When Kellen Ekern won his 160 lb. state wrestling title at as a junior at Mexico High School in 2016-17 it was an exercise in elegance that was often overshadowed by the incredible expedience that senior teammate Brit Wilson displayed en-route to claiming the 170 lb. championship.
That next season, 2017-18, not only did Ekern move up to take Wilson's roster spot, he was sticking his opponents as fast as any Bulldog ever had, and the end result was a the opportunity to compete for the wrestling team at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.
"(Mexico varsity wrestling coach) Gayle Adams had emailed us about him his junior year and when he beat Ed Ruth from PA. at The Disney Duals we became very interested," said Monarchs coach Steve Martin. "He is a the All American boy, so we jumped when we saw what he was about off the mat."
This season at ODU Ekern was redshirted and competed unattached. In 20 matches the former Bulldogs posted a record of 14-6. As a team Old Dominion was 9-7 overall, 5-2 Mid American Conference. This included going 2-4 at home, 5-1 on the road and 2-2 in neutral territory according to http://www.odusports.com.
"(Ekern) has improved tremendously as an athlete (and has achieved) a 4.0 GPA both semesters," Martin said. "His highlight of the year was reaching the quarterfinals of the Midlands Championships."
Results for 2018-19 for the Monarchs include finishing fourth at the 16-team Navy Classic on Nov. 17, at the 22-squad Reno Tournament of Champions ODU was third on Dec. 20 and at the MAC Conference Championships on Mar. 9 Old Dominion was fourth out of eight at the Ted Constant Center. That just left the National Collegiate Athletic Association tourney on Mar. 21, where the team ended up squarely in the middle of this 63-team field in 32nd.
"(Ekern) has done very well and had a good redshirt year competing unattached with a good record." said Martin. "He has handled the academics very well and is a leader on the team."
During his time as a Bulldog Ekern had a record of 145-6, won a team state title in 2018 and was a team runner-up in 2017. The current Monarch was also a valedictorian at Mexico High School and in 2015-16 as a sophomore he was state championship at 160, making him the schools only three-time titlist.