For Kerrs, wrestling success starts at home
By Grant Lucas
LA PINE — It all began in the Kerr family den, dining room and front room, where wayward knees, feet and elbows would frequently punch holes into walls and break outlets and windows. As brothers David and Derrik Kerr grew up, more space was needed. So their father, Dave, set up a larger-scale mat in the family garage. That, and the fact that Dave’s wife was growing weary of repairing the damages so often.
“The fact that she got tired of having to patch walls,” Dave Kerr says, “it looked more like a quilt job than anything else.
That 10-by-10-foot wrestling mat that was the foundation of success for the Kerr brothers has been replaced by the 40-by-40 mat that now occupies the family’s garage, which serves as home to the area club, La Pine USA Wrestling.
Oh, the countless hours David and Derrik have spent on those mats, which have hosted a sibling rivalry that, as younger brother Derrik recalls, at times has escalated into an exchange of blows.
Yet those same mats have helped produce the most decorated wrestler La Pine High has ever seen in David, a senior, and an up-and-comer in sophomore Derrik, who is looking to join the family business of winning state championships.
“That’s where we wrestle, and that’s where we learned everything. Just in that room,” says Derrik, a 106-pounder. “I remember crying when I was younger because I was wrestling with him (David), and I didn’t like how he wrestled. We’d get into a move, and I’d tell my dad, ‘I can’t do it. It’s too hard.’ He’d show me little tips and tricks, and when I finally came around, I started using that more and more.”
For more than 10 years, the Kerr brothers — and, oftentimes, their now-high school teammates — have spent two hours each day in their garage, which they consider to be more of a wrestling room. The genesis of the brothers’ successes was this site and that scaled-down kitchen setting — the starting points of La Pine High’s wrestler, a rising Hawks star, and arguably the most successful squad in program history.
And while the Kerrs are at the forefront of the Hawks’ rise, it is this La Pine team, consisting of five Class 3A state placers from last season, that has kept David and Derrik sharp.
“You have to have support (of teammates),” says David Kerr, La Pine’s only two-time state champion who is competing at 126 pounds this season. “You have to have your friends who are out their with you helping push you.”
David Kerr is soft-spoken yet dominant. Heading into the 3A state meet two years ago, his father, Dave, stood as La Pine’s only individual state champion. Now a two-time defending state winner, David is 101-0 since the beginning of his sophomore year and who has placed first at all four tournaments in which La Pine has competed this season. Do not be fooled by how guarded David seems to be, however. His toughness, quickness and aggressiveness have helped him become a shoo-in for a third straight state title — and a wrestler unafraid to compete against the top wrestlers in Oregon.
“That’s the sign of a true champion,” La Pine coach Aaron Flack says, “when they’re willing to forgo their record to get the best competition.”
Among those to whom David has yet to lose is little brother Derrik, a 106-pounder, on their household mat, who has quickly flourished into a state championship contender.
Derrik recalls how, entering his freshman season, he felt the strain of being a Kerr wrestler. After all, his father was a state champ and his brother already had one title under his belt. Still, Derrik cruised to a 27-7 record last season at 106, placed second at the 3A Special District 3 championships and finished sixth at the state meet.
“It’s a little pressure on me,” says Derrik, who then nods toward his brother. “He’s kind of gotten it all off because he’s won a state title a couple of times. But for me coming up, it’s a little bit like everything’s on your shoulders. If you don’t fill it out, it’s on you. … I’ve been talking to my dad, and he tells me that there shouldn’t be any pressure on me because I’m my own self. There’s nothing I can do to change that. I can work as hard as I want in the room, and if I win it, I win it. But if I don’t, I’m the best man I can be.”
It made him eager to go out and make a name of his own.
“It made me come out and have a goal to beat my brother. I wrestle with him trying to learn new tips and tricks every day to get better than he is.”
“He is pretty small for 106,” says Flack, noting that the younger Kerr “walks around” at about 105 while opponents in that weight class trim down from 113. “But he’s definitely a lot bigger than he was last year. He’s grown, and he’s definitely been filling out. Last year, he was so small. He was about 95 last year. If he put on about four or five pounds of muscle, he would be a true, strong 106-pounder. The confidence is building with him each week. I think he realizes he is a contender this year. He’s proven it. He’s proven that he can wrestle with some of the best kids.”
So far this season, Derrik is 11-0 with four first-place finishes in four tournaments. And together, the Kerrs are the spearhead as the Hawks look to build on last season’s state championships, during which La Pine placed second for the program’s best-ever finish.
That is what the Kerr brothers frequently come back to referencing: a highly competitive La Pine team. During each practice session, David and Derrik will train with the likes of 126-pounder Alex Dudley, who was fourth at state 113 last season, and with 138-pounder Owen Johnson and 145-pounder Trentyn Tennant. This is a team that features Trevor Jones, who was fourth at 126 at state last year, and Hunter Dodson, who was fourth at 220. Prior to last season, only one La Pine team had ever placed in the top 10 at state: a fifth-place finish in 1989, when Dave Kerr become the Hawks’ first state champ. Now, with a loaded and experienced roster, La Pine — which has a challenging schedule ahead that includes this week’s Oregon Wrestling Classic in Redmond followed by a dual at Culver and then a trip to Hillsboro for the highly competitive Reser’s Tournament of Champions — is poised to contend for a state crown for the second straight season.
And at the forefront are David and Derrik Kerr — two former rivals who still from time to time tussle in the family garage (ahem, wrestling room). Yet while they are teammates when wearing the La Pine blue and gold singlets, that rivalry continues. For example, if the younger Kerr wins state championships in each of his final three seasons, he would own three state crowns. If David somehow falls short of a state title this season, he would finish his high school career with two. So does that add pressure for David to win a third title?
The La Pine senior laughs and turns to his brother, as if he was accepting the challenge: “Now it does, yeah.”