Another Kessler is hungry for success on the mat

January 30, 1994|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

Excuse me, could you release the headlock and pass the mashed potatoes please?

Dinner time can be rough around the Kessler household.

Kevin, 22, was a state champion for Chesapeake High of Baltimore County in 1989. Gregg, 18, won three state titles for Owings Mills from 1990 through 1993. Steve, 14, is a freshman at Owings Mills and Mike, 6, placed second in a junior-league tournament the first time he laced up a pair of wrestling shoes.

"It's really tough when one of us is losing weight," said Steve. "The others just keep eating, and say, 'umm, is this good?' Sometimes you laughed, other times you figured it was time to try out a new hold on somebody."

Steve, 14, is now the torch holder in the high school ranks, and yesterday he kept his unbeaten record (15-0) intact, winning three matches at the prestigious Gilman Duals at Gilman School.

Blair Academy, of Blairstown, N.J., won the team title, defeating Oxford (Pa.), 36-18, in the championship match.

"Yeah, it's a lot of pressure, but I'm trying to break Gregg's record of three state titles," said Steve. "Right now, I'm just gearing myself for the matches before the state tournament, and then I'll take it as it comes. But I've got some big shoes to follow."

Steve has a lot of bumps and bruises to prove it. He has been wrestling with his older brothers since he was 6. He used to go to their practices, and Gregg often used him at home as a practice dummy.

The time of day didn't matter. The Kesslers had a wrestling mat and weight-training equipment in their basement.

"We would just go down in the basement, and one of us would pretend to be John Smith or Bruce Baumgartner, and the other would be a big, bad Russian opponent or someone," said Steve. "I got beat up a lot, but I look at it as a positive. It just made me tougher."

"I think Mom was kind of glad we're into club wrestling now, cause we don't mess up the house as much."

Steve tries to combine the two styles of his brothers. Gregg was quick, strong, a masher and an all-around technician. Kevin was more patient and would wear down opponents.

Steve showed Gregg's power when he pancaked Gilman's Tom Knowles in the second period yesterday in a 10-5 victory. He showed Kevin's patience and wisdom by not trying to force a pin on Woodberry Forest's Penn Bowers, but gaining a technical fall with one minute remaining in the match. Kessler won his third match by forfeit.

"You always try to get a pin for the team, but [Bowers] was very flexible, and I didn't want to get careless," said Steve.

Both Kevin and Gregg will approve. Gregg, enrolled at Rider College, probably called last night as he does before and after every match.

"He always wants to know who I'm going to wrestle, and how I'm going to wrestle them," said Steve. "He also likes to talk about old times, old junior-league guys we wrestled who are now doing well."

"We try to keep things in perspective, and we want them to be their own selves, but Steve will feel the pressure just as Gregg did with Kevin," said Larry Kessler, the boys' father, who didn't wrestle competitively. "We're just glad that they have used the energy in a positive manner. I always thought they would be good at something athletically, because they were always quick and strong."

Mike, the youngest, may be the best of the bunch. After all, Kevin still drops in occasionally to pound on Gregg and Steve. Gregg still beats on Steve. All three pound on Mike.

"Yeah, that little guy has it rough," said the father. "Even when they're playing with him, they're still pounding on him. Guess

what? He loves every minute of it."

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