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Nov. 18, 2016 by Dan Holm of the Des Moines Register

Ankeny Centennial co-head football coach Jerry Pezzetti was the recipient of the Walt Fiegel Award on Friday in Cedar Falls.

Jerry Pezzetti has been awarded a lot of honors during his legendary coaching career.

On Friday, Ankeny Centennial’s co-head football coach received an award that means perhaps as much to him as any other honor.

Pezzetti was the recipient of the Walt Fiegel Coaching with Character Award during halftime of the Class 4A championship game at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.

“I knew Walt very well,” Pezzetti said last week. “He was a friend of mine, and he coached over at Sioux City East forever. He was a great guy, and I was excited about it to receive an award–just knowing him as a person and the type of person he was.”

Fiegel, who led the Black Raiders to a state title in 1984, passed away in 2003. The Iowa Football Coaches Association instituted the award in his honor.

The award recognizes a coach who embodies the high character, integrity and concern for kids and service to the coaching profession that were so evident in Fiegel’s career.

“It’s an honor to receive something like this, especially knowing Walt and the things that he did for high school football in Iowa,” Pezzetti said.

Pezzetti completed his 56th season as a head coach on Nov. 11, when Centennial dropped a 41-17 decision to Dowling Catholic in the Class 4A semifinals at the UNI-Dome. The Jaguars finished with a 10-2 record.

Pezzetti surpassed the 400-victory career mark earlier this season, becoming only the second coach in state history to reach the milestone. He currently ranks 11th nationally for wins among active coaches.

Pezzetti guided Ankeny to Class 4A state titles in 1997 and 2012 and a runner-up finish in 2007. He then left in 2013 to begin the Centennial program along with his son, Ryan.

Pezzetti said he used to travel to Sioux City annually to work at Fiegel’s football camp.

“(Former Newton coach) Frank Gilson and I used to go to it together,” Pezzetti said. “And Frank passed away in 1985, so that tells you that I knew Walt for a long, long time. He was a big part of the Iowa Football Coaches Association, serving as the Executive Secretary (from 1977-94).”

Pezzetti fondly recalled the last time that he coached against one of Fiegel’s teams. In the fall of 2003, Ankeny traveled to Sioux City and posted a 34-10 victory over the Black Raiders.

Future Iowa player Andy Brodell rushed for 206 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Brodell is now a member of the Jaguars’ coaching staff.

“We were playing East and we faked real good on a play and Andy broke loose and he was in the open halfway down the field,” Pezzetti said. “Nobody was even near him, but the referees thought the ball was in the line and blew the whistle.”

A few months later, Fiegel passed away at the age of 69 after suffering a heart attack.

“I didn’t realize that it has been 13 years ago,” Pezzetti said.

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Feb 8, 2015 by STEVE ALLSPACH

Covering the Iowa high school football playoffs over the years, you treasure unforgettable characters, legends and icons like the late Walt Fiegel of Our Town’s East High and Pat Mitchell of Cedar Falls.

Wins and losses aside, Walt and Mitch were, still are, two of the winningest coaches in Iowa history.

Walt passed away a few years ago and Mitchell joined him in coaching heaven last week, dying at 75 in the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Prostate cancer took Mitchell.

Never to be forgotten are early morning playoff breakfasts in Cedar Falls with Fiegel, Mitchell, former West High coach Ken Winkler and Journal sport editor Terry Hersom discussing and cussing football and LIFE.

Fiegel and Mitchell seemed almost bigger than life.

The engaging duo only met once on the field with Cedar Falls winning a second-round 34-23 playoff tussle in 1999.

Walt was noted for numerous clever mantras to teach the game and beyond.

Mitchell’s I heard many times was “pad under pad and get close to the football.’’

Eerie, but I can hear ’em now.

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Nov 2, 2014 by DAVE DREESZEN

SIOUX CITY | A while back, a recruiter at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business came up with an idea to promote the school.

