For someone who had never wrestled competitively until last year, Dom Gray has proven to be a quick learner. The Kelly Walsh senior, whose previous experience in the sport consisted of “wrestling around with my brother in the backyard,” is on the short list of title contenders at 220 pounds heading into Saturday’s Class 4A state championship.
Gray enters the state meet with a 23-9 record after losing by pinfall to Natrona County’s Colter Helm in the championship match of the Northwest Quadrant qualifier this past Friday. Eight days earlier, at the Miller Cup, Gray got a takedown in overtime to earn an 8-6 decision over Helm.
“I wasn’t focused,” Gray said after Friday’s loss. “I’ve just got to study my film and see what I did wrong and see what I can improve on.”
Kelly Walsh head coach Travis Peak has no doubt Gray will be focused and ready Saturday, when he takes on Cheyenne Central freshman Cameron Cox in the first round. Win that match and Gray will face Cheyenne East senior Trey Bower, who defeated Gray 7-5 last month.
“Dom is one of those special dudes,” Peak said. “He’s like a sponge, he just soaks up everything you show him. And he has the athletic ability and the strength to pull things off that a lot of kids can’t.”
Gray didn’t necessarily join the Trojans’ wrestling team last year with thoughts of winning a state championship, although the two wins he earned competing at 195 did help Kelly Walsh secure its second consecutive team title. However, after football season ended last year, Gray wasn’t ready to stop competing. It didn’t take much for his teammates to convince him to come out for wrestling.
“Sam Henderson talked me into it,” Gray said, referring to the Trojans’ 170-pound senior. “I had always wanted to try wrestling, so I decided to give it a try.”
Last year was definitely a learning experience. Gray realized his strength and athletic ability sometimes weren’t enough when going up against kids who had been competing in the sport for years.
“Last year there were matches where I didn’t even know what I was doing,” he admitted. “This year I know a whole lot more and there are matches where I just feel like I’m in a groove. Now I feel like I belong out here and it’s a lot more fun.”
Peak continues to be impressed with how far Gray has come in just two years on the mat. He’s coached a number of individual state champions during his seven years at Kelly Walsh, and he thinks Gray could add to that total.
“He could be competing for a state championship (on Saturday) in just his second year of wrestling, which is pretty crazy,” Peak stated. “It’s amazing how fast he learns things. There are some guys who have wrestled their whole lives and they don’t pick it up that quick. He hasn’t gotten really good at any one particular thing, he’s just well-rounded. He just continues to be more aware every time he’s out there.”
Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @wyovarsity