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UIU Peacocks’ wrestling coach ready for 20th season; has several former Comets from his hometown

UIU Peacocks’ wrestling coach ready for 20th season; has several former Comets from his hometown
Press photo by John Burbridge
Charles City graduate AJ Maloy, who was a two-time state qualifier while wrestling for the Comets, is a redshirt sophomore at Upper Iowa University, where is a two-time Academic All-American.

By John Burbridge

For Upper Iowa University head wrestling coach Heath Grimm, it’s a 50-mile drive to Fayette followed by a 50-mile drive back to Charles City.

Call it 100-mile round-trip therapy without the aroma candles.

“It gives me a chance to transition,” said Grimm, who will be at the wheel for his 20th season leading the Peacocks. “It gives me the time to go from father to being a coach and from coach to back to being a father again.

“We lived in Fayette for a while just off the campus, and we often had wrestlers and people stopping by, which was great. But now living in Charles City, the drive back and forth gives me the 50 minutes I need. Driving during the winter? … I have no problem with that. I’m from Iowa.”

Grimm is a native of Osage to be exact. He wrestled for Luther College, where he was a two-time All-American and inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004.

A communications major, Grimm didn’t see himself getting into coaching.

“I just kind of fell into it,” Grimm said.

With his Peacock teams’ compiling an overall dual meet record of 187-67-3 during his tenure, Grimm is nearing a 200-dual-meet-victory milestone.

“But my personal dual-meet record is not that important,” he said. “What we chase down is developing our athletes … what we chase down is NCAA appearances.”

With Grimm as coach, the Peacocks have nine finishes in the Top 11 at the Division II NCAA Championships, including a runner-up showing in 2002, a third-place showing in 2010 when Grimm was named NCAA Division II Wrestling Coach of the Year, and fourth-place showings in 2011 and 2018.

The top four teams at the NCAAs receive trophies.

Grimm says they’re “chomping at the bit” for a fifth piece of hardware. And after the last couple of recruiting classes, the Peacocks seem poised to get it and then some.

National wrestling publication The Open Mat, citing the efforts of Grimm and his associate coach Nate Skaar, ranked the Peacocks’ 2019-20 recruiting class fourth among Division II wrestling schools.
The class includes Kaden Anderlik, Crestwood (125); Colter Bye, Crestwood (157); Eric Faught, Clear Lake (133); Scott Kellenberger, Horizon, Ariz. (165); Chase Luensman, Monticello (141); Troy Monahan, Mason City (285); Gunner Rodgers, North Fayette Valley (141); Zach Ryg, Central Decatur (197); Dalton Schams, West Salem/Bangor, Wis. (141); and transfer Myron Crawford, Ellsworth CC (174).

Faught and Ryg were both state champions their senior seasons at their respective schools.

The Peacocks also return several experienced college wrestlers from Grimm’s hometown — former Comets AJ Maloy and Jake Niichel.

Maloy, a redshirt sophomore heavyweight, was 8-7 last season. During his career with the Peacocks, Maloy has twice been named Academic All-American.

Niichel, a redshirt junior 174-pounder who came to UIU last season after transferring from North Area Iowa Community College, was 4-4 during his first year with the Peacocks.

Both were multiple state qualifiers with more than 100 career wins each for Charles City.

“I wrestled with Jake’s father when I was at Osage, and I’ve known the Maloy family for a long time,” Grimm said. “I think more people around here should know of the hard work these kids are putting in while being a part of a program like ours.

“We’re only a school of 1,000 students that often goes up against schools of 10,000 … 15,000.”

The Peacocks will officially start practicing on Oct. 10. Their first meet is Nov. 2 at Rochester Community and Technical College.

Though Grimm is more than willing to make the daily commute to and from Fayette, he relatively stays close to home while recruiting wrestlers.

“We try to make ourselves available to those north of 20 and east of 35,” he said. “There are a lot of good wrestlers in this part of the state.”