Bear Vision

UNC wrestler Keilan Torres is working his way back toward the NCAA championships

Keilan Torres is the type of person who can look back and see how his experiences have shaped him.

The redshirt senior, who helped set multiple program records last year, is one of eight UNC wrestlers who have qualified for the NCAA Division I tournament under fourth-year head coach Troy Nickerson.

Three years ago, though, he was a student-athlete at Oklahoma State University, a program in his home state with a national reputation. But after a few tough losses, his coaches sat him out of practice. As an athlete whose experience playing high school football showed him the value of a supportive team atmosphere in winning, Torres started wondering whether he even wanted to continue wrestling. He talked with his coach and was unexpectedly granted a transfer waiver.

That decision, tough as it may have been, led him to Colorado. When he visited UNC, he says, the team treated him like family. Parents of UNC wrestlers told him how great the coaches were. Torres was sold. It was a good cultural fit for an athlete whose parents taught him to be humble and kind.

Now, in his final collegiate season, the three-time Oklahoma high school champion reflects on his time at OSU with thankfulness for how it made him a better wrestler and ultimately led him to the opportunities he’s capitalized on at UNC. And he looks back at last year’s NCAA experience with the perspective of someone who’s worked through the nerves, is focused on consistency, and is ready to roar back into the championship arena in March with nothing to lose.

—Rebecca Dell