Athlete wrestles with weight issues, wins

Michael Klekotka

Most of us say we want to lose weight and get in shape, but few follow through and accomplish that goal. Recent Palmetto High grad and Palmetto Bay resident Michael Klekotka made good on his vow to lose weight and when he accomplished that goal he gained more than expected.

Klekotka was a two-sport athlete, playing football and wrestling. He played on the offensive line his three years on the varsity. Now, coaches often like their offensive linemen on the heavier side, but Klekotka’s weight loss made his coach happy.

“It made me a better football player,” Klekotka said. “I played better than I ever did as a heavyweight.”

He played next to Ronnie Regula, who was being recruited by the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio.

“They were looking at film of Ronnie, and saw me,” he said. “They asked who I was and where I was going, and that’s how recruiting started. I was looking at Ohio State for wrestling but that didn’t go anywhere.”

At the time, the Mount St. Joseph’s recruiters started to talk to him, Klekotka was planning to go to their rival school, Hanover. Klekotka was interested in seeing what the recruiters had to say because Hanover wasn’t offering as much money in grants and financial aid as St. Joseph.

So, after playing together for four years, Klekotka and Regula are on track to play together for another four, but in Ohio. However, they won’t be next to each other on the offensive line because Klekotka will play either fullback or linebacker.

Whether he will wrestle in college is still a question. It’s on option. Oddly enough, one of the reasons he lost weight was to be able to wrestle at a lower weight class.

He wrestled as a heavyweight as a freshman, sophomore and junior. His junior year he did well enough that he qualified for and went 1-2 in the state meet. After the final loss, he decided he didn’t want to wrestle as a heavyweight any longer.

He said he was strong as a heavyweight but he wasn’t solid the way he is now.

“255 at 5-feet-8 is pretty chunky,” he said. “I didn’t like being heavy. I thought of winning at 189. I didn’t have as much success as a heavyweight. I started running a lot. My trainer gave me a diet. The running was wrestling based.”

His senior year, he wrestled at 215 and 189 and had enough success that he finished sixth in the state and he was named second team All-Dade. If he wrestles in college, he’ll have to wrestle at 197.

Klekotka’s weight problems started due to medicine he was taking as a child because of chronic airway passage disease that caused breathing problems. The drug regime was supposed to be short-term, just two weeks, but instead he was kept on them for six months. Doctors told him that the drugs changed his metabolism resulting in weight gain.

“After I lost the weight, my metabolism kicked back in again. My final weight at the end of the season was 204,” he said.

Klekotka plans to major in sports management. His career goal is to coach college football.

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