It’s always a treat when Cresco wrestling fans bring family to the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame. Thanks to Jerome & Norma Hruska for stopping by with daughter Cindy to take a tour of the Hall of Fame.
Of course, Jerome’s forgotten more about wrestling than we will ever know.
Hruska was a three-time State Qualifier at Cresco High School. He was the Southwestern Community College wrestling head coach from 1967-68, and he was the head coach at Creston High School from 1969-79, where he compiled a 100-13-2 dual record. He also coached 38 State Tournament Qualifiers, including 19 State place winners at Creston.
Coach Hruska is credited for setting the tone of hard work, dedication, excellence, and high expectations into the Panther Wrestling Program and was in the first Induction Class of the Creston Wrestling Hall of Fame. Thanks to one of our favorite IWHOF Board Members for stopping by!
A fun day at the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame when Raymond Hassman stopped in for a visit. Raymond is a brother to Inductee Gordon Hassman and we got to hear some good stories along the tour. We even found out Maynard “Spade” Harman was Raymond’s 8th grade teacher!
On his way to visit his father, we wanted to give an IWHOF shout-out to Raymond & Gordon’s father, Paul Hassman, New Hampton, Iowa’s first state wrestling champion and 106 year old resident. Thanks for the visit, Raymond, come back soon.
Wrestling fans, James & Jean, took a break from their Freedom Rock tour to check out the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame.
During the tour, James spied his relative, Inductee Larry Hayes.
Thanks for stopping by the IWHOF during your Thanksgiving break.
Stay safe out there and hope to see you back soon.
On a beautiful day in Iowa, Laura and Dick Mattoon drove all the way from Ankeny to visit the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in Cresco.
Laura is the mother of Kevin Dresser, head coach of the Iowa State University wrestling program. They were here in 2014 when Dresser was inducted into the IWHOF. We had a nice visit and heard some new stories about our native born Iowans in the Hall of Fame.
Hitting the road on their motorcycles, John & Chris Kinley ended up in Cresco at the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame. We don’t know who had more fun – us or the Kinleys. We do know we learned a lot and made two new friends. We expect this will not be the last visit and we look forward to their return.
Wrestling Fans, Craig Schwienebart and Rad Alger, visited the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame this summer. This was Craig’s first time at the Hall of Fame (Craig was an undefeated 1983 Class 1A StateChampion from B-C-L) while Rad, brother of Inductee Royce Alger, stops by often (We love Rad’s stories).
G. Wyatt and Kirsten Schultz also visited the IWHOF this summer. Schultz, publisher of The Predicament, was selected as an Inductee in 2020. We are looking forward to the Induction Ceremony in April 2021 as we welcome back G. Wyatt Schultz to the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame.
It is always a good day at the IWHOF when visitors stop by.
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.