For the first time in years, larger schools competing at the North-South Duals wrestling tournament held Friday and Saturday at Soldotna Prep had to be on their game.
Since a schedule change prior to the high school wrestling season synced up the two season slates for the larger, Class 4A, schools and the smaller, Class 1-2-3A, schools, the way teams approach the season has changed. Instead of their season ending in early February, the larger schools now see their season ending on par with the small teams before the holiday break.
With the region tournaments beginning next weekend, the large schools don’t have nearly the amount of time to prepare, which put the impetus on this weekend’s North-South tournament.
Colony cruised to the North-South championship Saturday with a 52-28 dual win over Valley rival Wasilla.
In the third-place dual, Homer and Soldotna rehashed a growing friendly rivalry with another close meeting. Once again, it was Soldotna getting the better of Homer in a 46-36 result. The last time the Stars and Mariners met on the mat Nov. 14, SoHi left with a slim 39-34 dual win over Homer to win the Peninsula Duals championship in Nikiski.
The Stars began Saturday with a 54-27 dual win over Grace Christian, then lost 45-34 to Wasilla to advance SoHi to the third-place dual with Homer.
“It’s a good indication of where we’re at currently,” Soldotna assistant coach Joe Cudd said. “We still have the opportunity to get better in certain areas.”
In addition to having to prepare for the upcoming region and state meets, teams also experienced a format change, which saw the North-South meet going from an individual bracket system to a team dual bracket competition. Why is that good?
Cudd said it allows whole teams to gather at one mat to cheer on teammates, instead of having to search around four separate mats and two gyms to give support.
“We were preparing for it in a different way,” Cudd said. “It’s good for a team bonding experience, and it develops the team because everyone’s in one spot.”
The leading wrestlers for the Stars shone brightly. SoHi freshman Gideon Hutchison went 3-0 over the weekend, all due to pins at 113 pounds, while senior brother Seth Hutchison won both his matches by pins at 126 pounds.
Bechler Metcalf was 4-1 with three pins at 145 pounds, and Austin Schrader went 3-1 at 170 pounds.
Homer coach Chris Perk, who is accustomed to the season ending in December, said his Mariners squad had three grapplers that stayed home for injuries.
“It’s hard wrestling 40 or 50 matches in seven or eight weeks,” Perk said. “It’s a grind.”
Nevertheless, Homer ended taking home fourth-place honors. Luciano Fasulo (120 and 126 pounds) went 3-1 with two pins, while Timmy Woo went 4-1 at 152 pounds, and Tristen Cook (170) went 4-1 with three pins.
Perk applauded the efforts of several Mariner grapplers, pointing out a few athletes that beat opponents that they had previously lost to. Among them, Alex Moseley, who was pinned by SoHi’s Charles Meyer in an earlier JV match, but returned to beat Meyer in an 8-7 decision in the 113-pound final.
Also, Mackenzie Cook lost twice to Houston’s Bryan Conrad, but came back to beat Conrad in a 3-1 decision at 138 pounds. Homer sophomore Levi King — who Perk labelled as the “utility guy” that can wrestle at multiple weight classes — pinned Wasilla’s Johnathan Inch in a 195-pound match.
“Those are the kinds of things that you like to see as the season progresses,” Perk said.
Perk said he still believes in winning the region tournament, and added that a top-three finish at state is attainable.
Homer began Saturday with a 43-37 dual win over Houston, then lost 73-3 to the eventual champion Colony Knights.
“Colony gave us everything they had there,” Perk said. “We’re so young and the freshman are tired, and the rest of them are wrestling twice the number of matches we usually do.”
In the fifth-place match, held in the adjacent gym at Soldotna Prep, Houston barely edged Nikiski 41-38.
Nathan Carstens went 3-1 over the weekend with three pins at 170 pounds, T.J. Cox finished at 3-1 at 120 pounds, Donovan Smith went 4-1 with three pins at 126 and 132 pounds, and Luke Johnson went 3-0, all by pin, at the 220-pound level.
Nikiski started Saturday with a 65-23 dual loss to Wasilla, then defeated Grace Christian 48-27 to set the Bulldogs up with the dual with Houston.
In the seventh-place dual, Grace topped Kenai 42-22. The Kards began Saturday with a 78-9 dual loss to eventual champs Colony, then lost to Houston 52-15, placing the Kards in the seventh-place dual with Grace.
Keyshawn McEnerny went 4-1 through the meet at 152 pounds, while Zach Koziczkowksi (at 285 pounds) pinned all three of his opponents he faced with a combined time of 1:26.
