In the span of 92 days, Blue Earth Area junior Kysten Zierke participated in two Minnesota State High School League state athletic championships.
During the first appearance on Nov. 24, Zierke helped Buc head coach Randy Kuechenmeister's football team claim the Class AAA title by defeating Rochester Lourdes, 30-7, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
His second straight state appearance, however, did not end with Zierke on top of the podium in the Class A, 195-pound individual wrestling championship at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul last Saturday, but he did earn second-place honors.
SQUARING OFF — Blue Earth Area wrestler Kysten Zierke (left) ties up with United South Central opponent Isaac Hernandez during 195-pound action at the Section 2A Individual Meet on Feb. 23 in Blue Earth. Zierke went on to capture second place at the Class A individual state wrestling meet last Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Photo by Leanna Becker
"I think the whole town of Blue Earth was expecting a championship in football this year. A lot of people who saw our group of juniors and seniors play when we were littler thought we would be able to be a very talented team together," said Zierke. "After making it to the state tournament in wrestling last year, I thought I'd be able to get back there, but didn't really think I'd finish as high as I did."
The 195-pound Zierke compiled a 28-2 overall record during his junior season on the mat for the Bucs, claiming his 76th career win in the semifinal round of the Class A state individual tournament.
The previous year, Zierke finished with a 29-15 record, but didn't have the same success as he did during this year's postseason meets.
"Last year I was a little smaller. I beat the first guy, but lost the next two matches," said Zierke. "This year, a lot of the guys I wrestled against were seniors, but I amazed myself actually at how good I actually was."
Zierke, who was tall for his age even when he was younger, took to wrestling early. As a kindergartner, Zierke took to the mat with a size advantage and immediately found an interest.
"Wrestling is big thing in my family. I got into it when I was really young and I liked pushing people around," said Zierke. "I was always 5 or 6 inches taller than other kids and probably about 40 pounds heavier, so I had a lot of fun."
The fun has continued to his high school sports as well, reaching three state tournaments so far.
"For the first couple days of the wrestling state tournament, there are so many wrestlers down on the floor warming up and so many people watching, it was exciting," said Zierke. "But by the last day, by the time I wrestled, people were slowly leaving. There were probably like 24 people there watching our match."
That is a little bit of a difference from the support of the Blue Earth Area fans at the football state tournament.
"There were so many people at the state championship game for football, but it was weird because there is so much space between the field and the fans, it almost felt empty," said Zierke. "At the wrestling state tournament, it's so compact that it always feels full. But both are obviously exciting."
While Zierke had his own expectations to meet this year, this year's success had undoubtedly set a high bar for his final year in a Buc uniforms.
"During football this year, I didn't really ever feel any pressure. I always knew our guys would do their job and I knew I could always rely on the defense," said Zierke. "With wrestling, I never really felt pressure either, so I hope to just get even better this summer for next year."