Keal leads state team
Travis Keal is a reserved wrestling coach who prefers preparation, daily work and drills on technique that help athletes become better.
He wants wrestlers to rely on their knowledge when a match starts.
"As a coach, there really is nothing you can do once it (a match) is going on," Keal said. "I am not a cheerleader, I guess. They should know what they are supposed to do when they get into a match. I can offer some help throughout the match, but that is about it."
In between tournament rounds, he will instruct his wrestlers as a group. The experience is similar to a coach talking to his team at halftime of a game. It helps him emphasize the team approach.
His approach is working.
For his efforts, Keal was selected to coach the Kansas team in the Metro Classic against Missouri that took place last week.
"It was pretty cool, a privilege and an honor to do it," Keal said.
The Kansas squad lost the match 32-24.
"It was a good close dual," he said. "There were a lot of good wrestlers on both sides. Missouri had good wrestlers in lower weights. We were tied until we got to the last four matches. We knew that it was going to be tough, it was fun."
As much as who won or lost, Keal will remember working with an all-star team of wrestlers.
He had a team full of talented wrestlers who had dominated in the state tournaments and during their four-year high school careers.
He brought the Kansas group of wrestlers to Mill Valley High School for practice.
"You can see how they are as good as they are, good to have the practices here," he said. "Our kids got to see what they do. It gives them incentive and motivation."
The things he noticed the most were the wrestlers' work ethic and attention to detail. They had an attitude that said they were going to show up and wrestle hard at practice.
"They step up their level when they need to," he said. "It is nice to be around kids like that. You learn from the other coaches, see what they do. You kind of learn too."
"It was a nice experience," he said. "I am glad I got to do it."
Keal's fingerprints are on everything the Mill Valley wrestling program does from drills to where it competes.
He is the only coach that the school has ever known since it opened in 2000.
Keal has coached the sport for 12 years.
Keal has built a wrestling power at Mill Valley, which for the last two years has taken 10 wrestlers to the state tournament.
This year, his team won more matches at the state tournament than it ever has.
Mill Valley had its banquet on Tuesday. Wrestlers were to be honored, and Keal planned to discuss the season.
Mill Valley had a 5-3 record in dual competition.
"I think we got better towards the end of it," he said. "We had kids drastically over the last month of the season."
One of the disappointing aspects of the season was the Jaguars wrestler who didn't get to wrestle in the state tournament.
John "J.R." Logan broke his leg in the regional final match.
"J.R. being hurt was kind of a bummer," Keal said. "We won more matches at state than we ever had as far as a team. We competed, which is what we want to do. Six of the guys we took to state are coming back."
Keal is an innovator. He helped get the Kaw Valley League to adopt a dual tournament at the beginning of the season.
He has become well recognized for his work in the sport, and is active in the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association.
He has numerous meetings to attend in the spring.