooting against Budke because they were rivals with him or their school was rivals with Cedar Falls, but generally speaking, the only people who seemed to be in the Jesse West corner were people from the IC High/Matpac community and those who actually knew him.. This was at a time where being an out of state transfer wrestler in Iowa was near it’s peak in terms of not being a good experience for them.  There are transfers even today who experience the “you aren’t an actual Iowan” treatment from Iowa wrestling fans, but the hate is not nearly as vocal, open and widespread as it used to be.  So there was a bit of chippiness among fans when they wrestled. It was a pretty big deal at the time.

HERE IS THE MATCH VIDEO TO THE FINALS MATCH. IF WEST PARTAKES IN THIS IN THE FUTURE, I WILL TRY TO FIND A MATCH FROM THE REGULAR SEASON TO BE FAIR.

 

STARTING OFF WITH BACKGROUND INFO-RELATED Q/A FROM BUDKE AND WILL LEAD INTO JESSE WEST RIVALRY

 

What was your overall record in HS?

JOSH BUDKE:  155-11… 7 losses as a Freshman, 1 as a Sophomore and then the 3 losses Senior year to Jesse.

 

What were your high school state results?

 4th as a Freshman at 103

1st as a Sophomore at 103

1st as a Junior at 112

1st as a Senior at 125

 

What was the highpoint of your HS wrestling career?

Winning State Senior year along with the team title are major highlights.

 The highpoint that stands out was the Dream Team Classic (Iowa vs. US national team) the spring of my senior year.  First time they held the event and it was at Waterloo West where I grew up wrestling.

I had a close match but won 4-0 and the place was unbelievably loud.  It was great meeting the other Iowa kids and the National team kids also.

 

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

 I have mentioned this here prior, but I was a terrible loser. It is such a hard sport and you take it personally but there are plenty of top-notch guys who lose with grace – that was not me.

 The Jesse West loses were all hard to take.  The other ones that stand out for me were at some of national freestyle tournaments.  I was close a couple times to be an all-American and lost some close matches that still bother me.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

The first time I went to an AAU event was 5th grade and I did not qualify.

I ended up 4th at AAU State as a 6th grader.

I did not place in 7th grade.

I ended up 5th at AAU State as an 8th grader.

 Lot of good kids in those brackets and wish I had a copy of those! (lot of state champs and place winners)

 A couple rivals of note.

 JD Pugh from Columbus Junction always got the best of me growing up.  I do not remember ever beating him!  

Brandon Livingood from Decorah was another guy who beat me way more than I got him.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

 Wrestled at the University of Iowa.  I made some friends I still have today and a lot of life experience that is for sure.  I had a few varsity matches as a sophomore and as a Senior but was never the top guy at the weight class.  Disappointing college career.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

Cedar Falls had some great coaches and I never thanked them all enough for everything they did!

Gene Doyle, Ken Gallagher, Jeff Gard, Jay Llewellyn, Trainor, Olmstead to name a few coaches over my 4 years.

 Paul Huffman was the guy who took me under his wing and made the difference in my wrestling.  He taught me how to leg the right way and spent a ton of extra time with me and it made the difference in my career without a doubt.

 

Who was your most influential wrestler?

 Hard to pick one.  I would say Tony Wieland was someone I looked up to and kept me from getting beat up as a little 103 pounder!  Huge guy, multiple state champ and college all-American but was as nice as they come.  Another guy I never thanked enough for looking after me.

 The other is Nick Flach helping me out Senior year against West.  Not 100% clear why he did but really cool of a college kid to reach out and help a guy he did not know.

 

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

 I had a couple uncles on my mom’s side that were state place winners at Cedar Falls.  

 

My little brother was a stud athlete at Cedar Falls but never wrestled.  He has a little boy who just started in their kids wrestling club in Cedar Falls.

 

My youngest is now wrestling here in Cedar Rapids and he loves it.

 

I also have a nephew at Ballard-Huxley who is wrestling in high school and doing a great job.

 

Who are your favorite current HS wrestlers?

 I do not follow HS super close but Linn-mar had a good year with some tough kids so that was great to see.

 

Was your team competitive?

 We were very competitive.  Cedar Falls in the 1990’s had some great wrestlers and some great teams before and after I was wrestling there.  (In the 90’s CF won state team titles 3 times, a runner up and 4th place finish.  We had some good state dual results also)

 We were state champs my Senior year and won back to back to back individual titles, so a lot of credit goes to my teammates that year.  Adam Eichhorn and Eric Sinclair both had great careers at Cedar Falls, were state champs that year and were great work out partners.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I always say it was boring!  I was tough on top mainly riding legs.  I was solid on bottom.  I was never a great technician on my feet.  Preferred getting into a scramble or front headlocks.

 

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

 Plenty of things but I regret the tournaments I did not go to the most, even over some of the loses.

My senior year I should have gone out to Senior Nationals and then I also did not go out to Fargo for Junior Nationals.  Both decisions I regret.  I tell my kids all the time that it is ok to fail, but you will regret not trying and not going for what you want far more.

 

The other thing I have mentioned a couple times but keeping Wrestling in perspective.  Wrestling is a great sport, but it is still just a sport.  I would have been a better wrestler (especially in College) if I could have kept a better mentality around that.  Learn from your loses and get better but do not let it define who you are as a person.

 

What was your best wrestling memory/accomplishment?

 So many great memories and great teammates from my kids club all the way thru college.

 Accomplishment wise, I would say looking back that going from a pretty mediocre wrestler as a kid and junior high wrestler to putting things together in high school and being a state champion.  My goal was always to win state, but I always questioned if that was possible. Now I try telling my own kids to be patient as they develop in their own sports and activities.   Where they are at today, skill wise and in comparison, to their peers, is not where they will end up if they keep working and getting better!

It was also a really great experience getting into the High School hall of Fame and having my older kids with my wife and I out in the middle of the mat.  (My wife was a wrestling cheerleader, so we are high school sweethearts.  At the hall of fame, she was pregnant with our twins) My head coach, Gene Doyle was inducted the same year so that was special also.

 

How hard did you work? Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

 One of my strengths was my conditioning and I worked hard at that.  No regrets about the amount of work I put in.  I was not the most talented, by a long way, so I closed that gap via hard work.  

 I did wrestle all year round and I did wrestle freestyle (but not very well) I wrestled in one (and only one) Greco tournament so I could weigh in early for freestyle.  Poor choice but a couple funny stories from it.

 

What other sports did you play?

 Growing up I played about everything, just not very well.  After 7th grade I focused on wrestling and that was the only thing I did in high school.  Really wished I would have run cross country my senior year in high school.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

 I follow the Hawkeyes and the Chicago Cubs

 

What are your hobbies?

With 5 great kids, a very supportive wife and a busy career my hobbies have taken a back seat the past few years.  I did get back into shape a few years back doing Triathlons and accomplished a goal of mine in doing Ironman Louisville in 2010 which was awesome.

Coaching the kids has been a highlight for me and I would encourage every parent to get into coaching.  Lots of great stories there 😊

 

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

 I was really a shy quiet kid and wrestling gave me my identity when I was growing up.  The work ethic and grit you learn and earn in this sport translates over to the rest of your life.  I am grateful for all the lessons this sport taught me.  

 It also can be very damaging if you do not keep winning and losing in perspective so finding a balance is super important in my opinion.

 

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

I coached at Cedar Rapids Washington for several years and loved it.  As my family grew that took a priority so I stopped.  Now my youngest is getting into the sport so we will see where that takes us.

I work at The Accel Group, which is an insurance broker here in Iowa.  Great company and great people.  A lot of old wrestlers in the group which is fun.

 

When did you first wrestle Jesse West? Ever meet up in youth wrestling. How long did the rivalry last?

 

He may not remember this, but our first-time wrestling was in the Iowa Wrestling room.  It was in the fall right before the season started.  Royce Alger was running the high school club that year and he paired us together one Sunday practice (on purpose I am sure)  I had no idea who he was but everyone one else was done and running and we were still going until someone got a takedown.  I still remember we went for a while without a score, but I hit an inside trip to a double and finally scored on him. When I learned he was at City High and wrestling 125 that year I knew it was going to be a battle. He transferred in that year from Kansas, so I did not know him until we were both Seniors in high school.  He would drop a weight in college, and I moved up a weight, so we never ran into each other after that.  I do remember rooting for him against Leroy Vega later that summer at a freestyle tournament and wanted to see him succeed when we were not going up against each other.

 

 

What were the overall results between you and your Jesse? Where did you wrestle, and which matches stuck out as being most intense or most important?

 We wrestled four matches our Senior year. One win on my side and three wins on his.  They were all close.

– Keith Young finals I lost right at the end of the match.  I gave up a reversal, got an escape and could not get a takedown.

– Later in the year at the City High, Cedar falls dual meet I lost in double overtime.

– MVC Conference final was a 1-point loss to him.

– State Finals, overtime was my only win.

 Both, Keith Young and the dual meet were held in the Cedar Falls gym so those losses really hurt in front of my home crowd.  The dual was packed for that meet.

(Random note but our conference tournament was held at Linn-mar and my kids go to school there, so I still think about that loss 😊  The loss my sophomore year was also at Linn-mar so I’ve pointed out to my kids where I broke my headgear after that one)

 Not necessarily more important but the first loss at Keith Young broke a pretty good winning streak for me and made me question staying at 125.  I started thinking about going up to 130 to avoid him.

 

How confident were you coming into each match? Did you ever have to battle any nerves when wrestling him? 

I had a good tournament going into the finals at Keith Young and beat a couple good kids, so I felt pretty good.  I was always nervous.  Every match, every time.  Looking back now, I was a little too high strung and took wrestling way to seriously.  

 

What did you know about Jesse coming into the first match you had with him?

I knew he was a 2-time state champ, from Kansas and from our time at the Hawkeye club I knew it was going to be a tough match.

 

What was the best/closest match you and Jesse had?

 Hard to pick one since they were all good battles, but I should choose our state finals match since I won that one. 😊

 

What was your game plan against him?

During the regular season I should have game planned more and I did not have a plan.  I just took the attitude that I would wrestle my match and I would beat him, not a great strategy obviously.

The first time I really put together a game plan was for state.  Nick Flach (at UNI at the time) offered to help me and he came up with a plan for me.   Basically, the plan was this.  Keep running back to the middle and try to make conditioning a factor and 2) no crab rides, minimal legging.  During our first three matches he would reverse me each time I tried.  If you look at the finals match it looks like he was waiting for me to crab ride, instead I kept sucking him back so the plan worked right up until the end.   I avoided it most of the match but when I tried it with 5 seconds left, he put me in a lot of trouble again.  Thankfully, they ruled it an escape and not the reversal.

 

Do you know Jesse off the mat?

 No and I wish I would have tried.  Back then he was such a rival/threat and someone trying to achieve what I was trying to achieve that I did not like him.  He was probably a great guy.

 

Did you respect their wrestling skills?

 Absolutely!  I underestimated how tough he was on top and I struggled to get out.  He was hard to score on and most of our matches were low scoring.

 

How did you feel when you won?

 Only happened once, but it was at the right time.  Combination of relief and excitement.  After giving up the last second point to go into overtime I was so panicked I just kept telling myself not to blow it after I had the win locked up. I do have to say I should have prepared for the post-match interview.  That must be one of the worst interviews of all time! Super painful to watch.

 

How did you feel when you lost?

 After our first match at Keith Young, I remember Mark and Mike Schwab (Mike was at Don Bosco and Mark was at Minnesota coaching I believe) pulling me aside.   They were trying to give me some pointers after that first lost and I could not pull myself together.  In general, I took losing way too hard and I was not very mature about it. The way I handled losing would be a regret of mine.

 

Any chance we could see a rematch with you and Jesse at an old man’s tournament?

 Sounds like a terrible idea!  I can get talked into most things so never say never, but my money is on Jesse if that happens.

 

Is there anything else you would like to add? Advice? Entertaining information. Interesting facts. Cool things about life? Cool things about wrestling? Funny stories?

 Couple other random stories to our last match at State.  The grand march before finals.  Everyone walks out with their weight class.  Really cool experience and was blessed to have the opportunity each year to walk.  Well, what I thought was an upspoken rule was that each finalist was on the opposite end of their row so basically you are apart from each other.  Not sure if it was his coach’s idea or his but he stood right next to me during the grand march.  I am sure they were trying to get into my head.  I was so mad at first and then it struck me that it was intentional, so I started talking to him instead to show it did not bother me.  I think it was the only time we ever spoke to each other!  

 2nd part to this.  I realized pretty quickly that he was watching me warm up and again not sure if it was him or his coaches but it looked like he was going to shadow what I was doing, even in warms ups.

I am guessing since I had been there.  So, it goes back to the conditioning game plan…. While warming up I was behind some partial walls in the basement of vets.  Again, I noticed he was watching me so I decided I would sprint where he could see me and then stop and walk when I was behind the wall.  I saw him sprinting every time I was so I figured I would try and wear him out before the match if I could keep him running.  There is a lot of time to warm up before finals and you can wear yourself out if you are not careful.

 Another random fact is that was the 2nd year in a row I wrestled an Iowa City High guy who transferred.  Joe Lucchi transferred back to Iowa City my Junior year.  I beat him in the finals at the Keith Young tournament at 112, so he ended up dropping down to 103.  He beat Cliff Moore in the state finals that year, essentially keeping Cliff from being a 4-time champ. I would say that started the wave of transferring we would see become more prevalent years later.  Reiland over at City West certainly had his fair share but Brad Smith started it 😊

 

Did Jesse being a Kansas transfer put any fuel on the competitive fire for you or was that something that did not matter?

 It was more about getting beat by him then where he was from.  I just remember going into the season thinking it was going to be a fun year and my goal was to dominate.  I did not see any real threats at the weight class, so this was my year to have some fun.  That changed quick.

 

Were you able to pick up on the General spectators rooting for you because you were the Iowa homegrown guy? 

Yes and no.

 Funny story here but some of the Waterloo West cheerleaders asked me for a senior picture and I said no.  (I was worried my girlfriend, also a cheerleader would get mad – side note, 24 years later were still married) Well they thought I was a jerk (rightfully so) so they were huge West fans and were very vocal in their support of him.

I would say otherwise I did get some “homegrown” support and a lot of “you can’t let some Kansas kid beat you” stuff from people.  I received a ton of cards and notes after the state tournament from people, so the support was awesome.

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Who Is The GOAT?!?! The Case For Cody Fisher, Woodward Granger

I love how this kid put Woodward Granger on the map the way he did. This one may be a surprise to some of ya and for a couple reasons. To start, most of the guys I have written about for this series were in earlier eras than Cody. Secondly, Cody Fisher, IMO put together one of the most impressive careers in Iowa HS wrestling history and did so, seemingly to the sound of collective, state-wide cricket chirping.  He went out and consistently won, consistently dominated, but he was never flashy about it, really. He isn’t cocky. He isn’t some Hulkamaniac upper-weight with 40 inch biceps and washboard abs. He is a strong dude, but it never seemed like it was to the point where he was always overwhelmingly physically imposing to his opponents like Matt Fields was. Cody Fisher won and did so consistently all 4 years in HS and did so starting as an upper-weight and the main reason he did this was simple… He is a one tough, intelligent dude on that mat and has such a balanced skill-set… He reminds me of what Lance Berkman was to the MLB. Lance was a guy who was kind of built like Fisher. Ya know, obviously athletic, but not too concerned with trying to attain the physique of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but strong looking as hell nevertheless…. They are both pesky in about every facet of their games, both didn’t seem to have any weaknesses and they both appear and come off as guys who you could see yourself hanging out and playing Mario Kart with off the mat. A nice guy, too.

