Never give up on yourself.
When looking at the world where sports reside, that’s the often the overriding theme that exudes from most stories told. Or at least it’s the macro view of what sports means to individuals and society.
That’s the story of Puyallup High senior Josh Franich — a two-time Class 4A state champion after he captured his second title in February inside the Tacoma Dome at Mat Classic XXIX.
“It feels good to know that I could win two titles after all the hard work I put in over the past couple seasons,” Franich said. “I always felt like I could be a multiple state champion, and to go out and prove that you can do it, that means a lot because I never quit on myself.”
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It’s a world view Franich is aware of every day.
Franich was born with completely deaf, and through the science and innovation of a cochlear ear implant just behind his right ear, he has been able to hear, and more than that, live his life to the fullest.
“I’ve told that story so many times it’s just become a part of who I am,” Franich said.
More of who he is comes from that overarching theme that sports has taught many over the years, the one that has helped Franich become a success story.
“The biggest lesson I probably learned from my wrestling career is to never give up on yourself. To never stop believing in what you’re capable of accomplishing,” Franich stated.
Franich was always meant to be a wrestler. He was born for the sport. Probably more so than he would ever admit to anyone and even to himself.
Year after year, title after title, Franich was always at the top of the mountain in the wrestling world, with family and friends envisioning early on that he would capture multiple state titles by the end of his high school career.
But not Franich — being in constant overdrive early in his wrestling career wore him down. The breaking point was close.
“I quit because I didn’t know if I wanted to wrestle in high school. Before that year, I never thought anything but wrestling in high school, but once the school year started, I couldn’t continue wrestling,” Franich said. “I needed the break. I never stopped loving the sport.”
And after watching his father Brian and sister Haley help revolutionize the state wrestling scene with both Jordyn and Brooklyn Bartelson, the passion and drive was lit within Franich. He was being called home.
“I think a lot of wrestlers who are wrestling all year long tend to get burned out at some point in their career,” Brian said. “With me coaching his sister and Josh seeing that, I think it motivated him to come back. I think it made him hungry again because he’s been around wrestling his entire life.”
That first year back, Franich earned state-alternate status despite missing most of the season after October surgery on the cochlear implant put him on the sidelines until doctors were sure he could continue with contact sports.
Then the 2015-16 wrestling season happened, where Franich was one of the stars of Mat Classic XVIII, running through the Class 4A 132-pound bracket on his way to his first state title.
He was on top of the state wrestling world.
“That first title was really exciting because it was my first (championship), but also because I was to prove to myself I could do it,” said Franich, who represented the Washington state travel squad that visited Japan last year.
This season was a new obstacle for the Puyallup senior in the form of South Kitsap junior standout Mason Eaglin.
For weeks heading into Mat Classic XXIX, Eaglin had Franich’s number. The junior ripped the sub-regional title from Franich, and then followed it up by stripping Franich of a regional title the following week.
As Franich walked into the Dome last month, that old adage rang in his mind as he knew this was it. If he was to walk away with another title, he had to rely on that motto that reverberated through his being.
“I knew that I could see him (Eaglin) again, so I told myself to think of it as a fresh start. Those past matches were in the past,” Franich said. “I wasn’t going to back down just because I lost to him before.”
The 4A 138-pound final came down to Franich vs Eaglin, and for much of the match, it looked like history was going to repeat itself for a third time.
But Franich told himself before he came to this moment that he wasn’t going to quit, and if there was a way, he was going to find it and seize the moment.
Seconds into the third round, Eaglin slipped up, leaving one opening — one that Franich didn’t capitalize on during previous matchs. But in that split second, he hooked Eaglin’s leg and muscled his way to a championship pin (4 minutes, 55 seconds) to capture his second title.
“I thought I earned this title more than the first one,” Franich said. “But I would say I like this title more because we had four guys come into state and place. Seeing (my stepbrother) Isaac Clark place was awesome because he was the first freshman at Puyallup to place at state. I think this happened because we all overcame our own issues to place.”
Franich placed along with Clark (sixth; 180), Nolan Martinez (fifth; 152) and Casey Cramer (seventh; 182).
It was a season where Franich was never alone — a story he has always shared, and one he has always been aware of throughout his young life.
“What’s the story of my wrestling career?” Franich asked. “I would say it’s the same as what we accomplished as a team. We had four guys place at state, and could have had more if we didn’t have so many guys injured. But no one let that be an excuse — we all worked hard to reach the goals we set for ourselves and as a team.
“We never gave up. That’s the story of Puyallup’s wrestling season.”