IOWA CITY, Iowa – Gary Kurdelmeier passed away in early October 1998 at the age of just 62.
Unfortunately, I never met him and that’s my loss.
Because without Kurdelmeier’s unselfishness, innovation and vision, the legend of Dan Gable probably wouldn’t have had a Hawkeye connection.
Former Iowa NCAA wrestling champion Chuck Yagla was the guest on the HawkFanatic/KCJJ radio show and podcast on Monday and he talked in great detail about how Kurdelmeier managed to convince Gable to leave his alma mater, Iowa State University, where Gable had become an Olympic Gold Medalist and a living legend, to be an assistant coach under Kurdelmeier at Iowa.
Yagla also talked about how Kurdelmeier almost immediately began paving the way for Gable to succeed him as head coach because Kurdelmeier knew that Gable was special, and that time was fleeting.
Kurdelmeier stepped aside after just four seasons as head coach. He had led Iowa to two NCAA titles with Gable at his side.
Kurdelmeier was only 39 years old during his final season as the head wrestling coach at Iowa. He resigned shortly after the 1976 season to become Iowa’s assistant athletic director.
“He coached four years and then turned it over to coach Gable, and of course, then everybody knows what happened, huge dynasty, won nine consecutive national titles,” Yagla said of Gable’s success at Iowa. “So it was just amazing what he did to get that going; number one, to get coach Gable there, and number two, to realize that coach Gable needed to be the head coach and needed that opportunity.
“So I give a lot credit for turning that over to coach Gable.”
Kurdelmeier, according to Yagla, used a unique and clever sales pitch in trying to entice Gable to join his staff shortly after Gable had won a Gold Medal at the 1972 Olympic Games.
Instead of just hounding Gable to join him, Kurdelmeier reached out to Gable’s family and friends, according to Yagla, and tried to sell them on the idea.
And it worked when Kurdelmeier finally told Gable that he needed an answer.
Yagla also told a story in which Kurdelmeier reportedly sent Gable some tape to wrap his knees and ankles after hearing it was in short supply at Iowa State due to budget restrictions.
Some head coaches would’ve felt threatened by Gable’s huge presence, maybe even a lot of head coaches because head coaches are used to being in charge and in the spotlight.
Kurdelmeier was different.
He knew that keeping Gable at Iowa would benefit the wrestling program long-term, and was willing to sacrifice his own personal glory to make it happen.
Kurdelmeier didn’t just hand the program over to Gable, he built it into a national power with Gable’s help before stepping aside.
“He was such an innovator and he had such a vision for it,” Yagla said of Kurdelmeier’s approach to coaching. “He’s one of those in my mind looking back, he was way before his time as far as thinking out of the box and doing things differently.”
Kurdelmeier as a wrestler certainly wasn’t anything close to Gable, but Kurdelmeier was accomplished on the mat where he won a national title at Iowa in 1958 under head coach Dave McCuskeyafter having won two state heavyweight titles in high school.
A person doesn’t achieve that level of success without having an ego, and without being somewhat self-absorbed in the pursuit of individual success.
So the fact that Kurdelmeier was willing to step aside for Gable despite being in the prime of his coaching career speaks volumes about Kurdelmeier’s character.
“Coach Kurdelmeier I think does get lost a little bit, but the people that really know the history and understand it know how much of a factor he was,” Yagla said.
Kurdelmeier realized soon after Gable had joined his staff that Gable was better at training the wrestlers and he gave Gable that responsibility barely a month into their time together.
That was yet another example of Kurdelmeier putting the team before himself, and putting Gable on the fast track to succeeding him as head coach.
Yagla grew up in Waterloo and came to Iowa as a walk-on under Kurdelmeier in 1972. Yagla thrived in the Iowa wrestling environment and would go on to win back-to-back national titles in 1975 and 1976.
He credits both Kurdelmeier and Gable for squeezing every last bit of potential out of his well-conditioned body.
Yagla also credits McCuskey for building a solid foundation as head coach from 1952-72. Iowa won two Big Ten titles under McCuskey and finished second in the conference 12 times.
Kurdelmeier joined McCuskey’s staff as an assistant coach in 1967. And then after being promoted to head coach in 1972, Kurdelmeier turned something good into something great in a very short period of time.
He also started to promote wrestling as entertainment and fans quickly took notice. Iowa’s attendance now consistently ranks as the best, or among the best in college wrestling, and Kurdelmeier deserves some credit for that.
Kurdelmeier knew that he had a unique circumstance with Gable on his staff, and he had to act quickly or risk losing him to another school.
