Local Wrestling: Future Bearcat Tearing Up Mats Around the Nation

Great Expectations: Two-Time WA Triple Crown Winner, Blake Ely, Eyes Elite Status

By Jordan Nailon

jnailon@chronline.com

When push comes to shove most incoming freshman wind up walking on campus at the end of the summer concerned about making a name for themselves and establishing a good reputation in their new fish bowl for the next four years. For Blake Ely, though, the task at hand will be to prove the reputation that precedes him.

Ely, a 14 year old Chehalis Middle School student, will be attending W.F. West in the fall and considering all of his already considerable accomplishments, proving it will take some heavy lifting, if you will. This year Ely doubled down on one of his most impressive wrestling accolades by capturing his second Washington State Triple Crown in the last three years. This time around he claimed state titles in folkstyle, freestyle, and greco in the Schoolboy class.

And that’s not all. Ely, who currently weighs in right around 149 pounds, already has a total of eight state titles to his credit and he was designated as one of the “Legends of the WSWA” for claiming freestyle titles four straight years from 2016-19.

However, for all the hardware he’s collected over the last few years Ely seems to have kept a modest perspective on things.

“It’s pretty cool. I don’t really think about it that much though,” said Ely of his various successes on the mat.

Ely wrestled for the middle school team during season and he is chomping at the bit to join the Bearcats next year but he began refining his technique at the age of four with the help of his father, Paul Ely. The elder Ely banked heavily on his knowledge from his own prep days donning a singlet during those formative years. Then right around the time Ely was ready to transition to middle school he upped the ante by dedicating countless hours of his “free time” working out with the Twin City Select Mat Cats, a club program coached by Josh Land and Scott Phillips.

Land in particular has been working with Ely for so long that the young wrestler says he sees him more as a family friend at this point. It just so happens that the Ely family has friends who can help a young buck master the art of the double leg takedown at the backyard barbecue.

Ely’s mother, Nikki Ely, rarely misses a match and plays a huge supporting role in her son’s endeavors. She says the running joke is that she’s Blake’s “momager,” and she went out of her way to praise the effort that all of Blake’s coaches have put in over the years.

“We love the people. We love the coaches. The coaches have just been awesome to us,” said Nikki Ely. “We look at it as like hey, if Blake is willing to put in two and a half hours a night and the coaches are willing to put in two and a half hours a night then we are too.”

Phillips, who beginning next year will have to coach against Ely as head coach of the rival Centralia Tigers, was likewise full of compliments for the promising young grappler and his family.

“He’s really put together and he’s matured pretty early,” said Phillips. “He’s got a great family and a great mindset. He listens real well and he’s a real respectful young man. I’ll spend a practice with him teaching him technique and he really soaks it up.”

For his part, Ely says he appreciates the way Phillips has embraced him even though they are destined to be Swamp Cup rivals soon.

“He’s really good. He doesn’t do anything weird just because I’m from W.F. West. He does everything he’d do with Centralia people. He just wants you to be better and be as good as you can be,” said Ely.

Recently Ely qualified as the 149-pound representative for Washington at the National Schoolboy Duals that will be held in Indianapolis in June. Last year he placed third at Reno Worlds after coming down with the flu before the semifinals.

Phillips says that Ely has all of the intangibles that are required for a first rate prep wrestling career but emphasized that there is still a world of work to be done. He noted that early success doesn’t always translate into sustained dominance.

“It just depends on if they keep their mental focus throughout and then what their body turns into. A growth spurt at the wrong time and now they’re tall and long and they lose that X-factor. But I don’t see that happening with him,” Phillips explained. “I see him, if he keeps his focus, as a guy who could be a multiple time state champion.”

One example of Ely’s particular brand of focus and determination was provided over the winter when a series of unfortunate circumstances nearly wiped out his run at the Triple Crown before it even got started.

First he dislocated his knee in December during a tournament in Virginia Beach where he was wrestling for the Scorpions Dynasty national team out of New Jersey. That injury ultimately required five months of rehab, which would be enough to make some people quit. But Ely is a little different. Even when he was hit with a round of Scarlet Fever and then a dose of the flu that caused him to lose 14 pounds during his comeback attempt he never considered giving up his quest to get back on the mat competitively as soon as possible.

Not that his parents didn’t give him the option to back off for awhile.

“He just looked at us like we were crazy,” said Nikki Ely. “I felt like it was as much a physical battle for him as it was mental. Paul and I try to support him wherever we can but we really try to let him run the show.”

Blake Ely first returned to the mat in mid February to claim his folkstyle title at 136 pounds at the Tacoma Dome and then came back near full strength on May 4-5 at The Northwest Sports Hub to claim his freestyle and greco titles at 149 pounds. This week, though, he has been practicing with the Bearcats football squad during their offseason workouts. He says he enjoys his time on the gridiron, where he’s a middle linebacker and running back, since it helps reset his mind.

“Sometimes I get kind of tired of it but it helps having other sports to kind of take a break from because when you get away from it you want to do it more. It’s about finding an even balance,” explained Ely, who also engages in a decidedly country boy brand of relaxation in his spare time. “I kind of just do natural workout. Just working or chopping wood, or getting outside and messing around.”

Ely says his goals for his freshman year at W.F. West will not change from any other competition he’s been in thus far. That means, “Hopefully don’t lose a lot. And maybe win a state championship,” in wrestler speak.

Mostly though, he’s just excited to continue moving forward on his excursion of self improvement through the challenges of amatuer wrestling. Again, that’s the same approach he’s always taken.

“I just kind of tried every sport when I was younger but I just liked wrestling better than other sports…That you don’t have to rely on teammates. Whatever you do it’s up to you,” explained Ely. “It’s a good sport to get into because it teaches you a little bit about everything and if you work hard you’ll be good no matter what.”

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