CEDAR RAPIDS – Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Luke Kremer has battled injury and illness as much as opponents on the wrestling mats the last two seasons.
The Cougars’ junior 135-pounder has avoided the ailments that plagued his first two years.
Kremer is healthy and ready to claim another state tournament berth when Kennedy competes in the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 3A district meet Saturday at Western Dubuque High School in Epworth. First round begins at noon in districts for all classes across the state. The field at Western Dubuque also includes Cedar Rapids Prairie, Cedar Rapids Xavier, Dubuque Hempstead, Dubuque Senior, Iowa City High and Linn-Mar.
Kremer battled mononucleosis as a freshman and then suffered through a shoulder injury as a sophomore before having surgery last spring. Kremer feels better than he has in any of the previous seasons, and is as healthy as possible this time of year.
“By far,” Kremer said. “It makes me feel more confident and ready. I feel pretty good.”
Kremer exuded toughness, persevering both issues. It was hard to keep him out of the lineup and practice, although Kremer had no choice with mono. He did not feel sorry for himself.
“The great thing about that is he never made one excuse and never complained,” Kennedy Coach Brent Paulson said. “he never wanted to miss a meet.”
Despite not feeling his best, Kremer still managed to have success in the postseason. As a freshman, Kremer scored a pin in his state debut, but then lost two close decisions to the eventual champion and fourth-place finisher at 119. Last year, Kremer earned a state medal, placing sixth at 125 pounds.
“He’s been in every match there,” Paulson said. “Those matches help him going forward next week.”
Each step came with a sense of accomplishment, but provided an even bigger source of motivation. Each achievement was one he want to repeat and surpass.
“It felt good and now I kind of know that feeling,” Kremer said. “It keeps making me want to set that goal higher for the next year.”
Kremer is 34-3 and hasn’t lost to a 3A opponent in Iowa, winning a second straight Mississippi Valley Conference title in January. Paulson has seen confidence build within Kremer progressed and the wins, especially the quality ones, mounted. Kremer said one of those were against 2010 state runner-up Gradey Gambrall of Iowa City West.
“He’s won some big matches this year,” said Paulson, noting that Kremer has developed by expandnig his offense on his feet. “He’s wrestled some tough kids.”
The success coupled with Kremer’s physical condition causes some anticipation for the postseason to start.
“No question about that and that is what’s exciting,” Paulson said. “First for Luke and then for me is to see what he does when he’s 100% healthy. That’s important this time of year.”
Kremer is ranked fourth, but had held the No. 1 ranking until Thursday. A nice honor, but it didn’t hold much importance to Kremer, who wants that “No. 1″ after state instead of before it.
“I didn’t pay too much attention to it,” Kremer said. “It really doesn’t matter to me.”
Paulson said Kremer worked even harder after the honor, and that he has a humble attitude. He has every right to brag, but it isn’t his style. Neither is celebrating after a win or overreacting to a loss. Kremer approaches both with a business-like manner, even though he admits he can be excitable on the inside.
“He has a quiet competitive spirit about himself,” Paulson said. “He’s not a big talker. If you watch him wrestle, he shakes hands and walks off the mat. You can’t tell if he won or lost more times than not.”
That might change if he can continue improving his state performances. He wants to medal again, but he wants a brighter tint to his hardware.
“I want to win it,” Kremer said. “That’s my goal this year.”