Kish beginning to realize huge hype

Sophomore 184-pounder Roger Kish has won 10 of his past 11 dual matches.

David McCoy

Roger Kish left the state of Michigan in 2003 as the greatest high school wrestler to ever call the state home.

At LaPeer West High School in LaPeer, Mich., Kish was a two-time national champion, four-time state champion and four-time All-American.

Meanwhile, Kish led his team to two state titles and a runner-up finish while setting national records for career victories (258) and consecutive victories (223) ó making for some pretty lofty expectations as the nationís top recruit.

When Kish returns with the rest of the top-ranked Minnesota wrestling team (19-0, 6-0 Big Ten) to wrestle at No. 3 Michigan at 6 tonight and at No. 16 Michigan State at 1 p.m. Sunday, it will be his first time wrestling in his home state since he spurned it for Minnesota.

ìFor any guy that goes back to where he came from, it will be a big deal for him,” coach J Robinson said. ìPeople like to say itís not. But it will be.”

Few know that better than Kishís recruiting classmate and teammate Mack Reiter. The nationís 11th best recruit that year, Reiter was the first blue-chip recruit to leave the state of Iowa for Minnesota.

ìItís really hard,” Reiter said. ìBecause basically, you go in there with a lot more expectations on you. All these people that are coming to watch that match know he is from Michigan and theyíre expecting him to be this really good wrestler, and so he has to basically live up to that.

ìWhat you do is you end up putting more pressure on yourself than you should. It depends on how you react under pressure like that. It can be very overwhelming to some people.”

After redshirting his first year at Minnesota, Kishís journey back to Michigan has been a rough one.

He missed the first six of last yearís eight Big Ten duals with a skin infection that he said hospitalized him an entire week.

The injury cut deep into his training, and when he finally was able to wrestle again, he struggled, losing both of the final two Big Ten duals and then stumbling to a disappointing 6th place finish at the Big Ten Championships and falling a win short of All-American status at the NCAA tournament.

ìI wasnít allowed to work out at all ó no lifting or cardio or anything at all to stay in shape,” Kish said. ìSo (the infection) really slowed me down, especially when it came towards the end of the season when I missed probably the most important part of the year. It was tough to make up six weeks in a couple days.”

The first part of this year wasnít much better for Kish, who was pinned for the first time in his career. And though he won the majority of his matches, he still failed to beat a ranked wrestler until Dec. 30, when he finally beat Kent Stateís 11th-ranked Alex Camargo 5-3 at the Southern Scuffle.

But in his next chance to beat a ranked opponent, Kish fell to Arizona Stateís ninth-ranked C.B. Dollaway 3-0, and it became questionable whether Kish would ever start wrestling like the Kish everyone expected him to be.

It only took him one more dual to answer that question, beating five ranked wrestlers in a row.

Since his loss to Dollaway, heís won 10 out of his last 11 duals, his only loss being a tightly contested 3-2 match against No. 1 Eric Bradley of Penn State, and three of his last four wins have been by major decision.

And along the way, he beat Iowa Stateís Kurt Backes and Iowaís Paul Bradley for the first times ó wrestlers who had given him fits in the past.

ìIn the last three or four weeks, heís just been capitalizing on all his opportunities and heís winning matches that he hadnít been before,” Reiter said. ìHeís starting to get some success and itís kind of a snowball effect. I think itís really going to pick up here in the next couple weeks with Big Tens.”

The last stop before Big Tens is this weekendís trip to Michigan ó the place where it all began.

The expectations everyone in Michigan and elsewhere had are still there. But now meeting them is much more clearly in sight.

ìThe nice thing about success is when you get it you want to build it more and more so you grow it at a much bigger rate,” Robinson said. ìAnd so I think heís starting to figure out what college wrestling is all about and when he gets it really figured out, heís going to be great.”