By Chad Koenen
For the Geiser family, wrestling is as much of a way of life as it is a sport. The family has been active in youth programs, officiating and coaching through the years, as they help to shape the next generation of wrestlers to hit the mat. That dedication to the sport of wrestling was on full display on Tuesday night as the family made the trek to Park Rapids to watch Kenny Geiser become just the second person in Thief River Falls history to win 300 games as a coach.
The New York Mills alum put an exclamation point on an exciting season for the Prowlers as they came away with a commanding 72-6 win over Park Rapids Area. The victory gave Geiser his 300th win of his career and the Prowlers 20th win of the season.
Coming into the season Geiser needed 20 wins to eclipse the 300 win mark. While he didn’t initially think about getting to the historic milestone, the NY Mills alum used it as motivation for the team to hit 20 wins for the season.
“It didn’t even cross my mind. It just came to the point where we had lost a couple of close matches. I said if we can pick up the pace we could to get 300 wins,” he said. “I kind of used it for motivation for the boys. We had a couple of close losses, but we could get to 300.”
With the win, Geiser is just the second ever Thief River Falls coach in any sport to win 300 games. The girls basketball coach achieved that milestone three years ago and now Geiser won his 300th match in the sport of wrestling.
What made the night even more special was the Geiser family was able to join in the celebration. Dustin was one of the officials and his brothers, parents and in-laws all make the trek to Park Rapids to watch Geiser made history. His wife Darci and their five children (and one on the way) were in the stands, along with his parents (Donna and Terry Geiser) and his four brothers (Matt, Derek, Cody and Dustin), and 10 nieces and nephews were all packed into the stands.
“I knew we would get there (on Tuesday) and I talked to my wife about (coming),” he said about bringing their kids on the long trek from Thief River Falls to Park Rapids. “I knew my parents and my in-laws were coming because it was close enough to watch their grandson wrestle.”
In anticipation of the milestone, the assistant coaches at Thief River Falls had a plaque made to commemorate the achievement. In fact, assistant coach Mark Davis has been along side Geiser for 277 of his 300 wins.
Geiser said one of the big keys to success over the past 19 years has been the support the Thief River Falls community has shown to the wrestling program. That support, along with the stability with the assistant coaches, has helped to keep the Prowler program as one of the most consistent in northwestern Minnesota.
“That’s what has made this thing happen is I’ve had some of the best assistant coaches I could ever have,” he said.
A wrestler all of his life, the Geiser family grew up next to the Joel Kumpula family. A NY Mills wrestling legend in their own right, the Kumpulas and Geisers wrestled back and forth and pushed one another throughout their time as Eagles.
“That’s one of the reasons we got into wrestling. Jason (Kumpula) was one of our friends,” said Geiser.
A 1995 graduate from NY Mills High School, Geiser was a standout wrestler in the Eagle line up during his time in high school.
One of his most memorable moments came as a junior in the Perham Tournament when the Eagles trailed throughout a majority of the match, but came from behind to win the tournament. He said even the radio station at the match was counting the Eagles out of it, before they were able to pull off the win.
“Doug Salo brought us into the hallway and said we can still do this and we came from behind and won the tournament,” said Geiser.
The former Eagle has been teaching in northern Minnesota for the past 21 years. After graduating from North Dakota State University in 1999, Geiser spent two years teaching in Karlstad before accepting a job as a social studies teacher at Thief River Falls High School. For the last 19 years he has been the head wrestling coach.
Over the years, the NY Mills alum has been named as the section wrestling coach of the year five times and brought the Thief River Falls wrestling team to state three times in 2007, 2010 and 2011. The team was section runners-up in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2020.
Heading into the post season the Prowlers have won five of their final six matches to finish with a record of 20-9 overall.