By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
AUSTIN - Growing up around a mixed martial arts fighthouse, Michael Duran began his training in Jiu-Jitsu by the age of 7.
By the time he got into high school, he tried to branch out to traditional wrestling.
But it wasn't until this season that the lanky Harker Heights senior 160-pounder finally found a way to merge his two favorite sports.
Using his long arms with vice-grip precision, Duran shrugged off a blowout to the sole of his left shoe and advanced to today's championship semifinals after etching out a 5-3 victory over Blake Andrews of Grapevine in the 2012 University Interscholastic League's Wrestling State Championships on Friday at the Delco Events Center.
"It all came together this year, working with the guys from Fort Hood over at the fighthouse, from the all-Army team, working with a lot of the college guys - people that wrestled in Oklahoma and Penn State," Duran said of his father's American Fight Company fighthouse in Killeen. "This year it's all about putting in a lot of work and dedication. I guess it kind of shows - it doesn't matter how long you've been doing it, it's about how much time you put into it."
Leading 2-1 after Andrews earned an escape midway through the first period, Duran realized he couldn't get quite the same traction he had on his first takedown, looking down to see the grip on the bottom of his left wrestling shoe flapping around the mat like a piece of toilet paper.
"It was already kind of banged up as it was, but whenever it came loose, it was slipping a little bit," Duran said. "I actually wanted to reach down and grab it before he could shoot in, but that was a bad idea in the middle of the match."
During a break in action, Duran (31-2) actually ripped off the detached piece of sole about the length of his toes and chucked it toward his coaches at the end of the mat.
Switching his lead shooting leg to his right, Duran managed to get one more takedown before the end of the first period, clinging to a 4-1 advantage.
The score remained that way until a furious final push by Andrews, who reversed Duran out of the bottom position, flipping him to his back briefly before Duran was able to gather himself and escape as the third period ended.
There was some confusion about how long Duran's back was exposed, but the referee only awarded Andrews a reversal and then gave Duran an escape for a 5-3 win.
"He was scrambling real hard and I was just trying to hold onto him, there were a few positions he got to quicker than me, so I just had to hold on as hard as I could," Duran said. "It was definitely exciting, like 'Oh my gosh, what's going to happen?' but it was nerve-racking."
Duran, who also registered a third-period pin of Lubbock Coronado's Allan Carswell, will wrestle Donaven Roberts of Canyon Randall in the boys' 160-pound semifinal, which begin at 10:15 a.m. today.
"This year is my last year, so I wanted to make a mark somehow," Duran said.
The only other area competitor still with a chance to medal today is Shoemaker 110-pounder Dineesha Jones (32-9), who shrugged off a tough quarterfinal loss to Bobbi Navarrete of Carrollton Creekview to pin Jordan White of League City Clear Falls in the second round of consolation.
"Dineesha was thrown off her game with an equipment violation that was OK earlier in the day," Shoemaker coach Ken Soloff said, referring to Jones starting the quarterfinal match already behind 1-0 because she didn't have a hair net.
Fellow Lady Grey Wolves wrestler Maya Little wasn't so lucky, losing by major decision (17-4) to Taylor Alva of Houston Cypress Woods in the 128-pound championship quarters before being pinned by Raven Norris of Saginaw in the second round consolation bout.
"The other girls brought a little more intensity, that's something we'll have to go back and fix," Soloff said of the losses. "There's a lot of tournament left. They won't be state champions, but that doesn't mean there won't be a medal involved."
Killeen 220-pounder Derriel Collins saw his season end in scary fashion when he suffered either a separated shoulder or a broken collarbone after being slammed hard to the mat in his first-round consolation match against Roderick Williams of Lewisville. Unable to finish the match, Collins was rushed to the emergency room at Scott & White Hospital in Round Rock.
Fellow seniors Shilo Shortte of Ellison and Ingrid Toro of Shoemaker also went two-and-out, with both ending their seasons on their back. Shortte, who was pinned in 39 seconds her first match, actually held a 4-1 lead deep into the third period of her consolation match against Alexus Dominguez, only to get stuck in a head-and-arm lock for the pin.