How about giving prospective students a free night in with popcorn and a movie, the recruiter told Barb Thomas, the college’s director of communications.

Thomas immediately liked the concept. And her thoughts quickly turned to two alumni who were in a position to make the combination happen — Steve Huisenga, an executive at Sioux City-based Jolly Time Pop Corn, who had donated popcorn to the college in the past, and Mike Wokosin, an executive for the movie rental chain Redbox, who serves on the business college’s alumni board.

Thomas called Huisenga to pitch the proposed joint venture.

“She called and said, “One of our alumni board members works for Redbox and we can probably get him to donate some movies,” Huisenga recalled of the conversation. “I said, “Just tell Mike to do it.”

To Thomas’ astonishment, she learned that Huisenga and Wokosin grew up together in Sioux City, and have remained close friends ever since.

“It was so funny to get an email from her that said, “I’ve got this great idea. There’s this guy out in Sioux City and he sells popcorn,” Wokosin recalled with a laugh last week.

“I said, ‘What are the chances? Who knew?’ ” Thomas said in an interview with the Journal last week.

This fall, the Tippie College is distributing around 1,400 individual microwave bags of Jolly Time and the same number of Redbox rental codes to prospective students, as well as to alumni at special events. The gifts are bundled in a fold-over pamphlet that thanks the two companies for the gifts and offers a short bio of Huisenga and Wokosin, both 1988 graduates of the Tippie College.

The bundle is the latest way the college has highlighted the success of its more than 260,000 alumni living and working around the globe. College officials have handed out swag bags with products made by companies that employ graduates like Huisenga and Wokosin.

“It’s a way to illustrate to them the breath of the Tippie network, and the University of Iowa business alumni who are all over the place and working in places big and small,” Thomas said.

Huisenga and Wokosin met as kindergarteners, when Huisenga’s family moved in across the street from the Wokosin home along Morningside’s Lincoln Way.

At East High School, they teamed on the Black Raiders football and basketball teams. “He was an offensive tackle and I was a running back. He was a center and I was a point guard,” Wokosin said.

Growing up as Hawkeye fans, they both enrolled in the University of Iowa after graduating from East in 1984. They then went their separate ways after earning undergraduate degrees in marketing from Iowa.

After a brief stint in Minneapolis where he sold direct mail, Huisenga returned to Sioux City to work for Jolly Time, where he is today the vice president of sales.

“It was the best decision we ever made,” he said. “It was a chance to move home and be closer to family.”

His wife, Julie, is also a Sioux City native and graduate of the Tippie College, where she majored in accounting. The couple have two children, Cole and Carley, who are both students at the University of South Dakota.

After leaving Iowa City, Wokosin moved to Chicago, where he worked in real estate investment. While there, he earned an MBA degree from the University of Chicago.

He then relocated to the Los Angeles area, where he worked in marketing for Warner Bros. and Universal Studios.

For the last 1 1/2 years ago, he has served as vice president of digital marketing for Redbox, which rents DVDs, Blu-Ray discs and games at 42,000 kiosks around the country.

Based in Chicago, Wokosin gets back to Sioux City as often as possible to visit family and friends.

“Sioux City is one of my favorite places,” he said. So much so that he named his son, River, after the Missouri River.

Wokosin and his wife, Amanda, have two children, River, 8, and Schyler, 3.

While separated by hundreds and even thousands of miles, Huisenga and Wokosin have gotten together frequently over the years for vacations and outings such as Iowa football games.

They both regularly play in the Walt Fiegel Foundation Golf Outing. The annual fundraiser is named for the late Walt Fiegel, their former football coach at East High.

Back when he was with Warner Bros. and Universal Studios, Wokosin said he brainstormed on how he and Huisenga to put together a movie and popcorn promotion. But the efforts never came to fruition.

“It took the University of Iowa and Barb at the Tippie school to connect the dots for us,” he said.


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by Steve Allspach

Cherokee’s Adam Timmerman, Emmetsburg’s Bruce Nelson and West Lyon’s Kyle Vanden Bosch will be inducted into the Iowa High School Football Hall of Fame during the upcoming playoffs in the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.

