Former Cedar Rapids Jefferson assistant wrestling coach John Hegarty was right on when he described the ceremony as the night the names on the wall came alive.
Jefferson celebrated its rich wrestling tradition with a ceremony last Thursday, before its dual with Cedar Rapids Kennedy, referred to as 50 Years of J-Hawk State Finalists. Each state finalist in attendance was called to the center of the mat and had their former coach, or a representative of their former coach, raise their hand one more time.
Legendary wrestlers lineup up as their accomplishments were read for the crowd to absorb. It was cool to see the likes of Mel Wieland walk out to the mat. Wieland was the Metro’s first three-time state champion and went on to win a Big Ten title at the University of Iowa. He walked to the center of the J-Hawk mat and was recognized. What a sight for a high school wrestler to witness one of the city’s best and then take the mat shortly after.
It meant a lot to those involved. The fondness of the program that these former wrestlers helped build was evident by the effort many of them made to make the ceremony. Frank Spinka, a state champion in 1965, was making a quick turnaround trip from his current home in Arizona. Brothers Don and Dave Zimmerman came from San Antonio, Texas, and Oak Hill, Va., respectively. Don Zimmerman was a 1973 state champion, while Dave Zimmerman, was a state finalist in 1976.
Listen to Spinka (left) and the Zimmermans (Don is center and Dave is on the right) discuss what that celebration and the Jefferson tradition means to them, and how the Zimmermans saw Spinka’s name posted on the wrestling room wall and aspired to join the elite group.
Don Briggs, the brother of current J-Hawk coach Dick Briggs, was among those honored. Don wrestled to a state runner-up finish in 1966. Don was a long-time coach at the University of Northern Iowa. There was also like Hall of Fame coach Dick Ingvall, who was a 1969 state runner-up for the J-Hawks. Ingvall became one of the best prep coaches, most notably at Union Community.
Here Mike Gallagher, a 1972 champion and a member of the Luther Norse Athletics Hall of Fame, is honored.
Then there names closer to my era that made a big impact. Names like Marc Chase and Matt Orton. I remember watching Ali Igram and Travis Pike compete while I was in high school.
One of the cooler parts of the evening was seeing all three Ironside brothers lined up and then walked to the center of the mat for Dick Briggs to raise their arms. Wrestling is a family sport and the Ironside clan is certainly at the head of the line in the Metro area.
Mark was a two-time champion in 1992 and 1993. Mark then won a pair of national titles for the Iowa Hawkeyes, earning All-American honors in each of his four years. Matt, who captured a JUCO national title at Iowa Central, won his state title in 1991. Tim won in 1998, which happens to be the last state title for the J-Hawks. Their last state finalist was in attendance. That was Jason McCormick, who was a Class 3A runner-up at 171.
WRESTLERS WHO ATTENDED
COACHES WHO ATTENDED
Francis in Lisbon
50 Years of J-Hawk State Finalists, Ali Igram, Arizona, Big Ten, cedar rapids jefferson, Dave Zimmerman, Dick Briggs, Dick Ingvall, Don Briggs, Don Zimmerman, Frank Spinka, J-Hawks, John Hegarty, Marc Chase, Mark Ironside, Matt Ironside, Matt Orton, Mel Wieland, Mike gallagher, state champions, state finalists, Texas, Tim Ironside, Travis Pike, University of Iowa Hawkeyes, University of Northern Iowa, Virginia, Wrestling