It isn’t often when all eyes are on a non-championship match at Mat Classic, the high school state wrestling championships.
But when Curtis’ Aizayah Yacapin took the mat against perennial state placer Austin Michalski of Tahoma, in a much-anticipated Class 4A semifinal at 126 pounds, it was one of those moments to watch in the Tacoma Dome.
Yacapin edged Michalski, 2-1, in triple overtime to advance to this third consecutive state championship match. He won the 113 title last season.
And, in his championship showdown with Sunnyside’s Andrew Macias later in the evening, he scored the decisive takedown with 55 seconds to go to win arguably the toughest bracket in the tournament — all on a bum right knee.
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“This year, I really learned to love wrestling,” Yacapin said.
In Yacapin’s corner sits a former longtime area coach who has taken the Vikings’ standout under his wing.
Last summer, Yacapin had difficulties cutting necessary weight to get down to 120 for national tournaments.
A family friend recommended that Yacapin visit David Grisaffi, a former boxing trainer who was the Bellarmine Prep wrestling coach for 27 years.
The first time that the two met, Grisaffi took measurements of Yacapin’s body mass, and began mapping out specific and dieting programs so the teenager could discover what his most comfortable weight should be.
“It was more for him to round himself off (in his eating) so he did not go overboard with rice, and other foods like that,” said Grisaffi, who helped with Curtis junior varsity practices this season.
Grisaffi introduced Yacapin to intermittent fasting, which the Curtis standout does nightly. After an evening run, he does not eat between 9 p.m. and 10 a.m.
“My body runs off the fats (overnight),” Yacapin said. “And from the fast, my stomach shrinks and I don’t eat as much.”
Essentially, it was Grisaffi who convinced the reigning state champion to embrace wrestling at a higher weight — 126 — and not any lower.
It was the right decision. Heading into the championship finals Saturday night, he was the only survivor of three 2018 state champions in his bracket.
It was a historic night for Chiawana High School, which captured its first 4A team championship.
Like many Mat Classic winners, the Riverhawks not only have elite wrestlers, they have an abundance of first-rate coaching.
One of their assistants is Shaine Jaime, a history teacher at the school who was also a two-time NAIA All-American at Central Washington University.
But Jaime has also coached with television cameras filming him — part of the popular UFC reality show, “Ultimate Fighter.”
“I got (the job) mainly through friends who fight in the UFC,” Jaime said.
At Central, Jaime got to know the likes of former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Meisha Tate and Bryan Carraway. And when Jaime moved to Sacramento, he worked out with two-time UFC men’s bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw.
On the reality show, Jaime has been a wrestling instructor for the UFC hopefuls. He was on it full-time for all six weeks back in 2013 when Tate was one of the coaches for “The Ultimate Fighter 18.”
“It helped that normally I spend the summers in Las Vegas anyway,” Jaime said.
Of course, Jaime enjoyed watching his high school program win its first 4A crown as much, if not more.
“It was awesome,” Jaime said.
Lake Stevens’ remarkable run is over.
Until Saturday, the Vikings had at least one Mat Classic winner in a boys’ class for 22 consecutive seasons — starting with Mike Bundy’s victory in 3A at 158 pounds in 1997.
But longtime coach Brent Barnes still brought his finals suit Saturday. He had Kiley Hubby win a girls title at 170.