Chris Kent can take you from a shy kid and coach you into a champion. He has a background in improv comedy and theatre. He was the front man for a punk band and competed in strongman competitions.
He’s an art teacher and coach from McLurg High School in Wilkie. He’s a painter, an artist, loves wrestling, creativity and pumping iron. Most importantly, he sees in kids what they should see in themselves, a success in the making.
Kent has coached more than 70 kids into provincial wrestling champions and is the man behind the Gorilla Factory Wrestling Club. He helped train and coach Matt Fedler from a small town kid to a national wrestling champion.
It’s about putting in the hard work, not fearing the loss and wanting it more every day, he says. It’s about owning those losses.
Some call Kent by his nickname Keg McKenzie. Kent explains how in the early 1990s he created the persona. It was for an online fantasy wrestling league, he says. But, you can’t find the videos anymore, he says chuckling his big laugh. He’s tried.
Kent would make videos and send them in to a website administrator in charge of the site. The videos were like WWF taunts against opponents. “I’m going to take you down. I’m going to take you down so hard,” Kent remembers saying. These videos were for main events. For smaller bouts contributors needed only to write a character promo. Mostly you would write a lot, Kent says.
The Booker, as they called him, would take promos and videos and create online matches in short story form. It was basically D&D for pro wrestling nerds, explains Kent. Participants would go online and read the story of how the match turned out.
He says his head was shaved, he had a goatee, and he would wear a white muscle shirt with a kilt, a blatant rip off of Stone Cold Steve Austin, he laughs. Unfortunately, Kent can’t recall how many matches Keg won or lost. Kent was around 21 at the time. He’s now in his 40s.
Originally from Regina, Kent wrestled at Thom Collegiate High School and went on to earn an arts education degree from the University of Regina. He loves drama and acted from Grades 10 to 12.
He drew a lot as an artist and was in wrestling from Grades 5 to 12. After high school, he continued with submission style wrestling through university, putting together private groups with friends.
“You would have called them fight clubs,” he says.
They would find space and do what they needed to keep up with what they loved, even mentioning being given some space in a school next to a boiler room. The walls would sweat, he says.
During that time, Kent also joined a punk-ska band called Fat Planet. The band was good enough to book gigs and although he did play guitar, Kent was strictly vocals as the lead singer.
Like the improv comedy he did in University, he liked the performance of it. And all the while Kent was at the gym working out.
Going to the gym since he was 15, he often felt like he was the strongest man in the room. But, then he met Tim Griffith. Griffith was the strongest man in Saskatchewan, was the Atlantic Provinces strongest man and came in second for Canada’s strongest man. Seeing him at the gym one day, Kent started a conversation and they became friends.
Griffith taught him how to eat and how to be a better power lifter. Kent liked the nerd culture around lifting — all the knowledge he needed to do it right, the science and the technique. It’s what drives him.
“I felt like I would always surround myself with people better than me,” says Kent.
He said this was the same with the band. The guitarist, Darcy Johnston, was an incredible musician and Kent wanted to learn how to be better.
Around 13 years ago, after finishing his education at the U of R, Kent moved to Wilkie. He remembers telling his wife Laureen about the job offer, saying it was a cool little town. Although pregnant at the time, she didn’t question the opportunity. They moved right away.
After two years in Wilkie, Kent fell back into his love of wrestling. He was employed alongside a mother who heard Kent used to be a wrestling coach. She said her son loved pro wrestling, loved to watch it on TV and asked if Kent would teach him. He explained he didn’t do that type of wrestling, the stuff on TV, but agreed and took on the task of coaching.
That kid was Matt Fedler.
Long story short, that small beginning of one student grew into the Wilkie Gorilla Factory Wrestling Club. Through training with Kent and others, Matt eventually went to provincials and nationals where he won medals. He received a scholarship with the U of R wrestling team and became Canwest Champ, MVP for the CIS Cougars, a pro MMA fighter and finally a politician.
Kent is still teaching wrestling in Wilkie, both with McLurg and with the Gorilla Club. “Grit purges defeat,” he says when asked about his mentality with training. You have to learn to deal with loss, and not want to give up. When you’re winning all the time, you don’t think how you can get better. You never learn how to want it more.
Kent’s most recent success was taking August Bayliss from Denzil and turning him into a champion. Last year in Grade 12, August entered university competitions, wrestling against opponents five to six years older.
August lost bouts during his time, but also won his fair share of silver and bronze. In April, August won gold at the Canadian championships held in Edmonton.
Kent wants to see kids succeed. He wants them to see in themselves what they can become, that each has the power inside them to be a success. He likes to be their personal coach, cheerleader and build up their character.
The future for Kent/Keg is to keep teaching, keep wrestling coaching, keep on doing art and graphic design, book and album covers, and to keep on pushing kids to be the best they can be.
Kent is a father of two. He’s designed the covers for most of local writer Cliff Burn’s books. He does all the cover art for Stereo Playground’s albums, and helps create logos for provincial sports teams.