Inside the Rivalry: Chronicles of Some of the Greatest Rivalries in Iowa High School Wrestling
Chapter 1: Marshall Koethe (Akron Westfield/Twin River Valley) vs. Nate Herda (Central Lyon)
The year was 2008. 2008 was a fun year, thanks to the head to head match-ups we were fortunate enough to see at the tournament. The team races were more or less blow-outs. Don Bosco won in 1A, Ballard in 2A and Waverly Shellrock in 3A. All three schools set the scoring records for their classes in that year. And all three schools repeated the next year.
Don Bosco won 1A again with a handful of Welters sprinkled with two Reiters as well as a Kettman, Schares, Ortner, Becker, McMahon and Delagardelle. That's a nice collection of names that when you hear them, they immediately make you think of Don Bosco wrestling. Central Lyon represented the Northwest part of the state well with two state champs (Nate Herda and Jordan Gacke with a runner up finish from Scott Eben). Also in 1A in 2008, Bart Reiter clinched his 3rd of four state championships, Deric Thomas splashed onto the scene by winning his first of three, Jake Demmon looked like a machine at the state tournament. There was some good wrestling in 1A in 2008.
In 2A in 2008, Ballard was a total powerhouse and just ran away with the title with their Weatherman bros, a couple Hiatt bros, Tyler Grask, Coffman, Taylor Eichenberger, Sullivan, Anderson, Ramsey, etc. They were absolutely dominant in 2A during this time...this was the time right before the emergence of Assumption, Mediapolis, Denver-Tripoli, Creston, Union-La Porte City & West Delaware of Manchester There was an unbelievable match between Ridge Kiley and Levi Wolfensperger that came right down to the wire in which Kiley was victorious. To make things more impressive, the 3rd place finisher in that bracket was Joe Colon from Clear Lake...a guy who has succeeded on every level and still continues to on the international scene. Now that's a tough 3rd place guy. Andrew Long from Creston won his 3rd title and looked unbeatable in doing so. Seth Noble from Columbus Jct. won his first of two titles as a Sophomore. He was closer to winning four titles than people realize. 2A also gave the state their first look at physical specimen and professional football player, Austin Blythe from Williamsburg who placed 2nd at 285 as a Freshman, which is generally unheard of. His senior brother, Holden, won the 220 lb. bracket.
3A in 2008 was the Waverly Shellrock show. I can't think of a team that I would consider better than this one...it was total domination. They had their Ballwegs, Caldwell, Cox, Rinken, Thompson, Campbell, Kittleson, Averhoff, Wrage, etc. I used to think that I would never see a team that was assembled with more ammo than the Lewis Central and Emmetsburg teams of the early 2000's. Then Waverly-Shell Rock came along and changed my mind. They made the team race a boring one...for the other teams. It was a race for 2nd coming in to the tourney, for everyone knew WSR would dominate. 3A had some interesting stuff this year. St. John's bracket in 2008 was interesting, though. He beat Kyven Gadsen in the finals. For those of you who haven't connected the dots there yet, both of those two went on to win an NCAA title and one of them indicated to the world, his affinity for ice cream in a funny, classic post-match interview. Matt McDonough won his 3rd title. Another NCAA champ. Future Iowa wrestler and state champ, Dylan Carew was in that bracket. And Nick Moore won his 2nd of four titles. 3A was loaded in 2008.
Hard to believe this was ten years ago already. Ever wonder what happened to some of these guys? Well, you are about to hear from two of them who entertained the crowd with one of the most intense, hard fought matches that has ever taken place at Wells Fargo Arena. People mention this match as one of the best they've seen whenever the topic is brought up, whether on forums or just random conversation. People remember the exact place they were when they think about this match. This match was right up there with other good matches like Thomsen vs. West, Clark vs. Devos, Farris vs. Peters, Leisure vs. Thompson, Biscoglia vs. Bennett, Carton vs. Sorensen, Drain vs. Wilcke, Wolfensperger vs. Kiley, Fox vs. Roth, Ettelson vs. Naig, Reiter vs. Reiland, Marlin vs. Schmidt, etc. This could very well be one of the most exciting displays of wrestling that has ever taken place at Wells Fargo.
