CONWAY, SC (WMBF) -- In 1997, former Conway Tiger, Kenya Keith capped off his wrestling career as a state champion, the last in school history. Two decades later he’s now training the next generation of wrestling state and national champions.
Kenya spent this weekend coaching nearly 400 youth wrestlers at Rumble in the Jungle.
Each wrestler putting their skills to the mat, including Kenya’s seven-year-old son.
“I started wrestling when I was four,” said Kenya Junior.
Mica Hendricks, President, South Carolina Youth Wrestling Association believes wrestling helps prepare kids for life.
“Whether they’re national champion wrestlers or never win a match, if they make it through practice and these tournaments, I know they’re going to be okay in life,” said Hendricks.
Kenya is now a coach at Rivertown Wrestling in Conway and set at goal to grow the sport in the Palmetto State.
In the tournament’s second year the number of wrestlers participating nearly doubled and featured wrestlers from across the county, including young women.
“It’s awesome because when I first started, I would be the only girl at the tournament and now it’s awesome to see these little ones running around,” said Kyleigh Dean.
Kyleigh has been wrestling for seven years and dreams of continuing her career in college and one day the Olympics and she’s not alone.
“Sometimes the guys don’t want to wrestle you, but after a while it becomes more of a friendship, I really liked that and it betters me in a way,” said My’Auna Harrison.
While Kenya has transitioned from state champion wrestler to coach, his passion on the mat has not changed.
“There’s just something a little different about that coaching aspect, being able to mold than person to be something great is amazing,” said Kenya.
Rumble in the Jungle will feature dual competition Sunday, February 10th at Conway High School.
Conway will also host the South Carolina Wrestling State Championship Tournament next month at the high school.