Kenai Central’s was turned a shade of green Saturday, when the Colony Knights took control at the Northern Lights Conference wrestling tournament.
Colony stormed its way to a fourth straight conference championship with a dominating power display on Cliff Massie Court, winning eight of the 15 weight class titles to amass 438 points, topping runner-up Wasilla by 63.5 points. Soldotna took fourth to finish highest among peninsula schools with 148.5 points and Kenai was sixth with 53.
The Outstanding Wrestler of the Meet award was shared between three athletes — Colony’s 113-pounder Rush Fannon, Wasilla’s 138-pounder Berit Sturgeon and Colony’s 145-pounder Eric Christy. The Coach of the Year award also was shared, between Palmer’s Don Malone and Daniel Graham.
In a rare showing, neither Kenai nor Soldotna took home any NLC boys wrestling titles. The Kardinals failed to get any athletes into a championship final, while Soldotna went 0 for 4 in title bouts.
In the 98-pound final, SoHi’s Logan Craig was pinned in an extra period of action after tying with Austin Edwards of Colony after three rounds. Later, in the 113-pound final, Gideon Hutchison was pinned just a minute into the match by Colony’s Rush Fannon. Bechler Metcalf was handed a 3-2 loss in the 152-pound title round by Wasilla’s Andrue Shepersky, and in the 182-pound final, Brenner Furlong was pinned by Dawson Nash of Colony.
Ultimately, the Stars advanced nine wrestlers to the season-ending state tournament next weekend.
“I’d say we’re happy to be bringing nine to state, and now it’s time to get ready,” said Soldotna coach Neldon Gardner.
The Stars did, however, earn two titles in the girls tournament, as Vydell Baker and Amanda Wylie, both SoHi freshmen, took home the big prize.
Baker won her first region title at the 132-pound division, pinning Allison Garcia of Colony in the third round. For Baker, the accomplishment meant a lot to her, in more ways than one.
Baker said her older brother, Garyn, is suffering from Lymphoma, a cancer of the body’s lymphatic system, and could not take part in the high school wrestling season. Garyn is a junior this year, but is currently receiving treatment in Anchorage.
Growing up with her brother, Vydell said she became interested in the sport because it takes a combination of strength and skill to win. Two years ago, she joined the middle school wrestling team on a whim, but fractured her elbow her eighth-grade year and missed most of the season.
Saturday at Kenai, Baker’s victory felt all the sweeter knowing her brother would be proud.
“It’s pretty amazing,” she said. “As a freshman, it’s big for me.”
Baker said Garcia made a mistake in the match, allowing Baker to roll her opponent onto her back.
“After she tried to stand up, she lost her balance and I landed on top of her,” Baker said.
For Wylie, the girls region title at 145 pounds played out similarly, only with an added shot of intensity. Wylie and Nicholai traded moves to the point of a 15-10 lead for Wylie in the third round. At one point, Wylie had Nicholai in a headlock on the mat, but the referee stopped the clock after Nicholai reached up for Wylie’s face.
From there, Wylie was able to again lock Nicholai up, this time finishing the job with 1:06 left in the match.
“It’s amazing, I didn’t think I was gonna win,” Wylie said. “I had to beat my teammate (Elizabeth Lisenby in Friday’s semis) to get there, so it feels good.”
Like Baker, Wylie said her brother also played a big role in her life and her wrestling bug.
“He was always picking on me, so I thought I’d try wrestling,” Wylie explained. “This is for him and my dad.”
Shortly after Wylie’s victory at 145 pounds, Bechler Metcalf stepped onto the mat to contest the 152-pound boys title. Metcalf took a 2-1 lead after two rounds on a takedown, but Shepersky came back with a near fall to score two points with under 60 seconds remaining.
“Bechler was going for the reversal and the other kid caught him,” Gardner explained.
Furlong’s loss came quickly, as he fell into a 4-0 hole against Nash, the top-ranked wrestler in the state at 182 pounds, and only lasted 71 seconds before Nash caught him in a pin.
In the 98-pound title clash, Craig led 4-3 after the second round, but Edwards scored an escape to tie it up, forcing an extra overtime round. With 31 seconds left in the one-minute round, Edwards pinned Craig.
Hutchison, a region champion last year as a freshman, lasted just a minute before his pin by Fannon, who later was named co-Outstanding Wrestler.
In all, 11 of the 30 championship round participants were Colony athletes, and the Knights qualified 26 wrestlers to state — 22 for the boys tournament and four girls — making for a proud coach Todd Hopkins.
“It never gets old,” Hopkins said. “It comes down to a couple things, the coaching staff remains consistent in teaching the kids what they need to know, and the kids do what’s asked of them.”
In the aftermath of its home meet, Kenai qualified three wrestlers to next weekend’s state tournament; Tyler Vaughn at 120 pounds, Jacob Anderson at 138 and Keyshawn McEnerney at 152. McEnerney, the leading contender in his weight class, failed to advance into the title round and finished fourth.
