116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
INDEPENDENCE — Wrestling is traditionally a family sport.
Many times competitors follow in the footsteps of a parent, sibling or other relative.
East Buchanan’s Keeley Kehrli serves as a prime example. The family has a knack for combat sports.
“All my siblings have been in wrestling or judo,” Kehrli said. “I take inspiration from them.”
Kehrli has forged her own success, which continued with a 3-0 record at the Independence Girls’ Invitational Saturday on the opening weekend of tournaments in the inaugural sanctioned season by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union. She opened with a major decision and closed with two pins in a combined 1:16.
The Buccaneer senior is a three-time medalist at the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association girls’ state tournament and strives to wrestle better each day with her sights set on a state title.
“It was good I took it one match at a time,” Kehrli said. “Everybody has the ability to get to the podium. As long as you take it one match at a time you can get there.”
The Kehrli family has been connected to the East Buchanan program her entire life. Older brother, Kyle, wrestled for the Buccaneers before he was a two-time NCAA Division III All-American for Cornell College. Older sister, Kendra, wrestled for the boys’ team and then earned Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association All-America honors for Ottawa (Kan.) University. Kendra serves as a co-head coach and was a workout partner for Keeley’s freshman season.
Kehrli was drawn to the sport by her siblings and the fact her dad wanted her to learn a form of self-defense for protection in the real world.
“He helped push me to it,” Kehrli said. “I’m glad that I did it.”
East Buchanan co-head coach Dan Stiefel said Kehrli has come a long way since her first season. Kehrli has developed into a leader in the Buccaneers wrestling room.
“She’s a good role model,” Stiefel said. “They look up to her.
“When she gets on the mat she’s comfortable. She works hard.”
Stiefel sees the potential for a high state finish. The focus is for a state title. Kehrli meshes a good mental approach with physical talent, scoring 16 points in her opening match for the sixth-highest single-match total Saturday.
“She’s smart and very strong,” Stiefel said. “She trusts in her training and lets the match happen.”
The team and individual component attracted her to the sport as well. Nothing matches the reward of victory. She entered the season with 65, including 26 last year.
“It comes down to having faith and confidence in yourself,” Kehrli said. “The thrill of that win keeps me coming back and wanting more.”
The field at Independence consisted of 348 competitors who were assigned three to four matches, leading to 549 total bouts.
Linn-Mar duo Ally Jelinek and Lauren Pullis both went unbeaten, recording three pins apiece. Pullis, a senior, closed with a 20-second fall. Pullis is also an accomplished rugby player and those skills transfer to the mat.
“She came out aggressive and confident,” Linn-Mar Coach Mike Geers said. “That really showed today.
“She stayed in good position and works hard in positions she’s good in. She capitalized.”
Cedar Rapids Prairie led all teams with 188 total match points. Mackenzie Childers led the Hawks, winning all three matches by pin.
Marion’s Natalie Hedlund went 3-0 with three first-period falls, including pins in 22 and 25 seconds. Wolves teammate Kenadee Batey recorded the fastest pin, ending a match in just eight seconds.
West Delaware’s Hannah Cantwell and Charles City’s Leah Stewart shared the lead with most individual match points. Cantwell scored 18 before her third and final pin. Stewart tallied 18 points in the only technical fall of the tournament.
Anamosa had five wrestlers go undefeated, including Adison Musser, Ava Scranton, Isabella Taylor, Hadley Frater and Leah Whitson.
Cascade’s Leah Schwenker led the field with most pins in the least amount of time, recording four in 4:24. Solon’s Kate Richards scored a tournament-high 36 total match points in three matches.