The opening matchups for Saturday were set Friday with two rounds of pool play. In Round one, Colony beat Nikiski 66-10, Grace beat Kenai 42-32, Wasilla beat Homer 42-30 and Soldotna defeated Houston 46-40. In round two, Colony topped Grace 64-9, Homer beat Kenai 64-6, SoHi beat Nikiski 48-37 and Wasilla topped Houston 45-20.
Colony 52, Wasilla 28
98 — Rush Fannon, Col, forf; 106 — Trace Severson, Col, p. Kayden Wall, Was, 2:50; 113 — Micah Mathis, Was, p. Gabe Whisman, Col, 4:22; 120 — Levi Hopkins, Col, p. Isaac Hansen, Was, :57; 126 — Isaiah Elvsaas, Was, p. Jacob Jakiemiec, Col, 1:12; 132 — Dillon Simpson, Was, maj. Anthony Miley, Col, 14-4; 138 — Caleb Hopkins, Col, dec. Samuel Wolff, Was, 3-0; 145 — Chace Booth, Col, dec. Andrew Newland, Was, 7-3; 152 — Andrue Shepersky, Was, p. Brennan Easley, Col, 3:02; 160 — Chase Fannon, Col, p. Elijah Leonard, Was, 3:43; 170 — Jordan Nero, Col, p. Cory Dahlberg, Was, 2:13; 182 — Dawson Nash, Col, maj. Cablin Wilson, Was, 13-2; 195 — Robert Haan, Col, p. Johnathan Inch, Was, :33; 220 — Chase Minnick, Was, p. Isaiah Christy, Col, 5:05; 285 — Klancey Doyle, Col, forf.
Soldotna 46, Homer 36
98 — Wayne Newman, Hom, p. Logan Craig, Sol, :25; 106 — Gideon Hutchison, Sol, p. Jadzia Martin, Hom, 1:24; 113 — Alex Moseley, Hom, dec. Charles Meyer, Sol, 8-7; 120 — Luciano Fasulo, Hom, forf; 126 — Seth Hutchison, Sol, forf; 132 — Anthony Long, Sol, forf; 138 — Logan Schrader, Sol, maj. McKenzie Cook, Hom, 16-4; 145 — Bechler Metcalf, Sol, p. Tyler Johnson, Hom, :55; 152 — Timmy Woo, Hom, dec. Talon Musgrave, Sol, 10-3; 160 — Abraham VanHout, Sol, forf; 170 — Tristen Cook, Hom, p. Austin Schrader, Sol, 4:38; 182 — Kyle Wells, Hom, forf; 195 — Paul Wilcox, Sol, forf; 220 — Jadin Mann, Hom, p. Jared Knight, Sol, 1:05; 285 — Dalton Best, Sol, forf.
Houston 41, Nikiski 38
98 — Malcolm Yerkes, Nik, forf; 106 — Gabe Smith, Nik, p. Jessie Merrick, Hou, 2:13; 113 — double forf; 120 — T.J. Cox, Nik, maj. Damien Jessup, Hou, 17-6; 126 — Donovan Smith, Nik, p. Lane Guim, Hou, 4:00; 132 — Robert House, Hou, forf; 138 — Justin Cox, Nik, maj. Bryan Conrad, Hou, 14-6; 145 — Etienne Kinney, Hou, p. Matthew Hollinger, Nik, 2:36; 152 — Tristyn Dehart, Hou, forf; 160 — Terry Jackson, Hou, tech. Dustin Mullins, Nik, 17-0; 170 — Nathan Carstens, Nik, p. Noah Plumb, Hou, 4:24; 182 — Robert Ritter, Hou, forf; 195 — Michael House, Hou, p. Dakota Hupp, Nik, :14; 220 — Ezra Lincecum, Hou, p. Tyler Litke, Nik, 1:13; 285 — Luke Johnson, Nik, p. Dylan Jackson, Hou, :53.
Grace Christian 42, Kenai Central 22
98 — double forf; 106 — double forf; 113 — Alhrik Schomer, Gra, forf; 120 — Jeremy DeVries, Gra, forf; 126 — double forf; 132 — Jacob Anderson, Ken, p. Todd Knell, Gra, 4:49; 138 – Keaton Logston, Ken, p. Jonathan Witt, Gra, 1:28; 145 — Chase Eber, Gra, forf; 152 — Keyshawn McEnerny, Ken, maj. Garrett Bond, Gra, 12-2; 160 — Riley Martin, Gra, forf; 170 — Zach Young, p. Byron Dunham, Ken, 4:00; 182 — Elliot Merriner, Gra, p. Seth Kruse, Ken, 4:41; 195 — double forf; 220 — Audric Turner, Gra, forf; 285 — Zach Koziczkowski, Ken, forf.