The Gut Check Challenge wrestling tournament at the Kitsap Event Center in Bremerton had a few surprises, twists and turns, and by the end of the second day, 4A Curtis High had put itself on the map, even after dropping the team title to 2A Toppenish.
Curtis entered the final match of the tournament leading in team points, ahead of Toppenish by a slim margin. After freshman Maka Yacapin (106 pounds) and Alex Stuart (170) won their championship matches, it came down to the tournament’s final match to decide the team title.
“We don’t care about the individual championships as much as the team one,” said Stuart, who defeated Canada’s Kaka Gill in the 170-pound final.
For Curtis to win the team title, Tumwater’s Cy Hicks had to beat Toppenish’s Jonathan Cuevas in the 285-pound final.
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But the undefeated Cuevas pinned Hicks 52 seconds into the match, handing the Wildcats the team title by three points over Curtis.
“Toppenish is a tough, tough team, and (they had) a good tournament,” Curtis coach Jason Baril said.
Curtis was jolted to the top of the team standings entering the second day due in part to Yacapin (106) and Ryan Wheeler (113).
Yacapin (No. 2-ranked at 106) cruised to a title after pinning Toppenish’s Kyler Romero in 32 seconds.
“Everything went right for me, and that team race was close. It was close, and we needed that win,” Yacapin said after his victory.
Wheeler had a tougher road to the finals, as the Viking freshman had to overcome the state’s No. 1-ranked 113-pounder and two-time 4A state champion Ethan Rotondo of Union, before squaring off against No. 2-ranked Brandon Kaylor of Bonney Lake in the finals.
Kaylor quickly overpowered Wheeler and took a 7-1 lead at the end of the second round.
In one of the better comebacks in this tournament, Wheeler started to inch back into the match with 1:08 left.
Wheeler hit a takedown and then followed with another. The Curtis freshman caught Kaylor at the edge of the mat for a near fall to pull within 8-7 with two seconds left. But time ran out, ending Wheeler’s impressive tournament run.
“He’s a tough kid, and I’m happy with the match,” Wheeler said. “It could have gone either way.”
It was a bit of a shock to Kaylor that the match grew so close toward the end.
“I stopped wrestling with 30 seconds left thinking I had this match,” Kaylor admitted. “He didn’t stop, and I was soft at the end.”
It was this time two years ago that Kaylor was surprising this tournament as a freshman. But this year belonged to a different pair of freshmen — Yacapin and Wheeler.
“Maka only has one loss all year, and that was down in Vegas. And Ryan nearly beat two state champions,” Baril said. “The guys are on a mission, and we’ll see what happens at the state tournament.”