YELM – No sooner had word leaked out last year that Yelm High School would be moving up to Class 4A, than Narrows League wrestling coaches started reaching out to Tornados coach Gaylord Strand.
They were not only looking for an ally, but also a conqueror – one who could end South Kitsap’s long-standing 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 sewed up the Narrows 4A championship and 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).
“This means so much to us,” Leuth said. “All week, we had heard about how they were undefeated … so we had to go hard, go big.”
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 cable giant Comcast came to town to broadcast the showdown.
The crowds on both sides of Yelm’s gymnasium were big and boisterous.
“It put pressure on them, and their backs were up against the wall,” Strand said of the visiting Wolves. “They had everything to lose. We had everything to gain. And that just added more pressure.”
Simply put, if the Wolves were going to have a chance to win, they needed to dominate the middleweight classes and then also come out on top in all the flip-a-coin matches.
Yelm applied the pressure from the start, 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 the lead with senior Illya Tsveytkov set to meet Yelm’s Holden Miller, another ninth-grader, 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.
“My favorite move is the leg ride … and I countered his move,” Miller said. “Hey, I did not want to lose in front of my home crowd,”
And he didn’t, scoring the winning points on another reversal with 40 seconds left in the final period to earn an 8-6 decision.
“That was a big surprise for us,” Strand said. “(Miller) is a freshman, and that kid (Tsveytkov) you could tell he was a specimen.”
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 there.
“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 South Kitsap coach Chad Nass 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.”Todd.firstname.lastname@example.org todd Milles: 253-597-8442 blogs.thenewstribune.com/preps @ManyHatsMilles