On the coaching side. Three with close personal ties will be involved.

Former Sioux City West Coach Ken Winkler will receive the Bernie Saggau Award and Pat Mitchell of Cedar Falls will receive the Walt Fiegel Award, named after the late Sioux City East coach.

Winkler, Mitchell and Fiegel were close friends on an off the football field and all three have been movers and shakers in the Iowa Football Coaches Association.

Winkler also coached state championship teams at Treynor and State Center West Marshall and Fiegel’s 1984 team won the 4A title.


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BARRY POE Oct 9, 2014

SIOUX CITY | Every 10 years, the fellas who played on East High’s 1984 state championship football team get together to relive the glory days.

And rightly so, since that team is the only Sioux City public school ever to capture a state high school football crown.

They’ll convene again on Friday for their 30th anniversary and once again be honored during halftime of the Black Raiders’ game against Council Bluffs Lewis Central at Olsen Stadium.

“We’ve got about 25 guys coming back this year, the numbers have dwindled a little bit of late because a lot of guys have kids who are playing sports now,” said Kevin Kay, an all-metro center on the ’84 team and the ‘unofficial’ organizer of the team’s reunions.

“A few of us will go to the pep assembly on Friday morning and the pre-game meal before the game, then they’ll introduce the team at halftime. After the game, we’ll head to Whispering Creek and watch a tape of the championship game.”

Ah yes, the championship game.

Although it was the pre-season No. 1-ranked Class 4A team and won its first seven games, East stumbled in the final two regular-season contests, suffering narrow losses to Sioux Falls Lincoln (8-7) and Fort Dodge (12-6).

The Black Raiders righted the ship with playoff victories over arch-rival Heelan (17-7) and Des Moines Roosevelt (28-27), setting up a title game matchup against mighty Waterloo West and its star quarterback, Courtney Messingham.

West was unbeaten entering the game and had taken over the No. 1 spot after the two East losses. Odds were stacked against Coach Walt Fiegel’s squad, but they once again defied those odds with a heart-stopping 21-20 victory at the UNI-Dome.

Among the heroes that night was senior cornerback Tom Bolton.

West had snapped a 14-14 halftime tie by marching 68 yards on its first possession of the second half. Then, the Wahawks stopped East on downs at the West 11-yard line.

Things were looking rather gloomy for the players in Orange and Black before Bolton took advantage of a rare miscue by Messingham, who went on to play quarterback at Northern Iowa and has been a longtime collegiate assistant coach, currently at the University of Indiana.

Messingham pitched to a trailing back who had slipped to the turf and when the ball bounced free, Bolton scooped it up and ran six yards into the end zone for the tying touchdown. Jay Lindstrom’s third PAT kick gave East a 21-20 lead with 2:29 left in the third quarter.

Ironically, those turned out to be the final points of the game, but not before East made a gallant goal line stand to preserve the iconic victory.

West moved from its own 10-yard line to first-and-goal at the Raiders’ 8 with just over a minute to play. From there, Messingham and teammates self-destructed.

On first down, tailback Glenn Seals took a hit and lost the football, but fullback Anthony Thomas recovered at the 14.

On second down, West was called for a holding penalty that moved the ball back to the East 29. On a repeat second down, Messingham, facing heavy pressure, unloaded a pass and was called for intentional grounding, resulting in a loss of down and third-and-goal at the 42 with 31 seconds left on the clock.

East’s standout defensive end Bob Grantham put the nail in the coffin, so to speak, sacking Messingham for a 14-yard loss back to his own 44-yard line. With no timeouts remaining, Messingham threw a pass out of bounds and the ball went over to East.

All that was left was pandemonium for the Black Raider faithful.

“I was already a state champion three times in track, so I knew what it was like,” said Al Burns, the multi-threat quarterback. “I wanted so badly for the other guys to feel what it was like. Track is an individual sport, so when you win you get all the glory, but I was really excited that everybody on our team got to see what it felt like. We were on top of the world.”

