Kenai takes dual win over SoHi

Over the years that Soldotna’s Neldon Gardner and Kenai Central’s Stan Steffensen have faced each other as coaches on the wrestling mat, the rivalry has been intense but fun.

Tuesday night at Soldotna Prep School, an old chapter was revived as the Kardinals grabbed a 45-36 dual win over the Stars, sans rubber chicken.

“We have a middle school tournament every year, and the winners get that as a prize,” explained Steffensen. “I was waiting for (Gardner) to throw out the rubber chicken.”

Because the two coaches haven’t competed in the Soldotna Prep wrestling room at the high school level in quite some time, Steffensen’s expectations were not unfounded. The two coaches are also involved in the local borough middle school squads, and the annual tournament has been contested for over a decade.

Of Kenai’s six actual match wins Tuesday night (not including forfeits), five came in the form of pins. The 30 points that were accrued from those wins proved to be crucial after the slow start that Kenai endured.

The night started with Jesse Littrell of SoHi pinning Kenai’s Shayna McKinley 1:22 into the 120-pound match. Littrell’s win was followed by two straight forfeited matches that put Kenai in an 18-0 hole right off the bat, but Matt Vandermartin answered the call to score the Kardinals’ first points of the night, locking SoHi’s Ryan Winter in a half nelson just 72 seconds into his match to secure the six points.

“That was important,” Steffensen said. “You could tell when the gym was getting excited.”

Next up, Paul Steffensen of Kenai — coming off the first loss of his high school career last weekend — used a similar pin to beat SoHi’s Bechler Metcalf in 33 seconds.

Paul’s brother, Ellery, pulled off the pin on SoHi’s Bailey Blumentritt, although it took more clock management than raw power to do so. Coach Steffensen said Blumentritt has been ranked in the top four on AKmat.org for most of the season, and Tuesday’s match with Steffensen could very well end up as the region championship pairing in February.

Ellery’s victory left the two schools tied at 18-18, with another tough matchup looming in the 160-pound division.

Soldotna’s Hunter Bourgeois (160 pounds) staved off a potential loss with a quick pin of Kenai’s Keyshawn McEnerny, who was competing with a hand injury sustained at the North-South duals last weekend in Anchorage. Before Bourgeois’ pin, McEnerny held a 7-3 edge in points.

The winner of the 170-pound match — Jaden Kissee — collected the six points for Kenai in his first-ever varsity match, pinning SoHi’s Mason Castagnier 33 seconds into the second round.

Following that breakthrough moment, Kenai senior Dylan Carter produced one of the gutsiest performances of the night, eking out a 7-3 win over Ashton Mahan for the 182-pound crown with limited vision.

Referees were forced to put a halt to the action early in the contest when Carter suffered a gash to his forehead that drew blood. After five minutes, Carter returned to center mat with a bandage wrap on his head that was cut off just above his eyes. At the time, Carter held a 2-0 advantage over Mahan, who quickly used a pair of escapes to tie it up at two apiece.

However, Carter fought back and scored the winning points in the final four minutes to win the round.

“A little inspiration there,” Steffensen said. “In a close match like that, it’s pin or get pinned.”

Carter’s decision was worth three points, giving Kenai a slight 27-24 lead. Soldotna gained the lead right back with two forfeit wins, putting the Stars ahead 36-27, but a pin by Zach Koziczkowski over Dalton Best in the 285-pound bout closed the gap once again.

The go-ahead win was earned by a SoHi forfeit in the 106-pound division, as Tyler Vaughn of Kenai showed up with no one to wrestle. The swing in points put the Kards up 39-36, which they held the rest of the way.

Soldotna will compete at this weekend’s Alaska Duals at South Anchorage High School, while Kenai will be taking the weekend off.

Tuesday at Soldotna

1. Kenai Central, 45 points; 2. Soldotna, 36.

98 pounds — double ff.; 106 — Tyler Vaughn, Ken, ff. win; 113 — Natalie Chavez, Ken, ff. win; 120 — Jesse Littrell, Sol, pin Shayna McKinley, Ken, 1:22; 126 — Seth Hutchison, Sol, ff. win; 132 — Anthony Long, Sol, ff. win; 138 — Matt Vandermartin, Ken, pin Ryan Winter, Sol, 1:12; 145 — Paul Steffensen, Ken, pin Bechler Metcalf, Sol, :33; 152 — Ellery Steffensen, Ken, pin Bailey Blumentritt, Sol, 4:14; 160 — Hunter Bourgeois, Sol, pin Keyshawn McEnerny, Ken, 2:34; 170 — Jaden Kissee, Ken, pin Mason Castagnier, Sol, 2:33; 182 — Dylan Carter, Ken, dec. Ashton Mahan, Sol, 7-3; 195 — James Gallagher, Sol, ff. win; 220 — Taylor Macrae, Sol, ff. win; 285 — Zach Koziczkowski, Ken, pin Dalton Best, Sol, 1:52.

More in Sports

Lars Arneson runs to victory and a new event record in the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Arneson, McCabe win at Bird Ridge

Lars Arneson, a 2009 graduate of Cook Inlet Academy, won the Robert… Continue reading

tease
Wednesday: Oilers take 2nd in a row from Miners

The Peninsula Oilers defeated the Mat-Su Miners 4-3 on Wednesday in Alaska… Continue reading

tease
Wednesday: Eagle River sweeps doubleheader from Twins

Host Eagle River swept a doubleheader from the American Legion Post 20… Continue reading

Nick Varney
Reeling ‘Em In: Hey fishers, keep up with regulations

What is up with brain stems who seem to be incapable of comprehending simple fishing regulations?

Peninsula Oilers catcher Brock Wirthgen congratulates pitcher Mose Hayes after a victory over the Mat-Su Miners on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Tuesday: Oilers topple Miners in home opener in dramatic fashion

Homer’s Hayes starts 4th year with club by winning sudden-death game

Olympic gold medalist Lydia Jacoby waves to the crowd in Seward during her celebratory parade on Thursday, August 5, 2021. (Ashlyn O'Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Jacoby scratches from 200 breaststroke

Lydia Jacoby, a 2022 graduate of Seward High School, announced on Instagram… Continue reading

Homer's Tanner Gallios competes in 450 Expert at Alaska State Motocross Race #4 at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, June 16, 2024. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
State Motocross comes to Kenai, and gets big boost from southern Kenai Peninsula

The Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions - Motocross Division hosted Alaska State Motocross… Continue reading

Blakeley Jorgensen of AK Riptide (U14) pitches against AK Krush (14) at the USA/Junior Olympic softball tournament at Steve Shearer Memorial Ball Park on Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
USA/Junior Olympic softball tourney helps players sharpen skills

Central Peninsula Fastpitch Softball hosted the USA/Junior Olympic softball tournament at Steve… Continue reading

Olympic gold medalist Lydia Jacoby waves to the crowd in Seward during her celebratory parade on Thursday, August 5, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Jacoby misses chance to qualify for Olympics in 100 breaststroke

Lydia Jacoby, a 2022 graduate of Seward High School, missed a chance… Continue reading

Most Read