You could argue that it’s one of the best decisions and biggest sacrifices made by a member of the Iowa Athletic Department.
Kurdelmeier had to feel tempted to stay on as head coach with the program showing signs of dominance, and yet, he stepped aside for Gable because Kurdelmeier knew that it would benefit the program over time, and he was right.
I knew about Gary Kurdelmeier’s role in helping to build the Iowa wrestling dynasty, and how he had lured Gable away from Iowa State.
But it was nice to be reminded about it because Gary Kurdelmeier deserves to be recognized for his unselfish role in helping to make Dan Gable a coaching legend.
What do Cresco, Iowa and wrestling have in common? Mark Palmer, InterMat Senior Writer, gives you the inside scoop. Rich in history, home to the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame, and a passion for wrestling makes Cresco a must-see destination for wrestling fans.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Former University of Iowa wrestling coach Gary Kurdelmeier entered the Iowa wrestling room in 1972 with big ideas.
The mat? The promotions? The expectations? It all needed to improve.
The mat needed to be larger, so he made it grow. The crowd needed incentive, so he fed it to them. The expectations needed to rise, so he started building… fast.
Kurdelmeier, a national champion for the Hawkeyes in 1958, was named UI head wrestling coach in 1972. One year later the Hawkeyes were Big Ten Conference champions. Three years later Iowa celebrated its first national title.
By the time he stepped aside in 1976, the Hawkeyes collected three Big Ten championships and two NCAA titles, crowning six national champions and 10 Big Ten champions.
“He used to talk about how he was going to build the program to that level,” said Steve Kurdelmeier, Gary’s son and a former Hawkeye wrestler. “He felt like Iowa should be a national wrestling power, and we really weren’t at the time. He felt like it was our place to be.”
Upon assuming control of the program, Kurdelmeier lured former Iowa State standout Dan Gable away from Ames and into the Iowa wrestling room, almost immediately handing the day-to-day training over to his eventual heir apparent.
With Gable managing the wrestling room, Kurdelmeier was able to promote the sport. The combination eventually made Iowa wrestling a must-see event.
The Hawkeyes started winning, and within the first year 100 fans turned into thousands.
“He was a promoter. That was his big thing,” said Steve. “He was always promoting and trying to come up with a new way to interest people in the sport. He came up with some wild things every once in a while.”
When defending champion Oklahoma visited Iowa City in 1975, the Sooners had a reputation of wrestling on the edge, so Kurdelmeier pieced together four mats to create a 74-foot wrestling surface that would later be banned by the wrestling rules committee.
“I don’t think he asked anybody,” said Steve. “He just decided that’s what he wanted to do so he did it. It certainly wasn’t announced going in, and I think (Oklahoma) just about refused to wrestle.”
Oklahoma did wrestle, and Iowa dominated the match, 34-5, triggering another Kurdelmeier promotion — free McDonald’s hamburgers for everyone in attendance.
“Those are the things he did, you should hear some of the things he didn’t do,” said Steve. “He thought one time it would be interesting to have 10 guys weigh-in on one scale at the same time, and rather than having weight classes you had one total weight. Then you could line your guys up any way you so felt fit.”
That idea never saw the light of day, but that may have been by design.
“He was already planning the next thing,” said Steve. “When he started building he saw the end product before it was ever going to happen. He just felt like it was the inevitable end of where Iowa would end up.
“Prior to him being there they had never been a power, and the fact that between Gable and (Jim) Zalesky and (Tom) Brands, he would be proud that the school has maintained itself as a national power for all these years.”
Gary Kurdelmeier passed away in 1998 at the age of 62. He will be recognized Saturday as Iowa’s honorary captain when the top-ranked Hawkeyes host Iowa State at 7 p.m. (CT). Kurdelmeier will be represented by his wife, Barbara; son, Steve; daughter, Kathy; and their immediate families.
Due to circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board of Directors of the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in Cresco announced the 51st Annual IWHOF Induction Ceremony and Awards Banquet scheduled for Monday, April 13, 2020 has been postponed until Monday, April 12, 2021. The class of 2020; Tom Hogan, Tom Huff, G. Wyatt Schultz, and Chad Zaputil are deemed worthy recipients and were unanimously approved for induction into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame. Their day will come.
CRESCO, IA: The Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame announced its 2020 Induction class:
Tom Hogan, Colonel Thomas Huff, Chad Zaputil, and Wyatt Schultz will be inducted during an awards banquet and ceremony Monday, April 13th at the Cresco Country Club.
