Tiana Fries’ father was the most decorated high school wrestler in Flagler County history. She comes from a family of wrestlers. It was only natural that the Matanzas freshman became a wrestler too, right?
“No, I just wanted to do it for the shoes,” she said. “I liked the look.”
Fries also looked pretty good standing atop the podium on March 5 at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, wearing a first-place medal as the county’s first FHSAA girls state wrestling champion.
“We had (Tiana’s younger brothers) wrestling,” said Mike Fries, Tiana’s father and an assistant coach at Matanzas. “She wanted a pair of wrestling shoes, because she thought they looked cute.”
But once she was in, she was all in. She joined coach John White’s Matanzas girls club team last year, and she worked hard.
“She’s the type of person, she wants to be the best at whatever she does,” Mike Fries said.
She was clearly the best 110-pounder at the girls championships, pinning her way to the title. Her fourth consecutive pin came in the final against Sofia Ferran of Hialeah Mater Lakes Academy.
While some state champs jump into the arms of their coaches after the final, Tiana “just walked to the side, like it was a dual meet,” Mike said. “It was almost like she expected it.”
Mike Fries was a state runner-up as a freshman and a sophomore at Flagler Palm Coast and won state titles as a junior and a senior. In his senior season in 1999, he pinned his four opponents at state in a total of 2 minutes, 15 seconds.
Heading into the postseason, Tiana told her father she was going to surpass his achievements.
“She was going to win eight rings (in her high school career),” Mike said. “Four individual and four state. She kept saying it over and over.”
She didn’t just say it. She did the extra work she needed to do. She stayed late after practice to do more drills and run more sprints. She got home and ran three miles. She did pushups in the house and pullups in the garage.
“The last couple of weeks, Mike has probably been more excited for her than he has been in his whole wrestling career,” Matanzas coach T.J. Gillin said. “(Tiana’s title) probably means more than any state title he ever won.”
“She’s the type of person, she wants to be the best at whatever she does.”
MIKE FRIES on his daughter, state champ Tiana Fries
And while the Pirates didn’t win the state team championship this year to give her one of those eight rings, they came close, finishing third with 66 points, one point behind second-place Ponte Vedra. Orlando Freedom ran away with the championship with 142 points.
Three other Matanzas girls won medals. Freshman Mariah Mills placed third at 105 pounds, winning the consolation final by a 6-2 decision. Junior Isabella Tietje place sixth at 135 pounds. And freshman Christina Borgmann place eighth at 120 pounds.
Tiana’s title was all the more remarkable considering she broke her ankle in a tournament in November and didn’t begin her freshman season until January. She lost her first two matches, and her confidence began to waver.
That’s when Gillin asked White if Fries and Mills could wrestle with the boys at the regional duals competition. They beat their opponents in both the regional quarterfinal and the regional semifinal matches.
After beating the boys, Fries didn’t lose another match all season.
“She is the first ever girls state wrestling champ in county history,” Gillin said. “There are no nerves with that kid at all, which is very rare. She just went out there and did what she was saying she’d do all year.”