Local wrestlers get a leg up with advice from champion Kansas native

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Melvin Douglas instructed students at SM East on Tuesday.

SM South wrestling coach Joel Rios and two-time NCAA champion Melvin Douglas go way back. Rios was in high school in Emporia in the early 1980s when Douglas was first making a name for himself at Highland Park in Topeka. And the duos’ shared love of wrestling had them cross paths when they both earned the right to compete as part of Kansas’s national team.

Thirty-five years later, the two Kansas wrestlers found themselves by the same mat yet again as they helped instruct a group of young grapplers as part of the Kansas City Wrestling Club Developmental Camp hosted at SM East this week.

“It’s a neat experience for them — and the same for the coaches,” Rios said of having Douglas on hand. “Not many coaches get a chance to work with such an elite wrestler.”

Douglas went on from Topeka to the University of Oklahoma, where he won two NCAA Division 1 wrestling titles in 1985 and 1986. He competed in both the Atlanta and the Sydney Summer Olympics.

Over the course of this week, though, Douglas has been giving detailed instruction to wrestlers who are only just getting started in the sport. SM East wrestler Grant Kline said the chance to hear from a champion was special.

“It’s really helpful — I take advice wherever I can get it,” Kline said, noting that Douglas had given him some notes to help him improve his response to single leg, double leg and high crotch grabs. “Usually I get caught, and he showed me how to get out of it,” he said.