National champ Kimber to redshirt in lieu of COVID uncertainty

September 6, 2020

Sydnee Kimber

Defending national champion Sydnee Kimber of Sitka won’t be back on the wrestling mat this season to defend her title for McKendree University.

With all the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season because of COVID, Kimber has decided to hit pause with two years of eligibility left and focus on her degree in Athletic Training.

“I am planning to redshirt,” she said. “I planned on getting my masters in five years anyways.”

Kimber, of Mt. Edgecumbe fame, is back on campus in Lebanon, Illinois, where she is back in school and working out with her McKendree teammates.

Being a redshirt means she won’t compete, however, it doesn’t mean she won’t still have to participate in preseason conditioning drills.

“Coach calls it pre-pre-preseason when in reality it’s just a way for us to feel the pain a little earlier,” Kimber said with a laugh.

Preseason conditioning is dryland only. No wrestling.

“There’s always hope that we will be back on the mat this semester, but honestly you just never know.”

Until then, the wrestlers are running on the track, going up and down bleachers and executing endless burpees.

“All the fun stuff,” Kimber sarcastically said.

Kimber finished 25-1 with a national championship and All-American honors as a sophomore.

The soon-to-be 20-year-old enjoys staying busy and spent her summer in Sitka working at a fish hatchery. She doesn’t mind manual labor, but at the same time she learned how much she doesn’t want that for a career.

“It definitely makes me glad I’m working on a college degree, so I don’t have to do that kind of job if I don’t want to,” she said.

When she wasn’t working, Kimber spent her free time hiking nearby foothills and riding her mountain bike.

“It was fun to find something else besides wrestling to keep in shape,” she said. “Once I came back to school, I started swimming again as an alternative to just running.”

Not wrestling has given Kimber a new appreciation for her favorite sport.

“I definitely miss it,” she said. “Having the season, having tournaments to look forward to, it makes it a lot easier to want to go workout every day.”

Last season, Kimber put together a sensational sophomore season that included two national titles – one on her own and one with McKendree – and her first All-American recognition.

The 190-pounder claimed her individual title with no drama, shutting out all three opponents and winning two of her three matches by pin. It was a different story at the NCAA D2 National Duals championships, where her victory in the final match of the night clinched the title for McKendree.

The No. 2-ranked Alaskan earned a 10-2 decision over No. 1 Emily Cue of Simon Fraser in the final match of the night, tying the team score at 19-19 and forcing a tiebreaker that awarded the title to McKendree.

“The dual was so close, I knew it was going to come down to that,” Kimber said. “I just knew in my heart that my match was going to determine my team winning and my team losing.”

Kimber finished the season 25-1 and beat the only wrestler to beat her on the season.

“I had to avenge a pretty bad loss at the beginning of the season,” she said. “It was a good comeback.”

Kimber is hoping for wrestling to make a comeback post-COVID.

“The whole wrestling community has faith that we’ll be back on the mat and everything will go back to normal,” she said. “Honestly, I think it’ll be a long time before we can have big tournaments and spectators and normal practices. It’ll be a while before that happens again.”

Even though she plans to redshirt, Kimber still feels for all the wrestlers who are kept in limbo about the status of the season.

“It’s a big bummer for everyone,” Kimber said.

Adapt and overcome: We have some mats that we have access to that aren’t on university property, so we can do get to roll around a little bit there. Nothing university sanctioned. It’s so difficult, taking this opportunity … they won’t get a normal season. It’s a big bummer for everyone.