One week after claiming their conference team championship, the 1986 Homer Mariners wrestling team finished the season the proper way, with a state crown.
After waiting a full 29 years without a region or state wrestling title since then, Homer is back on the map and ready to do it again in 2015.
The Mariners won their first region title — on their home floor no less — since 1986 last week at the Kachemak Conference tournament, and the hopes are high of taking home the golden trophy at the Class 1-2-3A state tournament, which begins today at Bartlett High School in Anchorage.
“Our term of the week is, ‘Turn the Lights Out,’” said Homer coach Chris Perk, a former Mariners grappler himself. “We hope to put our opponents to rest, put them in a position they don’t want to wrestle any longer.”
That style of attack may turn out to be the difference in a state title for the Mariners, who are bringing 12 boys and six girls up to face the odds. As happy as Perk is to bring those kinds of numbers, he knows the opposition is going to be put up a tough fight. Bethel alone qualified 21 kids from its region tournament, and the reigning state champions Kotzebue have 13 making the trip to Anchorage.
The battle will begin today at Bartlett, with preliminaries at 10 a.m. and championship semifinals starting at 6 p.m. Championship finals begin Saturday night with introductions at 5 p.m. and action at 5:30 p.m.
Perk said with what seems like a full team still coming to practice every day in preparation for state, the energy level is still peaking days after winning the Kachemak Conference crown.
“It’s powerful, you can hardly tell that the six kids that didn’t qualify weren’t there,” he said. “It’s all systems go.”
In order to win that long-awaited state title, Perk said his team will have to scrape and claw for every point it can get, and the best way to pick up points is to pin your opponent. He added that he is confident of getting four wrestlers into the finals, as long as nothing drastic happens.
“All 12 of our guys are point-getters, they all can place in the tournament and that’s a big advantage,” Perk said. “I don’t feel like anyone is just going to go, ‘They’re all in the hunt.’”
With Bethel and Kotzebue strongly in the chase for the top prize, the fight for supremacy could easily come down to the last round of the night.
Among the Homer region champions on the boys side is freshman Wayne Newman at 98 pounds who, in the state rankings listed on AKMat.org, is ranked second, only behind Thomas Dyment of Bethel. Newman went 1-2 against Dyment this season, although he improved each time they met, beginning with a 54-second pin to Dyment in mid-October, continuing to a 4-2 sudden-victory loss on Halloween and ending with a 7-6 win at the ACS Invitational a week later.
Joining Newman at state as current region champions will be 106-pound freshman Seth Inama, 132-pound junior Jared Brant, junior Timmy Woo at 152 pounds and sophomore Teddy Croft at 160 pounds.
Additionally, Homer will be bringing 120-pound freshman Luciano Fasulo, junior Jaime Rios and sophomore Tyler Johnson at 145 pounds, 170-pound sophomore Tristen Cook, 182-pound sophomore Kyle Wells, 195-pound sophomore Levi King and 220-pound freshman Jadin Mann.
Among the Homer girls that qualified are 106-pound senior Jadzia Martin, 113-pound sophomore Alex Moseley, 120-pound freshman Allison Wells, 145-pound freshman McKenzie Cook, 160-pound freshman Katie Rios and 220-pound junior Heather Harrington.
One team that finished not far behind Homer at the region tournament was Nikiski. The Bulldogs placed third in the team standings, just a few points behind runner-up Houston, and Nikiski coach Adam Anders will be bringing 10 athletes to the state tournament. Last year, Nikiski finished fourth in the team standings at the state meet, and is once again within range of that top step of the podium.
The strong Bulldogs contingent includes three region champions — senior TJ Cox at 120 pounds, senior Nathan Carstens at 170 pounds and senior Luke Johnson at 285 pounds.
Joining the trio of strong seniors is freshman Malcolm Yerkes at 98 pounds, freshman Gabe Smith at 106 pounds, freshman Justin Cox at 138 pounds, freshman Dustin Mullins at 160 pounds, senior Dylan Broussard at 170 pounds, junior Warren Gage at 182 pounds and sophomore Tyler Litke at 220 pounds.
The Seward Seahawks also qualified an improved number of athletes to the state meet, although nine competitors may not be enough to seriously challenge for a state team title.
Among the Seward contingent is sophomore Cole Norcross and sophomore Ali Alawadh at 113 pounds, sophomore Simon Estes and freshman Chris Kingsland at 126 pounds, sophomore Case Estes at 132 pounds, junior Eli Davis at 182 pounds, senior Matt Morris at 195 pounds, and senior Justin Schutter at 285 pounds.