There were no shortage of stars on that squad, which kick-started its season with a 9-3 triumph at traditional power West Des Moines Dowling. Along the way, there were four one-point games and three more that were decided by less than a touchdown.

East pulled off a rare feat by winning twice at Memorial Field over Heelan, which had won state titles in 1975 and 1982. East won 13-12 in the second week of the season when Heelan missed a two-point conversion at the end of the game and 17-7 in the first round of the playoffs.

Back then, just eight teams made the 4A playoffs and it took only three wins to secure a state title. The Black Raiders built a 28-7 halftime lead on Roosevelt in a semifinal, only to see the Roughriders storm back before missing a potential game-tying extra point kick late in the game.

Four of the remaining five regular season games were one-sided affairs, but East escaped with an 18-13 victory over Sioux Falls O’Gorman when Burns threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Mike Krohn with four seconds remaining.

“It was an amazing year when you look at it from a community standpoint,” said Jeff Croston, an offensive tackle who went on to play at the University of Iowa. “I remember after the championship game looking up in the stands and seeing all of the orange and black and then seeing Coach Fiegel.

“After all of the hard work he had put in in his first stint as head coach and then coming back to take the head spot again. All those down years and then he comes back and brings back all the success. To win state for him and to be the only public school to win state was something special.

“Heelan had beaten us twice the year before and to flip it around and do what we did, things have to go your way.”

Fiegel, a Hall of Famer who passed away in 2003 at the age of 69, had three separate tours of duty as head coach at East. He was 18-23 from 1967-71 before returning to the helm in 1982, succeeding Terry Stevens.

Along with the state championship, Fiegel guided the Black Raiders to a 78-29 record from 1982-92, including nine playoff appearances in 11 seasons. He stepped down again in 1993, giving way to one of his longtime assistants, Jim O’Hern, who coached until 1997, when Fiegel was asked to return for a third term.

Fiegel, an ex-Marine who was just as concerned about teaching his players life’s lessons as football, had just completed his 22nd season at the East helm when he suffered a fatal heart attack on Nov. 12, 2003.

“The first game of the year we played Dowling and coach wanted to show the rest of the state that we played pretty good football on the west side of I-35,” Kay said. “He wanted to win that game so badly, you could see it in his eyes. It was all business that day. Luckily, we did win it.

“Then, before the championship game, he was so nervous he was getting sick to his stomach. He was a Marine Corps guy, so you could tell when it was time to not mess around. But one of his most famous quotes (there were plenty of those) was ‘I hope that football makes these kids a better person.’ That’s what he was all about.”

“We were kind of a diverse group of guys, some from Greenville that Walt used to call ‘the other side of the tracks,’ ” Krohn said. “I guess we all came together for one common goal.”

A good number of the players still reside in Sioux City or surrounding communities.

Defensive end Grantham was a first team all-stater along with linebacker Ed Gochenour. Tight end Tim Jackson was a third-team pick.

Gochenour was captain of the all-city team, which also included tailback Greg Schiltz (26 carries, 1,325 yards), Jackson (14 catches during the regular season and 10 more in the playoffs) and a trio of offensive linemen – Kay, guard Dan Rose and tackle Croston. Krohn, who although he was the hero of the O’Gorman game while playing offense, was the regular free safety and also made first team all-city.

The All-Sioux Interstate Conference team included six Black Raiders – Burns, Gochenour, Grantham, Jackson, Krohn and Schiltz.

Gochenour played at Morningside College and the University of Iowa; Burns at USD and Morningside; Kay, Krohn and Jackson at Morningside; Jon Danke, Rose and Scott Mayer at Wayne State and Bolton at Dana College.

Robbie Martin, a tenacious undersized starting guard, passed away in 2007.

