Dukes wins wrestling national championship
Enters with a chip on his shoulder, exits with a title
Issue date: 3/19/10 Section: Opinion
Page 1 of 2 next >
Dukes was also a national qualifier last year. After pulling the worst possible draw, he was the lowest seed and had to wrestle the defending national champion in his first match of last year's tournament. As a freshman, he took the match down to the wire, losing by a single point.
"I was the only kid to score any real points on the kid the entire tournament," said Dukes. "I was so close. When I lost, everything just went out of me." Dukes lost his next match in overtime to an All-American, and never really recovered.
Coming into the tournament this year, Dukes was determined.
"I knew as soon as I stepped foot on that plane I was going to be a national champion," he said. "If you have any doubt when you enter the ring, the match is already lost."
Adding even more fuel to his fire was what took place in the UAA and in regional tournament two weeks prior. First, Dukes had to share his wrestler of the year title with Troy Carlson from University of Chicago, even though Dukes held the better record. Then, at the regional tournament, Dukes was seeded behind a freshman and nearly seeded behind another.
"With everything that had happened," said Dukes, "I really felt like I had something to prove."
While he carried a chip on his shoulder into the tournament, his shoulder nearly kept him from competing. After the regional tournament, Dukes was diagnosed with a second-degree separation.
"The week after it happened, he couldn't even lift his arm," said head coach Bob Del Rosa. "I've never seen someone wrestle through an injury like that since I've been here, and that's been 48 years."