The match was between two returning state champs...Marshall Koethe from Twin River Valley formerly of Akron Westfield VS. Nate Herda from Central Lyon. This took place in the semifinals. I had the pleasure of speaking to both of them about what their feelings/thoughts were before and after the match, their approach, their mindset, the match itself, etc. These two are wonderfully polite people with a ton of mutual respect for each other, which is great to see. However, when they were competing, Herda made it very clear that he was on a mission to break Koethe's heart, something he had failed to do in their five previous matchups...all of which Koethe won by tech or pin. Those five matches took place when they were freshmen and sophomores. In 2008, they were seniors, so Herda had two years to gear up from the last time Koethe dominated him until their infamous match at state their senior season. Koethe, in the mean time, was trying to stay focused and simultaneously refrain from making life-altering negative decisions in his junior and senior years. He had his battles on the mat, but also had his battles off the mat, something he regrets to this day and now makes it a point in his life to help talented kids that he sees going down a similar path. Some of the off the mat stuff affected Koethe's training and all the while Herda was coming for him like a grizzly bear. The gap was about to close... and it did.
Coming in, Koethe was widely favored to win the match between he and Herda their senior year. Coming into his senior year, he had placed 2nd, 1st and 1st at state. And most importantly, he dominated Herda every time they wrestled in previous meetings via tech or pin. Herda had an impressive resume early in high school himself. He placed 8th as a freshman, 5th as a sophomore and won state as a junior. Given how good his resume was, that shows you how good Koethe was from the time he started high school wrestling considering he dominated a formidable foe like Herda five times those first two years. Along with this, Koethe closed out AAU in 6th through 8th grade with 2nd, 1st and 1st place finishes. He was clearly and consistently one of the elite guys of the grade. Herda never placed in AAU until 7th grade in which he placed 7th. Seems like things clicked for him as an 8th grader, for he won it that year.
Koethe's biggest influence growing up was his father, Terry, a former wrestler at Dubuque Hempstead. Koethe said, "He did a great job training me. Did it the right, effective way." In terms of influence, Herda mentions Tom Meester. Meester was in my grade and around the same weight and I remember vividly how tough he was. Herda was also influenced by Jason Reitmeier. He describes them as "great coaches, better people." These guys were the reason that Herda decided to wrestle at Augustana, for they were selfless people who put their athletes first at all times and would sacrifice their personal time to help their athletes at the drop of a hat. Herda stated that Meester molded his wrestling style.
Both wrestlers respected a lot of the same wrestlers in their grade like Nate Moore, Marcus Edgington, Andrew Long (a personal friend of Koethe's at Iowa State), etc. They both described Nate as being fun to watch.
To make this matchup even more notable, both these guys were from the Sioux/Northwest part of the state. That area doesn't get much publicity, but their wrestlers are proud of where they are from, as they should be...Koethe and Herda included. They still root for their northwest guys. Koethe's favorite current wrestlers are Adam Allard and Kory Van Oort, two exceptionally good wrestlers from West Sioux. Herda is a Gable Sieperda (Central Lyon) fan. Sieperda is a great wrestler who is also the best distance runner in the state. Koethe only follows wrestling and enjoys following Dake, Burroughs and Chamizo. He also respects the means in which Penn State promotes the sport. Koethe is an ambassador for wrestling and proud of it. Herda is an Oklahoma Sooners fan who is sad to see Baker Mayfield shipped to the factory of sadness (Cleveland). He was in Columbus at "The Shoe" when Mayfied famously planted the flag. His favorite rivalry in wrestling is Mark Perry vs. Johnny Hendricks.
Both Herda and Koethe felt that summer wrestling was integral to their development and both wrestled freestyle. Koethe was a schoolboy national champ and won a national folkstyle title. Herda placed 6th at FILA one year and would finish with a winning record at Fargo every year.
After high school, Herda was a two time All-American at Augustana, placing as a freshman and sophomore. He just had a couple bad weekends during nationals his Junior and Senior year...not the way he wanted to end his career, but he realizes that the good ultimately outweighed the bad in his career. His favorite wrestler, who was years ahead of him, was Ryan Morningstar. Koethe wrestled at Iowa State with a group of guys who he describes as being good people with good hearts. He wrestled for Cael and Cody Sanderson with guys like Nate Gallick, Cyler Sanderson, Andrew Long and Nick Fanthorpe. They were all a very supportive squad to one another. He describes his ISU wrestling team as good guys and comrades. He stated that he wishes he could do that over again, for he was making poor choices (partying, not taking care of himself) at the time and it hindered his development. He feels he could have done better. Now one of his ongoing missions in life is to influence, motivate and encourage kids to make wiser choices, while discussing his own experiences and what he learned kinesthetically by means of unwise decision making. He not only wants to help kids stay on track for wrestling, but for their long term futures in general.
Koethe had a career record of 160-6. He wrestled for Akron Westfield. He then transferred to Twin River Valley as a Senior. Herda was a Central Lyon lifer, in an era where their wrestling fanbase was at their most rabid levels.
