CS Fullerton's Kurt Klimek Aims For Top Of The Podium
by Keyon Johnson
In wrestling, the Pac-10 is made up of regulars like Arizona State, Oregon State and Stanford, but also includes affiliate members Boise State, Cal Poly, Cal State Bakersfield and Cal State Fullerton.
Rituals and superstitions are prevalent with entertainers and athletes when preparing for a competition. The specific ritual or superstition may sound ridiculous to everyone else, but they hold a special meaning to those that stick by them. Some listen to the same song, eat the same meal, talk to the same person, or even wear the same undergarments. For California State University at Fullerton wrestler Kurt Klimek, his pre-competition ritual is a little different. He gives a pep talk, not only to his team, but to something else as well.
"I sometimes talk to my shoes, like saying 'Okay guys let's do this, another day, another tournament,'" Klimek explained. "I do that right before practice too. It's not really a long conversation just a quick chat to them."
Talking to his shoes must have some sort of influence as Klimek heads into the Pac-10 Championship ranked as one of the top 25 heavyweights in the nation, and of the top five in the Pac-10.
"To me, rankings are just numbers," said Klimek. "My goal since day one was to be the champion. I hate selling myself short and I have worked way too hard to not achieve my goal. I see myself standing at the top of the podium in every competition."
Klimek has been wrestling competitively since the eighth grade when he was in PE and he and his classmates had a week in which they had to participate in different sports, and the only sport that really captured his attention was wrestling. As he grew up, he and his older brother always wrestled in their back yard. Kurt was always better than his brother in wrestling, so naturally it was his sport of choice.
"I think wrestling is obviously the toughest sport in any level of competition," Klimek explained. "Whether it's college, high school, or middle school. It sets a really good foundation for kids to become good adults. It is a tough sport and I love it. I love the challenge, dedication and hard work that it takes. The harder the work and dedication that you put in to it, the more you get out of it."
Klimek has turned into the emotional leader of the Cal State Fullerton wrestling team. His dedication and work ethic provides an example to other wrestlers on the team, and his leadership has been noticed and welcomed by his coaches as well.
"Kurt is just a good kid and solid leader." said head coach Dan Hicks. "He is one of the captains for us. He was kind of quiet the first three years that he was here, but he is now one of the vocal leaders on the team. He is in here everyday working hard and we have appreciated having him. He has grown a lot since he got here. He went from a skinny heavyweight, not really knowing much and now he is one of the top 20 or 25 heavyweights in the country. He has come a long way."
Klimek came into Cal State Fullerton as a freshman and was behind All-American Wade Sauer who really gave Klimek some lessons in wrestling.
"He beat me like I owed him money," Klimek said. "Everyday he would just tear me up, but I would come back everyday. I remember one of the older guys, like a year or two after that, told me that he was surprised that I came back the following year after how bad I had taken a beating in practice. I gained a lot of respect from the older guys like that."
That year Sauer was expected to be a legitimate contender to win the national championship, but two meets before the Pac-10 Championship, Sauer suffered a career-ending neck injury. That injury opened the door for Klimek to step in.
"A week before the Pac-10 tournaments my redshirt freshman year, Sauer got hurt with a serious neck injury," said Klimek. "Coach Hicks called me up and told me that I was going in and I stepped up. I didn't do as well as I believe that I could have, but going in on a week noticed, I got a pin in the first round and was close in all the rest of the matches."
That was the beginning for Klimek some years ago, and now as he coming into the last couple of matches as a Cal State Fullerton Titan, Klimek has a different outlook on his chances.
"Earlier, I lost by one point in a close match to the guy from Lehigh, who is currently ranked No. 1," said Klimek. "I had him on the edge of the ropes. I believe that all my matches are really close and it just will come down to me believing in my take downs and having faith in myself and how hard I worked and knowing that I am better than them. I just have to get the take downs."
Take downs is a skill that Klimek has focused on, getting involved in mixed martial arts, boxing and judo for more techniques. This training has helped to get him to the level of focus and clarity that he says will get him to the podium at the end of the season.