Prep wrestling: South’s Durham King of the Mat
LANDIS — South Rowan wrestler Logan Durham is one of the county’s hungrier athletes, and not just because the junior’s strict diet consists of grilled chicken and boiled eggs.
Durham says he’s 5-foot-6 or 5-7, so it requires serious discipline for him to stay eligible to compete at 106 pounds, the lighest weight class. He sacrifices at the dinner table every day because the potential reward — a 3A state championship — requires it.
“It’s hard, and some days, I’d even say it’s awful,” Durham said with a sigh. “Chicken and boiled eggs — all the time.”
Durham went 5-1 and placed third in the 3A state tournament at 106 last March, claiming bronze with an overwhelming 11-0 decision. He was 27-3 last season, so he’s not just a dreamer. He’s a contender.
Retro Rankings listed him second in its Dec. 17 rankings, second behind North Henderson’s Mitchel Langford. Although, as Durham is quick to point out, Langford, a phenom and a two-time state champ in the 2A ranks before North Henderson moved up a class with realignment, is currently wrestling at 113 pounds.
Langford may just have gotten tired of all those boiled eggs, but either way, Durham will be in the hunt to become a state champion in Greensboro seven weeks from now.
Concord J.M. Robinson’s David Cline, who won 3A gold last March at 106, is out of the picture, at least relative to Durham. Robinson has moved up to 4A. Cline is currently ranked second in 4A by Retro Rankings at 120 pounds.
“A goal is to get back to the top of all the rankings,” Durham said. “I was No. 1 most of last year.”
Durham did not compete in the recent Rowan County championships, a major disappointment after he had won county titles his freshman and sophomore seasons.
“I just didn’t make the weight, and I wasn’t going to try to wrestle at a heavier weight, bump someone out and bump some people up and mess up the whole team,” Durham said. “It was my mistake, and it wouldn’t have been right to have my teammates penalized for it.”
Durham obviously has his head on straight, and he got back on track in a big way at the recent King of the Mat holiday tournament hosted by perennial power Parkland High in Winston-Salem.
Durham was the No. 1 seed at 106 and ripped through his division with four straight pins.
The King of the Mat is a major tournament, with many North Carolina powers represented, plus some standouts from Virginia and South Carolina.
After taking the King of the Mat Tournament T-shirt off his back (the participating teams are listed on the shirt), Durham reads them off.
“There were 22 teams there, and I had some good matches,” Durham said. “The toughest was the final, but the final is always going to be the toughest. There’s some pressure in the final. They bring the mat out to the center of the gym and shine a spotlight on you, but it wasn’t too bad. I’ve wrestled in the spotlight before and I’ve been in even bigger tournaments — like the Super 32.”
Among his other accomplishments, Durham was the champ at 106 in the Super 32 North Carolina qualifier in September.
Durham placed second in the King of the Mat as a sophomore — Langford pinned him in the final — but this time he returned home a champion.
There were high finishes by a number of Rowan wrestlers — Carson heavyweight Alex Lyles was second, East’s Wyatt Blume was runner-up at 152, East’s Shiheem Saunders was third at 170, Durham’s teammate Angel Ruiz was fourth at 113, East’s Sam Cornacchione was fourth at 106, and Carson’s Brandon Sloop was fifth at 160.
“We had a good team from Rowan County that wrestled at Appalachian State’s camp last summer and we won our division,” Durham said. “I wrestled at 113 and won. Coach (Barry) Justus from East took us up there.”
Durham thinks wrestling 24/7. It’s a healthy exercise that keeps him from thinking about hamburgers.
“I just try to work hard at wrestling — I wrestled six days a week last summer,” Durham said. “When you put in that kind of time, you go into every single tournament expecting to win it.”
Durham has a busy summer planned, including wrestling trips that will take him to North Dakota and Florida.
“I’ll be wrestling all over the country, but the goals won’t change,” Durham said. “I want to win state championships and I want to wrestle in college.”
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