Iowa’s first four-time state champion was honored on the 50th anniversary of his accomplishment. Bob Steenlage wrested for Britt High School and became the first four-time champ in 1962. It would be another 17 years before the feat was duplicated.
“In some ways I didn’t comprehend what it was all going to mean, and sometimes the pressure was just tremendous,” Steenlage said. “But it seem like every time I ran into a problem, the circumstances changed because I chose to look at the positive side and got advice to turn things around. Otherwise, it was pretty overwhelming.”
There were several close calls along the way and Steenlage even had to overcome an injury to win as a senior. He has a 2-1 match as a freshman and lost a 9-8 match to an Osage wrestler during the season and had to meet him again in the tournament after being injured.
Steenlage is proud of his accomplishment and has been thrilled by the growth in the tournament over the years. He says when he wrestled it was at the small gym at the University of Northern Iowa.
Steenlage said wrestling has been a blueprint for his life. “Everything that you have to do on the mat it’s either you, you are going to fail or you are going to succeed. So you’ve got to prepare. And it’s the same thing in life, life is not very fair, but you have to learn to overcome whatever comes along,” Steenlage said.
Steelange resides near LaCrosse, Wisconsin and is a motivational speaker.