Last year, sitting down at a local coffee shop days after winning state titles, Brandon Kaylor and Brenden Chaowanapibool talked about how the best was yet to come for their Bonney Lake High School wrestling team.
A bold statement considering the duo had just helped the Panthers to their first state title. But they might be right.
Kaylor and Chaowanapibool are back and better than ever. And now Bonney Lake has another nationally-ranked lightweight wrestler in its lineup, freshman Yusief Lillie.
“We like to call that death row,” said Kaylor.
Said Lillie: “I definitely believe all three of us can win a state title this year. We’ve all put in the work, so we’re all three going to be up there in first.”
It’s a formidable trio for teams to face: Kaylor, at 120 pounds, Chaowanapibool, at 113, and Lillie, at 106, are ranked nationally for their elite abilities by FloWrestling.
“I knew that when Lillie got here, I knew he was really talented,” said Bonney Lake coach Dan Pitsch, a former Spanaway Lake and Oregon State wrestler. “After seeing these three the past three months, I’m not really surprised by them anymore. They’ve trained hard to get here.”
Kaylor, a senior who is committed to wrestle at Oregon State next year, is hoping to join the state’s elite fraternity of four-time state wrestling champions with another title this weekend at Mat Classic.
He is a national champion, too. Kaylor won the 113-pound Junior (18U) Greco-Roman title this past summer in Fargo, North Dakota, and was the runner-up in the national Freestyle finals.
Chaowanapibool, a junior, is the defending state 106-pound champion. In those national competitions last summer, he reached the 106-pound quarterfinal in both Greco-Roman and Freestyle.
And Lillie won the Cadet (16U) 100-pound Greco-Roman national title there and reached the quarterfinals in freestyle.
Having one All-American caliber lightweight is any coaches dream. Bonney Lake had two All-Americans return from last season and added a talented freshman.
“It’s not very common. I think it’s once in a coaching career that happens,” Kamiakin coach Jordan Anderson said. “Those kids are special. They’re what every coach dreams of coming into the program.
“Whatever they’re doing right there, it’s working.”
Here’s what they’re doing: They’re working on the craft of wrestling year round.
“As you go through this, you try to figure out how to help him avoid burning out because the grind of traveling to these tournaments all year can take its toll on you,” said Geoff Kaylor, Brandon’s father. “You have to find ways to keep him interested. He has to be the one to find that motivation to want to get better.”
Eight years ago, Geoff, made a deal with Brandon. If Brandon was serious about wrestling, Geoff would do anything to make Brandon’s dream become a reality.
So Geoff started Team Aggression, attracting much of the top talent in Puyallup and the surrounding area as way to develop wrestlers that could compete on the national level. That helped Brandon – and others – get better by training with different wrestlers at other weight classes.
“You know in wrestling, and I’m sure it’s the same in every sport, you want your kids around good kids,” Orting coach Jody Coleman said. “Practice partners are a big part in a team’s success.”
By the time he was 10, Brandon was drawing attention for his advanced skills. One of those admirers was a young Chaowanapibool.
“I remember first meeting (Chaowanapibool) as he came up and said ‘Hi Brandon,’ really friendly-like with a huge smile before walking off,” Kaylor recalled.
“(Now) I can’t walk onto the mat thinking it’s going to be an easy practice, that I can throw around a freshman real quick. You have to be on your toes because of these other two are gunning for you as well,” Kaylor added.
Two years later, Lillie came into the fold creating the perfect “triangle,” as Geoff put it, of challenges and one-upmanship between the three wrestlers. As they’ve become more competitive they’ve also become closer.
“You can see a little bit of Team Aggression and the Puyallup Falcons everywhere – a lot of the top guys from the teams around here come from these two programs,” Brandon said.
Because they are different weights, they three don’t have to worry about competing against each other outside of practice. Bonny Lake could have its third different 106-pound state title in three years as Kaylor won it in 2016, Chaowanapibool in 2017 and Lillie maybe this year.
“It takes a lot of stress off know that we don’t have to brawl it out in the finals,” Chaowanapibool said. “We can each get our own glory.”
Lillie could join Kaylor as the only Bonney Lake wrestlers to ever win titles as freshmen.
