Demitri Robinson becomes first Tulalip tribe state wrestling champ

TACOMA — Knowing they had a chance to witness history, Tony Hatch and Ray Fryberg spent most of their two-hour break Saturday afternoon at SeaTac Mall. The Tribal Council members of the Tulalip tribe had to get shirts made up to commemorate the occasion.

A couple hours later, while proudly wearing black, long-sleeved shirts with the words TULALIP WRESTLING in red across the front, Hatch and Fryberg watched from a few feet away as Demitri Robinson made history.

Robinson became the tribe’s first state wrestling champion when the Tulalip Heritage freshman upset Oroville’s Bryce Woodruff in the 103-pound final of the B classification.

“I can’t speak for everybody (in the tribe), but as one of the tribal leaders, it’s big to me,” said Hatch, who helps out as an assistant wrestling coach at Marysville-Pilchuck. “To be able to step in as a freshman and win it, that’s great.”

Robinson, who wrestled with the M-P program during the season because Tulalip Heritage does not have a team, pulled away from a narrow 2-0 lead in the final period before pinning Woodruff with 16 seconds remaining.

The win took a lot of weight off the shoulders of Robinson, a 14-year-old freshman who admitted before the match that he felt the pressure of his tribe and school to win a title.

“I feel a lot of relief now,” he said afterward.

Robinson (25-3) handed Woodruff his second loss of the season without giving up a single point. The unflappable freshman recorded a takedown midway through the first period, then held off his taller opponent for the next four minutes. Woodruff appeared to gain control of Robinson with about a minute to go, but just before he turned the freshman over, Robinson slipped free for a reversal and a 4-0 lead.

“At that point,” said Robinson, who pinned Woodruff less than 30 seconds later, “I knew I had it.”

Said Hatch: “Demitri’s a contortionist. Just when you think his shoulder’s about to pop out, he pulls himself free.”

After the pin, the baby-faced Robinson broke out in a smile and hugged Hatch, Fryberg and Marysville-Pilchuck volunteer assistant Cliff Johnson, all of whom were in Robinson’s corner during the match.

Robinson showed his typical resolve a short time later, quietly sitting with his foster parents while watching another championship match from the stands. Asked whether a state title as a freshman meant higher expectations, Robinson nodded.

“I think I have to win more now,” he said.

At least next time, the Tulalip tribe members will already have shirts.

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