Bruce Ennen was not unlike many high school wrestlers.
Ennui, who wrestled for Gilmore City-Bradgate High School in the northwest corner of Iowa, had a good career on the mat in high school, but he didn’t quite achieve his goals. He qualified for the state tournament his senior year, but wrestling as a heavyweight back when that weight class was unlimited, he gave up nearly 150 pounds to his opponent at state. Needless to say, Ennen made a quick exit from the tournament.
But Ennen felt like he had a lot more to give the sport.
So, after high school, Ennen decided to become a wrestling official.
Now, after 42 years of great memories in the sport, Ennen is hanging up his whistle for good. He will officiate on Thursday and Saturday at the state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, and then his long and winding road through the sport will be complete.
“It’s just time I had eye surgery this year and I’ve had some other medical concerns,” Ennen said. “I want to be able to watch my grandchildren and spend time with them. I will second guess this, but I really just feel like it’s time.”
Ennui, who finished third at districts his junior year, wanted to stay involved in the sport. With a little urging from a coach, Ennen decided to pursue a career as a wrestling official.
“Officiating is another way to compete and stay involved in the sport,” Ennen said. “I was encouraged by Don Miller of Fort Dodge High School. I learned the most about wrestling it truly the pursuit of overcoming and achieving. That’s what I am most proud of.”
After high school, Ennen married his wife, Leigh, and they operated a family farm. But the farming crisis of the early 1980s took its tool on the Ennen family and they went bankrupt.
It was time to go back to the drawing board.
“I decided it was time to go back to college. My first day of college I was 32,” said Ennen, who started at Iowa Central Community College before spending a year, at the Iowa School of Pharmacy. “Then I decided to go to Veterinarians College at Iowa State. I was trying to do all that and referee. A lot of it had to do with the pursuit.”
Ennen’s wife decided to pursue a career as a veterinarian, as well. After Bruce Ennen graduated from Veterinarians College in 1994, he went to work in a clinic in Dubuque. He soon learned a valuable lesson
“I figured if I was ever going to get financially secure, I was going to have to open my own business,” Ennen said. “I tried a job in Michigan for a few months. My son, Major, went with me. We sensed it wasn’t going well and Cadillac, Mich., didn’t have wrestling. About that time I saw there was a practice for sale in Muscatine, so we ended up buying it and moving there.”
In the meantime, Major Ennen wrestled for Muscatine High School, where he placed at state and ended up walking on at Iowa. His daughter, Brooke, earned a track scholarship to Missouri.
The Ennens eventually relocated to Iowa City and own and operate their own veterinarian clinic in Cedar Rapids.
Through it all, Ennen continued to officiate as much as he could.
Ennen has many great memories of his 42 years officiating wrestling. He got to officiate matches involving Ton and Terry Brands and Terry’s son, Nelson. He also refereed a match involving Bart Chelsvig. He also officiated with Lindsey and Eric Ackerman, Rich and Brian Gray, Tom and J.P. Williams, Dale and Jarrod Acheson and Mark and Marv Reiland. He said Miller and Reiland were the best mentors he had.
Two memories stand out the most.
“I remember officiating a dual at Manson Northwest Webster against Fort Dodge and there was an ice storm that night.The lights when out several times. Tenth a kid had another kid in a cradle and the lights went out in the gym. They finally ended up calling the meet off,” Ennen said. “Then there was the time Dale McDonough and I were coming back from the Big Eight Conference tournament and we made it about 12 miles west on I-35. It was a big blizzard and we ended up staying at a farm house for two days along with the Fort Dodge wrestling team and cheerleaders.”
Now, Ennen is ready to hang up his whistle, although he plans to stay heavily involved in wrestling. He will officiate in the state tournament, a fitting place to end his 42-year career with his 15th state tournament appearance.
“It’s going to be difficult to say I’m not doing it anymore, but sometimes in life it’s just time to say it’s done,” said Ennen, who also has battled Lyme disease and survived a serious car accident in 2003. “I want to stay involved in wrestling. I want to help with a mentoring program and help with rules meetings, things like that. I also want to go watch my grandkids wrestle and cheer on the Hawkeyes and Cyclones.”