Wrestling has been a part of Patrick McKee’s life for as long as he can remember.
McKee started wrestling when he was three years old, just weeks after his older brother Mitch got involved in the sport. After seeing Mitch go to practices, he wanted to know what wrestling was all about, so he went too, something his mother was not entirely excited about. As one might expect, she was worried about her three-year-old, 30-pound son participating in such a physical sport.
Yet, Patrick excelled, getting better and better before becoming a standout athlete in high school. He would go on to be a three-time state champion, earning three all-state and two All-American selections. Then he joined his brother, competing at the University of Minnesota.
“We’ve always been on the same team and went to the same club growing up, so it definitely seems right for him to be on the team,” Mitch McKee said.
Patrick’s success has continued into college. He got off to an excellent start to his redshirt freshman season, landing a pin within the first minute of his first career dual, and becoming one of five Gophers to be crowned champions at the Bison Open.
While Patrick remains dedicated to the sport and keeps his expectations high, personal success is only a small part of the importance wrestling plays in his life. He has also taken the opportunity to use his knowledge of the sport to educate the next generation of wrestlers.
“It’s always really fun going and coaching because I get to make my own practice plan, get to warm these kids up and try different things. It’s really cool,” he said.
Patrick started coaching when he was a senior in high school. He and Mitch go across the state, from their hometown of St. Michael all the way up north to Brainerd, wherever they can go to help younger wrestlers find their footing.
“Wherever I get contacted to coach, I’ll go. I’ll go anywhere across the state, as long as I get to spread some knowledge,” Patrick McKee said. “I really love giving back to the little kids and giving back to programs that I’ve either wrestled for or competed against.”
Coaching gives Patrick and Mitch a chance not only to train better physical wrestlers, but also train them in ways more valuable than sport. Sports have always been a means of teaching life lessons, and both Patrick and Mitch understand the impact they have on the kids goes beyond the sport. They want to be like the mentors they had growing up, ones who helped them get to where they are now.
“You understand that what you’re teaching them is more than just wrestling,” Mitch McKee said.
Sunday was the last time Patrick will coach until after nationals, but he will still be making an impact. The kids he coaches love to see him compete and they often come to his duals.
“The kids will be like, ‘I saw your match the other day, good job!’” he said. “It’s really cool to hear that they’re watching us. It shows you really got to be a good role model, on and off the mat. All these little kids are watching you, so you got to do the right thing.”
On the mat, Patrick hopes to replicate his early season success, showing younger wrestlers they can accomplish anything they put their minds to.
“I don’t have any short expectations,” he said. “I want to go make a loud statement right away, make the finals of the NCAA, win a national title this year in Minneapolis, and I believe I can do that.”