Want to see the infamous match that took place their Senior year? Click on the links below.
Here are parts 1 and 2 to this unforgettable match
If you don't choose to watch the match via youtube clips, let me summarize the match. There was a ton of scrambling and fighting for position on their feet. Some powerful shots taken by both guys, in which both scored with. A lot of grambys by Herda. Very tough riding by Koethe. There was a ton of excitement in the crowd. Koethe scored first via takedown in the first period. Herda responded with a reversal, in which Koetha responded with a reversal of his own to go into the 2nd period with Koethe up 4-2. Koethe started down in the 2nd period and immediately scored an escape to make it 5-2. Herda scored a takedown off his own shot with 25 seconds left in the 2nd period to make it 5-4 Koethe to start the 3rd period with Herda starting in the bottom position. Koethe rode Herda hard and had a cradle locked up at one point that appeared tight. Koethe put a leg in with 4 seconds left in the 3rd, up 5-4 when a stalemate was called. At the restart, Herda hit a powerful gramby that put Koethe to his hip, that Herda, the coaches and the Central Lyon fans thought was a 2 point reversal, but 1 was awarded to send it into OT, likely because the loss of control was RIGHT when time ran out. In the 2nd OT, Koethe scored a quick reversal to lead 7-5. In the 3rd OT, Herda was awarded a point because Koethe scissored Herda's head to make it 7-6. Herda escaped and they went out of bounds with 6 seconds left to make it 7-7. At the whistle, Koethe shot in and it was countered by Herda and he spun around for the TD and the win at the end of the period. The result was 9-7 Herda in 3 OT's... Herda went on to win it, Koethe wrestled tough in the consolation side to place 3rd.
Now, to the best part of the article. Here is what both wrestlers have to say about the experience they shared by competing vigorously against each other in this semifinal match at state their senior year.
Let's start with Marshall Koethe:
Koethe: I have all the respect in the world for Herda and felt like he won fair and square. He wanted it more and deserved it. As much as it devastated me at the time, he deserved it. While I do feel he wrestled a smart, lights-out match, I will acknowledge that I don't think I was on top of my game coming in. Some pieces just weren't fitting together like they usually do. I made mistakes that I never made before. For example, I looked at the clock when I had a cradle locked up...I never do that. And a stalemate was called when I looked at the clock. It was unfortunate. I also scissored the head in OT. Some parts just weren't me. From the moment I stepped on the mat, I had to continuously remind myself to focus. I kept losing focus. And it was so loud from the mob of people watching our specific match that I couldn't hear anything, so there was a coach-athlete communication barrier. I also had a lot of distractions going on off of the mat. It was a big ordeal on the forums, papers, etc. I received a lot of negative publicity due to being caught with drug paraphernalia my junior year and failed a urine test during Christmas break. Mistakes I have since learned from: I was suspended all year my senior year until sectionals. And people were being judgamental, spiteful, vindictive and wishing me ill because of it. It was irritating. Neutral spectators sometimes rooted against me because everyone had heard about my off the mat issues and they just assumed that I was a bad kid, which I wasn't. I just needed help and encouragement to grow up. I was and am a nice guy. Maybe if they knew that, they'd take the route of trying to help me instead of publicly slamming my entire character/being. I make up for it by taking that route with kids in need of guidance myself now.
SO.... It comes down to this...Herda worked his ass off. He lived a respectable life off the mat. He got whooped bad by me numerous times and beat me when it mattered most, which was our last meeting. Props to him. I worked my ass off in the room, but developed an unhealthy lifestyle off the mat. It all caught up to me and before I could make adjustments, Herda was getting his hand raised after beating me. I don't want to use these distractions as excuses. They aren't excuses...living a healthy lifestyle is part of wrestling and Nate beat me there. So I have no excuses. It's just what was going on with me at the time. And while I was confused at times out there due to the excessive noise and lack of focus, I was very confident before the match. I knew that I beat him badly five different times by tech or pin every time two short years ago, so that gave me confidence. Plus, I didn't lose often. However, I was aware of how hard he was working, how healthy of a life he lived and I was certainly not ignorant to the fact that this guy thought about beating me, likely multiple times per day. I have a ton of respect for Nate Herda as a person and wrestler. He earned it. To reiterate, I now prioritize helping kids who may be troubled or headed down a confusing path, for I know how it feels. These people need guidance along with someone to listen to them and I prioritize doing that in life. I don't want other wrestlers making the same mistakes I did and regretting it for the rest of their lives. Wrestling becomes a part of who you are and it sticks with you, so you don't want any regrets. Those are my thoughts regarding my match vs. Nate Herda. It was a great match, yes, but I grew from it so there is value in the experience regardless of the outcome on the scoreboard.
