Wrestling with dedication

For brothers Sherm and Craig Iversen, their dad, Rick, and mom, Ginny, wrestling is a family affair


Herald Writer

If wrestling were outlawed, the Iversen family wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.

Cascade wrestling coach Sherm Iversen and his brother Craig, who is in his first year as coach at Marysville-Pilchuck, looked across the mat Thursday night for the first time as Western Conference 4A foes. Sherman Iversen came out on top this time, his Bruins dropping his brother’s wrestlers 36-20 in the dual meet.

Their father, Rick Iversen, a recent Washington Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee, and his wife Ginny, who knows enough about the sport to coach it herself, watch their sons’ meets whenever possible. Last year at the District 1 competition, Rick served as floor manager while Ginny manned the computer as the statistician.

These folks love wrestling.

In fact, the Iversen men work hard to avoid the spotlight, and only agreed to be interviewed for this story so they could promote their sport.

"Anything to get wrestling out there," Sherm Iversen said.

This devotion got started because Rick spent too much time milking cows. Wrestling was a relatively new high school sport in the late 1950s. The elder Iversen worked on a farm in Sedro-Woolley and didn’t have time to develop basketball skills. So he turned out for wrestling, and it has been an Iversen tradition ever since.

"I’m glad I wasn’t any good at basketball," said Rick Iversen, who was the head coach at Western Washington College (now WWU) for five years before wrestling was dropped by the school in 1977. "My whole life would’ve been different."

These days Rick Iversen keeps busy as a volunteer assistant at Lakewood in addition to running the family business, Iversen Distributing, which distributes dairy products.

Sherm and Craig Iversen have coached against each other four times in the Northwest 3A League, and have coached together as assistants.

All three know how to win.

Sherm, whose own wrestling career was cut short by an arm injury, coached Cascade to the Northwest District championship last season — only his second at the school. He is currently on crutches after foot surgery, but it doesn’t stop him from pacing the edge of the mat as he watches his team compete. A cow (yes, more problems with cows) stepped on his foot five years ago, and Iversen finally gave in to the surgical knife this fall.

Craig finished his prep career at Marysville-Pilchuck as a two-time state champion in 1987 and ‘88 and was an All-American grappler at Central Washington University.

Rick was a state champion at Skagit Valley College and coached both sons at M-P. Rick Iversen’s Tomahawks finished in the top four at the state meet four times, including runner-up finishes in ‘88 and ‘91.

There aren’t many discussions during Iversen family gatherings that don’t involve wrestling.

"Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house, we still throw the tables back and show each other wrestling moves," said Rick Iversen, who also taught classes at M-P for 22 years.

The Iversens say they are drawn to wrestling’s intensity. They enjoy the family-like atmosphere. Wrestlers spend six minutes trying to weaken an opponent, but it’s almost unheard of for competitors to get angry and resort to fighting. The fiercest competitors are seen giving more hugs than Oprah.

And for the Iversens, wrestling is about life-long friends they’ve made and will make in the future.

Rick Iversen recently visited Paul Reiman, who coached at Mount Vernon High School when Iversen was a student at Sedro-Woolley. Reiman has leukemia. Iversen visited Reiman to thank him for all the wrestling knowledge he’d given him. School boundary lines mean little to those who love wrestling.

"I said, ‘Paul, you gave me gifts that someone gave to you," Rick Iversen said. "I have been able to pass those gifts on to other young men, and now my sons are giving those gifts to kids.’

"Wrestling has been here for 6,000 years," Rick Iversen said. "None of the other games we play were around then. And 6,000 years from now, they will still be wrestling. A lot of the games will have changed rules and playing fields and dimensions. But wrestling will still be wrestling."

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