You can call Dylan Reece a team player. The La Grande senior performed the old sports cliche of taking one for the team during a dual against Baker City Thursday night. But, Reece turned an obstacle into a chance to get better.
“I usually wrestle at 220 pounds,” Reece said. “We needed someone to wrestle at heavyweight, though. So I did it.”
The obstacle was a large Bulldog freshman in a singlet. Malachi Knox wrestles at 285 pounds, and his silhouette underneath the spotlight in the La Grande gymnasium nearly engulfed Reece.
“I knew I was giving up about 70 pounds in the match,” Reece said. “But, I used the atmosphere to my advantage.”
Emotions were running high inside the gym. It was senior night for the Tigers, and to multiply the adrenaline rush, it was a rival who came to try to ruin it.
“We were all pretty excited to wrestle in front of our home crowd one more time. It’s a little different knowing it’s the last time you’re going to be wrestling in your home gym.
“Plus, it makes it a little more intense against Baker. We know that they’re a young team this season, but we didn’t want to hold anything back.”
The Tigers hadn’t in the six matches leading up to the heavyweights. La Grande had dominated each match, winning 5-of-6 by pinfall, with three forfeits thrown into the mix.
It would have taken a miracle comeback, trailing 52-0 at that point. But, the Bulldogs were looking for a glimmer of something positive in a night full of growing pains.
Knox provided a little positive, grabbing the first lead of the duel with a takedown of Reece. The opening round ended with the Bulldog freshman leading 2-1.
That lead didn’t last long. Reece opened the second round in the down position, and scored two points with a reverse. Following an escape, tying the match at 3-all, Reece started working toward the final takedown.
The two wrestlers went head-to-head, and Knox stumbled backwards onto his backside. Reece drove his legs like a football player would to move a tackling sled. Slowly, Knox began to give way, and Reece got in position for the pin.
“I just had to keep churning my legs,” Reece said. “ I was determined to make it work at that time. It took a lot out of me, and it was a huge relief to hear the official hit the mat.”
Reece closed out the match with 30 seconds left in the second round, the sixth win by pinfall for La Grande. The Tigers would go on to finish with eight pins on the night.
“It’s one that we knew we needed to win,” Reece said. “That’s what you have to do — win the ones you should.”
As for his head coach Klel Carson, he said Reece just continues to keep doing what he’s done all season.
“Dylan has been doing that a lot for us lately,” Carson said. “He did that at the Oregon Wrestling Classic to help us take second there. He’s done a great job this season doing what we need him to do.”