The Men Behind Western Iowa Wrestling

By Jeff Budlong for The Predicament

Dick Kingsbury, Herb Irgens, Rich Krosch, Roger Miller

Stan Krosch, Rich Krosch

The men who started or guided high school wrestling programs in their early years in northwest Iowa made up for what they lacked in experience with fierce determination that often transferred itself to their wrestlers.
Lacking the tradition programs on the eastern side of the state had built, coaches like Kingsley-Pierson's Rich Krosch, Maple Valley's Dick Kingsbury and Ida Grove's Herb Irgens went about building their programs in the 1960s through two hallmarks of wrestling: Hard work and dedication.
They were all members of the Maple Valley Conference -- Holstein, Ida Grove, Kingsley-Pierson, Lawton-Bronson, Maple Valley, West Monona, Westwood and Wooodbury Central. The early years helped lay the foundation for programs that now find consistent success on the state's biggest stage.
The facilities may not have been ideal and the days were long, but more than a half century later the coaches speak with the same fire and fondness for their programs and wrestlers.

Krosch gets K-P going
Krosch started the Kingsley-Pierson wrestling program with his brother, Stan, in 1965 having wrestled in high school in Elmore, Minnesota. He would go on to work out on occasion with the wrestling team at Mankato State College before finding his way to Iowa where he was asked to lead the wrestling program because of his experience in the sport.
So for $100 the Krosch brothers got to work building the program with 65 students signing up the first year. They practiced on the stage in the gymnasium using four canvas mats, adding the extra opponent of the edge where wrestlers would occasionally fall off.
Much of the first season was focused on getting into wrestling shape as Krosch remembers wrestlers holding each other's legs and doing vertical push-ups on the stage.
"We started late in the season so we only had eight scrimmages," Krosch said. "We lost the first five and won the last three."
What the wrestlers lacked in skill they made up for with their athleticism. Krosch said his early teams were populated by charismatic wrestlers who wanted to be good at the new sport.
"It was perfect timing," Krosch said. "The schools had been together for four years and the basketball games were in Pierson, so this gave the people in Kingsley something to watch. We had an instant fan base. A good following right from the start."
Krosch was able to get the Sioux City schools on the schedule and victories came over Bishop Heelan, East and Central during the team's second year on the way to an 11-4 record. Strength in numbers was a hallmark of early teams with Krosch being able to field a full varsity and junior varsity squad.
Kingsley-Pierson would have its first state qualifier in 1969, and the team would finish third in Class A in 1980 and fourth in 1978. Krosch, now 77, coached Kingsley-Pierson for 22 years until 1987. A year later he took over as the junior high school coach and was named the junior high school coach of the year in 2004.

Irgens embraces competition
Herb Irgens took the reins of the Ida Grove wrestling program in 1968, three years after it had been established. The Brooklyn, New York native found his way to Iowa by attending Luther College before snagging his first job at Turkey Valley High School.
After four years, he made the move to Ida Grove where he applied the knowledge he had gleaned as a wrestling manager in college as well as through numerous books he read and clinics he attended.
"I stressed basics and we went through everything step by step," he said. "We did it every year and they hated me in the beginning because we had to do it all over again, but I gave them all the information I could on what I picked up."
Irgens went looking for athletes who wanted a different option than basketball, and typically had between 25 and 35 wrestlers on his early teams. His teams practiced on a 24-by-24-foot mat that was in the National Guard Armory.
"It was a little room with a space heater on the wall," he said.
The basics paid off with Irgens putting wrestlers into the state tournament by his second season and garnering northwest Iowa coach of the year by his third season. Irgens knew he needed to improve the competition his wrestlers were seeing if they were going to compete with the eastern side of the state.
Irgens started the Maple Valley Conference Tournament in 1969 and added the Ida Grove Tournament to the schedule. Irgens recalls packed gymnasiums with people sitting right up to the edge of the mat to take it all in.
"I started the conference tournament just to have more matches and just to have one," he said. "I started the Ida Grove Tournament just to get different competition."
The first five-plus years of the Ida Grove Tournament -- which now carries his name -- had mostly local teams, but by 1975 it became a 16-team tournament. Squads from Carroll Kuemper, Solon, Independence and Don Bosco have made the trip west.
Irgens impact has been felt at many school across northwest Iowa, including Woodbury Central where Jim Fisher helped turn that program into a power. Fisher wrestled in high school for Irgens at Turkey Valley.
Irgens, 80, coached at the high school until 1990, but was not done with wrestling. He would go on to lead the junior high program and guide wrestlers like two-time state champ Cash Wilcke until 2015, a coaching career that spanned 50 years.
So dedicated to the sport, Irgens officiated for 35 years while also coaching as a way to experience that side as well.
"It kept me aware of what coaches look for and what I can improve on as a coach," he said.

