Kaylee Gaines isn’t your typical 17-year-old girl. The Mount Vernon resident is the first-ever women’s Triple Crown wrestling champion in her weight class.
“I started wrestling in the seventh grade, and at first I thought it was funny,” she recalls. “But as it turns out, I fell in love with the sport. When I first started, I only wrestled boys and went undefeated. I couldn’t believe how much fun it was.”
Being a Triple Crown champion means Kaylee won the folkstyle, freestyle and Greco titles for her 117-pound weight class in 2017, the first year that women were able to compete in all three styles of wrestling.
As she grew more serious about wrestling in high school, her parents decided to enroll her in Washington Virtual Academy (WAVA) for greater flexibility to travel to tournaments. Kaylee’s younger sister already attended the online public school.
“We saw how WAVA could benefit Kaylee with her wrestling career,” said her mother, Tyrah Gaines. “In her old brick-and-mortar school, you cannot miss a lot of school or get the one-on-one help that she needs while traveling.”
Kaylee, a senior who just began her second year at WAVA, has enjoyed the flexibility the online school provides. In fact, at the state tournament this past season, she did her schoolwork on the side of the mat – when she wasn’t wrestling on it.
“I can take my school with me wherever I go and do it on my hours,” she said. “WAVA has allowed me to be as flexible as I need to be to allow me to get the training and high-level competition that I need for wrestling. It allows me to be able to travel to more tournaments in different states.”
Kaylee’s teachers at WAVA have also been extremely accommodating of her travel schedule.
“All of my teachers have been so willing to do whatever it takes to help keep me traveling and training,” she said. “They have been very supportive of what I am doing and willing to help me one-on-one when I have needed it. They have even sent me encouraging emails that have been very helpful in my journey! I am really grateful for all of them.”
Kaylee currently wrestles for her local high school team, Mount Vernon High School, as well as for her club team, VANDIT, year round. In addition, she is a National Team member for Washington State, which just won the national championship in Fargo, North Dakota, unseating seven-time national champion California.
As she enters her final year of high school, Kaylee has set some lofty goals for herself. She hopes to become an individual state and national champion, an All-American and a world team member, and eventually represent Team USA. She also hopes to get straight A’s.
As for college, Kaylee is considering Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen, Washington, which currently fields a women’s wrestling team.
“I have big plans for college wrestling,” she said.
When she achieves her dreams, she and her family will know that WAVA helped to set her up for all of her success.
“We could not have asked for better for our daughter,” Tyrah said.