Wrestling is a family tradition in the Kimmel household. All five brothers wrestled for the Covington Buccaneers and all five had stellar careers on the mat.
Rodney Kimmel was the fourth of the five brothers to come along. The oldest of the brothers, Rusty, recorded the best single season winning percentage in Buccaneer history in 1976 with a 25-1 record, until Logan Brown broke the record 29 years later with a 50-1 record.
Next came Randy Kimmel, who became the first Covington wrestler to reach the state meet in 1978. Randy was also the first to earn a repeat trip to state in 1979, a year that he finished 24-2.
The third of the five brothers was Ryan Kimmel who wrestled his way to a Sectional Championship in 1982.
The success of his older brothers left Rodney with huge shoes to fill as he took to the mats at the high school level in 1983. He didn’t disappoint as he qualified for the state meet in 1985 as a junior and narrowly missed a return trip as a senior.
“Oh man, I loved wrestling,” said Rodney. “It’s just you and the other guy…one-on-one to see who’s better. I was lucky, if you call it lucky, because I had older brothers who worked me over pretty good. That taught me a lot about the sport. We use to have some pretty heated matches on the living room floor growing up. I remember my older brothers would work on me and Ray (the youngest) all of the time. Wrestling practice was easy compared to wrestling Rusty and Randy.”
Being the lone Covington wrestler to qualify for state his junior year, Kimmel was blown away by the experience.
“I remember walking into that arena (St. Johns in Columbus) and my knees were shaking,” said Kimmel. “I was so awe struck that I forgot what I was there for. I wrestled the best I could under the circumstances, but I wish I could have made it back there because I know I would have done much better the next time.”
Kimmel’s chances of returning to state were virtually derailed before wrestling season even started his senior year. He suffered a major concussion as a result of a three-wheeler accident, which cost him his senior season of football and put him behind in being prepared for wrestling.
“You know, we (Rodney and his friends growing up) would do some crazy stuff,” laughed Kimmel. “Ray (Rod’s youngest brother) and I were goofing off and I ended up wiping out on the three-wheeler and suffered a head injury. It was a hard lesson because I missed the last half of the football season and we had a great team that year. I also set myself behind in wrestling because I had worked so hard to get back to state and being laid up for a while set me back.”
Although not 100%, Kimmel returned to wrestling and put together a solid senior season with a 29-4 record. Unfortunately, he never made it back to state, losing in the regionals.
“That’s something that sticks with you for a long, long time,” Kimmel described regarding his disappointment. “As you get older you regret some of the mistakes you made and I guess that’s a part of growing up.”
After graduating in 1986, Kimmel searched for another sport to satisfy his taste for competition like wrestling did for him in high school. He found it in another one-on-one sport, boxing.
In June of 1986, Kimmel made a trip to the Troy Recreation Center and began an amateur boxing career that took him straight to a Golden Gloves Championship in 1987.
He then took up karate for a few years before settling down to raise a family.
“I had fun in both sports (boxing and karate), but nothing compares to wrestling,” Kimmel said. “I had some great times and made a lot of great friends in wrestling. I wouldn’t change my experience for anything.”
Kimmel continues to live in Covington with his wife and high school sweetheart, Stacy and their three children, Hunter, Alyssa and Marina.