Strength in numbers
Dick Kingsbury was a high school principal in North Dakota when he made the decision he wanted to be involved in wrestling. The Ponca, Nebraska native put down roots in Mapleton and started the wrestling program at Maple Valley in 1966.
"I had no knowledge at all and I learned everything by watching videos and going to clinics and talking to guys at Iowa and Iowa State," he said.
Practices for the inaugural team took place in the middle school in Danbury with 45 wrestlers taking to the mat and compiling a 3-7 mark as a team. The first win came against Woodbury Central.
Kingsbury worked as a physical education teacher and used that position to recruit athletes to his team. Numbers were not a problem as he often had three complete squads and never suffered a losing season after his first year.
"We worked 80% of the time on takedowns," he said. "If we lost two takedowns in a match I was kind of upset and we would work on that in practice."
Kingsbury was never afraid to put the work in to give his team an advantage on the mat.
Each summer he would host an Iowa or Iowa State wrestler for a multiday clinic, once bringing the Cyclones' Chris Taylor.
"I couldn't have done anything better because my wrestlers knew these guys were outstanding," he said. "They just wanted to be around them and they idolized them."
He also provided scouting reports to his wrestlers on upcoming opponents, spending hours compiling the information.
"Two or three days before the meet I would take each of the kids and give them a sheet of paper," Kingsbury said. "By the time the match came, each kid knew what he was going to run into.
"We were wrestling in Class 2A most the time I was there and we would face teams like Harlan and Atlantic. We would fill the gyms most the time and it was pretty exciting."
Kingsbury expected a certain level of preparedness from his wrestlers, and he had a big enough roster that competition for varsity spots was stiff.
Kingsbury started the youth wrestling program in 1968 and would routinely saw 60 wrestlers attend tournaments each weekend.
"We gave them a uniform, paid their way in and provided transportation for them," he said. "That was the highlight of the year when we would walk into a guy with 60 kids."
Kingsbury coached the varsity squad until 1988 and helmed the junior high team as recently as last year at the age of 80. He also officiated for more than 20 years displaying his passion for the sport.

Lasting bond
Fourteen years ago, Krosch and Kingsbury decided they should make time each month to get together, eat and reminisce about wrestling seasons past.
"We joke that we are legends in our own minds," said Krosch with a chuckle.
The next month brought another get-together, this time with Roger Miller, the founder of the wrestling program at Odebolt-Arthur, also claiming a seat at the table with Irgens and a few others.
Other coaches, officials or former wrestlers may stop by once and a while, but the Classic Coaches, as the group refers to itself, continue to enjoy the company of former foes on the mat but friends off of it.
"We all loved wrestling," Irgens said. "We really enjoy each other. It was fun."
"We were friends but we were representing communities that have rivalries that stretch back generations," Krosch said.

The men who started or guided high school wrestling programs in their early years in northwest Iowa made up for what they lacked in experience with fierce determination that often transferred itself to their wrestlers.
Lacking the tradition programs on the eastern side of the state had built, coaches like Kingsley-Pierson's Rich Krosch, Maple Valley's Dick Kingsbury and Ida Grove's Herb Irgens went about building their programs in the 1960s through two hallmarks of wrestling: Hard work and dedication.
They were all members of the Maple Valley Conference -- Holstein, Ida Grove, Kingsley-Pierson, Lawton-Bronson, Maple Valley, West Monona, Westwood and Wooodbury Central. The early years helped lay the foundation for programs that now find consistent success on the state's biggest stage.
The facilities may not have been ideal and the days were long, but more than a half century later the coaches speak with the same fire and fondness for their programs and wrestlers.

Krosch gets K-P going
Krosch started the Kingsley-Pierson wrestling program with his brother, Stan, in 1965 having wrestled in high school in Elmore, Minnesota. He would go on to work out on occasion with the wrestling team at Mankato State College before finding his way to Iowa where he was asked to lead the wrestling program because of his experience in the sport.
So for $100 the Krosch brothers got to work building the program with 65 students signing up the first year. They practiced on the stage in the gymnasium using four canvas mats, adding the extra opponent of the edge where wrestlers would occasionally fall off.
Much of the first season was focused on getting into wrestling shape as Krosch remembers wrestlers holding each other's legs and doing vertical push-ups on the stage.
"We started late in the season so we only had eight scrimmages," Krosch said. "We lost the first five and won the last three."
What the wrestlers lacked in skill they made up for with their athleticism. Krosch said his early teams were populated by charismatic wrestlers who wanted to be good at the new sport.
"It was perfect timing," Krosch said. "The schools had been together for four years and the basketball games were in Pierson, so this gave the people in Kingsley something to watch. We had an instant fan base. A good following right from the start."
Krosch was able to get the Sioux City schools on the schedule and victories came over Bishop Heelan, East and Central during the team's second year on the way to an 11-4 record. Strength in numbers was a hallmark of early teams with Krosch being able to field a full varsity and junior varsity squad.
Kingsley-Pierson would have its first state qualifier in 1969, and the team would finish third in Class A in 1980 and fourth in 1978. Krosch, now 77, coached Kingsley-Pierson for 22 years until 1987. A year later he took over as the junior high school coach and was named the junior high school coach of the year in 2004.

