No sooner after word leaked out last year that Yelm High School would be moving up to Class 4A, Narrows League wrestling coaches started reaching out to Tornados’ coach Gaylord Strand.
They were not only looking for an ally, but a conqueror – one that could end South Kitsap’s longstanding dual-meet winning streak in the Narrows League.
“I said, ‘We’ll try,” Strand said.
And his wrestlers response? A convincing 47-15 dual-meet victory over the Wolves on Thursday night that not only sewed up the Narrows 4A championship, it ended South Kitsap’s winning streak at 189 matches – over a span of more than 20 seasons.
The Tornados won 10 of the 14 matches – four of them on pins by Jacob Nolan at 106 pounds (2 minutes, 23 seconds), Darren Harris at 120 (3:08), Dillon Harris at 145 (4:59) and Jeff Leuth at 220 (:41).
In the past week, this dual matchup began taking on a life of its own. Predictions were posted all over the internet. Newspapers wrote preview stories. Even the Comcast cable network came to town to broadcast the showdown on television.
Yelm applied the pressure from the get-go, winning the first match at 138 when ninth grader Brian Rochester – who normally competes at 126 – blanked South Kitsap’s Joel Sherman, 13-0.
Eventually after the Wolves won three consecutive matches (160, 170, 182), capped by Michael Beard’s win in 2:39 over Yelm’s Jayce Allred, they had a chance to take their first team lead when Holden Miller, another ninth grader, met senior Illya Tsveytkov at 195.
Tsveytkov held a 6-2 lead late in the second round when Miller exploded for a reversal and takedown in the final 20 seconds to tie the match at 6-6.
Miller scored the winning points on another reversal move with 40 seconds remaining in the final period to earn an 8-6 decision.
Yelm’s home crowd went nuts. And Leuth added to the craziness by putting South Kitsap’s Kyle Kennedy on his back in 41 seconds for a pin, giving the Tornados a 22-12 lead. It would only grow from then on.
“We had some kids who won some crucial matches for us, and low and behold, the momentum changed in our direction,” Strand said. “Once that momentum gets going, it takes the wind out of your opponents.”
All Chad Nass, the South Kitsap coach, could do was sit back and watch the streak end. The Wolves accepted the defeat with class, too – acknowledging that Yelm was the better team.
“To have any chance at all, we had to win those (close) matches. We knew they weren’t going to be easy; some of them were a little bit of long shots,” Nass said. “Hey, our kids gave it their best. That is really talented team with obviously a great coaching staff. Those guys were ready. We got beat.”