Former Iowa State wrestling Coach Jim Gibbons wants to be the third district’s next member of Congress. Gibbons brings the unique perspective of an athlete, coach, father, husband, and financial advisor to his congressional campaign. However, after talking with him for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon, it is clear that Gibbons’ drive, determination, and competitive nature are what will set him apart from Congressman Boswell should he win the Republican nomination next June.
Gibbons attributes his drive, determination, and work ethic to his father, who taught him to never accept defeat. “In order to succeed, you must a have a goal and a plan that allows you to achieve it,” Gibbons told TheIowaRepublican.com. At a young age, Jim Gibbons found success. At Ames High School, he won three state titles. At Iowa State University, he was a three-time All-American and won a national championship during his junior year.
When his collegiate wrestling career was over, then-ISU coach Dr. Harold Nichols, offered Gibbons a job as an assistant coach. When Nichols retired in 1985, Gibbons was named head coach. He coached seven individual NCAA champions while compiling a 96-32-1 career coaching mark. After winning the NCAA Championships in 1987, Gibbons was named national coach of the year. He was named Big Eight Coach of the Year in 1991 and retired from coaching after the 1992 season.
Since leaving coaching, Gibbons has been a financial advisor, most recently with Wells Fargo Advisors in West Des Moines. He also serves as a television commentator, providing color commentary for ESPN, The Big Ten Network, and Iowa Public Television. In 2003, he was named broadcaster of the year by the National Wrestling Media Association.
It’s been 17 years since Gibbons has entered an arena as a competitor, but when he files papers with the Federal Election Commission today, he will begin one of the most difficult matches of his life. Jim Gibbons is now a candidate for Congress in Iowa’s third district. The opponent he is preparing to take on is seven-term incumbent, Leonard Boswell.
In talking to Gibbons about the race yesterday afternoon, it’s clear that he plans to give Boswell everything he’s got. Gibbon’s told TheIowaRepublican.com, “I’m concerned about the direction of the country. Spending is out of control in Washington; it’s unsustainable. The larger government becomes, the fewer freedoms people have.”
Gibbons isn’t just flirting with the idea of being a United States Representative, he is in it to win it. “I’m burning the boat and attacking the island,” Gibbons added.
Gibbons talked about three specific bills that Congressman Boswell supported which he feels are out-of-touch with the values of central Iowans. Gibbons takes issue with the federal stimulus package that he says stimulated nothing but big government. While Democrats in Congress said it was needed to keep unemployment under eight percent, Americans are actually now dealing with ten percent unemployment. He is also critical of the health care bill that the house passed earlier this month and the cap and trade bill, which Gibbons believes could have dire consequences to our economy if passed into law.
Having been around a lot of candidates over the years, Gibbons might be one of the most prepared and determined candidates I have ever come across. In talking with him, you quickly realize that he is preparing for his congressional race just as if he was preparing for a wrestling match.
Gibbons shared with me his definition of success. He said you first have to set your goal – in his case, winning a seat in Congress. Then he told me, you have to determine what you are going to sacrifice to achieve that goal. Gibbons talked about how he would mentor his athletes as their coach. If they wanted to be a national champion, that meant they were not going to be going out on Friday nights. Or, if you want to be a good husband, it means you might not get to shoot a couple rounds of golf with the guys.
For Gibbons, the sacrifice that he will make is a pay cut and time away from his family. Gibbons has spent the last three weeks telling his clients that he is resigning his position with Wells Fargo in order to run for Congress full time. The next part of Gibbons’ definition of success is to associate with people have done what you are attempting to do before (or associate with those who are currently trying to accomplish a similar goal). And finally, Gibbons said he has to “work the plan.” Right now, “work the plan” means focusing on fundraising and building a campaign staff.
Iowa Republicans have had good luck in converting wrestlers into members of Congress. Both Jim Leach and Greg Ganske were wrestlers who took down incumbent congressmen when they won their respective seats. Gibbons is preparing to do the same.
Jim met his wife Anne while attending Iowa State. They have been married for 21 years and have two teenagers and a new born. The Gibbons’ are Catholic and are members of the Basilica of St. John in Des Moines.
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