“I kind of went out with a disappointing match at state my freshman year,” Yoder said. “My first match I got a head-and-arm pin.”
Despite his rookie status, Yoder entered the Class 1A state tournament in 2014 as a district champion, but quickly found himself in the consolation bracket after losing his first-round match by pin in a mere 1 minute, 4 seconds.
The loss stung, but Yoder was able to salvage some valuable lessons out of it.
“It made me realize how it’s not about what’s around you. You just have to focus no matter where you are at,” Yoder said. “It kind of opened my eyes to the bigger picture. It’s not just one match. It’s not just one tournament. You have to be consistent all the way through.”
The junior has been the model of consistency on the mat ever since.
Yoder is currently the state’s second-ranked wrestler in the 220-pound 1B/2B classification by the Washington Wrestling Report. He is the only non-senior ranked in the top six and trails only two-time defending state champion Mason McKenzie of Darrington in the rankings.
There’s a thin margin between first and second in the rankings as not much separates Yoder and McKenzie. The two squared off against each other twice last season. Each enjoyed a victory over the other.
Yoder defeated McKenzie, 3-1, in a regional final last year before McKenzie won the rematch, 11-5, the following week in the state championships to successfully defend his title.
“I want to come back and win it this year,” said Yoder, who is also a standout in football and baseball.
It appears the two are on a collision course for another clash at Mat Classic with Yoder cruising through league competition – something, however, he admits isn’t always the best indicator of talent.
“Coming from a smaller division you will sometimes find yourselves in a league match and not have anyone to wrestle,” Yoder said. “You’re just sitting there waiting all day. The number of guys isn’t always there.”
In an attempt to counter that, the Toledo program has sought out some tournaments which feature deeper competition with larger-sized schools participating. One of these tournaments was the 14th annual Pat Alexander Invitational at Tumwater High School – a tournament which drew schools from the 2A, 3A and 4A classes.
The step up in class did little to slow down Yoder as he made short work of the competition during his first three matches at the tournament, pinning all three opponents before losing in the championship round to Tumwater’s Brin Hanson, the state’s fourth-ranked 220-pounder in the 2A classification and a state participant in 2015.
“This (tournament) is good for me. This gives me more competition and a wider variety of opponents,” Yoder said. “Coming from the 2B league, sometimes you don’t always get the competition you really need to compete at the state level. And I think coming here is a great opportunity for me.”
While he excels at wrestling, football remains his top passion.
Toledo’s starting quarterback the past two years, Yoder helped the team to the state semifinals for the first time since 1996 as a sophomore in 2014. This past season he guided the Indians back to the state playoff.
“Football is what I focus on the most,” said Yoder, who is 20-4 as a starter. “I was finally able to convince my mom to let me go to some football camps over the summer rather than doing summer baseball.”
During the summer, Yoder accepted an invite to the Barton Football Academy where he received a private lesson with former Washington State University quarterback Alex Brink.
“I thought it was awesome. He taught me a lot of things I just never picked up on,” Yoder said about working with the former WSU record holder. “This was only my second year of playing quarterback. Freshman year we had a senior quarterback and I played tight end. The next year I got moved to quarterback. So, I am still learning. I always expect more from myself and more from my team than anyone else.”
The gridiron, however, has now been placed on the backburner with Yoder shifting his full attention towards claiming a state wrestling championship.
“I’ve been wrestling since I was a little kid. I got burned out on it in seventh grade and took seventh and eighth grade years off,” Yoder said. “I came back as a freshman and I’ve really enjoyed myself these last three years.”