Carly Smith doesn’t wrestle just for fun. She’s crystal clear on that point.
“Winning is everything,” the Yelm High School freshman said this week.
“When I’m on the mat, all that goes through my head is, ‘I’ve got to beat that girl.’ I’m victory-hungry, I guess you could say.”
Smith is part of a six-girl Tornado contingent (plus one alternate) chasing spots on the podium at the Mat Classic state tournament this weekend at the Tacoma Dome.
And the ninth-grader Smith might indeed find her way to the podium. Yelm coach Amy Earley said Smith is a contender to win a state title in the 125-pound division this week.
Smith has been wrestling since she was 5, when she grappled with her brother Jeremy, now a Yelm senior who will be competing at 195 pounds at the Class 3A state tournament at the Tacoma Dome.
Smith has the ideal formula for a female wrestler, Earley said.
“She’s strong, she’s explosive, and she can create scoring situations,” the coach said. “She’s confident, she’s aggressive, and she has good body awareness (for how) to get leverage on her opponent.
“Probably her biggest strength is she just wrestles tough.”
Earley launched the Yelm program 10 years ago when her niece, Cassie Virgil, then a Yelm senior, asked if she would coach girls in wrestling. Earley’s answer: If you get me 10 girls, I’ll coach them.
Virgil went on to place third in the state tournament and was one of nine wrestlers to graduate from the program. The one girl remaining the next year, Earley said, recruited 25 more girls to turn out.
This year, 25 high school girls and another 10 from the middle school filled up the mat room for afternoon practices.
Earley said she has her strongest overall group going to state. Yelm has taken more girls to state before, but never like this year, when Earley believes every wrestler has a chance to medal.
Freshman Brooklyn Cutler and sophomore Phoenix Dubose will both compete for Yelm at 115 pounds after going 1-2 at the regional tournament at Decatur High School in Federal Way. At the district tournament the week before, Dubose was first and Cutler second.
Junior Chelsey Rochester placed third at regionals at 135 pounds. Senior Ariana Zemke has a good chance to make it to the final at 145 pounds “if things go right,” Earley said.
Senior Jasmine Welch at 170 pounds placed fifth at regionals in only her second year of wrestling, Earley said. The Tornados’ alternate is junior Ashley Kile at 190 pounds.
Smith, a regional champion, is naturally strong and athletic, Early said. Her preferred means of building stamina is wrestling and more wrestling.
Smith made the varsity soccer team for the Tornados as a freshman last fall.
“My parents always tell me I play soccer like I wrestle,” she said. “So aggressive, overly aggressive.”
Smith said she doesn’t work out with weights, and attributes her strength on the mat to wrestling with boys through the years, often winning.
“They say, ‘Carly, she always wants to make the boys cry,’ ” she said.
To get to the top step of the podium, Smith might face sophomore Kaylee Moore of Naches Valley, whom she knows from splitting two matches in summer freestyle tournaments. Senior Brenda Reyna of Mount Vernon is ranked No. 1 at 125 pounds.
Earley believes Smith has a fighting chance, based on her technical ability.
“She just has such a presence of where she’s at and what her opponent’s doing,” the coach said. “If they make a mistake, she’ll take advantage of it.
“That girl just loves to wrestle.”
Girls Mat Classic
Friday-Saturday, Tacoma Dome
2016 team champion: Grandview.
Local qualifiers: Phoenix Dubose, Yelm, so. (115 pounds); Brooklyn Cutler, Yelm, fr. (115); Hailey Henry, Olympia, jr. (120); Carly Smith, Yelm, fr. (125); Samantha Tietzel, Centralia, sr. (125); Chelsey Rochester, Yelm, jr. (135); Ariana Zemke, Yelm, sr. (145); Jasmine Welch, Yelm, sr. (170); Quinn Lacy, Shelton, so. (170).
Schedule: Friday — Session I, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (first-round matches). Session II, 3:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. (quarterfinal and consolation matches). Saturday — Session III, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (semifinal and consolation matches). Session IV – 2 p.m.-8 p.m. (all medal matches, including championships).
The skinny: Yelm is the second-ranked team in the state behind Federal Way, and has six wrestlers competing at Mat Classic, including regional champions in DuBose and Smith. The Tornados took second — to Federal Way — at last weekend’s regional championships at Decatur, 173.5 to 151. Yelm’s Dubose — who took sixth at 105 pounds — and Rochester are the only two locals returning to Mat Classic after competing at state last season. … Cutler took second at regionals, losing to DuBose in the title match. Rochester, Zemke and Shelton’s Lacy each took third. … Centralia’s Tietzel took third at regionals in Aberdeen.
Tickets: Daily passes are $17 for adults, $13 for students/senior citizens. Tournament passes are $25 for adults, $19 for students/senior citizens.
Lauren Smith: email@example.com