TWIN FALLS • Twin Falls wrestling coach Saiid Dabestani has seen a few hundred wrestlers come and go in his time at the helm. He knows what separates average from good, and good from great.
“A lot of people think it’s strength or something physical,” Dabestani said. “No, 90 percent of wrestling is upstairs, it’s the brain.”
There’s been one wrestler, Dabestani said, who was head and shoulders — particularly the head—above the rest since Dabestani took over in 2004.
Now Augsburg College junior Will Keeter.
“He was the smartest,” Dabestani. “Zak Slotten (Colorado Mesa) was right there, but Will had great strategy. He understood how to trick his opponent, start in a defensive mode and wait for just the perfect time to attack.”
Dabestani still keeps in touch with the two-time Idaho state champion, watching some of his matches on the Internet.
“He is now the smartest one on that team,“Dabestani said with a chuckle.
Keeter, who is currently 8-3 with the Auggies, was recently in town on holiday break, even dropping by the high school to run an in-practice clinic for current Bruins wrestlers.
“I get updates from the parents on how guys are doing,” Keeter said. “Sometimes I sit back and reminisce. It’s nice to come back every now and then.”
Keeter finished his sophomore season 26-16, taking on more dual matches after the wrestler in front of him got injured.
“I don’t know if I was dominating, but I was kind of thrown to the wolves, and coach was pretty happy with how I responded,” Keeter said. “I feel like I stepped up last season.”
Keeter is now a starter at Augsburg, one of the most prolific wrestling programs in the country, with 23 straight seasons finishing in the top four of NCAA Division III.
“I’s been a lot different than high school,” Keeter said. “I had never heard of any of the guys I wrestled over here. It was a new experience. They wrestle with a completely different style. Guys in college are more mature. They are much stronger and athletic. You have to climb the latter. When you start out in college you are on the bottom rung.”
After a rigorous off-season workout regiment, Keeter jumped up eight pounds to 149.
“It wasn’t as much about getting bigger as it was getting stronger,” Keeter said.
Winning eight of his first 11 matches in the new weight class, Keeter is off to his best start collegiately, though it’s still early.
“This is definitely where I should be,” Keeter said.
One of the things Keeter’s enjoyed most about college is the chance to visit new places. While Keeter spends most of his time around campus at the Minnesota school, the Auggies take plenty of road trips.
“Florida has been my favorite,” Keeter said.” Ft. Lauderdale was great. You get a day to hang out and relax after a tournament. It’s not just going on a bus, we go across the country. I love Twin Falls, but this has been a great experience.”
West Regionals, for Augsburg, will start the first week of March. The Auggies next travel to Pennsylvania for the William Penn University open.