At The Well, Everyone has a Wrestling Connection

By Tom Danner for The Predicament

Competition, tradition and friendships are the fundamentals of the Iowa State Wrestling Tourney. There are many people who help IHSAA make this meet run smoothly. This year, I had hoped to write about and meet people experiencing a first connection to wrestling. That turned out to be an impossibility! At the Well, everyone has a wrestling connection.

Anybody on the floor of Wells Fargo including wrestlers and coaches know the drill.  Their first connection is to show the wrist band that allows you into the meet. Not once or twice, but numerous  times you raise your arm and show the band. That is an easy price to pay for a well-run meet and to be mat side. One person I met with an unusual wrestling first was Dixie Byers. Beyers checks those wrist bands to make sure everyone on the floor is legit. When you talk to Byers, you recognize that she enjoys her job, loves people, and respects wrestling. She understands competition. Byer began her career at Harrison Lake Park, Iowa, playing every sport they had. She then went to Wayne State College in South Dakota to play collegiate basketball, graduating in 1972.  When trying to fill her schedule one semester in 1968, her advisor suggested she take an officiating class.  She asked, “Which one?” Her advisor answered, “Wrestling!” She responded that no way did she want to go to class with all guys. But, she added,  “I needed the class, so I took it.  It was the best thing I did. I learned about all the discipline and hard work it takes to become  a wrestler. I like to step inside(Wells Fargo Arena) and watch when I can. I like how the young men are disciplined and how hard they work especially mentally handling a win or a loss. The mental part of wrestling is unbelievable”

Watching from her post at the desk entering the arena she notices coaches are intense but very nice.  Byers says that she tries to be positive because that is the only way we can live. Byers has had a lot of discipline in her life too. She transitioned from the 6 player girls’ game to the 5-player game in college, endured a college wresting class but also is a 4-time ovarian cancer survivor. Her favorite quote is this: “Some days are cookies and some days are wipe off the crumbs and make more cookies!” Dixie worked for the  parks and recreation department in Minnesota and later moved back to Jefferson, Iowa working for their parks and recreation department. After retirement, her friend Chris Connolly, CEO of the Wells, asked to her to work guest services. She said, “I took it because it had all the high school, NCAA and Olympic sports.” In the modern day of women wrestling, I would have bet on Dixie to wrestle! She was a pleasure to meet.

There are also many families you can meet with great wrestling traditions at the state meet. Dustin Gryp’s family of Williamsburg is one.  His son, Kayden, qualified at 120 for Williamsburg. Dustin has brought his son to the state meet since he was in early elementary grades. This year, he  got to watch his son placed seventh and be part of the Williamsburg second place dual team. In high school, Dustin loved wrestling but missed his state chances getting injured in 2002. As a father, he helped coach the youth team at Victor (HLV). When Kayden entered fourth grade, their family moved to Williamsburg. He says, “It’s with a lot of  pride to watch your son wrestle. Not every day do you get to see your son on the mat at Wells Fargo. I saw him wrestle at Fargo, North Dakota, but in Des Moines, it is folkstyle. Here, it is with Iowa pride, Williamsburg pride. I am glad my son got to be part of the best Williamsburg dual team finish ever. The wrestlers looked out for each other, everybody had a job, and they did it.” Kayden’s family filled a big part of the Williamsburg section including four generations of fans. Among them were Great Grandpa Lowell Sherwood, Grandpas Todd Gryp and Lowell Martin and their families cheering and enjoying the atmosphere. This is Grandpa Gryp’s first time at state. He said, “My heart explodes every time he (Kayden) is on the mat. It is crazy. There are so many competitors.”  Grandpa Martin is more experienced as his son Harley was a two-time qualifier from Marengo. The great news is they all should be back as Kayden is only a junior.

A person back for only her second state meet is Halie Main. Main is the athletic trainer for the Des Moines Lincoln wrestling team which is also her ala mater (2012). Main is a graduate of Iowa State and completed her graduate schooling at Washburn University in 2018, adding a degree in sport management. Halie appreciates the excitement and fast paced environment of the state meet and enjoys every minute of it. She loves watching “my boys” succeed. When they need help, she is ready to utilize her skills to treat injuries. Common injuries involve blood which she prefers to other, more serious injuries. Main suggests with blood injuries to always wear gloves to protect not only yourself, but also the wrestlers. She says there is no greater feeling than helping someone who is injured, following them on the immediate or long-term road of recovery, and then watching them succeed. She finds that wrestlers are generally tougher mentally when it comes to injures and working through them.

Lincoln’s Head Coach Dustin Roland says, “Halie has been a big part of our program the last couple of years. She has a special ability to build relationships with not only our wrestlers but all the athletes in our building.  Kids really buy into what she is asking them to do, to be able to return to the mat or playing field as quick as they can. She has  proven to be very competent about sport injuries in general and that is very comforting to know as a coach.” Halie was in the corner when Des Moines Lincoln’s Mickey Griffith won the 3A 170 championship. Athletic trainers have become a big part of the training and success of athletes. Main radiates energy and her understanding of the demands of wrestling makes her even more special.

Another excited person to be at the state meet was Shea Stamp. Stamp was refereeing state duals for his first, Wells Fargo officiating experience. He has been wearing the stripes for 14 years. He started working kid meets and then moved on to high school competition. Stamp finally got the call he was waiting for, to work the state duals. Notified to work at state was especially good news because Stamp was going through a stressful time. His son Breck was waiting MRI results in his battle with epilepsy. Stamp had gotten promising news that day about his son’s condition. After receiving the additional news of a state assignment, Shea said, “My jaw hit the floor and I started shaking. I was as in shock.”

Stamp has always loved wrestling. He says though, “ I peaked as a wrestler in 4th grade! But the love of the sport kept me going as a fan and then as a ref.” Shea is the son of the late Gary Stamp who was a well-respected coach and referee. Shea adds, “I wanted to do something with my Dad and brother Quinn. Wrestling provided that opportunity. We enjoyed working together many times as referees.”

Stamps points out, “Getting ready to officiate is like a wrestler’s preparation. I get nervous like wrestlers do preparing for meets. You just want to do your best, be confident, fair and still have fun. I enjoy meeting other officials from around the state. I’m proud knowing how honored my Dad would be that I am working the state tourney like he was able to do.” Gary Stamp  officiated for 42 years including his last year at the state meet.

Yes, Shea is named after the former New York Met stadium. He obviously comes from a strong, athletic traditioned family. Gary would be very proud and honored to witness his son on the big stage and you know he is watching from above. We congratulate Shea and the three other officials, Chad Page, Brent Schumacher, and Matt Nost who worked the state meet for the first time. These new officials are helping to maintain the outstanding tradition of Iowa wrestling officiating.

Iowa is the ground zero of wrestling. The state meet is a very special place filled with an incredible range of friendships, personalities, rivalries, emotions, highs, and lows. Dixie Byers, the Gryp family, Halie Main, and Shea Stamp are great examples of the many, many people who are valued and important to make the state championships run smoothly every year. But the one fact that fans, competitors and coaches can all agree on is how wrestling is tough not only physically but even more demanding mentally. Less than 50 weeks until we hear again, “Wrestlers clear the mats” and State 2021 opens! Start preparing.