'If I didn't have this wrestling room, I wouldn’t be where I am today'
LA PINE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- With COVID-19 public health guidelines prohibiting many youth sports, most wrestlers haven't touched a mat in Oregon since last March.
La Pine Middle School wrestler Devon Kerr happens to have a wrestling arena in his driveway.
"I think personally if I didn't have this wrestling room, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Kerr said.
David Kerr, Devon’s father and a youth wrestling coach in La Pine, built the home arena nearly 15 years ago.
"Oh, we feel extremely lucky, 'cause not a lot of people have a wrestling room in their backyard,” Kerr said.
Devon, along with La Pine Middle School wrestlers Landyn Philpott and Jade Seymour, have all qualified for the Heartland Wrestling National Duals in Iowa this April.
Seymour said, "I am really grateful for it. I love being on the mat. Even though the pandemic hit, it’s still good.”
The trio had to earn their spots by traveling to tournaments in Idaho, Utah, Arizona and Texas.
David Kerr says not having a season in Oregon makes it difficult for wrestlers to be noticed on a national level.
"It makes it difficult, if they are not seen, to be included,” Kerr said.
Kerr said the athletes don't wear masks while wrestling but they follow other precautions.
"If they're sick, don't show up,” Kerr said. "I don't mandate anyone getting checked but I do mandate common sense.”
Landyn Philpott said he’s grateful he even has a place to practice.
"It keeps me on the mat, and I like it,” Philpott said. “I don't know what I'd be doing, if I didn't have the mat."
Kerr emphasized that he is proud his arena helps give kids an outlet.
"They've got to give them something to look forward to, or they become stagnant,” Kerr said. “And if they become stagnant, they find other things to get involved with -- other things that aren't healthy. And wrestling is healthy."