Brotherly shove through childhood brings trio to collegiate mat

BY J.T. BUGOS | JULY 24, 2009 7:15 AM

Wrestling turned into fighting. Fighting turned into target practice. Tempers flared. Lamps were broken. By some unimaginable circumstance, a chandelier became a casualty. Three boys surveyed the wreckage, and knew they were in trouble.

Matt, Mark and Jake Ballweg were the cause of destruction. Matt and Mark Ballweg are current wrestlers for the Iowa Hawkeyes. In the fall of 2010, Jake Ballweg will join them.

Matt Ballweg’s selective memory prevented him from rehashing the demolition of a chandelier, but he and Mark Ballweg both knew they dug themselves a deep hole that day.

“We tried to stay out of the house,” Mark Ballweg said. “Mom’s rules. When you get Mom involved, that’s dangerous.”

Somehow, the trio survived. From then on, they kept out of the house.

Tom Ballweg, the father of the three athletes, started them all in the sport. Matt and Mark started at the same time, when Matt was in third grade and Mark in first. Jake started shortly after as a kindergartner.

Tom Ballweg converted an old machine shed into a wrestling room in the backyard of their home in Waverly, Iowa. Weights were put in, an old junior-high mat was laid down, and wall mats were hung.

The boys drilled and did live wrestling in the room throughout grade school and middle school.
Matt was left out of live wrestling with his brothers as a kid because his size advantage. Mark and Jake weren’t far apart size-wise, and they went at each other frequently.

Jake Ballweg admitted to having a temper, and combined with Mark Ballweg’s ability to get inside his head, wrestling often turned into fighting.

“Jake and I used to scrap quite a bit and get in fights a lot,” Mark Ballweg said. “I can kind of get under his skin.”

Jake Ballweg had a different perspective.

“Mark was just mean, to put it nicely,” he said. “I’ll get back at him sometime.”

Even though wrestling led to some differences, the three have grown close the more years go by.

“At first, I think we hated each other because we wrestled each other and beat each other up,” Matt Ballweg said. “But as we’ve gotten older, we’ve grown closer and become really good friends.”

Mark and Jake Ballweg agree. Time in the wrestling room, camps during the summers, and tournaments brought the brothers closer together. Jake Ballweg pointed out they grew closer because they all went through the same experiences.

Matt Ballweg was the first of the three to come to Iowa. For him, the decision was clear-cut; he liked Iowa City, and he connected well with the guys on the team during his visit.

Mark Ballweg soon followed his brother to Iowa. He recalled watching the Hawkeyes wrestle on television and going to some meets as a kid. That, coupled with Iowa’s legendary program, brought him to Iowa City.

Jake Ballweg made up his mind a while ago that Iowa was the place for him. Iowa was the only school to call him, but he says even if other places had offered, they would have had no shot. Matt and Mark Ballweg both knew Jake wanted to become a Hawkeye, so not much was said between the three during the recruiting process.

“I didn’t really talk to them about where I was going or anything. I think we we’re basically all on the same page,” Jake Ballweg said. “They knew that I had my mind made up, so they didn’t really tell me much.”

When he joins the Iowa wrestling program, it will mark the first time that all three have been on the same team. Hopefully, fellow Hawkeye wrestlers will force the trio to go head-to-head.

When asked who would win a round-robin tournament, all three responded with the same two words: “Definitely me.”

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