This was definitely a who’s who of Washington high school wrestling.
And that means something.
There was a University of North Carolina commit. And the University of Virginia and Oregon State were represented, too. Even a Nebraska commit from Utah came to Tahoma High School on Wednesday for the MyHouse Who’s No. 1 of Washington tournament.
And one of the coaches was Anthony Robles, the one-legged national-champion wrestler from Arizona State University who once earned the Jimmy V Award for perseverance at the 2011 ESPYs. He headed over to Maple Valley from New Jersey for the tournament.
“It’s a big deal because he knows as well as everyone else in this gym knows that Washington wrestling is legit,” said Bonney Lake’s Brandon Kaylor, an Oregon State signee who is ranked No. 20 in the nation in the 120-pound weight class by FloWrestling.com.
“We are top competitors nationally every year. We just don’t get the credit because we don’t have a Division I school (in the state). That’s why committing to Oregon State was such a big deal for me is to make the Northwest known again in wrestling. That we are studs.”
The only college wrestling program in the state is at Highline College.
But Kaylor, a three-time defending state champion, had his hands full in the 120-pound match against Curtis standout sophomore Aizayah Yacapin. Less than two weeks ago they were in Reno together competing in the Tournament of Champions, and now they were pitting against each other.
It was 2-2 in the second round before Kaylor’s takedown after a reversal game him a 5-2 lead heading into the third round. Kaylor won it by decision, 7-4.
“It’s a cool experience to wrestle one of your good friends,” Kaylor said. “It’s not every day where you can throw your friendship aside for six minutes and just go hard. I knew I couldn’t let our friendship dictate the match. I’m No. 1, that’s why I’m going to Oregon State. I just wanted to prove a point.”
The key was his singing voice.
While warming up for his matches, Kaylor sings. Out loud. He’s listening to his “church music” on his headphones, singing “Even So Come” by Passion and “King of My Heart” by Kutless among a few others on his phone.
“I just get in my zone and I sing,” Kaylor said. “I’ll listen to normal rap music, too, or sometimes country. But I can I can see people looking at me all weird all the time. The cheerleaders are like, ‘What the heck.?’”
So that’s what was going on while he watched a pair of his Bonney Lake teammates.
One was freshman Yusief Lillie – who wrestles like no freshman.
He cruised to an 11-6 win in the 106-pound battle against Chase Randall of Mead and he might as well be a Kaylor look-a-like. He, too, has been nationally ranked this season by FloWrestling and only lost in the 113-pound quarterfinals in Reno to the eventual champion.
“I was so nervous,” Lillie said. “It meant a lot because I know there are college coaches and they are going to be looking for kids.”
But the next match, Bonney Lake’s Brenden Chaowanapibool, who is ranked No. 20 in the nation in the 113-pound weight class, was pinned by Toppenish’s Haiden Drury, a late addition when his scheduled opponent didn’t show.
The marquee match was at 150 pounds between the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the nation – Stanwood’s North Carolina commit Mason Phillips, a reigning TNT “Untouchables” selection and state champion – against Brock Hardy of Box Elder, Utah. He’s committed to Nebraska.
All that traveling and Hardy won it by pin.
“Everyone has wanted to see me and Mason wrestle for a while now,” Hardy said. “So we made it happen.
“That was huge. Mason is an animal. I had to slow him down a little bit and wrestle my style.”
Hardy was tipped off to the tournament by Justin Newby, who also graduated from Box Elder and is the executive director of Washington USA Wrestling, which put on the tournament. It was an idea first conceived by he and Orting coach Jody Coleman at a wrestling clinic in Colorado.
And then Coleman reached out to Robles, since Robles helps run his Orting offseason camps.
“I was like, ‘I’m all about it,’” said Robles, who was sitting in a chair near the main mat with his crutches to his side. He travels the country as a motivational speaker.
“It’s kind of crazy because some of the guys I’ve been coming back and seeing since I was a sophomore at Arizona State, and I remember them from youth camps. It’s like they’re my family. I’m just trying to give back to this sport because it has blessed my life so much. It really gave me a lot of self confidence in a time when I needed it. So if there’s anything I can do to help these kids reach their goals, that’s what I’m about.”
