Homer’s Saoirse won the title at girls 126 pounds at the Kachemak Conference wrestling tournament at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Saoirse won the title at girls 126 pounds at the Kachemak Conference wrestling tournament at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai boys, Redington girls wear Kachemak wrestling crowns

The Kenai Central boys and Redington girls won Kachemak Conference titles Saturday at Kenai Central High School.

The Kardinals broke Redington’s three-year run atop the conference in a tightly contested tournament.

Kenai scored 178.5 points, while Nikiski had 177, Redington had 174, Seward had 165.5 and Homer had 152. Also, Cordova had 128, Grace Christian had 118, Mountain City Christian Academy had 65 and Houston had 62.5.

Kardinals head coach Jason Chavarria was able to get his boys to the top of the conference in his third year in charge.

“I think it’s going to build some good momentum for the program to recruit more wrestlers in school,” Chavarria said. “I think it will build efficacy within the coaching staff and the administration to support the wrestling team.”

The Redington girls remained firmly in control of the conference for a fourth straight year. The Huskies scored 168, while Nikiski had 79, Kenai Central had 69, Homer had 59, Houston had 54, Cordova had 26 and Seward had 18.

The Boys Most Outstanding Wrestle was Kenai’s Daniel Steffensen, the champion at 140 pounds. The Girls Most Outstanding Wrestler was Homer’s Saoirse Cook, the champ at 126. Coach of the Year went to Seward’s Brian Mullaly.

Kenai received championships from Steffensen at 140 and Gunnar Stanley at 125. Steffensen finished a dominant run through the bracket by pinning Redington’s Aidan LaSelle in 55 seconds.

“He’s great,” Chavarria said of Steffensen. “His only losses are to (Division I) guys. He’s dominant.”

Stanley notched an 11-10 decision over Cordova’s Blake Bailey in the final. Chavarria said Stanley, a freshman, was not eligible to wrestle until the Lancer Smith Memorial, which was Nov. 17 and 18. Chavarria kept Stanley in a lot of junior varsity tournaments to get Stanley some work, and it paid off.

“He’s a decent wrestler and he’s starting to step it up,” the coach said.

Jaxson Young, at 119, and William Roberts, at 189, also made the finals for Kenai. Young, who won a state title last season, lost to another state title winner in Seward’s Aidan Schilling. Schilling notched a takedown in the final 10 seconds for a 7-5 win.

Chavarria said he thought Young scored two points in the match that weren’t awarded, so he said a lot of positives came out of the match with an eye toward state.

“We got a feel for him,” he said. “That was a big one.”

Roberts was pinned by Blaine Smith of Mountain City Christian Academy. Chavarria said Roberts is a new wrestler and very coachable. The coach said the bad thing is Roberts is a senior.

“He listens and obeys, like immediately when you tell him to do something,” Chavarria said. “His comprehension is off the charts.”

Finishing third to also automatically make state for the Kenai boys were Delen Byrd at 145 and Keagan Stanley at 152. The state meet is Friday and Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.

There are also four at-large berths available to state. Also placing for the Kards were Cody Holmes in sixth at 145, Macalen Marion in sixth at 152, Atlas Ruark in fifth at 160, Thaddeus Lingenfelter in sixth at 189, Brandon Blake in fourth at 215, Luke Cole in fifth at 285, Lochlyn Roney in fourth at 285 and Cecil Newcomb-Hammer in sixth at 285.

In at-large berths announced Monday, Kenai got state berths for Abednego Larson at 135, Blake at 215, and Cole, Roney and Newcomb-Hammer at 285.

The Kenai girls received titles from Alicia Perez at 120 and Jenna Yeoman at 152. Perez did not have any competitors in her bracket, while Yeoman defeated Bryce Glidden of Homer.

It was Yeoman’s first tournament back since getting injured.

“We knew she could do it, because she’s been in the room training,” Chavarria said. “She hasn’t wrestled since the beginning of the season. She had five weeks rest.”

Nikiski head coach Kaden Spurgeon was not disappointed to come up just a little bit short of the boys title.

“As far as finishing, I’m not super concerned with where we end up,” he said. “It’s about the individual successes for us, coming together as a team and enjoying this time.”

For example, Oceanna Broussard was fourth at girls 145.

“She’s been putting in hours and hours and hours the last two years, and she got her first win this weekend,” Spurgeon said. “That was huge. I drive her home every day after practice.”

The first wrestler Spurgeon mentioned was Mason Doth, who did not place at 130.

“He won a couple of matches and was looking really tough,” Spurgeon said. “We had a couple of those kids where it was clicking. Finally making that turn.”

The boys champs for Nikiski were Jake Martin at 160, Truit McCaughey at 215 and Mayaac Schmit at 285.

Martin pinned Houston’s Terje McClurg in the final.

“It was huge for him,” Spurgeon said of Martin. “He just doesn’t have anything easy in his life. Nothing’s ever come easy to him.”

Nikiski dominated the upper weights. McCaughey pinned teammate Breaker Schmit in the final, while Mayaac Schmit pinned teammate Rex Wittmer. Wittmer, a freshman, was able to upset Seward senior John Van Buskirk to make the final.

“He’s one of those kids who’s obviously super gifted,” Spurgeon said of Wittmer. “Now the technique is starting to come, and the logic and theories behind wrestling.”

Frank St. Denis was second for Nikiski at 152 and Jackson Wittmer was second at 171, while Sam Yerkes was third at 160 to also lock up a state berth.

