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Kloc stands alone in winner's circle ; Maute stepping down at Iroquois to replace Knuutila at NCCC

Just like the characters in his favorite video game, Call to Duty: Black Ops, Jim Kloc is carrying out a mission. His challengers aren't a squad of Viet Cong or the Soviets, rather any wrestler who steps into the circle to oppose him.

His weapons don't include various firearms, explosives or grenades. Kloc can inflict plenty of damage just using his finely-tuned skills, experience and mental toughness.

Winning battles is something Kloc has done better than anyone in the storied history of Iroquois wrestling. By winning Friday in a dual meet, he became the program's leader in career victories, passing Matt Mariacher, who went on to win the 2008 Ilio DiPaolo Award. Kloc's career record of 198-28 includes a state runner-up finish last year at 140 and a fifth-place finish as a freshman at 135.

"It gets to a point where you get your body in shape, after you get to that conditioning level, it's mostly mental," Kloc said last week in the team's practice "Pit." "For me, wrestling just happens. I'm not that big of a person on the attack. I'm more of a sit back, feel a person out, and then go after him."

Kloc will take a 36-1 record into this weekend's Class Championships being held at five sites in Section VI. Kloc is still the overwhelming favorite to win the Class A title at 145 pounds.

"Some people are born with freakish natural abilities, and he's one of them," said Iroquois wrestling coach Keith Maute. "He has the fast-twitch muscles, the strength, power, he's been wrestling for a long time. He's decided that this is what he wants to do. Wherever he can find a mat that keeps him separated from the pack."

Kloc, the No. 1 ranked wrestler is the state in Division I, wants to make the most of his junior year, his last with teammate and best friend Rodney Offhaus (36-2).

"Our dads were best friends and they kind of made us start wrestling together when we were like in first grade, and me and him have been working together for the past 12 years," said Kloc. "Hopefully, me and him can finally go to states together."

Kloc also wrestles with his younger brother Matt, an eighth-grader who is among the section's best at 112. "He does like a lot of arm bars, and I'm not good at that stuff, so I just watch him to try and learn," said Matt. "He keeps me focused. He says do the best I can, you're only in eighth grade."

Maute would love to coach Kloc as a senior, but it's not going to happen.

Maute will take over as wrestling coach at Niagara County Community College next season. He will replace Eric Knuutila, who is retiring after a 38 seasons. Knuutila is 379-200-8 with four individual NJCAA champions, 101 Region III championships and 35 NJCAA All-Americans.

Knuutila is convinced he's tabbed the right man.

"It's my personal feeling to be a great coach, you have to be crazy," said Knuutila. "You're gone every weekend, you make a lot of sacrifices. Keith can handle that part of it and keep what we got going at the college going in the right direction."

Maute, 35, is owner of the Cobra Wrestling Academy in Cheektowaga. He spent seven years as an assistant with Dennis Beck at Lancaster, resurrected the East Aurora program as its coach for six years and spent the last two seasons at Iroquois. Iroquois' modified coach, Brandon Ostrowski, is among the candidates to replace Maute.

"I just felt honored Eric asked me to take it over," said Maute. "Obviously with me opening the wrestling school, my obsession and my passion is in the sport. This is a great opportunity for my career. I always wondered how I could do coaching at the college level, so this will be a great challenge."

e-mail: mmonnin@buffnews.com

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