Iowa Hawkeyes

Ex-Hawkeye Travis Fiser finds success as Virginia high school wrestling coach

Ogden column: Another in a long line who learned from Dan Gable

Former Iowa wrestler Travis Fiser (left) and his son, Gabe, pose for a picture after Grundy High School won the Virginia state wrestling title for the fourth year in a row in 2019. Gabe won his fourth state title, too. Fiser is a former Iowa Valley prep. (Family photo)
Former Iowa wrestler Travis Fiser (left) and his son, Gabe, pose for a picture after Grundy High School won the Virginia state wrestling title for the fourth year in a row in 2019. Gabe won his fourth state title, too. Fiser is a former Iowa Valley prep. (Family photo)

The Iowa wrestling lineup in the early 1990s included Tom and Terry Brands, Troy and Terry Steiner, Tom Ryan, Bart Chelesvig and Mark Reiland.

Those names were well-known then and remain so today.

Six of the seven are coaching and the seventh, Reiland, retired after last season following a very successful run at Iowa City West High School.

An eighth member of that team also is coaching and recently guided his high school team to its 22nd state title — the 12th with him at the helm.

Travis Fiser was one of the most unlikely — yet under former coach Dan Gable, somewhat typical — success stories in the Hawkeye wrestling room. He never won a state title at Iowa Valley High School and ended up wrestling at Kirkwood Community College, earning NJCAA All-American honors.

At Iowa, he became a two-time All-American with the aforementioned seven as teammates.

And now, like so many Gable disciples, he coaches, teaching wrestlers in Grundy, Va., the “Iowa style.”

“Wrestling was in my blood,” the 50-year-old Fiser said last week, after his Grundy Wrestling Club team won its fourth consecutive state title and seventh in the last eight years.

Although he technically is a club coach, his team is the Grundy High School team. As a club coach, though, that’s all he does.

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“This kind of fell into my lap,” Fisher said. “It’s kind of a college job in a high school setting ... I’ve been blessed.”

Gable’s coaching tree is well-documented, but this group of eight “hit the jackpot,” Fiser said. Tom and Terry Brands, of course, are coaching at Iowa, Troy Steiner is the head coach at Fresno State after serving as Jim Zalesky’s assistant at Iowa and Oregon State and Terry Steiner heads up the women’s national freestyle program. Ryan is the very successful coach at Ohio State and Chelesvig just got back into coaching at Wisconsin-Whitewater.

“That’s pretty crazy,” Fiser said.

Although he said he’s been lucky to have all the coaches he’s had, Gable definitely left the biggest impression. Fiser and his wife, Jackie, named their first born Gabe.

“A little bit ... of course,” he said with a laugh when asked if Gabe was named after Gable.

“Gable gave us something,” Fiser said. “You wanted to be in that room, you wanted to be around him.”

Fiser has used the lessons he’s learned along the way to keep Grundy on top of wrestling in Virginia.

“I know how I wanted to be treated,” he said of his coaching philosophy. “I enjoy the challenge of taking them from the beginning ... I like them to end on a good note.

“I like them to say ‘I wish I had another year.’”

His son, obviously, learned a lot from his dad. Gabe won his fourth state title last month.

“Things have to line up for you, but you have to do the work,” Travis said of his son, who has been contacted by Brands, as well as Virginia Tech and another former Hawkeye, John Oostendorp, at Coe. “He’s pretty tough.”

Gabe has met his namesake.

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“Coach Gable had an impact on my dad’s life that he will remember forever,” Gabe told the Bristol Herald Courier. “... (Gable’s) a great guy ... If you need advice, you go to him. He’s great.”

Turns out, his dad is pretty great, too.

“I’ve been lucky,” Fiser said. “You love what you do, you never work a day.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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