Over 200 career wins. Multiple state tournament appearances. Three ranked wrestlers.
One household with one set of talented brothers.
And one uncle who has accomplished all that and more in the sport of wrestling.
Shadow, Brett and Bryce Leshen are in quite a battle for bragging rights this winter within their own household. The three brothers combined are 86-1 so far this season and are among five ranked wrestlers on an Albia team that is currently ranked seventh in Class 2A by the Predicament.
To say there’s a high bar for competitiveness within this household is an understatement.
“It makes me work that much harder because I definitely want to place higher then they can,” Brett Leshen said. “Everything’s competitive in our house.”
That competitive nature could lead all three brothers to the top of the podium at the state wrestling meet, something only one Albia wrestler has ever accomplished.
The Leshens know that star grappler well. To many, he’s 2005 Class 2A 130-pound state champion Nick Pickerell.
To the brothers, he’s simply known as “Uncle Nick,” brother to their mother Angie.
“He’s a very special person. He’s one of kind,” Shadow said of his state champion uncle. “You don’t get those kind of people all the time in your life that have wrestled at a high level. He knows so much about this sport and he’s there to help you out when you need it.”
Pickerell, who won consecutive state titles to cap his prep career, is spreading his knowledge of the sport to several young wrestlers throughout southern Iowa. Both he and brother Tom run the “Young Bucks,” a youth wrestling program that has produced successful grapplers at Albia, Oskaloosa and Knoxville among other schools.
But as a volunteer coach for Dave Wenger’s Blue Demon staff, Pickerell is setting his goals just as high for the state tournament as he did as a competitor.
“The goal going into this year is a quadruple,” Pickerell said. “We have five guys that are ranked. I know those guys personally and their goals are to win state titles. There’s no reason they can’t achieve that goal.”
“He knows what it takes to be the best of the best,” Brett said of Pickerell. “He brings that experience into our wrestling room and makes us work as hard as he did. It’s a great feeling knowing he’s a state champion and he’s here to help get us to that point as well.”
So far this year has been a special one for the Leshen brothers, who are together on the same Albia wrestling team for the first time. Both Shadow (30-0) and Brett (29-0) are ranked third in their weight classes as juniors, with each earning their 100th career win along the way.
Freshman Bryce, meanwhile, is off to a 27-1 start in his prep career, earning the youngest Leshen a No. 5 ranking at 126 pounds. It’s a remarkable run of success for the brothers that might surprise some, but doesn’t surprise their uncle.
“The reason it doesn’t is because I’ve seen how hard these guys work,” Pickerell said. “My brother Tom was running these guys when I was in college. We have high expectations in our family.”
“It’s great as a head coach to have someone like Nick here giving so much back to this program,” Wenger said.
Pickerell certainly met those expectations not too long ago on the mats, compiling a 166-9 prep record that included three appearances in the state finals, 95 straight wins to cap his career and the No. 12 national ranking at 135 pounds as a senior by Wrestling USA magazine.
So what does it take to achieve that kind of success on the mats?
“It’s a commitment to a lifestyle. That’s what I tell these guys,” Pickerell said. “Wrestling’s different than any other sport. You’ve got to be willing to make sacrifices. That’s what this sport is about.
“I tell these guys all the time that you have to do all the little things right to achieve the big things.”
Both Shadow and Brett have experienced the big stage of competing at the state wrestling tournament after both qualified last year. That experience seems to have galvanized both brothers to the success both are having this year
“Everybody knew they were good when they were freshmen. Just how good was the only question,” Pickerell said of Shadow and Brett. “They’ve kind of sent a message and now they’re both ranked third in the state.”
Pickerell fully expects the youngest of the trio, Bryce, to follow right along in keeping the family tradition of success going.
“Bryce has all the ability to be right there with both Shadow and Brett and he’s got the attitude, which is always important in wrestling,” Pickerell said. “I think if you’d ask Shadow or Brett, they might not have had the same goals. Bryce has the attitude that his goal is to win state this year.”
