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By René Ferrán | Photo by Taylor Balkom 

When Ayden Garver walked into the Newberg wrestling room as a wide-eyed freshman 3½ years ago, little did he know what lay ahead for him.

Not his first state championship, when he needed sudden-victory overtime to beat Roseburg’s Nash Singleton in the 113-pound final.

Not the titles he earned the following two seasons, nor the broken right ankle he suffered shortly after winning title No. 3 in June on his home mats. 

And certainly not the arduous road he traveled this season recovering from his ankle injury. It all led to his historic moment Sunday night at the Class 6A state tournament at Sandy High School, when Garver became just the second Newberg wrestler to become a four-time state champion when he pinned teammate Trae Frederick in 59 seconds in the 145-pound final.

Garver joined Tommy Sicillano (2007-10) as the only Tigers among the 45 wrestlers (44 boys, one girl) who have accomplished the feat in the 74-year history of the state championships. Alec Ortiz also won a fourth title wearing a Newberg singlet in 2009, but he won his first as a freshman at Willamina.

“That’s a reach when you’re a freshman coming in,” said Garver, who finished his career with a 128-6 record. “I can’t even remember if I won my eighth-grade state title. I just came in, put in the effort, put my head down and worked. Then state came, and I wrestled Nash, who’s a three-timer now, and I beat him in that match. From then on, it just went up.” 

Garver acknowledged having some doubts during the middle of the season, when he lost matches to Thurston’s Kolton Malone (the 5A champion at 138) at the Northwest Duals and Singleton at the Oregon Classic. 

“I was determined to come back and win my fourth title, but when I wrestled some better kids and lost, I realized I’ve got to step up my game,” Garver said. “So, I really started putting in the extra work. I think I’ve come the distance.”

It all culminated Sunday evening, when he and Frederick reached the final one week after they also made it to the Pacific Conference district final.

That day, the two didn’t wrestle, with Frederick defaulting to Garver to avoid an injury that could have kept them out of the state meet.

There was no avoiding each other Sunday, and Garver made quick work of the match. He took Frederick down 27 seconds into the first round, then turned him and recorded the second-fastest fall of the championship round. 

“I mean, how often do you see two teammates battle it out in the finals?” Garver said. “At district, we shook hands and said we’d make it to the finals together at state, and we did. It was awesome.”

Just as awesome was Newberg’s performance in the team race, setting an OSAA state record with 418 points, winning six individual titles and putting 17 wrestlers on the podium.

“It’s always special to win a state title and a team title at the end of it, especially when you’re part of it and contributing,” said Garver, who will head to Virginia Beach, Va., next month for the NHSCA Senior National Championships before making a college decision. 

“That was my last high school match right there, and it was awesome.”