Want to learn about a wrestling program?
Go to the head coach.
Want to really know about a wrestling program? What makes it go? What leads to its success?
Talk to the head coach's wife.
Whether it is helping run Trackwrestling for the big weekend tournament or shuttling their kids from one event to another so their husband can spend Saturday sitting in the corner of a mat teaching wrestling and life skills, wrestling wives know more about the heart and soul of Iowa prep wrestling programs than just about anyone else.
The Predicament talked with three wives of wrestling coaches to better learn how they play a key role in the success of the program's their husbands lead.
A picture of wrestling life
Janette Voss acts as West Delaware's photographer at duals and tournaments. It provides a matside seat to watch the Hawks -- The Predicament's top-ranked Class 2A team to open the season -- compete under the direction of her husband, Jeff, but she believes there is an even more important factor at work.
"It keeps me quite because I am pretty loud," she said with a laugh. "Having the camera in front of my face, I learned early on you can't be a fan while you are taking pictures. Jeff has always been good at allowing me to be part of what he does."
Janette praised the entire West Delaware coaching staff for being the teachers and mentors they are, but she acts as a sounding board for her husband on some of the big decisions that have had to be made over the years.
Janette, who works as an attorney, was a softball player at Wartburg College when she met Jeff and has experienced the sport as a fan, coach's wife and a mother whose son wrestles for the Hawks. Sons Jake and Jared have both wrestled for their father with Jared currently in his senior season.
"The mom and the coach's wife roles are not necessarily compatible," she said. "It is the one part of the role I have not perfected yet, being the mom of the wrestler."
It is a wrestling family with the two Voss daughters also a consistent presence around the mat at the high school and college levels.
"In our house, wrestling season is pretty much 24/7, 365," she said. "There is no on and off switch, but it is good because we like that. We are a wrestling family and it is a way where we can all be together on Saturdays."
Janette said the wrestling community is a special one at West Delaware, and it has led to many relationships that last long after a wrestler has stepped of the mat for the Hawks for the final time.
"In my professional life, I have been able to reach out to former wrestlers of Jeff's who are now adults and call upon them to help me," she said. "It doesn't matter if they have been out of the program for 25 or 30 years they will say, 'Thank you for letting me help me. You have no idea what kind of impact your husband and family have had on my life.'"
For the Voss family, wrestling is not a four-year snapshot of a high school career, but a lifetime connection.
Living the life of a Warrior
Brandee Koedam calls wrestling season for her and husband, Clint, organized chaos as he directs one of northwest Iowa's most consistent programs at Class 2A third-ranked Sergeant Bluff-Luton.
As mother to three wrestling sons, Brandee said she went from knowing very little about the sport when she met Clint to becoming a passionate follower and supporter.
Ty is a sophomore on the Warrior team with an eighth-grader and fifth-grader looking to make their own mark on the mat in the future.
"I have been in coaching with Clint for 20 years and then you get one of your own in the system it is a whole different element," Brandee said. "It is a little bit of a balancing act. Clint has to be coach sometimes and Dad sometimes, and I have to be Mom and it gets scary when I have to be coach."
Brandee, the CNOS director of therapy and sports medicine, said she may not be a typical coach's wife, more than willing to offer her perspective "even when it is unwanted." She said her husband is often the more calm one during and after matches.
Wrestling was foreign to Brandee, who was a basketball player in high school, but it was always around her growing up.
"My dad was an assistant wrestling coach at Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto, and the girls who used to babysit me their dad was Jim Fisher, head wrestling coach at Woodbury Central," she said. "So wrestling is a little bit unknown to me in my blood."
Like most coaches' wives, Brandee does plenty of work behind the scenes to allow her husband to spend hours around wrestling all year long. She is active in the moms' group at SB-L packing meals for away tournaments, hosting the hospitality room at tournaments, coming up with themes for different events, organizing concessions and leading fundraising campaigns. Brandee also helps set up brackets in Trackwrestling for tournaments.
"I have watched Clint do it for years and learned from his mistakes," she said with a laugh.
Most of all it is the community of people around the sport that she enjoys.
"That is what is so cool about this sport because there are just so many cool people," she said. "The people we get to be around and the friendships we have made are lifelong."
For the love of coaching
Lila Stephens was a Division I softball player at the University of Nebraska, but it is wrestling that has become the focus for her husband, Joe, who leads a consistent 1A power in eighth-ranked Underwood.
"We have three kids and they are all multisport athletes with my daughters having four to five sports each," she said. "So I am basically running them to all of their sports, I did Little League coaching, and I am able support Joe and his passion by taking care of our kids."
The mental health therapist met Joe at Nebraska in the athlete center and attended her first wrestling meet to watch him compete.
"I was immediately hooked," she said. "Now it is one of my favorites to watch. It is just something through the years I have realized has to be part of his life. His love of wrestling is epic."
Lila said her husband will talk wrestling, the challenges and concerns with her. She has supported him and enjoyed watching him go from wrestler to coach, giving back to his athletes with the knowledge gained from a life on the mat.
"It is so much more gratifying to him to help the kids he works with and mentor them than it ever was for him as an athlete," she said.
Lila said she may have been concerned about the many hours her husband has spent on the computer over the years, but it was all in the name of learning. Wrestling techniques that are learned, tweaked and passed on to his wrestlers have helped shape the Underwood program.
Joe has coached their son Nick, now a senior, by maintaining the role of father first and coach second. Lila enjoys watching all of her children play a range of sports, but there is something special about wrestling.
"There is this sense of community that I don't necessarily see in the other sports," she said. "His secret weapon on his amazing assistant coaches. As a mother of a wrestler, I would be honored to have any of them in his corner."