At the conclusion of the season, Fiegel sent the following letter to every member of the team:

“Dear 4A football state champ:

Volumes could be written on your accomplishments this past year and I want you to know that the Fiegel family and especially myself want to thank you for making 1984 – “For Those That Believe, All Things are Possible.” You have made a school, community, city and the entire state very proud of your state championship. Be proud of it forever, but don’t forget where you came from.”

Rest assured, coach, they haven’t.

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TIM GALLAGHER  May 2, 2013

SIOUX CITY | Ten years ago this Halloween, Walt Fiegel coached his final football game. Try as they might, the East High Black Raiders fell to rival Bishop Heelan 27-0, ending the season with a 3-6 mark.

Down and out? That wasn’t Fiegel, the legend who piloted East to a Class 4A state championship in 1984.

Fiegel credited Heelan on that October night a decade ago, then focused on the future. “I thank Roger Jansen (Heelan’s head coach) for letting us play to a tie in the second half,” Fiegel said. “He’s a first-class coach. Heelan has a fine team and I congratulate them for winning the conference and reaching the playoffs.

“We’re going to put it all (equipment) away Monday, have our team banquet and sit down as a staff and prepare for next season,” he concluded.

Next season never came for Fiegel, who died of a heart attack 12 days later. He was 69.

I smiled while reading the faded game story. Wrapping up an inglorious 3-6 season, Fiegel lauded his rival before training his focus on next year.

A decade after his passing, Fiegel’s charges surely have him smiling. Three East High seniors, three West High seniors, two Bishop Heelan seniors and one each from Dakota Valley and North High will stand at the microphone May 10, introducing themselves to 300 people at the 10th Annual Walt Fiegel Foundation dinner and auction at the Sergeant Bluff Community Center.

They’ll say who they are, where they’re going and what they’ll study. They’ll each walk away with a $1,000 scholarship, bringing the number of high school seniors the Walt Fiegel Foundation has aided to 56.

“This is not an athletic scholarship,” says Jeff Croston, a 1985 East High grad and president of the Walt Fiegel Foundation. “The focus when we began this was to find that individual out there, a person Coach Fiegel would always embrace, the person who had challenges or obstacles to overcome.”

Michael Haight was one of those students. He didn’t star for Fiegel’s grid teams. Fiegel died after Haight’s sophomore year, a year in which Haight suited varsity, but didn’t play. Haight was sidelined from football with a foot injury his junior season, and a brain tumor, of all things, as a senior.

“Health-wise, I wasn’t getting stuff to go my way,” Haight told me in 2007, his freshman year at the University of Iowa. “I remembered Coach Fiegel’s saying about how tough times don’t last, but tough people do. That saying stayed with me.”

Catching up with Haight this week, I learned he’s a certified public accountant with Roth & Co. in Des Moines. He earned his master’s degree in 2011 and travels the state working with banks.

The 25-year-old sees the fruits of labor that dotted a trying prep football career. After missing nearly all of his junior football season with a broken foot, he looked forward to his senior campaign. It ended before it began, really, as Haight suffered two seizures on the first day of football practice. An MRI later that day revealed the brain tumor, which was benign. Haight never played football again.

A tough person like his old coach, Haight tackled tough times.

Haight’s tumor wasn’t expected to grow, so doctors signed-off on his plan to play basketball that winter. The Black Raiders finished third in Iowa’s class 4A ranks. Haight, a reserve on the squad, served as a captain.

“I learned a lot about myself that year,” Haight said. “I learned to be resilient and optimistic.”

Fiegel himself battled back from prostate cancer in 1996 to coach again. Besides the state title team, there were conference champs and teams that struggled.

“I won a state championship and I’m proud of that,” Fiegel said. “But don’t forget, I’m the only guy, too, to go 0-8.

“Tough times, I’ll tell you, is 0-8.”

Fiegel didn’t lose like that often. And the players, businesses, friends and former football foes who support the Walt Fiegel Foundation have fielded a winner in the decade since his passing.

The goal every year, according to Croston, is to use the dinner, auction and related golf tournament to pump $28,000 into an endowment while helping 10 “tough” young people begin their academic journey with scholarships.

