Wrestling team builds on state-wide tradition

by Jessica McDonald

Wrestling in Iowa more than a sport – it’s a tradition.

The state prides itself on a wrestling tradition that has produced Olympic medallists Dan Gable and Tom Brands and Iowa State’s four-time NCAA champion Cael Sanderson.

That tradition has found a place at Simpson and among the several other Division III wrestling programs in the Iowa Conference.

“Wrestling in Iowa is a tradition that has always been strong,” said Jeremy Whalen, Simpson assistant wrestling coach and a former wrestler for the Storm.

Wrestling got its start in Iowa at the small town county fairs. Young farm boys would take turns wrestling at the fair as a form of entertainment. There was no technique to the sport then, it was based on pure physical strength.

As wrestling became more popular, small Iowa schools began adding the sport to their athletic programs. In 1924, the first high school state wrestling tournament was held and so began the legacy of wrestling in Iowa.

“Wrestling has a special tradition in small schools,” said Ron Peterson, Simpson’s head wrestling coach.

Clint Manny, a sophomore on the Simpson wrestling team, first took up the sport when he was in kindergarten and grew up watching wrestlers from Iowa and Iowa State.

“Iowa has always had top of the nation wrestling programs,” said Manny. “Little kids in Iowa dream about being Cael Sanderson.”

Division III colleges follow the wrestling tradition in Iowa. Out of 30 Division III college wrestling teams in the nation, seven are from the Iowa Conference with Simpson ranked 22nd.

Under the leadership of Peterson, the Simpson wrestling program has seen seven men receive All-American honors and two men win the National Championship. Peterson also holds the record at Simpson as the coach with the most wins, having joined the program in 1995.

The Simpson wrestling program continues to strive for excellence in the Iowa Conference. It all begins with recruiting and promoting Simpson College and the wrestling program.

“We are recruiting better student athletes who are dedicated to the sport,” said Whalen.

Simpson hosts an annual wrestling camp and a tournament that brings in athletes from 15 states.

“We have built up a reputation in southwest Iowa,” said Peterson. “Students can come here [Simpson] and get a quality education and participate in a quality wrestling program.”

Manny, who is from Winterset High School, chose to wrestle at Simpson because he knew the college had a strong program.

“I wanted to be a part of the Simpson wrestling team and help improve it,” said Manny.

Manny has done his part this year helping the Storm earn its ranking with a record of 23-1 as of Jan 18.

Junior Bart George is from Norwalk and chose to wrestle at Simpson because of the program.

“I knew I wanted to wrestle at college so that limited my options,” said George. “Iowa and Iowa State were too big for me. I wanted to be a competitive wrestler.”

George has been a competitive wrestler at Simpson having qualified for the national tournament his freshman and sophomore years. He is well on his way this year with a record of 25-7 as of Jan. 18.

“I’m keeping my weight under control and staying with Coach Peterson’s practice regime in order to be the best I can be for the upcoming tournaments,” said George.

Peterson and Whalen are confident of continuous success for the Simpson wrestling program.

“There are no seniors on the team this year and we have built a good base to rely on in the future,” said Whlaen.