Altus graduate Keilan Torres has been busy since leaving Altus High School to wrestle for Oklahoma State University nearly four years ago.
A three-time state championship wrestler at AHS, Torres left Stillwater in 2015 for the University of Northern Colorado or UNC and is the first Altus graduate to make it to the NCAA Division I Wrestling National Championships after placing third at the Big 12 Championships last weekend in Tulsa.
“It feels amazing to finally make it to the big tournament. It has been a long process with lots of ups and downs,” Torres said. “Just to know that I never gave up during adversity makes it that much more enjoyable.”
In his junior year at Northern Colorado, Torres’ compiled a 28-14 record with 13 pins and four major decisions. He is ranked 20th in the nation at 165 pounds and learned a lot since his transition from high school to collegiate wrestling.
“Collegiate wrestling is completely different than high school wrestling,” Torres said. “Adjusting to the high pace and constant non-stop was a difficult transition for me. In college, you can’t let up for even a second or things might start to go bad.”
Torres remembers what he learned in Altus.
“I learned to have pride and never to give up while in Altus. You have to take pride in the school or town you’re representing and throughout my years of wrestling I always took pride being from Altus and that made me work that much harder to represent my school and town,” Torres said. “You want people to remember the school’s name that is across the mat from them. It’s just like wearing Altus across my chest, except now I’m with UNC. I want people to fear it.”
The success has not quite hit Torres yet.
“It is a great feeling to know that I get to represent my town in such a positive way,” Torres said. “It is exciting, but I know I definitely won’t be the last and that’s what makes it even more exciting.”
His match with Michigan State University’s Drew Hughes — ranked 18th in the nation with a 26-8 overall record — will be the biggest match of his career so far.
“The coaches here have done an excellent job with me and getting me prepared for any situation so I’m not too nervous about next weekend,” Torres said. “Knowing that the coaches believe in me and know what I am capable of makes it that much easier to go into without hardly any nerves. They have such high expectations and believe in me so much that it makes me want to aim even higher and if it wasn’t for them believing in me, it would have been a struggle to keep working hard day in and day out and I cannot thank them enough.”
“I already feel like I have a good shot at shocking the nation. My confidence is high, my body feels good, and I am ready to go,” he added. “I am the only one that can hold myself back. As long as I wrestle seven hard minutes without stopping, I can do some unbelievable things. I know what I am capable of and I’m ready to go.”
Torres is not the only one who is ready for his match, both his former coach Nick Williams and father Mike Torres are ready to see what he can do at the tournament.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity Keilan has in front of him,” Williams said. “Keilan is a clutch wrestler and always has been since the seventh grade.”
His father echoed Williams’ sentiments.
“It’s awesome that Keilan qualified for nationals by going 5-1 at the Big 12 Championships and placing third in front of his home state but the road and the journey of him getting there is what makes it special,” he said. “Keilan having to go through the process of transferring to a different school, missing half the season last year and getting injured at last year’s Big 12 Championships — he was having the worst luck. But he kept pushing through and this season he has improved week by week and seems to be peeking to his full potential at just the right time. It is hard to put into words how proud I am as a father in seeing him represent Altus on such a large stage.”
Torres said his father has been an inspiration to him throughout his life and he gives him credit for molding him into the wrestler and person he is today.
“My dad has been alongside me through all of the ups and downs. He’s the one I can go to and talk about anything with whether it’s wrestling or my personal life. He reminds me that as long as I keep pushing, great things are going to happen. It’s not about the wins and losses, it’s about the heart and pride of remembering who you are as a person,” he said. “I know most people have someone famous that they look up to, but I’m fortunate enough to have my dad to inspire me day in and day out.”
Torres is scheduled to wrestle 11 a.m. Thursday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.