Yelm boys wrestling takes first place in SSC sub-regional tournament


Head coach Gaylord Strand added another accomplishment to his 50-year, storied resume as Yelm High School’s boys wrestling team took first place in the South Sound Conference sub-regional tournament. 

The Tornados won behind the first-place finishes of Wesley Thompson, 126 pounds, Lake Harris, 150 pounds, Kaleb Holman, 165, Genesis Finch, 215, and Jonah Smith, 285. Yelm’s Andrei Bubon, 126, AJ Erickson, 150, and Auto O’Neal, 157, added to Yelm’s strong showing with second-place finishes in their respective weight classes. 

“Everybody else wrestled to their potential and did the best they could. I’m pleased with how the team performed,” Strand said. “The league is so much more balanced this year, but the kids were ready for the task.”

In addition to the eight finalists, Yelm saw third-place finishes from Tate Oberhansley, 113 pounds, Ethan Owens, 144 pounds, Ashton Carreto, 157, and Tamaas Wakefield, 285. Hunter Owens, 132, and Ethan Venuto, 106, took fourth and fifth place. Gideon Tolman, 138 pounds, and Hunter Holman, 144, will serve as alternates on Saturday, Feb. 10 in the regional tournament at Oak Harbor.

“We ended up getting 16 wrestlers out of sub-regionals to go up to Oak Harbor for the regional meet on Saturday, which is really good for our program,” Strand said. “The kids are healthy, and we’re ready to go. It was a nice end to my 50 years, having an undefeated season and coming out as sub-regional champions.”

The coach added that the more athletes a team can bring to a regional meet, the more chances it will have to score points. He sees bringing 16 athletes to Oak Harbor as an opportunity for the program. 

“We want to get as many kids through as possible to get to the state meet. We get to take five out of the regions. We’ve only wrestled two schools from up north, including Oak Harbor at the Christmas duals, and Arlington,” Strand said. “All of our wrestlers are young. There’s no seniors in this group except for Auto. We’re looking at a good team coming back next year. They’re going to wrestle their very best and hope for the best outcome at regionals and at state.” 

Strand highlighted several wrestlers that stood out during sub-regionals, including O’Neal, who wrestled just five matches throughout the season due to injury. 

“He came into the tournament with a 5-0 record. That isn’t very many matches under your belt. He ended up taking second place,” Strand said.  “At 157, Ashton Carreto, a sophomore that’s been wrestling JV all year, ended up taking third at sub-regionals. He surprised a lot of varsity wrestlers.

“Tamaas Wakefield, one of our heavyweights, hasn’t wrestled very many matches due to the fact there’s not many 285-pounders on JV,” Strand continued. “He came in and placed third. My hat is off to Tamaas. He did a good job.”

The Tornados will compete in the regional tournament at Oak Harbor High School, 1 Wildcat Way, on Saturday, Feb. 10.