Murray wrestles for state gold
Baseball is at the top of Blake Murray’s list as far as priorities for his future. Even so, the Douglas High School senior — who has signed to play Division 1 baseball for Xavier University — will have his focus squarely on another sport today when he steps on the mat for the NIAA 4A State Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas.
You see, Murray this is the culmination of could be described as a lifelong quest.
Murray is trying to become the first Douglas wrestler to win a state individual title since Dillon Spates won as a 130-pounder in 2011 and become only the eighth state champion since the Tigers moved up to Nevada’s large schools classification in 1979.
“That’s what I’m going for; I want to bring that one home,” Murray said this week. “That’s been my dream for as long as I can remember … I was maybe 4 years old when I started (wrestling). It won’t be easy, but I’m pretty confident. It’s going to be my last tournament ever, so I’ve got to make it count.”
Murray (40-4 season record, 147-29 career) will face a tall order to win the 182-pound weight class gold medal at the Orleans Arena against a bracket that includes the defending champion. He is looking to move up on top after taking third-place last year as a 170-pounder.
“After finishing third at state last year, I think this is his time,” Douglas coach Jacob Fair said.
The quest begins this morning when Murray faces Centennial’s Tyler Roper. The two faced each other in December at the High Sierra Classic in Reno, where Murray won by a 3-0 decision in the quarterfinals and went on to win the tournament’s 182-pound title.
“I’ll have Roper in the first round and then probably Ivan Espinoza (of Basic) in the semifinals,” Murray said. “Then hopefully, if I can take care of business in my first two matches, I’ll see Connor Bourne (Faith Lutheran) in the finals.”
Bourne, a junior, is the defending state 182-pound champion. Espinoza is a two-time Sunrise Region champion. Roper was a Sunset Region champion in 2016 and lost to Bourne, 10-4, in the region finals last Saturday. Bishop Gorman senior Dylan Auschwitz is also wrestling in his second state tournament.
Murray has no serious concerns that the state tournament has been reduced from two days to one day this year.
“I think I would have liked it to be two days,” he said. “If you lose your first match, it makes for a long day. But if you take care of business, it shouldn’t make that much difference.”
Fair believes the gold medal dream is attainable.
“Anything can happen and I certainly think Blake is capable,” the coach said. “When you get to this point, it’s not just the four years you’ve put in during high school. It’s all the years you’ve worked just to become a state champion in the sport you love.”