So Fisher placed 2-2-1-1 at state and what makes this incredible for him was that he started his HS tenure as a Freshman at 195 lbs. He placed 2nd his first two years in HS as an upper weight and in both matches, he lost to upperclassmen phenom who will likely have his own GOAT article someday, Bryce Esmoil of West Liberty. Fisher can be forgiven for that. I mean how many Freshman are able to say that they scrapped at state on Saturday night at 195 lbs? Not many and most of the 195 lb. Freshman who get into scraps on Saturday night at state wrestling, did so fighting with their friends about who got the last cup of Dip N’ Dots. Fisher scrapped at state on a Saturday night because he was  just straight up tough enough to be able to make the finals as  a Freshman. And if it weren’t for Bryce Esmoil, who knows… he could have become a 4X state champion who started out at 195, which is just unheard of.

2017 2A 195
1 Bryce Esmoil (Jr.) West Liberty
2 Cody Fisher (Fr.) Woodward Granger
3 Jackson Mikkelsen (Sr.) Creston-OM
4 Matthew Landsperger (Jr.) Knoxville
5 Zac Stork (Sr.) Atlantic
6 Sam Moore (Sr.) Mount Vernon
7 Seth Moore (Sr.) Ballard
8 Caleb Olson (So.) Webster City

2018 2A 195
1 Bryce Esmoil (Sr.) West Liberty
2 Cody Fisher (So.) Woodward Granger
3 Nick Foss (Sr.) Harlan
4 Nick Smith (Sr.) Central DeWitt
5 Kade Hambly (Jr.) Clear Lake
6 Dalton Chipp (Jr.) Hampton-Dumont
7 Blake Anderson (Sr.) OABCIG
8 Shyler Langley (Sr.) Heelan Catholic

2019 2A-220
1 Cody Fisher of Woodward Granger
2 Kaden Sutton of ADM, Adel
3 Dakoda Powell of Spirit Lake Park
4 Kobe Simon of West Liberty
5 Kade Hambly of Clear Lake
6 Mike Hoyle of Solon
7 Seth Adrian of Assumption
8 Jarrett Meyer of Central Lyon-G-LR

2020 2A 220
1 Cody Fisher (Sr) Woodward Granger
2 Kobe Simon (Jr) West Liberty
3 Seth Adrian (Sr) Assumption – Davenport
4 Crew Howard (Jr) Clarinda
5 Treyton Burnikel (Jr) Crestwood – Cresco
6 Andrew Hamilton (Sr) Algona
7 Kamrin Steveson (Jr) Grinnell
8 Christian Nunley (Jr) West Delaware

He was also a 4X Freestyle AA at Fargo Nationals. He’s one of the most underrated wrestlers to come out of Iowa in quite some time. He now wrestled for Iowa State and is a Freshman this season.

 

 

When I was writing for The Predicament, I conducted this interview with him prior to his Senior season: 

 

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

I started  really getting into wrestling in the fourth grade and some very good family friends introduced me to it.

 

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

I’m the first person in my family to wrestle believe it or not, haha.

 

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

Wrestling for me was a gradual process at a young age and took lots of time and dedication.

 

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

Growing up I’ve been with Ubasa Wrestling Academy and my experience with Pablo is very unique. I’m glad I’ve stuck through with him and it’s gonna be hard to leave that.

 

What are a couple memorable moments from youth wrestling?

Some memorable moments with in my youth were winning my 2 AAU State titles and wrestling the Funez twins from Perry at the Perry tournament my 7th grade year.

 

How did you finish at state tournaments in youth?

I finished first twice and 7th once at AAU state in my youth.

 

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

Memorable high school moments are definitely the state tournament and definitely gotta give some attention to the ACGC tournament for being my favorite regular season tournament.

 

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

2nd, 2nd and first.

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

I loved watching bigger guys so definitely fans of Mike McMullan and J’den Cox

 

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

The summer going into my sophomore year I noticed big leaps and bounds in my wrestling just from devoting more time to the sport.

 

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

I’ve had several tough competitors… too many to name without feeling like I left a few out. Many competitors, even ones I beat handily, have had great things they’ve brought to the table.

 

Not very many guys make the finals 4 times, let alone starting at a heavier weight as you did as a Freshman. Now here you are, a Senior and 3 time state finalist and returning champ. How cool is it that you are on pace to join an elite club of 4 time finalists in Iowa and even more exclusive being a 4 time finalist who started raking in the hardware as an upperweight Freshman?

It’s very cool knowing I’ve made finals every year at heavier weights and my most memorable tournament is my Junior year and the feelings and having everyone there around me and looking at my phone afterwards and  reading all the messages. It was just an unreal feeling.

 

What are your wrestling goals for this coming season?

Some goals are to definitely get another title and others is to hit 200 wins for my career but other than that I haven’t given much thought to goals yet.

 

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

I don’t know really how to describe my own style… I guess you could say I’m pretty offensive based on my wrestling.

 

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

I used to play football until my sophomore year then I decided to devote myself to wrestling.

 

What are some of your hobbies besides wrestling?

For hobbies, I’m an avid scary movie watcher and I also enjoy spending time with my friends and relatives.

 

What is some of the best advice you ever received?

Best advice I’ve ever had is really hard to say because I’ve been around some really great minds of the sport and I’ve soaked up so much it’s hard to say just one.

 

Do you have any advice for up and coming wrestlers?

Advice for upcoming wrestlers is to just focus on getting better and invest in the process of it and it will pay dividends in the end.

 

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

I don’t have a favorite style, I just enjoy wrestling as a whole.

 

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

Definitely a lot people to thank for the coaching I’ve received, but Pablo Ubasa, Ross Larson, Tanner Hiatt, Mike Zadick and the ISU coaching staff have taken my wrestling to extraordinary heights and I’m excited to see where things go from here.

 

What are your college plans? Is wrestling in your future whether it be competing or coaching?

I’m currently committed to wrestle for Iowa State and coach Kevin Dresser and the rest of the ISU coaching staff.

 

What is the future outlook for Woodward Granger wrestling?

I’m hoping I’ve started Woodward Granger wrestling in the right path and whenever possible I’d like to come back and help. Later in life if our paths cross again, I’d be very happy to coach for Woodward Granger.

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Remember The Wrestler: Kelly Fox of Guthrie Center

 

While reading Kelly’s responses to the questionnaire and learning about his journey and experiences with wrestling, it hit me in “the feels” pretty hard at parts.  It gave me the same feeling I get whenever I watch the end of the movie, “Rudy.” I can’t make it through that movie without crying.  I didn’t make it through reading about Kelly Fox’s wrestling journey without crying either. 

Do you think I’m a wussy for that? Ok then, I’ll sick Dan Gable on you!

 

HAHA, TAKE THAT, ROBOTS! See…it’s ok for wrestlers to be sentimental about wrestling. Dan Gable clearly is…. and he is the complete opposite of  someone who is “weak-minded.” Wrestlers are way more human than we are often times given credit for by non-wrestlers. The next time a non-wrestler tells me that wrestlers are nothing more than emotionless robots that like to roll around with each other dressed in swimsuits, ironically may summon my inner Terminator. 

Anyways…

\The story of Kelly Fox is something that could appeal to any sports fan. Heck, it could appeal to someone not interested in sports at all. If a person tells you that they don’t think they could ever get into wrestling, the Kelly Fox story would be a perfect one to use if you want to try to change their outlook on that. Kelly Fox qualified for state as a Sophomore with a mediocre 14-10 record and managed to win a state title. This just simply does not happen very often. He was an underdog in every match, he faced a high ranked wrestler in every match and he WON all four of these matches to win state. It amazes me that this story was almost completely forgotten about in time by most wrestling fans. I had never heard of it happening prior to watching the 1983 state tournament for the first time ever a few weeks ago and you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who has studied Iowa HS state wrestling history over the years more than I have.

There are tons of people who love inspirational sports movies like Rudy. Some people who love these types of movies may have no interest in the sport being played in the movie, but love it anyways because they love stories of good characters defeating the odds… it makes people feel happy. Kelly Fox is a guy you could make a movie like that about…(If I had a budget to work with, I 100% WOULD do it. I mean that). A person doesn’t have to have any prior wrestling knowledge, experience or interest to be inspired by Kelly’s story either. What’s not to love about a true story of a person repeatedly defeating the odds at the perfect time and accomplishing tremendous feats despite being doubted by everyone outside their own supportive and enthusiastic wrestling community? Most love those types of stories, no matter who or what they may be about.  Rocky… Rudy… Miracle…Hoosiers….. KELLY FOX! This man is our Rudy, guys… 

(In Case You’ve Never Seen The Ending Of The Movie “Rudy” That I Referred To):

 

This is also a perfect example of something that needs to be documented and accessible to anyone who has a wrestling background and/or people who try wrestling in the future…For it could inspire them during the rough times that they will most certainly have at some point in their careers or well, lives. Not to mention, it’s something that should not be forgotten in time as it almost was! And to think that there may be other stories or journeys similar to Kelly’s that are at risk of permanently falling between the cracks of infinite obscurity… It just makes me want to research more and try to find more Kelly Fox’s before their memories fade even further…. Thing is, I don’t know if there is a likelihood of finding any other stories quite like Kelly’s…. The only one I can think of that comes close is Rice Owens from WDM Valley winning state with something like an 25-13 record in 1998. The Kelly Fox story does not happen very often, BUT maybe it will happen again in the future for a young reader out there who may use Kelly’s words and story as the inspiration they needed to spark their own inner fire that helped them accomplish their goals.

I hope parents/coaches of wrestlers encourage their kids to read this one. You can tell them to skip past my ramblings…. They need to learn from and learn about Kelly Fox! What he accomplished and his account in how he accomplished it is one of the most heart-warming things you will ever hear about in this sport. As I mentioned above, it made me cry.  If you think I am a cowardly lion for that, then I guess I should offer you an oil can, for I assume you are a heartless tin man who could use some.

THIS IS THE CLIP OF KELLY CELEBRATING HIS STATE FINALS WIN WITH HIS COACHES AND CHEERLEADERS AS WELL AS HIM RECEIVING HIS GOLD MEDAL ON THE PODIUM:

 

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

I only wrestled for my High School, Guthrie Center High School. Back then there were no clubs that you attached yourself to and did out of season wrestling with. There were a few summer tournaments, but most of us had jobs during the summer. We did have a 2 week camp period during the summer at our HS, but that was about the extent of wrestling when not in season.

 

What year did you graduate?  

May 1985

 

 Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

Actually coming from a smaller town you played all the sports. In Jr. High I did football, basketball, track, and baseball. Up until my 7th grade year I had never tried wrestling. So that year I went out and 2 weeks into it, I quit. Did not feel good at quitting something that I had started, but just was not a fan. I think because I had never been exposed to the sport, I did not get out on a very good foot and quite frankly was getting my butt whipped. I was a guard in basketball and actually thought I had some game, so had decided that basketball would be my winter sport. Once 8th grade came around, I still had a bad taste in my mouth for quitting wrestling the year before, so I went back out and tried it again. I had some success. I think I was .500 in matches, but after the season I felt much better and thought I had made up for quitting the year before. Summer came and I had football and basketball camps and at that point I had ordered my basketball shoes for my upcoming freshman year. Throughout my freshman year of football, I had numerous upper classmen come up to me and tell me they better see me on the mat after football was over, for they were in need of a 98 pounder. Didn’t think much of it, but as the season got closer and closer the noise was getting louder and louder and a few seniors indicated that they didn’t want to stick me into a locker if I had made a bad choice on not going out for wrestling. In the end, it was the Sunday before winter sports practices started that I had made my decision and it was one that would pretty much change my path in life. Mind you, my new basketball shoes were not in yet, but that Monday in early November of 1981, instead of taking a left into the door that led to the basketball practice gym, I went right into the wrestling room and the look on the basketball coaches’ faces was not a good one. I was young then and did not have the heart to tell them that I had changed my plans and felt wrestling was a better fit based on my size at the time. I was less than 100 lbs. and only 5’2”. In the end it was the best decision I ever made, for it forever changed who I was. Footnote to that story, my basketball shoes did come in about 2 weeks later and when the assistant coach gave them to me, he did say he missed me on the court, but hoped I was happy with my decision. He ended up being a big fan of mine which really meant a lot. You hate to disappoint people especially that early in life, but in the end if worked out for everyone.

 

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

My younger brother who is 2 years younger than me did some wrestling and I had a cousin also who wrestled in HS prior to me getting into HS. Nobody currently in my family wrestles, I do have a 17year old son, but I never once pushed him into the sport and he was a hockey player growing up. He never seemed to have any interest so I just stayed away from it. I told him I thought he would be good, for he is very competitive, but it was not something he ever wanted to try. I am at peace with that, as a father, down deep I wanted him to, but I always told him I was good with whatever sports he wanted to play. It was baseball and hockey.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Didn’t really have any for I didn’t do any of the younger kids tournaments or wrestle until got into my junior high years.

 

What was your record in HS?

Freshman year = 15-15 (3rd at Sectionals, but see below on a bizarre activity in which I got to actually wrestle at districts that year). Sophomore year = 18-10, Junior Year = 26-8, and Senior Year = 21-1, so totals look like 80-34.

 

How did you place at state every year?

Freshman year – -Got 3rd at sectionals, but the night before districts started, my coach got the call that Dexfield’s Paul Merical became ill and was unable to compete, so I got the nod being that I finished 3rd. So mind you this was technically my second year of competition, so when I got there, I truly didn’t understand the impact of what districts was. I knew the wrestlers at districts would be tough, so I was not expecting much that would surprise me. Ended up beating the sectional champ from the week before, but that was as close as I got. Finished 3rd and only top two from districts went onto state. But I almost back-doored my way in my Freshman year. Sophomore Year – -State Champ 98 lbs, went in with a 14-10 record, that has to be, if not the worst, one of the worst records in the bracket. I got 2nd at both Sectionals and Districts. You guessed it, I was 16th seed at State. Had to go through the gauntlet to get that crown. Junior Year 105 lbs – 4th place overall. Senior Year – 105 lbs…Beat out in first round by a freshman and no wrestle backs for my guy got beat next round.

 

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

The one that sticks out the most is my Senior year where I rolled my ankle in a dual in early January and I was out 3 weeks. Very painful and I could not put a lot of weight on the ankle for that period of time. We did not have a pool and there is only so much bike you can ride to stay in shape. Came back the weekend before Sectionals that year to wrestle in my last Guthrie Center Tiger Invitational and ended up winning it, but in the championship match took a huge elbow to the top of my head and it split wide open and the cut was deep. I was wrapped up like a mummy to finish the match, but then had to go to hospital afterwards to get 9 stitches in the top of my head. Took it pretty easy the week leading up to sectionals and going into both sectionals and districts, I was clearly out of shape and not at my peek that was for sure for didn’t have that many matches. Being that I was a senior, I was wrestling a lot of underclassmen at 105, so that was of help.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

Always wanted to get the very first take down and my go to move right out of the gate was a duck under to a single and down to the mat you go. After that, loved riding the legs and controlling your arms and using tilts. Did not pin a bunch, but I would rack up some back points. When I rode legs, I rode high and put a lot of pressure on your shoulders/neck. I could sense frustration a lot of times for if we would have had riding time back then, I would have racked it up on most kids.

 

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

A few that stick out to me was wrestling Pat and Mike Moran from Woodward Granger were guys I went back and forth with a lot. First and foremost, those guys were class acts. Win or lose they were always so gracious and we ended up being friends. After matches and at tournaments I would hang out with them and we would talk wrestling. My Junior year in 1984 I went back and forth with a wrestler from Dallas Center Grimes named Doug Hatch who ended up winning it all that year. We wrestled in a dual and then a few tournaments and he had my number every time. We had to wrestle in the Semifinals at State that year and he got the best of me. I was happy to see him go on that year and take the Championship, very good wrestler and person as well. Of course in my conference and regular tournaments there were numerous guys that I would wrestle multiple times and the last one that sticks out me is Mark Patrick From Coon Rapids. He and I went back and forth and I don’t believe Tim every beat me, but I will tell you every time I wrestled him he would get better and better and just such an outstanding person. We wrestled each other so much, we knew what each would do, so it truly was a game of cat and mouse by the time we were seniors. Those four guys jump right out at me when I think of tough exchanges and good people in the sport.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I have to go with my head coach at the time I won it, Jim Calvert. But also had some pretty good assistants throughout my career, but I think more importantly were the boys in the room that I wrestled against every day. They were scrappy, tough, and really took it to me from time to time. I always remember we would try different things and bounce things off one another. Learned different techniques from them all, but at the end of the day we all respected one another and were good teammates.

