By KIRK HARDCASTLE
NIACC Sports Information Director
When you begin to discuss the great college rivalries, several come to mind.
On the national scene, North Carolina/Duke, Auburn/Alabama and USC/UCLA are some of the first ones people discuss.
On the state scene, the one that people banter about is the Cyclone and Hawkeyes.
In North Iowa, there used to be a great one in NIACC vs. Waldorf, which ended when Waldorf became a four-year school in the fall of 2004.
“There was no better rivalry in junior college sports than NIACC-Waldorf,” former Globe Gazette assistant sports editor Bob Fenske said, “and I don’t just mean in Iowa.
“Some of it was the close proximity to each other and the fact that local athletes were often recruited by both schools.”
But Fenske said the rivalry between the two schools, which are separated 36 miles, goes much deeper than just the local athletes that competed against each other.
The athletes that were recruited from beyond the North Iowa area quickly learned that there was something special brewing when NIACC and Waldorf played each other.
Fenske recalled driving up to Lake Mills with former NIACC all-American running back Tank Corner in 1990 to get a photo for a story of Corner on top of a tank.
Fenske asked Corner, an Illinois native, how long it took him to realize that playing against Waldorf was a “big game.”
“Five minutes,” Corner replied.
“Five minutes into the game?” Fenske asked.
“No, five minutes after I got to Mason City,” Corner, an Illinois native, responded.
It didn’t take KGLO’s Tim Fleming long either to figure out that the NIACC/Waldorf rivalry was special.
Fleming arrived in Mason City in 1977 and soon after coming to town he met up with then NIACC men’s basketball coach Herb Konigsmark.
Konigsmark, who was the boys basketball coach at Forest City High School before taking over the men’s basketball program at NIACC, told the new sports guy in town about the fierce rivalry in simple terms.
“Herb told me there were two things that had to happen every year,” Fleming said. “No. 1, you have to beat Waldorf at home.
“And No. 2, you had to beat Waldorf in Forest City.”
The long-time rivalry started in 1922 when Waldorf beat Mason City Junior College 6-0 in football.
In the 1922-23, the two schools started playing each other in men’s basketball.
For the record, Mason City Junior College swept the season series in men’s basketball in 1922-23 by winning games by the scores of 40-13 and 17-12.
Through the years more sports were added to the rivalry with the schools squaring off against each other in baseball, softball, volleyball, women’s basketball and men’s soccer.
And when the two schools played, no matter the sport, it was a must-see event.
“Whenever NIACC and Waldorf played, the crowds were huge,” former KIMT sports director Pete Hjelmstad said, “no matter what their records were.
“The intensity could be felt just by walking in the door and talking to people. Those games were fun to cover. Because of time restrictions to get the video on air, I always had to leave before the end of the game. It was something I got used to with most games, but it was always harder to leave that game early.”
Former Globe Gazette assistant sports editor Bill Speltz’s most vivid memories of the NIACC/Waldorf rivalry are ones that took place on the football field – either at Mohawk Stadium in Mason City or Bolstorff Field in Forest City.
Speltz says he will never forget the legendary hall of fame coaches in NIACC’s Dick Ramsey and Waldorf’s Dave Bolstorff.
“The two could not have been more different,” Speltz said, “both in their personalities and offensive schemes.”
And even though reporters are taught to be unbiased, but more than 20 years after the fact, Speltz admits that he pulled for one team over the other.
“Ramsey was the outgoing one, a hoot to chat up with his southern drawl and sense of humor,” Speltz said. “Truth be known, I always pulled for Ramsey’s teams when they played Waldorf.
“His offense was more wide open and exciting to watch. On top of that, I had insider information on the kind of guy he was because my younger brother attended NIACC and always spoke highly of Ramsey and his treatment of all students. Plus I loved the way Dick would call us at the Globe-Gazette, win or lose, wearing his heart on his sleeve.”
Fenske called the some of the coaches in the rivalry when he was working at the Globe Gazette “larger-than-life characters.”
“Waldorf had Dave Bolstorff, the chaplain coach, Denny Jerome and a host of great coaches,” Fenske said. “NIACC had Herb Konigsmark, Jerry Dunbar, John Oertel, Dick Ramsey and a host of great coaches.
“Maybe what made it so special is that while both side wanted nothing more than to beat the other side, there was such a healthy, mutual respect for each other.
“NIACC-Waldorf is what college sports are supposed to be all about. And I’ll tell you this much, I miss it.”
The rivalry in men’s basketball took a twist in the 1993-94 season when then Waldorf coach Dan Mason replaced the legendary Konigsmark as the NIACC head coach.
“The men’s games were always fun, especially after Dan Mason went from Waldorf to NIACC,” Fenske said. “During the national title year (1994-95), Paul Bruns went off for like 20 points in the last nine minutes of the game and NIACC came back from a double-digit deficit.”
One of the more legendary games was the 1995 NJCAA Region XI men’s basketball semifinal tournament game in the NIACC gym, which was won by the Trojans 87-74.
“Waldorf was up 20 in the first half,” Fenske said, “but NIACC scored the half’s final eight points and you just had a feeling the Trojans were going to win that game, which they did.
“I may not remember the score, but I remember it was just a charged atmosphere that night in the gym. Then again, it always was when NIACC and Waldorf met.”
Each month leading up to the March 23, 2019 Trojans Forever event, we will reveal, in chronological order, 25 members of the NIACC 100, who are 100 athletes from MCJC and NIACC who have had a significant impact in the athletic arena. The first 25 were revealed in December.
THE SECOND 25
This is the second in a four-part series about the history of NIACC athletics. Stories about the school’s rich, athletic tradition will also be published in February and March leading up to a March 23 event on campus where NIACC will celebrate 100 years of NIACC/MCJC athletics.