‘Peaches’ no more, pilot hopeful Keeling leads SHS | SummitDaily.com

‘Peaches’ no more, pilot hopeful Keeling leads SHS

Summit Daily/Reid Williams Senior Charles Keeling grapples with a teammate during practice on Wednesday. Summit High has high hopes at the regional wrestling competition this weekend in Montrose for Keeling, an aspiring fighter pilot and the No. 7 seed in the 130-pound weight class.

summit daily newsFARMER’S KORNER – An aspiring Air Force fighter pilot will lead the Summit High School wrestling team into regionals today at Montrose, and the squad hopes at least one of its two talented lightweights will be flying on a course to the state tournament by the time the weekend’s over.The Air Force Academy applicant, Charles Keeling – a self-proclaimed “thrill jockey” and the team’s leader and lone senior – heads into regionals as the No. 7 seed in the 16-man 130-pound bracket. He will be joined by junior Andrew Vawter-Beaird at the top of the list of Tiger hopefuls; Vawter-Beaird is seeded fifth in the 119-pound bracket.Keeling and Vawter-Beaird are the only two Tigers seeded in the top half of their divisions, a distinction they earned by way of their regular-season records. Keeling finished at 19-11, while Vawter-Beaird grappled to a 17-10 mark.

The top four finishers in each regionals weight class advance to the state tournament, set for the following weekend at the Pepsi Center in Denver.”I think those two have a good shot at going,” first-year SHS head coach Jim Melvin said.Keeling is a rarity at Summit in that he’s wrestled all four years he’s been in high school. He took sixth at regionals as a freshman in the 103-pound class, before moving up to the 119-pound then 130-pound divisions as a sophomore and junior, respectively.This year, he said, “Everybody has a chance going in, but it’ll be tough (to advance). But that’s what wrestling’s all about.”

Keeling belies the jock image that can follow grapplers wherever they go. He ranks eighth in his class with a 4.037 GPA, and received a congressional nomination from state senator Mark Udall to attend the Air Force Academy. It’s not surprising when Keeling says he won’t be nervous going into this weekend’s competition. After all, he wasn’t the slightest bit on edge for his initial AFA interview last fall, when he answered questions from four tenured military officials for the better part of an hour.This is also a kid that, when queried on his fighter pilot plans, talks matter-of-factly about living the lifestyle for “a real limited amount of time, maybe 10 years,” then transitioning into another line of work in the military, “getting a good pension going,” and retiring healthy and happy.With freckles and a bright red ‘do on top of his slight yet cut frame, it’s hardly a shocker Keeling’s wrestling teammates labeled him “Peaches” when he was an underclassman. But he’s come a long way since then. Just ask him.”‘Peaches’ was one of those terms that people called me when they were beating me up,” he said after practice Wednesday, grinning. “Now, nobody can beat me up anymore, so nobody calls me ‘Peaches.'”

Bye could help Vawter-BeairdVawter-Beaird, Keeling’s sparring partner, lucked out in the seeding draw. Even though he’s the No. 5 seed, he gets one of only three byes in the first round. “I’ve got a really good chance to make it to state with that bye,” he said.Vawter-Beaird took up wrestling just last year, but wasted little time becoming Summit’s top wrestler. He finished a team-best seventh in the 103-pound division at regionals, and ended the year with a 20-13 record.

A mellow kid who relies on endurance, Vawter-Beaird’s go-to moves are the high crotch (“Hi-C”) and the cross-face cradle. He’ll likely face the No. 4 seed, Rifle’s Eddie Kreimeir, in his first match after the bye.Among Summit’s other wrestlers headed to regionals, Kyle Hill is seeded ninth in the 103-pound division; Stephan Collard is the 135-pound class’ 14th seed; Tim Gurule is No. 15 at 140 pounds; Aaron Phipps will fight through the 152-pound class as the 12th seed; and Patrick Vawter-Beaird, Andrew’s younger brother, is the 16th seed in the 160-pound bracket.All regionals divisions are double elimination. The first and second rounds will take place today, with state qualifiers determined in Saturday’s subsequent rounds.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at doneil@summitdaily.com.

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