Unbeaten and trailing the two-time defending state champion, Federal Way’s Kayla McKinley-Johnson refused to buckle inside the wrestling circle under the Saturday night lights at the Tacoma Dome.
Instead, the Eagles’ 100-pound sophomore dynamo pulled a surprising reversal in the 4A finals at Mat Classic XXXII.
Saving her best for last against Hanford’s heralded Taylor Wilson, McKinley-Johnson rallied from five points down to pull even after six minutes of regulation, then unleashed a decisive takedown with 46 seconds left in the one-minute overtime period to seize the title.
The sudden victory sent McKinley-Johnson darting off the mat in celebration, landing in the arms of her coach, Travis Mango, for a hug.
This small Eagle took flight and didn’t panic when she temporarily lost control of the match. She finished the season 35-0 and nationally ranked.
“I was like, ‘You’ve got to keep your composure. You have to push it, Kayla, don’t give up,’ ” McKinley-Johnson said of her 11-9 conquest. “I didn’t want to let anybody down. … I said, ‘You’ve got this, you deserve this.’ I reminded myself of the work I put in the whole year. The double practices, staying up late, missing some homework just to get some good wresting in and pushing myself.”
McKinley-Johnson, who also won dramatically by sudden victory in the semifinals, was one of two Federal Way state champions.
London Houston, a nationally ranked 130-pound junior, capped her dominating weekend by wearing down Granger’s Viktorya Torres with a 10-2 major decision in the championship bout. Houston, 38-1, won her three earlier matches by pin.
For Houston, it was her second consecutive title. As a sophomore, she won the 125-pound championship. Torres, making her fourth consecutive trip to the state finals for her career, was left bloodied.
“I just went out there and gave it all I could,” Houston said. “I just gave it all I had. I just wanted this.”
The Eagles’ Jennifer Tongi (47-4) took bronze at 155 pounds. After dropping her quarterfinal match, the senior Tongi won her next four matches, including a 6-2 decision against Union’s Nevaeh Cassidy for third place.
Behind the trio, Federal Way completed a satisfying and rewarding season on the mats. Fourth last year in the 4A team standings, the Eagles were fourth again this season.
At 105, Paulina Fabela-Santos (25-16) competed at state but did not place for the Eagles.
“What they did to get to where they are is absolutely phenomenal and, as their coach, I couldn’t be more proud,” Mango said of his team.
“They battled from the first practice, through every single tournament, through the ups and downs,” he said. “They learned more about themselves in these last two days than I think I’ve been able to teach them during the season. It’s fun to watch them and to have their goals and their ambitions truly come to fruition.”
Gators place two
Decatur’s 106-pound sophomore Collin Jack (35-5) and 170-pound senior Bradley Tyack (40-6) wound up with silver.
Sunnyside’s Elijah Barajas denied Jack, surviving a hard-fought 1-0 decision in the final. Tyack stormed into the finals where Kyle Brosius of Union won by decision, 11-7.
At 160 pounds, junior Brad Clay (31-11) took sixth.
The Gators fielded seven wrestlers at state and will return most of its roster next year. The program has a bright future.
“It was a young squad we brought in, with two seniors,” said coach Tevyn Tillman. “We wrestled tough. … We had a top 10 finish as a team, that’s not bad.”
Thomas Jefferson’s Goddess Ma’alona-Faletogo (31-4), a runner-up at 235 pounds last year as a junior, finished fourth in the same weight class with a 31-4 mark. Teammates Lizbeth Duran (24-10) was fourth at 135 pounds and Griselda Cuevas (17-10) placed sixth at 100 pounds for the Raiders.
White River captured the girls 4A team championship.
Chiawana took the 4A boys team title. Decatur finished 10th.