Elkhorn senior aiming high
The Kessler file
-- Person I admire most: Napoleon Bonaparte.
-- Pregame routine: I always wear my mom’s pink socks.
-- Best sports memory: Wrestling in the state championship match in 2008.
-- Favorite food: Cheesecake.
-- Favorite pastime: Sitting outside.
-- Favorite movie: “Forrest Gump.”
-- In 10 years, I’ll be: Hopefully, a Fortune 500 executive.
-- Best invention in the last 100 years: Cell phone.
-- An unusual thing the average person wouldn’t know about me: I wear my mom’s pink socks in every match.
-- Dream job: President of Microsoft.
-- If I could have one super power, it would be: Ability to solve conflict.
-- If I could play any other sport, it would be: Luge.
-- My favorite saying: “Earn it.”
-- If I could have dinner with one famous person, it would be: Leonardo da Vinci.
-- CD currently getting the most play: “Rise Against.”
ELKHORN Richard Kessler will not accept mediocrity.
Not in the classroom, not on the wrestling mat or not in anything else he does.
Kessler got a ‘C’ on his report card in third grade. One lousy ‘C’, but the grade has haunted him ever since. He now ranks fourth in his senior class at Elkhorn High School and will attend Stanford University in the fall with hopes of someday running his own Fortune 500 company.
After falling one match short of a state-tournament berth in wrestling his sophomore year, Kessler vowed to never let it happen again. It hasn’t. Kessler finished second in the state in Division 1 at 160 pounds last year and is currently 31-0 and ranked second in the state at 189 this season.
“With Richard, it’s not even a God-given talent,” Elkhorn High wrestling coach Ken Reynolds said. “He has had to work for everything he has earned.
“He’s the perfect kid to put out in front of everybody and say, ‘this is how it’s done.’
“I can’t tell you how much he’s meant to our program. We had eight kids out when I started here as head coach 11 years ago, and because of kids like Richard, there are 35 out now.”
Kessler is not going to win any style points on the mat. Pins are not his specialty, as he gets much more satisfaction out of frustrating each and every opponent. He has 55 takedowns in 31 matches this season, and says he gets more enjoyment beating an opponent 5-4 than he does with a pin or technical fall.
About the only thing that stands out when Kessler’s wrestling, other than his dominating skills, are his mom’s pink socks that he wears each and every match for good luck.
Kessler’s not flashy or a showboat on the mat, but he’s a brawler, according to Reynolds, and that style and his grade-point average peaked the interest of the coaching staff at Stanford. The Cardinal offered Kessler a wrestling scholarship after last season and he quickly accepted.
“I got offers from Stanford, Princeton and Brown, but I had always wanted to go to Stanford,” Kessler said. “They have a great economics program, and that’s what I want to get into.”
Kessler is hard on himself, but also has a quiet confidence about him.
“I love winning, and I’m not a person that can do anything halfway,” Kessler said. “I can’t accept mediocrity for myself. It doesn’t program well.”
Kessler doesn’t have an ounce of fat on his body, but is vastly undersized for the 189-pound weight class. His weight fluctuates between 180 and 182 pounds as he gives up nearly five pounds each and every match. He devours as many as 5,000 calories a day, according to Reynolds, but his body’s metabolism won’t allow him to put on any more weight.
“Richard has wrestled guys who are a lot bigger and a lot stronger than he is, and he still finds a way to dominate them,” Reynolds said. “He’s the smartest wrestler I’ve ever coached, and that’s what makes him so hard to beat.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve seen him beat a kid 5-4 or 4-3, and yet totally dominate the match. He learned quickly what he needed to do to be successful in this sport.”
Kessler is not worried about who stands in his way of a state title. Wausau West’s Jackson Hein is the state’s top-ranked Division I wrestler at 189 and was second a year ago at 171, but Kessler hasn’t paid any attention to the rankings. All he knows is that the journey for gold begins Saturday at the regional meet.
Elkhorn has had two previous state individual wrestling champions. Richard Kessler won’t settle for anything less than joining that short list.