And now, Nate Herda:
Herda: To start, my thoughts on Marshall Koethe. I remember him as the enemy all through high school. I spent a lot of energy disliking him and working to beat him. I haven't talked to him in years, but my friends back home have run into him at little kid wrestling tournament in which now he is a fantastic father and great coach. A positive influence. That match was an incredible experience for me. He contacted me about this interview today, we chatted about the match and our lives now. I wish him nothing, but the best. I think we are both in better places now and that is a good thing. Given the right occasion and circumstances, I would be up for a rematch. I want more than just one win in the series. Would you guys like to see that?
Before the match, I knew him well due to wrestling so much. Although we have closure now and I consider him a great ambassador for the sport, I wouldn't say that we were friends back then. Wrestling can be too personal given the work everyone puts in and everyone is always trying to take what they think is theirs and you know is yours. So as mentioned, Koethe killed me the previous five times we met and it ticked me off. I hate losing. Losing always sucks. I've never gotten used to the feeling of it or learned to handle it. To this day, my family will say I'm a poor sport when I lose at something. So Koethe did his share of making me angry my first two years in high school. Regardless of how pumped and worked up I felt for the match, I knew what happened in the previous matches, but I managed to maintain a confident outlook. I remember taking him down at an old timers tourney in one of our early matches and I truly felt that was the start of me closing the gap. It instilled confidence in me that Koethe was mortal and I knew that I was a different, much better wrestler as a senior than the last time we met. I think he knew this too. My game plan coming in was to keep the match on my feet and force him into bad shots. Ironically, I spent the majority of the match on bottom. He probably rode me for 3+ minutes total. I am thankful that riding time is not awarded in high school. I scored my points when I had to. It was opportunistic. When opportunity presented itself, I scored. Although he was my enemy, I simultaneously had so much respect for how good of a wrestler he was. I mean, he smoked me in previous matchups, so it'd be crazy and ignorant to not respect him. Our styles clashing was interesting. My style was like this: I had a good counter offense and could force people into bad shots because I would move them all over the mat, creating angles that I wanted. I had a good swing single. I struggled on bottom. Take this and clash it with Koethe's presence of mind, positioning, strength, mat sense and leverage and you will have a good matchup. The match went into double OT. We were both so exhausted. It literally didn't sink in that I had finally beaten Marshall Koethe until my hand was raised. When my hand was raised, it was one of the best moments of my life. The crowd was euphoric. I have a picture a fan took of my family. To this day, every once in a while, I will just take a moment to look at that picture and remember that great day/moment. There was a lot of joy for our family that day. Since then, I have continued to respect Koethe more and more. He had some off the mat problems that he received a lot of negative attention from, but that added to the situation. He was and is a good guy. I am so impressed with the father, coach and ambassador for the sport that he has become.
Towards the end of my career, I put a lot of pressure on myself for no reason. Wrestling is fun. I miss it so much and wish I could do it again with the realization of how fun it is. I wish I would have believed in myself a bit more and not taken it so seriously. At least three out of the four years, I didn't torture myself by cutting too much weight. I did that my sophomore year and promised my parents I would never do it again. It adds stress to a fun sport, its unhealthy and I ended up winning two state titles while not over-cutting.
My teammates were wonderful in every sport. Jordan Gacke, Scott Eben, etc. They weren't just awesome teammates in wrestling. We were great on the football and track fields too. We won state football when I was a junior. Another great experience and wrestling obviously helps tremendously for other sports. Have fun in this fun sport and appreciate it and seize every opportunity as they present themselves. No half measures. I worked very hard and learned those last three years that summer wrestling is crucial to success on the mat. It diversifies your skillset. I got to the point where I would do anything and everything just to get a work out in. Mrs. Meester would open the wrestling room so I could work out in my free time, sometimes by myself. Coach Van Beek and De Boer would help me with a lot of this. I owe a lot of my success to my coaches and wrestling supporters.
If there is any advice I could give to the youngsters, it'd be this: Enjoy wrestling. It'll be over before you know it. Work hard, listen to your parents and coaches. Believe in yourself and ask why it can't be you. It took me so long to fully believe that and I'm not so sure it happened. Be proud of youself for wrestling. It is not easy and people know that and will respect you for getting through it. Very few people are successful at wrestling. Someday, leaders or your boss will expect more out of you since you were a wrestler and that is a good thing. Take pride in that. You will always outwork everyone because that is what wrestlers do.