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Archive for Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Kellerman going out on top

February 28, 2006

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Anyone who has watched Nolan Kellerman run the football or pin a wrestler to the mat the last three years knows athletics come easy for him.

Now we'll get the chance to see if they go easy, as well.

Kellerman has been a rare breed while wearing the red and black of Lawrence High - a three-year letterwinner for a football program that bestows such an honor on a precious few, and courtesy of last weekend's romp through the 171-pound bracket at the Class 6A state wrestling tournament, a two-time state champion without a loss during that span.

Rarer still is the decision he has made regarding his collegiate career:

There won't be one.

While teammates in both sports prepare to move on - to junior colleges, to NCAA Division I, to other schools in between - Kellerman will drop the athlete from student-athlete, stay home and attend Kansas University, taking his passion in the classroom up Mount Oread with an eye toward securing an undergraduate degree some time around 2010.

It's a gutsy, thought-provoking decision in an arena that sorely lacks them.

There are literally hundreds of examples of men more than twice Kellerman's age who can't come to grips with calling it quits on their athletic careers. Whether it's the thrill of competition, the desire to bask in the spotlight or the simple uncertainty of not really knowing what else to do with the rest of their lives, too many people have stuck around too long.

As a result, we're left with hard-to-shake images of Michael Jordan as a Washington Wizard, Joe Namath as a Los Angeles Ram and Willie Mays as a New York Met.

And those are just the big names who could afford such a luxury of playing a kid's game past their prime. Never mind all the has-beens and never-weres who, convinced they're just one lucky break away from making it big, allow even more precious time to slip away before moving on with their lives.

Instead, Kellerman will find himself, albeit on the high school level, in the company of such icons as John Elway and Jim Brown. He's going out on top.

From a team perspective, he helped lead LHS to its best finish on the football field in more than a decade, a second-half Olathe East rally the only thing standing between the Lions and their goal of a spot in the Class 6A state title game.

From an individual viewpoint, it doesn't get much better than going mano-a-mano in the wrestling circle and needing less than two minutes to walk away a state champion two times over.

"That's some good icing," Kellerman said following Saturday's triumph over Garden City's Bryan Irsik in the title match, in which he needed just 97 seconds to score a pin and add to his already lofty status in LHS athletic lore. "That's some wedding-cake icing."

Of course, given Kellerman's unusually mature perspective regarding athletics and their place in his life, that's a belief that likely will change one day.

You've got to believe that when that day comes to bite his first piece of wedding cake, he's going find out it tastes so much sweeter.

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