Joe Grable started attending the Tri-State wrestling tournament long before he ever participated.
He was told about the Tri-State championship his uncle, Derek, won back in 1988.
So it’s always been Grable’s goal to win one of his own. He checked that goal off his list Saturday evening. The Deer Park junior topped Ryan Klemp of Lewiston 5-2 in the final at 145 pounds.
Grable used takedowns in the first and second periods to open a 5-1 lead. Then Klemp, who won a state title last year, chose the down position for the final period, and Grable knew what he had to do.
“I’m usually not that good at riding, but I’ve been working on it with my coaches,” Grable said.
Klemp escaped with four seconds to go, but by then it was too late to mount a comeback.
“I was just trying to be aggressive and watch out for his good shots,” Grable said. “I wanted to stay on top the whole six minutes. It feels good to beat a state champ because I haven’t won state yet.”
Grable was one of five area champs. The others were Alius Delarosa of Post Falls (106), Bryce Parson of Lewiston (132), Izaec Quintanilla of North Central (152) and Chandler Rogers of Mead (170).
The team race was tight going into the finals. Only five points separated Hermiston and Kuna, a 4A school located near Boise.
Hermiston, third in Oregon’s second-biggest classification (5A) last year, pulled away in the final, finishing with 222 points while Kuna ended with 205. Mead, last year’s runaway champion, was third with 169.5. University (146) and Central Valley (131.5) finished sixth and seventh, respectively.
Delarosa, a freshman, improved to 10-0 by pinning Jacoby Peterson of Kuna in 3:29. He was seeded eighth.
Peterson had a leverage advantage on Delarosa. But once Delarosa figured out his opponent, he took care of him quickly.
“He was long and I knew it was going to be hard to get shots in,” Delarosa said. “It was hard for me to get leverage. I knew it was going to be tough on my feet. So in the second round when he chose top I was glad because I knew I was stronger than him on top. I was able to work and do what I love to do.”
What Quintanilla may have given up in strength to his opponent, he more than made up for with quickness, scoring a 9-2 decision over Trevor Anderson of Bethel.
Anderson used his strength to power to a first-period takedown. Quintanilla used a reversal for a 3-2 lead in the second. In the third, he scored a quick escape followed by a takedown and three back points.
Rogers used four pins to breeze into the finals. So most thought he’d finish with another pin.
But Zach Lowen of McCall-Donnelly avoided the pin and a technical fall as Rogers scored a 16-4 major decision.
Rogers was the aggressor, but Lowen’s strength stopped Rogers from getting anywhere close to a pin. Rogers finished with six takedowns.
Tyler Berger led Hermiston by becoming a three-time Tri-State champ. Berger pinned Blaine Invernon of Bonners Ferry in 4:41 at 138.
Berger was named the tourney’s outstanding wrestler.
Shaun Williams is in his first year as head coach at Hermiston, and he knows he stepped into a golden situation. Hermiston won two weeks ago in a season-opening tourney at Deer Park. Berger topped Grable 10-5 in a final there.
“Curt (Berger, the former coach) left me with a good program intact,” said Williams, who was an assistant at Moses Lake last year and prior to that coached at Arlington.
Williams believes his team can challenge for a state title.
“After winning the toughest tournament in the Northwest I believe so,” Williams said. “What will be key for us is to get our second stringers to come through the back door. This was a great tournament for us. Our guys performed well. We had a few unlucky breaks here and there but overall the team pulled together and did what was necessary to win.”
Cole Rohan of La Grande, Ore., pinned Jared Newberg of Kelso in 26 seconds at 98; Casey Cobb of Kuna topped Fred Green of Orting 9-4 at 113; in a showdown between teammates from Hermiston, Isaac Aguilar downed Wyatt Scribner 7-2 at 120; Michael Cook of Kuna edged Blake Beard of CV 3-1 at 126; Abe Rodriguez of Hermiston went to triple overtime before stopping Tyler McLean of Mead 4-3 at 160; Ryan Christensen of Woodinville scored a 17-2 technical fall over Tanner Davis of CV at 182; Sammy Shields-Colbray of Hermiston decisioned Tanner Orndorff of U-Hi 9-4 at 195; Matt Hopkins of Tahoma defeated Michael McCoy of Oregon City 8-1 at 220; and Brandon Johnson of Lake Stevens pinned Jaydn Wilson of Sentinel (Missoula) in 4:20 at heavyweight.