Title Tales: Murray was a football player first

“It feels good, just to leave something behind for others to shoot for.”

— Tristan Murray, in 2002, after winning the first state championship in Tecumseh High School history.

SPRINGFIELD — Tristan Murray never felt like a wrestler, no matter how many times he pulled on the singlet for Tecumseh High School. He was a football player first, a fact backed-up by his stellar career at Wittenberg.

Murray didn’t pick up wrestling until his sophomore year at Tecumseh High School. That makes his achievement all the more remarkable.

In 2002, Murray became the third — and still the last — Clark County wrestler to win a state championship. He followed Catholic Central’s Steve Knowles (1984) and Shawnee’s Rick Allen (1998). Murray remains the only individual champion in any sport from Tecumseh.

“I wish I’d wrestled when I was little like everyone else,” Murray said. “I’m pretty sure I could have won multiple state titles.”

Today, Murray, 26, is the father of two: Tristan Jacob Murray, 2, and Savannah Sky Murray, 10 months. Murray works in operations management for Dayton Freight Lines and works on the side for National Agents Alliance, a financial services company. He hopes to transition to a full-time job there helping people plan for retirement, college and mortgages, among other things.

When not working, Murray and his older brother Brandon, who also played at Wittenberg, play for the Ohio Valley Warriors, a semi-pro team based in Bellbrook. Last year, when the team was called the Miami Valley Warriors, Murray rushed for 971 yards and 11 touchdowns in 12 games.

Those numbers show why Murray always considered himself a football player first. It was his brother who led him to wrestling. Tristan played basketball until his sophomore year. His goal was to win a state championship in every sport, and he realized it wasn’t going to happen in basketball. He decided to give wrestling, which Brandon competed in, a shot.

“To me it was something to do when I wasn’t playing football,” Murray said. “I don’t think I ever felt like a wrestler. I just felt like an athlete.”

That helped Murray make up for a lack of experience. He never left his feet during a match. He’d score a takedown and then let his opponent get up. Then he’d take them down again.

Murray went 15-15 as a sophomore and then 40-10 as a junior, finishing fifth at the state meet and winning the Clark County Wrestler of the Year award in his just second season.

At the Division I state meet in 2002, Murray wrestled at 160 pounds. By then, he was well known. The Brakeman Report picked him to win it all, not that he paid any attention to that then.

Murray won 10-4 in the first round, 6-5 in overtime in the quarterfinals and 3-1 in the semifinals. In the championship match, he defeated Dylan Shamakian of Mayfield Village 2-1 in double overtime.

In the second OT period, Murray got to choose between going on top or down for the final second seconds. He knew nobody could hold him down. In four seconds, he escaped and won the match. A year earlier, Murray had watched a number of champions tackle their coach after winning or jump into his arms. He told Tecumseh coach Scott Herbert he would do the same.

“I sprinted at him real hard,” Murray said, “but I didn’t tackle him.”

It would be Murray’s last wrestling match. He attended Brown University for a year and a half before transferring to Wittenberg in 2004. He finished his career with the Tigers as the school’s second all-time leading rusher.

Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0351 or djablonski@coxohio.com.

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