To be remembered

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, November 22, 2017
The West Liberty Wrestling Hall-of-Fame inducted its first three members, Friday, Nov. 17, including Bill Goodale, Ben Scorpil and Coach Curt Diemer.

Around 75 community members crammed into the West Liberty Country Club for the ceremony, including the current wrestling team, to honor the three inductees.

“It was kind of surprising when they told me, because West Liberty has a lot of excellent wrestlers,” said Bill Goodale.

Goodale was not only a part of the inaugural induction ceremony held that night, he was the first Comet to make it to state in wrestling back in 1975.

West Liberty wrestling began in 1970; five years later Goodale would capture fourth place at state after coming in third in the conference tournament.

Goodale only lost six matches his senior year. His son, Ben Goodale, would go on to place at state in 1998.

Bill was joined by Scott Morrison, John Wertzbaugher, Brian James, Bob Brugman, Wayne Steen and Kent Jehleof in those emerging years.

Almost 50 years later wrestling has become one of West Liberty’s most successful programs. Year after year, Comet champions are born.

That’s why Lars Underbakke, junior high wrestling coach in West Liberty, felt it was important to organize a Hall-of-Fame.

The plan is to induct one to two new members every year. However, the 6-person board of directors chose three important figures this year to kick it all off.

“There’s a lot of great wrestlers from the past, people who built this tradition to where it is today,” said Underbakke. “Today’s kids need to know who they are.”

“We’re hoping to make it a tradition,” he added. “We have a really good team this year. I hope they do well and keep doing well so we have more candidates.”

Not that the Hall-of-Fame doesn’t have a lot to choose from right now. They made a great decision when they decided to go with Ben Scorpil.

Scorpil was the first Comet to place all four of his high school years at the state tournament from 1994 to 1997, years when West Liberty went back-and-forth with Wilton.

“It was a lot of fun, we just enjoyed what we did and we had good teammates,” said Scorpil.

He placed in the top three at state in Des Moines all four years and currently holds the record for most falls and is the all-time winningest wrestler in West Liberty.

“It was surprising. I didn’t know anything about the Hall-of-Fame until two weeks ago,” he said. “It’s fun looking back on all of it.”

Scorpil would go on to be one of six Comets to become state champions, including John Oostendorp, Nick Marin, Chad Morrison, Keith Pearl and Bryce Esmoil.

He was one of only two freshman in 1994 to make it to the state tournament and was consistently ranked number one in the state afterwards.

The third of the initial inductees into the West Liberty Hall of Fame is Curt Diemer, who was the head of high school Comet wrestling from 1989-2000.

“I’m proud of the kids that have come through the program and the people they are,” he says. “We worked hard, and I think we had a lot of fun along the way.”

Under Coach Diemer, the wrestling program reached new heights in participation. The Comets also won eight conference titles, no small feat indeed.

In the 1990s Diemer was running two varsity squads out of West Liberty during a time when other schools could hardly fill a single squad.

To top it off he was named the South East Iowa District Coach of the Year in 1992, not the last time he would achieve that title.

This is his 29th year with West Liberty wrestling. He currently coaches junior high wrestling and is there to help current high school Coach Jeff Wiele and his crew when needed.

“There’s so many great wrestlers and people involved it’s kind of humbling to be part of this,” he said. “There’s a lot of good people they could have chosen for this.”

“You can look around this room tonight and see many more deserving people,” he added. “There’s been a lot of really good wrestlers at West Liberty and hopefully there’s more.”

The plan right now is to hang the plaques for the three inductees in the high school wrestling room, though there’s hope to hang them in the lunch room.

Either way, the positive response for the Hall-of-Fame has been impressive. Usually a brand-new event or induction ceremony takes time to grow in popularity.

But given the response, the brand-new Wrestling Hall-of-Fame is already there. It’s a testament to how much this community loves the sport and its history.

“The response has been great; everybody seems to think it’s a great idea,” says Lars Undertakke.

“I think people are excited, I know a lot of the people I contacted to tell them they were in were surprised,” he says. “But now they’re going to be remembered.”
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