Wrestling is joy in its purest art form for Kyle Eakins.
“It is an ancient sport that teaches all the right lessons in a very personal and no excuses format,” he said. “Humility, discipline, sacrifice, fraternity, physical and mental endurance, confidence and compassion. Wrestling brings these values together in a way that promotes community but rewards individuality.”
Eakins has been teaching this ancient sport to Canyon Creek Middle School students since 2002. When asked about the key elements he passes on to younger wrestlers just getting started in the sport, Eakins quipped that it was “top secret” before letting his guard down and opening up his heart.
“First you learn to lose, then you learn to wrestle, then you learn to win. Repeat,” Eakins said. “Fun is less than joy. Joy is the product of heart, mind and strength doing hard work every day. We are meant to have joy.”
Living by these guidelines, Eakins was recently selected as the Middle School Coach of the Year by the Washington State Wrestling Association. He received the most votes from 2A classification coaches across the state.
“It is an honor to be recognized as a successful component to a program that has a long Washougal tradition,” Eakins said. “Had I never received an award, it is enough just to work with such a dedicated group of coaches and educators.”
In 2009, the Washougal School District combined the Canyon Creek and Jemtegaard middle school wrestling teams into one program. This created stronger bonds between the Cougar and the Husky wrestlers before moving on to high school to compete together as Panthers.
“We are teaching young men and women how to win, how to overcome and how to improve,” Eakins said. “We walk off the mat the same way we walked on; head high, a firm handshake and with respect for ourselves and our opponent.”
Eakins enjoys watching the Washougal wrestlers grow up in the program. Some shining examples would be two-time state champion Daniel McElhaney, United States Military Academy graduate Kyle Schlauch and current Full-Contact Fighting Federation Light Heavyweight Champion Nick Biron.
Eakins’ son, Wyatt, and daughter, Jessica, both made it to the Tacoma Dome for the first time this season. His nephew, Kyle, and niece, Chelssea, are Washougal wresting graduates. Chelssea is now the head girls wrestling coach at Mountain View High School, in Vancouver.
“It is humbling to watch these wrestlers grow up through our program and go on to more than perhaps we ever imagined,” Eakins said. “It gives us great joy.”
Eakins looks forward to many more years of giving Washougal wrestlers joy. He knows these kids are the key to the future.
“I hope the next generation is better than the last,” he said. “And that there is a spot somewhere on the mat for me as long as I am physically capable.”