By Andrew McCracken
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Throughout each sport there is a key component that often contributes greatly to a team or individual's success: Experience. Keldrick Hall, University of Oklahoma heavyweight wrestler, is full of experience.
Hall, a fifth-year senior, has spent every single one of his years at OU wrestling for the Sooners. Throughout each season, he has learned what it takes to handle the pressure of being a wrestler for a storied program such as OU.
"It carries a little pressure because so many greats have wrestled in that same building," Hall said. "You just have to go out and do what you have been trained for every day."
Hall also understands that it is his job as a senior to act as a leader for his younger teammates, both on and off the mat.
"I tell the younger guys the things I have experienced and how to learn from them," Hall stated. "I try to explain how they should go about wrestling, school and eating right. I just try to be there for them."
Second-year Oklahoma wrestling head coach Mark Cody recognizes the value of having someone with Hall's experience on his young team.
"With all of the traveling we have done this year, and with some still ahead of us, sometimes the younger guys can get a little bit rattled," Cody explained. "I think his experience and leadership really helps those guys prepare leading up to a competition."
Hall's teammate and roommate, 165-pound senior and All-American Bubby Graham explained the impact he has on the team.
"On the mat he is small for a heavyweight, but he has the talent to beat anyone in the country," Graham explained. "He is the nicest person you will ever meet. He has a lot of experience and leadership. The team definitely looks up to him."
Norman has become Hall's home over the past five years. Despite that time under his belt as an OU student-athlete, there are a few things many onlookers do not know about Hall.
People would be surprised to find out that Hall had a late arrival into the wrestling world. While most of his OU teammates and fellow collegiate competitors have been on the mat since grade school, he did not start wrestling until he was 15 years old.
The Dallas, Texas-native was a talented multi-sport athlete at Molina High School. There, he was a key member of both the Jaguars' football and wrestling teams.
Hall even sat out of wrestling his junior year of high school to give basketball a try. He eventually returned to wrestling for his senior season, but it was not his only athletic avenue into college.
"I always thought I was going to be a football player in college," Hall said.
"I wanted to do both," he continued. "I would never give up one to do the other. But once I did not get the scholarship offers that I wanted for football, I had my mind set on just wrestling."
It is safe to say that those who are close to the Sooner wrestling program are glad Hall chose to compete on the mat instead of the gridiron.
"Keldrick is great and a very likeable person," Cody stated. "It is always a lot more fun to coach guys who are great people, and he is a really good person."
Upon graduation, Hall would like to pursue a career in law enforcement or join the military. Either choice would make a good encore for such a respectable collegiate wrestler.
For now, he is giving wrestling all of his attention.
"I have been applying to police academies," Hall explained, "but I'm really going to focus on that after wrestling season.
"Right now I just want to finish strong."
The past five years have been a long journey for Hall. In an era when many student athletes leave college early to pursue professional dreams, or spend their careers at multiple universities, Hall has spent his career in one place: Norman, Okla.
With the bittersweet feeling of graduation looming, Hall is prepared to pass on both his knowledge and experience to the next generation of Sooner wrestlers.
"I want to tell the next group of guys to have fun," Hall said. "Enjoy the competition and embrace the grind every chance you get.
"It is going to be hard, but enjoy just being able to go in there and fight."