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Iowa fans step up to help Hawkeye Wrestling Club

Tom Brands has been blown away by the support from Iowa wrestling fans.
Tom Brands has been blown away by the support from Iowa wrestling fans. (University of Iowa)

The best ideas sometimes come from the most unexpected places.

They come from simple conversations between people and they lead to much bigger things.

In the case of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, a few posts from HWC board member Randy Novak on the Hawkeye Report Wrestling Forum, led to a huge fundraising windfall.

Let’s face it, Iowa wrestling fans had become more than a little frustrated. The Hawkeyes traditional place at the top the NCAA standings was gone and taken by Big Ten rival Penn State. Then you throw in that Iowa State hired away Hawkeye legend Brent Metcalf away from Iowa in early April and the sting became too much.

Novak jumped on the wrestling forum basically to provide an education of sorts about the challenges facing the Hawkeye Wrestling Club.

“I saw some of the things people were saying and I wanted to address some of the challenges that the club had faced. That led into a few fans saying that if that was the case, then we should start raising some money.”

And that got the ball rolling…and rolling...and rolling.

The Hawkeye Wrestling Club has been around since 1973, providing funding for Iowa wrestlers to pursue their dreams. Its core mission is to provide the training, coaching, and resources necessary for athletes to chase their dream of becoming Olympic and World Championships. No club has done a better job than the Iowa’s, resulting in 14 Olympians, including 4 gold medal winning performers.

“The more money we can raise for the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, means more elite coaches and athletes. If you look at what has happened with our light weight guys the past few years, they have had Tom and Terry Brands to work out with. They have had Dan Dennis to work out with. They have had Matt McDonough to work out with every day. If we have those elite guys to work out with, you see the kind of success those wrestlers have had,” Novak said.

Other schools have essentially copied Iowa’s formula for success and built something bigger and attracted the top talent to train in their facilities.

“We have always known that we needed to spend money to get good athletes to stay here or come here and we have done that with a guy like Dan Dennis, who went to the Olympics.”

More was needed. During the conversations that took place on the wrestling forum, Novak explained what the Hawkeye Wrestling Club does, the importance of it, and the costs involved. The intent wasn’t to beg for money. Far from it actually. It was simply to educate the loyal Iowa fans and honestly, improve their own messaging of their mission.

“I think the average fan didn’t realize that the Hawkeye Wrestling Club was a non-profit. The average fan didn’t realize that we take the money and pay the living expenses of wrestlers, so they don’t have to work two or three jobs so they can focus on their training. The average fan didn’t realize that when these guys go to a tournament, whether it’s in the United States of overseas, we pick up their airfare, hotel, and expenses and that stuff costs a lot of money,” Novak said. “I think they just thought Hawkeye wrestling has a great fanbase and we had a lot of money. Shame on us for not getting the message out earlier.”

While the Hawkeye Wrestling Club wasn’t low on money, it could always do better in providing the services needed to attract the best athletes to train in Iowa City. After the message board discussions, Iowa wrestling fans wanted to step up and Novak started a thread simply linking to their donation page and set what seemed like a lofty goal of raising $100,000.

The post was made on April 1st and one month later, the goal was met and surpassed. As of today, Iowa fans have raised almost $125,000 and that number is still growing.

“I am blown away and the coaching staff is blown away,” he said. “Our coaches don’t read the forums, but when someone donates at this level, they notice. It’s surprising, it’s appreciated, and it’s very genuine from the Iowa fans. They really want to help and now that they understand it, they keep doing it.”

The exchange of ideas led to another big fundraising idea, a dinner for four with Tom Brands. That was put up for auction and raised $10,000 for a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“A lot of great ideas came directly from the fans and this was one of them and Tom was completely supportive of it.”

There’s no doubt that the bump in fundraising has already led to a significant addition to the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. Former Hawk Mark Perry announced this week that he was leaving his positon as an assistant at the University of Illinois and will oversee elite athlete development for the Hawkeye Wrestling Club.

“This wasn’t the plan from the perspective of the club to go to the message boards and raise money. We are just here to provide the resources necessary and the coaches actually do the hiring. We have the best fanbase, so it makes sense to leverage it and give our coaches the tools and the resources to have the best program in the country and I think you are seeing some of that with the hiring of Mark Perry.”

Novak says the goal is to build the best wrestling club, not only in the country, but the world and they are well on their way to doing just that. The next step will be fundraising on the University of Iowa side of the equation to build a separate wrestling only facility to match what other high level programs have or are in the process of doing.

As the legendary Dan Gable has said many times, “Never accept not being the best,” and that has been and always will be the goal for the Hawkeye Wrestling Club and the Iowa wrestling program. They are on their way to doing just that, thanks to the support of Iowa fans.

The Hawkeye Wrestling Club will hold their annual banquet on Friday night in Cedar Rapids at the Kirkwood Conference Center. Doors open at 5 pm with dinner beginning at 7 pm. Tom Brands will be there to speak and it will be the first time that Mark Perry will be there in his new role. Tickets are still available and you can go to www.hwcbanquet.com for more details. If you can’t make it and would like to donate to help grow the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, visit www.hwcdonor.com or the Hawkeye Wrestling Club web site, www.hawkeyewrestlingclub.com