When Jasmine Welch pinned Mabton’s Reyna Huecias on Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome, she jumped up beaming.
That pin gave the 170-pound Yelm High School senior a seventh-place finish in the girls division at Mat Classic XXIX.
Perhaps more importantly, it gave the Tornados three points — just enough to secure the first state title in the program’s history.
“It was really up to me,” Welch said.
Welch — one of six wrestlers from Yelm to advance to the state tournament — launched herself into coach Amy Earley’s arms after she won.
“This is my last year, and this is my first time at state, too,” Welch said. “I was an alternate last year, so any match that I win is just amazing. … The emotion is just awesome.”
All six of Yelm’s qualifiers placed. And not even three defending state champions could twist the Tornados out of the team race.
“It makes us feel like we’re getting there,” sophomore Phoenix DuBose said. “We’re getting to be able to wrestle with the best of the best.
“We’re building our program, and we’re getting new athletes that are coming to try the sport. We have girls that are dedicated to the sport and the team.”
Yelm finished with 97 points, edging state-favorite Federal Way — the team that beat the Tornados a week earlier at regionals — which finished with 91 points.
DuBouse (second, 115 pounds), Carly Smith (second, 125) and Ariana Zemke (second, 145) each wrestled defending state champions in their final matches.
The three lost, but Welch and freshman Brooklyn Cutler (fifth, 115) rallied for the six points Yelm needed to seal the title. Chelsey Rochester, a junior, took eighth at 185 pounds.
“Coming into (Saturday) it was kind of funny because my husband and I were both looking at everything that needed to go right, and everything went right,” Earley said.
“We’ve got three in the finals, we’ve got three coming in through the back door, and every point counts.”
Every point certainly did. Welch’s win put Yelm ahead of Federal Way by 12 points.
Federal Way needed its two remaining finalists, Tally Thomas (170 pounds) and Maria Stewart (235), to pin their opponents to tie the score.
Only Thomas did.
“I told them in practice the other day, you get this team title, and it’s something you’re going to remember for the rest of your life,” Earley said. “Whether you get it again or not, who knows? You might not have that magical team again that can do it.”
Yelm’s program continues to grow, however. The best finish prior to Saturday’s was third place in 2008, when the Tornados had their only individual titlist in program history in Danielle Curtis.
How quickly the program continues to bloom could soon have Yelm mentioned among other state powerhouses like Sedro-Woolley (four titles), Warden (two) and Grandview (two).
Grandview was the two-time defending girls team champion before Saturday.
“This year, we are so solidified. … We have a stacked team, and it is just one giant family,” Welch said. “I love it.”
“In the mat room teamwork is a big thing for us,” DuBose said. “We like to make sure no one is falling behind. Even if someone is better than the other one, we like to make sure they’re still understanding what they’re doing when they wrestle.
“That’s kind of what we do to make sure we’re still together. I guess that’s why we ended up with so many girls here.”
Earley said the girls team has developed enough to get out of the shadow of the boys. Yelm’s boys team won a 3A state title in 2010, and was the runner-up in 2008, 2009 and 2012.
“I don’t mind being in their shadow — it’s not a bad shadow to be in,” Earley said. “But it’s nice to be able to stand next to them.”
Yelm’s boys took fifth at Mat Classic and had six placers, including three finalists.
“You hear about the boys all the time, but now, whenever we go to tournaments it’s like, ‘Oh, the Yelm girls are here,’” Welch said. “It’s just awesome.”
Several of Yelm’s wrestlers are still underclassmen, and Early expects this to continue to motivate younger incoming wrestlers and help the program grow.
“We’ve got a young team, and we’ve got a lot of young talent coming up, so it’s exciting for that community and the program,” she said. “I’m very happy to be able to bring this back to Yelm.”