Brothers keep wrestling, coaching all in family
MONUMENT - You won’t hear Palmer Ridge assistant wrestling coach Aaron Sieracki talk a whole lot about his accomplishments on the mat. His resume speaks for itself.
Sieracki’s older brother, Keith, is the head wrestling coach for Woodland Park and has a resume that might even outshine his brother’s. So when the two get together to talk over the finer points of the sport, anyone within ear shot should shut up and listen.
“Keith has a lot better credentials,” Aaron said. “He won’t talk about himself much, but he loves the sport. He does everything he can to give back.”
Keith Sieracki, 41, is one of the most decorated American Greco-Roman wrestlers never to compete for an Olympic team. He qualified for two of them - 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens - but he was removed from his perch each time due to appeals and technicalities.
“At one time I would say he had one of the best straight lifts in the world,” Aaron said.
The Sieracki brothers have been in Colorado Springs since 1997. It is only within the last two years that they have gotten involved at the high school level. Keith, after retiring from the Army World Class Training program, became an assistant coach at Woodland Park for the 2011-2012 campaign. He got the head job last spring when Bill Barron left to take a similar position in New York.
Aaron, 37, “retired” from the Army World Class Training program in July 2012. He was looking to stay busy and keep in shape, so he joined up with former wrestling buddy Paul Gagich, who had been named the Bears’ head coach.
“Now that my brother’s retired, he getting excited about coaching,” said Keith, who is married and resides in Woodland Park with his wife, Heather, and three children. “Those kids up there at Palmer Ridge are going to learn a lot.”
The Sierackis bring a wealth of experience to the table. They were each state champions in high school in Wisconsin (Aaron was a three-time state champ) and they each competed at the highest level in the world. Keith joined the Army World Class Athletes Program at Fort Carson in 1991 after serving in the Gulf War. His accomplishments include winning the U.S Olympic Team Trials in 2000 and 2004, finishing second in 1996 and third in 2008; six-time Armed Forces champion; four-time U.S. national champion.
Keith retired from wrestling in 2009. Two years after that he retired from the army as a Sergeant First Class after a nearly 21-year career that included a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
“My dad wanted me to get out of our little town in Wisconsin and experience life,” Keith said. “I certainly did that.”
Aaron took a little bit different route. He wrestled for Lindenwood University (St. Charles, Mo.). He left school after a couple of years and joined the air force. He went through basic training and was stationed at Peterson Air Force Base while he trained with the Air Force World Class Athlete program and was a member of Team USA based out of the Olympic Training Center.
Aaron retired as an E4 after nine years and worked as a civilian for a year. Bored, he joined the Army and became a member of the Army World Class Athlete Program. He stayed in the army for seven years and got out as an E6. He came off active duty on Dec. 1. Aaron came as close as a person can to making the 2012 London Games when he finished second at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in April. He lost 2-1 to 22-year-old Ben Provisor in their 163-pound Greco-Roman match.
“It’s tough,” said Aaron, who also finished second at the 2008 Olympic Trials. “For a while there it didn’t matter what I was doing, it popped it into my head.
“I can definitely say I gave it everything I had. I have no regrets.”
So who would win if the Sieracki brothers wrestled off?
“We’ll give Aaron the upper hand,” Keith said with a smile. “He wrestled up until July.
“Actually, we always had a different mentality when it came to wrestling each other. We figured there were enough people in the United States and enough people in the world to where we didn’t need to wrestle each other. Instead, we always just gave each other a pat on the back.”
The brothers did square off - sort of - in November when Palmer Ridge traveled to Woodland Park for a dual meet. The Bears came out on top, 46-37.
“There’s always going to be a competitive spirit between me and my brother and Paul (Gagich),” Keith said. “Last year they beat us pretty bad, so for us to be this close to them this year, and down a couple of wrestlers, was pretty good. I would like to see those guys at the end of the season.”
After a year as an assistant, Keith is settling into his role as the main guy. The Woodland Park team has shown a lot of improvement. Keith believes as many as five of his wrestlers could advance to the Class 4A state tournament in February. Just one Panther made it to state in 2012.
While Aaron is publically “retired,” he still hasn’t hung up his singlet and put away his shoes. There’s a chance he could dust them off in the coming years.
“I had a lot of issues with my back,” Aaron said. “After that heals I’ll reevaluate things.”
A few years ago, Keith opened Sieracki’s Mat Masters Wrestling. It was based in south Colorado Springs. But when Aaron retired from competitive wrestling, Keith revamped the business and set up locations in Woodland Park (at the high school) and Monument (Palmer Ridge).
The brothers work together to support each location. The club is open to kids ages 4 to 18 and is dedicated to developing elite wrestling champions with strong values, discipline and character. The Sierackis focus on, but are not limited to the wrestling styles of Greco Roman/freestyle and folk style wrestling. You can visit the website at www.sierackismmwrestling.com.
“I’m working on making state champions and a state championship team,” Keith said. “I don’t ever want to yell in the corner. I just want to sit back and watch it all come together.”