High School Sports

Battery Creek's Kimrey branches out from family coaching tree

Parents couldn't understand.

Little Kyle Kimrey, who grew up through the Dutch Fork system, who won three state championships as a Silver Fox wrestler and whose dad served as athletics director and football coach at the school, should not be coaching wrestling at rival Irmo. Kimrey was still in school at the University of South Carolina at the time, a senior who landed his first full-time coaching gig before walking across the stage at graduation.

In his first season as Irmo's wrestling coach, his Yellow Jackets defeated his alma mater in a hotly contested match that went to tiebreaker criteria.

Kimrey was thrilled. Opposing fans were not.

Some questioned how Kimrey could turn his back on the Silver Foxes.

But Kimrey, now in his first year as wrestling coach at Battery Creek High School, didn't see his job at Irmo the same way. After growing up watching his father, Bill Kimrey, work in high school athletics, Kyle wanted the same relationship with kids, no matter the school.

"We saw the influence he had on young people," said Kyle's brother, Erik, who has won five consecutive SCISAA Class 3-A football championships as head coach at Hammond School. "And I think, more than anything, that's what attracted us to coaching."

There lies the common thread among the family's coaches. In other aspects, Kyle carved his own way.

Football was king, but Bill didn't push it. He hired coaches on the premise they would run summer sports camps for the area's youth.

Kyle tried them all. He latched on to wrestling after first grade and hasn't let go.

Now leading the team at Battery Creek, Kyle wants to make his mark on the state's wrestling scene the way his brother and dad have in football. Several influences have shaped his path, including a fierce competitiveness, independence and reflection brought on by a family tragedy.

An early love

The fireman's carry, when properly executed, sends an opposing wrestler over the aggressor's shoulders and tumbling to the mat. The shooter controls the inside, grabs his opponent's leg at the hamstring and secures the other arm before rolling the opponent over and covering him. The move is quick, flashy and serves to swing the momentum during a bout.

Kyle learned this move first and, because he was left-handed, owned more of an advantage. An opponent looking for a right-handed shot would waste a valuable moment reacting to the opposite from Kyle. Quick pins were common.

Bill did not know much about wrestling when Kyle started, but he discovered days at the gym during tournaments usually meant little time watching Kyle wrestle.

"Because he usually had a bye in the first round of tournaments, and then he'd pin a guy in 30 seconds after you sat for four hours waiting," Bill said. "Then he'd go to the next round and have a bye and then get to the finals and pin his guy in a minute."

In elementary school, Kyle tried every sport available during summer clinics. Baseball, basketball and even tennis filled the weekly schedule.

He was good at basketball, but had trouble controlling his temper on the court. One opponent who dared steal the ball from Kyle was rewarded with a broken wrist after a hard foul. Erik remembers Kyle breaking his hand punching a wall after a loss.

As a receiver in football, he could run short stick routes. But he only played briefly once in high school.

Wrestling was a better fit. Takedown tournaments in elementary school helped harness the aggression. B.D. LaPrad helped mold the wrestler.

Then the wrestling coach at Dutch Fork, LaPrad worked with Kyle starting in recreation leagues after first grade. By the time Kyle was in fifth grade, he was invited to attend high school practices. He wasn't much smaller than the tiniest freshman.

Kyle won all 48 matches he wrestled during elementary school. He wrestled in middle school starting in sixth grade, not sure now whether that was allowed. His first state championship was as a high school freshman at 103 pounds. He also won state titles as a junior and senior.

He won more than 150 matches during high school, left to wrestle at The Citadel and finished 8-8 as freshman. But the school didn't suit him.

Kyle enrolled at South Carolina, where he was thankful for less time constraints to help him complete his physical education certification and give him a chance to coach wrestling.

A vivid memory

Erik had always been the quarterback.

He liked baseball, too, but discovered football was his future. As a teenager, he installed a no-huddle offense during front-yard games, directing younger brothers Kyle and Kevin. Erik went on to set state records at Dutch Fork -- calling his own plays much of the time -- and committed to play football at the U.S. Naval Academy but backed off when Brad Scott offered him a chance to walk on at South Carolina.

Scott left and Erik required more time than originally planned to nail down that scholarship. But he worked his way into Gamecocks lore by tossing a pass simply known as "The Fade," a game-winning, fourth-down touchdown pass on Erik's first pass attempt against Mississippi State in 2000. He became a sort of folk hero.

