Brady Mast was the last state champion for the tradition-rich Sedro-Woolley wrestling program.
That was in 2012.
Success came regularly for the Cubs. It was expected. The community clamored for another winner, and the Sedro-Woolley program delivered to the tune of 11 team state championships and 57 individual state titlists since 1953.
It’s fitting that Mast has been handed the task of rekindling the wrestling magic as a first-year coach after a short title drought. The last boys title came in 2007 (but the girls won four in a row from 2009-12).
Mast, 25, knows the expectations.
“The whole town expects you to be a state champion,” Mast said.
He has his work cut out for him, and there will be no shortcut. The only thing to produce that kind of domination is time and devotion to the wrestling craft.
There will be hours upon hours of working with the town’s youth program, SteelClaw Youth Wrestling Club. There will be more time spent getting those young competitors to tournaments outside of the high-school season.
The most consistent programs around the Puget Sound weren’t built in a day. It was more like a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week mentality that thrust the likes of Lake Stevens, Tahoma, Yelm and Orting into the state limelight for the last two decades.
Tahoma coach Chris Feist has built something special for the community of Maple Valley. He built off a foundation already set by former coach Brian Higa and took it to another level.
Of the school’s 35 individual state champions, 19 have won under Feist’s tutelage and the Bears have won two of their four team state titles during his tenure. The first came in 2012 and was followed by a crown in 2017, both in Class 4A.
The Bears have been a top-10 state finisher in all but one of Feist’s 16 seasons and lost just one dual league match since 2008-09. It’s not just about the win-loss column, but the right approach is part of producing those wins.
“It’s more than winning at state each year, and more about winning at life,” Feist said. “We are just using wrestling as the vehicle to teach some of the lessons that will go on for college, their marriages and their careers.”
The only month he takes off from wrestling is August, and it shows on his social media feeds that there’s little downtime.
“We’re a different breed,” said Feist, who also is at the forefront of Bear Claw Wrestling Club for youth wrestlers in the area. “That sense of community is fostered and built at these all-day tournaments.”
The type of kid Feist encounters at Tahoma makes his job easier from the start.
“We have gritty kids and families,” Feist said. “They don’t just understand the sacrifice and the perseverance it takes to get good at (wrestling), they embrace it; they embrace the grind of a season.
“It’s also about belonging to something that’s greater than yourself.”
Yelm coach Gaylord Strand has kept the Tornados as a constant state contender because of a deep and talented roster.
“You have to recruit kids,” said the 67-year-old Strand, who is in his 46th season coaching at Yelm. “Being a P.E. teacher, I had a good place to do that.”
The Tornados last won a boys state title in 2010, but their girls program won in 2018. The school has been a fixture on the state leaderboard, posting top-10 finishes in 11 of the last 12 seasons.
“It doesn’t feel like pressure,” Orting coach Jody Coleman said of his program’s state success and rich tradition. “We have a way of doing things that make the product. The results come from what we do day to day.”
The Cardinals are the only school in the state to produce three four-time state champions — Drew Templeman (2009-12), Fred Green (2012-15) and Alex Cruz (2015-18).
Orting is on a remarkable run at state, finishing third or better in either Class 1A or 2A for the last 14 seasons. The Cardinals reeled off four state crowns in a row from 2009 to 2012 in 1A during that 14-year span to go with six state runner-up showings.
“To be good, it just never stops,” Coleman said. “It’s what I love to do. I’d (coach) for free. But I figured it out one day and I think I make about $1.10 an hour. For me, it’s about the relationships that follow you after it’s done.”
For Lake Stevens and longtime coach Brent Barnes there have been no shortcuts to maintaining consistency over the years and bringing home 11 team state titles and 39 individual state champions.
Barnes is quick to point out it’s not just one person doing the work. His assistant coaches — Dean Width and Andy Knutson — have 54-plus years of coaching experience.
To keep up means more hours in the gym.
“I do more than I ever have,” said Barnes, now in his 32nd season coaching at Lake Stevens. “It’s pretty much a year-round sport.”