Tahoma won its eighth straight subregional title by edging Decatur, 338-311. The Bears will take 13 qualifiers to regionals, including three champions — Austin Michalski, Nick Whitehead and Dylan Weiding.

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KENT — Derek Freitag is short in stature but tall in talent.

At just 5-foot-3, Freitag can get lost in most crowds. But he stands out in wrestling, where he is a returning Class 4A state champion. He won at 106 last season and is ranked No. 1 at 113 this year, improving to 28-1 with a win over Tahoma’s Izzy Murrietta in the finals of the SPSL North 4A subregional tournament Saturday at Kent-Meridian High School.

“I was always tiny,” the Kentridge senior said. “I actually had to stand in front of my teachers when we were set for class pictures. I’ve always been a little kid. I thought since wrestling was size-oriented, it would be a great opportunity for me.”

Freitag played football and soccer when he was younger and didn’t try wrestling until seventh grade. He proved to be a quick learner, becoming a state qualifier as a freshman.

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“That just tells you what kind of kid he is,” coach Todd Lantz said. “He’s the hardest worker in the (wrestling) room.”

Freitag, a 3.7 student who plans to become a nurse, said he began working even harder this season after suffering his lone loss, which came against Orting sophomore Alex Cruz at the Tri-State tournament. Cruz, a 2A state champion last year, won 6-4 with a late takedown.

“It’s a hard thing to lose, but I learned from it,” he said.

Freitag was one of two defending state champions in Saturday’s tournament. Kent-Meridian senior Emmanuel Daigbe won at 182 last season to cap an unbeaten season after finishing second at 170 the year before.

The ultra-athletic Daigbe, who has accepted a football scholarship from Central Washington, made quick work of his two opponents at 195 pounds Saturday, pinning both in a total of 36 seconds. His semifinal victory came in 12 seconds and he won by injury default in the final (he had a first-round bye), improving to 25-0 with 23 pins.

The top four finishers advance to the Region III tournament Saturday at Camas.

Notes

• Tahoma won its eighth straight subregional title by edging Decatur, 338-311. The Bears will take 13 qualifiers to regionals, including three champions — Austin Michalski (106), Nick Whitehead (126) and Dylan Weiding (132). “I think we wrestled pretty well this weekend,” coach Chris Feist said.

• Decatur advanced 12, led by champions Leviticus Arizpe (138), Zach Berry (160) and J.J. Dixon (170). The Gators’ Mike Bressler, the SPSL North Coach of the Year, is retiring after 18 seasons.

• Beamer also crowned a trio of champs in Sean Van Earwage (145), Adrian Avena (152) and Mitchell Owen (182). Van Earwage was named the league’s Wrestler of the Year.

• Federal Way’s Andrzej Hughes-Murray, a linebacker who has signed with Oregon State, took the title at 220. He is hoping to improve on last year’s third-place finish at state, when he suffered rib injuries in an opening-round loss.

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