Kevin Kelly, middle, has been tabbed to take over the Duncan wrestling program. From left, junior high wrestler Connor Kelly and Payton Atchley.

Michael Pineda
The Duncan Banner

Kevin Kelly has paid his dues, now it is time to reap the rewards.

Kelly has been named the Duncan High School head wrestling coach in place of Tom Brack, who will assume the position of assistant high school principal on a full-time basis. Kelly has been a wrestling coach in the school system for 12 years. He was the middle school wrestling coach for one year and was then elevated to assistant coach at the high school, where he served under Brack for 11 years.

For Kelly, taking over the program is a dream come true.

“Duncan has a good program and it’s my home town,” Kelly said. “We established roots here and we have a lot of friends here.

“After my first few years, I knew I wanted to be the head coach someday. But, I wasn’t in any big hurry. I enjoyed coaching with Tom. We’ve been through a lot together and we have become great friends.”

Kelly has lived in the Duncan area throughout his life, excelling as a student-athlete at Empire High School. He was a three-time state placer for the Bulldogs and was the first state champion in the history of the school. He went to Southeastern Oklahoma State on a football scholarship and was named All-Conference at outside linebacker his senior year.

Throughout his college years, he never lost his love of wrestling. During Christmas break, he would spend time working out with the team, which was coached by Michael Ivey, and always attended the Geary Tournament and the State Tournament.

“I have wrestled since I was a kid,” Kelly said. “It was a part of my life and I had some offers in wrestling coming out of high school. I just thought I had a better chance in football.”

In the past four years, Kelly has added working with youth wrestling to his high school duties. He has spent time working with the Marauder wrestling club and the middle school in an effort to help develop a solid base of talent.

“I knew it wouldn’t be a long time before Tom got out,” Kelly said. “It was four years ago that I started helping with the Marauders program, helping it get built up.

“We’ve got a solid tournament team and the junior high program was good this year. If the kids stay together, we can do some things.”

Kelly is doing his part to strengthen the program with three wrestlers living under his roof. Kelly and his wife Holly have three sons, Connor, Hunter and Cooper as well as a daughter Kenadi. This past year, Connor took the title in his weight division at Junior High State.

“I will probably keep helping the little kids for a while,” Kelly said. “My son Cooper is dying to get on the mat. He wears a singlet all over the house.”

Brack has had a big influence on Kelly, who will add his own touch in coaching the wrestling team, as can be expected. And the door will always be open to his mentor and friend.

“The effort he gets out of them is tremendous,” Kelly said. “We had some kids that were not as talented, but they believed that they could win and they did.

“We’ve been doing it the same way for 11 years but I will add on some of my own things. We may drill a little differently and I may teach a certain move differently. Hopefully I can get the same amount of effort out of them. The kids would run through a brick wall for him.”

For his part, Brack started handing over more of the coaching duties to Kelly this season. One of Kelly’s strength’s, according to Brack, is setting a lineup to put the Demons in the best position to win.

“He’s ready, he’s as ready as you can get,” Brack said. “He knows how to get them ready and he will do a great job.”

In taking over the head coaching duties, Kelly will give up his position as a freshman football coach but will retain his position as middle school boy’s golf coach.

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