Brandon Kaylor’s garage surface is a rubber mat. It was converted into a wrestling room where he and his father practice drills and workouts.
On Sundays they’d host some of the best wrestlers in the state. The five of them — including Kaylor — have combined for 11 state titles.
“We called them champions practices,” Kaylor said. “There wasn’t a kid in there who didn’t leave crying, throwing up or bleeding.”
Kaylor remembers many occasions when he’s been on the brink of quitting wrestling — being so mentally and physically bent.
But his success with the Bonney Lake High School wrestling team and outside of it — competing in tournaments across the country in the offseason — and the goal for greatness that he’s hoping to achieve won’t allow him to break.
This weekend, the junior is seeking his third state title. He’ll enter the Tacoma Dome on Friday for Mat Classic with a 43-0 record in the 113-pound weight class, and he’s ranked No. 16 in the nation in his weight by FloWrestling.
Kaylor said he’s thought of all that he’s had to sacrifice, and how hard he’s had to work to get to this point — waking up for 4 a.m. workouts, hours spent perfecting takedowns, and trading video games and TV for wrestling film and pushups.
A printed sheet of paper in his locker lists his goals — those for this season, for next year and for the offseason.
“I’ve seen other guys who are goal-oriented, but probably not to BK’s extent,” Bonney Lake coach Dan Pitsch said.
This past offseason, Kaylor traveled to wrestling tournaments in North Dakota, North Carolina, Ohio and Oklahoma, and then to Idaho and Oregon for workouts.
I reflect on all these kids who look up to me and I can’t let them down, my family down, my coaches and my friends. A lot of people think of Bonney Lake wrestling and they think of me. So I do a lot of praying — that’s what I go to when I’m struggling.
Bonney Lake wrestler Brandon Kaylor
He placed third in the 106-pound weight class at the Super 32 Challenge in Greensboro, North Carolina. The training heading into that event provides a glimpse of his love-hate relationship with this sport.
“It was every day a nonstop grind,” Kaylor said. “My dad was bringing kids in every day to wrestle me, and he was wrestling me. It was just so hard. I had thoughts of quitting for good. Some days I’ve just hated this, and there are times I’ve just cried.
“But I reflect on all these kids who look up to me and I can’t let them down, my family down, my coaches and my friends. A lot of people think of Bonney Lake wrestling and they think of me. So I do a lot of praying — that’s what I go to when I’m struggling.”
Now Kaylor says the hard work is one of his favorite aspects of wrestling.
That wasn’t true when he first started wrestling at age 6. He said he preferred soccer, playing with Washington Premier until he quit in middle school to focus on wrestling.
His father, Geoff Kaylor, wrestled at Wilson before coaching at Lincoln, where he would set Brandon down in a car seat on the wrestling mat while he coached. Geoff now runs a local club wrestling program called Team Aggression.
It’s fitting name considering his son’s style of wrestling. Last weekend, Brandon broke his own record for takedowns in a season (298), and he owns Bonney Lake’s career record (784).
“He’s got a huge variety of techniques,” Lincoln coach Greg Ford said. “He creates a lot of motion before he attacks.
“He’s trying to prove a point out there. When you go to nationals and whatnot, it’s a different animal there. People say Washington guys are soft — he wants to be the tough guy.”
That style rubs some people the wrong way. Kaylor was booed at a dual meet against Lincoln this year for shoving his opponent out of bounds.
“He just hates to lose,” Pitsch said. “Absolutely hates to lose and will not lose. He refuses to.
“I’ve heard some people make comments like, ‘Oh, that kid is kind of a jerk. Who does that kid think he is?’ The people who say that don’t really know him. I told him, ‘Not everyone is going to like you. A lot of people have a problem with kids who win all the time. There’s a lot of jealousy there.’ ”
Off the wrestling mat, Kaylor is the one who will sit next to the kid who is sitting by himself at lunch. The school awards Panther Points to those who travel to watch Bonney Lake compete in activities and athletics, and Kaylor has more points than anybody — even driving to Kennewick for the football team’s state quarterfinal game.
The hardest thing, as I’ve been telling him, about being a returning state champion is winning it again. I entered state undefeated just like him, and I knew that everybody was trying to beat me. I told Brandon just to take it one match at a time.
Bonney Lake wrestling coach Dan Pitsch
“I definitely think some people see me the wrong way,” Kaylor said. “I try to be a nice kid.
“But on the mat, I want to rip your head off. I’m not losing. I hate losing. That’s why I like wrestling, because I win.”
Ford said he had a conversation with Kaylor after Lincoln’s dual meet against Bonney Lake.
