Archive for Thursday, February 21, 2008

Brotherly pursuit

February 21, 2008

Baldwin High wrestler Kevin Callahan isn't too keen on breaking records. He says he'd much rather win a state championship.

If he happens to crack the record books along the way, that's just icing on the cake.

If that's the case, this season should have left Callahan with quite a bellyache from amassing some seriously sweet feats.

Callahan's career has been so successful that he now has more wins - 167 - than anybody in his school, in his conference or in the state.

Just last week at the regional tournament leading up to state, the senior surpassed the Kansas career wins record of 166, weeks after breaking the Baldwin school record of 153.

"It says a lot about how you approach things in general," Baldwin wrestling coach Kit Harris said of the record. "To break this record, I think is more impressive than winning a state title. A state title is one tournament in one day. This is four years of perseverance."

Yet for all of Callahan's accomplishments, the matter of most successful wrestler in his family still is up for debate.

That's because Kevin's brother, Alan, may well be in line to knock Kevin from the top of the career victories plateau.

Alan, a junior at BHS, already has a varsity record of 126-12, leaving him 41 wins behind his brother.

It's something the two - who began their wrestling careers well before reaching the high school ranks - discuss sparingly.

"We've talked about it only a little bit," Alan said. "Kevin said after he won that the record wouldn't stand for long because I was going to break it."

The Callahan brothers say they're much more focused on the task at hand.

Neither Kevin, who wrestles at 130 pounds, nor Alan, who battles at 112 pounds, has managed to win a state title yet. Kevin finished fourth his freshman season and second in each of the last two years. Alan placed third at state a year ago.

The quest begins again at the state finals on Friday in Salina.

"That has been our focus our whole high school careers," Alan said. "Just bringing home a state title and pushing each other along the way."

The two grapple every day in practice, which is the only time a rivalry is evident between them.

"We're a lot more intense when we wrestle each other than anybody else in practice," Kevin said. "We work out a lot harder together. Neither one of us wants the other to score a point."

Added Alan: "When you're wrestling with your brother, you don't want to get beat by him."

Away from the practice mat, however, their relationship is anything but contentious. They're each other's biggest fans and have been there for each other every step of the way.

When Kevin won a USA Wrestling national championship in junior high, Alan was the first one jumping up and down, according to Harris.

And when Alan won a national title in Kansas City last spring, it was Kevin who first greeted Alan with a hug.

"We're really close," Kevin said. "I get into his matches almost more than I get into my own. It means a lot to me to see him do well."

Said Harris: "It's like if one of them loses, the other one feels the frustration just as bad."

Now, as the final chapter unfolds for the Callahans as teammates, neither could picture a better way to end than with each standing in the first-place position on the championship podium at state.

And both have as good a shot as any at the tournament. Alan is ranked No. 1 in Class 4A in his bracket, and Kevin is ranked No. 2 in his weight class. Combined, they're 293-34 in their careers. That's a lot of post-match arm-raising in favor of a Callahan on the referee's part.

Harris said he felt fortunate as a coach to watch it all unfold.

"You just kind of enjoy the ride while it's happening," he said. "It's rare to have a couple of brothers like this come through your program.

"There are a lot of schools that are probably going to be happy to see the Callahan name gone in a couple of years."

A year from now, Alan could find himself in the same situation that older brother Kevin went through this season, toiling away on the mats with a career wins record in reach. For Kevin's part, he is certain Alan will surpass his achievement.

So how does Kevin feel knowing his state record could dissipate within a year?

"It doesn't bother me," Kevin said. "Yeah, I set a record and that's great. It's awesome accomplishing that. But who else better to break it than my little brother?"


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