Nicky Kiussis’ season almost was gone in mere seconds.
One of the area’s top freshman wrestlers, Kiussis was off to a great start after placing at the prestigious Medina Invitational Tournament and winning an individual title at the Ken Briggs Duals.
On a cold January day, however, all of that work nearly went to waste with a single shot of a pellet gun while messing around with his younger brother Kevin.
The pellet lodged approximately four inches deep in Kiussis’ neck, forcing the 132-pounder to miss three weeks.
“It was just a fluke accident,” said Kiussis, who won a middle school state championship as an eighth-grader. “It was really hard for me, but I didn’t want to think negative of the situation because it would’ve felt like all that hard work was for nothing.”
Veteran coach Mike Koshar didn’t think twice about it until he heard about the severity.
“It was just one of those things of boys being boys,” he said. “At first, I thought it was a no big deal and after a couple of days he would be fine. Then the doctors said 3-4 weeks or maybe the end of his season and I thought, ‘Holy Smokes.’”
Like Kiussis’ attitude on the mat, he stayed focused.
A follow-up with doctors revealed the pellet was closer to his neck’s surface than initially thought. Three weeks later, the 5-foot-9 Kiussis got back the sport he has loved for the last nine years.
With just a week of practice, the 15-year-old made the most of his second chance by running off four straight wins that were capped with a thrilling 12-10 decision over Parma’s Chayse Csongedi in the finals of the Northeast Ohio Conference Tournament.
“It was a great feeling.” Kiussis said of the NOC title. “My conditioning wasn’t the best, but I just battled and came away with the victory. It was definitely a big win for me.”
The victory was no shock to Koshar, who he has seen Kiussis grow into a varsity wrestler in months by improving the skill set that made him dominant at the middle school level.
“He doesn’t get rattled,” Koshar said. “No matter if he’s winning by five or losing by five, he has the same temperament. He’s always focused and relayed and is never up tight.
“The biggest thing with Nicky is that he has good control of his hips. I noticed that as an eighth-grader, and it’s been his biggest strength — controlling his hips and his opponents. I don’t know if you can teach some of the stuff he does.”
Kiussis has a story he can joke about out with friends, but he’s ready for his first postseason match today at the Medina Division I Sectional.
“I just want to go out there, wrestle solid and come out with the victory,” he said. “I’m going to do the best that I can and all that matters is advancing.
“It’s definitely like a new life. It’s made me more focused and drives me.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.