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Cedar Falls head coach Ryan Schultz celebrates a three point basket over Dubuque Hempstead in the second half of a Boys substate basketball game at the McLeod Center Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Cedar Falls won 62-56.

The Courier 

Mike Allen became one of the most decorated wrestling officials in the nation during his 35-year career. He has been inducted into a number of wrestling halls of fame.

Wrestling ref Mike Allen's two families made his career

WATERLOO — Mike Allen was blessed with two families while making his mark as a young man in Waterloo and later as a two-sport athlete at the University of Northern Iowa.

“I had my biological family growing up in Waterloo, and then when I came to UNI I had another family of great coaches who gravitated toward me,” Allen said.

An all-state football player and accomplished wrestler at Waterloo East, he became an all-conference wrestler and football player at UNI.

He went on to become one of the most acclaimed wrestling officials in the nation. Allen added another accolade to a distinguished resume Dec. 30 when he was inducted into the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships Hall of Fame in Hoffman Estates, Ill. It is one of many such honors Allen accrued in a 35-year officiating career, including joining the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Iowa High School Athletic Association Wrestling Hall of Fame.

He was the first African-American to work the state tournament finals in Iowa, the Big Ten finals and the NCAA finals.

Family values

He attributes much of that success to family.

“Betty and Willie Allen were the best parents. They set strong family values. It was very religious and they also set educational values. My mom got her degree from Gates College, and it was stressed to us that my three brothers, two sisters and I were to do the same. All of us got our college degrees because of the values set by our parents.”

Allen shared that dedication to education, spending 28 years as a school principal and also serving as athletics director at his alma mater.

Betty Allen’s reach was long. She was active in the Waterloo Women’s Civic Club and started the Betty Allen Scholarship in 1950, still handed out today to low-income families and local groups.

“I didn’t need role models like Charles Barkley once famously was quoted,” Allen said. “I had my mom and my dad. I didn’t need to look at Willie Mays or Hank Aaron. My dad and mom were the Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta King of our neighborhood.”

Allen said his dad went to work early every morning at the Rath Packing Co, mopping and buffing floors.

“I wasn’t ashamed of what we did,” Allen said. “We knew what we had to do.”

Allen said his own days of mopping were cut short.

“A tear dropped for me when they killed John F. Kennedy,” Allen said. “I never mopped another floor when they killed King. Martin Luther King Jr. was our black Moses.”

Allen said he never knew of racial tensions growing up in Waterloo.

“All the kids in our school were black,” Allen said. “Whenever we went to the grocery store all the folks were black. I didn’t know of any racial divide even though I only had two black teachers — Mrs. Ferguson in fifth grade, and James Jackson was my science teacher.”

He wrapped himself in sports, playing football at a time when Waterloo East posted its famous 57-game winning streak. He went on to Ellsworth Community College, and eventually played football and wrestled at UNI for legendary coaches Stan Sheriff, Don Erusha and Chuck Patten.

“They truly were my second family,” Allen said. “They didn’t want me to miss a class or miss a practice. If I did, somehow they knew right away about it and would seek me out.”

A nontraditional student, Allen was married at 18 and had two children by the time he got to UNI in 1970. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and health, and later added a master’s in elementary school administration.

A new page

Allen was serving as an assistant wrestling coach at Waterloo’s Central High School for head coach Gene Luttrell when he was presented with a new opportunity.

“I was coaching with Gene and I was questioning some calls on the mat,” Allen said. “Gene said if you think you can do it better, then you should take the officiating test. ... So I began my journey as a wrestling official.”

He started officiating in middle schools in the Cedar Valley and small towns around Northeast Iowa.

His first big match came when hall of fame coach Bob Siddens of West Waterloo was double-booked and called Allen to see if he would officiate the Oregon State-Iowa State match at Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 19, 1981. Allen jumped at the opportunity.

