Male Athlete of the Week: Weight drop takes Duckworth to new heights

Ethan Duckworth

STRASBURG – Strasburg wrestling coach Mike Wood tossed around the idea of having junior Ethan Duckworth drop down a weight class at times during the regular season, but it was never a long-term plan.

However a little over three weeks ago, with the postseason approaching, Duckworth officially made the drop from 170 pounds to 160, a move that now makes plenty of sense for the junior wrestler.

“I mean there were matches (at 170) that I would beat somebody that was bigger than me but I was getting thrown around quite a bit,” Duckworth said Tuesday. “I came down to 160 and I’ve kind of held my own, really. It’s been a lot easier because I’m kind of down, like I’m everybody else’s size now. It just seems a little bit easier.”

Duckworth’s first tournament at his new weight, the Bull Run District competition on Jan. 30, also ended up being Duckworth’s first individual championship in any high school tournament, a result he said “immediately boosted my confidence.”

Then came his Conference 35 tournament championship effort the following week.

In his third week at 160 pounds, Duckworth, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week for Feb. 8-14, made it three straight championship performances when he took home an individual title at the Region 2A East tournament last Saturday at Wilson Memorial High School, one of four Rams to accomplish the feat.

“At 70 he was competitive but he was just getting muscled around a little bit,” Wood said. “Now he’s 60 and I think he’s found a real good home there where he’s a big 60-pounder and now he can control the match, not him being controlled.”

Duckworth was in complete control at the regional tournament. In what he admitted was a bit of a surprise performance, Duckworth picked up a pair of second-period pins in day one of the competition on Friday, then used a 16-1 tech fall victory over Nandua’s Matt Teasley on Saturday to reach the 160-pound championship finals.

In the title bout, Duckworth pinned R.E. Lee’s Banner Robson in two minutes, 46 seconds.

“Coach Wood, he was talking to me because he knows … Robson pretty well I think, and he said he’s a good wrestler, he definitely knows what he’s doing. I did not expect to pin him,” said Duckworth, who improved his record to 43-13 with 19 pins.

Duckworth’s entire postseason push, which has qualified him for his first Group 2A state tournament appearance this weekend in Salem, has come as a bit of a shock to the junior. He admitted Tuesday he never thought he’d be heading into his first state competition as a No. 1 seed, especially after he began noticing a slight downward trend on the mat as the final weeks of the regular season wore on.

“I wasn’t doing too bad but I started realizing I was losing a little more, so I figured I better start picking it up because the postseason is just around the corner,” Duckworth said. “I started picking it up in the wrestling room and just putting in extra work.”

That work included dropping the extra weight to 160 pounds and keeping it off, a process that initially concerned Wood due to Duckworth’s health concerns.

In the summer before his sophomore year, Duckworth was wrestling teammate Eric Reynolds during an offseason team camp when Reynolds shot for a takedown, hitting Duckworth in the stomach. The pain in Duckworth’s abdomen was instant.

Duckworth was in a local hospital a few hours later, he said, where it was determined his injury was kidney related. A transfer to Inova Fairfax Hospital revealed Duckworth had a ruptured kidney, an injury that was actually facilitated by a previously unknown medical condition he’d had his whole life.

“They said pretty much when I was born it didn’t form right or something and it wasn’t draining properly, so it was swollen, and (Reynolds) hit it hard enough to make it bust,” said Duckworth, who added that the injury has left him with just one fully functioning kidney.

As a result, Duckworth wears a flak jacket during football season to protect his abdomen from contact, and he wears makeshift padding under his singlet during wrestling season.

Duckworth has had no trouble with contact sports since the injury, he said, but Wood was concerned about any negative health risks a potential drop in weight would pose to Duckworth. The proposed weight drop was cleared by a doctor, Wood said, and all concerns since have been tossed out.

“It was good for him to drop,” Wood said. “Now that he did that he’s getting confidence along with it, because he’s really a good, technical wrestler. I mean he wrestles well. So I think the combination’s gonna do really well for him at states.”

Duckworth said as of Tuesday he’s got no specific goals set in mind when he heads down to Salem Civic Center for day one of the Group 2A state tournament on Friday.

“I haven’t sat down to think about any yet but really just go in, stay aggressive, just keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Duckworth said. “Hopefully it’ll work out good.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com