by Scott Boyle
A total of 95 state wrestling champions, nine state team titles, and four runner-up team finishes. That’s one of the traditions of wrestling at Monticello High School.
Ultimately, however, the tradition of success in wrestling at MHS is not winning state championships, but is, as SportShorts wrote last week, the opportunity to represent your community, recognize your achievements, whatever they may be, understand sports hierarchy and tradition, develop leadership skills, and rub shoulders with a variety of quality adults.
Monticello is proud of its champions, but even more gratified with the character development that is a hallmark of the program. We have great kids who go on to be quality adults themselves.
That legacy spans the ages and the country. Even way out in the state of Connecticut, the Buckaroo Wrestling Way shines as well.
Connecticut, the Nutmeg State, is now the home of the LaRose family, former longtime residents of Monticello.
Two of the LaRose boys, McKayd and Keldon, spent a lifetime on the wrestling mats of MHS, starting in kindergarten. And they were heavily influenced by the tradition of hard work and excellence in the Monticello wrestling room.
“I used to look up at that state champion wall in the wrestling room at MHS,” remembers McKayd recently in a phone call with SportShorts, “and dream of my name being up there.”
“Monticello molded these boys,” confirmed Mom, Jenna LaRose.
And those moldings followed the boys to Connecticut, where the family moved after McKayd’s freshman year, with his dream of seeing his name on the champion’s wall at MHS unrealized after placing third in the divisional tournament, though not placing at the Utah State wrestling championships in 2014.
Though he wasn’t an individual state champion, his team was that year, winning the ninth state title in school history with Hunter Bowring (#84), Brandon Musselman (#85), Cole Eldredge (#86), Austin Wilcox (#87) and Jake Giles (#88) adding their names to the wall.
Settling in Connecticut, a state that is the fourth most densely populated state in the country with 3.5 million people existing in a space smaller than San Juan County (8,800 square mile to 5,500 square miles), the LaRose’s quickly found their new home to their liking.
And just as quickly, Keldon and McKayd found their way to the wrestling team at Guilford High in Guilford, CT.
With skills honed and mastered in the Buckaroo wrestling room, the boys stood out in Connecticut, which is also ironically known as “the Land of Steady Habits.”
McKayd wrestled his sophomore and junior years for the Indians, placing fourth and fifth those two years. Keldon wrestled as a freshman last year.
The LaRose boys didn’t forget their Buckaroo roots either. “I wore my Buckaroo shorts and the 2014 team championship shirt to practice every day,” confessed McKayd, as did little brother Keldon. “It was a reminder of who I was and the help we got from Monticello teammates and coaches.”
Keldon is called “Utah” by his wrestling family, and even gets a “Go Utah!” cheer from the mother of one of his teammates before every match.
“I’m known out here for the ‘chicken adobo’,” Keldon marvels, a moved created by Buckaroo dad Mike Bradford, father of Buckaroo state champion #94, Shandon.
“Monticello is the basis of everything for us out here,” Keldon continues, “great parents, great families, great community.”
The older LaRose would wear his Buckaroo hoody under his Guilford warm-ups before matches. “I still had the goal to be a MHS state champ,” he said.
It all came together for the LaRose boys recently at the Class M state championships, which just happened to be held at their own high school, Guilford.
“It was a perfect setup in our home gym,” claimed McKayd.
McKayd came into the tournament as the number three seed at 160 after wrestling at 152 all year, and quickly moved up with several wins, even though he was giving up ten pounds to each opponent.
Little brother Keldon, the number one seed at 120, was just as successful, pinning all his opponents, including a pin in the third quarter in the semis to make it to his first final.
McKayd followed suit, inspired by his little brother, making the finals for the first time, but earning a match against the number one seed.
In a tight match that remained 0-0 after two periods, McKayd chose the down position in the third period, frantically trying to escape for nearly a minute before finally succeeding, then holding on until the end.
“I was trying hard not to get a stalling point,” but McKayd prevailed and realized his longtime vision of being a state champion, 1-0.
“My dream was achieved,” he marveled. “But, I wasn’t just wrestling for Guilford,” he confided, “I was wrestling for Monticello, who made me who I am.”
He has his Buckaroo shoes and headgear hanging on the wall in his bedroom to attest to this.
Little brother Keldon, who is slightly taller than McKayd now, much to McKayd’s chagrin, lost in his bid to be a state champion to place second.
“We talked the morning of the matches about the difference between a win and a victory,” said proud father, Randy.
“You can win but not get a victory and you can get a victory and not win,” he wisely said, reminiscent of the benefits of high school sports.
“Win or lose, you can still get the victory, which is what is most important and valuable in life.”
Indeed, the LaRose boys get much more out of wrestling than state titles.
Said their head coach, Craig Vedrani, in an article in Zip06.com, “McKayd is one of our senior captains that has been a terrific leader for our team. He works extremely hard, both on the mat and in the classroom, and has been an outstanding role model and motivator for our team.
“As I’ve said before, this is a close-knit team, and a lot of that is due to McKayd bringing everyone together with things like team breakfasts, inspirational quotes... McKayd has helped improve the character of our team,” says Vedrani.
“I credit him for a lot of our success this year. To see him win the Class M state title was truly amazing because he deserved it. We will miss him greatly next year.”
Looks like the LaRose boys, and Buckaroo wrestling, got Victories with capital Vs. We all know that San Juan County runs deep in all of us, no matter where we go. Ain’t that a marvelous thing?