Kellen fights way up through ranks

People used to call Anthony Kellen “Gym Shorts.”

Working his way up the ranks, they won’t any more.

Kellen, who has fought in the Mixed Martial Arts realm since shortly after his 18th birthday, is quickly making a name for himself and his team. “

They were making fun of me when I weighed in the night before, they called me ‘Gym Shorts’ in Des Moines,” said Kellen, a Worthington High School graduate. “That looks like it’s about to change. We have fighter trunks on the way.”

Kellen’s performance caught the attention of Shogun Energy Drink, now the official sponsor of Kellen’s team — Team Clean House. Following his victory, and being named fight of the night in an undercard in Des Moines, Iowa, Kellen had a chance on the mic.

“So they call me into the cage and ask me if I have anything to say, and I’m sitting there like, ‘I’d like to thank Julio (Casillas) for coming with me. We just drive down here, and we don’t have any sponsors or anything. If any of you guys want to sponsor us, you can get your logo on this T-shirt,”’ Kellen explained. “When I said that, I guess Julio was standing next to this guy from Shogun. He was like, ‘You guys aren’t ever going to have to ask for a sponsor again.’”

Kellen was invited to fight on the undercard of Josh Neer and Hermes Franca, two renowned MMA fighters. He was pitted against RJ Harris.

The winner of fight of the night was going to receive a watch as a prize — something that kept going through Kellen’s head.

“I came out, and the very first thing he threw a hard leg kick. I was like, ‘Oh no, this is going to suck,’” Kellen said. “He threw it hard and made my leg hurt. He came up, and I knew there was a $3,000 watch on the line if I won fight of the night. What ended up happening was I caught him where I could have put him in the guillotine at any time. But then I thought, ‘$3,000 watch.’ So I threw knees instead.”

“We stood up and traded for the whole first round,” he explained. “He got me in a clinch, and it was really helpful; in one shot where I was blocking, he came up and snapped my hand and my arms with his knee. It sounded like he completely cracked my nose, which made the crowd go wild. He made me eat some knees. I got cut under the chin, I got cut under the nose and those were pretty much all from knees.”

In the third round, Kellen got Harris in a triangle choke, and that was it.

“Third round came, and I came out swinging,” he said. “As soon as he went down, I tried a wrestling hip-toss type of thing, and I suck at wrestling, so we ended up hitting the side, and I couldn’t get it. So I just went to my back and put him in guard. He tried to swing, and I threw my leg around and caught it on his shoulder, and my other foot was stuck. As soon as it broke free, I had the triangle, and he tapped before he went to sleep.”

Then, Kellen had to sit and wait as the rest of the card played out.

“The last fight that had a chance at it was up, and they weren’t making a good fight,” Kellen said. “So he came over and was like, ‘Why don’t you show me the face of someone who has just won a $3,000 watch?’“(The watch is) really big, and wearing it around, my left arm got really stronger. I was getting nice knockout power just wearing it around.”

Even though Kellen was awarded fight of the night, he was still trying to meet Neer and Franca.

“I was there with the camera and the marker, trying to get autographs from Hermes Franca and Josh Neer,” Kellen said. “The dude knocked out Hermes Franca, and I got a $3,000 watch. So I’m like, ‘Let’s get a picture.’ I didn’t get any autographs, but I got a lot of pictures.”

But now, people might be asking for his autograph.

Kellen first got into MMA fighting back in middle school, with some backyard boxing.

“We’ve been doing backyard boxing since about fifth grade,” Kellen said. “Our boxing was like ultimate fighting. “We never taught Storm (Soto) anything, so me and Julio could beat him.”

As soon as he turned 18, Kellen was in the cage.

“I went right out there and got a 48-second TKO,” he said. “I just came in and dominated him. My second fight, I came in and got on top of a dude and pretty well handled him for three rounds and got a unanimous decision.”

But his luck wouldn’t last forever.