 

What was the story of your state championship your Sophomore year? What was your record? How did districts and the matches leading to the finals go for you?

What a run this was. First and foremost my season record was only 14-10 coming into State. Finished 2nd at Sectionals in Coon Rapids that year where I had to wrestle 3 matches (wrestle back) to advance, and then went to Rockwell City for Districts, where I finished 2nd as well. Don’t remember how that district came out, but remember eventually falling to the champion of our district 3-2 in OT. Have to be totally honest, I was not expecting it. I remember it being a very tough district, but remember in those days I wrestled the 1st place guy from the other sectional and I beat him 5-4 and then had to wrestle Chad Cox again from my district and again he beat me 3-2 in OT. Then it was on to State the next week in which I just remember it being a very compact and quick week. Since the season was technically over, I went up to Coon Rapids to wrestle with their qualifiers and against Mark Patrick a lot (I mentioned before). Had a light practice that Wednesday and then off on Thursday to State. My High School had a send off event which I thought was pretty cool and then in the school van we went. There were some things that stick out to me about how it felt when we first got down there. First at weigh-ins, I found it very intimidating that there were multiple teams with 5-7 wrestlers there and here I was with only one other wrestler, our Super Heavyweight Kent Bortell. I just remember the whole Lisbon team standing there in a huddle and I had to go up against their top guy Danny Benyshek. I can’t fully describe how it felt that very first time entering Veterans Auditorium and walking around the floor where the mats were.  I suppose the best word to describe it is, “amazing.” Nothing will ever compare to that old barn. I know today everything is nice and new and bigger, but I am telling you there was something special about that place and when I walked out on the mat, I felt at home for some strange reason. I wrestled the best guys to get to the finals. I can’t remember their rankings, but I am telling you they were all very highly ranked throughout the year. First off was again Danny Benyshek from #1 Lisbon team. Final score of the match was 7-5, I remember getting the first take down and I believe a 2 pt. nearfall, but don’t remember anything else except for hanging on at the end. The look on my coaches face when that match was over, I am going to say was one of huge surprise. The next day was an early match Friday morning, against Kingsley-Pearson’s LeMont Schmid. It was a 5-1 final, and I believe it was a takedown and some back points that provided me that lead. I remember he was down to start the 3rd period and I gave up a late escape, but he couldn’t get me down. I felt good after that match and I think it was at that point where I was like, “let’s go. I can compete with these guys and you just have to keep the pressure on them.” So after that it was off to get some food and rest, for the semis would be that night. I remember we went back to the hotel and chilled most of the day. Coach didn’t want me to stay around Vet’s, so it was a hangout day at the hotel. Once we got back to Vet’s for the semis, I felt a huge change in atmosphere and the enormity at hand. I could see on my friends’ faces and how nervous they were, but it gave me confidence in a way I can’t describe. My semifinal match was against Bob O’Conner from Dike. He was a year older, had already been to state the year before and was 27-2 coming into our match. I got one look at him before walking out and was like, wow he is thick. He had some tough matches before, so I remember going out right away and trying to take him down and he blocked everything I threw out at him. He did try for some singles, but 0-0 after 1. In regulation we went 2-2, and for the life of me I can’t remember how that went. As we went to OT, I shot right away and as we went to the mat something popped in his knee. There was an injury timeout and after some time, we continued. He clearly was not the same and was hurting, for I ended up tilting him to his back 3 times on my way to a 10-0 OT victory. Later down in these questions, I will provide you with a memory I will never forget about this match. Man, my team and buddies were all fired up after that and we couldn’t believe I would be walking in the Grand March, and wrestling in the finals. That next day was a whirlwind. Had teammates and former wrestlers coming to the hotel all day. I was trying to stay calm and relaxed, but found that very hard. Just remember my coach saying you have gotten this far, let it all go on this match. Got to the arena and the Grand March is something I will never forget. If there is one thing, I wish all my buddies could take part in, it would be that. You have 10K people with a standing ovation and it seems like it goes on forever. I can’t describe the feeling for I still had a match to go, but I remember thinking to myself, “so this what my buddies have talked about.” Got a little warm up time for they have a bunch of awards and things they do before the matches, and then it became time for introductions of the first finals matches, which was 98 lbs…my weight. Honest to God, this next part will be hard for me to type out and know I will be stopping a lot to collect my thoughts and emotions; I mean my God it’s been 37 years, Kelly. After keeping loose in the corner, my coaches were just keeping me as calm as possible. After I headed out to the center, I just told myself, “let’s make the first move and make something happen, don’t hold back.” I did just that, got the first takedown and got some tilt points right out of the gate. This match is fuzzy to this day and I am not sure if I was up 5-0 or 6-0 after the first period, but remember the rest of the way on he pretty much controlled it with a reversal and I believe he got some back points as well, and up until the very end, almost had additional back points to which he would have won the match. I just remember him riding me very hard and trying to tilt me every chance he got. I believe I got called for stalling late, but he ran out of time. I was holding on for dear life for his ride was so tight and I didn’t want to give up any more back points. Time ran out and I had to look over at the board to see exactly how it ended up. I was so relieved. I don’t think I responded with much and my memory is fuzzy with it, but I do remember running into my head coaches’ arms and the cheerleaders racing over to congratulate me and the coaches. The GC crowd was going nuts, it was so loud, but I remember the 2A match was not finished yet and that came down to the last few seconds. The rest was a blur, to be very honest. I remember getting on top of that stand and the moment that medal went around my neck, I was on cloud 9. It finally had hit me when the announcer said, “and your Class A 98 lbs State Champion, from Guthrie Center, Kelly Fox.” I heard every one of my buddies and teammates behind me in the stands yell so loud. Was handed the board and off I went to a few interviews and then into my teammates’ arms. I know I don’t do this justice, but the enormity of this didn’t hit me for days and maybe months. I think terms I saw in the newspapers and what not to describe it consisted of; “Cinderella Story,” “The Little Train That Could” and “leave it to the smallest to bring home the biggest.” I found a quote from my coach Jim Calvert after it was all said and done, he indicated that the difference between the way I wrestled during the season and at the state tournament was my attitude. “There was no stopping him after he won Thursday’s match. He wrestled with so much confidence, it was unbelievable,” he said.

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yes we had some gusto, but more than being competitive is we truly where a wrestling family. We always had close bonds inside the room and we always did a lot together in and out of season. I truly will never forget that, some very good people that either win or lose never lost sight of how tight our group was. As you get older it is just something you cherish and are grateful you experienced.

 

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

There was also a couple of brothers from Guthrie Center that I remember always wanting to be like when I was growing up, Mike and Mark Artist. Twin brothers and they were wrestling legends at GCHS. Mark won a State Championship in 1977 and Mike was second that same year. I remember talking to them when I was younger and truly admired how good they were. As I got a little older I was a huge Barry Davis fan and loved what he brought to the mat for intensity and just how he went out and never let up for the full 7 minutes in his college matches.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Hands down Dan Gable followed by all the 4 Timers. That is something very hard to do and to repeat every year is just something that is hard for me to comprehend with all the pressure I know that exists.

 

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

Not really, to be very upfront. Since I started so late in my career to wrestle, I just felt I needed to go out and do what I could do. I was not flashy by any means, my style was to get the first takedown, ride you out and take you to your back.

 

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

Any of the 4 timers of course, the Gibbons brothers were always so good, and just the guys I wrestled against daily in the wrestling room. I will forever be indebted to them for making me who I was.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

We are huge Iowa Hawkeye fans so my answer would be anyone that wrestles for them, but by far over the last few years my favorite has been Spencer Lee. What a great wrestler, but more than that…just how he carries himself and how humble he is. You can follow him up with Marinelli and Kemerer and so on.

 

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

I was an ACDC/Van Halen guy. All their songs got me pumped up and those are the songs blaring in the weight room at our school. But I had one song I had to listen to before each big match and that was “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. Before Sectionals/Districts/State I always took a long walk around the town and would put my headphones on and that was always the last song I would listen too. Got me so fired up and to this day I still get some chills when I hear it for it takes me right back there.

 

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

My very last match ever, 1st Round of my Senior Year at state. Got beat by a freshman and I couldn’t do anything against him. Again, coming in I wasn’t in the best shape with being out so long with my ankle injury, but no excuses for this was state. I was ranked 2nd in the state coming in and just got whipped and my hats off to Bruce Obrecht from Underwood. When I got up after being rode practically the whole 3rd period, I looked at my family and friends and to see the looks on their faces to this day truly makes me disappointed. It was all on me, I didn’t wrestle good and remember thinking at one point before the match was over, “is this the way you are going to go out?” I let a lot of people down that day and for the longest time, that truly stayed with me and was hard for me to overcome. I felt so bad for them and was not worried about myself when I walked off that mat, for that day the better person won hands down and I knew it.

 

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

Wish I would have put more time in the off season into the sport. Plus, I had some offers from some Juco’s to continue my wrestling career, but I chose to go a different path and it was clearly not the right one for me. I had my heart set on going to the University of Iowa, not to wrestle (walk on was in the back of my mind). I wanted to get that college experience and that was just not a good call. Trust me, I had a good time, but I forgot what college was for. I spent too much time with extracurricular activities and forgot I had to go to class and study, for that’s why I was there.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

Most would think I would say when I won the State Championship and that was my best moment for sure, but my best memory was probably in the Semi-Finals of that year. I was wrestling Bob O’ Connor From Dike who was very good and very highly ranked that year (believe 3rd) and we had a tough match where we went 2-2 in regulation and then went to overtime and unfortunately he hurt his knee in the first period after I took him down and he was not the same from then on. I put him on his back three times in the match to end up winning 10-0 in OT. Prior to going into OT, I just remember a group of my friends started a chant and was getting other people to join in and I just remember thinking, “how can you let them down now?”  A few of my buddies would yell, “Who are you rooting for!?!??” The rest of their crowd would answer, “Kelly Fox!!” and it was so loud and they got others who didn’t even know me to join in. Remembering that 37 years later truly gives me goosebumps and brings big tears to my eyes. After that match I went running to that group, and they literally picked me up on their shoulders and were chanting again. That is the wrestling memory I will never forget and feel is the best.

 

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

Guys today do much more wrestling in and out of season, both folk and freestyle throughout the year so I am going to say they would be tough to beat, that is for sure. Another thing, kids don’t cut as much weight as we did back in the day, which when I look back, it was totally stupid. My senior year I cut from 125 down to 105 and the muscle and strength would go along with the weight I lost. I sweat out every day. I ran and I would lay under the mats to make weight and that was silly…plain stupid. I had no business doing that, should have wrestled at 112 or 119. 

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

I did not wrestle after high school and a very stupid mistake on my part that I will never ever forget. Again had some offers but never pursued them.

 

What other sports did you play?

In high school, played them all. Smaller 1A school so I loved that I got that chance. Football in the fall, wrestling in the winter, track in the spring, and rounded it out with baseball. Was all Southwest Iowa in Baseball my senior year as a Utility player (for I was catcher, relief pitcher, shortstop). I truly loved representing our school in every sport, once a Tiger Always a Tiger.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

In College, anything to do with the Iowa Hawkeyes, our family is Black and Gold baby. In Pro Football that would be the Minnesota Vikings, Pro Hockey – New York Rangers, and in Pro Baseball the World Champions LA Dodgers. Not much of an NBA guy, but have always loved the Philadelphia 76’s since the days of Dr. J…

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Don’t really have any hobbies, I just watch a lot of sports to be honest, both college and pros. I don’t have time for any hobbies 😊.

 

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

I didn’t give enough back enough to the sport, I gained way more out from it then I have given back. That is very much a regret I still have in life, I know that I could have coached kids up, but think I left with a bad taste in my mouth and never really embraced what the sport did for me, for it totally made me who I am today.

 

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

That you can’t quit on anything. The Impossible is Possible. Physical size does not matter in any sport, its the size of the heart, soul, and values you are given and how you channel them. Two things helped shape me into the person I am today; the sport of wrestling and my military time. I would not be where I am at today without either one of those. I would say wrestling gave me the don’t quit attitude in a one-on-one situation. The thought that it’s only you, yourself, and I out there that can either win or lose, you can’t blame anyone else when you walk off that mat. The military provided me with the pride I think we all need to have in life, you have to take pride in what you do every single day both personally and professionally and give 110% in any task.

 

What do you do now?

After doing 9 years in the US Air Force as an Intelligence Analyst at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, I decided this was the place for me to stay and raise a family. I was midwestern born and raised and wanted my kids to have the same. Plus it was not far away from Iowa City so I can continue to watch my Hawks and go back and forth to live events. For the last 21 years I have had the pleasure to work in the I/T Industry and currently am a Sales Representative for our Maintenance Division and have loved all 21 years of being with this company.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I kind of walked away from the sport for many years and then got back into it 10 years ago and became a wrestling official in Nebraska and did some kids tournaments in Iowa as well. Didn’t like the direction the sport was going to be honest. Parents were not good and it started to reflect on their kids. I officiated for 3 years and decided that was not for me. I got tired of telling coaches and parents to settle down and let their kids learn the sport and have fun. Don’t get me wrong I am competitive as they come, but I felt they were really taking the fun out of the sport for their kids and I didn’t want any part of it.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

In this sport you are in control of almost everything. How you carry yourself on and off the mat, how much work you want to put into the sport, it takes more than just regular practice. Many workouts, I remember doing early before school started, to not only keep my weight in check, but to stay in shape and be ready for those last two minutes of the 3rd period. Last, but not least, it’s never over and the sky is the limit. Don’t let anyone tell you, “You Can’t.” I don’t believe that one bit. It’s mano vs mano and it’s the person that is the most prepared physically and mentally, period. Any given match is up for grabs, trust me. I proved it 4 times in a row February 23-25, 1983. Physically I was not the best, but mentally I felt I was ready in every match I went out there for.

 

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

Man I would have loved a tournament 5-10 years ago. It’s been 35 years since I last stepped onto a mat. I still watch a lot of college meets and if I have a buddy that has a son wrestling I love to go watch them. The passion for wrestling is so much more different than any other sport I have played. Never lost the passion and desire to go shake hands again. I would love to look at someone in the eye, and go at it again and thinking about it makes the hair on my arms stand up again.

 

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

To every teammate that I ever had in that wrestling room. I wrestled with some great guys that I am still very good friends with today and they all truly made me better and they were always in my corner in the good and bad times. I had such good times hanging out with these guys and we were so close as a team, each of my 4 years in High School. Whether it was just hanging out, going to a movie, or chasing girls, I feel we truly loved each other and had each other’s back.

 

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

I have a couple of different ones.  First one was in my history class on that Tuesday afternoon after that championship weekend and my school principal came to the room and pulled me out of class. Not everyday you get pulled out by your principal, so I was a little nervous. We went to his office and he then put his speaker phone and it was Coach Dan Gable and a few wrestlers offering me congratulations and told me to keep working hard. Barry Davis was one of them and those guys gave me so much encouragement. It totally blew me away, I was not expecting anything like that, but I know my HS principal at the time Barry Monahan had something to do with it, and I am forever grateful.

Last one I would tell you and not many people remember this one… It is a good trivia question for those closest to me. In the Championship match in 1983, I wrestled in the finals vs. a guy named Charlie Luther from Semco-Gilman and believe it or not, the next year in 1984, my first round match was against…….you guessed it….Charlie Luther again…I came in at 23-6 and he was 22-3 and I ended up beating him again 4-2. It was such a tough match and found it bizarre that we had to go at it again, after being in the finals the year prior.

