"The zero (in the loss column) doesn’t really matter. It never did matter to me. I’m just out here trying to have fun, score a lot of points and just enjoy the sport while I can."
They could’ve ducked in together right behind Dan Gable and company into Iowa high school wrestling’s most exclusive club without anyone questioning whether they belonged.
But Brody Teske and Alex Thomsen aren’t concerned with records or high school legacies. They didn’t crack the top 10 in the national rankings or scoop up Division I scholarships by taking the path of least resistance.
The only thing they wanted to avoid? Regret.
You see, six wrestlers in Iowa history have completed high school careers without a loss: Gable, Jeff Kerber, Dan Knight, Jeff McGinness, Eric Juergens and John Meeks. Teske and Thomsen were lined up to become the seventh and eighth — until the scale and schedule combined to pit the Big Ten-bound seniors against each other twice this season.
“We were both out to find the best competition possible, give the fans what they want to see,” Thomsen said Saturday. “That dude is a great competitor, and I’m blessed to be able to wrestle with him. I think he’d say the same for me too.”
Thomsen’s mind drifted decades down the road as the three-time Class 1A champion from Underwood contemplated battles with the three-time 3A champ from Fort Dodge. Protect a record? For what? Future conversations about high school glory days?
“Nobody’s going to care about that,” said Thomsen, a Nebraska recruit. “There’s bigger and better things. And (Teske is) doing the exact same thing I’m doing.”
Teske thought about the guilt that would stick with him if evacuated the 126-pound weight class to avoid Thomsen. It didn’t seem right to the Penn State signee to dodge Thomsen for the sake of keeping his record intact, particularly after winning their first meeting in December.
“I could’ve easily avoided him, but that’s not me,” Teske said. “I’m trying to become the best me. If I would’ve went went on (and not wrestled him again) and won my fourth state title — which I still need to accomplish — I would’ve felt like I cheated myself. Whatever the record ends up being, it wouldn’t have felt right. I would’ve always had that feeling that I avoided Alex Thomsen.”
Iowa high school wrestling lost out this season on the chance to add two more members to the career unbeaten club. But it gained so much more in the process as two epic matches and a first-of-its-kind storyline captivated the state’s interest.
The first meeting occurred Dec. 9 in the finals of the Council Bluffs Wrestling Classic. It followed a week of newspaper stories, radio chatter and online debate about the first-ever Iowa high school clash between undefeated three-time state champs.
The buildup was incredible. The match somehow exceeded the hype.
Thomsen controlled the first two periods, racing out to a 7-3 lead. Teske dominated the third, using a takedown and two backpoints off a cradle to momentarily grab the lead. Teske ultimately won the match on a re-attack takedown with 10 seconds left to claim an 11-9 victory.
“I knew I had to get better in a few areas,” Thomsen said. “I definitely picked up cardio and really focused on that.”
Sequels rarely live up to standards set by originals, but Teske-Thomsen II was just as entertaining as the first edition. Saturday’s rematch in the finals of the Cedar Rapids Jefferson J-Hawk Invitational began with first-period takedowns for both wrestlers. A duck-under to a bodylock led to a Thomsen takedown before Teske scored a reversal at the end of the second period. The third period began with a flurry of reversals and ended with the score tied 8-8.
Thomsen scored on an outside single-leg midway through overtime to claim a 10-8 win. Fans inside the packed gymnasium gave both wrestlers a standing ovation.
“Dude is a hell of a competitor,” said Thomsen, who ran his career record to 168-1. “I’m always looking to find the best competition out there and that was a perfect example of a great competitor and I would never down him because he has the same guts coming into my weight and me coming into his. I’m glad we’ve met twice now. We’ve both got a win.”
It was the first time in 163 high school matches that Teske came up on the short end of the score. Out of habit, he raised his hand as the official raised Thomsen’s.
“It’s just a loss,” Teske said. “Just like I said after I won my third state title, I’ll wake up and put my pants on the same as I did today, and I’ll do that again tomorrow. There’s definitely things to look back on, reflect and learn from. He’s a tough competitor and I’ll always put it on the line.”
In Teske’s mind, there was nothing to lose. He never set out to run the table in high school. His goals are geared toward college and beyond, just like Thomsen’s are. They craved the challenge.
“(The record is) not a big deal to me,” Thomsen said. “I don’t think it’s a big deal to him, either. Yeah, he’s going to feel the exact same thing I did, and he’ll learn to embrace it like I did. We’re not the same, but we have the same type of mindset. The zero (in the loss column) doesn’t really matter. It never did matter to me. I’m just out here trying to have fun, score a lot of points and just enjoy the sport while I can."