Northern Lights Conference
At Kenai Central High School
Team scores — 1. Colony, 438 points; 2. Wasilla, 374.5; 3. Palmer, 254.5; 4. Soldotna, 148.5; 5. Kodiak, 112; 6. Kenai, 53.
98 — Austin Edwards, Col, pin Logan Craig, Sol, 6:29; 106 — Vincent Cramer, Col, md. Alexander Logsdon, Was, 14-4; 113 — Rush Fannon, Col, pin Gideon Hutchison, Sol, 1:00; 120 — Micah Mathis, Was, md. Trace Severson, Col, 8-0; 126 — Isaiah Elvsaas, Was, tech. Isaac Rodman, Was, 16-0; 132 — Dillon Simpson, Was, inj. def. Christion Alexander, Was, 3:15; 138 — Berit Sturgeon, Was, dec. Levi Hopkins, Col, 2-0; 145 — Eric Christy, Col, dec. Samuel Wolff, Was, 7-6; 152 — Andrue Shepersky, Was, dec. Bechler Metcalf, Sol, 3-2; 160 – Caleb Hopkins, Col, pin Jeffrey Glynn, Pal, 4:28; 170 — Christian Kurka, Pal, dec. Zion Rogers, Pal, 5-2; 182 — Dawson Nash, Col, pin Brenner Furlong, Sol, 1:12; 195 — Robert Haan, Col, pin Chayse Eby, Col, :34; 220 — Isaiah Christy, Col, dec. Chase Minnick, Was, 8-4; 285 — Austin Farris, Pal, med. fft. Ezra Lincecum, Was.
98 — Jacob Harvey, Col, pin Jack Fuller, Was, :48; 106 — Odin Anderson, Pal, dec. Bryan Gonzalez, Kod, 12-5; 113 — Hunter Sasser, Col, bye; 120 — Tyler Vaughn, Ken, fft. Riley Birbilas, Kod; 126 — Kolby Torres, Col, dec. Gabe Whisman, Col, 8-4; 132 — Russel Dela Cruz, Kod, dec. Daniel Colley, Col, 6-1; 138 — Jacob Anderson, Ken, dec. Matthew Agoney, Was, 4-2; 145 — Hayden Steiner, Was, dec. Josh Nummer, Kod, 8-3; 152 — Levi Farris, Pal, dec. Keyshawn McEnerney, Ken, 3-2; 160 — Jason Watkins, Pal, md. Frank Urbano, Col, 9-0; 170 — Simon Ganchenko, Col, pin Abraham VanHout, Sol, 2:31; 182 — Hunter Hongslo, Was, pin Coa Gamble, Col, :55; 195 — Blake Tomlinson, Pal, dec. Jeffrey Palmer, Was, 9-8; 220 — Travis Wheeler, Pal, pin Aaron Faletoi, Sol, 2:26; 285 — Klancey Doyle, Col, pin Josh Smith, Kod, :42.
98 — Charles Jones, Was, md. Ben Booth, Sol, 15-2; 106 — Marcus Riedlinger, Col, tech. Payton Portney, Pal, 16-1; 120 — Felino Macatuno, Kod, bye; 126 — Jayden Christianson, Pal, pin Troy Gilbert, Ken, :59; 132 — Travis Howell, Sol, dec. Sidney Watchus, Pal, 6-2; 138 — Asa Barnes, Pal, pin Macarius Floresta, Col, 4:54; 145 — Scott Larionoff, Kod, dec. Hunter Bleakney, Pal, 3-1; 152 — Gabe Nummer, Kod, dec. Brennan Easley, Col, 3-1; 160 — Cole George, Was, dec. Brennan Werner, Sol, 4-2; 170 — Austin Schrader, Sol, pin Jacob Anderson, Was, 3:26; 182 — Frankie Guevara, Kod, pin Aaron Zitnik, Pal, 2:05; 195 — Truxton Troxell, Kod, pin Elbren Montuya, Kod, 2:18; 220 — Maximus Stokes, Was, pin Tuker Eby, Col, :53; 285 – Austin Reeves, Sol, dec. Stormy Vandermartin, Was, 5-2.
Girls championship matches
106 — Bessie Twitchell, Was, pin Robyn Holbrook, Col, :39; 120 — Krystal Fabricante, Kod, tech. Kayley Farwell, Col, 18-2; 132 — Vydell Baker, Sol, pin Allison Garcia, Col, 4:25; 145 — Amanda Wylie, Sol, pin Teeana Nicholai, Was, 4:54; 160 — Danielle Stotler, Col, pin Sade Middleton, Kod, :43.
Girls 3rd-place matches
120 — Josephine Amaktoolik, Was, bye; 145 — Zhanelle Tuquib, Kod, pin Elizabeth Lisenby, Sol, 3:00.
Girls 5th-place matches