An artist at work

Watching Kyle Kwiat wrestle Tuesday night at Seiberling Gymnasium Tuesday night seemed less like an athletic contest and more like a performance.

In his match against Heidelberg’s Jeremy Stepp, the Ohio Northern senior and reigning national champion was like an artist, in complete control of his medium.

Over 4:18, Kwiat piled up points against Stepp until the total reached 18 and the match was stopped. Stepp wasn’t able to score on the Calvert graduate in that time.

“He’s like an artist,” Kwiat’s coach, Ron Beaschler said. “We know – everybody in the country knows – what he’s going to do when he goes out there, and he does it, and you can’t stop it.”

Few have stopped Kwiat over the last two seasons. Not only did he win a national title last year at 174 pounds, but he’s ranked No. 1 in the Division III weight class this season.

“When I was wrestling in the national championship last year I felt like I took a big step,” Kwiat said. “I feel like I’ve been building off of that since, and my coach is always telling me, ‘you’ve got to have something new, you’ve got to bring something new to your wrestling game. I’ve been definitely trying to do that this year.”

Beaschler said Kwiat has confidence that he can win any match.

“He believes he’s gonna get every move he wants,” Beaschler said. The biggest thing about him is, he hates to lose more than he likes to win. That’s the big difference.

“He wants to be the best wrestler Ohio Northern’s ever had,” Beaschler said. “He knows we’ve had four other guys who’ve been national champs, and he knows if he wants to be considered the best he’s got to win it twice. He doesn’t worry about a lot of other things, it’s ‘I want to be the best there ever was,’ and not in a cocky or arrogant sense. That’s what drives him. Everything he does, he wants to be the best. And he knows I’m never gonna say he’s the best unless he outdoes all the other ones.”

Kwiat got a big ovation from the crowd at Seiberling Gymnasium, which is just a few blocks from the high school Kwiat graduated from.

“It’s awesome,” Kwiat said. “I try to get a bunch of Calvert people out here to cheer us on, because we know that Heidelberg’s gonna bring a big crowd like they always do. I just try to make sure we have some people in the stands so we’re not overwhelmed by the Heidelberg guys.”

One of those in attendance was Kyle’s brother Daniel, who suffered a severe neck injury at the MAL wrestling tournament Feb. 2 while wrestling for Calvert at North Baltimore. Kwiat, a contender for a state championship this season, will not wrestle again.

“I was really upset when I heard about my brother,” Kyle said. “At first I didn’t know what was going on because it didn’t seem like that serious of an injury. As the time went on, coming home and stuff like that, keeping in contact with my mom, figuring out that it’s more serious, he has to go into surgery, I realized he’s probably not going to be able to come back for this season, and that’s really unfortunate. Let alone this season, but at all, probably, he won’t be able to come back.

“It’s been tough, but it kind of gives me something to wrestle for. He can’t wrestle this season, go out there and do my best for him.”

Kyle Kwiat wasn’t the only one who made a bit of a homecoming Tuesday night. Beaschler, a Mohawk graduate, also saw some familiar faces.

“It’s always nice,” Beaschler said. “They had the biddy group out there tonight, and there’s a couple guys helping with them that I knew when I was in high school. [I] graduated with one, Scott Gregg and I wrestled together at Mohawk, so it’s always great coming back and seeing them.”

Ohio Northern is ranked 17th in Division III.