The Gibbons name is synonymous with wrestling excellence. In 1981, Joe Gibbons joined older brother Jim as members of the storied Iowa State wrestling program and etched his name among the all-time greats in Cyclone history.
Gibbons was one of the most coveted high school recruits in the nation, becoming the first wrestler in Iowa prep history to win four state titles in Class 3A (Iowa large class). He wrestled his first two seasons for Waterloo Columbus High School and finished his prep career at Ames H.S. Gibbons, who finished his prep career with a 105-5 overall mark, did not allow a single takedown his senior season and was not scored upon in the state meet.
Much to the joy of legendary ISU head coach Harold Nichols, Gibbons picked the Cyclones over the rest of the nation to further his wrestling career. Gibbons wasted little time proving his mettle, going 25-5-2 in his rookie season (1982) at 126 pounds. He won his first Big Eight Conference title and earned All-America honors by placing fourth at the NCAA Championships, where the Cyclones placed second as a team. He was honored as the nation’s best freshman by the Amateur Wrestling News.
Early-season injuries forced Gibbons to redshirt in 1982-83, and the Cyclone star moved up to the 142-pound weight class for his sophomore season in 1983-84. Another injury hindered Gibbons’ progress during his sophomore campaign, however. He missed five weeks of the season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, but battled back to post a 27-8 overall record and finish fourth at the NCAA Championships.
Gibbons’ junior season (1984-85) was his best by far. He racked up an ISU single-season record 50 wins en route to his second Big Eight title and his first NCAA crown at 142 pounds. Gibbons defeated Princeton’s John Orr, 4-3, in the 1985 NCAA title match to give the retiring Nichols his 38th NCAA champion.
After Nichols stepped down, Gibbons’ brother, Jim, took over as ISU’s fourth head coach for his younger brother’s senior season. The younger Gibbons earned All-America honors for the fourth time, finishing third at the 1986 NCAA Championships. Only 10 Cyclones have earned All-America status four times. In all, Gibbons won 11 tournament titles, including a Midlands crown in 1982, and was victorious in 124 career matches, which ranks ninth all-time in school history.
Gibbons stayed on at ISU as a volunteer assistant on his brother’s staff until 1992. He currently owns and operates restaurants in central Iowa.