Pomeroy's Knebel unmatched on the mats

Despite his unparalleled success on the mats, Pomeroy senior Tory Knebel stays humble.

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Pomeroy's Tory Knebel celebrates after defeating Hector Camacho 8-3 in the 1B/2B state championship.

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Pomeroy's Tory Knebel celebrates after taking the 1B/2B state championship in Tacoma Saturday.

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Tory Knebel pictured after winning the East Regional championship.

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Tory Knebel standing up after defeating Hector Camacho for the 1B/2B state championship Saturday in Tacoma.

POMEROY - Tory Knebel's record (or the records he broke) speaks for itself.

The Pomeroy High senior wrestler, footballer and track athlete won the WIAA Class B state wrestling championship twice - 170 pounds this year and at 160 his junior year - and amassed a Pomeroy-record 151-10 record over four years. He went another Pomeroy-best 41-1 his senior season and set a single-season Pomeroy pin record with 33 in his final campaign.

And the list goes on.

And Knebel, lauded by coaches, parents and educators for his humility, is content to let his wrestling do the talking.

"If there is a kid on this campus who has the right to be arrogant, its Tory Knebel, but he's not," Pomeroy Principal Doug LaMunyan said. "He's just so humble, and that's what people like and love to cheer for him about."

Knebel's first-year wrestling coach Brian Slaybaugh concurred.

"You like good things to happen to good kids," Slaybaugh said of Knebel's championship. "He and his brother (Tye Knebel), you couldn't ask for two nicer guys. They're very respected by everyone in the community and everyone in the wrestling world.

"He's kind of a quiet leader," Slaybaugh said. "He's a very humble person. He's not one who kind of demands to be a leader, he's just very well respected because of how humble he is."

Knebel, who will join his brother at Washington State University in the fall, started wrestling at a very young age and always showed signs of a promising future in the sport, his father Fred Knebel said.

"He's always been very, very strong," said Fred Knebel, who coached wrestling at Pomeroy from 1991 to 1994. "At the same time, he was not a very chiseled kid. The only time you heard Tory and fast in the same sentence was when he was going to the refrigerator.

"Tory was just one of those kids who, after matches were over, he'd be watching a DVD, trying to figure out how to get better. Tory was highly motivated by always getting better."

But things came to a head of sorts when Knebel lost in the opening round of the 2010 Mat Classic in a 6-1 decision to Darrington's Colton Palmer, due mainly to nerves, he said. Knebel still marched his way to a third-place finish at that tournament, but he vowed that he would never lose again thanks to his own nerves.

Two straight state championships later, it seems that goal was attained.

But how did Knebel go from point A to point B? How did he make the leap to becoming a two-time state champion?

"Just give it my best every day," Knebel said of his work habits. "I'm big into setting goals at the beginning of the wrestling season, or whatever it is I'm trying to do, and then just work every day and give it your best to accomplish those.

"After that (losing to Palmer), I just decided that I'd learned from the mistake," Knebel said. "I wouldn't let the nerves and the pressure get to me, and just do what I knew I could and just wrestle my best."

He added that goal - not to lose thanks to nerves - to a list of such goals he kept next to his bedroom door, a practice he learned from previous Pomeroy coach Randy Mulrony. When he attained a goal, he scratched it off and added another.

To meet those goals, Knebel trained over the summer with his brother Tye, who took the state championship at 145 pounds in 2009, and several other wrestlers from the area over the summer. Knebel had attended wrestling camps before, and felt he had learned all that he could from them. He practiced a variety of things but focused on take-down techniques to improve his ability to score points.

Knebel's lone loss this season came when Mac-Hi's Francisco Saldana scored a take down as time expired at the JoHi Invitational in Joseph, Ore., on Jan 7. The blemish didn't bother Knebel, but it did help him prepare for the state championship.

"(It was) water under the bridge," Knebel said. "The main goal is always just the postseason. Everything leading up to the postseason is just practice for the postseason. It was a hard-fought match - he has a difficult style for me to match up with - and he ended up scoring in the last five seconds to take the win."

He put that experience to use when he faced Warden's Hector Camacho in the state championship finals. A longer, leaner wrestler, Knebel said he didn't just roll over Camacho. Knebel posted an 8-3 victory after jumping to a 5-0 lead in the first round, then fighting to stalemate.

"I knew I was going to have to do my best," Knebel said of his match with Camacho, whom he had faced earlier at regionals. "I ended up catching him for those early five points."

Now Knebel will likely set new goals - track season is coming up after all - but making weight or learning a new wrestling technique will probably not see rotation again as Washington State does not have a wrestling program.

"It'll be bittersweet," Knebel said of leaving his favorite sport. "I've really enjoyed wrestling. But it's much easier ending on a state championship than ending on a loss and having to think about that being your last match."

Although he doesn't plan on wrestling further, Knebel said he did hope to coach wrestling one day and that he already helps with Pomeroy's youth program, Little Guy Wrestling.

Tory Knebel's accomplishments

With the state championship held Saturday, Knebel became a two-time state champ. His career record is 151-10. His senior season he amassed a 41-1 record with 33 wins by pin, both Pomeroy records. He has won 26 tournament titles and four straight district titles, both school records. He was named 2011 and 2012 academic state champion and has a cumulative GPA of 3.863. He has won two straight regional titles. Against wrestlers from Washington, he is 80-0 in the last two seasons. The previous record for career wins at Pomeroy was 129.

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