Irgens embraces competition
Herb Irgens took the reins of the Ida Grove wrestling program in 1968, three years after it had been established. The Brooklyn, New York native found his way to Iowa by attending Luther College before snagging his first job at Turkey Valley High School.
After four years, he made the move to Ida Grove where he applied the knowledge he had gleaned as a wrestling manager in college as well as through numerous books he read and clinics he attended.
"I stressed basics and we went through everything step by step," he said. "We did it every year and they hated me in the beginning because we had to do it all over again, but I gave them all the information I could on what I picked up."
Irgens went looking for athletes who wanted a different option than basketball, and typically had between 25 and 35 wrestlers on his early teams. His teams practiced on a 24-by-24-foot mat that was in the National Guard Armory.
"It was a little room with a space heater on the wall," he said.
The basics paid off with Irgens putting wrestlers into the state tournament by his second season and garnering northwest Iowa coach of the year by his third season. Irgens knew he needed to improve the competition his wrestlers were seeing if they were going to compete with the eastern side of the state.
Irgens started the Maple Valley Conference Tournament in 1969 and added the Ida Grove Tournament to the schedule. Irgens recalls packed gymnasiums with people sitting right up to the edge of the mat to take it all in.
"I started the conference tournament just to have more matches and just to have one," he said. "I started the Ida Grove Tournament just to get different competition."
The first five-plus years of the Ida Grove Tournament -- which now carries his name -- had mostly local teams, but by 1975 it became a 16-team tournament. Squads from Carroll Kuemper, Solon, Independence and Don Bosco have made the trip west.
Irgens impact has been felt at many school across northwest Iowa, including Woodbury Central where Jim Fisher helped turn that program into a power. Fisher wrestled in high school for Irgens at Turkey Valley.
Irgens, 80, coached at the high school until 1990, but was not done with wrestling. He would go on to lead the junior high program and guide wrestlers like two-time state champ Cash Wilcke until 2015, a coaching career that spanned 50 years.
So dedicated to the sport, Irgens officiated for 35 years while also coaching as a way to experience that side as well.
"It kept me aware of what coaches look for and what I can improve on as a coach," he said.

Strength in numbers
Dick Kingsbury was a high school principal in North Dakota when he made the decision he wanted to be involved in wrestling. The Ponca, Nebraska native put down roots in Mapleton and started the wrestling program at Maple Valley in 1966.
"I had no knowledge at all and I learned everything by watching videos and going to clinics and talking to guys at Iowa and Iowa State," he said.
Practices for the inaugural team took place in the middle school in Danbury with 45 wrestlers taking to the mat and compiling a 3-7 mark as a team. The first win came against Woodbury Central.
Kingsbury worked as a physical education teacher and used that position to recruit athletes to his team. Numbers were not a problem as he often had three complete squads and never suffered a losing season after his first year.
"We worked 80% of the time on takedowns," he said. "If we lost two takedowns in a match I was kind of upset and we would work on that in practice."
Kingsbury was never afraid to put the work in to give his team an advantage on the mat.
Each summer he would host an Iowa or Iowa State wrestler for a multiday clinic, once bringing the Cyclones' Chris Taylor.
"I couldn't have done anything better because my wrestlers knew these guys were outstanding," he said. "They just wanted to be around them and they idolized them."
He also provided scouting reports to his wrestlers on upcoming opponents, spending hours compiling the information.
"Two or three days before the meet I would take each of the kids and give them a sheet of paper," Kingsbury said. "By the time the match came, each kid knew what he was going to run into.
"We were wrestling in Class 2A most the time I was there and we would face teams like Harlan and Atlantic. We would fill the gyms most the time and it was pretty exciting."
Kingsbury expected a certain level of preparedness from his wrestlers, and he had a big enough roster that competition for varsity spots was stiff.
Kingsbury started the youth wrestling program in 1968 and would routinely saw 60 wrestlers attend tournaments each weekend.
"We gave them a uniform, paid their way in and provided transportation for them," he said. "That was the highlight of the year when we would walk into a guy with 60 kids."
Kingsbury coached the varsity squad until 1988 and helmed the junior high team as recently as last year at the age of 80. He also officiated for more than 20 years displaying his passion for the sport.

Lasting bond
Fourteen years ago, Krosch and Kingsbury decided they should make time each month to get together, eat and reminisce about wrestling seasons past.
"We joke that we are legends in our own minds," said Krosch with a chuckle.
The next month brought another get-together, this time with Roger Miller, the founder of the wrestling program at Odebolt-Arthur, also claiming a seat at the table with Irgens and a few others.
Other coaches, officials or former wrestlers may stop by once and a while, but the Classic Coaches, as the group refers to itself, continue to enjoy the company of former foes on the mat but friends off of it.
"We all loved wrestling," Irgens said. "We really enjoy each other. It was fun."
"We were friends but we were representing communities that have rivalries that stretch back generations," Krosch said.