Ask any wrestler at Yelm High School to describe a typical practice and you'll be flooded with words such as "grueling," "intense" and "exhausting."
It certainly sounds tiring, but strangely enough every wrestler’s assessment was immediately followed by a smile.
“It’s tough,” said heavyweight Josh Stephens, “but it’s more than worth it.”
All that hard work paid off for the Tornados on Saturday when Yelm easily captured the team title at the River Ridge Invitational.
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“It all starts at practice,” said Marcus Crone, last year’s Class 3A 119-pound state champion. “Everyone is pushing each other to improve. It seems to be working.”
Stephens and Crone were two of five Tornados to win individual titles, helping Yelm finish with 251 team points – more than 100 better than runner-up Curtis.
Stephens only needed 15 seconds to put away River Ridge’s David Allen in the finals.
“We both collided and locked up,” Stephens said. “He tried to throw me. I just sagged my weight and sat him down.”
It was the third consecutive pin of a River Ridge wrestler at the tournament for Stephens, who also pinned Hawks Konner Wayson (35 seconds) and Cameron Determeyer (2:35) to reach the finals.
Crone needed a little bit longer than his teammate to captured the 125-pound title, but not much as he pinned River Ridge’s Jeremy Camacho in 1:40.
“The guys really stepped it up today,” said Crone, who defeated Capital’s David Griffin (8-0) in the semi-finals. “We had people filling in spots where we needed them to. Our 103-pounder was sick so our JV 103 (Nathan Teregeyo) stepped in and got third, which got us points. At tournaments, things like that are huge for a team to win.”
Yelm also got titles from David Hyder (119 pounds), James Bradley (130) and Brian Smalley (135).
Hyder (25-4) defeated teammate Josh Clayton by injury default in the finals. Bradley pinned Spanaway Lake’s Johnny Folkestad 1:27 into their final, and Smalley knocked off Aberdeen’s Tanner Martin, 14-4.
Yelm also received a second-place performance from 215-pound sophomore Tyler Wallace, who lost in the final to Liberty of Issaquah’s Chris Harlin (7-4), and third-place finishes from Jeron Hufford (112), Jeffery Leuth (189) and Christian Sartin (215).
Timberline’s Andre Courie (17-3) defeated Mitchell Homeyer, 14-8, in the 160-pound final.
With the match tied at 2-2 at the end of the first period, Courie dominated the second, scoring a near-fall in the closing seconds to take an 11-2 advantage into the third.
“That second period was definitely the difference,” Courie said. “All I was thinking about was trying to end it with a pin (at the end of the second) because I knew how tough of a wrestler he is. I wasn’t able to get the pin, but those points helped. I was starting to get a little gassed at the end. My goal is to place at state and matches like this will help me get to where I need to be.”
The Blazers also got runner-up finishes from Dean Regino (103) and Tom Sauer (189) and a third place from Tim Beam (119)
Host River Ridge, which finished fifth overall, got a 152-pound title from Marques Ford and a third-place finish from Justin Polzin (171).
Ford, a senior, turned a 2-2 match after the first period into a 21-5 victory over Liberty’s Hamilton Nole.
North Thurston’s Justin Savard finished second in the 112-pound final, losing to Bethel’s Arthur Green (17-2), while fellow Rams Natty Guzman (135), Joshiah Tognazzini (140) and Josh Clark (145) all claimed third-place medals.