Strangers hear the last name, whether it's Erik or his brothers, and relive the play, which is still burned in memories after more than a decade.

"I think that's one play in Carolina history where people know exactly where they were when it happened," Kyle said. "It's probably about once a week somebody brings that up. 'Oh, you're Erik Kimrey's brother. I was at this place when that happened.' They tell you exactly the details."

Here's a play Kyle remembers the same way.

A year after The Fade, on September 30, 2001. Church picnic. Kyle is on offense and Kevin, 13 months older, is playing defense.

It's fourth-and-long. Kyle's team needs a touchdown to win.

Kyle calls timeout to craft a play. He'll line up in the slot alongside a friend, who is covered by Kevin. Kyle will go in motion and take a pitch from the quarterback, then fake as if to throw to the receivers on the same side before turning to throw back to his friend, who was isolated with Kevin.

Kyle remembers setting his feet, but the throw was a wobbly jump ball. The Duck.

Kevin goes up for the ball and comes down on his side. The receiver lands on Kevin's neck.

Kyle originally thought his brother was milking his injury for attention but realized Kevin was having trouble breathing. Someone called 911.

Kevin had injured his spine between the C4 and C5 vertebrae. The last movement he remembers with his hands was giving his brother two thumbs up as he left the picnic.

Kevin spent his birthday, Oct. 1, in surgery. Kyle remembers that, too.

A new walk

Kevin is a quadriplegic living with his parents, Bill and Penny, in their one-story house on Lake Murray.

Kyle doesn't blame himself for what happened. The sequence of events that day could have gone any number of ways. For instance, the brothers fought in the house earlier in the day and were banished to the picnic as punishment.

But after the initial shock, the Kimreys' response to the accident surprised people. Kyle said his parents were Christians, as was Erik. Kyle, Kevin and older brother Bill III were headed another direction. The family now points to Kevin's accident having brought them together.

Kevin recalls driving with Kyle to get the mail before Kevin had his permit. The mailbox was only 50 yards from the house, but Kevin would use the opportunity to race around nearby roads and ramp mounds and other obstacles.

Kyle went in the house and told his mother if Kevin ever got his license, he would kill himself.

"Kevin was down a pretty destructive path before he got injured," Kyle said. "I really believe to this day he wouldn't be alive if he hadn't got hurt."

Kevin, who had been a punter at Dutch Fork and was known for his flexibility, helped coach special teams with his dad after the accident and now works from home offering technical support to people experiencing problems with Internet service.

Erik owns state high school records, a place in the history books at a Southeastern Conference school and has built a dominant high school program as coach. Kyle has three state wrestling titles and a new job leading his own team. Bill III is a graphic designer in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Of his four sons, Bill says Kevin has accomplished the most. Kevin stays involved with his church and gives his testimony when asked.

"Kevin tells you his story is that before he was injured, he was walking, but spiritually he was paralyzed," Bill said. "And then after he got paralyzed, he started walking spiritually. It was a blessing for him, and I saw the effect on us and many other people."

Kyle has a fan in Kevin. The pair, closest in age of the four, were separated for extended periods during Kevin's treatment at Shepherd Center, a spinal cord rehabilitation clinic in Atlanta.

But Kyle has his brother to draw on as he moves forward in his career. He tells his Battery Creek wrestlers to wrestle with heart, to shelve their discomfort for six minutes. There's nothing you can't do for six minutes, he says.

Kevin, who became a rabid St. Louis Cardinals fan after his injury and watches every game through a special television package, roots for his brother the same way.

"I'm very proud of him, what he's doing," Kevin said. "I pray for him every night, that he continues to have success in what he does, coaching."

MEET THE KIMREYS

  • Bill -- Father, coached football almost 30 years at Lower Richland and Dutch Fork, including all four of his sons, and is looking to get back in the business
  • Penny-- Mother, a part-time engineer and former basketball player who once coached Kyle's recreation league hoops team to a championship
  • Bill III -- The oldest of four brothers at 38, a graphic designer in Florida
  • Erik -- Set state records as quarterback under his father at Dutch Fork, played quarterback at USC and has coached Hammond to five consecutive SCISAA football titles
  • Kevin -- Closest in age to younger brother Kyle, a 13-month gap, paralyzed 10 years ago playing touch football, loves the St. Louis Cardinals and his technical support job with Windstream
  • Kyle -- At 25, the family's youngest, a scratch golfer who coached wrestling at Irmo without a teaching job before starting this past August at Battery Creek
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