Former Iowa City West and Iowa Hawkeye State Champion Dylan Carew looks on during the Junior National Duals in Tulsa, Okla., in June. He was head coach of the Iowa Greco-Roman team that won the state’s first national doubles title in Greco-Roman and was named the USA’s Youth Development Coach of the Year. Wrestling. (Andy Hamilton/Flowrestling)
It has been over 10 years since Dylan Carew received a wrestling award.
The two-time Iowa City West state champion and former Iowa Hawkeye earned many honors in a career that ended prematurely due to injury. Carew answered the call of coaching, following in the footsteps of his mentor, the late Mark Reiland.
The founder and trainer of the Big Game Wrestling Club has once again been recognized. This time for his work in the area. Carew was named USA Wrestling’s Greco-Roman Youth Development Coach of the Year at the Junior Nationals last week in Fargo, ND.
“It’s my first coaching award, which feels good, especially after a year where I lost Mark Reiland,” Carew said of his former coach’s passing. “I know he would be damn proud of it. My dad (Jeff) and Mark always believed in me as a coach, like other people. That was maybe the most important thing to me, not necessarily the price, but I knew how proud my mentors would be.
Carew has a full resume in Greco-Roman. He was a two-time Cadet and Junior All-American National Champion. In 2007, he won his second national crown and earned outstanding wrestler honors, adding a second national freestyle finish. Carew is transferring the lessons he’s learned to another generation of wrestlers, carrying on the legacy of his Hall of Fame coach and leader of the Iowa chapter of USA Wrestling.
“Mark always preached to us, you couldn’t be good at the next level if you couldn’t wrestle in the hook, seatbelt, hook and bodylock positions,” Carew said. “His big philosophy was that you didn’t have to worry about being good at the next level if you couldn’t wrestle at all those positions.
“Flash forward 15 years later and one of his guys wins this award. I think it’s a full circle moment.
Carew led Iowa to its first Greco-Roman national title at Junior National Duals in Tulsa, Okla., in June. He coached several Greco-Roman All-Americans last week, including runner-up Wyatt Voelker, a two-time Western Delaware State wrestling champion at the University of Northern Iowa next season, and the brother duo of Linn-Mar consisting of Kane and Tate Naaktgeboren. The state had eight All-Americans in the 16u division, including Southeast Polk’s Ryker Graff, who trains with Carew.
Cedar Rapids Prairie State finalist Blake Gioimo wrestles at the North Liberty Big Game facility. He went 4-2 in Greco-Roman at the Junior Nationals.
“Before June, I absolutely hated Greco and thought it was stupid and awful,” Gioimo said in a text to The Gazette. “But, you could say that Dylan pushed me to think differently and since I actually understand the sport, he helped me realize how much Greco affected my other wrestling styles and how that really made me a better wrestler.”
The material is enjoyable and titles still remain the goal, but Carew places the same emphasis on progress. It measures success on the growth and development of each athlete, which is why it was honored.
“When I see our wrestlers becoming complete wrestlers, I think that’s the most impressive stat,” Carew said. “I think it’s easy to get carried away with the fact that it’s victory or nothing.
“I would be lying if I said winning isn’t important, but making sure we have a recovery and are constantly improving is good.”
Big Game was a labor of love, building the club while in Montana. Iowa State All-American Jarrett Degen was his biggest product at Bozeman. Carew returned to the Iowa City area and started the club in Iowa.
“He helped me love the sport of wrestling because what he shows is just amazing,” Gioimo said of Carew. “Not only that, but the atmosphere that Dylan, the Big Game staff and us wrestlers have created there really feels like a ‘home away from home’. Those aspects are who I think have helped me the most.
Lots of hands do light work and Carew has relied on a strong staff. His brother, Tyler, was instrumental in building the club. Former Iowa NCAA champion Jessie Whitmer and JB Barnhouse are coaches and were key contributors.
About 150 wrestlers from all over train at the North Liberty building and another 150 at the Bettendorf club which is run by former Iowa teammates and roommates Nick Trizzino, Brody Grothus and Tyler Clark. Degen and former Oklahoma State NCAA champion Alan Fried run the club of about 50 people in Montana.
Alli Ragan is a club coach at North Liberty. She leads one of the boys’ practices each week and is the women’s coach. Ragan is a two-time silver medalist at Worlds at the senior level and bronze medalist at Worlds Juniors. She was a substitute for the 2016 US Olympic team and won several international tournaments.
Carew said the club is just as dedicated to women’s wrestling as it is to the three men’s disciplines. Ragan, who is also on the women’s wrestling staff at Grand View University, is a big reason.
“We’re going to continue to grow,” Carew said. “Alli is one of the best. She was voted one of the top 100 female wrestlers who ever lived – male or female – in the United States and we have her as our female coach.
Carew’s inspiration stems from the opportunities he and his friends had in their youth. The vision of running his own club came to fruition when his father placed a wrestling mat in the basement for Carew and his brothers and talked about building extravagant halls for them to train others. Some did not believe in his idea of offering a high-level club accessible to all with scholarships, fundraisers and family discounts.
The plan came to fruition.
“Anyone who knows me knows I’m a dreamer,” Carew said. “If I fix my mind on something, I will drive it away. I think a lot of people thought I was crazy.
“I dreamed of this. Through a lot of hard work over the past 10 years, this has come together. Every day I go to that wrestling room or in the morning when I go to the gym and see people in there, it makes me very proud of all the things we’ve worked hard for since I was a kid.
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