After 17 seasons, the wrestling team stays a contender
The wrestling team has achieved numerous accomplishments while being coached by head wrestling coach Travis Keal
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Whether it’s the family atmosphere or the trophies from the state tournament, head wrestling coach Travis Keal strives to create an environment based on success on and off the mat.
“Keal Trained” is a mantra used by the team, something that describes the wrestling team’s overall mindset according to senior Jett Bendure.
“It’s simple but when you really break it down it means we have to do the right things daily and not get involved in bad things,” Bendure said. “It’s pushing ourselves to our potential in and outside the wrestling room. That’s just ‘Keal Trained’ in general, just doing the right things daily and pushing yourself to your limits.”
Keal has been coaching wrestling for 21 years, 17 at Mill Valley, and has used his years of experience and connections to help his current wrestlers. The team has traveled to Olympic training centers, Oklahoma State University and high-profile tournaments such as the Kansas City Stampede and the Council Bluffs tournament in Iowa.
Even after coaching for so long, Keal still has a process to continue to adapt for each new season as a coach. According to Keal, this helps him be ready for new challenges.
“Every year after the season is over, I sit down and evaluate areas that I need to work on and areas that the program needs to work on,” Keal said. “After that I go consume myself with those [improvements] for the next 6 or 7 months. You always have to keep changing. Every kid is different.”
Assistant wrestling coach Andrew Hudgins has seen Keal’s impact through the reputation that Mill Valley wrestling has since Keal became head coach.
“It’s all about our five pillars of wrestling: academics, accountability, mental toughness, mental approach and technique,” Hudgins said. “Overall, Keal does a great job of instilling it in the kids and you know that when you see Mill Valley kids on the mat; most of them wrestle the same way.”
The team also recently placed fourth in Class 5A at the 2017 state wrestling tournament and Keal was named the 2017 5A wrestling coach of the year. The team has also had 47 state placers, third place finishes in 2015 and 2016, three regional championships and five league championships. Even with all of these accolades, junior Conner Ward still feels that the team is striving to achieve higher goals each and every year.
“Bringing home trophies my first two years was good for the program, but this year falling one place short of a team trophy at state wasn’t our goal,” Ward said. “We were still one of the best teams in the state, but we didn’t get what we wanted. The expectation for myself and I believe the other wrestlers and coaches is a team state title.”
Bendure has realized this success in the postseason as the team has “been training for this moment of all these wrestlers coming together.” Bendure also believes that Keal has been a proponent of that since before Bendure was even in high school.
“He really motivated me during middle school. He always said, ‘The will to prepare much outweighs the will to succeed,’” Bendure said. “That really stuck with me; the fact that you have to prepare more than just wanting to succeed. It’s made me a better person in life. He’s affected me more in my life with school and everything more than just on the mat with wrestling.”
Every day, Keal makes excellence a focus of his coaching and hopes to make not only great wrestlers but great people once their wrestling career is over.
“They’ll be a better dad and husband, just from coming in that room. Especially on days they didn’t feel like coming in that room,” Keal said. “Wins and losses are good, but we’ve got to build strong people and reliable people with dedication. That’s what we have to do as teachers and coaches. When they leave here, they take things out of that wrestling room that they can use later in their life. Regardless whether they were a state champion or wrestled JV.”