ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Wrestling is all in the family for BOLD's Kieckers

Brothers Austin and Brady Kiecker aim for returns to the state tournament and sister Ava hopes to join them this year.

From left, Dan, Ava, Austin and Brady Kiecker are all a part of the BOLD wrestling program this winter. Dan is an assistant coach while Ava, Austin and Brady all compete for the Warriors varsity team.
From left, Dan, Ava, Austin and Brady Kiecker are all a part of the BOLD wrestling program this winter. Dan is an assistant coach while Ava, Austin and Brady all compete for the Warriors' varsity team.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
We are part of The Trust Project.

OLIVIA — Dan Kiecker isn’t quite sure how wrestling became a family sport.

Dan briefly wrestled as a kid but found his calling on the basketball court. But for three of Dan’s four kids — junior Austin, sophomore Brady and seventh-grader Ava — wrestling has become a family staple.

“I don’t know where they exactly got their talent from,” Dan said, “but it’s been fun watching them find success.”

Both Austin and Brady took up wrestling in preschool.

BOLD sophomore Austin Kiecker, right, hangs onto Medford's Charley Elwood in their 138-pound semifinal match during the Class A state individual wrestling tournament Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
BOLD's Austin Kiecker, right, hangs onto Medford's Charley Elwood in their 138-pound semifinal match during the Class A state individual wrestling tournament Saturday, March 5, 2022 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

“Beating them up at home,” Austin recalls about the early days of wrestling with his siblings. “They were with it for the first bit of it and then they didn’t like it anymore.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Brady added, “(I remember) just being a Guinea pig.” Around fourth or fifth grade, Brady found his love of wrestling.
Since then, Austin and Brady have been staples for the Warriors wrestling team. Austin is a three-time state entrant and has medaled twice: fourth in 2021 at 132 pounds and third in ‘22 at 138. This season, Austin is 11-1 and ranked second in Class A at 152.

Brady made his first state tournament in ‘22 at 120 pounds, going 1-2. This season, Brady is 8-5 while wrestling at 132 and 138.

According to BOLD head coach Matt Zupke, the brothers share a bond in their success: unparalleled conditioning.

“They have an ability to not get tired,” Zupke said. “We always say we don’t want the fear of getting tired to be an excuse for losing. They have a motor. They can go three periods plus overtime at a consistent level. A lot of kids can’t handle it.”

030522.S.WCT.BOLD wres Brady Kiecker.JPG
BOLD's Brady Kiecker, top, gains the advantage on Osakis' Jacob Taplin during their 120-pound match in Day 1 of the Class A state individual wrestling tournament on Friday, March 4, 2022 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

It was at last year’s state tournament when Ava got the bug to wrestle.

Ava is the youngest of the Kiecker kids. Her older sister, Makia, is the oldest of the kids, graduating from BOLD in 2020.

Ava did give wrestling a try in first grade. The appeal for her?

“Beating people up,” Ava said.

ADVERTISEMENT

She ultimately gave up wrestling to play basketball in fourth grade. Watching last year’s state wrestling tournament, which had a girls state bracket for the first time in Minnesota, piqued Ava’s interest.

“We were sitting in the stands watching the girls and she was really paying attention to the girls at the time,” Dan said. “Watching her pay attention to the girl wrestlers, I thought that she’s going to want to come back and do this. But we didn’t push her at the time and let her make her own decision, besides a couple nudges here or there.”

Ava also got an encouraging chat from one of BOLD’s conference rivals in Sauk Centre/Melrose wrestler Lanna Walter.

“We were able to fetch Lanna on the Xcel (Energy Center) floor and have her walk up and talk to Ava and tell her to come out for wrestling,” Zupke said.

Recent wrestling roundup:
Recent wrestling roundup coverage in west central Minnesota.
Prep wrestling report for Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in west central Minnesota. BBE beats Minneota and HLWW, falls to Canby

So this winter, Ava made the jump back on the wrestling mat.

The toughest part from leaving basketball for wrestling for Ava, “I had to leave my friends. (But) they’ve been supportive.”

Both her older brothers were caught a little off-guard by the decision.

“I was a little surprised,” Austin said. “She was doing basketball every weekend. … I didn’t think she was going to come back out.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Brady added, “I was surprised because she quit (wrestling) for two years.”

Competing at 106, Ava has a 5-5 record this season. She’s competed in two all-girls tournaments. She went 2-0 at the Melrose Girls Open. Then at the Redwood River Riot, she placed third at 107 with a 2-1 record. Both her wins came by fall.

“It’s been good,” Ava said on wrestling in the all-girls tournaments. “I thought I’d do better (at Redwood Valley).”

In the practice room, Ava’s quickly making up for lost time.

“She’s a sponge,” Zupke said. “She soaked up a lot of information really quickly. You can still tell there’s the couple years off that she took with things like positioning here or there. The way she picked up right where she left off with our varsity, it’s been really impressive.”

BOLD seventh grader Ava Kiecker, right, competes at practice on Monday, Jan. 2, 2023 at BOLD High School in Olivia.
BOLD seventh grader Ava Kiecker, right, competes at practice on Monday, Jan. 2, 2023 at BOLD High School in Olivia.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Dan is also a new addition to the team this year as an assistant coach after being pushed by Zupke to join the staff.

“I thought about it for a day and the more I thought about it, the fact of being down there (in the wrestling room) with all three of my kids, it was kind of a no-brainer,” Dan said. “I look forward to enjoying the season with them.”

Trying to navigate between the three unique Kiecker personalities is something Zupke is familiar with, having grown up with three brothers. With dad right there as well, Zupke sees the bonds wrestling has forged in the Kiecker family.

“With those three, they each have their own unique personality; I think it’s love-hate some days,” Zupke said. “I think Ava gets along with all of them, and Brady and Austin have a little more closer, competitive relationship.

“When it all comes down to it, at a tournament, they’re all sitting together. They’re family.”

Related Topics: WRESTLINGBOLD WARRIORS
What To Read Next
Girls basketball report for Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in west central Minnesota. Jaguars hold off Sauk Centre 46-41 before a packed house in Belgrade
Cullen Gregory, Jordan Gorans each score 2 goals in Willmar’s road win
Prep boys basketball report for Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in west central Minnesota. Jaguars edge Mainstreeters 59-57 in a matchup of state-ranked teams
Teams compete at the Willmar Invitational on Friday, including Litchfield