Updated: Jan 24
For the first time in 20 years, coach Brandon Day doesn’t have a McKiernan in his wrestling program. But the McKiernan boys’ careers are far from over.
The latest highlight for the Richmond family comes from 2018 grad Colton McKiernan, who is now in his senior year at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
On Dec. 29-30, the NCAA Division I Cougars competed at one of the largest and most prestigious college wrestling tournaments: Ken Kraft Midlands. Out of 46 teams at the NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, SIUE finished ninth.
McKiernan (285-lbs) played a large role in the team’s success with a fifth-place finish after he upset the No. 7 wrestler in the nation from Harvard, Yaraslau Slavikouski, by a 9-2 decision in the quarterfinals.
“I was on Kevin McKiernan’s [Colton’s father] couch, jumping up and down like a little kid watching Colton wrestle in the quarterfinals,” Day said. “It’s awesome because you watched him struggle as a little kid but he stuck with it and now he’s reaping the benefits of all that.”
Colton is one of four all-state wrestlers in his family. He was a two-time Division 3 State Finals runner-up in high school. His older brother Jake (’14) and younger brothers Dan (’21) and Kevin (’22) were all state champions in their senior years.
Day called Colton a “great motivator” for any kid in the area as he’s proven what can be accomplished through hard work.
“You don’t have to be great in elementary or middle school, that’s not a prerequisite for being a great high school or college athlete. Work ethic is more important than talent and Colton is a prime example of that.
“He was never a high school state champ, and now he’s doing better in college than the kid who beat him in high school,” Day said. “He’s beating all these people who are multiple-time state champs and I’m extremely proud of his resiliency.”
In 2019, Colton had a team-leading 21 wins, finishing as the runner-up in the Mid-American Conference and qualified for the NCAA tournament as a result. Day said Colton has dealt with some injuries, but with a 13-2 start to this season, he’s looking to make this his best one yet.
His older brother Jake graduated from SIUE in 2020 with 66 career wins and is still involved with the program as a graduate assistant coach. Dan is in his sophomore year at SIUE as well, and the most recent Richmond grad, Kevin, is in his first year at St. Clair County Community College where he's currently leading the team with a 23-5 record.
Day said he can recall many great moments with this family, saying the boys are like his nephews.
“When wrestling’s all over and I’m done coaching, Kevin and Jodi [McKiernan] and me and my wife and those kids will be barbequing together, swimming together, and just staying lifelong family friends,” he said. “One of the best parts of my job is watching parents lose their emotions when they watch their kids accomplish something awesome.”
Like when Jake upset nationally-ranked Brooks Black of the University of Illinois in his freshman season.
“I got to sit on that couch and watch Kevin cry tears of joy, and it was the same thing this last week,” Day said. “It’s such a great and rewarding feeling.”
For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli
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