Monday, October 20, 2008

The Road to Cedar Rapids - Volume 1

When Clayton Rush ran on to the raised mat for the finals of the NCAA Division III wrestling championships last March I was excited that I might be witnessing history – Coe College’s first ever national champion. I saw Clayton wrestle several times last year and became a fan. His performance in the DIII portion of National Duals was dominant in every sense of the word.

No – I’m not a Coe alumnus (St. Ambrose ’74 – Go, Bees!), but I have lived within walking distance of the Coe campus since I moved to Cedar Rapids in 1988. Many small colleges have a claim to fame and Coe is no exception. Two Coe alumni have been named “Coaches of the Year” in two professional sports. Bill Fitch led the Boston Celtics to the 1981 NBA title and Marv Levy coached the Buffalo Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances. Former Kohawk, Fred Jackson, is now a running back for the Bills.

I became a Coe wrestling fan when John Oostendorp became the head coach. John was always among my favorite Hawkeye wrestlers and his 1993 third place finish, where he defeated both Billy Pierce and Rulon Gardner in the consolation bracket, stands as one of my favorite Hawkeye performances.

Clayton took down Seth Flodeen from Augsburg almost immediately in their finals match and quickly also scored nearfall points. The Coe fan section erupted and I was confident that we were all going to see that history made. Then, Flodeen escaped, scored a takedown and eventually locked up a cradle, pinning Clayton and winning the NCAA title.

Coe did make history that night. Sophomore, Tyler Burkle, won the 165-pound title and became the school’s first national champion. The team also scored their highest finish ever – 4th – and Coach Oostendorp was named Coach of the Year.

In June, history of another kind was made in Cedar Rapids – a devastating flood that left thousands homeless. Coe College and Clayton Rush were among the victims. You have to be familiar with Cedar Rapids to understand just how incredible it was for flooding ever to reach the Coe campus – but it did. The power plant was under water and Coe was without power for several days.

Clayton’s house was also flooded. “I was fortunate enough not to lose anything of value. I was, however, flooded out of the house I was renting. I had planned to remain in Cedar Rapids all summer to work out, and had to return home to Illinois. Coe College was closed for a time and had no power, so our team lost it’s wrestling room and I did lose great workout opportunities, along with training with my team everyday of the summer.”

Downtown Cedar Rapids was particularly hard hit by the flood. According to Mary Lee Malmberg of the Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), “This summer’s flood impacted 450 businesses in the downtown area.” The CVB office was among that group. “(The CVB) was inundated with about 4’ of flood water causing extensive damage. Everything was lost with the exception of what was taken out of the office when CVB staff evacuated.”, said Malmberg.

Cedar Rapids will again host the Division III championships next spring – and both Coe and the city are preparing.

Says Clayton, “Our goal is to be the National Champs. Our coaching staff preaches that day in and day out. All we have running through our minds is to be the National Champions.” As for himself, “I have been training to be a 3x national champion. I don’t want anything less, nor do my teammates. Our goal is to be the National Champions. I have been lifting hard and working out when and where ever I am able. I ended up working for my Dad pouring concrete most of the summer. That along with lifting has really, I believe, helped me gain quite a bit of strength.”

And Cedar Rapids – according to Mary Lee Malmberg, “As of today, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and Grant Wood Studio have reopened, and the Science Station is featuring a new dinosaur exhibit in temporary space located at Lindale Mall. On October 24 (also at Lindale Mall) Theatre Cedar Rapids will begin their season in a remodeled theater and the National Czech & Slovak Museum will open an exhibit and gift shop while their permanent structures are rebuilt. These attractions have accepted the challenge created by the flood and have found new, creative ways to serve the public.

Once again there is availability in local hotels and the Convention & Visitors Bureau is spreading the word that visitors are welcome and encouraged to see Cedar Rapids’ comeback.”

When I asked Mary Lee what Division III wrestling fans could anticipate, she replied, “Wrestling fans can expect an enthusiastic welcome from Cedar Rapids when they visit in March. Eighty-six percent of the city was not impacted by the flood, and many of the businesses in the flood zone will have re-opened by then.

The Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau will staff an information booth at the U.S. Cellular Center for fans arriving on Friday. Information on downtown restaurants that are open will be available as well as other visitor information. Maps and directions will also be provided.”

Recovery from a disaster of this magnitude frequently brings out the best in people. Back in June I wrote a couple of blogs about the flood. Clayton’s mother read them and shared them with him. I pointed out in one of them that my friend Terrance and his family had lost everything in the flood – including all of the Hawkeye wrestling memorabilia that he had collected over the past few years. Clayton’s response was to send Terrance an autographed Coe wrestling tee shirt. Terrance loves that shirt.
Thank you.

So - wrestling fans, mark your calendars for March 6th and 7th and join me at the US Cellular Center for the 2009 Division III Championships. The wrestling will be exciting and you’ll have a great time.

PS If you would like to contribute to the Cedar Rapids flood recovery, please visit


dad said...

Our thoughts and prayers not only go out to rush but to the whole community especially those that have been there most of ther lives!

Jim Brown said...

Thank you for your kind thoughts.

Dan said...


I really like what you are doing and want to talk to you about publishing your blogs on and another website on a regular basis. ( I would like to have a chance to talk with you. Could you leave me some contact information at Look forward to talking with you.

Dan Knight