Olejniczak overcomes heartbreak to finish career on a high note

Three state medals and a school-record 180 victories only a part of what senior will leave behind, his head coach said.

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Kaleb Olejniczak stands third at 138 pounds at the 2A state tourney Saturday. The Perry senior, who finished with a school-best 180 victories, was recently named an Academic All-State selection for the third time.

DES MOINES — Brody Teske from Fort Dodge is now wrestling for Cael Sanderson at Penn State. His fourth state championship came, in 2018, at 126 pounds in Class 3A against Perry junior Kaleb Olejniczak.

For nearly a calendar year Olejniczak had thought of little but taking the final step up the state tournament podium. He competed at state as a freshman but had not reached the award stand. A fourth-place medal at 113 pounds as a sophomore followed before the team stepped up to 3A last year.

A return to 2A set the stage this season for the senior standout, but a hair-breadth sudden victory 1 3-1 loss to eventual champion Jack Thomsen (47-0) of LaPorte City Union in Friday’s semifinals brought the dream of a state title to a heartbreaking end.

It is far from uncommon for semifinal losers to then be so emotionally distraught that Saturday’s consolation semifinals become almost an afterthought, and one or two losses follow, resulting in a fifth or sixth place finish.

“That is not the kind of wrestler Kaleb is,” Perry head coach Mark Weber said when interviewed Sunday. “I just about couldn’t take it when he lost, and you can only imagine how he felt. But you know what? Saturday came and he went out there and kicked butt, big time.”

“You want to know what a winner looks like? Want to know what mental strength is?” Weber asked. “Look at how Kaleb responded — that is all you need to do.”

Olejniczak flashed his considerable mettle with a 12-4 major decision over Vinton-Shellsburg senior Luke Radeke (45-5) in the consolation semis. Radeke went on to finish fifth.

The victory set up a repeat match with West Delaware freshman Jadyn Peyton (40-9). Olejniczak had topped Peyton in sudden victory I to win the Bluejay Invite in January, but was not in danger and had total control of their quarterfinal meeting Friday in posting a 7-3 decision.

Determined to make a point, Olejniczak kept the pressure on throughout their final bout, finishing with a 12-1 major decision to end his final season 47-2 and in third place. The University of Northern Iowa-bound grappler departs as Perry’s all-time victory leader with 180 triumphs against just 21 losses.

“What more can I say?” Weber said when asked of his senior standout. “He is the kind of guy you want to have a room-full of. The leadership he has shown, the example he has set all the way down through the Junior Jays has just been incredible. Great things are ahead of him.”

Weber also helped guide junior Jacob Nelson (132 pounds) and freshman Cole Nelson (106) to the tourney. The elder of the cousins bowed out with a pair of losses Thursday while the younger responded from an 8-4 opening loss to eventual champion Carter Fousek (Fr., 40-4) of Crestwood with a pin to move to Friday, where he was eliminated.

“They both gained valuable experience,” Weber said. “I look for it to pay off next season.”

Taking the next step will depend on how much each individual wrestler is willing to invest in the off-season, Weber said.

“That will be the telling thing,” he said. “Are you willing to devote the time? Other guys out there will be. You can choose to stay where you are to keep working hard and keep climbing the ladder. How bad do you want it? We will see.”

Perry senior Kaleb Olejniczak stands third on the state tournament podium Saturday. Olejniczak reached the state tourney all four of his seasons, earning three medals and a school record 180 wins along the way. Photo courtesy Matt Gengler, Missouri Valley Times.
Senior Kaleb Olejniczak finished an outstanding prep career Saturday by placing third at 138 pounds. Photo courtesy Mike Oeffner, Harlan Newspapers.

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