Yelm High School Continues its Strong Wrestling Tradition

Rainier Wrestlers Face COVID-Exposure Amongst Students

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Yelm and Rainier wrestling teams are truly a tale of two cities, with the former marching on to glory and the latter just hoping to allow its members to compete.

Yelm High School

Yelm High School handily won its first two meets of the season, with a towering 49-15 victory over Capital High School and a hard-fought 44-30 win over North Thurston High School.

Despite a low turnout for his team, longtime coach Gaylord Strand said he is optimistic about the season.

“We have gotten off to a good start this season with wins over Capital High School and North Thurston High School,” Strand said. “Both League wins. ... Despite having low numbers on my squad this year, the wrestlers are working hard and (are) enthusiastic to keep the winning tradition going for the Yelm High School wrestling team.”

By “low numbers,” Strand means he usually has 60 or more wrestlers turn out each year, but this year has only 28.

He said COVID 19-related regulations are to blame for the low turnout.

“The COVID restrictions have really hurt the participation in wrestling not only at Yelm, but in every program across the state,” Strand said.

New wrestling regulations require wrestlers to wear a mask at all times on the mat and when wrestling, and wrestlers are required to pass a quick COVID-19 test twice a week — once on Monday and again on Wednesday. If they miss the test, they are unable to compete.

Yet Strand said he’s happy to see his athlete compete, regardless of the new rules.

“Prior to this year’s season we weren’t sure we would have a season at all,” Strand said. “I am just glad that we can have this year to compete and to build for next year.”

Strand said he has some returning state wrestlers that folks ought to watch for the rest of the season.

They include senior Gage Nelson at 126/132 pounds, who placed second at state last year. Senior Slade Edwards returns at 285 pounds. He came up one match short of bringing home a medal at state last year and junior Jeffery Myers at 120/126 pounds wrestled at state his freshman year, but missed the competition last year.

Meet at a Glance

- Capital High School: 49-15 victory — Jeffery Myers, Jonathan Matthews, Gary Myers, Kyle Creegan and Aiden Rosenberg all pinned their opponents.

- North Thurston High School: 44-30 victory— Gage Nelson and Cael Gendron each pinned their opponents.

Rainier High School

Rainer’s wrestling team lost an invitational, which was held outside at Napavine High School, but coach Chris Holterman said the wrestlers are no worse for the wear.

“It was cool to wrestle outside on the football field under the lights,” he said. “Kids were all rusty, but they had a good time.”

At the invitational, Rainier’s Zach Coleman lost to Forks’ Jesus Garcia-Dominquez 7-5 and Adna’s Cohen Hartley 5-3, while Rainier’s Adrain Hambly lost to Ilwaco’s Chris Lake twice 3-2 for each bout, but pinned Forks’ Colton Duncan in 59 seconds.

Holterman said the season so far has been challenging and difficult with the new COVID-19 regulations.

“At this point, we are just trying to get everyone eligible and cleared so they can participate,” Holterman said, adding that multiple wrestlers are out due to COVID-19 exposure.

He said the wrestlers at practice are working hard.

“The conditioning is coming along and we are just working to get better each day,” he said.

Yet the team has yet to really cut their teeth on the high school wrestling mat.

“We are young in grade and experience both,” Holterman said. “I do have two seniors and a junior with six years of wrestling between the three of them. The rest of the team is underclassmen. The kids are picking up moves they like and focusing on improving those, getting practice time in and getting comfortable with the team.”

Holterman said the new regulations this year really hamper the competition.

“As far as the COVID regulations, it is unfair that wrestling is required to test its participants while other high risk sports are not,” he said. “The people making that decision obviously do not watch sporting events. I know in some publications they said they were concerned about the ‘optics’ of the sport of wrestling because of the close contact. Optics is not science and we keep hearing that all decisions are based on science.”

He said that other sports, such as basketball, pose a greater threat.

“And if they were concerned about optics, they’d be seeing basketball players posting up and in close contact with each other for a greater time period than in wrestling. A wrestling match is six minutes. A basketball game is much longer than that.”

The recent COVID-19 activity at Rainier High School has strained things even more, Holterman said.

“The state says it is safe to be 3 feet away in the classroom, but if a kid has COVID at school, the (department of health) says that anyone closer than 6 feet has to quarantine for two weeks,” Holterman said. “They obviously are not on the same page.”

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