Kelly was born in Clearfield, Utah on December 24th, 1957. The only child of Jack and Mildred Wahlen. His dad owned a small piece of land in Clinton, where he built a barn, corrals, stalls and a small track flanking the exterior of the land, later to have bucking chutes and a roping box. He kept a few racehorses, running them in flat track races as well as chariot races. From the time he could walk Kelly wanted to be a cowboy. So at the tender age of 8 he was galloping and exercising his dad’s horses, developing a superior sense of balance that would serve him well years later as a rodeo cowboy. Kelly rode race horses on the so called “bush” tracks throughout Utah, winning his first race he ever entered, at the age of 12. He was named the leading jockey at Box Elder County when he was only 13 and 14.
Kelly competed for the Spikers Rodeo Club while attending Weber High School. He was the 1975 State Champion Bareback Rider and All-Around Champion. At the 1975 National High School Rodeo Finals, held In Gallop New Mexico he was crowned the National Bull Riding Champion and Reserve All-Around Cowboy.
Kelly competed for Weber State College in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association on a rodeo scholarship. In 1977 he was the All-Around Champion for the Rocky Mountain Region. Competing in Bull Riding, Bareback, Saddle Bronc and Team Roping. In 1978 he was the Rocky Mountain Region Bull Riding Champion and was ranked 3rd in the nation.
In 1976 he joined the Professional Cowboys Rodeo Association competing in Bull Riding, Bareback Riding, as well as Team Roping. He rodeoed full time for the next 8 years. He was the PRCA Wilderness Circuit (comprised of all pro rodeos in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada) 3 time Bull Riding Champion in 1977, 1978 and 1980. During his Pro Rodeo career he won the bull riding at such rodeos as Reno Nevada, Caldwell Idaho, Amarillo Texas, and Livermore California. He won the All-Around buckle at the Phoenix Rodeo of Rodeos in 1981. He won money at most of the larger rodeos such as Cheyenne Wyoming, Nampa Idaho, San Antonio and Houston Texas, to name a few.
Following his rodeo career he returned to the race track, most notably, Wyoming Downs, where he was Rider of the Year in 2000. He also rode in stakes races and derby’s in 7 western states as well as Texas. He retired as a jockey in 2005.
Kelly currently lives in Clinton, Utah. He built a log home on the same ground where he rode his dad’s racehorse over 50 years ago. There are still horses on the place. Kelly’s rope horses, as well as barrel horses and prospects that belong to his wife Julie and their daughter Jessica. He does quite a bit of jackpot team roping and has qualified for the World Series of Team Roping in Las Vegas Nevada on four occasions.
He is also a talented rawhide braider, horsehair hitcher and buckaroo gear maker. His pieces are in high demand among collectors as well as working cowboys. His work has been exhibited in prestigious competitions and shows, such as The Annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko Nevada. Over the years he has made and donated numerous pieces to raffles, benefits and awards for various western organizations.