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Douglas wrestling sees season come to a close at regional tournament

Tigers optimistic for next season with young returning core and incoming freshman

By Carter Eckl ceckl@recordcourier.com

The 2019-20 Douglas High wrestling campaign came to a close Saturday afternoon at Bishop Manogue High School, following the Class 4A Northern Regional Championships.

The Tigers entered the day with one semifinalist and eight other wrestlers slated to try and earn a state tournament berth, but stiff competition kept the young Tiger squad out of the wrestling season’s biggest test.

Douglas 113-pounder Conner Morris was the lone Tiger grappler to make it into a third-place match, leaving him one win away from qualifying for the season’s final tourney.

Morris led 3-2 in the third period against Reed’s Arturo Espinoza, but Morris was called for locking hands and given a technical violation, tying the contest up at 3-3.

The call came with a little over 30 seconds remaining and Morris restarted action from the top position.

With a 3-3 tie, Morris was left with a choice between letting Espinoza loose and trying to get a two-point takedown or riding for 30-plus second to force overtime.

Ultimately, Espinoza escaped with about 20 seconds left in the final period and, in taking a 4-3 lead, prevented Morris from gaining a takedown that would have swung the match in the Tigers’ favor.

“I thought we did everything we could to try and get there,” said Douglas head coach Jake Fair. “Conner gave it everything he had, just kind of fell short.”

Morris’ impact on the team was more than just on the mat this season as Fair said the sophomore stepped into a leadership role most wouldn’t be ready for.

“The entire team is kind of microcosm of who he is and what we have coming up is going to be amazing,” Fair said.

Of the eight Tiger wrestlers who started Saturday in the consolation side of the bracket only Morris, Vance Hickman and Hunter Morris were able to start the day with wins.

Hickman kept his state tournament hopes alive with a second round pin over Galena’s Logan Obert.

Hickman then ran into Luke Bell of Damonte Ranch and fell in 3:39, ending his regional tournament run in the consolation semifinals.

“From the seniors to the freshman I could not have asked anymore from these kids,” said Fair.

Douglas departs two senior wrestlers to graduation – Jaden Blanchard and Hickman – in the spring and Fair showed just how enthusiastic he was about the team returning next season.

“We now have a solid foundation to build upon,” said Fair. “The culmination of their season has been amazing.”

Along with the returning lineup, Fair also said he expects some freshman to come in and compete for spots in the starting lineup as well.

Prior to the final matches of the afternoon, Douglas was chosen for the team sportsmanship award for the tournament.

As a team, the Tigers were ninth with 37 team points while Spanish Springs took home the team title with 229 points.