Moments after Gibson Southern won the 3A state football championship, center Ryan Holzmeyer became the school’s ninth winner of an Indiana High School Athletic Association Mental Attitude Award.
That’s nine in the school’s 48-year history, probably less than half the age of many other Indiana high schools.
Perhaps the most heartwarming presentation of that award was to Gibson Southern’s first winner. One-legged wrestler Terry Kissel received the 1987 honor for his sport after placing fifth in the state tournament’s 126-pound weight class. He achieved a 30-1 record, including his third Big Eight Conference and third sectional titles, en route to state. His lone loss as a senior came to state champion Hugh Waddington of Indianapolis Lawrence North.
Writing the story for the Daily Clarion’s next edition, then sports editor Joe Geren reported that when the public address announcer said the Mental Attitude Award was about to be presented, fans began chanting, “Kissel! Kissel! Kissel.” Never mind that he wasn’t a state champion.
“I didn’t know at the time what the award stood for. But the older you get, you appreciate it more,” the 52-year-old Kissel said while driving to his Indianapolis suburban Center Grove home from his job as treasury management officer at Indy’s Stock Yards Bank and Trust.
“It’s good to know that eight other Gibson Southern kids have won the honor. The South Gibson Community is strong, hard-working and a good family environment.
“I knew Ryan Holzmeyer’s dad (Jason Holzmeyer). He was a couple years behind me in school. I think he wrestled.”
A Haubstadt resident, Kissel was just 3-years-old when he lost his right leg.
“It got caught in a grain auger on dad’s farm,” said the son of the late Harold and Carolyn Kissel. Harold passed away in 1981, while Carolyn still lives in Haubstadt.
“The auger pretty much chunked the leg off. I grew up with a wooden leg, but quit using it when I got into high school because I got around better on crutches.
“I started wrestling in sixth grade at Haubstadt Community School. We practiced at the middle school. I learned from my brother Dennis, who is 58 now, when I followed him into wrestling. Our brother Aaron, who is 45 and like Dennis still in Haubstadt, followed us.
“All three of us were named ost Valuable Wrestler at Gibson Southern.
“I lost some weight when I started wrestling, but didn’t know anything different than if I’d had two legs. I could do all the hard work and didn’t have to do any adjusting from having just one leg. I ran the wind sprints on crutches. Your adjustments are to who you are wrestling and to different styles. When it seems best, you try something new.”
Terry wrestled at 98 pounds as a freshman and sophomore, then 112 as a junior before growing into a 126-pounder. “I probably stood 6 feet tall as a senior, not the 6-2 I’m at now. But I think I was always a head taller than anybody else. ”
Asked what his high school record was, he replied, “I think it was 114 or 115 wins and 10 or 12 losses.”
En route to a business and finance degree at Purdue in 1992, Kissel wrestled as a freshman. “I think I went 7-and-7 altogether, including two or three varsity wins. Division I and Big Ten wrestling are a lot different from high school.”
Terry’s wife Kim, whom he met after starting his business career, works as a mortgage company office manager. They have three children — Carolyn, 24 and a surgical nurse at Indianapolis Methodist Hospital; Eva, 22, en route to Purdue graduation in May and wanting to become a physical therapist; and Drew, 18 and a Center Grove senior.
“Kim grew up in Center Grove, and we settled there after I’d lived several years in Indianapolis.
“Carolyn played lacrosse, softball and volleyball in high school. Eva ran cross country in high school,” said dad, who also has two sisters. Stacy Maunning, 60, and Brenda Heldt, 55, live in Evansville.
“We also have 13 grandchildren,” said Kissel, who was in Lucas Oil Stadium November 25 when his alma mater became state football champion by beating Indianapolis Brebeuf Jesuit 45-35.
“We’ve had good teams the past 10 years and I’d been waiting several years to see them in the state championship game. And seeing them win made me very happy,” said the school’s first Mental Attitude Award winner.
“A lot of my friends from high school were there. And a lot of Gibson Southern people wore a letter jacket. I wish I’d have worn mine, but I wasn’t feeling too well that day.
“Still, I went home happy due to the win and Ryan Holzmeyer getting the Mental Attitude Award. I didn’t know we had that many. And it’s nice to be one of the nine.”
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories about Gibson Southern athletes who have won an Indiana High School Athletic Association Mental Attitude Award.