Gary Steffensmeier, 2019 Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame Inductee
Dr. Gary Steffensmeier developed a ‘can do’ attitude as a third grade wrestler. That same attitude has served Steffensmeier through the years as an outstanding wrestler, coach and teacher.
“I was never in a kid’s club. My older brothers worked with me at home and I had success at tournaments starting as a third grader,” Steffensmeier said. “It helped me develop confidence that I could do whatever I set my mind to. I learned I could overcome obstacles if I just kept plugging away.”
Steffensmeier wrestled at Fort Madison for Hall of Fame coach Mick Pickford. He was the Bloodhound’s first two-time state champion and their first four-time state tournament medalist. Steffensmeier finished fourth and fifth place in state as a freshman and sophomore before winning titles in 1986 at 112 lbs and in 1987 at 119 lbs. He capped his senior year with a perfect 32-0 record to give him 103 career wins.
Steffensmeier then wrestled for Don Briggs at the University of Northern Iowa where he was a three-time Division I All-American with a runner-up and two fourth place finishes. He finished with a collegiate record of 115-29-3, which ranks him fourth on the Panther’s all-time win chart. Impressively he was named to the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Academic team in 1991 and 1992.
Thinking back on his wrestling career Steffensmeier said he never went into matches thinking his opponent was better or a match was a ‘must win’. Memorable matches included his winning his first state title and wrestling in the NCAA finals. He also casually mentioned rewarding wins against a Olympic Silver medalist and a World Champion.
Steffensmeier taught high school mathematics and coached wrestling for 12 years in Texas, Kansas, Missouri, and in Germany while following his wife’s military career. His wrestling teams won European team championships,and produced numerous conference, state, national, and European champions and place winners.
That coaching tenure is a source of pride for Steffensmeier who noted he enjoyed watching wrestlers develop while also giving back to the sport. He was able to expand wrestling numbers at every place he coached. “In Texas I started with 14 guys on the team, the next year we had 32 and the following year we had 64. In Missouri I had two state place finishers my first year. The second year we had five state place finishers including two state champions. My third year we had six place finishers and two in the finals.”
Steffensmeier was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2019 along with Joe Corso, Don Buzzard and Jessie Whitmer.
Fort Madison High School:
Coach: Mick Pickford:
9th grade - 98 lb: 17-13 4th State Tournament
10th grade - 105 lb: 25-6 5th State Tournament
11th grade - 112 lb: 29-2 State Champion
12th grade - 119 lb: 32-0 State Champion
University of Northern Iowa:
Coach Don Briggs
88-89: 142 lb. 31-8-2 NCAA qualifier
89-90: 150 lb. 33-9 NCAA runner-up
90-91: 150 lb. 27-6-1 4th NCAA
91-92: 150 lb. 24-6 4th NCAA