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Kind of crazy, I kicked off this series last week and began on Matt Otten of Manly-North Central vs. Shane Light of Lisbon and asked for requests for future articles when I posted it. I received several. Ironically, the first request that I received was this match-up…. This took place in the Iowa HS State Quarterfinals between returning 3A 171 state champ, Jason Crooks of Fort Madison and returning 2X 3A 189 lb. state champ, Tony Wieland of Cedar Falls.

I wrote that it was “ironic” that this match was the first request and that was not a mistake. What could possibly be ironic about this matchup for me?! Well, Jason Crooks’s father, Ron Crooks is the one who talked my uncles and the  father into quitting basketball trying wrestling when they were in Junior High. He was their HS wrestling Head Coach. The way my brothers and I were raised into this sport has a pretty significant connection to how Ron Crooks coached my father and my uncles when they were doing it.  He has been described by all 3 as one of the most important individuals in their lives and it’s very possible that had he not talked my uncle Brian into wrestling, this site may not exist. I would probably have a dorky basketball site right now if it were not for Ron Crooks.

Here is what my uncle Kevin had to say about Ron Crooks:

KEVIN SWAFFORD: Coach Ron Crooks talked my brother Brian into trying it out and I followed. I don’t know if it’s always possible to express in words how someone’s had an impact on your life and on your character, and in molding you as you grow up and mature. Coach Crooks obviously had an impact on me and our whole family not just us 3 boys. You couldn’t measure his investment in you with the amount of time he spentworking with you individually.  But it all centered around hard work and fostering a family like culture – he persuaded us to buy into his process and vision for finally putting our school on the wrestling map, and that vision started with us. All of our coaches were like that but everything starts at the top.

 

So yeah, the Crooks family is a very important family to us. I think it goes without saying that my family was deeply entrenched in the Crooks side of this matchup when it took place and hopefully that’s understandable. We go back with them. Doesn’t mean that we don’t think the world of Tony Wieland.

 

Here are some things that made this matchup notable:

* This was a matchup between two returning state champions in the quarterfinals.

* This was at 3A 189, a weight that is usually won by Seniors and returning state champions are few and far-between once you reach a weight this high, let alone 2 in the same bracket…who end up meeting in the quarterfinals…

* Jason Crooks placed 6th as a Sophomore in 1993 and won it at 3A 171 in 1994.

* Tony Wieland was a state champion at 3A 189 as a Sophomore in 1993 AND as a Junior in 1994, which is an incredible feat for an underclassmen.

* Crooks only had between 2-4 losses in his last 3 years of HS wrestling…. I don’t think Wieland had anymore than 2 losses total in his final 3 years of HS.

* Crooks met up with a Darrell Wieland from Cedar Falls in the quarterfinals the year before, which he won. I don’t know this for a fact, but I am guessing that Tony and Darrell are related, likely brothers.

* Off the top of my head, there were at least 3 other guys in this bracket who would be finalists the next year (Daggy, Tecklenberg and Cole) and two of those guys were champs (Cole and Daggy).

* Both guys were great football players along with being elite wrestlers. After HS, Crooks played football for the Iowa Hawkeyes and ND State as well as wrestled for Wartburg and ND State.

* Wieland ended up wrestling at UNI where he was teammates with Crooks’s HS teammate and fellow state champion, Nick Flach. He was an AA there. Nick Flach was instrumental in helping Josh Budke train to defeat his Senior year rival, Jesse West in 1996. Budke is from Cedar Falls and was a HS teammate of Wieland’s.

* Wieland defeated Crooks just a few weeks earlier at the Urbandale tournament. Big thanks to Matt Nelson for that info!

 

 

Here are the videos for Tony Wieland’s two state championships prior to this matchup…

 

 

 

Wieland was an absolute beast. About the closest thing this state has ever seen to a real-life Hercules.

 

1993 3A 189

1.) Tony Wieland, So., Cedar Falls

2.) Ryan Reasland, Sr., Webster City

3.) Ira Johnson, Sr., Spencer

4.) Jeremy Mize, Jr., Ames

5.) Matt Lamb, Jr., Iowa City High

6.) Jason Shoars, Sr., Charles City

 

1994 3A 189

1.) Tony Wieland, Jr., Cedar Falls

2.) Jeremy Mize, Sr., Ames

3.) Dan Knipp, Sr., Waterloo Columbus

4.) Ryan Boese, Sr., Mount Pleasant

5.) Bill Waugh, Sr., Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln

6.) Josh Vize, Sr., Dubuque Senior

 

 

Here are the videos to Jason Crooks’s 2 titles in 1994 and 1995:

 

 

1994 3A 171

1.) Jason Crooks, Jr., Fort Madison

2.) Todd Scott, Sr., Newton

3.) Darrel Wieland, Sr., Cedar Falls

4.) Andre Terrell, Sr., Davenport Central

5.) Scott Allen, Sr., Spencer

6.) Corey McCloud, Sr., West Delaware, Manchester

 

Ya know, on one hand, I look at something like this and think, “what the hell were these two doing meeting in the quarters? That’s a finals matchup, come on… tournament needs to be seeded.”  Then on the other hand I’m thinking, “this is what makes every round of the Iowa HS State tournament great! Two guys like Jason Crooks and Tony Wieland can actually meet there!”

 

HERE IS THE INFAMOUS MATCH BETWEEN JASON CROOKS OF FORT MADISON AND TONY WIELAND OF CEDAR FALLS! 1995 3A 189 QUARTERFINALS:

 

1995 3A 189

  1. Jason Crooks, Sr., Fort Madison
  2. Satori Snow, Jr., Cedar Rapids Prairie
  3. Tony Wieland, Sr., Cedar Falls
  4. Micah Daggy, Sr., West Des Moines Dowling
  5. Robert Cole, Jr., Des Moines North
  6. Aaron Tecklenburg, Jr., Marshalltown

 

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I’ve always thought the name “Laramie” was a cool name… I have an affinity for cool-sounding, somewhat uncommon names and the name Laramie is one of them that fits my list of cool names. So cool in fact, that for all 3 of my children, that name was at the top for my favorite “boy names.”  All 3 children ended up being girls, but if one of them were a boy, who knows…there may have been a Laramie Swafford hitting the mats soon… And prior to, I had only heard of one person who has that name… Laramie Shaffer. At least I thought he was the only person I knew of with that first name….

One of the cool things about this site for me personally, is when guys fill out their questionnaires and send them back, sometimes I get answers to questions I’ve had for decades… In Laramie’s case, I had a bunch of questions that has confused me until now… The main question being, “how were you able to manage being a monster wrestler in two different states at the same time?!” Let me explain…So my brother, Justin placed 4th in a loaded Fargo Nationals Freestyle bracket in 2000… Justin was a 2003 graduate and this took place in the summer after his Freshman year…This bracket had close to 100 guys in it. One of the guys who caught my eye was a kid named Laramie Shaffer from Missouri. He was just a match or two from placing in the top 8, so he won a lot of matches in this bracket. Justin was going to wrestle him in the placing rounds if he won his last match. So that name stuck with me and you could probably imagine my confusion when I discovered what I thought at the time to be some of Missouri’s Laramie Shaffer’s past results.  Turned out, Laramie was a hammer in the 2005 graduating class, 2 below Justin… Pretty impressive showing for a younger guy like that to be making the waves he did in a deep Fargo bracket, but what didn’t make sense was that he wrestled at the AAU state tournament that same year… In Iowa… At a much lower weight than the 105.5 lb. division that he was in at Fargo. “How is this possible?” I thought to myself. It didn’t add up. I just figured that he was a guy who moved in from Missouri or maybe had a split household in which he wrestled in both Missouri and Iowa and it somehow fell between the cracks…. but didn’t get past ol’ Joshua Swafford, Wrestler Detective.  

I was more or less at a loss when I noticed Laramie Shaffer making more impressive marks as both a 90 something-pound 8th grader in Iowa as well as a 120 lb. Missouri kid in the Junior division in Freestyle… My questions became increasingly more far-fetched as time went on and there and more signs of there being two Laramie Shaffer’s who were both elite wrestlers with one being from Iowa and one being from Missouri…. “Does he have 2 birth certificates?” “Does he wrestle Missouri just during the summer and Iowa during the winter?” “Why does he weigh so much more during the Summer? Does he seriously gain 30-40 lbs. per offseason and then lose it again the moment he comes back to Iowa?” “He placed at this tourney and that tourney on the same weekend? How did he do that? Is he some sort of master of omnipresence?” It never occurred to me that there could actually be two Laramie Shaffer’s in the world and that both were superb wrestlers from bordering states around the same age range.

The toughest dual team I think Mepo ever faced while I was in HS was Winterset. We faced them first round at the state duals my Junior year in 2000. They kicked the crap out of us. My brother Justin was the only guy who seemed to show up that weekend. We were atrocious that day and they were ready to go. Granted, State Duals were held a week after traditional state in those days, so our weight and behavior for some of us had been out of control since state and for most of us, sectionals/districts that year, but I presume the same was true for them as well, but they showed up and some of their guys were the most tenacious wrestlers we faced all season. Chad Hutchinson, Justin Kramer, Aaron Drain, Matt Keller, myself… we all lost. We were among Mepo’s best guys when we were there and all of us had success as kids l the way through HS and we all got throttled by our Winterset matchups. Justin Kramer was one of the best guys to ever go through the Mepo room. Despite never even placing at state, he rarely lost and he defeated 4-5 state champs from various classes in his HS tenure. When he qualified for state as a Senior, he was beaten by a kid named Colt Stephens from Winterset. An unknown to us at the time. We figured the nerves got to him, but then it happened again at state duals…. the last match Kramer ever wrestled in his life, he was defeated by Colt Stephens again. All of us ran into hammers we knew nothing about.  I had no idea who most these studs were prior to the meet. I was a kid who memorized the AAU and HS state booklets and had never heard of brilliant Winterset wrestlers like Clint Manny until we hit HS and he started reeling in the hardware… Which was crazy, for he was in my grade and around my weight-range to boot. And there he was, placing and making the finals more often than not in HS competition… With the mystery that came with Winterset guys like Laramie Shaffer, Colt Stephens, The Abel’s, Clint Manny, etc. for me, I was starting to come up with some conspiracy theories, for in those “primitive internet” days,  no one seemed to know anything about these guys… No one from SE Iowa, anyways… “Where in the world are these guys coming from?! Do they have some sort of Missouri connection?!” is probably the pinnacle of how far-fetched my thought process was when it came to our new Winterset friends. And it was derived from the confusion that sprouted from seeing Laramie Shaffer’s Missouri results.

Turns out Winterset was just a solid, well-coached, hammer factory of a wrestling program. In retrospect, I feel that the greatness of some of what they’ve brought through that room with guys like Manny, Ryan Jensen, Cory Christensen, Jared Abel, Laramie, etc. gets overlooked and I don’t know why. I get that “better than people give them credit for” vibe when I think back on it and I know I’m not the only person to have caught that vibe. Cory Christensen was a 3 time state champion for Winterset in the 90’s and coaches at  Don Bosco now and I heard from 2 different Bosco wrestlers that none of them had any idea how good he was until Cory eventually told them after he had been there for months and they looked it up. They went out, took care of business, dominated and walked off without even a hint of cockiness or arrogance and went on to the next thing. And you wouldn’t have to worry about them throwing shade at you on or off the mat and you also wouldn’t need to worry about any of them adding your girlfriends to MSN Messenger or anything lame like that. They won and lost with dignity and respect.  A very solid and consistently balanced thing they’ve had going on in Winterset, year in and year out.

And the mystery of Laramie Shaffer’s omnipresence? The answer to that mystery is in Laramie’s story!  He’s a nice guy and I’m glad I met him!

 

 

FRESHMAN IN 2002 2A 103

103

  1. Justin Brown, Jr., Centerville
  2. Tyler Bjustrom, So., Algona
  3. Dane Reiter, So., Hudson
  4. Skylar Smith, Fr., Mount Vernon
  5. Tom Michels, Jr., Osage
  6. Laramie Shaffer, Fr., Winterset

 

SOPHOMORE IN 2003 2A 112

112

  1. Justin Brown, Sr., Centerville
  2. Laramie Shaffer, So., Winterset
  3. Jace Kuhlman, Sr., Maquoketa
  4. Mark Beatty, Fr., Maquoketa Valley
  5. Brandon Johnson, Sr., Chariton
  6. Quentin Kuhns, Sr., Adel-DeSoto-Minburn
  7. Tyler Bjustrom, Jr., Algona
  8. Andrew McDonald, Jr., Forest City

 

JUNIOR IN 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

 

 

SENIOR IN 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

 

 

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

 

In youth I just wrestled for the Winterset youth club, although I spent some time going to Iowa City to the Hawkeye Kids Club and to Des Moines to the Rail-splitters Kids Club. In High School I wrestled for Winterset and in college wrestled 4 years at Iowa State and half a year at Augustana College in Sioux Falls.

 

What year did you graduate?

 I graduated from Winterset in 2005. Iowa State in 2010.

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

 My dad took me to wrestling when I was in kindergarten and I got pounded on and quit that year. He brought me back in 1st grade and I have been doing it ever since.

 

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

 My dad wrestled for a bit in high school, both of my sons just started wrestling and I hope they enjoy it as much as I did. My 3 year old daughter is tough as nails and I could see her putting a whipping on people in a couple years.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I placed 6th, 6th, 5th, 3rd, and 3rd at AAU state, I wrestled with a lot of great kids in AAU. Brandon McDonough, Joey Slaton, TJ Sebolt, Shea Minor, Patrick Makey, Nick Pickerell, Cody McClintock and Brady Graham to name a few. Some of our AAU brackets were stacked with future state champs. Placed at various national tournaments although never at Tulsa which I believe we all thought of as the holy grail of tournaments.

 

What was your record in HS?

I was 189-12, 9 of those losses were from freshman year, it was rough.

 

How did you place at state every year?

6th, 2nd, 1st, 1st

 

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

 

Freshman year was super tough, I was really young for my grade as I was an August birthday so my freshman year I had just turned 14 and weighed about 95lbs. 9 of my 12 losses in high school came that year and I got pinned 3 times. It made it a hard wrestling year, but I ended up placing 6th at state after losing first round to Tyler Bjustrom then ended up wrestling Dane Reiter and Tommy Michaels on the backside too. Junior year I tore my meniscus in my knee right before state and had to wear a brace throughout the tournament. It was more a mental challenge than physical one though and I ended up placing 1st.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

 My style has changed a lot over the years. In high school I was a get some points on the board and wrestle smart kid. I didn’t win matches by big points, but if I was up I was hard to score on. In college Cael really pushed us to attack, attack, attack so I started being more of that always attacking style wrestler.

 

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

 I only lost to Brandon McDonough and Justin Brown twice in high school everyone else only beat me once and I either avenged that loss or never wrestled them again.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

That is hard, as I had a lot of great coaches. Greg Stephens my youth coach would probably be the most influential as he taught me great fundamentals that I carry today. Jason Reitmeier from Augustana is probably second as he got me back to loving wrestling again. The most influential for my style was definitely Cael Sanderson at Iowa State, he made how I wrestle change a lot.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

 Winterset was always competitive in high school we finished 4th, 3rd, and 2nd at state duals while I was in high school. At Iowa State we won 3 big 12 championships and got 2nd, 5th, and 3rd at the NCAA championships. At Augustana we got 2nd at the NCAA championships.

 

How would you describe the Winterset wrestling fan base?

 Winterset fans are awesome, our home meets were always packed and there was always a ton of Winterset supporters at away meets and tournaments too. They were the best kind of fans, super enthusiastic and loud, but not unruly or disrespectful to other teams. Running out to the mat at Vets with all my friends and fans right there by the mat side cheering me on is one of my best memories of high school.  I’d like to add that Logan-Magnolia fans are great too. They have been super welcoming since we moved here and have been very supportive of my transition to running the LO-MA Youth Wrestling Club.  

 

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

 Although he wasn’t much older than me and I doubt he knew this, I really looked up to Jesse Sundell. I knew him and his family growing up and always followed his career. He was and still is a great guy and I always wanted to be 4 time champ like him. I loved watching his matches with Mario Galanakis they were always exciting.

