By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– The story of 2004 McNary alum Kacey McCallister is an interesting one, no doubt about that.
Double Amputee since he was young due to an accident that left him without legs below the hip, yet didn’t hold back the 30-something year-old in the pursuit of his dreams and passions.
One of those passions that still rings true to the Celtic-alum was and is still is wrestling. He finished fourth in the old 1A-4A classification model as a junior in the 4A State Tournament before finishing second a year later as a senior for the Celtics to mix in with two District Titles along the way during his prep career that led him to be inducted as a Hall of Fame member for McNary a few years ago.
Fast forward to December 13, 2017, the passion is there as he conditions with and surrounded by wrestlers from the other Mc-School in McKay. Conditioning with them, and walking them through how to do the ‘cradle’-move that he use to do while wrestling at McNary 13-plus years before and just sharing first-hand some of the moves he did in High School that made him successful as well as his story.
“Wrestling, like I said, is the best sport there is. It pushes anybody to their absolute extreme,” “You get kids after matches that are crying because they put their whole heart and souls into it. And so for me wrestling is the epitome of what athletics is really about.
“Just pushing yourself to the extreme and just throughout my whole life I’ve been breaking down the barriers of what should and could be done. And so this is what I love to do, I love coming up here and helping kids realize how tough they can be.”
For Troy Thomas, Head Coach of the Scots, his McKay teams use to have to battle McCallister’s Celts teams during the three-years before graduating and remembering further back when they were in Middle School where McCallister went to Whittaker Middle in Keizer and Thomas went the Stephens Middle School; and to have someone like McCallister come in and not just speak to the team, but to coach them as well for a practice is something else.
“It’s extremely important and very, very valuable and I’m very thankful he had some free-time to come in here and work a practice for us,” said Thomas. “As for a new set of eyes, it’s encouraging to have a new set of eyes so they can look at your team from a fresh point of view and look at what’s needed and what is developing and offer their tips and their insights coming from a different point-of-view.
“I’ve watch Kacey wrestle for six-or-seven years and it is inspirational of course and that’s his job and he’s pretty good at it of course. But it is great to see a kid from the community and he’s pretty well-known, I started to give tips to the kids on who’s the motivational speaker was and I said, ‘McNary’ and some people started floating out Kacey’s name and the kids eventually started to figure it out because he’s pretty well known and I’m glad he has so much success.”
There was a quick moment during a practice water break where Thomas and McCallister chatted about the past like old-timers at the Barber Shop talking about the ‘Glory Days’ of when they donned their respective school’s singlets as McCallister jumped on the opportunity to come and lend a helping hand with practice when Thomas approached him about coming by practice and helping out.
Before the water break however, McKay Freshman James Jennings was a volunteer during a drill demonstration of McCallister’s where
“Kacey, he’s pretty cool. It’s pretty cool to have a State Champion, espically with no legs come-in and show us some of his moves,” said Jennings. “It’s just cool to have another wrestler from another school come teach us cool moves.”
For Joesph ‘JoJo’ Jones, there was a moment during the early part of practice where McCallister came over to him and walked him through the proper way to do the drill they were practicing at that time.
“It’s cool because first-off he’s not the same as everyone else obviously, so it’s cool to see him to be able to teach us that and it feels like it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience kind of thing,” said Jones.
Jones recalls hearing McCalister’s story back in the sixth-grade and seeing him again a few years later in High School and seeing some of the moves he used when he was Jones’ age is remarkable.
“It’s pretty awesome because I had him as a sub in like sixth-grade and he taught us..he shared his life and stuff and back-then and it’s cool to see him now and he actually gets to show us now all of his moves,” Jones adds.
And as practice rolled on and McCallister continued to show some moves and give out some pointers while taking over the Scots practice Wednesday afternoon, McCallister has those fond memories of fighting for the State Title at the 103-pound class in 2004 as a McNary senior; but the fact he’s giving back to the community he’s apart of is more rewarding than anything else.
“When I was wrestling, it was definitely a highlight, I took second-place at State and I was going for the Title,” McCallister said. “And so that has a lot of fond memories for me, but honestly this (looking out about helping the younger generation of wrestlers) is so much more rewarding to come up here and help the next generation of athletes.
“Especially in a day-of-age where athletics are not as important. To come up here and encourage these kids to really see what athletics truly can be in their lives.”