In the annals of Columbus North wrestling, the surname Kleinhenz strikes a prominent chord.
Evan Kleinhenz went 40-1 as a senior, but caught strep throat the week of the semistate and fell a step short of qualifying for state.
Orrin Kleinhenz was a three-time state qualifier, finishing second as a junior and then winning the 189-pound state title as a senior in 2005. He went on to wrestle at Columbia and Purdue.
Caleb and Luke, two more of the 11 Kleinhenz children, also did a little wrestling for the Bull Dogs.
So when youngest brother Brigham Kleinhenz didn’t go out for wrestling at the beginning of this, his junior year, a few heads were turned.
“I felt like I should lift and get faster for the things I want to do in college, which are football and track,” he said. “So I hit the weight room hard and tried to get faster.”
But Brigham couldn’t stay away from wrestling long. He came to the North Invitational on Dec. 10 to watch his former teammates and found out he missed the sport too much.
The following Monday, Brigham came to practice. That Saturday, he went 4-1 at 182 pounds in the East Central Super 8.
In the Bull Dogs’ most recent competition, he went 5-0 in the North Montgomery Holiday Duals. He then went 3-1 to finish second in the 182-pound individual bracket of that event.
“He’s a pinner, so he scores a lot of team points for us,” first-year North coach Justin Cooper said. “He’s just a really athletic kid, and he works hard, so he’s going to be good at whatever he does because of the hard work that he puts into it. It’s great to have him in the room because the other people feed off of that.”
That includes the wrestlers just below and just above him in weight. Teammates Andrew Champan at 170 and Josh Larson at 195 have benefited by going against Kleinhenz in practice.
In turn, Kleinhenz has been aided by going against Chapman and Larson. They have helped him get him back into shape and taught him things he can use in matches.
Like Chapman, Kleinhenz was a semistate qualifier last year. After wrestling in only a few varsity matches as a freshman, Kleinhenz fell just two wins short of qualifying for state, falling to Indian Creek’s Elijah Dunn in the first round at 152 pounds in the Evansville Semistate.
“It’s kind of intimidating — semistate, big stadium, young kid, wrestling at a pretty tough weight class. Going into it, I didn’t know what to expect. This year, I’ll definitely have more of an idea.”
But he’ll be doing it three weight classes heavier. Kleinhenz, who is a pole vaulter in track and field and a linebacker in football, bulked up to about 190 before getting back down to wrestle in the 182-pound class.
Cooper said he thinks at that weight class, Kleinhenz is a lot faster than most of the kids he’s wrestling.
“Moving up kind of helps him because he has that speed advantage,” Cooper said. “A lot of those big guys are a little bit slower. I think he has a great shot to make it to state this year.”
That would be a big accomplishment for a kid that planned on taking this winter off. Instead, he’ll now look to add another chapter to the Kleinhenz wrestling legacy.
“My family is very supportive of whatever decision I make,” he said. “But of course they wanted to see me wrestle, so they were happy when I decided to wrestle.”
What: Columbus North at Columbus East wrestling
When: 6:30 p.m. today
Where: Columbus East High School