The Relentless Six.
That is what Yelm High School wrestling coach Amy Earley has aptly named the group of girls she brought to the Tacoma Dome this year.
After a frustrating opening day at Mat Classic XXX, in which some wrestlers lost earlier than expected and the defending champion Tornados trailed in the team race overnight, Yelm responded emphatically.
Phoenix Dubose won an individual championship at 115 pounds Saturday, and five other wrestlers climbed through their consolation brackets to reach the podium as Yelm successfully defended its team title.
“We won state last year, and we’re No. 1 in the state and we wanted to defend that,” said Yelm senior Ashley Kile, who placed third at 190 pounds.
“That’s ours. We deserve it. We’ve worked so hard this season, winning almost every single tournament we went to working as a team.”
The Tornados blew past runner-up Union, 108-77, to become the fourth girls program in state history (Grandview, Warden, Sedro-Woolley) to win back-to-back team titles.
Dubose, a junior, stamped the effort with her 7-5 decision over Granger’s Viktorya Torres, who was undefeated this season entering the match and won a championship at 110 pounds a season ago.
“I’m so happy that I did it, and that I had my partners and my captains on my team to help me,” Dubose said. “It was a battle. I knew it was going to be.”
After falling behind 5-0 early, Dubose completed a reversal and nearly pinned Torres to tie the score by the end of first period. She ended a deadlock with a takedown in the final seconds of the match to win.
Dubose is just the second wrestler in Yelm’s girls program history to win an individual state title, following Danielle Curlis, the champion at 125 pounds in 2008.
“It was a great ending, it just made me so happy,” said Carly Smith, who placed third at 130 pounds. “Just the whole thing. All of our teammates came back today — yesterday was a rough day for us — and made our mark.”
A relentless pursuit by all six wrestlers Yelm brought to the tournament is what it took to repeat.
When only Dubose and Kile remained in the winner’s bracket after the first day, Earley searched for the words to tell her wrestlers after some early-round upsets.
“Maybe your individual goals aren’t there anymore,” she told them. “But we’re a family, and we can do this together.”
Yelm won its second title in program history largely on points from the back end. The Tornados finished an impressive 14-3 in consolation matches — including 11 pins — to clinch it.
Sophomores Brooklyn Cutler (120) and Smith regrouped from quarterfinals losses by winning their final four matches to place third.
Cutler, Smith and Kyle each pinned their final opponent within several minutes of each other early in the afternoon to punctuate Yelm’s dominant run through the consolation brackets.
Cutler, who endured a bizarre disqualification Friday, pinned her last four opponents to help propel Yelm back to the top of the standings.
“After that match, I knew I needed to just leave it all on the mat and try my hardest,” she said.
Smith worked through four tough consolation matches, finishing with a pin over Union’s Riley Aamold, after falling behind early.
Despite a semifinals loss, Kile won both of her final two consolation matches by pin.
Seniors Chelsey Rochester (fifth, 170) and Shelaha Brown-Stephens (sixth, 145) also picked up crucial points for the Tornados in consolation wins.
“They’re wrestling all of those people that were dropping down out of that winner’s bracket,” Early said.
“I kept telling the girls, ‘You just need to perform. You have to find something deep inside you that wants to have this.’ ”
They all did.
“When we were warming up, we talked about what we needed to do,” Smith said. “We talked about who had a Union girl in their bracket, and that it was necessary for us to beat (them). Then it all just fell into place.”
After each defining win in the afternoon medal matches, a tearful Earley embraced her wrestlers.
When Dubose closed the weekend with a championship, her teammates and coaches cheered and rallied around her.
And now, just as they did a year ago, the Tornados return to Yelm with the biggest piece of hardware.
“They take a lot of pride in being Yelm Tornados,” Earley said. “They take a lot of pride in bringing this recognition back to the town.”
LOCAL MAT CLASSIC XXX PLACERS
4A — Chase Poston, Olympia, sr. (fourth, 113).
3A — Gage Nelson, Yelm, fr. (seventh, 106); Gavin Stewart, Yelm, sr. (fifth, 120); Ryan Davis, Yelm, jr. (fifth, 126); Chayton Miller, Yelm, jr. (eighth, 160); Derrick Platt, Yelm, jr. (champion, 182); Noah Winder, North Thurston, sr. (sixth, 182).
2A — Roehre Cunningham, W.F. West, sr. (third, 106); Levi Walters, W.F. West, sr. (sixth, 120); Mykka McAllister, Centralia, sr. (fourth, 132); Mason Burbidge, Tumwater, jr. (seventh, 138); Jayden Lancaster, Rochester, soph. (sixth, 145); Julian Kennedy, Black Hills, soph. (sixth, 160); Tristen Dickey, Centralia, sr. (sixth, 170); Patrick Alvarado, Black Hills, sr. (eighth, 170); Izz Almotes, Centralia, sr. (fourth, 220); Caden Hicks, Tumwater, jr. (seventh, 220); Cy Hicks, Tumwater, sr. (finalist, 285)*.
1A — Justin Sample, Elma, sr. (fourth, 138); Jacob Garcia, Elma, jr. (eighth, 220).
2B/1B — Brody Klein, Rainier, soph. (fifth, 145).
GIRLS — Phoenix Dubose, Yelm, jr. (champion, 115); Brooklyn Cutler, Yelm, soph. (third, 120); Hailey Henry, Olympia, sr. (seventh, 125); Carly Smith, Yelm, soph. (third, 130); Chelsey Rochester, Yelm, sr. (fifth, 140); Shelaha Brown-Stephens, Yelm, sr. (sixth, 145); Quinn Lacy, Shelton, jr. (third, 170); Ashley Kile, Yelm, sr. (third, 190).
* - Hicks wrestled their championship matches after The Olympian went to press.