LETTS, Iowa — Life isn’t always fair.
Louisa-Muscatine wrestling coach Tom Mashek believes sports help teach that very lesson. Cody Calvelage, a senior wrestler for the Falcons, has become a prime example of that.
The senior has performed well during his career on the L-M varsity. He’s won a lot of matches and has earned the respect of his coach for his toughness and consistency.
“He’s one of the toughest kids to come through L-M,” Mashek said. “When he’s wrestling those guys and winning by three or four points, he’s getting some points off stuff where he’s just tougher than the other kid.”
Still, Calvelage has yet to wrestle his way onto the biggest stage in Iowa high school wrestling: the state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
He fell to Lisbon’s Cael Happel in the district semifinals last season and lost a wrestleback for a state berth to Wapello’s Daniel Meeker, the eventual state runner-up.
Happel, of course, was the eventual state champion at 120 pounds in Class 2A a season ago.
“His freshman year he was behind the state runner-up and kid who got fourth,” Mashek said. “His sophomore and junior year he was behind first and second in the state. He would have had to be a state champion or state runner-up to even make it to state.”
“Now he’s a senior and hasn’t been to state so nobody knows that much about him outside of around here. He doesn’t complain about that. That’s bad luck. I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
Although Calvelage may be flying under the radar statewide — he’s currently unranked – the senior is off to a 21-1 start this season. His lone loss this season at 126 pounds is to Happel, who is currently ranked No. 1 at 126 after a state title last season.
“I don’t really care,” Calvelage said with a smile when asked about flying under the radar. “Nobody looks out for me, and when I win it makes it even better.”
Calvelage has done that plenty this season. Of his 21 wins, only seven matches have gone the distance, and he’s already recorded 12 pins on the season.
“I want everybody on our team to be dangerous,” Mashek said. “We embrace big moves, and we want to go for the pin. He’s been learning some tilts and things like that. But for the most part, he does arm levers and things like that.
“Part of it is just his mentality. That’s just the kind of kid he is.”
Both Calvelage and Mashek acknowledge the senior has improved this season. Calvelage says his time in the weight room is paying off, and the veteran coach cited his willingness to add new moves to his "bag of tricks" as a reason for his strong start.
It’s shown up on the mat, as Calvelage said his most impressive win thus far was over Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Ty Pfiffner, the No. 8 ranked wrestler in Class 3A at the time, in the semifinals of the Fort Madison Invitational. He went on to win that title for one of the three tournaments he’s already won this season.
He already has wins over Columbus Junction’s Tucker Bright, Muscatine’s Carson Harder and Davenport Assumption’s Noah Gonzalez.
But, the leap isn’t as big as it appears because Calvelage wrestled great competition last year on his way to a 36-12 record.
“He’s one of the best-kept secrets in this part of the state,” Mashek said. “He’s been good for a really long time but just hasn’t been able to get out of sectionals and districts. This isn’t a surprise to anybody in our program at all.”
As great as this season has already been for the senior, it wouldn’t be complete without a state tournament appearance.
“It’d be a huge relief,” Calvelage said. “I’m just ready to be there and experience the atmosphere. My goal is to get to state and wrestle as hard as I can.”
It’s always rewarding for Mashek anytime one of his wrestlers can break through and make it to the big stage. But, the veteran head coach would take a little extra pride in seeing Calvelage qualify in his senior season.
“It’d be a little sweeter than somebody who just had something handed to them,” Mashek said. “Wrestling is a hard sport. A lot of times I say wrestling isn’t fun. It’s a hard sport for tough guys. And he’s a very tough kid.”