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

 That is a super hard question as there have been so many great wrestlers from Iowa. I would have to say Jeff McGinness or maybe Jay Borschel.

 

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

 There is quite a list of guys I wrestled with or knew during high school that I had a lot of respect for, but one stands out. I grew up wrestling Brandon McDonough and his brother Brent. Brandon also handed me two of the biggest whippings I received in high school. I actually won state before I won the Harlan tournament because I always had him in the finals.  He taught me a lot of what I know of wrestling when I would go to Des Moines to train with him and his brother. It saddened me greatly when I learned a few years ago that he had passed away. The dude was a true warrior and I respected him a lot.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

International I would say Jordan Burroughs, high school would be Briar Reisz, though I might be biased there, and Drake Ayala.

 

 

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

 I never listened to music before I went out and wrestled. I felt it distracted me.

 

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

 I would say either first round at state freshman year or in the finals sophomore year. That finals match was a tough pill to swallow.

 

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

 That is a hard one, there are multiple things I would change, but I think cut less weight would be the top thing.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

 My best memory was wrestling and beating, Jesse Sundell who I had looked up to growing up, in my first wrestle offs at Iowa State. My best accomplishment was winning my second state title and finishing the year undefeated.

 

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

I wrestled a lot of hammers in high school. Dan Davila put a whooping on me freshman year, same tournament Patrick Makey and I had a good scrap. Brandon McDonough was always tough and Justin Brown gave me two of my biggest losses in my career. Derek Moyer and I had a good match and Austin Bair and I wrestled 3 times senior year and we were both ranked #1 and both ended up with titles. College pretty much everyone I wrestled was tough lol, some of my teammates being the toughest ones.

 

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

Depended on the year, I wasn’t big into freestyle and I played a lot of other sports so wrestling was more of when I had time during the off season.

 

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

 I think the class of 2005 could compete with the guys today. Things evolve and change, but I think most of the good guys back then could adapt and change and have as coaches and would give the guys today a run for their money.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

 Yes, I was a letter winner with some varsity matches for Iowa State for 4 years, then took a semester off and ended at Augustana College in Sioux Falls were I was an All-American. During that semester off I started training for MMA.

 

 What other sports did you play?

 I was pretty active. Played football, soccer, baseball, ran cross country, rode bulls during summer, did gymnastics until I got into high school, was a pro MMA fighter, and jiu jitzu competitor after college.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

 My wife has me rooting for the Huskers which I never thought I would see the day. I don’t really have favorites though I just like to watch sports in general.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

 I like to read, hike, hunt, snowboard, jiu jitzu, and do muay thai.

 

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

I like coaching quite a bit, I just started coaching a youth club, but before that I was a voluntary coach at Iowa Western Community College. I like passing on the tips and tricks I have learned over the years. I think wrestling is the greatest sport there is and I love seeing kids being passionate about it.

 

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

 Honestly, I don’t know where I would have ended up without wrestling. I was kind of a wild kid and wrestling gave me a lot of purpose in life. It really helped me get through some tough times and gave me the perseverance to get to where I am today.

 

What do you do now?

 I am a Social Science and Career teacher at the Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility in Omaha, NE and I run a small landscaping business on the side.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

Yes, I coach the Logan-Magnolia Youth Wrestling Club and I help with the Logan-Magnolia high school wrestling team.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

 Cut less weight and have more fun. If you don’t have success at first keep working at it. I have known a multitude of wrestlers who weren’t very successful until they got older.

 

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

 Sure, I am game to wrestle anytime.

 

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

 All my former teammates, thanks for being great guys and making memories with me.

 

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

I just want to say Todd Becker has probably forgotten more about Iowa Wrestling than I have even known about it. Also since you brought it up the other day, Swafford, there was another wrestler with the name of Laramie Shaffer from Missouri, I think he was two years older than me and I actually met him at Tulsa Nationals one year when they called the name to the head table.  

EDITOR’S NOTE: Decades-long questions ANSWERED! There were TWO Laramie’s that I have known of and they were both hammers in the wrestling world in the early 2000’s and both of them had the last name of Shaffer!!! How’s THAT for a coincidence!!!

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I think I’m going to make this a new series called “The Greatest Matches In Iowa HS State Wrestling History” and that idea was inspired by this match. 1988 Iowa High School State Wrestling Finals Division 1A 112: Shane Light (Sophomore from Lisbon) vs. Matt Otten (Senior from Manly-North Central). In the entire history of the state tournament, I don’t know if there has been anything more impressive than what Shane Light did in this match. Matt Otten was a Senior who placed 2-1-1 leading to that year. One of the greats. And Shane Light was a Sophomore who won his first of what ended up being 4 titles the year before. Otten was the returning 1A 105 champ, Light the returning 1A 98 lb. champ. Both had tons on the line. Matt Otten was on a quest to become a 3X state champion/4X finalist…Very few had done that prior to 1988. Shane Light, winning state as a Freshman, had 4X state champ dreams that were still alive and kicking.  Coming into the match, Matt Otten was considered the favorite. He was REALLY good and anyone you talk to who wrestled back then will tell you that they considered him a beast. Shane Light was considered the underdog coming in, by most. In fact, the only year Shane Light was ever considered the favorite coming in to any of his 4 state titles matches was his Senior season, the year he won his 4th state title. That was the only year he was ranked 1st coming into state.

Coming into the 1988 Finals, here were Matt Otten’s Freshman, Sophomore and Junior year finals matches: 

 

Here was Shane Light’s State finals matches from the year before as well as him winning his 4th title:

 

The match between Light and Otten did not disappoint…to say the absolute least. Both guys really went hard. Shane Light’s performance in this match is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen in a HS wrestling match. Check it out. 

 

 

Here is an interview with Shane Light after the match:

 

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This one has been a long time coming. For one, I don’t do nearly enough of these for guys in the 70’s era and earlier. I just simply don’t know as much about them as I do other eras, but I’d like to change that! And will try to! 

Secondly, it’s been a long time coming that I get someone from Britt (later West Hancock) for one of these considering their rich wrestling tradition. With the exception of posting Mark Sanger’s finals pin from his Senior year, the only Britt-West Hancock guy who has made the page was a wrestler named Tate Hagen, who I wrote about last year for having a great football season. Tate later went on to win state. So yeah, it’s taken me way too long to come up with at least one “Remember The Wrestler” article for them,, for if there’s any community that’s deserving of some props, it’s Britt-West Hancock. It’s one of the all-time greatest programs in state history. The school has brought home 46 individual state championships, which ranks eighth in the state. As a team, Britt brought home five state championships, as well as nine runner-up finishes and four third place finishes. Britt has 14 combined top-two finishes which ties them with Osage for fifth best in the state. Britt was the home of Iowa’s first ever 4X state champion, Bob Steenlage, who graduated in 1962.

Britt truly hit their stride in the early 70’s with names like; Brent Hagen, John Hagen, Cliff Howlett, Jeff Stevenson, Bruce Gayken, Dave Howlett, Mark Stevenson contributing for Britt teams who won back to back to back titles in 1971-1973. And they’ve had numerous guys since who have made etched their names on the ever-present, ever-growing wall of champions since, such as Pat Kelly, Ron Finch, Rick Sanger, Mark Sanger, Paul Jenn, Tate Hagen, etc.  I realize I left out a ton…not intentional. It’s just a lot of ground to cover with a program like Britt. 🙂

Cael Sanderson made history by becoming the first ever 4X D1 national champion in NCAA history, but a somewhat obscure fact is that he had one loss his redshirt season. Who was it that beat him? A native from Britt…. Paul Jenn. And btw, MAYBE we can watch that match soon, for I have spoken to someone who has it on VHS. 😉

So like I said, it’s about time. And who better to learn about than one of the best to ever step on a mat in the state of Iowa, Brent Hagen… One of the all-time Iowa HS greats, from one of the Iowa all-time greatest families who came from one of the all-time greatest programs in the history of Iowa HS wrestling.

1972 Britt Team…. Their Class A State Championship photo from left to right Asst coach Ron Meyer, Head Coach Al DeLeon, Dale Miller,Bruce Gayken,Jeff Stevenson, Steve Dummett,Mark Nelson,Brent Hagen,Dave Howlett, Richy Nelson and Mark Stevenson. There are a lot of state medals in this picture. 10 state championships, 8 runner – up medals, plus other places.

Wally Hagen, the father of the legendary Hagen brothers!

Brent’s father crowning his mother at the 1945 state wrestling tournament held at Clarion HS.

 

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

We didn’t have youth wrestling clubs back then. I would participate in Britt’s elementary wrestling program. We would practice for three weeks and have a tournament with Britt kids at the end. I wrestled for Britt High School. I wrestled at Mankato State and UNI in college.

 

What year did you graduate? 

I graduated in 1975.

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My dad had a great influence on the Hagen brothers’ wrestling careers. He had a true love for the sport..

 

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

My dad, Wally was a two time state champion for Clarion High School. My mother Mary Lois was the 1945 State Wrestling Tournament Queen. My older brother John was a four time state finalist. He won three state Championships while going undefeated his last three years. My cousin Joe Rohrer was a state champion for Clarion. My nephews Austin and Adam wrestled in high school in Wisconsin.

 

What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

I only wrestled in one youth tournament in Junior High. Mark Stevenson and I won the Harlan tournament.

 

What was your record in HS?

My record in high school was 111-4. I lost my first high school match by fall. I lost to Dave Morgan from Eagle Grove twice and Rich Wilson from Belmond.

 

How did you place at state every year?

State champion as a freshman, sophomore and senior. State runner-up as a junior.

 

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

The hardest challenge was cutting weight especially in college. I struggled a lot with weight my sophomore year in college. I weighed around 150 lbs at the beginning of the season. We wrestled 20 duals during the season . I wanted to wrestle at 126 during the season and cut to 118 for tournaments. My college coach Rummy Macias wouldn’t let me do that. Thanks to my high school coach Al Deleon we arranged that I could workout at Mankato East High School until the division II national tournament. I won the national title at 118. I think I weighed 150 for the finals.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was a very controlled wrestler in high school.I would never leave my comfort zone. I started to enjoy wrestling on my feet when I developed a fireman’s carry. My college career was very high scoring. My senior year at UNI I had a lot of matches where I scored 30 points or more.

 

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

My junior year I wrestled Rich Wilson too many times. The worst part was he won the only one that counted. I enjoyed wrestling Dick Perez from Hampton.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

I had great coaches at every level. My junior high coach was Ron Meyer. Coach Meyer would be my workout partner on cutting weight days in high school. My college coaches were Rummy Macias at Mankato State, Chuck Patton and Don Briggs at UNI. I learned a lot from them. The man who had the most influence on my life and career was Al Deleon. He taught us technique, conditioning and mental toughness. He convinced us that we deserved to win. I was so lucky to wrestle for one of my heroes.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

I was on some great teams. Britt won state my freshman and sophomore year. We finished 2nd my last two years. I was on a Division 2 national runner-up at UNI.

My freshman year in 1972, Britt qualified 9 out of 12 wrestlers to State. All nine wrestlers placed 6th or higher.We had six in the finals with three champions. My senior year in 1975 we only had 3 wrestlers qualify. All three of us won state.

 

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

I have always been a huge Oklahoma State wrestling fan. My favorite Cowboy was Yojiro Uetake.He was a takedown artist.My brother John another hero would practice with me on our mat in the basement

 

Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

Dan Gable

 

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

I would like to see a dual between the North Central Iowa stars of the 70’s and 80’s against other all star teams from around the state.

 

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

Dave Morgan, Paul Martin , Mark Stevenson just to name a few.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Spencer Lee is a great wrestler and seems to be an even better person!

 

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

Outlaw album in college.

 

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

The easy answer would be my loss to Rich in the finals, but every loss sucked.

 

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

Once again my finals lost wold be easy, but my last two years at Mankato State were tough. I wish I would of handled that better.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

I was a finalist every year I wrestled in high school and college.

 

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

I wrestled against some great teams and wrestlers during my career. One person doesn’t really standout.

 

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

I wrestled only during the season. I did attend a camp in summer in Albert Lea. I did wrestle one freestyle tournament after my finals loss my junior year. I broke my arm . I started to lift weights and practice more after my senior year in high school.

 

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

Better… darn good I think. In fact, I think the wrestler of my era would be very competitive . We had some great teams in Northern Iowa. I still remember having full c squad, b squad meets before the varsity dual. I remember our district in AA would have multiple state champions and place winners. We had a tryout at Britt between returning state champions.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

I wrestled in college at MSU and UNI. I was a D 2 National champion and a two time runner-up.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

Yankees and OSU Cowboys.

 

Did you play any other sports in HS?

I did play baseball in high school. I taught and coached at Denison High school for 32 years.

 

What do you do now?

I currently work at North Scott Foods in Eldridge .

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Fishing, traveling and family time.

 

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

Wrestling taught me that if you work hard good things will happen.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I watch a lot of high school wrestling. My wife Carol and I attend Davenport Assumption meets. We live in the North Scott district so I am a Lancer fan also.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Try to be well rounded, wrestle but enjoy other things. Try to learn the proper technique first. I would start wrestling in tournaments in 3rd or 4th grade. Play other sports, find other hobbies and enjoy your youth. When you get to high school listen to your coach!

 

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

I still have one match left in me.

 

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

I have always told everyone that I grew up in the toughest neighborhood in the country. Between 1st and 3rd street SW in Britt we have had 22 state wrestling champs. I am proud to have wrestled for Britt . I was blessed to have great coaches and great teammates. Once an Eagle always an Eagle.

I have really enjoyed doing this. It has brought back some great memories. We only wrestled 10-12 duals and 3-4 tournaments. I still remember competing at the Eagle Grove tournament. You can never forget wrestling in Vets. We were lucky to wrestle in the 70’s.

 

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Remember The Wrestler: Mark Schwab, Osage HS/UNI Panthers

The Schwab family… We’ve been privileged to have this family as part of Iowa’s own. I challenge you all to brainstorm a family that has been more influential to the ever-present legacy of top-notch wrestling that Iowa has maintained for decades.  Ok, so now if you are done brainstorming, I would like to apologize to you for wasting your time…. because I already knew that you wouldn’t be able to think of any. 

When you think of the individuals that Mark Schwab has had notable influence on, whether it be for on the mat performance or life in general, it is truly amazing. He is considered the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler by wrestlers who themselves are considered by some to be the GOAT Iowa HS wrestlers.  He accomplished the absolute pinnacle of HS wrestling in Iowa and displayed dominance in doing so and it is not even debatable. You would think a guy with these credentials and such universal respect from almost all of the wrestling world may naturally develop an opinion of himself in which he considers himself better than others and is in denial of ever having a moment in life that didn’t reflect total perfection, right? I mean, it does happen a lot with success for some people. Sometimes, egos are easily inflatable if they aren’t kept in check and may cause a person’s head to swell to the point where they start floating in the sky, above everyone else. I know this from experience, for my own ego is out of control in the Mario Kart world. Mark is the total opposite of someone who goes that route when achieving success. He does not hold himself on an imaginary pedestal, nor does he feel as if he is any better or more important than any human being that we co-exist with. He also never lost sight of the fact that he is an imperfect human being like all of us who has done some great things and triumphed, but has also made mistakes and experienced defeat. He has achieved a great deal of success in his lifetime, but has also had times where he struggled both on the mat and internally. Through all the accolades and endeavors, Mark Schwab has avoided floating high above us in the sky with the rest of the hot air balloons and has managed to stay down to Earth with us. And I, for one, am glad to have him here!

