Many high school athletes dream of playing a sport in college, but not many even think of playing two and even fewer ultimately make that happen.
But that’s what North Kitsap graduate Cache Holmes is going to do this fall as he heads east to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Southern Virginia University, where he will play football and wrestle for the Division III school. The football team is coached by former NFL offensive lineman Ed Muiltalo, who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 1999.
Holmes had offers to play one sport at several other colleges, and a couple of smaller Division 1 schools gave him walk-on offers, but when Southern Virginia reached out to Holmes about wrestling, he asked if he would be allowed to play football as well. The coaches of both programs were on board. Once he found a school that would allow him to play two sports, he decided to go for a visit.
“What has always been my dilemma is I could never really decide what my favorite sport was. I’ve always been a three-sport athlete since I was little,” said Holmes, who also played baseball.
Southern Virginia is located in the small town of Buena Vista, but it’s only about an hour drive from the larger college towns of Charlottesville (University of Virginia) and Blacksburg (Virginia Tech), as well as another larger city, Roanoke. The combination of the town’s natural rural setting — Holmes enjoys several outdoor activities — small, cozy campus, and its hospitality convinced him it was the right place to go despite being so far away from Poulsbo.
“It’s definitely a very big culture change East Coast to West Coast,” Holmes said. “I love the feeling of the town, the culture, everything they had there. It had a North Kitsap vibe to it.”
Holmes was a three-sport athlete at North Kitsap. He was a three-year starter at linebacker and was the heart and soul of the defensive unit. He served on the offensive line and also occasionally as a back as well. The Vikings reached the state 2A playoffs his junior year. He was also a utility infielder and pitched a bit on the baseball team. This past year, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound linebacker was the defensive MVP of the Olympic League and has been an all-league selection multiple times.
For his efforts both in athletics and the classroom, Holmes was selected as a recipient of the Joe Shandera Award along with fellow senior Alyssa Cullen. Criteria for the award includes not only excellence in athletics, but also maintaining good academic standing, participating in multiple sports, evidence of sacrifice to achieve in the sport, coachability, and admiration accorded by coaches, teammates, teachers and opponents. The award is voted upon by the coaches at North Kitsap.
He has received a number of scholarships, including an academic and friendship scholarship from Southern Virginia as well as a merit grant. He plans to study business management, and already has a small landscaping business with his younger brothers.
Holmes said he was thankful for the coaching he received at North Kitsap, especially from football and wrestling coaches Jeff Weible and Robert Gomez, as well as defensive coordinator Dave Snyder. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Snyder held weekly meetings over Zoom to check in with his players.
“It wasn’t about football, it wasn’t like we were breaking down film and breaking down plays,” Holmes said. “We were really talking about having the right mindset and overcoming obstacles presented to us. We had this really deep discussion for hours on end.”
The possibility of a senior season seemed dim for a while, but eventually, Holmes got to play all three sports one more time. He led North Kitsap to a 5-0 record on the gridiron and was the leading tackler for a stingy defense. He also got to share the field with his two younger brothers Jonah and Mason. He went undefeated during a shortened wrestling season as well.
Being a dual-sport athlete in college will be a big challenge, and soon Holmes will get started. He heads to Virginia in August to begin camp with the football team where he hopes to start as a freshman at linebacker. Southern Virginia went 1-3 in a shortened 2021 season but is switching to a new conference this year, the USA South.
Holmes has lofty goals, such as being a four-year All-American and winning a national title in wrestling before leaving college. He expects to wrestle at around 184 or 197 pounds and will join a program that sent several wrestlers to the NWCA Division III nationals last March.
“I’m absolutely stoked,” Holmes said. “It’s been such a dream of mine to play college sports, and knowing I’m going to be playing with dudes just as good or better than you, it’s such a good experience.”