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Polillo resigns from Olympic
Steve Polillo wanted to return Olympic High School to championship contention, even if it came out of his own pocket.
When the team’s trophies reached capacity in one case, he brought in another.
Unlike a trophy case, when one gets full you can buy another, a person only gets so many hours in a day.
Polillo, 50, resigned as the wrestling team’s head coach Feb. 24 after three seasons with the Trojans, citing time constraints with work. He led Olympic to three individual state titles, and in 2010, a fourth-place finish at the Class 3A state tournament.
But after balancing his work as a nuclear engineer at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the full-time regimen as a varsity coach, Polillo chose to step away and leave the reins to another candidate.
“I’m going to miss it terribly,” Polillo said Monday. “That’s part of my identity. I say I’m a coach and an engineer, and one precedes the other. Honestly, when I say I’m doing this for the kids and the program, I really mean it.”
Polillo replaced Bobby Manglona as head coach, and since his arrival, helped create the Hammerhead and Olympic Duals tournaments with Doug Dowell. But Polillo’s contributions to Olympic go beyond records and titles.
The former head coach was instrumental in raising enough money to earn two new mats so the wrestling room was padded entirely and more athletes could compete.
Polillo made sure to update the school’s wrestling individual records and title plaques so his athletes were represented.
Looking out for his kids was Polillo’s style.
“I don’t want my departure to be so much about me, but about the kids who worked hard to restore it,” he said. “There are a lot of coaches like me working at it. We’ve managed to restore Olympic’s program because it’s a first-class program that now needs a first-class coach.”
Branden Yeik, a former state champion at Olympic, said Tuesday that the school will miss its coach for his tenacity during meets, and inspiration off the mat. Yeik’s brother, Cody, and sister, Camie, all competed for Polillo.
Branden Yeik now attends the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and credits Polillo with providing him with direction. Polillo retired from the Navy as a commander in 2003.
“I don’t think I would be here if not for Steve,” Yeik said. “Steve always looked out for me and other kids as well. He motivated everyone to be a better person and it will be hard to find another coach like him.”
Polillo said Monday that he will still be involved with the two wrestling tournaments, and depending on the next head coach, will remain active in the Olympic wrestling community.
Olympic Athletic Director Nate Andrews said last week that the school has started its search for a new coach. Andrews added that it was Polillo’s goal to catapult the program back to title status like the days of Darryl Smith, Kitsap Hall of Famer and Olympic’s first wrestling coach who led the team to 11 league titles in 24 seasons.
“We were really fortunate to have a guy like Steve,” Andrews said. “Steve had an interest in getting it back to the days of Darryl or at least back to a foundation where more championships could happen here, and he did so.”