By JEREMY HINES
Kiave Guerrier isn’t your typical elite-level wrestler. He never went to camps growing up, or clinics. He didn’t wrestle in elementary school or middle school. He hates practicing. Yet going into sectionals he’s undefeated and ranked No. 5 in the state at 182 pounds.
“He’s basically self-made,” Guerrier’s Evansville Central coach Mike Lapadat said. “He’s really just a part-time wrestler.”
Guerrier’s wrestling story began four years ago when he was sitting in the school’s cafeteria eating lunch. Guerrier asked coach Lapadat how the wrestling team was going to be that season, and about an upcoming meet.
“I was telling him that we were going to have to forfeit at 195 pounds,” Lapadat said. “He asked me why we would forfeit, and I explained to him that we didn’t have anyone at that weight. He told me he could wrestle it. I told him that would be great, but he was going to have to start putting on weight.”
At the time, Guerrier weighed 170 pounds.
Guerrier’s very first match that freshman year came in a dual against one of the top programs in Kentucky -- Union County High School.
The match went several overtimes. Guerrier didn’t even know the rules of overtime. He ended up winning the match in sudden death.
“After that match I looked at our assistant coach and said that if Kiave doesn’t go to state in his career, we should be fired. I knew right then that this kid was special.”
Guerrier’s first love is football. He has verbally committed to the University of Indianapolis. He went out for wrestling just thinking it would help him with football. But, after that first match - he fell in love with the sport.
“That match got me hooked,” Guerrier said. “It was a lot of fun and that feeling just really stuck with me. I really liked the sport and wanted to continue with it. I started out not knowing much about it - but I’ve tried to learn quickly.”
For Guerrier, one of the hardest parts of wrestling is just making himself get up and go to practice each day.
“It was always a big struggle, especially early on,” Guerrier said. “The hardest part was getting to practice. But, once I made myself get there, it became easy.”
Despite his premium athletic ability, Guerrier didn’t see himself as a good wrestler early in his career.
“I thought I’d be average and it could help me with football,” he said. “Then I started to push myself in practice. I’d do extra work on weekends and sometimes even after meets. Still, I would have never guessed that going into sectionals I would be a No. 1 seed and undefeated.”
Now Guerrier’s goals are more lofty. He wants a state championship and feels he is completely capable of getting it.
“That’s the goal,” he said. “If I keep working, I know I can win.”
Last season Guerrier lost in the ticket round of the Evansville semistate to No. 1 ranked Nathan Walton. The score was 1-0.
“Kiave has a very high wrestling IQ,” Lapadat said. “He can watch a move on video and then bring it to the mat. He picks up things very quickly. He studies teh sport. He knows everyone he is going to wrestle and he watches matches on them to study them.”
Before wrestling, Guerrier had never competed in an individual sport.
“Wrestling was the first sport that if I messed up, it was only because of me,” he said. “It’s one-on-one and there are no excuses. On the mat I know what I need to do, and how I want to do it.”
Outside of wrestling Guerrier enjoys nature and working in the communities challenger baseball and track programs.
“I have a lot of fun working with the kids in the challenger sports,” he said. “Some people aren’t as blessed as others, and I really love helping them out and making them laugh and watching them have fun. It’s very rewarding.”
Guerrier wants to study engineering in college. He does not plan on wrestling past high school.
“Knowing my career is almost over is sad,” Guerrier said. “I fell in love with the sport. Wrestling is tough to like, but once you fall in love with it, you’re hooked for life.”
Edited by Y2CJ41