Four outstanding individuals who’ve contributed mightily to the sport of wrestling will be inducted into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in Cresco on Monday, April 13, 2020. The 51st Annual Awards Banquet and Induction Ceremony will begin with a 5:30pm social hour followed by a 6:30pm banquet at the Cresco Country Club.
Tom Hogan – Gilbertville Don Bosco, UNI, Wartburg – three-time state medalist, state champion, three-time NCAA D3 All-American, D3 NCAA Champion, and renowned high school coach.
Colonel Thomas L. Huff U.S. Air Force DC Retired – Waterloo West, University of Iowa – three-time state champion, two-time Big Ten champion, two-time NCAA All-American, multiple U.S. Armed Services championships, two-time final Olympic Trials place winner.
G.Wyatt Schultz – Postville, Cedar Rapids – owner and publisher of
The Predicament and sports photographer whose work has appeared in
Wrestling USA,USA Wrestler, Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine, and
Chad Zaputil – Centerville, University of Iowa – four-time state entrant, two-time state champion, three-time Big Ten Conference champion, three-time NCAA tournament finalist.
Banquet tickets are available at the Cresco Chamber of Commerce, 563.547.3434, or CIA Insurance, 563.547.2382. Tickets are $25 and advance registration is required.
The Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame’s sole purpose is the promotion of amateur wrestling and honoring native Iowans. The inaugural banquet was held in 1970. When we conclude the 51st Annual Awards Banquet on April 13, 2020, our roster of inductees will include 137 outstanding individuals for their contributions to amateur wrestling.
CRESCO, IA: Four outstanding individuals who’ve contributed mightily to the sport of wrestling will be inducted into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in Cresco on Monday, April 8th. The 50th Annual Awards Banquet and Induction Ceremony will begin with a 5:30 social hour followed by a 6:30 banquet at the Cresco Country Club south of Cresco. Those being inducted Don Buzzard (posthumous), Joe Corso, Gary Steffensmeier and Jesse Whitmer. Also being recognized will be Dale Bahr. Bahr was inducted into the IWHOF in 1988, but was unable to attend that induction ceremony and banquet. The Board of Directors thought the 50th anniversary banquet would be an appropriate time to recognize Bahr as an inductee.
Don Buzzard was a two-time state champion for Waterloo East(1963, 1964). Buzzard went on to Iowa State University where he was a two-time NCAA runner-up at 191 pounds. As a sophomore Buzzard won the 191 pound Midlands Championship. Buzzard coached at Jesup before becoming an assistant coach at the University of Iowa (1973-1974). During his competitive career Buzzard only lost a total of nine matches.
Joe Corso won a state title for West Des Moines Valley at113 pounds in 1971. After winning a bronze medal in the NCAA championships for Purdue, Corso continued his career in freestyle wrestling where he excelled. Corso went on to be a ten-time national freestyle champion, placed third in the World Championships of 1978 and was the 1979 Pan-American Games champion. Corso was also on the 1980Olympic team and an alternate in 1984. Corso is still coaching and has had a long history with the Sunkist Wrestling Club.
Steffensmeier wrestled at Fort Madison for Hall of Fame coach Mick Pickford. Steffensmeier was the Bloodhounds first two-time state champion and their first four-time state tournament medalist. Steffensmeir won titles in 1986 at 112 lbs and in 1987 at119 lbs. He capped his senior year with a perfect 32-0 record. Steffensmeier went to 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.
Jessie Whitmer was a four-time medalist and a one-time state champion for Eagle Grove High School. Whitmer then went to the University of Iowa where he was able to break into the starting line up as a 118 pound senior. Whitmer was one of five national champions for the storied 1997 squad that broke the record for number of points scored at the tournament (170).
Dale Bahr was a two-time state champion for Iowa Falls high school, wrestling for Gary Kurdelmeier. Under Harold Nichols at Iowa State, Bahr won the 145 lb. national championship as a senior. He was a two-time All American before winning his national title. Bahr then went on to a successful coaching career where he ended up as head coach for the University of Michigan from 1978-99.
Banquet tickets are available at the Cresco Chamber of Commerce (563-547-3434) or CIA Insurance in Cresco (563-547-2382). Tickets are $25 and advance registration is required.
The Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame’s sole purpose is the promotion of amateur wrestling in Iowa. The IWHOF has a rich history of honoring native Iowans at our annual awards banquet and induction ceremony. The inaugural banquet was held in 1970. When we conclude the 50th annual awards banquet on April 08, 2019, our roster of inductees will included 133 outstanding individuals for their contributions to amateur wrestling.
