Graves retains individual crown; Eureka falls short

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BILLINGS — As a freshman just beginning his varsity sports career, Garrett Graves wrote three goals in his locker at Eureka High School.

At the top of the list: win a state championship.

Mission accomplished, and then some.

Graves finished off a dazzling prep wrestling career and further cemented his legacy as the most accomplished athlete in Eureka history on Saturday at the Class B/C state wrestling tournament, winning a 12-9 decision over Florence-Carlton’s Spencer Jones in the 182-pound finals to capture his fifth state championship (two football, three wrestling).

“Everybody’s going to be

reaching to be the next Garrett Graves,” Eureka head coach Danny Lemer said. “He’s a legend.”

The euphoria of another championship was somewhat sullied for Graves, though.

A year after bringing home the individual and team titles, the senior settled for only the individual trophy this time.

Eureka couldn’t keep up with Colstrip, finishing second with 127.5 points to the Colts’ 196.

“I can’t fully celebrate it, because my team didn’t get the championship,” Graves said moments after his championship match, his face still bloodied. “That was the most important thing to me. I’m still a little bummed about that.

“It’s a good feeling (to win individually). Lot of emotions, though.”

Freshman Gunnar Smith added another individual title for the Lions at 113, earning a 4-1 decision in the finals, and Nathan Schmidt (120) and Hank Dunn (132) each finished second after losing tight decisions in the finals.

Eureka simply didn’t have the guns to keep up with Colstrip’s eight state placers and four individual champions.

“All the guys, they wrestled their tails off,” Lemer said. “They gave everything they had. There’s not much more we could have done other than have more wrestlers. We needed more wrestlers. That would’ve changed everything.”

Graves certainly did all he could, finishing off his second straight undefeated season with winning decisions in the semifinals and finals.

He ended his senior season with a 35-0 mark on the year and a 153-21 career record and became the first Eureka wrestler to win back-to-back individual state titles since Peter Schmidt in 1996-97.

But the wins, losses and championships are not what he’ll remember the most from his illustrious high school athletic career.

“I’ll just always remember all of the amazing teammates I’ve had and all the work we put in together,” Graves said. “We’ve been the hardest working team. There’s no doubt in my mind. In wrestling and football, we know what hard work is, and that’s why we’re successful.”

Aside from failing to capture the team championship, much of the state tournament was the same this year for Graves.

Well, there was one other fortunate difference.

“Luckily I didn’t throw up after this match like last year,” he said with a smile as he walked toward the championship podium to accept his medal. “It’s crazy to do undefeated two years in a row. That feels pretty spectacular.”

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