Kaiani Kenney on Track for a Second State Title

Bridget McCabe, Editor

DURHAM-Last year, high school student Kaiani Kenney became the first female state placing wrestler to come from the small town of Durham. Born and raised in Chico, she moved to Durham as a freshman and began her remarkable career in wrestling. Kenney is now a senior at Durham High and last year she achieved the impressive feat of a 6th place title in the State Championship of 2019. Kai is the daughter of Tina Day and Trent Kenney and loves spending time with her family and friends. She also enjoys swimming and hammocking in her free time. But most importantly, she has an unmatchable love for wrestling.

Junior year was a very important year for Kenney. Training hard all season, she ended up earning multiple titles in Masters and placed at state for the first time. Kenney is now the first state placing female wrestler from Durham which has been a dream of hers since she first discovered wrestling. Going into state, she did not expect to do as well as she did. “I was like, I’m just going to go out there and wrestle, but I’m happy with whatever,” Kenney said. Obviously, she ended up proving herself wrong. What she expected to be far too difficult ended up becoming a reality. Her success has become an inspiration to many other girls in the wrestling room and has helped boost Kenney’s confidence in her skills.

Kenney’s success was most likely due to her rigorous training routine and supportive coaches. Starting at 3:30 in the afternoon, she begins practice with a 1-3 mile run every day. After that, she makes her way to the mat room to run sprints, do drills, and eventually wrestle live. Kenney tries to challenge herself every day by wrestling people who are heavier and better than her so that when she goes into a real match, it will be a breeze. Her biggest inspirations throughout all her work are coaches Tony Cordoza and Trent Kenney. These coaches have been a vital piece of her short career and never fail to encourage her when she needs it most. “I think they believe in me more than I believe in myself.” She said. This goes to show how much this positive encouragement has helped Kenney throughout the years.

This year, Kenney is determined to make it just as far in state if not farther. “I’m not gonna take no for an answer.” She said. She thinks she’ll keep roughly the same training schedule, but is going to start lifting weights before practice and is going to wrestle better people in practice. This, she thinks will give her the edge over some competitors this year and give her a better chance of taking home a state championship. This is a huge dream of hers since wrestling has become her favorite pastime. “I like that it’s super physical, I’m a really touchy person,” Kenney said. 

All of Kenney’s work has paid off by earning her a spot on the Southern Oregon University girls team if she chooses to go, which she thinks she will. Kenney has already visited SOU and has spoken with the coaches about wrestling with them. Also, she got to meet all the girls on the team. Although this is an amazing opportunity, she is going to miss wrestling with all the Durham girls. Her favorite memory of wrestling is being in a hotel room with all her teammates. Everyone was dying of starvation due to cutting. So, they called down to the front desk to order room service, only to find out they didn’t have any. The team proceeded to laugh all night together and enjoyed their time hanging out with their best friends.

Kai Kenney has made a huge impact on our wrestling program. Not only with her immense talent, but with her bright personality that lights up the wrestling room every day. She is a great leader on the team and will be missed by all her teammates when she leaves for college to wrestle elsewhere. She has been training very hard and is expected to do very well this year. Only time will tell, but right now Kaiani Kenney is on track for a state championship!