Editors note: This story is expanded from the article in the May 2022 Budget newsletter.
Most people don’t see what goes into becoming a champion. The countless hours of hard work, lengthy practices, and travel time each week.
This diligent dedication led Canajoharie High School senior Reed Douglass to the winner’s circle at the 2022 NYSPHSAA state wrestling championship earlier this year.
In February, Douglass won the Division II, 172-pound class, capping off years of practice, matches, and working to enhance his skills.
“It was blood, sweat and a lot of tears. A lot of effort and time is put into that,” he said.
Douglass and his family members would travel an hour one-way four days a week to train in the Albany area. He said his coaches would compare their training to military training, working hard to prepare them mentally and physically so they would be able to perform at a higher level when match time came.
“I’m thankful that they put us through that so I can – whatever situation I get into – fight through it or be able to fight through it. I’m able to get through it. I think my coaches do that because they push us to our limits. It’s like I was on the verge of tears, and they’d say, ‘No, come on. I Reed, you got this. Come on.’ And then make a sprint for it.”
Douglass began wrestling his freshman year and soon discovered a passion for the sport.
At the time, he was involved in four different sports but found that wrestling was the best fit for him. However, success in the sport didn’t come overnight. Douglass said he “got destroyed” in his first several matches. And even though he was putting his all into it, he was getting beaten repeatedly. Finally, he said he sat in the locker room and, through his tears, decided he was never going to let it happen again.
So with the support of his family, he went to a camp held by Journeymen Wrestling Club in Scotia. After putting in a lot of hard work, he began to see success in his sophomore year.
His junior year, however, was a tough one. COVID-19 changed his plans, with his junior season not happening. But that doesn’t mean Douglass stopped working toward his goal.
“I realized most people are probably not going to train. So I decided I was going to make this an opportunity to train. So I took my training to another level,” he said. “And look where I am now.”
Douglass had an excellent senior season, leading up to the state championship at the MVP arena in Albany. He took the title he had been working on for so long. All the hard work, all those long hours, all the sacrifices, it was all for this moment. Douglass rose to the challenge, made use of all those practices, and made his way to the top of the podium.
The win, however, was bittersweet for Douglass, for although he won, it meant one of his friends – Ray Hutton wrestling for La Salle Institute – had to lose.
“It was also almost heartbreaking. [Hutton] and I’ve been training during COVID, and two years just non-stop training hard. So we had that. Obviously, we’re the same way. We both had the same goal of winning a state title. And it was unfortunate that one of us had to lose,” Douglass said. “He’s a good friend of mine, and basically, the first one of us to slip up and make a mistake would lose. He’s the one who is going to suffer, and that’s what it came down to literally; the two seconds left is me scoring.”
Douglass said as soon he realized he had won the championship, he got excited. But soon, he was talking to his competitor and his friend, letting him know that it could have gone either way.
Next year, Douglass will be taking to the mat again to wrestle division one for the Presbyterian College Blue Horses in Clinton, South Carolina. He plans to study business administration. He hopes to go into a trade after college and would like to coach wrestling. He hopes his business administration or management degree will help him start his own business in the future.
Douglass chose the college in part because the program is new, allowing him to take part in hopefully building a legacy of excellence there.
“It’s a great program, and they just had a recruiting class. They’ve excited about our class and the class after us,” Douglass said. “They’re building a brand new wrestling facility down there. And it’s going to be the biggest in the southeast. I’d like to be a national champ; that’d be pretty cool. A guy from Duanesburg [Nick Gwiazdowski] did it a couple of years ago, and he came from a small town. I mean, he did it, so why can’t I?”
Douglass said he knows that getting to the National Champion level will mean a lot of effort, time, and even more blood, sweat, and tears.
“Whatever I need to do to get there, I’ll do. So next thing I’m on my wall is National Champion,” he said.