Former Iowa wrestlers take the plunge into frozen river


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Luke Eustice was up earlier than usual this past Saturday morning.

He and a few of his buddies were down on the south side of Highway 22, smiling to the sound of a chain saw as it ripped into nearly 3 inches of frozen river.

It took them a while, but once the deed was finished, Eustice had successfully cut a long swimming lane-esque hole in the river. A few short hours later — with temperatures hovering around 18 degrees above the water — more than 30 brave souls planned to dive into the freezing cold swimming lane for the Hawkeye Wrestling Club’s second Arctic Plunge.

“It’s the cause. I think that’s what people really get behind,” said Eustice, the coordinator of the Plunge. “They get behind Iowa wrestling, and the Hawkeye Wrestling Club.”

Each diver in the Arctic Plunge was a representative, of sorts, that friends and family surrounding the Iowa wrestling community could pledge money toward. This seemingly absurd idea worked as a fundraiser for the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, a freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling club for postgraduate grapplers based in Iowa City.

In all, the Hawkeye Wrestling Club raised slightly more than $30,000 with this year’s fundraiser — an increase from the nearly $25,000 it made during last year’s Arctic Plunge. The money benefits the athletes of the club and is used to help pay travel expenses, as well as a stipend that’s given to the wrestlers at the end of each month.

“This is their full-time job,” Eustice said. “[Former Iowa wrestlers] Phil Keddy and Brent Metcalf are going to go over to Iran here in the next couple of weeks and wrestle in the World Cup. So the Hawkeye Wrestling Club has to pick up some of that expense for them to go over there.”

Many former-Hawkeye athletes made up the list of participants for this year’s event. Among them were plenty of former wrestlers — Metcalf, Keddy, Eustice, Luke Lofthouse, Ryan Morningstar, Mark Ironside, Daniel Dennis, Tom and Terry Brands, to name a few — as well as former Iowa athletes of other sports, such as Nate Kaeding.

Iowa’s head football coach Kirk Ferentz was a participant of last year’s Arctic Plunge, symbolizing the support that different Iowa sports have for one another. Brands, the head wrestling coach at Iowa, once gave the football players a pep talk before they took the field in Kinnick Stadium.

“It’s a tight community,” said Kyle Beard, the announcer of the Arctic Plunge and a close friend of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. “[Iowa athletics] try to support one another’s philanthropic organizations.”

The focus of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, since its establishment in 1973, is to provide the training, coaching, and resources it takes to allow their athletes to chase their dreams of becoming World and Olympic champions in the sport of wrestling, according to their website.

One such wrestler is Metcalf, who won two NCAA national titles for Iowa in 2008 and 2010 — Metcalf was also two Olympic Trials wins away from representing the United States in the 2012 Olympics at 66-kilograms in freestyle wrestling. Metcalf was one of the participants who jumped into the river.

Even Metcalf, regarded by many as a fearless man once on the mat, was nervous about the chilly temperatures. But he knows that it all goes toward a greater good.

“I was definitely excited about it, but as it led up to the big day, I started getting a little nervous about [jumping in the freezing water],” Metcalf said. “But what I like is that all these people understand what it’s about, and it’s about a level of excellence … We can allow people to chase their dreams and win gold medals.”

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