Off in the distance, a storm in Washington high school wrestling has been brewing.
It has been for a while. And now it is close to showing up.
Curtis High School is soon to be that force in the Class 4A ranks. The host Vikings advanced 13 wrestlers out of the Region III championships Saturday to this week’s Mat Classic, the state tournament in the Tacoma Dome.
They are bringing lots of quality talent, too — five regional champions: Aizayah Yacapin (106 pounds), Ryan Wheeler (113), Ketner Fields (160), Alex Stuart (170) and Jay Roberts (195).
It all added up to a runaway team victory for Curtis, which tallied 245 ½ points. That was well ahead of 4A SPSL counterpart South Kitsap (170) and 2015 state champion Moses Lake (129) from the Big 9 League.
“We are good,” Stuart said. “We can’t let off the gas pedal.”
It wasn’t always this way.
Coach Jason Baril was hired from Las Vegas five years ago. By the time his first season ended in 2013, the Vikings had six active wrestlers.
At the end of Baril’s second year, the Vikings were a combined 1-33 in SPSL dual meets.
“That was really rough,” Baril said. “But the parents were like, ‘Hang on, hang on.’ We had other wrestlers coming up (through the junior program).
“Now we are doing fantastic.”
And, arguably, the Vikings’ most talented wrestler is a ninth-grader with an elite judo background.
In fact, Aizayah Yacapin is a national judo champion who moved to Washington from Hawaii nearly a decade ago.
And he is certainly a state favorite at 106. He dominated Graham-Kapowsin’s Noah Cortez, pinning him early in the second period in 2 minutes, 44 seconds.
“There is no reason we shouldn’t go in there (at Mat Classic) and do what we do best,” Yacapin said. “Coach says, ‘Wrestle hard, and everything will fall into place.’ ”
A pair of Vikings seniors gave exciting performances Saturday as well.
Stuart was locked up in a tight 170 match with Eisenhower’s Raul Jimenez, whom he beat in last year’s state tournament.
With the match tied 4-4 early in the final period, suddenly Stuart shot out of a cannon and put Jimenez on his back for a pin in 4:49.
“I just fight to the last whistles,” Stuart said.
The 195 finals pitted two accomplished football players in Roberts and South Kitsap’s Izaiah Davis.
And they crashed to the mat like big men, too.
Tied 4-4 late in the match, Roberts got the clinching takedown with 34 seconds to go. He scored all of his points in a 9-5 decision victory in the final period.
If the Vikings weren’t so dominating, there would be plenty of talk about South Kitsap — especially with its two standouts, Mason Eaglin at 145 and Sebastian Robles at 152.
The surprise outcome came in the 145 finals as Eaglin pinned Puyallup’s Josh Franich, the reigning state 132 champion, in 5:34.
“He’s great at scrambling and creating situations guys are not used to,” said Eaglin, who was at Graham-Kapowsin last season. “I can isolate those. He’s a great wrestler, but everything he has, I have a little better.”
Robles also won by fall — in 5:34 over Graham-Kapowsin’s Chad Simonson.
“They are gamers,” South Kitsap coach Chad Nass said. “The bigger the match, the harder they wrestle.”
Moses Lake, which traveled over to University Place on Friday, crowned three regional champions in Hunter Cruz (152), Daiman Vasquez (182) and Chandler Fluaitt (285).