Now, Kiler can make light of 'Dark Years'

January 28, 1994|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Contributing Writer

Tommy Kiler started wrestling at the age of 4, but he was not a prodigy.

"I know I lost most of my matches," Kiler said. "[We] call that part of my career 'The Dark Years.' "

The darkness faded, however, in recent years, as Kiler established himself at co-No. 2 North Carroll.

The sophomore, tied for second in the state rankings with Randy Owings of Francis Scott Key at 135 pounds, won 45 times in his first 48 high school matches, including a county and region title last year.

Kiler began wrestling by hanging around his father's junior-league program. Kenny Kiler founded and has coached the Manchester team for 20 years.

Tommy became a regular visitor to practices and meets. The father took pride in his son's interest but was unsure how well he would do.

"He hung in there. He never got frustrated," Kenny Kiler said. "He enjoyed it and worked hard."

Two years ago, Tommy Kiler's hard work began to pay off. He won the state junior-league title for Manchester at 122 pounds. He made the varsity last year at North Carroll as a freshman -- an insecure freshman.

"Last year I was worried about losing a lot," Kiler said. "This year, I'm a lot more confident."

Despite lacking confidence last year, Kiler did well. He finished 29-3 with 15 pins and earned Carroll County and region championships, as well as two victories in the state tournament.

Family helped him again last

year. Teammate and older brother Andy, a senior then and a wrestler now at Slippery Rock (Pa.) University, spent lots of time working with his younger sibling.

"Every day last year he was helping me," Tommy Kiler said. "He seemed more interested in helping me than helping himself."

That helped him gain confidence. So did his work over the summer. He finished first at the AAU Grand Nationals in freestyle and third in Greco-Roman -- after taking second in both the summer before.

He spent a good part of this past summer on the mats. Until late July, he practiced two to four times a week. He also attended a wrestlingcamp at McDonogh School in Baltimore County, where he wrestled six hours a day for five days.

"He realizes none of this happens at the match," Kenny Kiler said. "It's all preparation."

Tommy Kiler's newly found confidence has served him well. He won his first 16 matches this season, scoring nine pins along the way.

A change in style helped.

"I've been wrestling more aggressively," Kiler said. "I've been going after people. When you go out and you want to win and don't worry about losing, you just wrestle totally different."

North Carroll coach Dick Bauerlein said Kiler has "all the tools" andis gaining confidence.

"He's got a year of varsity experience under his belt," Bauerlein said. "He's learning to believe in himself."

Bauerlein occasionally shifts Kiler to different weight classes, often pitting him against tough competition.

"If he beats good kids, he'll get better," Bauerlein said.

Kiler said he'll keep working. His goals include a state title and an opportunity to wrestle in college.

Even during "The Dark Years," he never wanted to stop wrestling.

"I never disliked the sport, no matter how badly someone beat me," Kiler said. "It took a long time. I never thought it would come to this."

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