Jackson wrestling coach battles back from cancer, inspires his team to dream big
Life hasn’t been easy for the former standout athlete, but getting back into a sport he loves has been a real game changer.
JACKSON, Mo. (KFVS) - Back in the 1990s, Kit Eifert was on top of the world.
“I was all-state in football, all-state in wrestling, played in the state championship senior year,” said Chris “Kit” Eifert. “Placed 5th my senior year at the state wrestling tournament.”
After high school, he took his talents to the collegiate level.
“Played football for four years at Washington University in St. Louis,” said Eifert.
From the wrestling mat and then the football field, he moved to his next love.
It wasn’t part of his original plan, but Eifert quickly realized coaching and teaching was his passion.
“It was 2016, everything was going great,” said Eifert. “Had just finished coaching in a state championship game at Cape Central.”
Right after that, everything changed.
“It was the first day of school, I woke up and realized something wasn’t right,” said Eifert. “I went to the doctor and found cancer and they decided to remove one of my kidneys.”
He recovered from that and got back to living.
Then came another blow.
“18 months later, was having pain in my hip and right leg,” said Eifert. “Went to the doctor and it was cancer again and it metastasized in my hip and right next to my T-12 vertebrae in my spine.”
It lead into, perhaps, his biggest challenge yet.
“It was a cascade of events that led to 15 hours of surgery, and 15 different surgeons that led to a 10-day coma afterwards,” said Eifert. “I was septic, my small intestine had ruptured and was leaking into my abdomen.”
He saw his future slipping away.
“During the pandemic I was in a nursing home and was pretty well content with the fact I was going to die,” said Eifert. “I weighed 159 pounds.”
Kit couldn’t work any longer.
He now goes to dialysis three days a week and is just waiting to be cancer free long enough to get on the donor list.
“I could crawl in my recliner and never come out if I wanted to, but what kind of life would that be,” said Eifert.
He has a daughter who is a senior in high school this year who gives him a reason to live.
Family, friends and a passion to help others also gives him the will to get up and moving in the morning.
“Maybe, ok, I can’t do a full-time job anymore, but I can do something,” said Eifert.
He’s now back to coaching again at Jackson High School.
“I think I’ve improved a lot this year from last year,” said Noah Gibson, Jackson High School senior.
Gibson is a senior at Jackson this year.
He said he has learned some new tricks this year from Coach Eifert.
“He’s helped me with my hand work and how I should deliver,” said Gibson.
“Nobody ever does stuff by themselves, and especially not me,” said Steve Wachter.
Steve Wachter has been coaching wrestling for 41 years.
Wachter and Kit Eifert go way back.
“It was my first year that I became head coach when he was a senior, said Wachter. “He was an all-state heavy and did an outstanding job.”
Bringing Kit on to help the team this year was an easy decision for Wachter.
“If they understand the struggles that he fought through, hopefully that will help them when they are complaining and have problems to look over at him and say this guy has battled through a lot tougher stuff then I’m going through,” said Coach Eifert.
“It’s all about grit and not being broken by someone else,” said Noah Gibson. “I think him coming in, not being broken he doesn’t give up he’s going to come in and show us the way no matter what.”
While the energy isn’t always there, the love for giving back gives him strength.
“That’s what drives me is seeing my community become a better place because of things I can do,” said Eifert.
Like helping inspire and push Gibson to get a district win.
“I think it shows how much he really does care not just about the Jackson wrestling program, but wrestling in general and I really do appreciate that,” said Gibson.
Eifert is just so happy to be there.
“It’s nice to know that the old guy whose picture is going to be taken down in the next year or so can still contribute to all these other guys coming up now,” said Eifert. “It’s helping me just as much as it’s helping the kids.”
He’s showing no matter how tough it gets, on or off the mat, giving up is not an option.
Jackson had eight wrestlers, including Noah Gibson, qualify for state.
Kit Eifert was there cheering on the team at the state tournament.
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