By Ward Gossett
Assistant Sports Editor
Reed Doster is stepping out of the shadows.
The Baylor wrestler has been one of several Red Raiders on the fringe of a limelight most often cast on fellow seniors Ben Johnson and Dan Waddell.
Johnson and Waddell are recognized as two of the state's best, possibly because of their combined 79-1 season record, their multiple state-finals appearances and the fact both have committed to wrestle for the 15th-ranked University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
"I never thought of Reed as being in the shadows on our team," Baylor coach Jim Morgan said. "He has started for us for most of four years. I always see Reed as being there as a strong force."
Morgan, though, would be among the first to note Doster's improvement since a growth spurt that bumped him from the lineup as a freshman. He was then the 103-pound starter but had to surrender his spot to Johnson, who went on to make the first of three state finals.
"(Doster) simply outgrew the weight. He couldn't make it," Baylor assistant Schaack Van Deusen said. "So Johnson stepped in the last three weeks of the season and went on to finish second in the state."
Doster has become a Red Raiders mainstay along with Johnson and Waddell.
He was a state runner-up two years ago at 135 pounds and a state champion in 2006 at 145. This year as a 152-pounder he is 40-1 with the loss coming to Franklin's Kelly Felix, another UTC commitment, in the McCallie Invitational championship. Obviously, Doster's skill level has grown also.
"Reed has a terrific work ethic," said Waddell, his practice partner. "He makes my practice harder. He has improved a lot in the last couple of years. Reed is definitely aggressive, one of the most aggressive wrestlers on the team, and he gets more aggressive as the matches continue."
Doster didn't disagree.
"I'm a nice guy, but I guess I do have a mean streak. I like to get in there and mix it up, especially in an environment like Friday night," Doster said in reference to his pin and Baylor's win against rival McCallie before a packed house.
He learned to be aggressive as a 6-year-old when his father, Freeman, took him to Atlanta to wrestle in weekend AAU tournaments.
"He always liked to say he wanted to get his money's worth," Reed recalled, "so I'd wrestle everybody in my age and weight division and then usually move up and wrestle kids in the next division."
Van Deusen compares Doster and Waddell to another pair of aggressive nice guys, both state champions for Baylor in the 1980s.
"I watch them work, and I'm reminded of (Marc) Lyle and (Bo) Watson. They have definitely made each other better," the coach said.
Lyle won three state championships and Watson, known across the state as "Dr. Death," won two before the TSSAA's public/private split. What Watson and Lyle did for each other, so too have Waddell and Freeman.
"State champions need a state championship partner," Doster said. "Dan pushes you to the limit every day. He has taught me how to scramble out of situations I used to give up."
Van Deusen described Doster as fearless, and Morgan said he was relentless.
"He doesn't know when to quit," Van Deusen said. "He is not flashy but he is very impressive, especially on top, and he probably is underrated. If you're going to win wrestling meets, you must have guys who can pin, and Reed is a pinner.
"Reed is very intense," he said. "He works hard all of the time, and he works with the toughest people he can find. He has meant as much to this team as Ben or Dan or anybody else."
E-mail Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org