The coaching carousel for local prep wrestling programs took a few interesting spins since last season.
It is easy to be confused by the whirlwind of activity, and the connections of each move.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Lisbon rehired their former coaches, Iowa City High said goodbye one of the state’s best coaches, replacing him with one of his former Little Hawk state champions and Cedar Rapids Jefferson named one of Dick Briggs’ first J-Hawk state champs as his co-head coach. All took effect this season.
Hall of Fame Coach Brad Smith opted for early retirement after the 2011-12 school year at Iowa City High. Less than six months later, Smith was named coach at Lisbon, where he began his coaching career in 1978. Smith, who ranks third in Iowa in career dual wins, left in 1991 to take over at City High, where he coached for 21 years. He led the two programs to 15 total state team titles, coached 41 state champions, including Cory Connell.
Connell, a 2000 Class 3A state champion with a 146-12 career record for Smith at City High, replaced Smith after coaching Eddyville-Blakesburg for six seasons. He guided the Rockets to five top-10 state finishes, placing second in 2010 when he was named 1A Coach of the Year. He coached 27 state qualifiers and 17 state medalists at Eddyville-Blakesburg.
“I’ve always wanted to take this position,” said Connell, who wrestled for the University of Iowa before becoming an NCAA Division III runner-up at 157 pounds for Wartburg. “It’s been nice to come back home where all my family is and where I grew up.
“It’s nice to come back to the halls I used to roam as a student and then teach here. It’s been a great experience.”
City High is 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the Mississippi Valley Conference. He said the youth club has benefitted from the addition of former University of Iowa three-time NCAA champion Joe Williams. The toughest part of the transition is getting to know the team and determining proper changes to improve the wrestlers and the team.”
“We have a lot of kids who are working hard and busting their butt,” Connell said. “That’s what we need to keep going.”
The two are expected to face one another in January when Lisbon competes at City High’s Clyde Bean Duals. Connell said Smith was an influence to get into coaching and teaching, and remains a coaching resource.
“It’d be an honor to coach against him,” Connell said. “I’ve never done it before … he’s a great coach.”
Like Smith, Hynek is back at the helm of his old team. Hynek served as the Cougars coach from 1995 to 2003, resigning to spend more time with his family. With son, David Hynek, a senior at Kennedy, and stepson, Gage Farmer, a freshman on the Cougars wrestling program, he felt it was the right time to return.
Hynek had a 115-71-1 dual mark, leading the Cougars to the State Duals in 2000, 2001 and 2003. He replaced Brent Paulson, who stepped down after last season to spend more time with his family. Interestingly, Paulson replaced Hynek after being one of his assistants.
“It’s an adjustment, being out of the sport for nine years, but it’s been a lot of fun,” said Hynek, who has led Kennedy to a 3-5 record this season. “The kids are working very hard. It’s taken some time for them to get used to me and vice versa.”
The family aspect has added to his second tenure. He can focus easier during practice, because most of the family is included and the sport isn’t straining his relationships.
“It helps my stepson wrestles and my wife is at all the meets,” Hynek said. “When the whole family is involved, it makes it a lot more fun.”
Hynek, 44, coached 21 Cougars to state with 17 earning medals. Almost a decade away from the sport, Hynek has relied on assistants to show some of the more explosive moves, but his body has held up well. He will get more mat time now that he has more of a feel after observing the entire team.
“Overall, it’s not too bad,” Hynek said. “I’m able to wrestle the kids. I’m going to get on the mat more pretty soon.”
Matt Orton will save Briggs time on the mat. Orton was named Briggs’ co-head coach before the season, completing the last two years as a J-Hawk assistant. Briggs, the longest tenured coach in the MVC, coached Orton to a state title in 1989.
Battle of Waterloo
The third annual Battle of Waterloo will be held Friday and Saturday at Young Arena in at Waterloo. The 32-team dual field begins with four eight-team pools on the first day, starting at 9 a.m. The second flight of pools is scheduled for 4 p.m..
Teams will be grouped in four-team round-robin brackets Saturday, according to similar finishes in pool competition. Champions in each pool will wrestle in a championship pool Saturday, beginning at 4:15 p.m. Action for the second day begins at 9 a.m.
The field has a heavy area flavor. Class 3A fifth-ranked Cedar Rapids Prairie, No. 2 Linn-Mar and 2A top-ranked West Delaware, along with Davenport Assumption, ranked second in 2A, are top-seeded pool teams. Seventh-ranked Pleasant Valley is the second seed and No. 6 Iowa City West is third in Pool A, joining West Delaware. In Pool B, No. 4 Waverly-Shell Rock, Western Dubuque and 1A sixth-ranked Don Bosco are behind Prairie. Linn-Mar will compete in Pool C with second-seeded and eighth-ranked North Scott, Osage and 2A No. 5 Union Community. Charles City, which placed sixth at last weekend’s Five Seasons Duals, is the second seed in Pool D.
Hawkins hot start
BGM junior Adam Hawkins has opened with a strong start. The Class 1A fifth-ranked 195-pounder was impressive in his latest competition.
Hawkins captured an individual title Saturday at the Tri-County tournament in Thornburg. He topped West Branch’s defending state champion and top-ranked Cade Jones in the finals. Hawkins scored a takedown and a reversal, leading the entire match.
Hawkins, a 2012 state qualifier at 195, improved to 8-0 this season. He also a finalist for the KCRG-TV9 Athlete of the Week.
Andy Hawkins, Battle of Waterloo, bgm, Brad Smith, cedar rapids jefferson, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cory Connell, Cougars, Dennis Hynek, Dick Briggs, Iowa City High, J-Hawks, Lions, Lisbon, Little Hawks, Matt Orton