At the end of last week, Burma Shave-style signage lined the lane of the Chris and Dan Schmidt property, just off Highway 69 between Ames and Gilbert.
The signs offered words of encouragement, photos and names of the 25 to 30 youth wrestlers who would be competing at this past weekend’s AAU State Wrestling Championship tournament in Des Moines.
The Schmidt property is home of “The Barn,” a wrestling practice facility that is utilized by the Central Iowa Wrestling Club-Team Intensity. In the 1990s, Gilbert schools had a small wrestling room utilized by the high school team, junior high team and youth team. Because the room could not accommodate all three groups very well, the Schmidts built a facility for additional workout space. For two years, when the new school was being built, Gilbert High wrestlers used the facility, which affectionately became known as The Barn (taking after “the barn” they’d all hoped to reach as state wrestlers in Des Moines, back when Vets Auditorium was the place for state).
The Schmidts, Chris (who was former middle school principal at Nevada) and Dan, are the parents of boys who wrestled and are supporters of the sport. So, The Barn continues to be the main practice facility for the Central Iowa Wrestling Club.
Current coach of Team Intensity, Dwight Hinson, is a name that many Iowa State wrestling fans know well. Hinson, who is an officer with the Iowa State University Police Department, was a four-time All American wrestler at ISU between 1994 and 1998. He was a three-time Big 8/Big 12 champion and an international medalist in the sport. “I love the sport,” he confirmed, and he now loves working with young wrestlers at The Barn, something he’s been doing since the 1999-2000 season.
The signs that lined the Schmidt lane last week were made by a Roland-Story dad, Brad Eslick, whose son wrestles with Team Intensity. “Brad is one of our parent resources; he has a print company, and making the signs, it was his idea,” Hinson said. “I’m all for it. It helps motivate the kids and lets them know that we appreciate every effort they’ve been putting in all season.”
The kids who traveled to Des Moines were those who had qualified for the championships, the season’s culminating event for third- through eighth-grade youth wrestlers.
“If you place in the top four in your district, you go on to state,” Hinson explained, and the state AAU championship is a huge event, involving around 2,000 kids. “Before leaving for the weekend, Hinson tried to prepare himself. “It’s going to be bananas.”
But, even with the anticipated chaos, Hinson was excited for the weekend and the goals he had for his group of wrestlers, which included his own son, Jabari, 11, a sixth-grader at Ames Middle School.
“We want to try to keep up with the bigger teams that are going. It’s a tough competition. We want to get our kids out there to show some growth, see what they’ve learned through the season, try to remain competitive and… have fun.”
The AAU wrestling season starts in October, right after football, and basically ends with the championships.
Here’s what Hinson had to say about some of the Story County-area wrestlers who were going:
From the Nevada area:
• Kaden Weber, an eighth-grader. “He’s a great competitor; a great representative.”
• Mackenzie Arends, a seventh-grader. “She’s been in the sport for at least three to four years, and she’s also a member of the Eastern Story Wrestling Club.” Hinson noted that it’s great when kids are in another club, too. He’s all for every club out there promoting the sport of wrestling.
From Colo-NESCO schools:
• Urijah Courter, in the third-fourth grade bracket. “Great kid. He’s won multiple championships in the circuit,” Hinson said.
From Collins-Maxwell schools:
• Brody Sampson, a seventh-grader. “He’s a good competitor and won a couple tournaments throughout the year.”
From Ames and Gilbert:
• Hinson’s son, Jabari, sixth-grader. “He’s won a couple national titles, competed on the national scene at big tournaments and done well.” Hinson said his son has grown up with the sport, along with his daughter, who is in gymnastics. “They got to hang around with all these kids (during the years before they were competing).”
• Easton Enyart, fourth-grader. “He’s a very explosive kid, very enthusiastic about the sport and has a lot of energy.”
• James Headrick, fourth-grade bracket. “A very smart mat wrestler, very competitive. He just started a year or two ago and qualified last year, so he’s definitely picking up the sport.”
• Mike Slade, seventh-eighth grade bracket. “Great competitor. He’s from one of those families who likes to travel and gain experience. Very competitive…He’s a national champ.”
• Skylar Slade, fourth-fifth grade age group. “She’s Mike’s sister, and also a national champ.”
• Cody Puck, fourth-fifth grade age group. “Whether you win or lose, he’s always got a smile on his face.”
• Jackson Winkey, sixth grader.”He’s a prodigy, from a wrestling bloodline. His dad (Brandon Winkey) actually won state at Ames High School in the mid-90s.”
• Logan Powers, seventh-eighth grade. “He has a big-time fighting spirit. His dad, Jason, helps with youth club at Roland-Story.”
• Caiden Latch, fourth-fifth grade bracket. “He’s a great kid. I’ve known his dad since college, so he comes from a wrestling family. His dad used to be a outstanding wrestler out of Charles City.”
• Kaden Strom, seventh-grader. “He’s a great kid…he came to our club about five or six years ago, and has been in and out of sport. Fortunately for him a lot of his buddies are still with the club and have kept him in it. It’s a contagious sport.”
• Christian Eslick, eighth-grader. “He’s studious about the sport, wants to learn a little bit of everything about it, very competitive, nice kid.”
• Roland Yates, sixth-grader. “He’s a big kid…he’s our heavyweight; he’s won a couple national titles on the circuit already. He’s phenomenal, and people look at him when he walks in like he’s a high schooler. His dad has to carry his birth certificate around prove he’s that age.”
• Dorian Yates, little brother of Roland, third-fourth grade. “He’ll find his way…right now living in his brother’s shadow, but he’ll definitely find his way.”
• Hesston Johnson, Jr., seventh-grade. “He’s a great competitor with some ability; he grew up in a wrestling family.” Hesston Johnson Jr. is the son of Nevada Middle School PE teacher Hesston Johnson, who was a top UNI wrestler and team captain, and also an NCAA qualifier.
For those who might be interested in working out with Team Intensity in the future, Hinson said the team generally holds practices on Mondays and Wednesdays. “We get 35 to 40 kids in the room for those practices,” he said.
They have a lot of kids from Boone County, and from as far away as Fort Dodge and Tama, and they’ve worked with kids, both boys and girls, who are as young as kindergarten age. “If you have a kindergartener who wants to get into the sport…bring a partner with you. We might not have other kids that young at the time, but bring a buddy,” he said.
Hinson grew up a military brat and said he was lucky to end up in Oklahoma, where he discovered wrestling in the eighth grade. “I landed in a national powerhouse with a wealth of coaches… It was a great place to be raised and to compete.”
He loves sharing what he has learned in the sport with youth, and he has some great dads who work at The Barn with him.
Hinson encourages even those who don’t come to The Barn to be part of the other youth wrestling clubs that are in their area. If you’re in another club and want to stop by The Barn sometime, “We’re open to anybody.”
Hinson’s philosophy about the sport of wrestling is about inclusion. “Wrestling is a very small, family-based sport… We’re inclusive to everybody, male and female. The more we can get kids participating in the sport, the more the sport is going to grow.”
Team Intensity finished well at the state meet, as the 11th place team overall. The following team members had place positions: Urijah Courter, first place; Roland Yates, first place; Mike Slade, first place; Skylar Slade, second in girls’ division; Tanner Weitzel, first place; Kyler Simons, seventh place; Cody Puck, fifth place; Christian Eslick, fourth place; Jabari Hinson, third place; Logan Powers, fourth place; Mackenzie Arends, second place girls’ division; Cadence Heggen, fourth place girls’ division; Brody Warrick, sixth place; Kaden Weber, fifth place; Jesse Egli, seventh place; and Kade Strom, seventh place.