This one’s for you Grandpa Bones.
Cousins Kyle and Wyatt Eakins were thinking the same thing before they stepped on the wrestling mat at Washougal High School Wednesday. They both wanted to win a match for their grandfather Sam Jones, who had died in the morning from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 67.
Wyatt Eakins kicked off an exciting contest for the Washougal Panthers by pinning Ben Zora of Hockinson in about three minutes. The Panthers fell behind the Hawks by 16 points, before Washougal seniors Matt Wilson and Tyler Purkeypyle both pinned their opponents on “Senior Night.”
It all came down to one more Eakins. As the Panthers took a 32-30 advantage going into the second-to-last match of the night, senior Kyle Eakins pinned Walker Gillespie’s shoulders to the mat after an exhausting third round where both wrestlers fought off their backs.
Gillespie got the first takedown of the match, but Eakins escaped just before the end of the first round. Eakins then delivered a huge takedown for a 3-2 lead heading into the final two minutes. The last round began with Eakins rolling on top for a near fall to increase his lead to 8-4, but Gillespie still had one more trick up his sleeve.
All of the sudden, Eakins was on his back and cheers from the Washougal crowd turned to screams of terror. But Eakins was able to counter Gillespie’s momentum and flop back on top. As the Panther jungle gym thundered around the two wrestlers, the referee slammed his hand on the mat to signal a pin fall victory for Eakins.
“What I’ll remember about that match is how my grandpa helped me strive to finish that match strong,” Kyle Eakins said. “I’m sure he would have been proud of me.
“I’ve been wrestling my whole life. This is one of those dreams you have as a little kid, to win the big match for your team,” he added. “It feels awesome to be able to live up to a dream I’ve had for a long time.”
The Panthers finished off the Hawks 42-32. Rogelio Sanchez won the final match by a forfeit. Wrestling in his first varsity match for Washougal earlier in the meet, freshman Nick Velardi pinned his opponent in less than 30 seconds. Josh Economides also delivered a pin fall victory on the comeback trail for the Panthers.
Like many of the Washougal fans on the edge of their seats, Wyatt Eakins couldn’t take his eyes of his cousin’s match.
“Grandpa said he always wanted to watch us wrestle since he got that condition. Tonight, he finally did,” Wyatt Eakins said. “It’s so awesome that he got to see Kyle and I go out there and tear it up. He probably has a smile right now, from ear to ear.”
Neither could Jessica Eakins, Wyatt’s sister and Kyle’s other cousin. She is a freshman wrestling on the Washougal girls team.
“I don’t think I have ever cheered as loud as I did that night for Wyatt and Kyle,” she said.
The three Eakins shared a special day at the Clark County tournament Jan. 14, at Union High School in Camas. Jessica captured the 100-pound county championship, Wyatt finished with a fourth-place medal at 106 pounds and Kyle clinched a sixth-place medal at 285 pounds.
“Wrestling has become like a legacy in our family,” Jessica said. “It’s fun to live it.”
Head coach John Carver said the Eakins’ family roots are embedded in the Washougal wrestling program. Kyle and Stephanie Eakins, parents of Wyatt and Jessica, both coach the Canyon Creek and Jemtegaard middle school teams. Thad and Jennifer Eakins, parents of Kyle, have been scorekeepers for the Panthers for the past six years. Their daughter Chelssea Eakins wrestled in the first girls state tournament for Washougal in 2007. She won three state medals in her high school career.
Thad Eakins has a cousin named Randy Lees. Back in the 1990s, Lees won the first state medal for the Panthers since Carver took over as head coach. Randy Lees is the father of Abby and Tanner Lees. On Jan 15, Abby and Tanner brought home medals from the Oregon Classics wrestling tournament in Redmond, Ore.
“From September to February, that’s the time of the year our family goes all over the place to wrestle,” Kyle Eakins said. “It’s been some of my fondest memories growing up.”
On a day when Kyle and Wyatt Eakins lost their grandpa, they had wrestling to fall back on. It turned what could have been one of the worst days of their lives into one of the best days they ever had.
“Grandpa meant a lot of things to me,” Kyle said. “He was the epitome of hard work. He worked hard for everyone, just to make them happy.”
“Grandpa can watch us wrestle all the time now,” Wyatt said. “It makes me love wrestling just that much more.”