Also placing were Zander Isaac in fourth at 125, Thayne Quiner in fifth at 130, Wyatt Maguire in fifth at 135, Trigger McCaughey in fifth at 140, Johnny Ralston was sixth at 171 and Seth Payne was fourth at 189.

Getting at-large berths were Maguire at 135, Ralston at 171 and Payne at 189.

For the Nikiski girls, Destiny Langston won the title at 235. Kimberly Tischner of Houston was the other wrestler at 235. The two split before Langston got a pin in the third match to win the title.

“She does have a tendency to wrestle other people’s matches,” Spurgeon said of Langston. “For her to dictate from the get-go, and get taken down, then come back, that’s big.”

Also for the Nikiski girls, Jade Hemphill was second at 132, Addison Perkins was second at 138, Elliana Isabell was third at 165 and Wynter Yeager was fourth at 165. Isabell got an at-large state berth.

The Seward boys have been one of the top Division II teams in the state all season. The Seahawks rolled up five individual titles Saturday but did not have the depth to come out on top.

“We were hopeful we would have made it up higher standingswise, but we just didn’t have the numbers,” Mullaly said.

Tommy Jarnig got things started for Seward in the finals at 103 by pinning Grace’s Owen Crotts.

“He was like 30 pounds light this season and he’s grown into his body,” Mullaly said of Jarnig. “So we kind of joke with him that he had to come make weight for the first time.”

At 112, a pair of Seward freshmen wrestled for the title, with Ridge Conant scoring a major decision over Emery Kirchner.

“They’ve learned a lot and gained a lot this season,” Mullaly said. “It’ll be good to see them go into state, represent and see where they end up.”

Schilling, with two state titles to his credit, now chases a third.

“He’s been going through some things, like injuries and stuff, and he stayed on top and it’s awesome,” Mullaly said.

Forshee-Kurtz, a returning state title winner, pinned Houston’s Eli Banks, while Alejandro Sanchez pinned Homer’s Justus Grimes.

Anthony Smith, at 140, and Van Buskirk also locked up state berths by taking third. Also placing for Seward was Amos Ballard in sixth at 130.

For the Seward girls, Chloe Lastimosa was third at 126 and Kat Noll was third at 132. Lastimosa got an at-large berth to state.

The Homer girls received titles from Saoirse Cook at 126 and Roane Cook at 185. Both Cooks won state titles last season.

Saoirse pinned Mya Campbell of Redington, also a state title winner last year, to secure her title.

“She pinned her in the first period,” Homer coach Bubba Wells said. “That was impressive.”

Roane Cook had two pins of Nikayla Miller of Redington to win the title.

Also for the Homer girls, Glidden was second at 152 and Ryan Alcorta was fourth at 138. Glidden got an at-large berth to state.

On the boys side, Wells said his young team surprised him by leading the meet until the championship round.

“We’ve developed so much this season,” Wells said. “The kids are phenomenal.”

The coach said it’s a great sign for the future, because Homer has 12 freshmen on the team and a lot more talented wrestlers coming up.

“We’re going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Wells said.

Homer’s lone conference winner on the boys side was Brayden Woods, who pinned St. Denis at 152.

“He hasn’t been beat by a small-schools kid yet,” Wells said of Woods.

Grimes and Paul Minke, at 145, lost in the finals for Homer. Luca Fitzpatrick, at 103, and Adgel Chandler, at 215, also locked up state berths by finishing third.

Also placing for the Mariners were Bryce Hagge in fourth at 112, Jadon Weisser in sixth at 119, Landyn Woods in fourth at 130, Maxwell Herndon in sixth at 135 and Zayne Adams in fourth at 140.

Woods at 130, Herndon at 135 and Adams at 140 received at-large berths to state.

Nikiski’s Destiny Langston wrestles Houston’s Kimberly Tischner in the championship at 235 girls at the Kachemak Conference wrestling tournament at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. Langston won by pin. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Destiny Langston wrestles Houston’s Kimberly Tischner in the championship at 235 girls at the Kachemak Conference wrestling tournament at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. Langston won by pin. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Redington’s Alejandra Roman wrestles Nikiski’s Addison Perkins in the championship at 138 girls at the Kachemak Conference wrestling tournament at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. Roman won by pin. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Redington’s Alejandra Roman wrestles Nikiski’s Addison Perkins in the championship at 138 girls at the Kachemak Conference wrestling tournament at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. Roman won by pin. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Seward’s Aidan Schilling and Kenai Central’s Jaxson Young wrestle in the championship at 119 pounds at the Kachemak Conference wrestling tournament at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. Schilling took a 7-5 decision. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Seward’s Aidan Schilling and Kenai Central’s Jaxson Young wrestle in the championship at 119 pounds at the Kachemak Conference wrestling tournament at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. Schilling took a 7-5 decision. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Gunnar Stanley and Cordova’s Blake Bailey wrestle at 125 pounds at the Kachemak Conference wrestling tournament at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. Stanley won an 11-10 decision. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Gunnar Stanley and Cordova’s Blake Bailey wrestle at 125 pounds at the Kachemak Conference wrestling tournament at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. Stanley won an 11-10 decision. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Brayden Woods wrestles Nikiski’s Frank St. Denis in the championship at 152 pounds at the Kachemak Conference wrestling tournament at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. Woods won by pin. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Brayden Woods wrestles Nikiski’s Frank St. Denis in the championship at 152 pounds at the Kachemak Conference wrestling tournament at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. Woods won by pin. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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