Several North End athletes going for the gold at state

North Kitsap High School wrestlers, from left, AJ Milyard, Josh Tucker, Donny Stamaris, Allan Dunlap, Jake Velarde and Michael Coulter will compete at the Mat Classic XXII state wrestling championships today and Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.  - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
North Kitsap High School wrestlers, from left, AJ Milyard, Josh Tucker, Donny Stamaris, Allan Dunlap, Jake Velarde and Michael Coulter will compete at the Mat Classic XXII state wrestling championships today and Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

For athletes at North Kitsap and Kingston high schools, this weekend marks the pinnacle of what they’ve worked for during the long winter season.

Beginning today, North End wrestlers, gymnasts and one swimmer will compete for a shot at a state title in their respective sports. Gymnastics and wrestling events take place at the Tacoma Dome, and the swim championships are at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

This year North Kitsap High School is sending more wrestlers to state than it has since 1998. Five Viking grapplers and one alternate will take their skills to Mat Classic XXII, beginning at 10 a.m. today in Tacoma. The group includes three freshmen and two seniors, but despite the difference in their ages, this is the first state tournament berth for each of them.

Leading the Vikings is the state’s No. 1-ranked 112-pounder, Hansville native Jake Velarde. Though he’s only a freshman, Velarde has developed a reputation as one of the toughest wrestlers in the state. He has done so by qualifying for national tournaments in the past and winning 35 of 37 matches this season.

“It’s been a good year,” Velarde said at practice Tuesday.

Velarde qualified for the state meet last week at the Class 3A’s Region 3 championships in Vancouver. He finished second to Olympic High sophomore Cody Yeik, the No. 2-ranked wrestler in the 112-pound class. It was the fourth time the two had met this season, and only the first time Yeik had bested Velarde.

“It just makes me work harder,” Velarde said of the rare loss. “It makes me want to go out there and win it even more.”

Joining Velarde at the Mat Classic are fellow freshmen AJ Milyard (135 pounds) and Josh Tucker (103 pounds). They may be some of the youngest wrestlers at the Tacoma Dome this weekend, but the trio is trying not to let that fact bother them. As far as they’re concerned, age makes no difference.

“My dad said, ‘It doesn’t matter what grade they’re in — they’re high schoolers,’” Milyard said.

North Kitsap seniors Donny Stamaris (125 pounds) and Allan Dunlap (160 pounds) see the state tournament as the fulfillment of long-time goals. Both expect to be challenged this weekend.

“If it’s a good wrestler, I look forward to it,” Dunlap said of the competition, “because I know it’s going to be a tough match.”

Michael Coulter, the only other senior on the freshman-heavy Viking squad, will be the team’s alternate in the 140-pound division.

Kingston sending a trio to Mat Classic

Kingston High will send three wrestlers and four alternates to the Tacoma Dome today. Senior Travis Schriner leads the Buccaneers after winning the 189-pound title in the Class 2A’s Region 2 tournament last week in Tacoma. Last year, Schriner was ousted from the state meet after just three matches. He hopes for redemption this time around.

“Travis is just really mature for his age, so in a wrestling match, he finds himself in a good position,” Kingston coach Bobby Reece said.

Freddy Rodolf, a junior, will represent the 215-pound class for the Buccaneers. He won a trip to Tacoma after placing second at the regional meet last week. Rodolf’s sister, Ivy, will also compete at the Mat Classic. She placed fifth in the girls’ 112-pound division at the regional meet.

“I feel really good about the kids going,” Reece said. “Our numbers are getting better. Last year, we had the same number of kids going to state that we have this year, but we didn’t have any alternates. So I think our numbers will get better next year.”

Kingston’s quartet of alternates includes Devin Jacob in the 103-pound class, Alex Lambert in the 125-pound class, Michael Johnson in the 130-pound class and Sam English in the 140-pound class.

North End gymnasts return to state

An hour before the wrestlers take to the mat, a group of gymnasts from the North End gymnasts will tumble their way into the Tacoma Dome.

For the second year in a row, the North Kitsap High gymnastics team is headed to the state finals. The Vikings placed third at the West Central District III tournament Feb. 13, behind Auburn Mountainview and Mount Rainier high schools to clinch the state berth. Top-ten finishers for North included Melissa Kunold on vault, bars, floor and all-around, Lauren Wageman on vault, bars and all-around, and McKenna Elves on floor.

Preliminary team competitions begin at 9 a.m. today, and individual events kick off at 1 p.m. The team placed seventh last year in its first trip to the state tournament. Kunold was the only Viking to qualify for the final round of individual competition last year, and placed ninth overall on the balance beam.

Two Kingston High gymnasts will also compete at the state championships today. Dana VanWyck, a junior, returns to the state meet for the second year in a row. She qualified on the bars, beam, floor and vault at last week’s district championships. Megan Keller, a freshman, will join her on the bars. VanWyck qualified for last year’s state meet on the bars, floor and vault, but did not get past the preliminary round of competition.

North End swimmers to compete at state

Five North End swimmers will compete at the state swim championships this weekend at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

North Kitsap’s 200-yard medley relay team finished eighth at the West Central District tournament last week, with a time of 1 minute, 49.75 seconds, to qualify for the state meet. The team includes seniors Glenn Runnels, Kyle Eggers, Tyler Rencher and Josh Despard.

Despard also qualified for the state meet in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 23.35 seconds at the district meet.

Kingston will send one swimmer, Jack Murdock, to the state meet. Murdock finished the 500-yard freestyle swim in second place at the district meet, with a time of 6:09.32.

An earlier story on this Web site stated Josh Despard was the only North End swimmer going to state. That information was incorrect. This article corrects that earlier story.

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