TACOMA — Jake Velarde was already on a list of elite wrestlers in Washington state when he stepped onto the mat Feb. 16 under the lights of the Tacoma Dome.
The North Kitsap High School senior was one of 70 high school wrestlers to win three state championships, after his 4-1 victory over Joe Grable in 2012.
On Feb. 16, however, Velarde put his name on another list of elite wrestlers after his 3-1 overtime win over Fife’s Maverick Reddaway in the 138-pound division at the 2013 Mat Classic: Velarde became the 10th high school wrestler to win four consecutive state championships.
The excitement over the win hasn’t quieted.
In the hall of the main building at NKHS, a poster congratulating Velarde hangs from the ceiling. He’ll be honored at an assembly congratulating all the winter athletes. Velarde said all the teachers are telling him “good job.” He’s still receiving phone calls and emails from his family.
“It’s been cool,” he said.
To recognize the achievement, Velarde will be the junior grand marshal for Viking Fest this year. Viking Fest is May 17-19.
The soon-to-be North Kitsap graduate joins Pat Connors, Martin Mitchell, Burke Barnes, Brandon Stitch, Jimmy Belleville, Chris Castillo, Derek Garcia, Ryn Rollins, and Drew Templeman on the list of four-title winners. Connors was the first to win his fourth championship, in 1994. Templeman won his fourth in 2012.
The championship match against Reddaway was the first overtime win of the season for Velarde. Though winning his fourth title was in the back of his mind all season, he said he focused on how to finish the match.
It was a close match against Reddaway, but Velarde said he was content with how he was wrestling. As the match neared its end, Velarde could tell Reddaway was getting tired, his feet were getting heavy, he said.
“I was a little worried, just because there was a lot there to lose,” Velarde said.
But Velarde was confident he could get the takedown. And he did, ending the tie with a takedown that scored him the two points he needed to win.
Prior to the championship, Velarde defeated Colville’s Ian Cox (6-3), Sumner’s Jeremy Jackson (16-1), and Orting’s Mike Moniz (6-1).
The win for Velarde marks the end of his high school wrestling career — and the beginning of his college career. He will attend, and wrestle for, Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. His only goal right now is to improve his wrestling.