Four times Duke Myers has placed his toes on the line in the most stressful round of the IHSAA state tournament.
After Saturday at the Coliseum, the Bellmont senior has won four times in the iconic candy-striped singlet, joining his father and coach on an elite list of BHS wrestling greats.
Four-time State Qualifiers in Bellmont History
2021-’24: Duke Myers
2019-’22: Ike Ruble
2014-’17: Bryce Baumgartner
2000-’03: John Sheets
1999-’02: Randy Baker
1994-’97: T.J. Hays
1992′-’95: Tim Myers
1985-’88: Paul Gunsett
Myers’ final weekend as a Bellmont wrestler will be spent with three teammates, two of whom (Keagan Martin and Gavin Davis) joined Duke last year in Indianapolis. This year, in Evansville, they’ll be joined by freshman Henry Faurote.
If all goes well, Myers will win his match on Friday and then pursue a state title. He will wrestle four times and if he wins all four, he will crack the top ten of the all-time Bellmont wins list, joining his late coach, Paul Gunsett, at the 141-win line.
To reach Evansville was not easy. While he had little trouble with the opening two opponents, winning by tech fall in the first round and 9-2 in the ticket round against Dallas Plattner of East Noble, there was always a rematch looming.
Duke took out Ethan Smith of Snider in the semifinals, showing some explosive offense in the opening seconds of each period to build a big lead of 11-4, breaking the will of Smith, who eventually gave up and surrendered the fall.
That set up a rubber match situation with Kaeb Stebbins of Delta in the finals for the semi-state title at 165. The two met for the first time at Team State in January and Stebbins opened the dual with a 5-2 victory, propelling the Eagles to the state title. Then, last week at regional, Myers scored a great double-leg takedown in the dying seconds of the bout to win the regional title.
While last week’s victory was important, it always seemed like Myers and Stebbins were destined to meet in the semi-state finals. Considering Cowan’s Levi Abbott took third at both the regional and the semi-state, the rematch was set for Myers’ final career match at the Coliseum.
Much like they had done at regional, the two wrestlers were scoreless after the first two minutes and neither could hold the other grappler down for more than ten seconds in the final two periods.
That set up another scenario of a 1-1 match with both wrestlers on their feet in the third period. This time, Myers did not wait until the dying seconds.
Locking up with Stebbins near the scorers’ table, Myers used a trip to send the tall Stebbins toppling like a tall redwood on the edge of the mat. Duke landed squarely on top of Stebbins, chest first, followed by both feet touching inbounds (see gallery below).
The official signaled that the two were out of bounds and awarded no points, but an immediate objection by coach Tim Myers led to a discussion with the side official, who was positioned perfectly to see where Myers’ feet were prior to the trip and after the aforementioned tree felling.
A couple of hand gestures later, the two officials rightfully determined that the takedown should count and Myers had the points he needed to win a second semi-state title.
Duke joined his father as a two-time semi-state champion and received his award from him on the podium. Duke and Tim are two of a short list of 22 wrestlers who’ve captured multiple semi-state titles.
The victory for Bellmont also marked the sixth year in a row that the program has had an individual semi-state winner.
As a four-time state qualifier and hopeful three-time medalist, Myers is already on the list of the all-time greats in the Bellmont program. Considering he did not wrestle a regular season match as a freshman due to the surgeries he had in eighth grade and the ensuing recovery, his spot on the all-time win list is even more impressive. A conservative total of 25 wins before sectional as a freshman would mean Myers would be talking about passing Randy Baker and Matt Irwin for second all-time.
Nevertheless, Myers is thankful for his journey and displays his faith with two signature moments before and after each match. A short prayer before each bout is often followed by a finger pointed to the sky after a victory. He repeated that cycle four times Saturday and hopes to do so again in Evansville.
30 years after his father won a state title at Market Square, Duke Myers will try to climb the mountain at the Ford Center in Evansville. Tim Myers, who will be acting as dad and coach, will savor each moment.