By Andrew Johnson
RAVENNA – 129.
It’s the school career record for victories, set by former Bulldog wrestler Joe Drummond, and Kiester very much wants to reach it and surpass it this season.
“I have two goals,” Kiester said. “I have the goal of becoming a state champion and breaking the school record for career wins.”
As of Jan. 6, Kiester had a total of 104 victories in his three-plus years of varsity wrestling, and is mindful of when his 129th and 130th victories may take place.
“I think about it all the time,” said Kiester, who posted a 39-14 record last season and is 17-1 so far this year. “I think I should be able to get it around district time, or maybe into regionals.”
His other goal – to become a state champion – seems within reach, as well. He finished sixth overall at the individual state finals last season in the 119-pound weight class.
“It was a really exciting time,” Kiester said about wrestling in the finals at the Palace of Auburn Hills, on the floor where the Detroit Pistons play. “It’s like nothing else when you’re in front of those people.
“Honestly, when I’m in front of a bigger crowd, I perform way better. I prefer the adrenaline.”
To prepare to reach his lofty goals this season, Kiester spent last summer and fall in events that pitted him against elite competition. One event was the Grappler Fall Classic in Battle Creek in October.
“It had top kids from all over the United States and I didn’t do very good,” said Kiester, who has moved up to the 125-pound weight class this season. “I went 0-2 and it made me work even harder because it’s rare that I go 0-2. It made me so mad.”
While working hard to reach his individual goals, Kiester is also mindful that he’s considered a leader of the Ravenna wrestling team, which was re-established in 2011 after a 19-year hiatus.
The Bulldogs have a 7-6 dual match record this season, despite having four empty weight classes and fielding two first-year wrestlers in the lineup.
“I get reminded that I’m supposed to lead every day from coach,” said Kiester. “I get reminded how I should always be leading people and how I’m supposed to show them what to do and not to do.”
When it comes to leadership, Ravenna Coach James English said Kiester has what it takes.
“He’s an all-around great kid and a role model,” said English. “He’s one of those kids that the guys can look up to and feed off of his knowledge.
“He’ll step into practice and show moves to guys, and give them details as to why those moves work for him. He’s a good practice opponent for them and helps them get to another level.”
With one month remaining before individual districts on Feb. 11, Kiester said he’s ready for his final push as a high school wrestler, and would love to go out as a state champion.
“I pretty much have told myself I don’t want to be settling for sixth place this year,” he said.