Yelm girls wrestling team places fifth at Mat Classic XXXV

Erickson takes 120 title, Blank finishes as 135 runner-up


Yelm’s girls wrestling program had a memorable weekend at Mat Classic XXXV. With a fifth-place team finish, a state champion and a runner-up, the Tornados represented themselves well after a tumultuous season.

Five Tornados competed in the Tacoma Dome, Friday, Feb. 16 and Saturday, Feb. 17, including two-time state champion Madisyn Erickson (120 pounds) runner-up Samantha Blank (135), Emma Norman, Kylie Minker and Madelyn Lawson. 

“It was an experience for sure. It was great to have many special moments with the girls that I’ll never forget,” head coach Lisa Ellis said. “It was amazing to see people I haven’t seen in 30+ years. Yes, I’ve been involved in wrestling that long.”

Ellis said she felt good about the team’s fifth-place finish considering how the season went. The 2023-24 season presented numerous challenges to the coach and the program, however Ellis said she’s already eager for next season. 

“Taking over the coaching role in the girls wrestling room brought about a significant shift from the previous environment. Many veteran girls and parents found it to be a culture shock. While I recognize that building trust takes time, my primary focus has always been on encouraging hard work,” Ellis said. “As their coach, my role is to prepare them for the rigors of competition, both mentally and physically. Wrestling is not just a game. It’s a demanding sport that can lead to serious injuries if one isn’t adequately prepared.”

Ellis spoke highly of the two-time state champion, Erickson, who secured her second WIAA 3A/4A 120-pound state championship on Saturday in the Dome. Erickson defeated Auburn’s Mary Rush after a 10-5 decision. 

“As a back-to-back state champion, Madisyn holds the future in her hands. She’s an exceptional young woman, known for her outstanding work ethic and positive attitude, both on and off the mats,” Ellis said. “Achieving her status as a two-time state champion is a testament to the years of dedication she’s poured into the sport.”

The 135-pound second-place runner-up, Blank, came up short against Sierra Wangen of Curtis in the state championship matchup. The junior finished in third place at the Mat Classic XXXIII as a freshman and second as a sophomore at Mat Classic XXXIV. 

“Sam possesses exceptional judo skills, executing her throws with grace and beauty, making them seem effortless,” Ellis said. “Despite her remarkable performance, she narrowly missed securing the pin in the finals.”

Norman went 2-2 at Mat Classic XXXV, including a pinfall victory, and her coach described her performance at state as good considering the challenges she faced throughout the season. 

“Emma possesses remarkable athletic talent and immense potential for college sports. Witnessing her journey at state was truly memorable, and I’m optimistic about her future in college wrestling, especially considering the multiple scholarship offers she’s received from six different colleges,” Ellis said. “I hold Emma close to my heart and eagerly anticipate her collegiate career.”

Minker, 170, went 1-2 at Mat Classic XXXV, including an opening-round pin victory. She returned to wrestling in the 2023-24 season after sitting out the year due to injuries.

“Her determination led her to the state tournament, and I’m so proud of her. She is a versatile athlete, excels not only in wrestling but also in softball, attracting several college offers for the latter. Given her commitments to softball, she may not continue wrestling next year, making this season particularly special,” Ellis said. “With her potential and versatility, Kylie has a bright future ahead, and I’ll miss her next year.”

Lawson, 170, also went 1-2 at Mat Classic XXXV. She picked up a pinfall victory over teammate Minker on Friday, Feb. 16, in the tournament’s consolation bracket.  

“Madelyn, another multi-talented athlete, shows promise in various sports” Ellis said. “I’m confident that Madelyn’s sweetness and determination will propel her toward success in her future endeavors.

“The match was emotionally challenging on various fronts,” Ellis added. “I genuinely care about both girls involved. After their match, Madelyn and I shared a hug and shed tears together. I expressed how proud I was of her. In response, she acknowledged expressing her own sentiments of sadness. It was a somber moment. My intentions have always been rooted in wanting the best for all these girls.”

Following the conclusion of Mat Classic XXXV, Ellis said she has set several goals for the upcoming season. She aims to organize her playbook meticulously and assess which coaches and volunteers will be involved in the program. 

“As a head coach, I understand that it’s not about knowing everything, but rather assembling the best team for the benefit of the kids,” Ellis said. “I’ll also begin scouting tournaments and potential duals for the next year.”

She said she would also like to see Yelm’s girls and boys wrestling programs integrate, as opposed to keeping them separate. She noted in the past, the two teams were integrated. 

“Reflecting on my first year, which was a roller-coaster ride, I’m eager to start fresh next year, confident that I’ll come in better prepared,” Ellis said.