Brandon Kaylor of Bonney Lake High School became a national wrestling champion on Saturday in Fargo, North Dakota.
In what started with a round of 64 wrestlers from across the country, Kaylor reached Saturday’s championship, and then he rallied from a deficit to defeat Anthony Molton of Crest Hill, Illinois, 16-13, at the prestigious Junior Greco-Roman Nationals in the Fargodome.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what to do,” Kaylor said of his reaction after winning Saturday’s title bout in the 113-pound weight class. “I wanted to cry. But I didn’t know what to do. So I just flexed and I was smiling.”
Kaylor will be a senior this upcoming school year at Bonney Lake and he’ll try to join the 18 wrestlers in state history to win four state titles in four years. He entered Fargo week ranked No. 17 on FloWrestling’s national rankings at 120 pounds.
Kaylor also reached the title of the Junior Freestyle Nationals earlier this week, but lost 17-6 against Ty Smith of Bunkerville, Nevada.
“I was up 6-0 in the freestyle finals and I froze and I stopped moving and that cost me the title,” Kaylor said. “So today I was just trying to stay focused. I have a tendency when my coaches say something to look at them. I’ve been working on listening but also staying in the match.”
The last wrestler from Washington to win a Junior (18-and-under) title at Fargo, according to their website, was Mead’s Chandler Rogers in 2013. He now wrestles at Oklahoma State University.
“This is something we’ve watched for so many years kids coming out of that tunnel,” said Kaylor’s father and coach, Geoff. “Every kid dreams of being on that stage. It’s a great accomplishment just to get there, and another to win it – and do so in dramatic fashion. I’m still nervous. I just couldn’t be more proud.
“I just couldn’t stop smiling, and then I started tearing up – and then you just try to take it all in.”
Kaylor was joined on the Greco-Roman title stage by two other Washington wrestlers – Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls’ Dalton Young (132) and Stanwood’s Mason Phillips (138). All three were TNT “Untouchables” this past year.
Yusief Lillie of Bonney Lake won the Cadet (16-U) Greco-Roman title in the 100-pound weight class. He will be a freshman this upcoming school year.
While Kaylor was in the 113-pound freestyle final, Orting’s Alex Cruz, also a three-time WIAA state champion, had reached the 132-pound final. Orting’s coach, Jody Coleman, said Cruz is the first in school history to reach the finals of the Fargo Nationals.
Cruz edged Tyler Deen of Clovis, California, 8-7 in the semifinals, but fell in the championship, 10-0, against Atilano Escobar of Peoria, Arizona.
And in the Cadet Women’s Freestyle Nationals, Enumclaw’s Kenzie Cormier reached the 100-pound finals before losing to Olivia Shore of Saint Paris, Ohio, 12-1. Cormier had beat Autumn Hohn of Clintonville, Wisconsin, 9-7, in the semifinals.
Bonney Lake’s Brenden Chaowanapibool reached the quarterfinals of the Junior Freestyle Nationals and the Junior Greco-Roman Nationals, and he also made the semifinals of the Cadet Greco-Roman Nationals.
“He was a monster,” Brandon Kaylor said. “I don’t know how he did all of that.”
Kaylor was coming off of 10 days of intense training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Then he started the Junior Greco-Roman Nationals in Fargo with a 10-0 win, followed by a 13-0 win to reach the Round of 16.
Then he won 13-2 to reach the quarterfinals, 8-1 to reach the semifinals and won 12-0 in that Friday night match against Nick Onea of Pennsylvania.
“That completely changed me,” Kaylor said of his trip to Colorado. “Before that my Greco game was good, but after that I completely changed my stance, motion, everything.”
He said he will find out Monday whether he will be competing with the U.S. Junior National Team in Finland. If not, he and his father are planning a vacation in the Dominican Republic.
Oh, and Kaylor just came off a trip to Peru for the Junior Pan American Championships where he won gold medals in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. He and Anthony Cassioppi of Illinois were the only wrestlers to do that.
“It’s just cool to see where you can stack up,” Kaylor said. “And I think I learned I can hang with anyone. You get to the semifinals and it’s all about heart from there. I knew I could place, but I was like, ‘I’m not done. I want to win the whole thing. I want to be where I belong – with the best.’”
And Geoff Kaylor said the showing by all of the Washington wrestlers this week might help change the perception of the state’s wrestlers as being softer than those from other states.
“The perception is you don’t have good wrestlers coming out of Washington, and really we do,” said Geoff Kaylor, a Wilson graduate and former Lincoln coach who now coaches Team Aggression, a club team. “We have tough kids. Not every kid is blessed to travel, but we have tough kids.
“We have tough kids, and it’s fun to see us get better and better every year.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677