Teske is UNI bound
Four-time Dodger state champ trading Penn State blue for Panther purple
Brody Teske wanted it all when he committed to Penn State University: the championship culture, the national exposure, the elite brand.
It took a little time, a lot of distance and the right perspective for Fort Dodge’s four-time state wrestling champion to realize that his wants weren’t his needs, and those needs were much closer to home than State College, Pa.
Teske officially announced on Tuesday that he will be enrolling at the University of Northern Iowa to join head coach Doug Schwab’s wrestling program in Cedar Falls. The decision comes less than a week after Teske confirmed he had left Happy Valley midway through his redshirt freshman season, and was transferring to a different program.
The 125-pounder did a lot of smiling and plenty of forward thinking during an exclusive sit-down interview with The Messenger hours before he went public with his official plan. Teske sees speculation running rampant, and understands that will continue. He knows he’ll have naysayers and critics, who “believe what they want based on what they hear” and their own personal agendas.
“It’s all good. Those closest to me know the truth. I know the truth,” Teske said. “Sometimes, deciding who you are and what you aren’t is as important as anything. I feel like I’m much closer to that today. I was an 18-year-old kid being recruited by every school in the country (in 2017). When (PSU head coach and Iowa State legend) Cael Sanderson offers you a scholarship…I was convinced I needed that. How do you say no? I needed the big name. I needed Coach Cael. Penn State was the top of the mountain.
“I began to realize, though, that I was I chasing something that wasn’t me. On and off the mat, so much added up and made me understand what is truly important. And I feel like UNI aligns more with my values. Who I am not just as a wrestler, but as a person.”
Teske went 6-2 in open tournaments as an unattached competitor during his redshirt campaign a year ago, and was 5-2 with the Nittany Lions in the 125-pound slot this season through Christmas break. A number of issues were boiling under the surface, though, and when Teske’s knee flared up before a November dual at Arizona State, he began to reassess his place both with the team and the school.
“I was out all of December (with the injury), and when I came home for Christmas break, I really took a step back and had some difficult conversations with myself and my family,” said Teske, who at 177-1 is FDSH’s all-time wins leader. “Last Tuesday, I went to Coach Cael’s office and we talked through everything. I told him I just wasn’t physically or mentally satisfied with myself, which had been building for a long time, in all honesty.
“Look, I’m not going to speak negatively about Penn State. That’s an experience I will carry with me the rest of my life. I learned things from Coach Cael that I’ll take with me forever, and definitely miss. I’m not questioning what they do or the way they train. That would be foolish based on their track record. It works for some — it just didn’t work for me.”
Teske did admit distance became a factor.
“I’m 1,000 miles from home,” said Teske, the 2017 and ’18 Dan Gable Mr. Iowa Wrestler of the Year. “When you’re in high school, there’s a lot of appeal to that. I’m thinking, ‘there’s nothing for me in Iowa. I’m ready to move on from everything back in (the Fort Dodge area) and take on the world.’ Well, part of what I’ve learned through all of this is how much my values matter to me, and also, how to value myself and my own happiness more.
“My environment means everything. My family means everything. I love Iowa. That’s just something that’s in me and I kept coming back to that. When I was struggling with injuries (Teske has dealt with knee issues since high school), struggling to make weight, struggling with some of (the results), struggling with my frame of mind – I started thinking, ‘why am I putting myself through this when my college career is such a short period of time?'”
Teske will join former Dodger teammates Triston Lara, Drew Bennett and Cayd Lara, who are all currently members of UNI’s program. Fort Dodge was a state runner-up in 2017 with the foursome on its roster, and a year later, the school captured its first title in 33 years with Teske, Bennett and Cayd Lara leading the way as senior co-captains.
“UNI is just that hard-nosed grit — the way I was raised,” Teske said. “That blue-collar attitude. They don’t have all the glitz and glamour, and they don’t need it. It’s not a big business there. That’s what I love — the family atmosphere, which is what we embraced under Coach (Bobby) Thompson as Dodgers. I have great respect for Coach Schwab and his staff, and the way they treat their wrestlers. They’re very welcoming, and I feel like I can be me.
“I just have a much better understanding of what I’m looking for than I did when I was in high school. This isn’t going to be easy. I’m walking away from a tremendous opportunity and a scholarship at Penn State with no real guarantees (at UNI). That’s not the conventional way to do it. But I’m excited because I feel like I’ve found my true self and sense of purpose again.”
Teske praised the unconditional support coming from his inner circle – most notably, his parents, Dan and Wendy; sister, McKinna; close friends, and specifically, his 79-year-old grandfather, Carroll.
“This isn’t just about my happiness. It’s about my family’s happiness,” Teske said. “I can’t tell you how much, for instance, my grandpa means to me. He had seen every match of mine in person through high school, but obviously couldn’t make the (Penn State) trips and was watching on TV. It wasn’t the same.
“Knowing he’ll be able to be there in person again is huge. The two of us talked a lot about all of this on the 14-hour drive back home (from State College). I admire him so much. He said, ‘you have another tremendous opportunity — now it’s up to you to make the most of it.’ I’m excited to be back, ready to work and earn my way as a Panther. Penn State was Hollywood. This feels like home.”
Teske will be eligible to compete for Northern Iowa next season. The Panthers, a member of the Big 12 Conference, are currently ranked in the Top-20 nationally.