Palmer coach, wrestler looking for gold

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DENVER - With their legacies already in hand, longtime wrestling coach Martin Davidson and senior Dre-Son Scruggs have one more thing to cross off the checklist before they end their storied careers at Palmer.

Win gold at the state tournament this weekend.

Davidson will call it quits at season's end after 31 years of coaching high school wrestling, 26 of those with the Terrors, while Scruggs will graduate as one of the most dynamic and successful wrestlers to ever come through the program.

The only thing missing on both resumes is a state title, which Scruggs, the team's lone state qualifier, took one step closer to with a 16-5 major decision over Brighton's Jonas Lutz in the first round of the 5A tournament Thursday.

Afterward, Davidson didn't want to speak too soon about the idea of coaching the program's first champion since the early 1970s.

He didn't necessarily push the notion aside, either.

"That would be phenomenal, that would be ideal," Davidson said. "That would be a storybook ending but we have a few more matches to go. We'll see how it goes."

Davidson told his team of his imminent retirement during the season. And on Thursday, he walked into the Pepsi Center knowing that his final season had turned into mere days.

"Every day this last week has been tough," Davidson said. "Leaving the room after the last practice Wednesday, coming up here today, it's a roller coaster."

Scruggs dominated in his first bout of the 145-pound bracket. He jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first and finished Lutz off with a series of acrobatic takedowns.

Scruggs, who took third at state a year ago, said afterward that winning gold could be something of a parting gift for his coach.

"It'd be great to get him one," Scruggs said. "It'd be awesome to give it to coach after he coached me these last four years."

Davidson also coached at programs in Nebraska and California before coming to Palmer, and over 31 years he's had several state finalists but never an individual state winner.

And while Scruggs is his last chance to change that, he hopes he's had a greater purpose in wrestling than just wins and losses.

"You always have to fight through adversity," Davidson said he teaches his teams. "I tell my guys wrestling is a microcosm of life. Life never goes the way you think it's going to go. You have to adapt and make changes and do the best you can with the circumstances you're given. Wrestling is a lot like that."

Quarterfinals in Class 5A start on Friday at 12:45 p.m. Semifinals for all classifications are later that night, starting at 7:15 p.m.