By David McCoy


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s a question we all face at some point in our lives: How do you push on toward your goals after you suffer a setback?

When you’re the best high school wrestler in the country, at any weight, it’s a question on a whole new level.

Simley High School’s Daniel Gregory Kerkvliet is one of the best wrestlers to ever come out of Minnesota. How does one get to be that guy?

“I never thought that I was super good because there’s always multiple people that are better than you. There’s always something to work forward to,” Kerkvliet said.

Maybe that’s the key. When you don’t think you’re as good as you should be, when you think you can be and should be better, when you measure yourself by a higher standard, you keep working.

“Trying to get better each year, make gains each year,” he said.

Kerkvliet would tell you his whole life revolves around wrestling, which is also probably one of the reasons he got so good. So to have that taken away, like he did in September when he tore his ACL, you can probably imagine how hard that would be.

Daniel Kirkvliet (credit: CBS)

“When your whole world for the most part surrounds around wrestling, it’s kind of like, what do I do next?” he said.

You get back to wrestling as soon as you can. Kerkvliet was initially given a six-to-nine month recovery timetable. Four months later, just last month, he was back in competition, back to dominating -– and just in time to go for his fourth-straight state title.

“My first match back, it was fun. There was a lot of energy around it,” Kerkvliet said. “I feel good, I mean, I feel 100 percent. I mean, feeling strong.”

Simley Coach Will Short saw Kerkvliet’s will to recover firsthand.

“When he couldn’t compete, and couldn’t train and couldn’t do the things he wanted to do, he was really struggling,” Short said. “And so he was very excited and very determined to get back.”

He’s also in a unique position to make the most of his time back. Kerkvliet had enough credits to graduate a year ago. This year, he’s doing PSEO — all online — which allows him the flexibility to really focus on training without having to work around a class schedule.

“So I can get great practice partners, go whenever they need to, throughout the day. So I’m open to their schedule, so I can just do my schoolwork any time,” he said.

This was always the plan, something he wouldn’t have been able to do if he wasn’t also such a good student.

“I’d say I’m an alright student. I get my work done,” he said.

His life finally back to normal, he’s no longer missing the biggest part of it, able to again enjoy the process that made him the legend he is.

“Just wrestling, being fun to me, just enjoying the sport, I’d say, going out and learning from guys that are better than me, always learning new things, is fun,” Kerkvliet said.

David McCoy

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