Highland Wrestling Preview

Nick Cole picked to lead Highland wrestling program

By Jeff Yoder
Posted 11/23/21

The new Highland wrestling head coach doesn’t need any history lessons about the program’s impressive tradition. 

Nick Cole heard all about it as a child. His father Rodney was a …

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Highland Wrestling Preview

Nick Cole picked to lead Highland wrestling program

Posted

The new Highland wrestling head coach doesn’t need any history lessons about the program’s impressive tradition. 

Nick Cole heard all about it as a child. His father Rodney was a three-time state qualifier from 1976 to 1978. His uncle Ricky was Highland’s first state champion in 1979. As a senior in 2000, Nick added his own chapter to the legacy with a state title at 135 pounds — the sixth individual championship in school history. 

“This place is really special for me,” Nick Cole said after practice on Thursday. “Obviously, I graduated here and my whole family has wrestled here. My dad, my uncles, were state place winners, and cousins... There’s a lot of history in this program for me. So being able to lead this program is super special.”

Former Huskie coach Derick Ball took the head coaching position at Cedar Rapids Prairie during the offseason. 

“I don’t know if it was ever in my plans to be a head coach,” Cole said. “I always wanted to be a head coach, but I wasn’t ever sure how it was gonna fit with my career and things like that. It kind of came a little bit sudden. Coach Ball is one of my best buddies, and he took essentially an opportunity of a lifetime as a head coach, and that really opened the door for me.”

Before taking the head coaching position, it was Cole’s second stint as an assistant wrestling coach at Highland. He also spent a few years on the staff at Coe College, where he wrestled from 2000 to 2004. When his son was old enough to start wrestling, he took over the Highland youth program and held that position until he joined Ball’s staff in 2019. 

Under Cole, the Huskies will look to write the next chapter of Highland tradition this year. The next individual state champion will be the program’s 10th. 

Highland returns two district qualifiers from a year ago. Carlos Valenzuela finished third at the district meet last year as a sophomore, falling to the eventual 126-pound 1A state champion in his opening match. He dropped a wrestleback for second to a senior who ended up seventh at the state meet.

He has bigger goals for this year and he’s been working hard to reach them. 

“This whole summer and offseason I’ve really just been on the mat — the mat’s been my best friend,” Valenzuela said.  “Every moment, I’m just wrestling.

“I really want to set foot on that podium in Des Moines. And I really want to push myself to be at that level.”

Easton Schlabaugh reached the state meet and went 4-2 over the weekend to finish fifth. He’s also looking for a better finish as a junior. 

“My biggest key is keeping a positive, strong attitude every day,” Schlabaugh said. “Coming in the room, working hard and doing things right.”

Schlabaugh opens the season ranked No. 2 at 106 in 1A in the IAWrestle preseason rankings. Valenzuela is ranked 12th at 126. 

“We’re going to really try to rally around those two,” Cole said about his team leaders. Schlabaugh finished 43-8 last year, while Valenzuela was 26-10. Jack Peiffer is the only other returning wrestler who won double digit matches with a record of 18-21. 

“Jack Peiffer is on the brink of being really, really good,” Cole said. “It’s just tweaking some things for him. A little bit of a mentality shift and he’s gonna be set up for a real successful season.”

Spencer Grout joined the Highland program this year. He was 13-26 at 132 pounds for Mid-Prairie as a junior. 

 “Spencer Grout has been a great addition to our program,” Cole said. I think he’s gonna provide a lot of value. He’s a great workout partner and so far, he’s been a great teammate.”

The boys’ only other senior is also in his first season with the program. As a transfer, Jacob Hill won’t be able to compete until the next semester begins after Christmas. 

The Highland girls wrestling team has doubled in size for its second season of competition. 

“Maddie (Peiffer) came out as a sophomore, she was the only girl two years ago,” Cole said. “And then last year, it grew to three and now this year we have six. 

“I’m super excited for those girls and the opportunity. They’re fun to coach. They have great attitudes and I’m excited to see where it goes. It’s almost grown too fast to the point where we’re running out of (coaches). But that’s a good problem to have.”

The Huskies host Washington, Iowa Valley and HLV in a quad to open the season on November 30. 

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