Campus junior Matthew Kimber learned how to wrestle three years ago. Why not him?
After qualifying for the Class 6A tournament, Kimber was well aware his name was not highlighted or underlined by any of his opponents when studying the 220-pound bracket. Why not him?
In the semifinals on Friday at Hartman Arena, Kimber was set to take on South’s Kasdon Arehart, he of the City League and regional championships and the 35-0 record and No. 1 ranking in the weight class.
“The whole day I kept saying to him, ‘Why not you?’ ” Campus wrestling coach Jim Dryden said. “(Arehart) is a great wrestler and we may wrestle him 10 more times and never win, but all we had to do is beat him once. So why not him?”
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Kimber heard that so much in the days leading up to Friday he started to believe it himself, and the rest is history: an unranked, underweight afterthought will be wrestling for the 220-pound Class 6A championship on Saturday.
“I would have never thought that this was possible,” Kimber said after handing Arehart his first loss in a 14-7 decision. “I’ve only been wrestling for three years and I came in today and weighed in at 190, so this is all so surprising.”
Kimber has a great deal of natural ability and Dryden suspected he would leave Campus a great wrestler. But this was earlier than anyone expected Kimber could achieve something of this caliber.
This was an opponent who had dominated the division for an entire season, including a 9-3 decision over Kimber at the regional meet. Arehart had beaten all challengers in his sophomore season and earned his top billing.
But that loss last week gave Kimber a scouting report of sorts. This time around, he knew what to expect and tailored his game plan specifically for a possible rematch with Arehart.
“I knew I was going to see him again and I knew this time what he was going to do,” Kimber said. “Basically the whole week I was preparing for that and practicing how to not get caught.”
Kimber immediately set a different tone in Friday’s match, scoring a takedown in the first period. Instead of the usual flurry of shots by Arehart, it was Kimber would controlled the pace of the match.
By the time the third period rolled around and Arehart still found himself in a four-point hole, desperation set in. Without a lead that would allow him to take the match to the mat, Arehart began taking riskier shots that left him exposed and Kimber capitalized each time.
The final time, Kimber nimbly avoided Arehart’s advances and swung behind him to send the Campus coaches and wrestlers into pandemonium.
“There was a lot of pressure there in the last period when I had the lead,” Kimber said. “But at the same time, I was confident and I just kept thinking, ‘I can’t mess this up.’ ”
He still has to wrestle Blue Valley Northwest’s Blake Johnson for the championship on Saturday, but for at least one night, Kimber felt like a champion.
“It’s really a greater feeling when a kid like Matt comes out of nowhere to do something like this,” Dryden said. “He comes to the room every day and works hard, so you like to see good things happen to kids like that.”