Hitting the books and hitting the mats in Calif.
By Jeff Caspersen
RIFLE ” In choosing to pack up and head to California for college, Keaton Long is realizing more than just her long-held goal of wrestling at the collegiate level.
Her decision to wrestle and study at Menlo College brings with it an added perk.
“I just wanted to get out and see the world,” she said. “I want to go far away and experience things.”
Long will do just that, leaving small-town life behind in favor of the bustling big city. Nestled in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, Menlo is a private National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school.
In searching for schools that actually had women’s wrestling programs, Long decided Menlo was the best fit.
“I realized I wanted to keep wrestling in college,” she said. “My brother, Timmy, and I looked for colleges with girls wrestling and California was just kind of the best place to go.”
And it should be a good fit ” especially for Menlo ” on the mat.
Last month, Long won her sixth state championship at the United States Girls Wrestling Association State Championships in Bennett. Long’s younger sister, Matti, a freshman at Rifle, joined Keaton at girls state and took third.
In competing for Rifle High School this past season, Keaton filled a varsity roster spot among the boys. In a tough 152-pound weight class, no less.
She only ever wrestled boys in high school events, and that’s served Long well when she does take to the mat against other girls.
“I always tease Keaton and tell her to go out there and tear up the girls,” Long’s high school coach, John Wisniewski, said. “She was in a really tough weight class this year. That’s tough against the guys, who are bigger and stronger. For a girl, she competed well. She hung in there and kept her chin up. She didn’t let it get her down.”
And, as the only female Bear, Long fit in just fine with a cast of teammates that treated her like one of the guys.
“They talk like I’m not around,” she joked.
“She is one of the guys,” Wisniewski said. “Wrestling is a unique sport. You’ve got to be a family. Everybody takes care of everybody. When you’re at a tournament all day long, a two- or three-day tournament, we see all the wrestlers more than we see our parents. You learn to rely on one another.”
The camaraderie is no surprise. Long’s been wrestling with the same bunch since she moved to Colorado as an 8-year-old.
All told, she’s been wrestling since she was 4. Wrestling is just what the Long family does.
Keaton is the third in her family to wrestle collegiately, joining older brothers Jesse and Tim and all seven Long siblings have wrestled at some point in their lives. And, just as was the case with her brothers, getting to that next level on the mat is something Keaton’s always wanted to do.
“I always thought I was going to wrestle in college,” she said. “Just because I’ve done it all my life.”
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