White River’s Nate Moore, the defending 2A state champion said he was 12 years old when he first met Robles at an Orting wrestling camp.
“I got to wrestle with him for a little bit — he’s definitely one of my idols,” Moore said. “I’m glad he got to see this.”
He was talking about Wednesday, when Moore competed in a marquee match was at 152 against South Kitsap’s Sebastian Robles, a reigning 4A runner up. Moore, a junior, held on for a 4-1 decision.
Moore had blood gushing from his temple as he was interviewed afterward.
“That’s wrestling,” he laughed. “I’ll feel it later, I’m sure, but I don’t feel it now.”
He said he’s wrestled the South Kitsap senior before.
“I already knew I was No. 1,” Moore said. “I was just making sure no one took it from me.”
Moore is part of a huge returning class of state-bound wrestlers White River had a year ago when the Hornets finished third in the team-title hunt behind Toppenish and Orting. But Moore things this year’s group has the chops to win the school its third state title, in all sports (it won a 1994-95 wrestling title and a 1972-73 boys basketball title).
“Were so good,” Moore said. “By state we’re going to be ready to roll. Our team is going ot go win it. We’re ready.”
University of Virgnia signee Alex Cruz is a three-time state champion from Orting who is ranked No. 17 in the nation in the 132-pound weight class by FloWrestling. He cruised past Kelso’s Christian Freund to win by decision, 9-2.
Enumclaw’s Quinton Southcott, the No. 1-ranked 145-pound wrestler in the state as ranked by Washington Wrestling Report, beat North Central’s Gavin Gies, 9-2.
South Kitsap’s Mason Eaglin wreslted at 160 and beat Toppenish’s Andres Aguilera, 6-4. He’s ranked No. 2 in the state in the 170-pound class behind Battle Ground’s Jake Rogers, an “Untouchables” selection who was unable to compete in the tournament.
Adrian St. Germain, a junior and two-time 1A state champion at Vashon Island before transfering to Curtis this year, edged White River’s Jack Ervien, 10-8.
Lincoln’s JJ Dixon, a defending 3A state champion, won the 195-pound bout by major decision, 12-1, Skyview’s Jackson McKinney. Dixon is the state’s No. 1-ranked 195-pound wrestler.
And another one of the best matchups was saved almost for last. In a battle of defending state champions, Tahoma’s Kione Gill edged Bonney Lake’s Sam Peterson in a bout at 220, 5-1. Gill won the 4A 220-pound title a year ago after finishing second at Enumclaw his sophomore year and fourth as a freshman.
Decatur’s Quinzy Salu, who had 44 tackles, 18.5 for losses, and 8.5 sacks for the Golden Gators’ football team this past fall, won the heavyweight match against Noah Sturgil with a pin in 59 seconds.
MyHouse Who’s No. 1 of Washington
106: Yusief Lillie (Bonney Lake) dec. Chase Randall (Mead) 11-6
113: Haiden Drury (Toppenish) p. Brenden Chaowanapibool (Bonney Lake) 5:34
120: Brandon Kaylor (Bonney Lake) dec. Aizayah “Maka” Yacapin (Curtis), 7-4
126: Trent Baun (Colville) dec. Gabe Hawthorne (White River), 10-6
132: Clayton Gilliam (North Central) dec. CJ Richmond (Sumner), 5-2
138: Alex Cruz (Orting) dec. Christian Freund (Kelso), 9-2
145: Quinton Southcott (Enumclaw) dec. Gavin Gies (North Central), 9-2
150: Brock Hardy (Utah) p. Mason Phillips (Stanwood), 5:39
152: Nate Moore (White River) dec. Sebastian Robles (South Kitsap), 4-1
160: Mason Eaglin (South Kitsap) dec. Andy Aguilera (Toppenish), 6-4
170: Adrian St. Germain (Curtis) dec. Jack Ervien (White River), 10-8
182: John Knight (Colville) tech fall Jacob Cassaday (Decatur) 15-0
195: JJ Dixon (Lincoln) maj dec. Jackson McKinney (Skyview), 12-1
220: Kione Gill (Tahoma) dec. Sam Peterson (Bonney Lake), 5-1
285: Quinzy Salu (Decatur) p. Noah Sturgil (Tahoma), 0:59