The Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week: KJ Kearns, Coronado wrestling

0
Photo - Coronado High School sophomore wrestler KJ Kearns is the Gazette's Peak Performer of the Week. He was photographerd at the high school Monday, January 16, 2017. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Coronado High School sophomore wrestler KJ Kearns is the Gazette's Peak Performer of the Week. He was photographerd at the high school Monday, January 16, 2017. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

The best wrestlers not only put in more gym time to be the strongest physically, but they also gain a psychological advantage over their opponents.

Coronado's KJ Kearns has shown that he has the skills to be one of the best wrestlers in the state at 138 pounds, and he's doing it with a style that is leaving both opponents and practice partners scratching their heads.

Kearns won his weight class at the Arvada West Invitational, one of the toughest regular-season meets of the season.

"I would describe my style as 'funky,'" Kearns said. "I can pull a move out of nowhere and make it work for me, even if it's something that nobody else would try. I wrestled my style and didn't let my opponents do what they wanted. A big part of my success is that I'm very unorthodox, and it works well for me because people can't adjust to it mid-match."

Kearns won his first match with a first-round pin, won his second match with a 6-2 decision, and advanced to the finals with a 16-0 tech fall. He dominated Joshua Boulton of Fort Collins in a 7-0 decision to win the championship.

Kearns' coach, Matt Brickell, has been at Coronado for a long time, and was impressed with what his sophomore co-captain was able to accomplish.

"Last year, as a freshman, there were some times when KJ could've won tournaments but came away with second place," Brickell said. "He deserves a lot of credit, because that was a big tournament to win.

"If he can get a takedown, I think he can beat anybody in the state the way he wrestles. He has a really interesting style, and one you don't see very often. I call him 'the Barnacle' because once he gets you on the ground he's a great rider and people rarely get away from him."

Kearns' style has led to a 19-3 record, and has him rising in the rankings at his weight class in 5A as he tries to make it to the state tournament.

That same style isn't so popular with those who must try to combat it.

"My practice partner - Steve Dabelko - hates my style and gets very frustrated with me," Kearns said with a laugh.

Brickell is excited about Kearns' potential, and says he's only going to get better from here.

"It's really nice to see young guys be able to perform like this," Brickell said. "When they win, they get more experience and more confidence, and that carries over to when they're juniors and seniors. I think he can be a state champ and go on to wrestle in college. He has the mentality of a winner, and when you win, it becomes a habit."

Kearns - who finished third at the Arvada tournament last year - hopes having his hand raised becomes a habit; one that carries him to state.

"This year, I mentally prepared myself and had confidence going into that tournament," Kearns said. "Having an extra year under my belt helped me. I had a bunch of nerves there last year, and wasn't really ready for the tough matches. I feel like by the time the end of the season rolls around, I'll be in the conversation for winning a state title."