Yelm High School girls’ wrestling coach Amy Earley talked last season about her team taking the next step – progressing from state participates to state placers and finally state champions.
The Tornados did just that, edging Federal Way at last year’s state tournament by six points to claim the program’s first title.
Junior Phoenix Dubose is ready for such a challenge.
“As a team there is a bit of pressure,” Dubose said. “We know we have to keep a certain standard when we wrestle individually and the way we present ourselves as a team. Every time we step onto that mat we have to have good sportsmanship. We have to respect our opponents, our coaches and each other. Things are different now because we won last year.”
Making those tasks even greater is the fact that Yelm’s roster features several new faces in the mat room, wrestlers who weren’t there last year, but are asked to fulfill the lofty expectations.
They couldn’t ask for a better leader than Dubose.
“It’s coming along. I think we’re doing really well as a team,” DuBose said. “Women’s wrestling is getting so much more recognition at Yelm. I think that we are trailblazers. We’re setting the standards and showing the middle school girls we can be just as good as the boys.”
DuBose did her part in helping the Tornados claim last year’s crown by advancing to the 115-pound finals where she ultimately finished second to three-time state champion Cameron Guerin.
“She’s a natural athlete, but she also knows how to work hard,” Earley said about DuBose. “She’s just an all-around great kid. She’s extremely respectful. We expect wonderful things out of her again at state.”
DuBose sharpen her skill set by attending several wrestling camps over the past year, including a camp at the United States Olympic training academy in Colorado Spring.
“She’s been practicing with some of the best girls in the state and in the nation,” Earley said. “She’s seeing that next level of where she wants to go with it.”
Although she still has two years remaining in her high school wrestling career, DuBose is already thinking about wrestling in college. A 4.0 student, she lists Simon Fraser University as her “dream” school, and will likely have to decide which route to take into college – athletic scholarship or academic scholarship?
DuBose is currently ranked fourth in the 120-pound division by the Washington Wrestling Report.
The Tornados ended 2017 as the top-ranked girls’ overall team in the state. Yelm collected 84 total points. Skyview was second with 67, while Union clocked in at third with 65.
“We have goals we want to reach as a team so we are always pushing each other,” DuBose said. “Everyone in the mat room is helping me get to where I want to be, and I am trying to do the same for them.”
In addition to Dubose, the Tornados feature four other wrestlers ranked among the state’s elite, including sophomore Brooklyn Cutler (sixth, 125 pounds), sophomore Carly Smith (second, 135), senior Chelsey Rochester (third, 140) and senior Ashley Kile (third, 190).
Cutler, Smith and Rochester all placed at state last season with Cutler picking up third at 115, Smith finishing as the 125 runner-up and Rochester claiming eighth at 135. Kile, a state alternate in 2017, has emerged as one of the state’s biggest surprises.
Unranked to start the season, Kile catapulted herself into the top 3 after defeating top-ranked Quinn Lacy of Shelton at the Yelm Invitational, a tournament which drew approximately 400 participants.
“When we started this 11 years ago I said we were kind of the sideshow,” Earley said about the Tornados program. “We would go to boys’ tournaments and they’d run a little round robin for the girls off to the side. We had to do that for a year or two before it really started taking off. In the beginning I was still learning, I was still trying to get my bearings. After about four or five years (Yelm girls’ wrestling) started setting trends in Washington. Now, coaches are contacting me asking, ‘How do we get a program started?’”
The Tornados will compete in a handful of tournaments in January, including the Kelso Invite on January 6, the Lads and Lasses Fight Short Showdown in Fife on January 13 and the Lady Knights Invitational at Kamiak High School on January 27, before heading into the postseason.
“They really liked being state champions last year,” said Earley, who has 31 wrestlers on this year’s squad. “They’ve all been working very hard to get back there this year.”