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Nebraska gymnastics double dual, 1/20/18

The chalk flies Nebraska's Griffin Kehler performs on the parallel bars during Saturday's double dual against Ohio State at the Devaney Sports Center.

Mom and dad were planning to travel to Lincoln to watch Griffin Kehler compete in a home meet.

Kehler, however, wasn't going to compete. He had come down with whooping cough.

The Nebraska sophomore gymnast couldn't eat. He was light-headed. He had trouble holding anything down and had a bad cough.

"It was pretty awful for 48, 72 hours," Kehler said.

Mom came to Lincoln anyway to take care of him.

"I got a little spoiled there," the Frisco, Texas, native said.

The good news is Kehler is healthy, and his parents will get a chance to watch him compete at Winter Cup on Friday in Las Vegas. Kehler is one of three Huskers competing in the prestigious meet, which brings together the nation's top all-arounders at the collegiate and amateur levels. Senior Anton Stephenson and freshman Evan Kriley will also compete, as will former Husker Kyle King.

"It's a huge opportunity," Kehler said. "That's one of the those meets where the best of the best is there, I would say. The fact that we've got four guys going and some other Big Ten schools have one, it kind of shows more hope for Nebraska, in my opinion, that we've got some top dogs going to the meet."

Kehler said his goal this week is to hit 12 of 12 routines — six on Friday and six on Sunday.

Though Kehler is only a sophomore, he's already made some big contributions for Chuck Chmelka's team. He competed in several events last year and received All-American honors on floor exercise, his strong event.

Nebraska entered this season needing to replace eight seniors, and Kehler is being counted on to help the Huskers maintain their success.

Kehler had a strong Rocky Mountain Open — he won the floor title with a 14.45 — before coming down with whooping cough, which kept him out of the gym for nearly a week.

"The first week I was back, it was a little harder," Kehler said. "Even after two, three days off your arms just get super-weak on parallel bars, and the first day when you get back from training, the level of soreness — it's painful.

"Getting back the first week was really rough, but Chuck put me on a nice little plan so we kind eased back into training."

Kehler was born in Virginia. As his career in gymnastics took off, his family looked for a gym where he could hone into a Division I athlete. He landed at World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Texas before high school.

"Without a doubt, (my dad) and my mom are my biggest supporters," Kehler said. "Without second-guessing, they were all for moving to Texas for me to improve my gymnastics and get to a D-I college. I wouldn't be where I'm at without their love and support and just their sacrifice."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.

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Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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