“Mike had a huge presence when he was on the mat,” said Kyle Klingman, director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum. “Part of that comes from being physically large in stature ... made Mike appear intimidating. Mike stood out as the best official in the country, and the wrestling community recognized him for his work.”

Allen went on to work 23 NCAA Division I championships and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame before retiring from officiating in 2009.

Klingman said Allen called some of the most important matches in college wrestling history.

“I always joke with Mike that he’s the most famous official in our sport since he is featured on so many posters,” Klingman said.

Allen has not strayed far from wrestling since then and currently serves as the coordinator of wrestling officials for the Big Ten, Big 12 and Mid-American conferences.

“I was able to earn this job based on what I did when I was an official,” Allen said. “I was a gentleman. That’s the way my mom and dad would have wanted it.”

Iowa is the best state, U.S. News says

CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa is the best state in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The Hawkeye state jumped up from sixth place last year to No. 1 in U.S. News’ 2018 Best States Report. Iowa’s economic opportunity and “access to high-quality health care” helped push the state to the top, U.S. News said in a news release.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds called the 2018 ranking “a humbling tribute” to the work ethic of Iowans.

“Every Iowan contributes to the success of their community and our state, and we celebrate this honor knowing that our work to build a better Iowa will never be finished,” Reynolds said in the release.

Minnesota, Utah, North Dakota and New Hampshire all followed Iowa to round out the top five “best states.” Louisiana came in at No. 50.

U.S. News evaluated states based on eight broad categories, each of which had its own more specific data points. Iowa ranked first in only one category, infrastructure, because of high scores for its internet access, public transportation, commute times, and bridge and road quality, U.S. News said.

The state ranked fourth for opportunity, a measurement of whether residents can succeed economically, and third for health care. It also ranked fifth for education, ninth for quality of life, 15th for crime and corrections, 17th for its economy, and 21st for fiscal stability.

U.S. News weighted health care, education and the economy the heaviest when determining states’ overall rankings.

In more specific categories, Iowa ranked high for access to health care (fifth), its affordability (third), employment levels (eighth), access to broadband (first) and education systems (eighth).

Iowa ranked low, however, for its business environment (46th), equality (36th), short-term fiscal stability (36th) and the efficiency of its state prisons (33rd).


Supervisors discuss Country View sale restrictions

WATERLOO — Black Hawk County officials are pondering what restrictions to place on their sale of the Country View care center.

Members of the county Board of Supervisors met by phone Tuesday with officials from the Marcus & Millichap real estate brokerage to hammer out details of a request for proposals from potential buyers of the county-owned nursing home.

The supervisors voted 4-1 earlier this month to consider selling Country View, which has been running a $2 million annual operating deficit covered by property tax increases.

A key consideration is whether Country View’s 170 employees would retain their jobs under new ownership and whether their pay and benefit levels would be maintained.

But Josh Jandris, of Marcus & Millichap, said putting too many restrictions in the proposal will “definitely have a negative impact on interest” from potential buyers.

Jandris said Country View’s costs were generally in line with other area nursing facilities except payroll and benefits costs are much higher than average.

“If we were to expect somebody to buy this asset, keep the same number of employees and offer the same payroll and benefits exactly, it’s going to fail,” Jandris said.

“The last thing we want to do is mandate something that really nobody can adhere to,” he added. “If they look at what’s currently being done they know it’s not sustainable.”

Board members also discussed requiring the buyer to maintain Country View as a skilled nursing facility for at least 10 years, retain current vendors and have priority admissions for Black Hawk County residents. One proposal would require a two-thirds majority vote of the supervisors to approve any sale.

Eric Johnson, an attorney hired to represent the county in the sale process, also said board members should consider carefully the restrictions being placed on a buyer.

“As you know, the more restrictions you put in there, the less attractive it could be to certain buyers,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t mean that you’re wrong to put those restrictions in by any means. I’m simply saying that’s the give and take that goes with that.”

