If You Build It, They Will Come: Local Talent Finds Comfort, Opportunity in Iowa Wesleyan Wrestling

By: Nathan Bloechl — sports@kilj.com 

KILJ — “If you build it, they will come.”

It’s one of the greatest catchphrases of the the 1989 baseball movie Field of Dreams.

Now, you could make an argument that it’s one of the biggest selling points for local athletes to wrestle in their own backyard.

Yesterday at the Howe Social Hall at Ruble Arena, Iowa Wesleyan University’s fiery head wrestling coach Shawn Contos announced the addition of four local wrestlers to his brand new program issuing an aggressive call to action in the meantime.

Southeast Iowa will be our bedrock. True success is possible here — the success these guys will have here and the fun and the attitude they have will trickle down to their teammates from high school and their communities.

It’s going to spread like wildfire.”

Javis Krieger of New London, Keegan Akers of Mediapolis, Fairfield’s Brendon Lunsford and James DeMeyer of Mount Pleasant are the first four area wrestlers to sign with Iowa Wesleyan —  and Contos believes that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This is the heartbeat of the [the] program. Our brand of wrestling is going to be honest — and these [four] guys represent that mindset and philosophy. [They] are the embodiment of what Iowa Wesleyan wrestling is going to be: local guys with the right mindset.” Contos said.

The launch of the program comes at the perfect time for DeMeyer who thought his wrestling career was behind him.

It’s been 30 years since we’ve had a program here at Iowa Wesleyan — and when I lost at districts [in 2018] I thought I was done” DeMeyer said. “I had shoulder surgery and didn’t think I would wrestle again, but when Wesleyan opened their program and I had the chance to wrestle in my hometown, I was all for it.” 

Krieger, a state qualifier at New London under Mark Chiri said he can’t wait to work with Contos, who spent several years as an assistant at Penn State under the legendary Cael Sanderson.

Coach Contos has a ton of excitement and it’s going to be fun to see him bring that excitement the wrestling room.”

Lunsford, a Fairfield native, comes to Iowa Wesleyan after spending the last two years at Hannibal-LaGrange, a NAIA program in Missouri.

He too is excited to be closer to home, while working with a coach with pedigree of Contos.

Coach Contos wants this to be a top-level program, it’s exciting. All the time and effort [Iowa Wesleyan] is putting into the program — I’m just happy to be [here]” Lunsford explained.

Meanwhile Mediapolis’ Akers, who expects to be a heavyweight as he begins his freshman season, hopes that these four can represent southeast Iowa well and bring more local talent into a program that seems to ready to ignite.

I think [Iowa Wesleyan] is going to open up a lot of doors for kids here in Southeast Iowa. I’m just very excited. Just knowing that I’ll wrestle for Contos, I’m excited to see what he can open up for me and how he can make me a better wrestler.”

Is this heaven?

No, it’s just Iowa Wesleyan wrestling.