CARMEL, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Imagine being a high school state champion before you’re even in high school.
For one Putnam County 13-year-old, it actually happened last weekend, CBS2’s Steve Overmyer reported.
Being the center of parade through the halls of school is every seventh grader’s dream. For P.J. Duke, it came true on Wednesday. He won a state wrestling championship on Sunday and he’s only in middle school.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s like, it feels kind of normal, though. It’s nothing other than a normal tournament,” P.J. said.
New York has 15 weight divisions in public high school wrestling, with P.J.’s division, 99 pounds, being the lightest. However, his dad said he has always played bigger.
“He’s been fighting that for years because he tends to be on the smaller height, stature side of every bracket. Kids tend to be a foot taller than him sometimes,” Peter Duke said.
The 13-year-old bested every challenger this season, finishing his first varsity season 45-0. He did it with speed, technique, and will.
“I just love it. Nothing better than it. I just can’t get enough of it,” P.J. said. “I’ll just keep pushing the pace, but I think I also do have good technique and I can use that when I need to. I try to mentally just break [opponents] so they don’t even want to wrestle anymore. When it comes to the higher levels, everyone’s good at skill and technique. You got to be mentally strong.”
P.J. went through the entire playoffs without giving up a single offensive point.
“That’s like a football team going through the entire postseason, the playoffs and the Super Bowl — forget not allowing a point scored; it’s essentially them not allowing a yard gained. That’s the wow factor of what he did,” Carmel High School varsity wrestling coach Seth Harrison said.
So the students at George Fischer Middle School lined the halls Wednesday to honor New York’s first 13-year-old wresting state champion.
“It means a lot, for sure. It shows that I’ve grown as a person and in my wrestling career. I mean, I’ll just try to do it again next year,” P.J. said.
Just moments after the celebration, he was back on the mat. Training for next year.
P.J. is following in the footsteps of his sister, Abby, who two years ago became the first female wrestler named to the All-Section 1 team.