Kirby looks back at path to head coaching role at THS

Mar. 9—Tahlequah Tigers wrestling head coach Travis Kirby didn't initially expect to become a coach, but his love for the sport has driven him to a career in the field.

"I love the individual aspect of the sport. It prepares you for life more than any sport I've encountered," Kirby said. "It's just you and one other person. No one to sub for you, block for you or even pick up the slack when you make a mistake. It teaches you how to deal with adversity. It can be very rewarding and very humbling. It builds character and teaches toughness."

When he was younger, Kirby was a loan officer and looking to make a name for himself as a mixed martial arts fighter. Eventually, Kirby quit his job as a loan officer and was focusing on MMA full time.

Soon enough Kirby was approached by a friend about an assistant wrestling coach gig and he soon landed it. As the years went on Kirby gave up his MMA career and started chasing a new career: coaching.

"Eventually my MMA career wasn't taking off as fast as I wished it had at the time and I was in the process of starting a family and needed a more stable income," The school I was at had so many great individuals that was always encouraging me to go the teaching route. The more I prayed about it the more I felt like teaching and coaching was my calling. So I dove into it and never looked back."

Then one day, Kirby got a message from Tahlequah schools and decided to take the opportunity.

"Tahlequah is a sleeping giant for wrestling when you look at the history of their success in the sport," Kirby said. "As a kid, Tahlequah had the best youth program in the state and a ton of success at the high school level. I felt like this was the ideal place to be successful."

THS' success has continued since Kirby has taken over. This season, the Tigers had three girls and two boys make the State Tournament this past season.

Last year, Jaden Moore picked up a State Championship in the 165-pound weight class under Kirby.

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