It was a fitting end to an illustrious high school wrestling career.
Win by fall.
Darren Harris has done that more than anyone else in state history.
The Yelm senior’s 112th and final career pin came in the Class 4A state 126-pound finals at Saturday’s Mat Classic at the Tacoma Dome, and in the process made Harris a rare three-time state champion.
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“This is easily the best of the three (state titles),” Harris said. “What an awesome way to end things.”
Harris pinned Alex Rodorigo of Lake Stevens in 3 minutes, 47 seconds to put the final touches on his second consecutive undefeated season.
Harris went 29-0 this year and is 64-0 over the past two seasons, winning the 120-pound title as a junior to go with the 106-pound championship he won in the 3A ranks as a freshman.
His last defeat occurred in the 113-pound finals his sophomore year.
Since then, he chalked up pins at a record pace, with 59 of his 64 victories over the past two years coming by pins.
“I had to readjust my goal after losing in the finals my sophomore year,” Harris said. “The whole focus after that was to become a three-time champion.”
The victory places Harris in a select group as he became just the fourth South Sound wrestler to win three or more state titles, joining Black Hills’ Jimmy Belleville (a four-time champion from 2006-09), Capital’s Steve McGettrick (1998-2001) and Tumwater’s Randy Wollen (1975-77).
“There hasn’t been too many of them do what he’s done,” said Yelm coach Gaylord Strand, who coached against each of the other South Sound three- or four-time champions. “Darren definitely belongs in the group.”
Harris immediately grabbed a 2-0 lead against Rodorigo, registering a takedown 10 seconds into the match.
“The takedown early really set the tone, and I just wanted to keep the pressure on,” Harris said. “Just go out there wrestle and take care of things.”
Rodorigo managed a takedown of his own at the start of the second period, trimming Harris’ lead to 5-2, but it only seemed to delay the inevitable, as Harris finished the match moments later with a head-and-arm move.
“I haven’t used a head-and-arm too many times,” Harris said about his state-title winning move. “I’ve maybe won five times with that during my high school career, but he was giving it to me, so I took it.”
Earlier in the day, Harris advanced to the finals by pinning Josiah Rodriguez of Sunnyside in 5:55.
“Darren’s confidence was really high coming into this tournament,” Strand said. “His desire is so strong. He was so focused. We knew Darren was going to be tough today. He’s just been a great kid to coach for four years.”
It took 12 months, but everything lined up perfectly for Kent-Meridian’s Emmanuel Daigbe.
The junior concluded his perfect 33-0 season by defeating Union’s Alex Berfanger, 3-1, to win the 4A 182-pound championship.
It was a rematch from last year’s 170-pound finals where Berfanger took home the title with an 11-5 victory.
“I just put in the work this last year,” Daigbe said. “The motivation was to get back to the finals and have it end differently for me.”
Daigbe improved his career mark to 2-1 against Berfanger. The other victory came in the regional tournament where Daigbe won by pin.
“That win did a lot for my confidence,” Daigbe said. “Right after that pin is when I started thinking this could really happen.”
Kentridge’s Derek Freitag took home the 106-pound title in the 4A classification by defeating Union’s Ethan Rotondo, 6-2.
Rotondo led after the first period, 2-1, but it was all Freitag after that.
“It’s tough to hear anyone when you’re wrestling here,” said Freitag, who placed fourth in the same weight division last year, “but you do get these quick moments when you can look over at your coaches. I saw them rooting me on and that gets you going.”
Cody Vigoren of Lake Stevens continued his dominance in the 195-pound class by winning his second consecutive 4A title with a pinfall victory over Tahoma’s Adam Hokenson (1:48).
Vigoren has not lost to an in-state wrestler since his sophomore year, when he placed fourth at state.