If a group of people were asked, “what was Mark Schwab put on this Earth for? What is his purpose?” The majority of answers you’d get would likely have something to do with wrestling. His last name is synonymous with wrestling. But wrestling is just a mere part of what his purpose on this Earth is.  His purpose is to help others and his experiences with wrestling are simply part of what has equipped him with the ability to do so.  Sometimes, successful people are apprehensive when it comes to offering their secrets to their own success. They’d rather not have company because company means competition. This is also not a characteristic of Mark. There’s nothing he would like more than to help other people and he does so by means of the knowledge and insight he has picked up via personal experiences (negative and positive) as well as being an active learner of not only wrestling, but the entire spectrum of what life has to offer.  If Mark is riding life’s metaphorical wave of success, he’d prefer it if others were riding along with him. And if you missed that wave yourself and are lost in the sea, Mark would gladly help you find your way back, for he’s familiar with that territory. Despite all his success, he has had times where he felt his life was sinking in the depths of the ocean of agony, confusion, struggle and defeat and was still able to find his way back to shore. 

So kick back, relax, open your mind and read what Mark has to say, for if you are struggling in any area of life, you could read something in this article that provides the “spark” needed to get through the adversity. We all know how passionate and hard-working Mark was when it came to accomplishing goals on the wrestling mat. He’s been described by many as a genius with his mental approach to the game. He’s even MORE passionate about helping people than he was about meeting wrestling goals… just think about that. 

If this world were inhabited by nothing, but Mark Schwab’s, we wouldn’t be headed in a direction towards world peace.  The world wouldn’t have strayed from an altruistic, peaceful existence to begin with, so there wouldn’t be a need.

 

When I wrote that it is truly amazing who Mark has inspired, I wasn’t exaggerating… you can read his work here:

 

 

 

 

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

There were no clubs around when I was in HS. The Waterloo Boys club was the closest. We trained on our own but I also wrestled lots of matches in freestyle. My freshman year I was 83-2 in freestyle & these were all matches after the HS season from March – July. Nothing can take the place of actual competition. No one made me do anything. Our parents were nothing but supportive & everything we did was supported by them. I wrestled at Osage HS & UNI. My coaches in Osage were the absolute best, available, supportive & the town of OSAGE was second to none is support. I couldn’t have drawn it up any better.

 

What year did you graduate?

1985 from Osage, 1990 from UNI & 2003 From University of Minnesota.

 

Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

My brother Mike was my role model for training. He’s the one who showed me how to train. Also, I tried wrestling & liked it. My parents were the best support system I’ve ever had. I was so incredibly blessed to have support regardless & NEVER EVER an ounce of pressure. Nothing but love & encouragement. That’s probably why we all continued to compete in college & beyond.

 

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

My brother Mike who graduated from Osage in 1983 & UNI in 1988 was a state champion & D1 AA. My brother Doug graduated from Osage in 1996 & Iowa in 2001 was a State Champion, NCAA Champion in 1999 & Olympic team in 2008. I have a sister Julie & if wrestling would have been available for girls / women back then, she’d be the one you’d be interviewing.

 

What were your youth results?Any rivals there?

I wrestled a few tourneys in 5th grade & each yr I competed more & more. My youth rival would have been Derek Woods from Waterloo.

 

What was your record in HS?

106-1 I think

 

How did you place at state every year?

4x State HS Champion & State Freestyle champion in 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th & 11th grade. State Greco champ 9th & 10th grade.

 

How would you describe your wrestling style?

I was very hands on, active, scoring points from leg-attacks & over / under. I really preferred Freestyle over folk-style. I was a much better freestyler due to the ability to take competition from feet to back.

 

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

My only HS loss was to Dail Felin from Mason City. He’s actually a friend. He beat me in my 4th HS match. I wrestled him at least 5 more times in Freestyle having success each time. Steve Waddell from Bettendorf was always a battle for me. Kids freestyle I won 2 vs his 1 & HS freestyle / greco  I think we were 3-2. Lastly, Cory Baze from Oklahoma beat me the first time we wrestled in Lake Placid NY to make a jr. world team. I would square that up later in the summer at the Jr. Nationals & the next 8 times in college. I wrestled about 230 freestyle matches from 9-12 grade so there were lots of studs along the way.

 

Who was your most influential coach?

My HS coach, Bill Andrew was the greatest. He could have coached D1 & been very successful. Coach Andrew was really ahead of his time. Coach Andrew & asst. coach Bruce Gast was an effective one-two punch J. Robinson probably influenced more than any other coach but I was with him for 10 yrs & at the right time in my life to learn. I also worked his camps five entire summers before I even went to Minnesota. Jim Miller was a great motivator, recruiter & very smart, disciplined with his words & always had the inside scoop. Rick Caldwell is another coach who I believe could coach any level. He’s incredibly organized, willing to invest, prepared & constantly growing & developing. Marty Morgan could say the most while using the least words, great recruiter & strategy strong. Joe Russell & Sam Barber are the most overlooked effective coaches I’ve seen. In my opinion, the best all around coach who could recruit, develop, program, style, smart, successful & strategy strong is Brian Smith of Missouri. The best strategy, smart & technique is John Smith. He recruits, develops, succeeds & guys adjust. The best developer & behind the scenes guy is Casey Cunningham. The guy who can get athletes to buy-in, continually progress, dial in / focus, continue to move forward in competition, over-achieve & achieve their ultimate goal is Terry Brands. This is just my opinion. Often, if people don’t like someone, they’ll discredit them or if they like, they are blind to obvious defects / behaviors. Bottom-line, give credit where credit is due.

 

Was your team competitive in HS/college?

In HS Osage were 2nd in State 1983, 1984, 1985. UNI we were very competitive but never reached our potential. As for coaching, I coached at the U of Minnesota from 1995 – 2005 where we won NCAA team titles in 2001 & 2002, Runner-up in 1998, 1999, 2003 & Third in NCAA’s in 1997 & 2000. We won everything you can win as a team – National Duals, Big-Tens, Midlands, Vegas… Great times, teams & memories.

 

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

Like I said, it started with my brother Mike & a few of the Varsity wrestlers in Osage: Doug Arndt, the Angel bros & Brian Neiss was so fun for me to watch as a kid in Osage. Also, back then IPTV aired college wrestling often & Nate Carr from ISU was my favorite as a kid. Also, Jeff Kerber from Emmetsburg inspired me to set a goal to win state 4x. As a kid, I was in awe of Tim Krieger of Mason City & Tim Klinghammer from Waterloo Central & west.

 

What were the family dynamics like with the Schwab bros? Very supportive of each other?

When it came to wrestling & competing, we were 100% in the others corner. We fought for each-other.

 

When you stepped on the mat for your 4th State finals match, you were wearing an Iowa State shirt. Were you interested in going there for a bit?

I was very good friends with Tim Krieger so he’s the one who gave it to me. We had talked about competing together in college. He didn’t talk to me for a year but then we picked right back up. I spent lots of time with Tim & we’d often get with Jeff Gibbons & Mike Guthrie.

 

You did not have an easy matchup in your 4th State finals match. Do you agree with me that Dan Sinnott may be one of the best guys to never win state?

Dan was a great competitor & scrapper. I’d also say Steve Waddell was another great not to win state. I know there’s many, many more who had ability.

 

If you Schwab bros were to fight over something, what would it be over? Was it ever about food?

Nooooo, food wise, we ate & drank all the time but worked it off vs. laying up against the wall like so many, eking their way to the scale because they’ve starved all week & massively dehydrated. I could have competed a weight lower each yr easily. I’d leave practice 3-4 under, get back up to 3-4 over, work out at night again & then work out EVERY single weigh-in we ever had. I worked-out in the morning & then I’d step on the scale. It didn’t matter what I weighed; I was going to work-out anyway.

 

When coaching, were there certain types of personalities of wrestlers that you worked well with and liked to take under your wing? Do you approach every kid uniquely?

I meshed very well with 90% of the guys I worked with but the athletes who were willing to take the coaching, seek you out, do what they say & what you ask, great effort & willing to TRUST you allowing you to take them to extreme places were the athletes I connected best with. When I was in Minneapolis from 1995-2005 we had an entire roster of those types of guys. I believe wrestling is a sport that requires miles of personal time. One on one sessions is where the gains are measurably made. From my HS coach Bill Andrew on a.m. training sessions / work-outs were / are a must. I can’t imagine being serious about wrestling without morning training. As a coach, you invest a lot in the athlete & ideally the athlete invests even more. I can remember, Bill Andrew was at every workout & so was J. Robinson. How can you have an accurate pulse on your team if you’re not on the scene. I know many athletes / programs don’t train in the morning & I’m still baffled. The know-it-all & ungrateful individuals were the ones I struggled with but they never lasted long anyway. You know, there are many levels of wrestling within wrestling, coaching within coaching & commitment within commitment. HS wrestling & D1 wrestling have a chasm that’s as wide as the grand canyon. What I can’t believe is how many people have no idea what it is that drives, motivates or excites them. I can’t believe how many coaches / athletes don’t evolve. They never grow, learn, advance, invest & continue making the same mistakes year after year.

 

When did you develop your writing passion and talent as well as your wise philosophical takes on life?

Writing & reading didn’t become important until I was done with college. I was lost in the early 90’s & I began reading self-help books mostly but evolved immensely through the years in what I read. The writing started because I would write little motivational messages to athletes I worked with plus every book I read over the last 25 years, I highlight what I connect with or want to remember. After the book was read, I went through the pages & rewrote everything I highlighted so I had it when I needed it. In all honesty in HS / college combined, I never read a complete book. I didn’t even have the course class book in college. But from 1993 on I’ve read well over 600 hundred books. I know that because I’ve gathered them up three different times in my life. It started out to find the magic answer for happiness, evolved into a hunger for knowledge but also to appear knowledgeable, evolving again into a sincere drive to learn for myself & to help others. I can feel my desire to learn & gain knowledge has become more sincere & more about helping others than searching for my happiness on some page of a book. Writing offers me an outlet, freedom, knowledge, identification, clarity, direction, feedback & most importantly ideas that can help others. I’ve always been an introvert, deep in thought, dreamer. I’m learning to notice, identify, practice, adjust my awareness & organize, manage, express my thoughts & feelings as I evolve. How can I address something if I’m not aware of it. I’m often disappointed in myself but trying to talk to myself in a more compassionate tone vs. beating the shit out of myself like I always have. I’ve made several workbooks, programs, presentations in many different areas that would benefit anyone who’s willing to make a firm decision, get honest & willing to be committed for possibly a lifetime. I’ve found most people don’t like workbooks but I find the opportunity to learn, grow, develop, advance & achieve excellence through the vehicle of answering questions, giving thought, learning about self strengths, lesser strengths & what one really wants from life & themselves.

 

How important is it to you to help other people?

I KNOW helping others is my purpose. I’ve spent miles & miles of time deepening my knowledge, understanding, experience & every time I inventory my life, values, passion, drive, beliefs, motivations, it’s connecting with someone who needs it as much as I do. I’ve had a wide array of life experience. In fact, most wouldn’t believe some of them. I’ve made many poor choices, bad decisions, acted like an idiot, poorly or inappropriately, disliked myself, self-sabotage & self-destruction, … I know for a fact, regardless of the front others cloak themselves with, they’re just as unsure, fearful, hesitant & need help, support, input, direction like we all do. I KNOW for a fact my purpose is working with others. The arena seems to be evolving & not limited to performance psychology but life psychology & freaking getting-real.

 

How important was positioning to you in your wrestling game? How hard did you work to fine-tune that element of your game? 

I didn’t understand how to teach positioning until I was at the U of Minnesota. Positioning to me started with the athletes foundation / stance. If an athlete can stay in-position, he’s always in a position to score or defend or counter. Also, when you maintain position, you’re not using near the energy you are when you have to fight out of a bad position back into a good one. Stance is one of the first things you learn & ultimately a position to be mastered to succeed at a high-level. Most kids almost take offense when you mention stance but what they don’t know is if they continue in the sport, they will find out just how important it is. Stance is home-base, your structure, offense & defense. Every match starts in this position & the bulk of most matches are spent in this position. One would do themselves a favor by mastering this position & spending time moving fluently, changing in / out of square / stagger, relaxed, sting, changing levels, changing speeds, tight circles both ways, hand-fighting…

 

How did you feel after winning your 4th title? Relief? Appreciative of your supporters? Both?

I’m very grateful for the people who helped & supported me, I NEVER forget people who help me. I’m forever in their corner until they decide differently. My brother Mike, Julie, Doug, Mom, Dad, Grandpa Mork, Aunt Nade, Bill Andrew, Bruce Gast, Jeff Kerber, Brian Moore, Rick Samuelson, Doug Arndt, Angel family, Coach Betts, John Bunge, Coach Newhoner, my teammates, town of OSAGE all played a part. I’m so grateful to them all.

 

Did you get more nervous wrestling yourself or watching Doug wrestle?

No doubt when my brothers competed.

 

When there is a guy who is a Senior and going for his 4th, do you find yourself pulling for and empathizing with them since you know via experience the pressure they are facing? When guys like Allard or Ike Light were beaten their Senior years or when Jesse Sundell lost at districts as a Senior, how did it make you feel considering you are one of the few who knows the pressure they were under? 

I didn’t feel any pressure but I understand how one could. Most pressure is something we do to ourselves. Yes, I’ve seen some overbearing parents & coaches who project their anxiety onto the athlete, but in the final analysis, it is something we can at a minimum manage. Most of us have forgotten we have the power of choice. I know much easier said than done. My coaches Bill Andrew & Bruce Gast never even talked about winning; they talked about competing & having fun. As for my parents, we never even talked about wrestling. I can tell you, by the time the state tournament rolled around as a freshman, I had won this in my mind soon many times that I KNEW I would win. I’m not talking trash here. I’m simply crediting the power of our imagination when exercised correctly & efficiently.

 

Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Hayden & Hendrix Schwab

 

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

Music has always been a passion of mine but it had nothing to do with competing or training. Blues is my true love, but I have a wide range of music. I’m fairly decent at music trivia & history. In fact, it might be the only game I’ve played in 35 yrs.

 

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

Probably my senior year at the NCAA’s when I knew I would never reach my goals, dreams or potential. I have an entire article about this & will send when complete.

 

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

I would have gone to College at the University of Iowa or Iowa State.

 

What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

I feel good about setting a goal in 6th grade to win 4 state titles & accomplishing it. I feel good about being an all-American as a true freshman. I feel good about my performance in Tbilisi Russia. I feel good about the part I played & the movement we created at the University of Minnesota. I felt ok but not good about coming back to be an AA again in college after missing over an entire year due to knee infection issue, losing over 1/3 of my body weight & having 9 knee operations with a left knee mobility of 15-60 vs 0-180

 

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

All wrestling / lifting / running / competing.

 

Did you wrestle after high school?

Yes, I competed internationally from 18-21 & college from 1985-1990 missing over a complete year of my career due to injury.

 

What other sports did you play?

Ran Cross country as fresh & soph.

 

What are your favorite sports teams?

I’ve never watched college or pro sports. I never had a team of any sort. I’d much rather talk about music or just life observations.

 

What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Reading, writing, working-out, music, guitar, collectables, & travel although I’m at the end of travels. I was fortunate wrestling took me all over the world & then personal curiosity took me to many places in the world where wrestling never would. I’ve been in over 40 countries & every state except Hawaii. I’m so blessed & pleased I went places I wanted to see for myself. I went on several trips alone but I knew it was now or never, so I did it, gaining experience & gratitude because of it. I spend almost all my time by myself. It’s not on purpose & never was but this is where I feel most comfortable. I’m an extreme person which can be a curse or blessing depending on where I’m channeled. At times I’ve caused myself  & others a lot of unnecessary trouble & pain but sometimes pain is the only place we can or will wave the white flag. I love nature, connection, beauty, quietness & the miracle of it all.

 

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

I’m one who believes heavily in appreciation & gratitude so giving back is really my duty / obligation.

 

Are you still involved with wrestling?

I’m not part of any program but work with athletes, teams, individuals, businesses in the mental / emotional climate to give themselves the best opportunity to succeed. I really want to work with people outside of sports. I’ve invested a lot of time & miles & miles of learning to be in a position to be able to give back to those in any arena of life who want to change, grow, develop, have an idea of what it is that drives, motivates, excites them. I have the experience, knowledge & tools to help people go within, learn about themselves & face what’s kept them cuffed. I can help anyone in any arena face, manage, grow, develop & achieve excellence if they’re motivated.