“In my first title fight, I got put to sleep with a guillotine in 22 seconds,” Kellen said. “That was the only time I was finished. I’ve never been knocked out or tapped.”

Since then, he has been in the cage whenever possible, including a span where he fought three times in two days.

“Everybody thinks I’m crazy,” he said. “I’m only 18, and I already have 15 fights.”

With a career record of 8-6-1, Kellen has held his own. Despite being 5-foot-4 inches tall, he has beaten much taller fighters.

“You want to know how I overcome it?” he asked. “I have a 6-foot 200-pound and a 6-foot-5 240-pound man standing across from me, and that’s who I train with. The fact that this dude is 145 pounds already set the advantage to me.”

With a sponsor, experience and continued training, Kellen now has more belts in his sights.

“I want my belt back,” he said. “I want this one dude’s belt; I want this other dude’s belt. I’m going for five belts.”

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For Iowa, hope lies on the gridiron

It was a long winter.

Not only did the snow seem never-ending, but as a fan of the University of Iowa, the basketball campaign didn’t help.

The lone bright spot for my Hawkeyes was a NCAA wrestling championship.

As the 23rd for the program, it’s almost more of a norm than an exception.

However, the men’s basketball season was anything but the norm. Iowa finished 10-22. Only Penn State had a worse conference record.

Out goes Todd Lickliter, in comes Fran McCaffery. One mid-major for another. Time will tell if this was a smart move.

Meanwhile, the coach before Lickliter, Steve Alford, takes New Mexico to a third seed in the NCAA tournament.

But, we, as Iowa fans, do have hope.

Saturday marked the end of the spring football practice. Iowa finished 11-2 last season, including a 24-14 victory against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

There were no secrets that Iowa’s strength last season was its defense, and that shouldn’t change this year.

The best news I heard this year was when Adrian Clayborn decided to forego the opportunity to enter the NFL draft and return for his senior season.

Last season, the Hawkeye defense led the Big Ten in pass efficiency defense, and fewest passing yards allowed. In the nation, Iowa was eighth in scoring defense, allowing 15.38 points per game and 10th in total defense, allowing just shy of 280 yards per contest.

With eight returning starters, that again should be a strength.Besides Clayborn, the defensive line will be solid.

One of the biggest losses was at middle linebacker. Pat Angerer is no longer wearing Black and Gold, but from the sound of things, Jeff Tarpinian will do just fine in that role.

The rest of the defense will shape up nicely.

If there’s one position in Iowa is very deep, it’s running back. With Jewel Hampton, Brandon Wegher and Adam Robinson all returning, there won’t be any lack of options for returning quarterback Ricky Stanzi.

I believe Stanzi could turn into one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. No, he won’t put up gaudy numbers like a Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford. But, all he does is win games. An injury hindered him last season, but if he stays healthy, I believe he could be the best quarterback in the Big Ten.

In 22 career starts, Stanzi is 18-4. A year ago, it seemed he was always good for a pick-six, but if he can work on reading defenses and being smarter with the ball, Stanzi could take Iowa places.

Stanzi threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in four games. Iowa won all four games. Some would like to think that was a good-luck charm. I’d rather save the headaches.

With a solid returning group of running backs and a quarterback to build off of, the only questions that remain are the receiving corps and the offensive line.

I would argue that Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff is one of the best in the nation in turning out offensive linemen, so I’m not worried.

That only leaves receivers. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos returns as the top threat, while former quarterback Marvin McNutt came on strong at the end of the season, including a game-winning catch at Michigan State. But, you can never be too deep at receiver.

Looking at Iowa position by position, I think the Hawks are poised for a good campaign. Of course, there are a lot of factors that go into a successful season, but Iowa definitely has all the pieces together for what could be a very special year.

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Bigger isn’t always better, NCAA

WORTHINGTON — Fare thee well, 65-team bracket simplicity.

Hello, March Madness mediocrity.

