For years, the Iowa Army National Guard's Albert J. Hoffman Readiness Center has served as a location where mettle is forged through hard work. It's the nerve center for Iowa Guardsmen who have answered the call for service to America on overseas deployments. It's only fitting that the facility on Dubuque's West Side hosts a camp where champions are forged.
"I come to get better," said Ross Kaz, a senior at Chippewa Falls (Wis.) High School of the Iowa Wrestling Camp.
Kaz was one of the more than forty young men who attended the camp in late June organized by University of Dubuque Head Wrestling Coach Jon McGovern.
Just like the Iowa Guard's legendary 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry "(Iron Man Battalion)" confidence is built on practice.
"Life's obstacles can be overcome when you build good habits," McGovern told the wrestlers during a short break.
Chippewa Falls Coach Steve Anderson brought a contingent to the camp.
"We get away from distractions and build team unity," he said. "This is a great time. You can make mistakes and learn. When you surround yourself with good people, it's easy to pick yourself up and improve. Jon is very flexible. He cares about the kids. He has a passion."
Ladysmith (Wis.) High School Coach Rick Vollendorf is a camp regular. It's his sixth year.
"Iowa is known for wrestling and corn," he said. "We came for wrestling. Coach McGovern coaches technique, work ethic and integrity. He always throws in Bible verses. The camp is very-well rounded."
The sport of wrestling, Vollendorf adds, sets a foundation for life.
"You get out of it what you put in," he said. "It teaches you to always improve, and that hard work pays off. You can't put blame on anyone else. It also teaches you to be responsible. It's easy to win when you feel good about yourself."
Ethan Cain, a senior at Polo, Ill. High School, looks forward to attending the three-day camp.
"It's great to give back to the sport of wrestling," he said. "So many people have given to me."
Cain, who plays football and does the pole vault in track and field, enjoys the amount of discipline and hard work the sport requires.
"It's unmatched in any other sport," he said. "To be successful, you have put in time and hard work."
The hard work, that emphasizes technique, attracts Kaz.
"I like wrestling's challenge," he said. "In a team sport, if you lose, you can blame someone else, 'It's his fault'. If you lose in wrestling, it's on you. It's a great teacher of life."
Austin Smith, a Chippewa Falls senior, agreed with Kaz. He prefers technique drills over sparring.
"It's a good camp to build muscle memory," he said. "And, the harder you work, the better your return. At this camp, you have fun, work hard, be with friends and make friends."