It’s business as usual for upstairs at the Joseph Charter School gym where the wrestling team practices. Coach Tim Kiesecker has 10 wrestlers on his squad this year, five from Wallowa High School.
“We’re pretty solid with what we’ve got,” Kiesecker said. He looked over at Reuben Hunt, a Wallowa freshman wrestling at 235 pounds. “If he keeps growing like his dad’s built, he’ll be mean by the time he’s a senior.”
Steven Beckman, state champion last year and the year before at 106 pounds, practices his mat moves with a wrestler several weight classes above. He’s a sure returner to state.
The 10 wrestlers don’t cover the 14 weight classes wrestling offers and two weight classes are doubled up, meaning one will have to lose weight. Kiesecker said he is careful that his wrestlers don’t lose weight to the point of unhealthiness.
The squad lost only one wrestler to graduation, so things already look good for state. Kiesecker sent five wrestlers to state last year.
“I’ll have five again easy,” he said. “I think we’ll send six kids to state.”
State will present its challenges as wrestling combines 1A and 2A programs and Culver, a 2A school, has one of the toughest programs in the pacific northwest.
“They’ve won state pretty much every year the last 25 to 30 years,” he said. John Day and Enterprise also offer tough 2A competition to 1A Joseph.
Kiesecker’s other competition is other sports. Wrestling doesn’t have the glamour of basketball. Kiesecker lost several wrestlers to that sport this year.
Despite the struggle to recruit new wrestlers, Kiesecker keeps a tough regimen and holds his squad to task. One boy tells Kiesecker he has to leave practice early to do homework he procrastinated on. The boy doesn’t have a good answer as to why he can’t wait until after practice. The coach shakes his head after he tells the boy to go and finish his homework.
“He’s going to hate tomorrow,” Kiesecker said. “I make it so they don’t want to miss practice.”
Kiesecker isn’t one to teach the same program year after year. He cleaned out a storage room where the squad practices and shows films from college wrestling programs that show the latest moves.
The wrestlers are busy on the mats. Kiesecker takes the time to observe technique, offering advice here and there, getting down on the mat to demonstrate on occasion. Then he gathers his wrestlers and they march off to the converted storage room for film time. The season is waiting.