MOUNT PLEASANT — Two years ago, Jake Kadel had his life all mapped out.
The New London High School and University of Iowa graduate was going to get into medical school, then follow in the footsteps of his father, Dr. Kelly Kadel, a longtime podiatrist.
That all changed last year when Kadel spent a year as the top assistant coach for the men’s and women’s wrestling teams at Iowa Wesleyan University.
Kadel got the coaching bug, and a year later he finds himself as the new head coach of the Iowa Wesleyan men’s and women’s wrestling teams.
Iowa Wesleyan made the formal announcement on Friday, removing the interim tag Kadel had before his title since December when he replaced Shawn Contos.
For Kadel, it was a matter of semantics. For Iowa Wesleyan, it is a big step forward in continuing the momentum Kadel and graduate assistant coaches Steven Holloway and Cash Wilcke built over the last four months.
“It’s very exciting, but at the end of the day it’s what I have been doing since December,” Kadel said. “It’s a continuation of the learning process in becoming a head coach.
“I never had aspirations of coaching at the college level. But sometimes things don’t go as planned. I originally planned to go to medical school. I got on a waiting list for several years and never got it. This past year I didn’t ‘t reapply. I decided to explore coaching because I really enjoyed it that first year. The way everything developed, now I am a head coach.”
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Kadel led the Iowa Wesleyan women’s team to a 13th-place finish at the NAIA Women’s Wrestling National Invitational, which took place in Jamestown, North Dakota, on March 11-12, 2022. Adaugo Nwachukwu became Iowa Wesleyan’s first NAIA women’s wrestling national champion, while Mia Palumbo was the national runner-up in the 109-pound weight class.
“I think that helped,” Kadel said. “Our coaching staff’s biggest goal is putting emphasis on the postseason and helping our athletes achieve their goals. In the end that’s the only thing that really matters. Our main priority is putting them in position to succeed, whether that is on the mat, in the classroom or in life.”
Kadel was the assistant coach for Iowa Wesleyan’s wrestling programs for the inaugural season of the women’s program and the return season of men’s wrestling since the 1970s. Five Tigers qualified for the National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships during this season. Alaina Sunlin and Daisy Scholz walked away with fifth and sixth-place finishes, respectively, along with the title of All-Americans.
The Iowa Wesleyan men finished 10th in the Heart of America Conference this past season with a team of all freshmen, besides one junior and one sophomore.
“We still have a lot of work to do on the men’s side,” Kadel said. “Our starting lineup was all freshmen. We had three guys who were in the bubble match for nationals. Just tuning up the little things will help.”
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Kadel was a three-time state semifinalist and four-time conference champion at New London, boasting a high school career record of 189-13.
After high school, Kadel became a member of the University of Iowa’s wrestling team, where he accumulated a career record of 23-18.
Before Iowa Wesleyan, Kadel spent one year as the assistant coach at St. John’s Jesuit High School and Academy in Toledo, Ohio. Prior to that, he was a wrestling instructor for the Hard Drive Performance Center in Cedar Rapids.
Kadel said his top priorities now are recruiting, beefing up the schedule and trying to keep Holloway and Wilcke on staff.
“Being a local person helps me because I know a lot of the head coaches in the area. Plus, a lot of my former teammates at Iowa are coaching clubs now,” Kadel said. “This past year we really didn’t compete against a lot of NAIA schools and that hurt us when it came to seedings at the end of the year. Next year I want the schedule to be better and stronger. We need to compete against all the schools in our conference and some other NAIA schools.Our goal is to get 15 events for the men and 15 events for the women.
“We have two amazing graduate assistants right now. They are two of the best graduate assistants in the nation. I need to find a way to keep them on board as assistants, then get two new graduate assistants for next year. I’m excited to get everything going and get started.”
Matt Levins is a sports reporter for the USA TODAY Network in Burlington, Iowa, who has covered local sports for 31 years. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.