You could hear the exhaustion in Austin Almaguer’s voice.
Just a few days removed from winning a national championship at the prestigious Cadet & Junior Nationals wrestling tournament in Fargo, N.D., he was with his Kamiakin High School teammates at a camp in Oak Harbor.
“That’s what makes a national champion,” Kamiakin coach Jordan Anderson said of Almaguer’s work ethic. “I don’t think he has been home for three days this summer. He was in Oklahoma for junior duals, then he was on the west side (of the state) for Greco training.
“I don’t want to take any credit. Every coach he has worked with deserves the credit. I get to have him on my team and to have him as a role model.”
Almaguer, an incoming senior at Kamiakin this fall, pinned King Sandoval of Virginia at 5:12 to win the 126-pound junior Greco-Roman title Saturday, besting a 128-man bracket of the best youth wrestlers in the nation.
“All the training I put in and knowing that it paid off was great,” said Almaguer, who also won the Class 3A 126-pound state title for the Braves in February. “It’s exciting.”
After beating Jordan Hamdan of Michigan 8-4 in the national semifinals, Almaguer drew Sandoval in the finals. Sandoval roared out to a 6-0 lead and led 10-4 in the second period, but Almaguer never backed down.
He waited for the right moment, then caught Sandoval in a head-and-arm, put him on his back and waited for the pin call.
“I was patient and stuck with the game plan,” Almaguer said. “I kept my composure and kept wrestling.”
Almaguer’s title is the first one in 15 years for the Tri-Cities. The last came in 2003 from another Kamiakin wrestler, Mike Rodriguez, who won the 112-pound Greco crown.
“It means a lot,” said Almaguer, who was sixth last year. “It’s not often that happens. I knew if I trusted my training I would be able to do it.”
Anderson was a teammate of Rodriguez’s at Kamiakin, but watching his own wrestler win was special.
“It was awesome to watch,” he said. “We were watching at my house and we were jumping off the couch. When he threw that head-and-arm and locked it in, we knew (Sandoval) wasn’t getting out. When we got here (Oak Harbor), coaches were congratulating him. He said he didn’t think they would know who he was.”
Almaguer trained with Ruben Navejas on the west side to prepare for nationals.
“He was a Marine and joined their Greco team,” Almaguer said. “He knows what he’s doing. The training was right where it needed to be. He helped me get to the next level.”
And know he’s back with his Kamiakin teammates.
“I have been focused on Greco the last couple of months,” Almaguer said. “I came here to help me get back into folkstyle.”
The Tri-Cities had two more wrestlers reach the podium in their respective weight classes — Chiawana’s Robby Vaughn was fifth in Greco at 132, while Hanford’s Taylor Wilson was sixth in girls freestyle at 94 pounds.
“He is Chiawana’s first ever All-American,” said Riverhawks coach Jack Anderson, Jordan’s brother. “We had always planned a space on the wall (in the wrestling room) for All-Americans, and we are excited for him to be the first one.”
For Vaughn, who will be a junior this fall, it was his first trip to Fargo, and he and his dad Rob almost didn’t make it.
“We hit a deer in the middle of the night,” Vaughn said. “The car still ran, so we kept on going. It was pretty beat up.”
Nationals was a new adventure for Vaughn, who placed second at the 4A state tournament at 120 pounds. At Fargo, he was in the 132-pound class.
“Those kids are strong, and they are so much bigger,” he said. “I didn’t cut much for Fargo, but those guys were cutting down from 150. I was one of the smallest kids in the bracket. It was a blast.”
Vaughn also competed in freestyle but did not place.
Vaughn and soon-to-be Chiawana teammate Isaiah Anderson — an incoming 182-pound freshman and Jack’s son — competed for Team Washington in June at the Cadet National Duals in Spokane.
Washington finished second in Greco and seventh in freestyle. Also on the Washington team was Payton Smith of Kamiakin, who competed at 94 pounds.
Wilson, who won the 100-pound state title for Hanford in February as a freshman, had to injury forfeit to Hawaii’s Zoe Omura in her final match.
“She is our first All-American,” Hanford coach Dom Duncan said. “It’s no small feat to get to the podium.”
Wilson injured her shoulder a couple of matches into the tournament but was cleared by medical personnel to continue.
“We knew she was hurt, but the trainer said if she could do a push-up she could continue,” Duncan said. “She repped out a couple of push-ups and got medically cleared. She won her next two matches. She was disappointed she didn’t win, but I told her there were thousands of kids going home without anything except getting beat up.”
Hunter Duncan of Kennewick placed third in Greco and second in freeestyle at the Kids National Championships in June in Atlanta. Duncan competed at 56 pounds.
Payton Brooks (119 and 125) of Kennewick was part of Team Washington for the Schoolboy National Duals in Indianapolis last month. Washington finished sixth in freestyle and fifth in Greco.