Josh and Caleb Bower never really left the Matanzas High School wrestling room.
The identical twins graduated from Matanzas in 2019 and went on to wrestle at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa.
That summer, they were back in their high school wrestling room helping out.
“We always knew, whether it was Christmas or summer break, that Josh and Caleb would be in the room,” Matanzas wrestling coach T.J. Gillin said. “When they weren’t on their college campus, they were on our campus.”
Now, the Bower brothers are full-time teachers and assistant wrestling coaches at their high school alma mater.
“Coming back here, we just drilled and coached and worked with all the kids,” Caleb said. “We kept in contact with T.J. through all four years of college. It just made sense that this was the next thing to do.”
Caleb teaches Algebra II. Josh is an ESE support facilitator. Neither of them majored in education. Caleb majored in business management and minored in health and exercise science. Josh majored in both business management and health and exercise science.
They took tests the past two summers to acquire their teaching certifications.
“I enjoy coaching,” Josh said. “It’s actually a blast. “I thought it would be like a different adjustment, going from being the athlete to the coach, but I've enjoyed it a lot.”
Caleb and Josh are two additional coaches in the room with college wrestling experience.
At Simpson, they wrestled for coach Dylan Peters, who was a two-time All-American at the University of Northern Iowa.
They wrestled in the toughest Division III conference in the country.
“Iowa is a really dense wrestling state,” Caleb said. “I have a lot of experience wrestling all across Iowa.”
The brothers wrestled one weight class apart throughout their college careers. Their freshman year, Caleb wrestled at 133, while Josh wrestled at 141. Caleb eventually moved up to 149.
“One of us throughout the course of a season would be heavier or lighter,” Caleb said. “I would be bulking up or he'd be slimming down. We would just make it work, because it's rough to go to a tournament and wrestle your brother.”
The Matanzas wrestling program has grown quite a bit since Josh and Caleb were in high school. Josh qualified twice for the state championships; Caleb qualified once.
When they were freshmen, the Pirates’ first female wrestler, Makayla Wilder, joined the program. Last season, Matanzas won the girls state championship, and the girls squad enters the 2023-24 season nationally ranked. Over the past two years, Matanzas has had four girls and two boys finish among the top two in their weight class at state. Tiana Fries (2022) and Kendall Bibla (2023) won state titles.
It's night and day. When we were wrestling here it was hard to go to states. Our goal was to qualify for states. No one was really expecting to win or make the finals. But T.J. (Gillin) and (Mike) Fries have created an environment where they're expecting kids to win states.”
— JOSH BOWER
“It's night and day,” Josh said. “When we were wrestling here it was hard to go to states. Our goal was to qualify for states. No one was really expecting to win or make the finals, because it was just so hard to do. But T.J. and (coach Mike) Fries have created an environment where they're expecting kids to win states. They want a championship team. They want to keep growing the program and really develop it. And part of that was bringing us on, because they've already had three or four college coaches in here, being able to wrestle with the kids and give them a college feel, preparing them for the next level.”
The boys and girls have separate teams, but they wrestle together. Josh and Caleb drill with both. The girls are more intense, they say.
“Our freshman year, it was hard for Mikayla to adjust because she was the only girl in the program,” Caleb said. “You come in now as a freshman girl, you'll be welcomed with open arms and you'll have one of the best coaching staffs in the entire state.”