“This is all about the kids and honoring coach Fiegel and making sure some of the characteristics he focused on are passed on,” Croston says. “We see kids who are hardworking, leaders in their class and, hopefully, someday in their community.”

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by Terry Hersom, Sioux City Journal

One of life’s grim realities, I guess, is that sorrow is everywhere, every day, and we can only pray to deal with it bravely or hope it doesn’t pile up on us any more than we can handle.

Certainly, this has already been a tough month for lots of people, but I should express some additional condolences to follow up on others mentioned earlier this week.

My deepest sympathies to all who’ve lost love ones, but especially to the family of John and Jan Hackett, whose son, Michael, an avid sports fan with whom I enjoyed some lively and thought-provoking discussions, died Jan. 10 in Des Moines at the age of 29 — a terrible tragedy to be sure.

Likewise, I was quite saddened to learn that Margaret Fiegel, 68, lost a long battle with health issues on Jan. 9, approximately eight years and two months after the death of her husband, Walter, the beloved former East High football coach and a good pal, quite frankly. A son, Jim, and two daughters, Jill Uhl and Beth McAlpine, live on as a tribute to two wonderful parents.

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By Barry Poe Apr 24, 2010

SIOUX CITY — It’s that time of year again.

It’s time for so many of the young men whose lives were changed forever simply by being around the late Walt Fiegel to celebrate their former coach once again.

Members of the Walt Fiegel Foundation will hold their seventh annual auction and golf tournament May 7-8, The dinner/silent auction will be held Friday May 7 at the Bluffs Area Family Center in Sergeant Bluff and a four-man golf tournament is Saturday May 8 at Whispering Creek.

Money raised from the events support the Walt Fiegel Scholarship Fund, which annually presents $1,000 scholarships to graduating seniors from each of the four Sioux City High Schools, along with South Sioux City, Sergeant Bluff-Luton and Dakota Valley.

Fiegel coached East High School to 128 football victories, 22 playoff appearances and the Class 4A state title in 1984. He passed away at the age of 69 on Nov. 12, 2003.

Several East High alumni established the Walt Fiegel Foundation in 2004 with the intent of continuing the legacy of Coach Fiegel through scholarships to high school students and eventually grants to community organizations. The sole purpose of the foundation is to perpetuate the values of Coach Fiegel in his memory.

To date, there are 36 teams entered in the golf tournament, but there are still some individual openings. For information on the golf or the dinner, call Dave Croston at (712) 251-2545. Cost for the dinner/auction is $25 per person.

Croston, an East High alum and former University of Iowa All-American who went on to play for the Green Bay Packers, was one of the founding fathers of the Fiegel Foundation.

“There will be a lot of good sports memorabilia auctioned off on Friday night,” Croston said. “We have Cubs tickets, Twins tickets, Iowa stuff, autographed stuff and all kinds of other excellent memorabilia.”

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Jerry Giese – Journal sports writer Jul 23, 2007

Marshall Tuttle has fond memories of Walt Fiegel.

The East High School linebacker/fullback was once a ballboy for the legendary football coach, who won 158 games in 26 seasons and posted a 128-79 record with the Black Raiders. Even as a youngster, Tuttle heard of stories about Fiegel, who died from a heart attack in November 2003, just a few short weeks after the season.

Tonight at halftime of the 35th Iowa Shrine Bowl at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Tuttle will be presented with the $2,000 Walt Fiegel Memorial Scholarship. He’s the first Sioux Cityan to win the scholarship, which goes to a student interested in the coaching profession, particularly football.

“It’s quite an honor,” said the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Tuttle, who will start at strong safety tonight for the North All-Stars, which has a 20-14 advantage in the series against the South heading into tonight’s 7 o’clock start.

“I know Walt because my mom was a physical education teacher with him. He’d give me and my sister an East hat. He loves kids. He’d do anything for anybody. He’d give the time of day for anyone. Read more »