Vilseck's Garrett Hyten avoids a takedown move by Stuttgart's Jack Gruver in a 190-pound match at the DODEA sectional wrestling tournament on Feb. 3, 2024, at Stuttgart High School in Boeblingen, Germany.

Vilseck's Garrett Hyten avoids a takedown move by Stuttgart's Jack Gruver in a 190-pound match at the DODEA sectional wrestling tournament on Feb. 3, 2024, at Stuttgart High School in Boeblingen, Germany. (Matt Wagner/Stars and Stripes)

Jack Gruver heard the stories about Vilseck’s Garrett Hyten from his Stuttgart teammates and others he knows across the DODEA European wrestling scene.

The Falcon senior had grappled at 175 pounds before, and with Gruver at 190, they hadn’t crossed paths on the mat.

That changed this campaign when Hyten jumped up a weight class. In their first meeting at Vilseck on Dec. 2, Gruver finally understood why Hyten is feared.

“Everybody I knew was terrified of him,” Gruver said. “He came up to 190, I was like, ‘Oh crap.’ I wrestled him the first time and I lost, and I was like, ‘Damn, dude, that sucks.’

“It’s always good to see him, but it’s always kind of scary, too.”

Three more matches later, Gruver has gotten over that fear (mostly), and he needed to do so to reach his goal of being a European champion.

Hyten and Gruver enter the DODEA European wrestling championships Friday and Saturday at the Wiesbaden Sports and Fitness Center on Clay Kaserne in Wiesbaden, Germany, as favorites. The two’s only losses have come against each other, with Gruver at 14-2 and Hyten at 10-2.

In four matches, they are 2-2. Hyten won the first two matches, a decision on Dec. 2 and a pin in 37 seconds on Dec. 9. Gruver has equaled the record with pins in the last two meetings – in 1:26 on Jan. 27 and in 52 seconds on Feb. 3 at Stuttgart during the sectional tournament.

The rivalry has turned into one of the fiercest in Europe – and one that remains friendly.

“It’s better every single time I see (Gruver),” Hyten said. “It puts a smile on my face. He’s a very fierce competitor. I’d like to applaud him for how hard he works, how strong he is, how strong of a will (he has).”

The match has become a must-watch for other wrestlers and crowds, too.

A great example came during the sectional meet. It may have lasted 52 seconds, but the duo went after each other from the start. Gruver nearly got a takedown that lasted a second or two before Hyten got out. Then the Vilseck senior grabbed the Stuttgart senior’s leg and lifted him up twice before Gruver got out.

Gruver followed that move by slamming Hyten to the ground on his back, getting the pin a few seconds later.

“No discredit to my wrestlers or any others, but the way they move, the way they reverse, the way they counter, the way they flow through their moves and their motions, you can tell these two kids are top notch,” Vilseck coach Corey Bailey said. “They know what they are doing, they’ve trained well and they’re good.”

The duo also credit going against each other as a major motivation to improve.

Hyten called Gruver’s best trait is his strength, which forces the Vilseck grappler to use speed against him. Gruver, meanwhile, praised the Vilseck wrestler’s technical skills and speed, saying the matchups have caused him to look at his own approach.

This could lead to fireworks in Wiesbaden for the pair’s potential fifth meeting this weekend, when both are seeking their first European titles. Hyten has two third-place finishes under his belt (both at 175), while Gruver had an undefeated regular season in 2022-203 but a disqualification in the semifinals led to third place.

“Iron sharpens iron,” Stuttgart coach Frederick King said. “They’re just making each other constantly better every time they see each other. So, when they see each other in the finals – and they will see each other in the finals – expect sparks to fly.”

author picture
Matt is a sports reporter for Stars and Stripes based in Kaiserslautern, Germany. A son of two career Air Force aircraft maintenance technicians, he previously worked at newspapers in northeast Ohio for 10 years and is a graduate of Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now