Kelani Corbett’s history-seeking first year of college wrestling hindered by pandemic


Kelani Corbett

Senior student athletes are among the most affected in sports, by COVID-19. But in wrestling things are a bit different. So, even if you’re a freshman like Kelani Corbett you might have had a chance for history taken away.

Most of us remember the day well – though it seems like forever ago – in March, when sports like the NBA and NHL were getting canceled left and right. That’s the day that Kelani Corbett and her team, Lyon College, has just finished an 18 hour drive from Arkansas to North Dakota to compete in the NAIA wrestling national championships.

“That morning was crazy because everybody was doing their last weight cut practice,” remembered Corbett. “All the different teams. Everyone just arrived there. My parents just got in. Like ten minutes after they got in we got the news that it was canceled. It was very sad.”

A Leilehua grad, Corbett is one of just five Hawaii females to win four high school wrestling state crowns. As a freshman in college, she was trying to start a four straight national title streak this season.

“It’s like sadness and frustration that potentially your dreams can get ripped away from you without your control,” she said. “It’s not something you did.”

Corbett doesn’t know yet if NAIA wrestlers will be allowed another year of eligibility. That has national title implications for all grade levels because of wrestling’s multitude of weight classes.

“All the athletes that got their championships ripped away from them we can all help each other, support each other because I wasn’t the only one that got my shot at four ripped away from me. There were other freshmen there too,” said Corbett.

With Corbett’s brother as the coach, Lyon College won their conference tournament this season.

“It was just crazy winning the tournament as a team,” Kelani said. “That was my first ever team championship so I’m glad that I finally got to win a team championship.”

“I love my team. We all worked hard and we all got done what we needed to get done.”

Corbett competed on an existing shoulder tear all season. Originally she was going to wait until after Olympic trials this summer to have surgery. Now she can have it repaired as soon as the pandemic allows.

“I guess the bright side of this is I will be able to get surgery and get cleared and have time to heal,” said Corbett. “By the time next year comes around – because they postponed Olympic trials until next year for wrestling – hopefully they have another last chance qualifier and I can re-qualify and wrestle there, healthy.”

Corbett says the 2024 Olympics Is the big goal she’s aimed at.

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