“There’s not really much a difference between Lillie as a freshman and (Kaylor) as a freshman,” Pitsch said. “They’re both dedicated and both kids have trained hard. Have both placed high at similar tournaments.”
Only one other team in the state has swept the lightweight classes. Last year’s Wapato squad of Jesus Rodriguez (106), Sergy Salas (113) and Alex Vaca (120) all captured 2A lightweight titles.
And only 41 times since 1953 has a school had multiple lightweight champions in the same year. Sunnyside has done it seven times while Moses Lake, University and Republic have done it three times.
Only Kent-Meridian had back-to-back season with multiple lightweight champions with Phil Ogan and Larry Klopfstein (1981) followed by Phil and Pete Ogan (1982) the next year.
If Lillie caps off his freshman campaign and joins his two friends as state champions, it would be hard to argue against this group of Panthers have the greatest collection of lightweights this state has ever produced.
It’s an accomplishment the three say they would be proud of.
“I think it created a legacy here,” Kaylor said. “From Yusief, Chao to me — I think we’re the best three to come through to the state. Not just in order but overall.”
THE NEWS TRIBUNE’S ALL-AREA BOYS WRESTLING TEAM
106: Yusief Lillie, Bonney Lake, fr.
113: Aizayah Yacapin, Curtis, so.
120: Brandon Kaylor, Bonney Lake, sr.
126: Lane Holland, Graham-Kapowsin, sr.
132: Austin Cleland, Sumner, jr.
138: Alex Cruz, Orting, sr.
145: Quinton Southcott, Enumclaw, sr.
152: Nate Moore, White River, jr.
160: Nathan Marin, South Kitsap, sr.
170: Mason Eaglin, South Kitsap, sr.
182: Mason Sabin, White River, sr.
195: JJ Dixon, Lincoln, sr.
220: Kione Gill, Tahoma, sr.
285: Cy Hicks, Tumwater, sr.
106: Xavier Eaglin, South Kitsap, fr.
113: Brenden Chaowanapibool, Bonney Lake, jr.
120: Austin Michalski, Tahoma, jr.
126: Steele Starren, Tahoma, fr.
132: CJ Richmond, Sumner, jr.
138: Devyn Sweem, Bethel, sr.
145: Weston Lyver, White River, so.
152: Sebastian Robles, South Kitsap, sr.
160: Davonn Keyes, South Kitsap, sr.
170: Jack Ervien, White River, jr.
182: Ketner Fields, Curtis, sr.
195: Ryan Redford, White River, sr.
220: Sam Peterson, Bonney Lake, sr.
285: Quinzy Salu, Decatur, sr.
THE NEWS TRIBUNE’S ALL-AREA GIRLS WRESTLING TEAM
100: Griselda Cuevas, Thomas Jefferson, so.
105: Raisa Pleasants, Thomas Jefferson, jr.
110: Kenzie Cormier, Enumclaw, so.
115: Phoenix Dubose, Yelm, jr.
120: Payton Stroud, White River, jr.
125: Galiela Valencia, Graham-Kapowsin, sr.
130: Carly Smith, Yelm, so.
135: Ivy Kraght, Kentwood, so.
140: Nicole Clark, Sumner, sr.
145: Flor (Jasmine) Parker-Borrero, Lakes, sr.
155: Kathleen Flanagan, Wilson, sr.
170: Sabrina Perez, Kentwood, sr.
190: Ofa He Lotu Tuifau, Kent-Meridian, fr.
235: Mariah Stewart, Federal Way, sr.
100: Julia Richards, Puyallup, so.
105: Alina Collins, Bellarmine Prep, sr.
110: Anjilia Sumandig, Federal Way, jr.
115: Jamayia Blackston, Lincoln, sr.
120: Brooklyn Cutler, Yelm, so.
125: Claire Dicugno, White River, fr.
130: Paige Dasher, Decatur, sr.
135: Selena Garza, Curtis, jr.
140: Chelsey Rochester, Yelm, sr.
145: Brooke Mullins, Puyallup, sr.
155: Jennifer Kang, Curtis, so.
170: Quinn Lacy, Shelton, jr.
190: Ashley Kile, Yelm, sr.
235: Goddess Ma’alona-Faleto, Thomas Jefferson, so.