Former Falcon fights on, wins military competitions

In two years at Torrey Pines High, out-of-town transfer Keegan McAllister went from being a raw but unpolished and undistinguished wrestler to a San Diego Section champion.

McAllister is now applying some of the qualities he developed as a Falcons wrestler toward his ultimate goal of becoming an elite Navy Seal officer.

If his recent track record is any indication, don’t bet against him.

McAllister, an Oregon State freshman, won the physically and mentally grueling combat fitness and physical readiness competitions held by the Naval ROTC for the Northwest region at University of Idaho in April.

He also set a record early this year running an obstacle course at Oregon State that’s identical to one used for Marine officer training. McAllister ran the course in 45 seconds, beating the previous record by three seconds.

The Marine combat fitness competition included a timed 880-yard run wearing combat boots and pants, lifting 35-pound ammo-cans, an obstacle course, sprinting and crawling maneuvers simulating combat.

The physical readiness competition featured two-minute pushup and sit-up competitions followed by a timed 1.5-mile run.

McAllister credits his wrestling experience with helping him develop the physical and mental toughness to compete in the military competitions.

“A lot of it is mental,” McAllister said. “You get to a point in those competitions where you’re so tired you don’t feel like going on any more, but wrestling prepared me for that. You know when you’ve reached your breaking point and you know you can always push yourself a little more.”

McAllister pushed himself throughout his career at Torrey Pines.

After an admittedly disappointing junior year, McAllister, who also played on the football and baseball teams, decided to focus all his energy on wrestling, a move that seems to have paid off.

McAllister won the San Diego Section Div. I title, placed third at the state-qualifying master’s meet, and went 2-2 at the state meet in the 160-pound weight division.

Among the highlights of his amazing turnaround was exacting a measure of revenge on Poway standout Ian Roy, whom he’d lost to the previous year.

“He was a really unique guy,” former Torrey Pines coach Jesse Mindlin said. “Wrestling is great for a lot of these kids because it teaches them about discipline, but he didn’t really need a lot of that.

“There were times that he needed a little bit of a push, but for most part, his work ethic was unbelievable, and it was all self-motivated.”

McAllister’s propensity for seeking out challenges was apparent during practices. He’d sometimes wrestle assistant coach Jon Mendis, a 245-pound former collegiate wrestler.

“He wanted work out with someone bigger and stronger than him just to add another aspect to his training,” Mendis said.

Learning the wrestling moves that made him a champion, however, was easy compared to adjusting to the near constant moves that come with the territory in the life of a military family.

McAllister’s father, Dave, is a Navy intelligence officer serving as an assistant chief of staff for the Third Fleet.

Keegan McAllister said coming to San Diego was his family’s fifth move.

“It’s something I’ve been doing my whole life, but it was still pretty tough,” he said.

Playing sports has given McAllister a way to make friends at each stop and adjust to changing surroundings.

McAllister, who’s majoring in nuclear engineering, says the workload doesn’t permit him to go out for the team at Corvallis, although he did win an intramural championship.

And he still loves the grit and camaraderie that separates wrestling from most organized sports.

“What I like about wrestling is that it’s not all about physical ability like baseball and football,” he said. “There’s a lot of skill in wrestling, but you can work as hard as you want and you’ll still progress.”