No matter the situation, Coronado's KJ Kearns always gives it his all. It could be on a wrestling mat, inside a classroom or, perhaps, even during a board game.
His competitive drive shows.
"I never take it easy, never take it lightly," he said.
Last Saturday, he once again showcased that approach despite the Cougars' not-so-spectacular finish at the first-ever state wrestling duals in Class 4A/5A at Pueblo West. Coronado settled for eighth overall, but Kearns' stats were quite impressive: He went undefeated, recorded five pins and accounted for 30 total points.
His efforts landed him this week's Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week honor.
"KJ has just been consistent," Coronado coach Gabe Burak said. "In every competition, he goes out hard. He's such a competitor, whether he's playing dodgeball or ultimate frisbee."
Burak first saw Kearns compete in the eighth grade and thought he was an OK wrestler.
But the coach noticed a change once he started grappling with the Coronado wrestling program. Perhaps he was motivated by the program's prestige as Olympic gold medalists Henry Cejudo (now a UFC champion) and Kyle Snyder graduated from Coronado.
Kearns has his own aspirations, too. Last year, the then-junior battled back from a semifinals loss to take third place in the 145-pound weight class at the Class 5A state tournament. This year, he has only goal: to win it all.
"I have two to three weeks to do that and I won't rest until I get that goal," he said.
The state tournament takes place Feb. 21-23 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Kearns is also motivated by revenge. His one loss came to Pueblo County's Christopher Fasano. The two wrestlers could cross paths again during the regional and state tournaments.
And Kearns can't wait.
"I'm definitely eager to face him," Kearns said. "I'm ready to win when it counts."
It's a competitiveness that started early. He began playing soccer at age 6. Years later, he quit the sport because, he said, he was tired of picking up the slack for teammates.
"These little 6-year-olds weren't putting in a lot of work," he said.
Eventually, he found wrestling and fell in love.
It's an attitude and approach that coaches and wrestlers within the Coronado wrestling program are familiar with. Burak, the Cougars coach and a high school state champion himself, remembers watching Kearns practice during a camp last summer in Pagosa Springs.
There were about 200 wrestlers. And on the last day, they were instructed to compete in 100-meter group sprints. The top two or three fastest from each group eventually wound up in a final race.
Guess who out-hustled everyone.
Yes, it was Kearns. He's often not the fastest, the strongest. But he's usually one of the most determined, most competitive athlete out there.
"He decided he wasn't going to lose," Burak recalled.
Just the Facts
KJ Kearns, Coronado
Sport: Boys' wrestling
Weight class: 160 pounds
Highlights: Last Saturday, Kearns went undefeated, earned five pins and accounted for 30 total points to help Coronado finish eighth place at the first-ever state duals in Class 4A/5A at Pueblo West. He finished the day with a 23-1 record.
Favorite movie: 300
Favorite pump-up song: Andy Mineo's "You Can't Stop Me"
Favorite school subject: Math
Other Top Performers
Seth Fuqua, The Vanguard School
The senior guard scored a season-high 41 points and made seven 3-pointers in an 84-61 win over Peyton last Saturday. His performance extended the Coursers' winning streak to 11 games. Earlier in the week, he scored 28 points in a 68-56 win over Colorado Springs Christian School.
Darien Meyers, Palmer
The senior forward had a season-best 30 points in a 64-60 loss to Heritage last Saturday. He also pulled down 10 rebounds, increasing his double-double total to 16 in 18 games. Meyers is averaging 19.2 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.
Jenna Smith, Liberty
The senior guard had two solid performances in wins over Palmer and Rampart last week, helping the Lancers improve to 11-7 overall and 5-2 in Class 5A/4A CSML play. She had 16 and 12 points, respectively. Those numbers are well above her 6.9-point average.
Cole Brooker, Coronado
The junior forward recorded two hat tricks and two assists in wins over Palmer and Air Academy last week, helping the Cougars to a 3-4 record in the Apex Conference. He has a team-best 20 goals to go along with 10 assists.
Girls' swimming and diving
Ana Rojas, Doherty
The freshman broke the pool and league record in both the 50-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly at the Colorado Springs Metro League championships over the weekend.
Edenna Chen, Rampart
The senior broke two previous records at the CSML meet over the weekend to help the Rams to the team title. She won the 200 individual medley and 100 freestyle in times of 2:08.77 and 52.57, respectively.
Bella Mitchell, Vista Ridge
The wrestler captured the 161-pound title at the Region 2 tournament last weekend. She improved to a 20-2 record after she pinned ThunderRidge's Avery Harter in the first period of the final match.