When the doors leading to Scotland High School’s wrestling mat room close, the bond between seniors Nick Kee and Adrian Soto-Perez is momentarily forgotten as the decorated grapplers go about their business. Day in and day out, the two wrestlers push each other to the absolute limit, feeding off of one another’s intensity in a quest to be the best in North Carolina and beyond.
But outside of the mat room, Kee and Soto-Perez are the closest of friends.
“They are best friends and do everything together, but when it comes time to train they leave that stuff out in the hallway,” said Scotland coach and former Scots’ wrestler Nicky Kee, who regularly suits up himself to take on both Kee and Soto-Perez. Coach Kee also credits assistant coach Daniel Trivette (who also wrestled at SHS) as another key figure in the development of both Kee and Soto-Perez.
“There’s a lot of pride in that room, and we go at it as hard as we can go,” he said.
But with each striving to close their high school careers on the highest of notes, their student athlete futures have officially been set in stone.
Both Kee and Soto-Perez will attend Appalachian State University next fall, with plans on adding another chapter to their storied wrestling legacies set firmly in the crosshairs.
“It’s been a great ride watching these kids grow up and succeed the way they have,” Coach Kee added. “The ultimate goal was to get them both into college and now it’s finally all working out. It’s coming to a great end.”
The accomplishments of Kee during his four-year career as a member of the Fighting Scots have been well-documented. He is a two-time defending state 4-A champion, NHSCA Junior National champion and runner-up, and is rapidly approaching 200 career wins to just four losses.
With his naming buzzing on a national stage, Kee drew the attention of colleges from around the country, including the University of Missouri and its renowned wrestling program. And roughly two months ago, Kee initially made his intentions of attending Missouri known.
But ultimately, Kee withdrew his commitment to the school and opted instead to pursue the next phase of his athletic and academic career side-by-side with Soto-Perez in a more local setting.
“I felt that anywhere I went I could be successful as a student and wrestler, but in the end App State was closer and a better fit for me,” said Kee, who started wrestling with father Nicky at the age of 4. “My family will get to watch me wrestle, and it feels good knowing that you get to go to college and do something you’ve worked at your whole life along with your best friend. It’s cool to look at where we started, and I’m excited to see how it will finish.”
Soto-Perez has been regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound wrestlers in North Carolina for most of his tenure at Scotland, having inched closer and closer to seizing the proverbial brass ring with each passing year. After finishing third overall in the state as a 145-pounder his sophomore year, Soto-Perez was the runner-up in the 160-pound weight class last season and was narrowly edged in the championship round of the 2011-12 4-A state tournament.
Now regarded as the top 160-pound wrestler in the state, Soto-Perez believes that he is poised in his final season with the Fighting Scots to finally achieve what’s eluded him throughout his career.
“It’s been like a countdown in many ways when you look at what I’ve done in my wrestling career,” Soto-Perez said. “I say it every year, but I truly feel like I came in this season the best I’ve ever been, and I believe that I’m the best wrestler in the state right now. I have to keep building and wrestling with confidence to get where I want to be.”
Kee and Soto-Perez have been a two-man wrecking crew thus far in 2012, with each posting undefeated records and picked by many to finish at the top of the heap when it’s all said and done at the end of the season. But no matter how the season commences, one thing remains certain in the eyes of their coaches and peers.
Both wrestlers have undoubtedly solidified their standing as two of the best to ever enter the Scotland High School wrestling mat room.
“They’re respected by everyone that knows them, and have been the backbone of the Scotland wrestling program for the past four years,” said 20-year Scotland wrestling head coach Joel McCanna. “They’ve been our captains and set examples for the younger guys to follow in the years to come. From how they prepare to how they carry themselves in the classroom, I hope everyone will follow what they’ve done here.”