As a former state champion with Norwood High, Rick Kief has been to the top. Now that he has a little free time on his hands, he’d like to bring his alma mater back to the summit.
More than 35 years after winning the 134-pound Division 1 title as a senior, Kief was recently introduced as the new coach of the Mustangs. He takes over for Dan McQuade, who guided Norwood for the previous two seasons.
"It was on my bucket list. I just became an empty-nester," said Kief, who now lives in Weston. "(I have) three sons, two in university and one has gone through university, so my wife and I are sitting back saying, ‘What do we want to do?’ and I said I have time to give back, so I kind of had this feeling I wanted to get back into wrestling and this opportunity came."
Kief earned a 7-4 decision to capture the Division 1 state final, and lost in the New England Championship final to Tom Bilodeau of Concord-Carlisle, who was the Division 2 state champion.
After graduating from Norwood in 1977, Kief went on to wrestle four years at Harvard, captaining the 1980-81 team as a senior while wrestling primarily between 129 and 134 pounds.
One of his first battles as coach of the Mustangs is a familiar one of late for the once-storied program -- the numbers game. Kief said 24 signed up, but he is routinely getting only 17 or 18 guys in the wrestling room on a regular basis. In an effort to raise those levels, especially at the higher weight classes, he is still actively recruiting kids to give it a shot.
"I have a great group of kids, I wish I had more numbers so they could experience wrestling each other, but hopefully that will come," Kief said.
Instead of focusing on different wrestling maneuvers, Kief has taken an alternate approach early on in molding his team,
"Many high school coaches I’ve come across teach the kids moves. Here’s how you do this move, now do this move and it’s more of a paint-by-numbers situation," he said. "My goal, and I don’t have the experience of a year behind my belt to understand if that’s truly going to happen, is to teach the kids how to move, to be athletes. It doesn’t mean they have to be an athlete in wrestling, they can be an athlete anywhere.