By no means does Amy Earley think her Yelm High School girls wrestling team is perfect.
But that doesn’t mean she is down on the Tornados’ pursuit of perfection.
With Mat Classic XXX one day away, the defending state champions from Yelm are still stationed at the highest perch, ranked No. 1 in the state.
At invitational tournaments with their full varsity squad, they ran the table this season, including a repeat performance at the nation’s biggest event — the Kelso Girls Invitational.
And on Saturday, Yelm racked up 140 points to win the Region II tournament at Decatur High School, just ahead of Federal Way (132), the reigning state runner-up and top-chasing contender.
The Tornados are bringing regional champions Phoenix Dubose (115 pounds) and Carly Smith (130), runners-up Chelsey Rochester (140) and Ashley Kile (190) and third-place finishers Brooklyn Cutler (120) and Shelaha Brown-Stephens (145) to the state championships.
“Really, they are the relentless six,” Earley said. “They have been winning tournaments all season long.”
And if recent history at Mat Classic is any indicator, Yelm should feel good about its chances of repeating as state champion. The last three different team winners — Sedro-Woolley (2009-12), Warden (2013-14) and Grandview (2015-16) — were all successful in defending their state crowns.
As easy as it seems like it has been for the Tornados on the mat, Earley called this season the “most stressful” she’s had coaching the program.
It all starts with the wave of recognition the team received after winning in the Tacoma a year ago, edging Federal Way (97-91) for its state championship.
In March, the Yelm girls took the state trophy on tour around town, being recognized by both mayor JW Foster and the city council at the March meeting. In a proclamation by Foster, the Tornados were given their own “day.”
They were also honored by the Yelm School District board.
“I almost felt like a famous person,” Earley said. “The girls had such a blast.”
But this season, as they entered big tournaments such as the Jump on In Yelm Tournament, the HammerHead and the Lady Lancer Lipstick, the girls started feeling the pressure as the team to beat.
“Obviously we want to win that state title again,” Rochester said. “But it is stressful to have to go for it again. We want it, and we will fight for it.”
Smith is the team’s true standout wrestler. She was the lone champion at the Kelso Invitational, and was a state runner-up in 2017.
“She is, by far, the toughest girl in the room,” Earley said.
Dubose is the team’s other returning state finalist.. Last summer, she was part of Washington state’s Cadet freestyle team.
“They are both so rock solid,” Earley said.
Earley said one thing that has helped is that her wrestlers settled into their respective weight classes at the midway point, and have done a good just of sizing up who they might see in the postseason.
“We know when it is time to get serious,” Rochester said. “When it’s time to do drills, we do drills — and you do them as many times as you possibly can. There is no waiting around. We are working hard the whole time.”