A handful of Country View employees attended the board meeting Tuesday and asked the supervisors abandon the sale process and work with staff to reduce costs. Should the sale move forward, they asked the board to include employee protections in the sale requirements.

“Unfortunately, no matter the promises made by a buyer, we all know holding anyone accountable is next to impossible,” said Debra Vivians, a 29-year Country View employee. “Historically, after sales, care declines, employee turnover increases and resident satisfaction declines.”

Supervisor Chris Schwartz, who opposed putting Country View on the auction block, said he would push to maintain staff pay and benefits if other board members approve a sale.

But supervisor Tom Little said selling Country View may be the best option to save their jobs.

“There’s the real possibility if Country View isn’t sold, Country View could be closed, whether it be this board or a future board, just for the mere finance part of it,” Little said.

Meanwhile, Jandris noted the county’s requirement to follow state public hearing and bidding laws could pose a problem for Marcus & Millichap’s normal sale process.

Iowa law requires bids to be opened in public and be public records. Marcus & Millichap prefers to negotiate with potential buyers who don’t know what their competition is considering.

“It could potentially affect our ability to effectively negotiate with parties if they know what everybody offered and the terms of their deals,” Jandris said.

The county is tentatively expected to seek proposals beginning March 12 with a May 8 due date. Representatives of Marcus & Millichap previously said they believed Country View could fetch $5 million to $8 million in the market.

Traffic camera ban advances in Senate


DES MOINES — Traffic cameras used to ticket drivers who speed and run red lights would be banned under legislation approved Tuesday.

The ban passed the Iowa Senate on a 32-18 vote after legislators debated whether the cameras are traffic safety tools or money-making constitutional violations.

“It’s a racket,” said Sen. Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale. “It’s about money. This is about money.”

Said Sen. Tony Bisignano, a Democrat from Des Moines, “I think it should be an option. I don’t think the state should get to dictate to communities how to enforce their public safety.”

Legislators in the House are considering a pair of traffic camera proposals: One would ban them and another regulate them.

The debate over traffic cameras is not new to Legislature.

Opponents say they violate an individual’s constitutional right to due process by creating a presumption of guilt, all in the name of ticket revenue.

“I’m against traffic cameras because I believe you have a constitutional right to face your accuser,” said Sen. Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa.

The proposed ban is opposed by law enforcement agencies, who say the cameras make roads safer.

“To me, this comes down to local control, public safety and letting Iowans decide what’s best for their community,” said Sen. Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa.

Six Democrats supported the ban, including Bill Dotzler of Waterloo.

Bisignano offered an amendment to allow cameras but add regulations, but that proposal was voted down, 28-22. He also offered amendments to permit traffic cameras in school and work zones, but those, too, were defeated.

Bisignano during debate cited the amount of revenue local law enforcement agencies stand to lose, making it more difficult to provide public safety. Statewide, eight cities and Polk County would lose $12 million.

Cedar Rapids had collected the most revenue, about $4 million, in the 2017 fiscal year.

In other action Tuesday:

  • The Senate passed 50-0 a proposal banning Iowans working for the state to also work as foreign agents. The bill is in response to news reports in November of an Iowa couple who represented Saudi Arabian interests while also serving on state boards.
  • State fair-goers will be able to use credit card to pay for concessions under a proposal that received unanimous Senate approval.
  • A proposal to raise the legal limit on concession prices to clear the way for the popular restaurant franchise Dave & Buster’s restaurants to come to Iowa was approved, 45-5.
  • Iowans would be able to bring home up to 9 liters of alcohol for personal consumption, up from the current limit of 1 liter, under a proposal that was approved 49-1.
  • With most Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing, the Senate passed on a 28-22 vote a bill to create a Workers’ Compensation Fraud Unit within the state insurance division. The proposal would make workers’ compensation fraud a Class D felony, punishable by a sentence of up to five years and a fine between $750 and $7,500.