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November 29, 2013

Wrestlers look to keep tradition going

DUNCAN — A young group of wrestlers will look to keep Duncan’s strong tradition going.

Coach Kevin Kelly has been with the program for 17 years, the last five as head coach. During his time with the program, the Demons have had 59 state placers, 15 state champions and 10 seniors named to the all-state squad.

“We have a great tradition — we really do,” Kelly said.

The Demons took third in the state dual tournament last season and had three place in the individual tourney. Kelly added that the Demon wrestlers take pride in their classroom accomplishments, as evidenced by the Demons claiming the state academic championship in wrestling last year.

“Last year, half of my kids who I took to regionals had a 4.0 grade point average,” Kelly said. “I’m pretty sure we will have about the same this year.”

Kelly said that the Demons graduated some good seniors, but he expects this year’s squad to be just as competitive, even though they will likely start nine sophomores.

Two seniors, Jeff Gray and Connor Kelly, bring a wealth of experience. Gray is a two-time state place at 120 pounds, taking third as a sophomore and fourth as a junior. Kelly, who is Kevin’s son, is a returning state qualifer at 152 pounds.

“He was a little small for his weight class last year,” the coach said about Connor. “But he’s added 15 pounds of muscle and looks really good.”

The coach said he is “excited” about the group of sophomores he will have. Hunter Kelly — Connor’s brother — and Tyler Hicks have been wrestling since their elementary school days and Kevin said they will be strong.

“It will take a really good bout to beat either one of them,” he said.

Another sophomore, Jonathan Gomez, placed at regionals last year in the 220-pound class. Other sophomores the coach said will be strong are Connere Kinnaird, Jon McGill, Jimmy Mejia and Dustin Chase.

“All of those guys started from time to time last year as freshman,” coach Kelly said. “I expect them to be much improved and to do very well.”

Although participation in athletics isn’t high in the junior and senior classes, Kelly said the sophomore he has are capable of great things.

“Most of these sophomores saw action for us last year,” he said. “They’re going to have to step up and mature a lot, but they are a great group of kids and fun to work with.”

Kelly added the attitudes of the wrestlers have been great. Although the coach works them hard, the wrestlers are dedicated and willing to put in the work, Kelly said.

Duncan will host its own meet Dec. 20-21. Kelly said the tourney will feature a lot of quality schools from Oklahoma and Texas.

The Demons will stay busy during the Christmas break. They will head to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., to compete in a dual tournament. Kelly said he usually takes the wrestlers to an out-of-state tournament each year, and he learned about the Disney tourney while the wrestlers competed at a tournament in Memphis, Tenn., last year.

“We like to get the kids excited, do something different and see some different competition,” Kelly said. “It’s one of these deals whre its a great opportunity to see teams from throughout the nation. It will be neat to see a different style of wrestling.”

As for the season itself, Kelly said the team’s goal is to become district champions and one of the top teams at the state dual tournament. He believes the Demons are up to the challenge.

“I’ve got tough kids — hopefully they will be ready physically and mentally,” Kelly said. “It takes times to be a good wrestler, but I think we’ll be fine.”

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