TACOMA — New school. New weight class. Same result.
Tahoma junior Yusief Lillie secured his third consecutive state wrestling championship on Saturday night, defeating Sunnyside sophomore Edward Villanueva 3-1 in the Class 4A 120-pound championship match at Mat Classic XXXII at the Tacoma Dome. Lillie won the 106-pound title as a freshman and the 113-pound title as a sophomore, both at the Class 3A level while attending Bonney Lake High School.
Next year, Lillie will try to become the 17th boys wrestler from Washington to win four state titles.
“Any time a wrestler can have an opportunity to go for their fourth state title, that’s something really special,” Tahoma coach Chris Feist said. “He’s a super-talented, gifted athlete, and just works really, really hard. If he keeps doing that, he’s going to have an opportunity to join a really elite group of kids that have won four state titles.”
Two of Lillie’s three points in the championship match came after being poked in the eye by Villanueva. He scored the other point via an escape. It might not have been the prettiest match of all time, but it was enough for Lillie to earn his first state title as a member of the Bears.
Not lost on the junior is the opportunity to come next season.
“I’m excited,” Lillie said. “I’m chasing that fourth, and no one is going to stop me.”
Lillie wasn’t the only Tahoma wrestler to win a state title. Junior Steele Starren won his second state title in three years, claiming the crown at 145 pounds. Starren won the championship at 126 pounds as a freshman and placed fifth at 138 pounds as a sophomore.
“I think it shows that I can get past adversity,” Starren said. “Last year, was a super tough year. I had surgery right after (the season). It just wasn’t my year. It was a super-tough weight class. It wasn’t my best performance, so it was big to come here and dominate throughout the tournament.”
Starren hadn’t been taken down in a match in Washington this season, something that came to an end when Kennedy Catholic sophomore Mateo De La Pena scored a takedown in the final seconds of the championship match. Luckily for Starren, the result of the match was not in doubt.
Tahoma junior Levi Kovacs also won the title at 220 pounds, outlasting Union’s Levi Harms 3-1 in the championship. Senior Michael Gasper earned a second-place finish, falling 3-2 to Chiawana sophomore Isaiah Anderson in the title match at 195 pounds.
The Bears finished third in the Class 4A team standings, behind Sunnyside, which finished second, and back-to-back champion Chiawana.
O’Dea’s Camacho repeats at 220 pounds
O’Dea senior Dustyn Camacho became the second Metro League wrestler to win two state titles, and the first to win back-to-back titles when he pinned Yelm senior Cameron Dubose in 2:54 in the Class 3A 220-pound championship match.
Camacho, who wore a large brace on his left knee throughout the tournament, missed significant time this season with a knee injury, but that didn’t stop him from breezing through the competition.
“That’s the way I envisioned it,” Camacho said. “A lot of people said I wouldn’t get on the mats at all this year, but it’s just the dog in me. I don’t quit the fight. I go out no matter what. If I had a broken leg or something, I’d still go out. It’s just the dog in me.”