“I feel really confident right now,” Bryce added. “The only I feel like is that I can win it. That’s what I’m going to shoot for.”
Besides the Leshen brothers, Albia has state title hopefuls in juniors Griffin Osing and Dalton Folkerts. Osing, who recently won his 100th match, is 29-0 this season and is ranked fourth at 152 while 12-0 Folkerts is seventh rated at 145 pounds.
“It’s been a dream come true for me as a head coach,” Wenger said. “Seeing where this program was when I first got here to the success we’re having now is incredible.”
Pickerell has already experienced the thrill of coaching in the state finals after seeing Shadow battle for a state title at 113 pounds last year. If all three brothers have it their way, they’ll make this year’s championship Saturday night in Des Moines a busy one for their uncle and the rest of the Albia coaching staff.
“We all want to be state champions and that’s what we’re going to do this year,” Brett said.
“I won’t be surprised if it happens,” Pickerell added. “But I will be extremely happy.”
Over 200 career wins. Multiple state tournament appearances. Three ranked wrestlers.
- McConnell gears up for final track season OTTUMWA — Cody McConnell is in the home stretch, so to speak. For McConnell, an Ottumwa track and field distance runner and a two-time state qualifier on the cross country team, his goal for his final track and field season is quite simple: "My prima
- Kanaskie looks back on first season OTTUMWA — Kevin Kanaskie casually joked around with his some of his players Thursday afternoon in his classroom before he discussed the past and future of the Ottumwa boys basketball program. Kanaskie, dressed in casual clothes that conveyed a laid
- OHS enior runner always gives her all OTTUMWA — Charlette Flanders has had a solid run on Ottumwa's track and field team filled with a couple of trips to the Class 4A state championship. Today, Flanders, who qualified for state in the 4x400 relay last spring and also competes in the 400
- Doughty's no-hitter highlights IHCC's Sunday split SEMINOLE, OK. — A day of two very different games against two very different teams ended with a major early-season boost for the Indian Hills baseball team. Sophomore pitcher Aaron Doughty tossed a five-inning no-hitter to help Indian Hills earn a sp
- Charge! OTTUMWA — Ben Schooley always knew his team had the potential to be better than a .500 team. Being good enough to be the first Chariton boys basketball to qualify for state since 1972? Maybe that was asking a bit much. Eighteen consecutive wins later
- IHCC gets National Tournament's top seed OTTUMWA — Indian Hills will have the target as the top ranked team in the nation entering the NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Tournament next week. On Monday, the Warriors found out they’ll have the target as the top seed in the 24-team el
- On Tap Tuesday Boys Basketball Class 3A State Quarterfinals Chariton vs. Dubuque Walhert at Des Moines (Wells Fargo Arena), 2 p.m. College Baseball Indian Hills at McLennan, 2 p.m.
- Iowa Boys State Basketball Tournament Monday, Mar. 10 Class 1A State Quarterfinals No. 8 Keota (24-1) vs. Easton Valley (21-2), 10:30 a.m. No. 1 Newell-Fonda (25-0) vs. No. 9 West Lyon, Inwood (20-5), 12:15 p.m. No. 5 Dunkerton (25-1) vs. East Mills (23-3), 2 p.m. No. 3 Lamoni (25-0) vs.
- Boys State Basketball Tournament Boys State Basketball Tournament At Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines MONDAY Class 2A State Quarterfinals Albia (16-7) vs. Western Christian, Hull (24-0), 6:35 p.m. (KIIC 96.7 FM) At Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines Boys State Basketball Tournament
- Iowa Girls State Basketball Tournament Monday, Mar. 3 Class 1A State Quarterfinals No. 4 Colo-Nesco 38, No. 6 Lynnville-Sully 34 No. 1 Newell-Fonda 73, Bedford 37 No. 2 Janesville 58, No. 11 Rockford 46 No. 3 Burlington-Notre Dame 90, No. 8 Adair-Casey 50 Class 2A State Quarterfinals No.
- More Sports Headlines