Dick Briggs became Jefferson’s sixth wrestling coach in 1983. It was a natural fit for “Briggsie” to come home to Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School after previous coaching stints at Western State College in Colorado and Cedar Rapids Washington. Dick was born and raised in Cedar Rapids attending Cleveland and Roosevelt before becoming a J-Hawk in 1971. The time had come for him to follow his highly successful brother Don upstairs into the wrestling room where Bill McNiel was in his heyday as head coach of the J-Hawks. As a sophomore and junior, he learned the ropes toiling behind state champion (and future UNI three-time national champion) Gary Bentrim. During his senior year, Dick stepped into the varsity limelight at 138 lbs and secured a fourth-place medal from the 1974 state meet helping his teammates repeat as 3A state team champions. Who would guess he would return to direct the program for many years to come?
There was absolutely no question what college Dick would attend and compete for after graduation in 1974. Brother Don was assistant wrestling coach to Chuck Patton at the University of Northern Iowa. During his freshman year, Dick was thrust into the varsity lineup at 158 lbs, often weighing in with all his clothes on. He helped his teammates to the Division II national title that rookie season. The UNI-Dome opened during his sophomore year and Dick was one of the first to christen the new structure in a dual meet against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Panthers finished third in the nation that season. Down to 150 lbs for his junior year, Dick earned All-America status by placing fourth at the NCAA meet, again helping the Panthers to a third-place team finish. In his senior season, he upgraded to third in the nation at 150 lbs, becoming a two-time All American, this time helping Northern Iowa regain the national championship.
Dick earned his BA in Industrial Arts and Technology education and Physical education graduating in 1978 after student teaching in Ottumwa. He immediately moved to Gunnison, Colorado and began work on his master’s degree while serving as assistant wrestling coach at Western State College. Securing his degree, he began the search for a teaching job. He needed look no further than his hometown Cedar Rapids, where Washington High School needed a new head wrestling coach.
Dick’s three-year term as the Warrior’s mentor helped him refine his coaching technique tailored to the high school wrestler. In 1983 Tim Fowler stepped down at Jefferson allowing Dick to lateral back to the west side where he immediately hit the ground running at his alma mater.
Retiring after 37 years of coaching, Dick was the Dean of 3A coaches across the state. Having won eight state team trophies, he ended his career at Jefferson with a 272-164-2 career record. He coached 150 Jefferson state qualifiers, 57 state place winners, and 12 state champions. For one six-year span, 1989 to 1994, his teams were nearly unstoppable finishing in the top 7 each year. In 1990, his most successful team scored 102 team points at the state tournament and was just edged for the team title by Dowling. The J-Hawks had seven place winners with two individual champions that season. His peers voted Dick the Iowa 3A Coach of the Year. He has also been inducted twice into UNI Athletic Halls of Fame.
Dick’s greatest memory over nearly four decades most certainly involves the coaching of his son, Kyle. The younger Briggs rewrote numerous records in the school’s archives in becoming the J-Hawk’s first four-time state qualifier. Kyle became a three-year state place winner who now holds the J-Hawk record for most career wins with 141. He went on to earn All-America honors twice while competing at Wartburg College. Note: As of the writing of this account the younger Briggs has another year of eligibility remaining.
A second great memory surrounds the Ironside brothers, Cedar Rapids’ most successful trio of grapplers. Matt won a state title in 1991 and a NJCAA national title for Iowa Central College in 1995. Mark won two state titles in 1992 and 1993 before becoming a four-time All American and two-time Division I national champion for the University of Iowa in 1997 and 1998. Tim won a state title in 1997 and was a three-time letterman at Iowa before an injury ended his career.
Dick remains as steady, rock solid, passionate, and driven as ever today. His dedication to the sport finds him wearing stripes and blowing an official’s whistle. He is deeply devoted to his family, wife Susan, son Kyle, and daughter Lauren. Other constants in his life through the years include his intense love of skydiving and flying, his detasseling business, Boston Terriers, the Cubs, mushrooming, attending NCAA Division I national wrestling tournaments and a fierce loyalty to Jefferson High School.