"My whole family has been involved in the sport for years,'' Keeney said. "I've been on all sides of it. God's blessed me I couldn't tell you. Wrestling is a life sport. You learn to survive, to depend on yourself, and you hustle to get better.''
Keeney said it's difficult to walk away from the mat, but it's time.
"It's sad for me, but nobody's bigger than the sport,'' he said. "[The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission does] a rating for state officials and last year I had the best rating in the state. I want to go out on top. I don't want to be one of these guys that hangs around and somebody says, 'Ah, he should have quit five years ago.' I never wanted to be mediocre.
"I think too much of the sport and the kids deserve the best officiating they can get. That's what it's always been about for me, the kids. The fact I've been able to do this for a long time at a high level and I've trained so many good young officials that are there to take over for me is really important to me.''
Keeney said the statewide bonds he's forged along the way are what he'll remember best.
"Friendships are probably the most important thing,'' he said. "I've done three generations of the Bosleys from Parkersburg South. Jeff Lester, who coached at Shady Spring, brought me a picture of me raising his hand at the 1980 final. [Former coaches] Jack Perry, Jim Crawford, Pat Vance, Steve Kee, Tom Woods ... I've done the Braxton County Invitational since its inception in 1978.
"Probably what I'll take away from the sport is the fellowship, the camaraderie, the lives we've changed, the people we've had an impact on. I've made so many friends and not any enemies. Just all the things that are important in life.''
Keeney will have plenty to keep him busy. He's continuing to make a difference in young lives, raising his 7-year-old grandson and 6-year-old granddaughter.
"For me to be able to do what I've done is quite a feat,'' he said. "I'd like to thank all the people that supported me all these years. My family, the coaches and the wrestlers. It's been a big part of my life. For them to allow me to do this, it's been a blessing.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkin...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.