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Any Duncan wrestlers who qualify for state can certainly say they earned the trip.
That’s because the Demons are in a tough regional that features several of the top 10 teams in Class 5A. The 16-team regional Friday and Saturday in Del City will include second-ranked Lawton MacArthur, fourth-ranked Altus, fifth-ranked Del City, eighth-ranked Piedmont and 10th-ranked Northwest Classen.
“There are good wrestlers in every weight,” said Demon coach Kevin Kelly. “Hopefully we’ll have a bunch in the top four after Saturday, but it’s going to be tough.”
Because the Demons did not qualify for last weekend’s dual state tournament, they have had two weeks to prepare for regionals. They had several practices in which they wrestled against the Marlow and Comanche wrestlers. Kelly said that proved beneficial
“When you wrestle live with another team, you go harder than you do wrestling each other,” he said.
Duncan senior Jett Gray, at 120 pounds, is ranked in the top six of the weight class and four of the others will be at regionals. Kelly said he had debated moving Jett up to 126, but decided to keep Gray at 120. He has faith that the senior will return to the state tournament.
“I told Jett that it’s state tourney time and my money is on him,” Kelly said. “He’s a two-time state placer and he’s tough.”
Fellow senior Connor Kelly will aim to return to the state tourney as well. The Demon coach said Connor and three other wrestlers at 152 pounds are “within a point or two of each other.” Still, Kevin Kelly said Connor has an excellent chance of winning regionals if he wrestlers the way he is capable.
“It will come down to the kids who wrestle better and who rises to the occassion,” the coach said.
A number of sophomores have had impressive showings this season and coach Kelly believes they have excellent chances to qualify for state. Those that do so will reap the rewards not just this season, but in the future, the coach said.
“Any time you qualify or place as a freshman or sophomore, it’s good for the upcoming years,” Kelly said.
The coach said Hunter Kelly and Tyler Hicks both have good chances of winning their weight classes. He expects Dustin Chase, Connor Kinnaird, Jimmy Mejia and Jonathan Gomez to contend for top-four regional finishes.
Coach Kelly said he has been impressed with how the younger wrestlers have performed this season. Although there were a couple of duals in which the Demons didn’t wrestle as well as they should have, there have been other duals in which the Demons outperformed expectations, the coach said.
Now that regionals have arrived, Kelly expects the wrestlers to be at their best.
“I want us to wrestle better than we have all year,” he said. “If we get beat by guys who are truly better than we are, I can live with that. I just want us to wrestle hard.”
In particular, the Demon coach would like to see his seniors have strong showings at regionals and state.
“I want them to go out on top,” Kelly said. “They have worked hard, are good kids and they deserve it.”