Kevin Aiken wants a change of pace and scenery after graduating from high school at the end of May.
The Belgrade wrestler had been eyeing out of school colleges since his sophomore year, and on May 8 the senior made it official. Aiken committed to wrestle for Southwestern Oregon Community College in Coos Bay, Ore.
“It was just an opportunity that I had and I kind of had to take it,” said Aiken.
Aiken first learned about the culinary program at the community college, which immediately drew his interest. Then the wrestling team came calling.
“I saw they had a culinary program and then plans changed eventually to where I wanted to do business. That was the main thing was the academic part,” Aiken said. “And then the wrestling thing worked out. That was just kind of the icing on the cake I guess.”
Aiken had a very successful senior campaign, which included placing fourth at the state Class A tournament en route to posting a 30-15 record. He only lost to one Class A opponent during the season, which just happened to be to the same grappler three times.
Aiken was among just two seniors on the team, and stepped into a leadership role as Belgrade placed fifth at the Eastern A Divisional and eighth at state.
“Even at the end of last year I didn’t know if he was a guy that would go on to the next level of wrestling, and he worked his tail off this,” Panthers coach Sean Dellwo said. “He did a great job of being one of the hardest workers in the room and he was our most improved wrestler hands down. It wasn’t even close.”
Aiken shined at 170 pounds — he was one of the team leaders in pins — and placed in five tournaments.
“He battled and to see that transition in wrestling, and to also see him grow as a young man, was fantastic,” said Dellwo. “He matured a lot over the year and I think that had a lot to do with his success. He was able to think a little bit more quickly about the sport of wrestling and did a great job with that.”
There were a handful of other programs that expressed interest in Aiken, but he had pretty much made up his mind at the beginning of the school year. He plans to get into real estate and hopes to eventually open up a restaurant.
“That culinary aspect is still there,” Aiken said. “It’s just a little different in the terms of how I’m going to do it.”