The state of Iowa is littered with kids who were born into the sport of wrestling.
Their dads wrestled, their uncles wrestled, their older brothers wrestled, and by the time they were old enough to compete, they were on the mat, too, learning all the moves and dreaming of future state glory.
That wasn’t the case for future Northern Iowa Panther John McConkey, though.
The nationally ranked Atlantic/CAM heavyweight’s wrestling career didn’t start until he was in eighth grade, and if it wasn’t for a misinterpreted interaction with a coach, it might not have happened at all.
The fateful exchange occurred at a football meeting in which Atlantic junior high football coaches Tim Duff and Chase Roller were encouraging their athletes who weren’t in basketball to give wrestling a try.
“John claims that he didn’t understand what Coach asked him, and he said ‘yes’ when coach Roller asked him if he was going out for wrestling,” said Duff, who’s also the head wrestling coach at Atlantic/CAM. “We kind of held him to that.”