Dukes named MVP at Garden City
In his four years at Basehor-Linwood High School, Matt Dukes has won a lot. He has won several tournaments. He has won even more individual matches and last year he finished second in the state at 145 pounds.
Even with more than 70 wins under his belt, Dukes had never been named a tournament's most valuable wrestler until this past weekend.
Thanks to a 4-0 record, which included pins in three of the four wins, Dukes was named the Garden City Invitational's most valuable wrestler Saturday, Jan. 26.
Dukes said the honor that has eluded him his entire career was nice, but is nothing in relation to what a state championship would mean to him.
"There's really no comparison," Dukes said. "And that's saying something because I was really excited to win this. I went nuts. I was jumping around, yelling at my coaches and then everybody just started yelling back."
Perhaps Dukes unleashed the explosive celebration because the final match that sealed the deal for his tournament MVP lasted just 19 seconds.
"I was shocked at first," Dukes said. "It just happened so fast."
His opponent in the final was a state runner-up in Oklahoma in 2001 and Dukes said beating him that quickly sent a message to the rest of the tournament.
"I really just wanted to show people that even though we're from a little town that's pretty far away, Basehor has a good team," Dukes said. "Even still, I didn't think I was going to get it (the MVP). I was in my street clothes and we were ready to leave, but somebody told us we should stick around for the medal ceremony. I'm glad we did."
BLHS coach Scott Neil said Dukes' performance at the tournament was worthy of the MVP honor. The 17 coaches at the tournament vote for one wrestler each, and Neil said his vote went to Dukes because of the way he won it.
"Out of the four matches he wrestled in, he pinned three of them," Neil said. "I think that made the big difference between Dukes' 4-0 and the other guys'. And then, of course, finishing off the last guy in 19 seconds added something, too."
Not only was the timing of the pin overwhelming, but the pin itself appeared to separate Dukes from the rest of the field. He was the only wrestler to win in the finals with a pin.
As for the rest of the BLHS team, Neil said he was extremely pleased with the way the Bobcats wrestled. Only seven wrestlers made the trip, but five of them placed and BLHS finished seventh in the 17-team field.
Brandon Buck (4th), Cody Bell (4th), Matt Gillett (3rd) and Tim Morgan (4th) were the other Bobcats who placed.
"We're probably wrestling the best we have since Clay Center early in the year," Neil said. "After Thursday we've got nothing left but league, regionals and state and hopefully we're starting to peak at the right time. I certainly hope so."
Dukes agreed with Neil and said he hoped his honor would propel the rest of his team to a strong finish.
"It's definitely a big deal and a big honor for me," Dukes said of the MVP. "But I have to stay focused and concentrate on the rest of the season. I think this tournament got us pumped up and I hope we can finish it right."
The Bobcats will take the mat Thursday, Jan. 31, for a dual with Perry-Lecompton and Piper and then they will be off until the Kaw Valley League meet on Saturday, February 9.