CRESCO – Donald “Don” Edward Gooder, age 86, of Cresco, Iowa, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, at Evans Memorial Home surrounded by his family.A Mass of Christian burial will be held at Notre Dame Catholic Church on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, at 11 a.m. with Father Jacob Rouse officiating. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery. Visitation will be held at Notre Dame Church on Thursday, Sept. 26 from 4-8 p.m., followed by a prayer service. Visitation will continue at the Church beginning at 9:30 a.m. prior to the service on Friday. Hindt-Hudek Funeral Home is assisting the family.
Don was born on Aug. 31, 1933, to Niles and Ruth (Slifka) Gooder in Waterloo, Iowa, and was raised by a single mother, his grandmother and two uncles. He graduated from Cresco High School in 1951, served in the United States Marines, and married Rose Ella “Rosie” Slifka on Sept. 19, 1953, at Assumption Catholic Church in Cresco.
Though Don was raised in town, he and Rosie began their marriage with a short stint in farming. This was the first of a long list of entrepreneurial endeavors related to agriculture, real estate and business development in which Don pursued his desire to succeed.
Influenced by many people in the Cresco community as a young man, he enjoyed crediting much of his success to the guidance he received from numerous local mentors including Arnie Kratz, Neil McKone, Bob Howard, Ralph Fitzgerald and George Laub, as well as many others who all shared a passion for Cresco’s success. Don loved his community and wanted it to thrive, creating phrases such as “Cresco, the heart of the nation,” meaning every word.
At the age of 29, he purchased a Ford franchise in Cresco, later building it into a “state of the art” dealership. During this time, Don’s interests and involvements included stock cars, snowmobiles and quarter midget racing with the boys. In 1972 Don and Rosie decided to pursue farming, when a family farm in Vernon Springs was listed for sale. In character, Don went against the grain, deciding to focus on a commercial sheep operation, which over time evolved into purebred Columbia and Rambouillet sheep flocks. The success of this enterprise led to winning Premier Breeder at the International Livestock Exposition five times along with numerous other awards and recognitions. In addition, Don earned his broker license to pursue his life-long interest in real estate. For decades he held the Iowa state record for the largest farm land transaction.
In the early 1970s, Don helped found Cresco Industrial Development Corporation (CIDC), became its first director and helped to lead the growth of Cresco industry to an all-time high. A few of the businesses included Donaldson, ADS Plastics, and other businesses throughout the county.
Cresco’s reputation as one of the country’s leading trailer manufacturing centers is the direct result of the couple’s successful sheep business because of their need to transport sheep to eastern markets. Realizing the potential of aluminum livestock trailers, Don convinced Roy Culp to partner with him to build the Featherlite plant. Don told him, “I will take every trailer you can build.” As a result, Don Gooder Distributing became the nation’s largest dealer of aluminum stock and horse trailers for many years. In years to come, this business evolved into Alum-Line, which from the start has involved two of his sons. Don’s business legacy in Cresco lives on.
In retirement, the couple owned a second home on the Mississippi River in Guttenburg, Iowa, where he was again developing real estate including retail buildings and homes.
Throughout his life, Don enjoyed pushing boundaries, taking risks and leading by example. This “no fear” attitude led to his development of numerous professional and community ventures. In part this included Heritage Supper Club, Sport Hut, founding of Driftrunners and Snow Fest, Ag Fest and leadership involvement with community organizations such as Jaycees, Centennial Committee, Chamber, Church Council, Hospital Board, Historical Society, Fair Board, and the list goes on.
He is well-known for his passion and connection to amateur wrestling. Attendance at the NCAA Division I Championship started with him and friends following Cresco native, Tom Peckham’s notable career. As a testament to Don’s love for the sport of wrestling, he was the last surviving founder of the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Don was known for his one-of-a-kind personality, relentless work ethic, commitment to excellence, affectionate humor and living life to its fullest. His crowning achievements however, are exemplified in his devotion to family and friends, and his life-long love and commitment to his wife of 66 years, Rosie. As he loved to say, “Enough said!”
Don is survived by his wife, Rosie of Cresco; children, Patrick (Becky) Gooder of Decorah, Iowa and their children, Shay Gooder, Chris (Coletta) Gooder and children, Adelina, Leo, and Judelyn and Dakota (Bryce) Hruska and daughter, Arietta; Michael (Rachel) Gooder of Cresco and their children, Abby (Dan) Inglis and son, Wyatt, and John (Molly) Gooder and daughter, Ella; Gary (Sara) Gooder of Cresco and their children, Sydney Gooder-Hayes and children, Paxton and Summer, Josie (Brian) Hrdlicka and daughter, Maelyn, and Sierra Gooder; Lee (Jill) Gooder of Cresco and their children, Shelley (Joe) Marshall and Zach (Katie) Gooder and daughter, Autumn; and Gay Duroe of Cresco. He is also survived by a brother, Ross “Bill” Gooder of Cresco.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Niles and Ruth; a son in infancy, John Gooder; and son-in-law, Michael Duroe.
The Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame’s sole purpose is the promotion of amateur wrestling in Iowa. Open to the public, April 9, 2018 is the Banquet and Induction Ceremony. Call 563.547.3434 to reserve your tickets.
We have a rich history of honoring native Iowans at our annual awards banquet and induction ceremony. The original banquet was held in 1970. When we concluded the 48th annual awards banquet on April 10, 2017, at the Cresco Country Club, our roster of inductees included 125 outstanding individuals for their contributions to amateur wrestling.
1972 IWHOF inductee Bill Smith passed away Tuesday March 20 at the age of 89.
Thanks to Mark Palmer, InterMat Senior Staff Writer, for allowing us to post this article Mark wrote about Bill Smith for InterMat.
The Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame, located in Cresco, has announced the 2018 inductees. They are Steve Hamilton, Shane Light, Kirk Myers and Lennie Zalesky. The 49th annual banquet is set for Monday April 9th. Social hour starts at 5:30, dinner at 6:30 with the Induction ceremony following.
IWHOF Board Member Jerome Hruska was recently inducted into the Creston Wrestling Hall of Fame. Hruska was inducted along with Dylan Long and the 1972 Creston wrestling team. Hruska coached at Creston from 1969-1979. See attached story from the Creston News Advertiser.
Legendary coaches Chris Flanagan and Tom Kettman were inducted into the Glen Brand Wrestling Hall of Fame of Iowa on Saturday June 24th. The Brand WHOF is located in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum in Waterloo. Along with family members, Flanagan was represented by some current members of the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame Board of Directors. The IWHOF is located in Cresco, where Flanagan coached. Flanagan coached many of the current board members.
Pictured in front are Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame Members Sandy Stevens, Dan Gable, Chuck Yagla and Bob Siddens. In back are Jim Sovereign and IWHOF board members Jerome Hruska and Chuck Curtis.
CRESCO, IA: Four worthy and deserving individuals will be inducted into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in Cresco on Monday, April 10th. Among them is the first woman to be inducted into the IWHOF, and the sixth set of brothers to be inducted. The 48th Annual Awards Banquet and Induction Ceremony will begin with a 5:30 social hour followed by a 6:30 banquet at the Cresco Country Club south of Cresco. Those being inducted are Joel and Justin Greenlee, Mike Mann and Sandy Stevens.
Waverly natives Joel and Justin Greenlee become the 122nd and 123rd inductees into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame, joining five other families with brothers inducted. That impressive group includes Terry and Tom Brands, Jim and Joe Gibbons, Dave and Paul Martin, Don and Harold Nichols and Doug and Mark Schwab. Both Joel and Justin were state champions at Waverly, All-Americans at UNI, and successful international competitors. Joel attained fourth and second place NCAA finishes, while Justin was eighth, second, and second in his three NCAA trips. Joel is in his 20th year as the head wrestling coach at Ohio. Justin is a research veterinary pathologist for the USDA at the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, IA.
The 124th inductee into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame is Mike Mann. Mike won a state championship wrestling at Marshalltown High School in 1978. He followed that up at Iowa State University with seventh, fourth, second, and second place finishes in the NCAA tournament. He won 113 matches as a Cyclone, was a 1981 Midlands champion and a 1983 Big 8 champion. Mike is the head wrestling coach at Marshalltown High School, where he’s coached since 2012.
Sandy Stevens becomes the 125th inductee in the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame. Sandy has been behind the mic at every level of wrestling competition. She’s announced at state and national championships for Kids, Cadets, Juniors, Espoir, and many state and national high school championships. She did the NCAA D1 tournament 34 years, has been the announcer for the Midlands, Senior World Championships, Pan Am Championships, and the Olympics Games. Sandy received the Order of Merit from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1998, and many other accolades across the USA and the world.
Banquet tickets are available at the Cresco Chamber of Commerce (563-547-3434) and CIA Insurance in Cresco (563-547-2382). Tickets are $25 and advance registration is required.
The Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame’s sole purpose is the promotion of amateur wrestling in Iowa. The IWHOF has a rich history of honoring native Iowans at our annual awards banquet and induction ceremony. The inaugural banquet was held in 1970. When we conclude the 48th annual awards banquet on April 10, 2017, our roster of inductees will included 125 outstanding individuals for their contributions to amateur wrestling.