Sports

Velarde is North Kitsap's golden boy

Jake Velarde shows off his hardware from the 2009 FILA Cadet Pan American Championships in Managua, Nicaragua.  - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Jake Velarde shows off his hardware from the 2009 FILA Cadet Pan American Championships in Managua, Nicaragua.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

HANSVILLE — North Kitsap High freshman Jake Velarde weighs in at barely more than 100 pounds, but he’s not the kind of kid you want to mess with.

The soft-spoken 14-year-old has wrestled his way to national competitions, and last month he won gold on the international scene.

“He’s a pretty complete package,” Velarde’s coach, Jim Burchett, said. “He’s probably the hardest working kid I’ve ever seen.”

In July, Velarde competed in the nation’s premier youth wrestling tournament, the Junior and Cadet National Championships in Fargo, N.D. Velarde took fourth place in his division at the competition, and was subsequently asked to join 19 other young American wrestlers at a tournament in Nicaragua. At the FILA Cadet Pan American Championships, Velarde defeated wrestlers from Peru and Nicaragua to take first place in his 101 lbs. weight class.

“The competition at Fargo, that’s the best of the best of the best,” Velarde said. “I went down to Nicaragua and it wasn’t as tough. It’s a good competition, though.”

The experience was a new one for Velarde, who said his only prior trip outside the country was a few hours spent in Canada.

“I was nervous. I was kind of scared in a way,” Velarde said. “I’d do it again, for sure. It was a good experience in what it’s like outside the U.S.”

Velarde’s family raised the money to send him abroad by selling everything from lollipops to apple pies to hamburgers to Mexican food. And although they were not present at his matches in Nicaragua, the Velarde family cheered their son from their Hansville home.

“His one coach would text me and say, ‘Jake’s gonna be up in a minute,’ and I’d just be rooting him on from the deck,” Susie Velarde, Jake’s mother, said.

Velarde’s road to wrestling success began when he was about 6 years old. As a young football and baseball player, some teammates suggested he join them on the mat. Velarde tried wrestling and enjoyed it.

“I just went to one practice, and I liked it and kept doing it year after year,” Velarde said.

These days, Velarde trains anywhere from four to six days a week, and runs at least four miles per day, most days. Between the rigorous training (which takes place 45 minutes from home, in Seabeck), maintaining a grade point average of 3.9 or better and running other daily errands, Velarde is seldom bored.

“You get used to it,” he said. “It’s fun. It gives you something to do.”

Velarde hopes all the hard work will pay off big in Fargo next summer, where his goal is to take first place in his division. Those who know him like his odds.

“He’s going to have to work hard,” Burchett said. “In any group of population... the top ten percent are overachievers, and he’s one of those overachievers.”

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