“I just said, ‘Look, man, you’re better than that. Everybody knows you’re a good wrestler,’ ” Ford said. “We saw him again at districts and it wasn’t the same situation. I have a lot of respect for him and his dad.”
Kaylor’s godbrothers are Izaec and Clai Quintanilla of North Central High School in Spokane. Izaec won three state titles, and Clai, a senior, is trying to become the 17th wrestler to become a four-time state champion in Washington.
They and Kaylor would train in Kaylor’s garage during the summer. Puyallup’s Josh Franich, who won a state title last year, and Orting’s Alex Cruz, a junior with two state titles, would be there, too, for those champions practices.
Kaylor said he’s texted Clai every day this week about what it was like preparing for his third trip to the Tacoma Dome. He’s taken advice from Pitsch, who defended his state title as a junior with an undefeated state title his senior year at Spanaway Lake in 2001, when Spanaway Lake tied with Capital as co-team champions. Pitsch went on to wrestle at Oregon State.
“The hardest thing, as I’ve been telling him, about being a returning state champion is winning it again,” Pitsch said. “I entered state undefeated just like him, and I knew that everybody was trying to beat me. I told Brandon just to take it one match at a time.
“Brandon’s been like, ‘I don’t know, what if I lose?’ He’s asked me that like five times this week. I said, ‘Listen, man, you’re not. And if you do, the sun will come up tomorrow.’ ”
This can’t be more difficult than the first state title that Kaylor won. At one point, he trailed Kamiakin’s Riley Gurr, 5-2, in the 106-pound finals, and still trailed by one point with 10 seconds remaining.
“Kaylor was going crazy,” Pitsch said. “And Gurr froze up, and instead of wrestling he kind of backed off the mat and got a stall call.”
Kaylor described the situation: “I was already like crying, just mentally broke, and I could hear my dad yelling at me, coach Pitsch yelling at me. I remember lifting my head and Maddie Moore (a Bonney Lake cheerleader), who was one of my best friends, we made eye contact, and I swear the whole Tacoma Dome went dark black.
“I just saw her say, ‘BK, you can do it.’ Just those words. That’s all I heard. So I was like, ‘She has faith in me, I have faith in myself.’ ”
Kaylor tied it up with four seconds remaining with the stall call, and he won the match, 9-7, in overtime.
Kaylor said he’s worked about as hard as anybody could going into this weekend. It was a goal of his entering high school to eventually become a four-time champion.
And after all that effort, all the hours on wrestling mats, Kaylor said he’d do it all again.
“I would,” Kaylor said. “It has been worth it.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
All-Area boys wrestling team
106: Aizayah Yacapin, Curtis, fr.
113: Brandon Kaylor, Bonney Lake, jr.
120: Andy Sandhu, Kentwood, sr.
126: Alex Cruz, Orting, jr.
132: Nick Whitehead, Tahoma, sr.
138: Mason Eaglin, South Kitsap, sr.
145: Nate Moore, White River, so.
152: Ben Gore, Orting, sr.
160: Dante Springsteen, Bethel, sr.
170: Alex Stuart, Curtis, sr.
182: Cole Washburn, Auburn, jr.
195: Kione Gill, Tahoma, jr.
220: Dagen Kramer, Tahoma, sr.
285: Cy Hicks, Tumwater, sr.
106: Brenden Chaowanapibool, Bonney Lake, so.; 113: Ryan Wheeler, Curtis, fr.; 120: Max Wheeler, White River, so.; 126: Jordan Martinez, Tahoma, sr.; 132: Jake Treece, Enumclaw, sr.; 138: Josh Franich, Puyallup, sr.; 145: Mason Sabin, Bonney Lake, jr.; 152: Adrian St. Germain, Vashon, so.; 160: Ketner Fields, Curtis, jr.; 170: Adam Benson, Timberline, sr.; 182: JJ Dixon, Lincoln, jr.; 195: Jeremy Smith, Yelm, sr.; 220: Will Willsey, Lincoln, sr.; 285: Calhoun Helmberger, Curtis, sr.
All-Area girls wrestling team
120: Brooklyn Bartelson, Puyallup, sr.
140: Jasmine Pleasants, Thomas Jefferson, sr.
145: Jasmine Parker-Borrero, Wilson, jr.
155: Kathleen Flanagan, Wilson, jr.
130: Erin Redford, White River, sr.; 145: Mariya Gaither, Rogers, sr.; 170: Tally Thomas, Federal Way, sr.; 190: Dreakeanna Adair, Bonney Lake, jr.
TJ Cotterill: firstname.lastname@example.org