One international wrestling trip to Japan has Josh Franich, Puyallup High’s top wrestler, looking at life with a new perspective.
This past June, Franich traveled with the Washington and Oregon Cultural Exchange wrestling team to Japan to on a goodwill trip of the top wrestlers from the region, a trip that had an impact on the Vikings’ defending state champion.
“One of the first things I noticed was how bright and colorful it was there compared to here,” Franich said. “That stood out most because of how peaceful it was.”
The bright colors and close-to-nature feel many of the Japanese schools Franich visited stuck out to the Puyallup senior, but the way people lived their lives 4,796 miles away now has Franich wanting to bring a piece of that back home to Puyallup.
“Practices have been busy. When you have several guys who made it to state, it can help motivate a young team,” Puyallup coach Aaron Lee said. “Josh is one of the guys that has pushed the guys at practice.”
Last year, the Japanese travel team dominated the Gut Check Wrestling Tournament in Bremerton, but Franich held his own when he faced Taishi Narikuni from Japan’s 18-U team in the 138-pound finals.
One of the first things I noticed was how bright and colorful it was there compared to here.
Although Franich lost the match, it was more of a launching point for the senior as he didn’t succeed a point in a match from that point on, including his dominant run through the Class 4A 132-pound state bracket at Mat Classic XXVIII inside the Tacoma Dome.
“He flew a bit under the radar last year, but now people know who he is,” said Brian Franich, Josh’s father and the team’s assistant coach. “Even though he had such a great season last year, he’s been ready to take it to the next level.”
Confidence in what’s next
Some things cannot change, and one culture does not always transfer or become adopted to another, but small influences can make incremental changes.
Out of all the lessons learned from his trip, it’s the passion that was in wrestlers’ lives that stuck with Franich most.
The entire school comes out for their matches, and seeing everyone involved made try to do the same with Puyallup. Sort of leave a legacy that can be carried on.
“What stood out to me most was the passion the school had for the team,” he said. “The entire school comes out for their matches, and seeing everyone involved made try to do the same with Puyallup. Sort of leave a legacy that can be carried on.”
Franich never had trouble finding passion or confidence in himself when it came to wrestling.
“We’re all trying to pick up our intensity during practices, hoping that it can be translated to tournaments like today,” said Puyallup senior Casey Cramer, one of four PHS wrestlers to walk away from the Wilfong Classic with a championship over the weekend.
“When you have a team working hard and a school supporting you, it makes it that much more exciting to be a part,” Franich added. “That’s the legacy I want to leave.”
The match itself and the opponents he faced were just more obstacles to overcome — just like his hearing loss at birth where he had a cochlear hearing implant surgically implanted behind his right ear. Before each match, the hearing aid Franich wears has to be removed, leaving the senior completely deaf during his matches.
And after a getting his nose bashed during a match, Franich has to wear a mask that is roughly an inch thick to protect his nose from any more damage.
When you have a team working hard and a school supporting you, it makes it that much more exciting to be a part. That’s the legacy I want to leave.
“First I couldn’t hear during my matches, and now I’m trying to learn how to see with this thing covering my face,” Franich said. “It’s gotten in the way a few times, but I think I’ll be alright later on.”
As Franich learns to deal with this new obstacle, the results will come, and by the end of February he’ll likely be looking at returning to the top of the area wrestling world inside the Dome.