Gold Beach high school wrestler Derek Carl has been training nearly his entire life to achieve the ultimate prep wrestling award: a state championship. Twice before he has come painstakingly close, losing in the state final as a freshman and suffering a heart-wrenching defeat in the semi-final last year.
All that frustration was washed away as Carl dominated at last Saturday's OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires State Wrestling Championships to become the 170 pound 2A/1A state champion.
"I was just really happy. I went and hugged my dad and all my coaches," said Carl via phone interview.
"It was my last match and I wanted to go out as a state champ."
Carl, a senior who was the top-seed in the weight class, had to outduel three of the top wrestlers in the 2A and 1A classes to win the state championship that has been so elusive until now.
"It was Derek's to win," said Derek's father and Gold Beach coach John Carl. "Everyone was going out there with a plan to catch him somehow because they knew if they got into a long match with him he was going to pile up points."
Piling up points, and pinfalls, is exactly what Carl did. He breezed through his first two matches, beating Knappa's Logan Patterson by pinfall at 1:18 and then Culver's Kyle Easterly by a 10-1 major decision, setting up a final match against Monroe's Wyatt Stover.
"I never wrestled any of the other wrestlers going in to the meet, so I was pretty nervous before this final match," admitted Carl, regarding the unfamiliarity of wrestling in this years championships. "After the first round I was relieved and then I just relaxed and started scoring points."
Carl took a 4-1 lead into the second round. He piled on five more points to take a commanding 9-1 lead and then scored four more points in the final round, making it a 13-1 lead when he got Stover to the ground with a two-point takedown and was able to turn him to then get the pin at 5:34 of the match.
Later Carl had time to reflect on finally achieving a goal he has worked towards for 13-years.
"I was happy to win state but at the same time sad because I realized it was my last match," said Carl.
Carl is quick to point out the love, support and hard work his family has put in to help him achieve his goal.
"My father has been coaching me my entire life and it's nice it got to end with a state championship," said Carl.
Derek's mother, Shelli Carl, talks about how it wasn't just Derek's parents who were in Portland to cheer him on, but many supporters in the tight-knit Gold Beach community.
"The wrestling community is very close in Gold Beach," she said. "Other people involved in the community took the long drive up to Portland to watch him wrestle."
For all those who cheered Derek on all these years, the win couldn't be sweeter.
"I was so excited, I was kind of in shock when he won," said Shelli Carl. "It was total excitement. I was just so proud of him."
For Derek's father the title signifies the hard work and focus he has seen forged in his son.
"Second place has never been good enough for him," John said, "It's hard to separate being a father and a coach. I try to be a coach on the mat and a father at home but it's not easy to do when he's wrestling for state. I didn't know how I would react when he won. When it was over I just felt joy and relief for him. It's the one title he's been looking for all this time."