 

Your brother Mike filled me in on how wonderful of a person your mother was. How influential was she to you boys and would you guys have all reached the successes you did without her?

Mom was golden. You know, I NEVER heard her speak ill of anyone other than Trump. Man, she was a rock. Mom & dad were nothing but supportive. Growing up I was angry we didn’t have much money or material items but later on in life, like now, I realize just how blessed I really was & wouldn’t trade or change anything about my mom & dad. So many parents try to coach their kids & from what I’ve seen, few are actually helping. Thank God our parents only supported. I can say, we NEVER even talked about wrestling.

 

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

You will NEVER even see me in a pair of wrestling shoes.

 

When did you start playing guitar and what inspired you to start creating music?

My uncle Ron was my guitar inspiration. In all honesty, he was as good of Blue’s player I ever heard. Music has always been a focus in my life. Growing up, my mom had tons of albums & that was my introduction. Since then, music has taking-on a life of its own.

 

What are some songs/bands that you enjoy listening to?

I like music from the 50’s like Elvis or doo-wop, 60’s like the Beatles, Zep & 70’s probably holds the most array of music I enjoy. I like disco, funk, rock, pop, slow but my foundation & true love will always be the blues. I take music seriously & know a lot about the artist or bands I enjoy. I memorize the songs I enjoy & frankly have made music part of my life. I love playing music trivia or naming the artist on the radio but even going beyond that into the artist or bands lives, their influences, studio knowledge, ect.

 

Any advice for upcoming wrestlers? 

Exercise & build castles with your imagination as much as possible. Imagination is our most powerful faculty.

Set concrete goals that are written. The most important aspect of setting goals are the day to day behaviors / actions one must take to give themselves the best opportunity to succeed. Most people are vague & lazy with their goals. The little things are key. Details are a must. View the goal daily & the steps because you’ll be constantly adjusting your steps, adding behaviors, possibly being able to eliminate specific steps that have been met. The bottom line is setting a specific goal is ongoing. The writing & details are continuously flowing. Really give your goals thought because although your goal may be 6 months away, it’s actually happening a little at a time. Each day is as important as the next. Each day is your opportunity to engage in your steps / details that bring your goal to life. The one constant is the goal itself, that never changes.

I’ve never understood why most people let alone athletes & coaches don’t have the information on how to set real goals vs. wishful thinking or rubbing a genie lamp. The information is out there & the potential impact is staggering. it’s the little things – Inches & ounces that make the difference. These little things I mention can equate to feet & pounds. Setting goals is a skill for a lifetime. You can set goals for anything that is important to you. If you really are serious & want to give yourself the best opportunity to grow, develop & succeed, then construct a well thought out written blueprint to guide, support, direct, encourage & give feedback, then goals are the very first thing. I can’t tell you how much written goals & detailed steps have made a difference for me. For example, I set goals financially, relationship, health / fitness, nutrition, business, academic, travel, spiritual growth….. My point is this is a life-tool for anything that’s important to you. Written goals / steps make everything more clear, believable & something we’re more likely to act on. If you’re going to be there anyway, why not give yourself the best opportunity to mature, experience & succeed.

Most people wing-it & I’ll never understand it. The other life-skill that’s ideal for an athlete is journaling. There’s so much power in writing things down. Writing heavily connects with our subconscious mind & the sub mind is the shot caller but it takes time; focused & INTENTIONAL time. Awareness is key & journaling uncovers, reveals, identifies & untangles our thoughts. We must know what we’re thinking. We must become clear about our patterns, strengths, lesser strengths before we can truly grow, develop & ideally achieve freedom & excellence. This requires consistent daily discipline that most are not willing to give or will make excuses why they can’t. Like anything, it’s about what’s important to you. We’ll always do what’s important to us. We talk about how mental our sport is but when asked what we do to train mentally, few have an answer.

Continued learning / education – always reading something..

Make mistakes, adjust…make mistakes…adjust….make mistakes,,adjust, learn, succeed, fail, adjust, grow, develop, read, mistakes, adjust, grow..

The conclusion of everything I’ve written above, has led me to cultivate a nature of Gratitude. Obviously, this is ongoing but I’d never have thought when I began this journey that it would lead me to the importance & development of gratitude & a grateful heart. Maybe I’ll elaborate on this at a later time.

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Doug Reiter (Mack’s Dad) and Mark Swafford (Justin’s Dad)

When Justin was pinned by Mack in the state finals as a 7th grader, you would think that Justin was struggling to even win a match considering the panic and loathing that ensued in the Swafford household afterwards, but in reality, it was the first loss Justin had in two years and again, he went another full year without taking a loss all the way until AAU State the next year. Mack and Justin were in the same bracket again, but this time instead of meeting in the finals, it appeared as if they would meet in the quarterfinals. And they did.  I think that was the most tension I ever remember there being for any of us four brothers in a match against anyone ever.  Justin wanted to get Mack back so bad that he was almost like a man possessed in the days leading to it.  Mack was the first opponent that Justin ever really thoroughly studied and game-planned against…. The consensus for us was that if you wrestle Mack….you HAVE to have some sort of a game plan…. otherwise he will be 3 steps ahead of you and you will be screwed. He just had way too many dangerous weapons in his scrambles…you had to try to study and learn them all, otherwise he would bury you. Justin became a better wrestler because of his rivalry with Mack and there wasn’t a single day that went by where Justin didn’t have at least a few minutes where he would think about it and become irate.  Everyone in our club was talking about this projected matchup from the beginning of the year and it wasn’t just my family who so badly wanted this win…our entire youth club anticipated it for months leading to it. For Justin, he was tunnel-visioned to make up for what happened in their AAU finals match and the way he looked at it, Mack was the only one in his way to get what he felt was rightfully his, which was the state championship the following year. And while Mack approached his matches with Justin essentially feeling that if he beats Justin in whatever round it may be, he was focused on the spectrum.

Mack Reiter: For me it was always just to win state. I didn’t change my style for anyone. I wanted to impose my style of wrestling on my opponent so I never really pictured any one person. It did feel good though whenever I would beat Justin, because that usually meant that I would win state or whatever tournament it was that we met at.

Justin Swafford:  My 8th grade year I did a lot of specific drills and worked on techniques specifically to beat Mack. It was always a mind set of winning state, but I knew that particular year he was one of my biggest competitors and wanted to prepare myself the best I could, all while wrestling my match. When meeting in freestyle, if I knew I was likely to wrestle him, I’d work on defense to low singles and working out of a sucker drag position, but other than that it was just working on good freestyle techniques like tough guts, leg-laces, sealing my hips on finishes to takedowns, and more big move throws and positioning.

 

So another regular season went by and Justin hadn’t taken a loss to anyone leading into state wrestling his 8th grade year. This meant that since his 5th grade year, he had only one loss out of hundreds of matches and that was to Mack Reiter in their 7th grade finals match.  I don’t recall there ever being a match where the emotions seemed to be riding so high for our squad. I was really jacked up for this one. I remember Mack and Justin pacing by each other and staring each other down like they did the year before. I was so worked up that I was in Justin’s ear, saying a bunch of stuff to him that I thought would piss him off. This likely annoyed Justin, for he didn’t ever have any trouble paying himself mad before a match. Our entire club was most certainly not arrogant this year. There was a quiet and calm, “cautiously optimistic” vibe to it.

Aaron Drain (Justin’s Lifelong Practice Partner): We all saw how hard Justin worked and we knew he was ready as he always was, but he was in a situation where we hadn’t seen him in before. Which was avenging a loss. You gotta lose in order to be able to do that and we had no idea if that sort of thing got to Justin or not.

My dad was a wreck he was so anxious. Justin was probably his favorite kid to coach since he was so coachable and never asked questions when told to work on something or to go harder. It was difficult to find anyone more hard-working than Justin and Dad deeply respected him for that and being his son, he wanted the world for him. He wanted him to be happy as a result of all the excruciating work he put himself through without even being ordered to do so. And the electricity in the air was deafening when they both walked on the mat. It seemed like the entire auditorium knew when that match was coming so they could all tune into it. It was 5X as loud and crowded when they met up this year compared to the finals match the year before. People still remembered the finals match from the year before and I think a lot of people tuned in to see if the result of that match was just a fluke or if Mack was in a world of his own… Or maybe they all were anticipating what it ultimately became… One of the best matches that’s ever taken place at AAU state in the history of the tournament? I don’t recall there ever being a match at the AAU State Tournament where the crowd was louder than they were in this match…The 1999, C-90 Quarterfinals between Mack and Justin. And Mack and Justin did not disappoint.  In fact, they put on a nail-biting-inducing show for the fans in attendance in that match…  And little did my dad know, that one of the most significant moments of his wrestling dad life was about to take place at the end of the match when he met Mack’s dad, Doug Reiter… Watch how crazy this match was:

 

Justin Swafford: I was devastated. He really surprised me in the finals in 7th grade, and my 8th grade year I had a tough time pulling myself together on the backside of the bracket after losing to him even though I wrestled back for 3rd and beat some really tough kids – I couldn’t believe he took the title away from me again. During that period (Jr. High/High School) those loses definitely haunted me.

1.) Mack Reiter

2.) Tony Hager

3.) Justin Swafford

4.) Glenwood

5.) Justin Bohlke

6.) Andy Roush

7.) Charlie Ettelson

8.) Adam Gottschalk

At the end of the match, Mack’s corner and fans went nuts. They were very excited and very loud about it, in which you can’t blame them considering how the match turned out. My dad was probably more stressed anxious for that one than he has ever been for a match and his anger got the best of him when he perceived the loud screams and cheers as being kind of, “in our face.”  My dad, who is notorious for his lack of fear and unflinching willingness to be confrontational if he’s upset, shouted an expletive (**** you people is what was was screamed) at the entire Reiter corner and their jaws dropped.  My dad’s voice carries and everyone could hear it.  He stormed off, looking like he was about to beat up the nearest Tyrannosaurus Rex he ran into when Doug Reiter started following him and did so all the way until my dad sat down by some stairs on the upper level.  A large group of kids and fans followed behind them, for it appeared as if Doug Reiter and Mark Swafford were about to get into a fight and everyone wanted to see it.  What happened though, was not what the onlookers expected and was something that stuck with my dad for life and taught him a lesson in humility…

 

When did you first meet Doug Reiter? 

Mark Swafford (Justin’s Dad): I actually met and first conversed with Doug Reiter after Justin and Mack’s second Folkstyle match at AAU state when they were 8th graders. Let’s just say that after this match, Doug gave me a very valuable lesson in humility. The boys had just finished a barnburner of a match in which they were tied up in the 3rd period with Mack on top and Justin on bottom and about 5 seconds left when it looked like Justin just needed to back up to grab his one point escape for the win, but as he tended to do, he got over-aggressive and went for the 2 point reversal instead of the escape. Mack wrenched Justin to his back and picked up nearfall points and the win with a couple seconds left in the 3rd period.  Mack’s corner was excited and jubilant, as they had a right to be and I took it the wrong way in the heat of the moment.  I glanced at Justin and saw him hanging his head and the combination of seeing my son’s heartache to the sound of some very excited cheers, I regretfully took it personal. I yelled out to Mack’s corner, an expletive, which was way below the dignity of the situation in which I am and have always been ashamed of. When things cleared out, I walked out of the gym area and unbeknownst to me, Doug was following right behind me.  A lot of people were following behind, for it appeared as if a fight was going to break out between Doug and I. I got near some stairs, still just heartbroken for my boy when Doug approached me. He could tell that I was very upset and everyone including myself knew that I was very much out of line. The first ever conversation that took place at that moment changed my perception for the better on a number of things and it was all because of the thoughtfulness, class and respect that came from the mouth of Doug Reiter when he spoke to me. He first said, “hey don’t be like that. We don’t want to have bad blood with you guys. We don’t dislike you guys.” Then he said that he could tell that I was upset and that he understood it, but wanted to let me know that the excitement displayed in their corner was not a personal slight towards Justin or at our expense, but it was excitement that came from the joy they were experiencing at that moment, for they felt that Mack had just pulled off a victory against one of the best wrestlers in the state of Iowa who they hold in very high regard.  He said that they all considered that win a big accomplishment for Mack for there wasn’t a kid in the state around their weight range that they respected more than Justin. He also wanted to let me know that Justin was still an awesome wrestler and that he had no doubt that he would bounce back to do great things in high school. Boy did I feel sheepish… It was that moment where I learned to try to handle wins and losses with respect and humility.

 

How were you and Doug Reiter’s relationship after this match?

Mark Swafford (Justin’s Dad): How does wrestling affect a man? I am sorry, I have a tendency to answer questions with questions at times. Doug and I crossed paths a lot, mostly during the freestyle season. In fact, Doug and I started taking Mack and Justin to the same freestyle club which was Mark Reiland’s Future Hawkeye Wrestling Club and those two boys became fantastic practice partners for each other. So every time I ran into Doug, we always talked and I would say we were friends. Always had great wrestling discussions about our boys or whoever it may be. He was always just one of the friendliest people that you could ever meet. He had a GQ look to him, but was always sporting some neat sandals and shorts.  He always greeted me with a warm, handsome smile with a noticeable twinkle in his eye. He’s one of these people who when you encounter them, you can tell that they are genuinely happy to see you and not just going through the motions.  He always made sure to ask about how life was going and how the boys were doing. You could tell how much his family meant to him.  Just a standup guy that I really looked up to and felt privileged to become friends with him.

NOTE: A few years ago, some tragic news swept the entire Iowa wrestling world. Doug Reiter had become terminally ill. This saddened most everyone, for most wrestling fans in Iowa at least know who he is and anyone who does know him, respects the hell out of him.  I remember hearing the news myself and just feeling like it didn’t seem fair for him and his family.  I remember my dad being straight up devastated when he caught wind of this….

Mark Swafford: Years after Justin and Mack finished their careers, my youngest two boys were wrestling at The Clash in Rochester, MN.  I was there coaching Mediapolis as an Assistant coach.  I made a trip to the hospitality room during the intermission and overheard a conversation between a couple of officials in which they discussed Doug’s illness. This was the first I heard that Doug was sick and I will never forget that moment.  I got that feeling as if my heart was in my throat and was being simultaneously punched in the stomach.  It was devastating news. I heard of Doug’s passing a few weeks later and I felt just sick for the Reiter family.  It hurt bad, for I knew how good of a man Doug was and I knew that his family had to be just devastated, for I know how much of a good family man Doug was.  Again, it hurt. Doug was a man who I respected a ton, for he taught me humility and was someone I dearly liked. It left a void for me. It just didn’t feel right. And the common denominator that brought us all together was wrestling…THAT is how wrestling affects a man!

Now, while my dad had made a new friend who had already become an influential person to him, the wound was still very fresh to Justin. He did not handle this loss very well at all. While off the mat our two families were officially on good terms, on the mat, the rivalry had just begun. 

 

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Cole Pape marched out there as a Freshman at state wrestling in 1998 looking like a reincarnation of Stacey Rice from Storm Lake who won 3 titles of his own in the late 80’s. They were both blonde for one… Stacey won state at 2A 126 as a Freshman while Cole Pape won it at 2A 130 as a Freshman, which are very difficult weights to win it as a Freshman… Both won close matches in their finals match, with Rice defeating future Osage HC, the legendary Brent Jennings from Clarinda in the finals and Pape pulling off some late match heroics to defeat future Luther College D3 National Champ, Garrett Kurtz from Waukon.  It appeared as if both were on the right path to becoming historical 4X state champions (being a 4X state champion is history in itself, but these two were on pace to becoming the first to ever do it when not starting at the lowest weight their Freshmen seasons, which CJ Ettelson became the first to accomplish in 2003). However, Rice just had one bad tourney as a Sophomore while Pape just had one injury-plagued season that may have affected how he performed as a Junior.

