Steven Kelly, 157-pound starter for the Colorado State University-Pueblo wrestling program, drowned Sunday while tubing in the Arkansas River near Cottonwood Picnic Area in Pueblo, the school announced Tuesday. The ThunderWolves wrestler and civil engineering major from Parker, Colo. was 23.
“This is a devastating loss to CSU-Pueblo and the Pack wrestling program,” said CSU-Pueblo Director of Athletics Joe Folda. “Steven was an outstanding student-athlete with a bright future. Our prayers go out to his family and friends during this time of grief.” CSU-Pueblo head wrestling coach Dax Charles added, “Steven Kelly was a Christian student-athlete who had high moral character. He influenced many at CSU-Pueblo and in Colorado and will be missed. Steven was known for his strong work ethic and awesome attitude, which affected many who came to know him. We send our condolences to the Kelly family and hope as a team we can demonstrate Steven’s never-quit attitude.”
Born March 10, 1992, Steven James Kelly was a two-time Colorado state champ at Ponderosa High School, and a 2010 High School All-American at Reno Tournament of Champions. Kelly launched his college mat career at Colorado School of Mines from 2010-12, leading the team in wins as a redshirt freshman with a 22-12 record in 2011-12, and earning the program’s Outstanding Freshman Award and DuPont “Hustle” Award. Kelly transferred to CSU-Pueblo in 2014, compiling a 16-17 overall record with two falls as a sophomore.
Kelly is survived by his parents Dan and Lisa Kelly, and four older siblings, Jennifer, Marie, David and Daniel (a former wrestler at Colorado’s Adams State), his grandparents, and a number of nieces and nephews. Visitation will be held on Sunday, June 28, 2015, 5:00 – 9:00 p.m. at Ponderosa Valley Funeral Services in Parker, Colo., with Celebration of Life Service on Monday, June 29, 2015, 10:00 a.m. at Southeast Christian Church also in Parker.
Steven Kelly is at least the third college wrestler to lose his life in a drowning accident in the past 12 months. In August 2014, LaVon “Xavier” Woods, 18, drowned in the Georgia’s Oconee River hours after going through freshman orientation at Brewton-Parker College. Earlier last summer, Darren Hankins, a 21-year-old wrestler at Virginia Tech, drowned while swimming with friends in an abandoned quarry not far from the VT campus in Blacksburg, Va.
Founded in 1933, Colorado State University-Pueblo is a four-year, comprehensive university with approximately 5,000 students located in Pueblo, Colo., a city of approximately 100,000 south of Colorado Springs. The CSU-Pueblo ThunderWolves sports teams compete in NCAA Division II.