The TV series “The Odd Couple” was canceled a quarter-century before Nolan Kicmol or Branden Lange was even born.
In an era where remakes of just about every old show are appearing on Netflix, the two Albany teenagers could be cast to leading roles.
Consider this pitch:
Kicmol is a 5-foot-6, 150-pound chatterbox, an Evansville High School senior and outgoing athlete who at one time took part in gymnastics training because he believed it could make him a better wrestler and football player.
Lange is a 6-foot-4, 285-pound junior who attends Albany High, where he clammed up when the student body chanted his name at a pep rally before the state tournament last year. He’s not afraid to put in some hard work, but he’s also not likely to talk about it, or his successes, either.
Kicmol and Lange are stepbrothers by technical definition, though you’ll never hear them use the “step” part of that term when talking about each other. Or when they’re out chasing coyotes near their rural Albany residence. Or when they’re taking on—and taking down—some of the top high school wrestlers in the state.
Indeed, Kicmol and Lange are Evansville/Albany’s “The Odd Brothers.”
“It’s great, because you’ve got Nolan, who is just a charismatic leader, who when he talks our room listens,” Evansville/Albany wrestling coach Rob Kostroun said. “And then you’ve got Branden, who is absolutely the quintessential gentle giant.”
In a family where they are the second- and third-youngest of eight siblings, Lange and Kicmol have bonded over the past dozen or so years thanks in part to their proximity in age and their love of wrestling.
Nolan tried the sport for the first time when he was 3 or 4 years old, he said. His siblings followed his lead soon after, and it wasn’t long before mother Jessey Lange was shuttling the crew to weekend tournaments in the family minivan or father Josh Lange was coaching mat-side.
“Some of those car rides were really long, but they were fun,” Lange said. “You’re just listening to music, hanging out and taking the van from place to place.”
“Of course, you’re brothers, so you’re always kind of wrestling around, right?” Nolan Kicmol said. “But he was always a little bigger than me.
“When we were younger, we were decent wrestlers but we got smoked plenty of times. Eventually, you get tired of that, and if you don’t want to get smoked all the time, you’ve got to do something about it.”
Kicmol and Lange both said their wrestling success took a major step forward when they reached high school and an Evansville/Albany program that has spent the past decade-plus sending multiple wrestlers to the WIAA state tournament every year. The Blue Devils reached the team state tournament for the only time in program history in 2014, when Kicmol was in eighth grade.
“High school was the biggest turning point for me. As a youth wrestler I maybe placed at a state tournament once or twice, and that kind of motivated me to get to high school and see what I could actually do,” Kicmol said. “You always had boys in (the wrestling room) that were going to push you to the absolute limit. Sometimes they’d make you want to quit, and then they’d pick you back up.
“And coach (Kostroun) is just so supportive in everything we do, that you just want to keep things going.”
Kicmol and Lange have certainly pulled their weight.
On Saturday, the Blue Devils continued their streak of regional championships, running it to five years in a row. Both brothers followed up Rock Valley Conference championships by advancing to sectionals.
And at the Richland Center Sectional next weekend, Kicmol and Lange will look to reach the state tournament at the Kohl Center together for the second year in a row.
Lange made it to state as a sophomore and finished with a 36-12 record at 285 pounds. He’ll head to sectionals with a 37-5 mark as a junior. He’s currently ranked No. 4 in the state in Division 2.
“It was a little nerve-racking last year,” Lange said of wrestling under the bright lights at the Kohl Center. “I’m hoping that it changes this year for my second time up there.
“I feel pretty good about the season.”
Kicmol is looking to become a prestigious four-time state qualifier. As a sophomore, he battled his way to the D2 state title match at 132 pounds, losing a 5-2 decision. Kicmol lost his second match at state a year ago to the eventual state champion but wrestled his way back to a third-place finish at 145 pounds.
Kicmol takes a 37-3 record into sectionals, wrestling at 152 pounds. He was ranked No. 3 in the state in D2 at 145 pounds in the most recent set of rankings.
“Last year, I was looking ahead and looking at what I had to do to win the state finals,” Kicmol admitted. “That’s what kind of got in the way. So I’m just taking whoever steps on the mat, and that’s the guy I’m facing. It doesn’t matter who would get in my way next.”
As excited as Lange and Kicmol are about their prospects over the next two weeks, they were equally motivated to make sure the Blue Devils made it back to sectionals as a team. The two are not only family, but they consider their teammates one big family, as well.
And in the downtime between postseason wrestling matches, it’s a safe bet the two brothers are together somewhere.
“We’re not ones to sit in the house very often,” Lange said.
“It’s nightly that we’re doing something, even if it’s, ‘Let’s get in the truck and let’s go looking for something,’” Kicmol said. “We do a bunch of hunting together, football. A lot of brotherly bonding. It’s truly been a blessing.”
OK, so maybe they’ve got a little more in common than TV’s version of “The Odd Couple.”
But this is a remake anyway, right?
And Lange and Kicmol should have enough material for a couple more entertaining episodes over the next few weeks.