TACOMA — Three Grays Harbor wrestlers stepped onto the mat for the Mat Classic XXVI championship finals — only one walked off as a champion. A historic champion, at that.
In the final match of the night, North Beach’s Daniel Fruh (pronounced ‘Free’) gave the Hyaks their first state wrestling championship ever with a pin over Reardan’s Heiko Birkle in the Class 2B/1B 285-pound match.
Earlier in the night, Elma’s Tanner Sample and Ocosta’s Brian Hart lost in their championship matches.
Sample, a senior, was unable to gain traction against Granger’s Victor Almaguer in an 8-1 loss in the Class 1A 126 final.
Hart, also a senior, had a throw reversed on him by Liberty Bell’s Milo Holston to lose by pin at 3:21 in the Class 2B/1B 160 match.
In the team competition, Raymond finished sixth overall with 49 1/2 points in the Class 2B/1B tournament. Montesano achieved its season-long goal of a top-10 state finish by surviving long enough to take ninth overall with 62 points.
Fruh v. Birkle
Following the first period, Fruh won the toss and turned to his coaches to see what he should pick to start the second.
The coaches were deciding on keeping Fruh up on his feet, but the junior would have none of that. With a look of disapproval, he convinced them to let him start on top.
It was the right decision.
Working on the German exchange student’s head and arms, Fruh was rewarded with a pin at 3:05 to claim the championship.
“As far as I can remember, I’ve only had one guy stand up on me — ever,” Fruh said. “He finished sixth in 4A (today). That’s where my pins happen. Generally, I’m not good at neutral. From the bottom, it leads to being on top. When I get on top, it is over.”
Birkle claimed the first takedown of the match 30 seconds in, making Fruh work while getting a three-point near-fall for a 5-0 lead.
Fruh got his move when he grabbed Birkle’s arm and reversed it with 15 seconds left. There wasn’t enough time to set up a move, but it led to “The Decision.”
“He got tired,” Fruh said of Birkle when he got the reversal. “Ever since I was a freshman, that has been one of my defining traits — outlast. That is what I tried to do.”
Once Fruh rolled Brikle, the junior squeezed as the match referee hit his hand on the mat. Fruh bent over backward — literally — to celebrate, lifting North Beach head coach Rob Schreiber up and collapsing onto his knees on the mat.
“I thought, ‘Thank God I did it!,’” Fruh said. “I have a lot of people around me who really support me — my Mom and Dad. I feel like in my wrestling career, God has had a hand in my success. I pray before every match, after every match and occasionally, during the match. It is nice to get it, but before, it makes the pressure that much worse.”
“I told him that there is no one who can take that fact away from him — first-ever state wrestling champion,” Schreiber said. “There was a lot of pressure from a lot of people around. I took him aside and told him that today is his day. Don’t listen to everyone or the pressure. We came to an agreement that once the whistle blew, it was just like any other match.”
Other than the historic first-ever state championship, this final for Fruh was like every other match. After finishing second at state last year, the junior had the “favorite to win” title on him all season and he lived up to the billing by dominating just about every dual meet and invitational he’s wrestled in this season.
“This is better (than last year),” Fruh said.
Sample v. Almaguer
Sample, a senior, didn’t find much room to maneuver against the Granger junior and it made all of the difference.
Following a quick takedown in the first period, Sample came up injured after a chicken wing move was placed on his arm, hurting his shoulder.
Tanner noted after the match that it just pulled the shoulder and nothing popped, but “it hurt; it was pretty bad, but I wasn’t going to wuss out of a state championship match my senior year,” he added.
“It will probably hurt more once the adrenaline wears off.”
Sample scored his lone point on an escape, but Almaguer kept the offensive on. A takedown bracketed a reversal for the last points scored in the final five minutes of the match.
Almaguer didn’t score any near-fall points, a testament to Sample’s work on the mat to prevent that.
“Tanner was trying to win; he was trying to win that match,” Elma head coach Jason Dick said. “I know how it feels. It hurts. To lose a state championship match in your senior year, there’s nothing worse.”
Hart v. Holston
Through the first 2:15 of this match, both Hart and Holston were attempting and blocked each other’s attempt to throw. It would cost Hart in the end.
Holston, who scored the first takedown and near-fall in the final 44 seconds of the first period, capitalized on an attempted throw by Hart to score the victory and the state 160 B title with a pin at 3:21.
“There at the end, Hart got out of position, had his hips turned, and Holston took advantage of that,” Ocosta head coach Kevin Goodrich said. “We knew coming in that Holston was a quality wrestler. There’s no room for error when you are wrestling a kid that good. I’m proud of Brian for getting to the finals, for wrestling tough through the tournament and the last three weeks. While obviously we would have preferred a different outcome, he’ll look back and be happy with this (season).”
After Holston escaped Hart to start the second period and both wrestlers locked up. Hart then attempted to throw Holston, but the move was reversed into a takedown to the back.
Holston sealed control of the move and the pin was registered with 39 seconds left in the period.
“(Hart) had a lot of momentum coming out of the sub-regional and regional tournaments,” Goodrich added. “He just couldn’t quite get it done.”