Konnor Duncan’s introduction to wrestling didn’t go well.
Duncan’s father, Shane, a three-time state qualifier and the 1990 Division I 112-pound state champion from Findlay High School, took Konnor and his younger brother to their first wrestling practice when Konnor was in middle school. Neither child made it through that practice, leaving the Duncan wrestling legacy in doubt.
“I didn’t make it through my first middle school practice,” Konnor Duncan said. “I think it’s because I wasn’t ready for the commitment that wrestling takes. Once I entered high school, I made some friends on the team and decided I wanted to give it another try.”
Even with that change of heart, Duncan wasn’t 100-percent committed to the sport.
“When Konnor decided as a freshman to go out for the team he actually had to pull his mother aside and get assurances from her that him going out for the wrestling team would not mean that I was going to be wrestling with him every night,” said Shane Duncan, who is fourth in Findlay history with 101 career wins. “It’s been a challenge to stay hands off to let him have his own wrestling career and chase his own athletic goals, but we found a good balance between the two of us.”
That balance tilted in favor of a new bond between father and son, especially after Konnor’s improbable run to the 120-pound championship match at the Division III Garfield Heights District tournament on Saturday.
Duncan settled for second place but he earned a trip to the 81st OHSAA State Wrestling Championships in Columbus from Thursday-Saturday.
Following his second place finish, Shane and Konnor spent time together on Sunday reliving Shane’s glory days as a three-time state qualifier and two-time placer.
“Shane unpacked an old VHS tape and a VCR player, dusted them off, and rewound his state tournament memories,” said Konnor’s mother Meriah. “It was fun and surreal to watch Shane relive those matches, calling the moves before his 17-year old self hit them; muscle memory is very strong. It was even more special watching him share the footage with Konnor, who had never seen it before.”
Konnor knew of his father’s wrestling success, but it wasn’t until this weekend that he ever believed he had the chance to duplicate those accomplishments.
“I never thought I’d be able to compare my achievements to my dad’s,” he said. “He was a great wrestler and I thought I didn’t have a chance of making it to states. I inherited my ability or hard work from my dad and that’s what has helped me make it here. I feel like seeing the tapes has given me a little of what to expect from this weekend. It also showed me what level of effort will be expected out of me and that making it here is its own achievement.”
As a freshman, Duncan finished with a 12-23 record and failed to make it out of the sectional tournament. He improved to 17-9 as a junior but an injury prevented him from competing in the postseason.
This winter, Duncan takes a 23-15 record into the state tournament, but he’s wrestling at a different level than he has all season long.
“We’re very proud of him,” Shane Duncan said. “When you’re wrestling against wrestlers at this level you really don’t have the luxury of making mistakes and his wrestling style up until now has been that of a novice wrestler. He makes mistakes and then recovers from them. When he wrestles of a superior level he has some struggles there but he put together a few matches with minimal mistakes. He’s always been a very coachable kid so he took what his coaches told him and executed and beat a couple of kids that would have given him more trouble in the beginning of the year. If he can put together a couple more matches like that we like our odds to represent Kirtland in a positive fashion.”
Regardless of what happens in Columbus, the Duncan legacy lives on and Konnor has one more year to add another chapter to that story and Shane Duncan couldn’t be any prouder of his son.
“Being a wrestler myself, there is a pride because there’s a lot of hard work that goes into any sport, but I personally think wrestling brings out certain characteristics that are difficult to be brought out my many other sports unless you attain at an elite level,” Shane Duncan said. “The common wrestler gets to enjoy those attributes because of the demanding nature of the sport.”
Konnor Duncan opens the state tournament against Bethel-Tate junior Trey Sander, who finished third at the Troy District. Saner is 48-8 on the year.