Pape was in my grade and weight range. And I wrestled him in the semifinals at state when we were seniors… So I am probably more familiar with him than I am the other 3 timers. The first time I saw him was at a youth tourney in Wapello in 4th grade in which he wrestled my practice partner, Adam Roberts. Roberts was up pretty big to start the match and Pape ended up pinning him with a cradle late in the match. Some late match heroics that he would become masterful at. He was simply never out of a match… no matter how much trouble he appeared to be in, he could always pull off the win, it seemed. At the time, he looked real raw and inexperienced and I didn’t really think we’d see much of him after that match, but later that year, he was one of the guys who went to state with me at my weight/district and placed 2nd in our bracket at state behind Shea Stamp and it was all uphill from there for Cole Pape. I want to say he went on to win 2-3 AAU titles before entering HS. He was considered one of the best in my grade.

He defeated Kurth from Waukon as a Freshman in the finals. As a Sophomore he defeated Ryan Utterback from New Hampton in the finals. Another battle. As a Junior it had been rumored that he sustained an injury of some sort. I couldn’t decide of these rumors were credible or not, for he kept notching W’s over Jeff Wiele from West Liberty in the regular season, which is another wrestler I hold in high regard. Then at state as a Junior, I remember sitting in the basement around the semifinal round when a bunch of commotion erupted with people saying, “Pape got beat! Pape got beat!” “To who?! Are you sure?!” I asked. And my question was answered when I saw a distraught Pape pace through the basement and not long after, a pumped up Norwalk squad. He had been beaten by Dustin Bussanmas from Norwalk in the semis. Dustin was another good wrestler in my grade and had been a top guy for years. Everyone from SEI knew him as “The Buss” but he was from nowhere near Southeast Iowa so I don’t know what the rest of the state called him. My practice partner Phillip Klees always talked about him. It was a matter of time before “The Buss” made his mark at state and I suppose that was his coming out party. He went on to finish 2nd Bart Mehlert from Laporte City-Union and Pape got 3rd.  I’m pretty sure a lot of people were interested in seeing a Pape vs. Mehlert match… I can’t remember if they met during the regular season or not?

It was a pretty safe bet that whoever he met in the semis the next year was going to be put through a gauntlet…So let’s take a few moments of silence to feel sorry and flourish that poor schmuck with some sympathy, whoever it may have been. Welp, it was me. Thanks for the moment of silence and the sympathy you all gave to me, for I have felt sorry for myself about being convincingly beaten in that match for years. I kid, I kid. But yeah, I had the unfortunate task of wrestling Pape in the semis when he was out for blood and things did not go my way. Pape was generally a real classy guy… very polite to most people off the mat and always just took care of business on the mat and moved on. I must have been an exception to this, for Cole was my age and my weight range and in my district since we were little kids and he never seemed to like me too much in our interactions off the mat and especially in the shenanigans on the mat in the semis match. In my career, I had never taken more straight up cheap-shots in a match than I did in my match against Pape. Elbows, after-whistle shoves, pushing my head in the mat well after the whistle was blown and we had gone out of bounds, etc. I don’t think he liked me too much, for he normally wasn’t like that. In fact, I’m 99% sure he didn’t, which wasn’t totally uncommon… there were a few who didn’t over the years. And he had a PERFECT game plan against me coming in. Or was coached perfectly on how to take everything away from me. I came into that match feeling real good. I was confident, I wasn’t anxious, I was hydrated, I was focused…I was feeling much better than I was in my first two matches and I won those. I had caught the vibe that he didn’t like me too much years before this match took place, so to be honest, I didn’t really like him either at that point and felt fully ready to go out there and beat him. Mentally, I was in a much better place than I was for 99% of the matches I ever wrestled. And this changed about 2 seconds into the match. Right after the match started, he immediately locked up a Russian tie on my left arm. This threw me off INSTANTLY. In my 12 years of wrestling to that point, I had never had anyone in practice or in a match lock up a Russian tie, let alone to my left arm. On my feet, I used my left arm to set up EVERYTHING. I liked to lock that left arm up and lure someone into a left-sided sag headlock and if they sniffed that out, I liked to go into an outside carry or fireman’s from it and would try to set up scrambles where I could switch directions, usually while controlling my left arm. It was as if my thumbs had been cut off. The thumb is more important of a body part than people realize and no one fully realizes this until they have one of them missing… I had no idea what to do with it and while I got frustrated and would try to shake him off or do whatever felt right, he’d use it for a set-up to a shot and would take me down.  Then we’d get back to our feet and same thing. Russian tie to my left arm. I was clueless. Eventually I just started throwing haymaker throw attempts that ended up being mirages for whoever watched the match. I had a ton of people come up to me and say that they couldn’t believe how close I was to throwing Pape on his back and ending it at like 3 different points in the match. I still have someone mention that to me at least once a year. I’ve always just nodded my head like, “yeahhhhh, I was SUPER close.” When you read The Hawkeye Newspaper story on the match, you’d get the vibe that I had Pape on the ropes and was close to putting him away with a throw on multiple occasions in the match… I just kind of took that and played along with it. “Yeah, I was SO close to throwing him. Darn!” HAHA, ok I am going to clear this up. Those throw attempts were mirages. I was NOT close to getting Pape in any sort of danger in that match, regardless of how it appeared. I have no idea why it appeared the way it did, but I felt it and he was never even close to being in any sort of danger against me. He dominated the entire match and I was absolutely clueless on how to adapt to his Russian tie to my left arm. That match was nothing, but smart, dominant wrestling on his part and desperation out of frustration on my end. Nothing more, nothing less. And the final result of this “crazy” match between Pape and I, was him pinning me at the end of the 2nd period. Nothing to see here. He took everything away from me and he wrestled me perfectly. I mean it was that simple…take away my left arm and I’m hopeless. Hell I didn’t even know that about myself. He sure did.  

So Pape went on to win in the finals soundly against Joe Weiser from Clarke Osceola after a scare where he was taken down with a carry to start the match. He regrouped and dominated the rest.

Pape had moments where he was streaky, IMO. After the season, he took a loss or two that made me scratch my head for it’d be against a guy that I beat. And then he’d go on to beat nationally ranked opponents, most notably at the Dream Team Classic he beat Marcus Levesseur from Minneapolis 6-4, who was like the top ranked guy at 152 in the entire nation. In retrospect, I wonder if his injuries still nagged at him around that time. I could never make sense of it, but it was quite obvious that Pape, at his best, was capable of doing a lot of damage at high levels. He went on to wrestle for Iowa. My parents took my little brothers; Shea and Brennan to a Hawkeyes meet in the early to mid 2000’s and they were real young at the time. They handed out wrestling card type deals to kids who came to the meet and my brother Brennan got one of Paul Bradley who he idolize for years because of it.  Shea got Cole Pape for his card… Go figure.

He was smart and he had heart… Nobody can argue with that. Not even a salty loser like myself.

1998 2A 130

  1. Cole Pape, Fr., Maquoketa
  2. Garrett Kurth, Sr., Waukon
  3. Ryan Utterback, Jr., New Hampton
  4. Buc Broyles, Jr., Adel-DeSoto-Minburn
  5. Dan Varner, Jr., Northwood-Kensett
  6. Cade Kelly, Sr., Clarke, Osceola

199 2A 135

  1. Cole Pape, So., Maquoketa
  2. Ryan Utterback, Sr., New Hampton
  3. Benn Christiansen, Sr., Glenwood
  4. Brandon Uhlenhopp, Sr., Aplington-Parkersburg
  5. Mark Sturm, So., Emmetsburg/Armstrong-Ringsted
  6. Jeff Wiele, Jr., West Liberty

2000 2A 140

  1. Bart Mehlert, Sr., LaPorte City Union
  2. Dustin Bussanmas, Jr., Norwalk
  3. Cole Pape, Jr., Maquoketa
  4. Jeff Wiele, Sr., West Liberty
  5. Andrew Knaack, Jr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck
  6. Kolby O’Brien, Sr., Atlantic

2001 2A 152

  1. Cole Pape, Sr., Maquoketa
  2. Joe Weiser, Sr., Clarke, Osceola
  3. Matt Doebel, Sr., Clear Lake
  4. Cody Downing, Jr., Creston
  5. Danny Ebling, Jr., South Tama
  6. Josh Swafford, Sr., Mediapolis

 

CLARK YODER, Sigourney

Clark Yoder was a 3X state champion and likely would have been a 4X state place-winner if there were wrestle backs at state back in the day. He won state championships in 1978, 1979 and 1980. When he was a Freshman, he won districts and the other qualifier from his district who went with him was Brian Swafford from Mepo, my uncle. In 1978, he won districts again and the guy from his district to go with him was Mark Swafford from Mepo, my father. I grew up on Clark Yoder stories. His career record was 112-4.  Lost 3 times as a freshman, 1 time sophomore and was undefeated junior, senior years.  He lost twice to Jim Lord (Lisbon), once to Pat Vogel (Benton Community, Van Horne), once to Dave Lott (Denver)… all previous or future state champs. Dave Lott was who beat him first round at state his Freshman year which prevented him from being a 4X state champion. Clark had a short stint of wrestling for UNI, but after a short tenure in which he experienced injury, enlisted in the Army.

1978 2A 126

1. Clark Yoder, Sigourney
2. Scott Johnson, Nashua
3. Randy Steward, Dewitt Central
4. Kurt Nelson, Corning
5. Kevin Mehan, Emmetsburg
6. Todd Stumberg, Grundy Center

1979 2A 132

1. Clark Yoder, Jr., Sigourney
2. Dana Robinson, Sr., Humboldt
3. Jeff Vance, Sr., Griswold
4. Don Jennings, Jr., Atlantic
5. Dave Capitani, Sr., Knoxville
6. Garry Miklus, Sr., Saydel

1980 2A 132

1. Clark Yoder, Sr., Sigourney
2. Bill Bowers, Sr., Mount Vernon
3. Bob Kauffman, Jr., Emmetsburg
4. Todd Stumberg, Sr., Grundy Center
5. Dave Nelson, Sr., Tri-Center Neola
6. Russ Rasmussen, Sr., Wilton

 

JIM LORD, Lisbon

Jim Lord from Lisbon won titles in 1976, 1977 and 1978. When you read about the Lisbon wrestling empire and the generations of greatness that have accrued there for decades, a lot of their wrestling legends of today grew up idolizing guys who grew up idolizing Jim Lord.  Lord was a 4X state finalist meaning the only year he did not win state, he was runner-up. This was his Freshman season at 98 lbs and he lost to David Lott from Denver that year in the finals. Lord went on to wrestle at Iowa State.

1976 1A 98

  1. David Lott, Denver
  2. Jim Lord, Lisbon
  3. Tom Dappen, Logan-Magnolia
  4. Mike Murphy, West Branch
  5. Randy Reinier, Pekin, Packwood
  6. Rex Hartwig, Rockwell City

1976 1A 105

  1. Jim Lord, Lisbon
  2. Dave Lott, Denver
  3. Mike Murphy, West Branch
  4. Rick Leander, Greenfield
  5. Dan Harris, Morning Sun
  6. Kelly Griffin, Laurens

1977 1A 112

  1. Jim Lord, Lisbon
  2. Robert Cole, Highland (Riverside)
  3. Jim Jordan, Plainfield
  4. Steve Struck, Tripoli
  5. Rick Leander, Greenfield
  6. Wade Ballinger, Sidney

1978 1A 126

1. Jim Lord, Lisbon
2. Mike Blasberg, Tripoli
3. Luther Beenken, Reinbeck
4. Bill Troshynski, Guthrie Center
5. Rodney Cole, Highland-Riverside
6. Kevin Wahe, Alburnett

 

ROBERT WALKER, Martensdale St. Mary’s 

Robert Walker won 3 state titles as a Sophomore, Junior and Senior in 2010. As a Freshman, he qualified for state and that’s the one year he did not win state. He won 3 brackets that were littered with future state champions like Tyler Foubert from EBF and future national level studs like Grant Henderson from Alburnett, but a 3X NAIA National Champion for Grand View. Robert has a twin, David, who also reeled in a couple of state championships of his own. Last I knew, Robert was wrestling for the Air Force, but I have no idea how long that tenure lasted. He was a nice boost for a respectable program at Martensdale St. Mary’s.

2010 1A 140
1st: Robert Walker, Martensdale-St. Mary’s SO 41- 4
2nd: Brode Hills, Louisa-Muscatine SR 35- 5
3rd: Matt Finch, Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn JR 47- 1
4th: Dallas Houchins, Interstate 35 Truro JR 32- 5
5th: Mason Waddell, St. Edmond Fort Dodge SR 43- 7
6th: Jake Slocum, West Branch SO 31- 12
7th: Cole Hopkins, Coon Rapids-Bayard SR 40- 5
8th: Taylor Wedeking, Nashua-Plainfield SO 36- 10

2011 1A 140
1st: Robert Walker, Martensdale-St. Marys JR 46- 0
2nd: Nolan Oviatt, Logan-Magnolia SR 44- 3
3rd: Skyler Rice, Emmetsburg/RA SR 28- 5
4th: Wes Prill, Pleasantville SR 39- 9
5th: Tait Simpson, Lisbon JR 36- 4
6th: Braiden Vrzak, Turkey Valley Jackson Jct SR 35- 13
7th: Tyler Foubert, Tri-County-Montezuma FR 48- 7
8th: Matt Steffen, Kingsley-Pierson SR 33- 9

2012 1A 145
1st: Robert Walker of Martensdale-St Marys 30-0 Sr.
2nd: Jake Slocum of West Branch 44-5 Sr.
3rd: Tyler Foubert of Tri-County-Montezuma 48-6 So
4th: Ben Huber of Hudson 46-6 Sr.
5th: Teddie Harvey of St. Edmond, Fort Dodge 30-4 Jr
6th: Grant Henderson of Alburnett 41-6 Jr
7th: Spencer Kelly of Rockford 47-6 Sr.
8th: Mike Novotny of Underwood 40-5 Sr.

 

INTERESTING FACTS AND CONNECTIONS: 

* I compared and contrasted Cole Pape to fellow 3 times, Stacey Rice from Storm Lake… Stacey’s little brother, Skyler placed 3rd in one of Robert Walker’s championship brackets.

* All 4 of these guys had brothers who were very good as well. Pape’s brother, Dane was a 3-4 time placer and a 2X finalist. Jim Lord’s brother, Doug was a state champion. Robert Walker’s twin brother David was a 2X state champion. Notice how all of them start with a D? Clark Yoder’s brothers Greg and Ross were wrestlers and I know Ross won state.

* Jim Lord’s brother Doug was beaten in the finals in 1974 by a man named Marty Bussanmas from Norwalk. The one guy to ever beat Cole Pape was Dustin Bussanmas from Norwalk. One can assume that those two may be father-son or uncle-nephew?

 * Jim Lord’s only loss at state ever was to David Lott from Denver in the finals as a Freshman. Ironically this was also Clark Yoder’s only loss at the state tournament as well, which took place first round at state his freshman year. Which means David Lott prevented two guys from being 4X state champions. To make things more coincidental, despite Lord and Yoder being in 1A and 2A, they wrestled Lott in two consecutive matches… Lord beat Lott in the finals in 1976 as a Sophomore and Lott’s next match at state was vs. Clark Yoder first round at state the next year.

* I described Pape’s Russian Tie to my left arm in the semis at state my senior year that essentially disarmed me in more ways in one… Clark Yoder, who also beat a Swafford in the postseason (my dad, Mark in his senior season) was asked to describe his wrestling style and here is how he responded:

Clark Yoder: Aggressive… I had a saying that I would always repeat: “Tough, Tight, Mean, Russian”.  To me it meant, ‘Tough’ – stay aggressive, always try and score more points.  ‘Tight’ – stay in contact, keep the pressure on all the time.  ‘Mean’ – (not dirty) just hard -nosed wrestling, drive through the opponents best, like driving through a hard crossface and never let them see you give up.  ‘Russian’ – at the time I felt that the Russians were the best technical wrestlers, greatest drilling and precise techniques.

 

  • Lord, Pape and Walker began their HS careers NOT at the lowest weight.
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