In case you haven’t heard, last week NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen outlined a detailed expansion plan for the Division I men’s basketball tournament.

They want to invite more teams to the party.

Although Shaheen insisted that nothing had been decided yet, he covered the logistics of a possible 96-team bracket — including the tournament schedule and how the revenue would be distributed.

According to the Associated Press, Shaheen said the NCAA considered “keeping the current 65-team field and expanding to 68 or 80 teams, but decided the bigger bracket was the best fit logistically and financially.”

And there it is.
Pay attention to that last word.

Not the best fit academically. Not the best fit competitively. The best fit financially.

Because any way the NCAA tries to mask it, money is all it comes down to. Not academics or quality of competition.

No matter what they say. Don’t believe me?

Then why aren’t the women exploring expansion the same way the men are? I’ll tell you why.

Missing class just isn’t worth the money.

The men, on the other hand, are a different story.

When the dollar signs are flashing in front of it, why would the NCAA concern itself with making sure its prized male athlete-students are spending time in the classroom? (Yeah, I put the “athlete” ahead of the “student” on purpose).

CBS’s 11-year contract with the NCAA in 1999 for the rights to the men’s tournament was worth a staggering $6 billion.

The math is simple: more games equals more advertising (as if $500 million-per-year wasn’t enough).

With the new tournament plan, a team that keeps winning could potentially play on Thursday-Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday format.

You don’t have time to listen to classroom lectures when you’re jetting from Jacksonville to Houston to Indianapolis, all in the space of seven days.

Way to set your priorities, NCAA.

This comes a few weeks after the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport released a study reporting that of the 65 teams that made the 2010 tournament, 21 hold graduation rates of 50 percent or less.

One of those schools on the naughty list was Minnesota, with its men’s hoopsters averaging a 44-percent graduation rate.

If anyone should be more concerned about hitting the books than their jump shots, it should be the men’s basketball players.

Meanwhile, the women are making them look just plain dumb.

All four of this year’s top-seeded teams in the female bracket carried a 100 percent graduation rate into the tournament.

But the women are more concerned with finding quality teams to fill a 64-team bracket than conjuring up 32 additional schools to invite to the dance.

Although they have kicked around the idea a little bit, according to the AP, they’re still in the “if stage,” not the “when.”

“Maybe someday,” UConn women’s head coach Geno Auriemma told the AP. “I just don’t see it yet.”

As the women scramble to find lower seeds that can compete with the mighty Huskies, the men are diluting their field by turning it into a free for all.

And this comes on the heels of one of the most thrilling tournaments and championship games to date.

Just ask Duke’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be in eight national championship games, and this was a classic,” he said Monday night after the Blue Devils’ 61-59 championship victory over Butler. “This was the toughest and the best one.”

Why would you try to mess that up? Talk about an attempt to fix what’s not broken.

Even Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, who has been a proponent of expansion for years, said during this year’s version of March Madness: “This is different from football. We find out in this tournament who the best teams really are.”

Ironically, if he got his way with everyone  making the tournament, Boeheim’s beloved bracket would turn into something that resembles the college bowl season he was just berating.

All it takes nowadays is a winning record, and your football team makes some sort of tulip or dot-com bowl (how’d the Gophers do this season?)

The same would go for basketball with an expanded bracket.

Congratulations on that 16-16 record and 5-11 mark in the ACC, North Carolina — with that kind of season you’ll be invited to the big dance very soon.

Aren’t the schmucks lining up outside a club and looking in what makes the place cool?

I smell a rat. Or rather, a rat tail — as in the 32 first-round matchups that would amount to little more than “play-in” games for the right to play the upper 32 seeds.

Try fitting a 95-game bracket on a single piece of paper.

It’s impossible (I’ve tried), unless you have microscopic vision.

My final — and maybe most important — point: the NCAA, in all its infinite wisdom, will now be wasting more paper for office pools across the nation.

Don’t get me wrong, the committee is definitely thinking green.

Just the wrong shade of it.

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