Former Tahoma High School wrestler Kione Gill, who won two state titles for the Bears, died of an apparent suicide on Sunday, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Tahoma wrestling coach Chris Feist said Gill was “an incredible young man that had a huge heart,” and was a light that people were drawn to.
“He was a very special person, and there are a lot of people hurting right now all over the state that had really positive experiences with him,” Feist said.
Gill was looked up to as a role model by younger athletes, Feist said, and would consistently make an effort to help his wrestling teammates prepare for matches, even if it meant staying after practice.
“He was a dedicated friend and a great teammate, and as much as he was quick to joke, laugh and play, he was always there for his teammates when they needed him,” Feist said.
“It was about making sure the people around him had what they needed, and that’s another reason why they loved him.”
Tahoma wrestling first reported Gill’s death late Sunday evening on its Twitter account, posting a short message and a photo of the former standout athlete standing beneath a spotlight in his singlet.
“Some things happen, that we just don’t understand,” the post reads.
Gill won Class 4A state wrestling titles at Tahoma as a senior (220 pounds) and junior (195). He was named one of The News Tribune’s “Untouchables” prior to Mat Classic XXIX earlier this year.
He graduated from Tahoma in the spring, and had committed to wrestling for Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, Ore.
“When I’m gone (from high school), I want to be remembered,” Gill told The News Tribune in January, before winning his second state title.
“I want my name to be on that wall. I want to have every record (at Tahoma). I want to be undefeated. I want to be not taken down. I want to have a perfect season.”
He achieved the perfect season as a senior, finishing 42-0, and pinned his first three opponents at the Tacoma Dome in February before defeating Curtis’ Luke Purcella by 8-3 decision for the 220-pound title.
Gill was 128-8 during his four-year high school career.
Feist said he spoke to Tahoma’s wrestlers Monday about honoring Gill by continuing to attend classes and practices, working hard, and finding ways to talk about personal hardship.
He wants young athletes know they are loved, cared for and safe to reach out about personal struggles.
“We’re going to keep (Kione) in our heart, but we’re going to keep talking about this,” Feist said. “We have to find ways to talk about the things that are bothering us, and that’s hard to do for young men.”
Before transferring to Tahoma, Gill wrestled his first two high school seasons at Enumclaw, finishing second at the state tournament as a sophomore, and fourth as a freshman with the Hornets, both years at 182 pounds.
Enumclaw football player Ethan Eilertson wrote on his Twitter account that he would dedicate his senior season to Gill. Eilertson posted a photo of a younger Gill in a football uniform, smiling with his hands raised toward the camera.
“Never gonna forget that smile, confidence and love you displayed,” Eilertson wrote. “I’ll never forget every memory I had with you. Thank you for always being a true friend in my life. I love you. Rest in peace.”
“Prayers go out to the Gill family,” another Twitter account associated with Enumclaw High School news and events wrote Sunday night.
“Such a tragic loss of an amazing young man. Be nice to one another because you never know what someone is going through, and always tell the ones you love that you love them. Rest easy Kione, we love you.”
A GoFundMe page was set up Monday to help Gill’s family pay for funeral costs, and raised more than $5,000 in the first two hours after it was published.
“Kione was an amazing soul who touched the lives of those he encountered,” the page reads. “His contagious smile and laughter filled any room — except when he was under the light and on the mat — the only place he was all business but the smirk never left his face.”
The page says information about the time, date and location of memorial services will follow.
More wrestling programs throughout the South Sound, such as Peninsula, White River and Kentlake, also took to Twitter to offer condolences.
“His gentle smile was kind and warm. We wish the Gill family strength in this tough time,” Peninsula’s wrestling account wrote. “To his Enumclaw and Tahoma wrestling families we send our love.”
“He was loved by many, and he will be missed,” Feist said.