BILLINGS — Riley Gurr was on his way to making Washington state history. The sophomore had just completed a state championship wrestling campaign at 113 pounds, capping a perfect 45-0 season at Kamiakin High School. The year before, he was the 106-pound state runner-up.
Gurr seemed destined to join a prestigious list of three-time state champions and four-time state placers in Washington’s high school history. But as quickly as that dream formed, it evaporated.
“I had no clue. It was thrown on me. I was actually at a wrestling camp when I found out I was moving to Montana,” Gurr said. “I came back and there were boxes out front and my dad said, ‘Yeah, we’re moving.’ That’s how it went and I came here and started wrestling, got involved in clubs and started wrestling all the time. I did the same thing I did in Washington and that was train as much as I could. It’s paid off and hopefully I can keep going.”
Living in a new state but holding the same expectations, Gurr, now a Frenchtown Bronc, would take the mats against some of the top Montana talent in his new 132-pound weight class in the 2016-17 season. An early-season loss to then-defending Class AA champion Trae Vasquez lit a fire under Gurr, who never lost the remainder of the season, including revenge against Vasquez a month later, on his way to Montana’s 132-pound State A title.
Gurr opened his first Montana all-class state tournament with an 16-second pinfall, then added another win via fall in the quarterfinals, this time in 1:16. He shut out Glendive’s Travis Kinn 8-0 in the semifinals before blanking Lewistown sensation Caleb Birdwell 12-0 for his first Treasure State title.
Gurr’s two-state adventures became something of lore in western Montana and back to his home state of Washington. That set expectations for this senior season at an all-time high, and Gurr did not disappoint.
The 138-pound star completed a wrestling trifecta of sorts, adding his third high school state championship in his two-state career. Gurr won all four matches at Saturday’s state tournament by pin — the first two matches in the opening period, a semifinal pin in the second period, and a hard-fought 4:45 mark over Sidney’s Christian Dean in the championship bout.
As Gurr stood atop the podium, enjoying the ovation offered by the Rimrock Auto Arena crowd, flashbacks of the past four years, two in Washington and two in Montana, streamed through his mind.
“It’s not too much different to explain it. It’s still just wrestling, you’re going to meet tough guys and it doesn’t matter where you are in the bracket, you have to be the best in the bracket. If you are, it doesn’t matter, you go out there and you win. That’s all that matters,” said Gurr. “Coming from Washington, it was a little bit bigger and a little more spread out. Here it’s condensed and good wrestlers in the bracket. I’m excited to come away with the state championship.”
Three of them, to be exact. It might not be the type of history he first imagined, but it’s history all the same.