The Kenai Central wrestling team won six straight matches in the championship round to claim its fourth-straight Luke Spruill Memorial Tournament on Tuesday at Kenai Central.
Those six champions would be just enough to edge Nikiski for the crown — both teams finished with 97 points but the Kardinals took the tiebreaker. Soldotna was third with 86.5 points, while Homer was fourth with 62 points.
The tournament is a memorial for Spruill, a two-time state champ for the Kards who was lost in a boating accident in June 2004 at the age of 27.
At the tournament, each coach nominates an athlete for the Luke Spruill Outstanding Wrestler Award. The award is based on eight qualities — dedication, a coach, sportsmanship, can-do attitude, coachability, kindness, leadership and tenacity.
TJ Cox of Nikiski, who lost a major decision to Seth Hutchison of Soldotna in the finals at 120 pounds, was chosen outstanding wrestler this year.
“He carries the torch for the whole community,” Kenai coach Stan Steffensen said.
Steffensen also said his team did a great job of living up to Spruill’s memory with its wrestling.
At 138, Matt Vandermartin got the Kards on a roll by pinning Timmy Woo of Homer. Vandermartin had just been pinned by Woo at the Lancer Smith Memorial over the weekend.
Keyshawn McEnerny followed with an injury default victory over Talon Musgrave of Soldotna at 145.
Then Paul Steffensen pinned Tylor Handley at 152 and Ellery Steffensen pinned Nathan Carstens at 160. Both of the Steffensens were wrestling up a weight class.
Finally, Dylan Carter pinned Antonio Ochoa of Homer at 170, and Kyle Hunter notched a major decision over Ian Johnson at 182.
The Spruill comes at what can be a tough time, right after the big Lancer Smith meet and just a few days before Thanksgiving. But coach Steffensen says his team never has a problem getting up for the meet.
“The Luke Spruill is really big here,” he said. “The guy was a pillar in the community. Our wrestlers go out there with courage, honor and tenacity.”
Coach Steffensen said the meet was changed from a dual format in order to match the top wrestlers up in a championship round later in the evening when fans were off work.
“The fans were going kind of crazy there for a while,” he said. “Any time you can enjoy watching your favorite wrestler wrestle, it’s a great day.”
Nikiski got a chance to tune up for the Kachemak Conference tournament in Houston on Dec. 5 and 6.
Winning titles for the Bulldogs were Tyler Olsen at 106, John McCormick at 195 and Luke Johnson at 220.
Anders also said that Cox wrestled a great match against Hutchison at 120.
“I’m proud of the guys and where they’re at,” Anders said. “It’s been a sprint this season and they’re working hard. They’re going into conference right where they need to be.”
The plight of Soldotna showed how hard it can be coming off a big tournament like the Lancer Smith and wrestling a few days later. The Stars did not have two wrestlers due to injury, and lost another three to skin infections. On top of that, coach Neldon Gardner had a few freshmen not make weight.
“It was a learning night,” the coach said.
He did get championships from Austin Craig at 113, Hutchison at 120, Jesse Littrell at 126 and Dalton Best at 285.
Gardner was especially encouraged by the showing of Littrell, a junior. Littrell, an experienced wrestler, has been practicing for about three weeks but this was his first meet of the season.
While Nikiski was happy with its last meet before the Kachemak tourney, Homer coach Chris Perk said he hopes Tuesday serves as a wakeup call.
The champions for Homer were Sean Blaine at 98 and Jaime Rios at 132.
“We were expecting a few more,” Perk said. “I’m not sure what happened. Maybe it’s wrestling on a Tuesday.”
Perk said his team has good wrestlers, but added that the team is young.
“With youth, sometimes you get the roller coaster,” Perk said. “Hopefully we’ll be back up the next couple of weeks.”
Luke Spruill Memorial Tournament
Team scores: 1. Kenai, 97; 2. Nikiski, 97; 3. Soldotna, 86.5; 4. Homer, 62.
98 — Sean Blaine, Hom, p. Austin Ozbun, Nik, 1:16. 106 — Tyler Olsen, Nik, p. Bill Medatov, Nik, 5:04. 113 — Austin Craig, Sol, t.f. Donovan Smith, Nik, 17-2. 120 — Seth Hutchison, Sol, maj. dec. TJ Cox, Nik, 10-2. 126 — Jesse Littrell, Sol, p. Anthony Long, Sol, 0:40. 132 — Jaime Rios, Hom, received a bye. 138 — Matt Vandermartin, Ken, p. Timmy Woo, Hom, 2:32. 145 — Keyshawn McEnerny, Ken, won by injury default over Talon Musgrave, Sol. 152 — Paul Steffensen, Ken, p. Tylor Handley, Nik, 4:42. 160 — Ellery Steffensen, Ken, p. Nathan Carstens, Nik, 0:54. 170 — Dylan Carter, Ken, p. Antonio Ochoa, Hom, 2:45. 182 — Kyle Hunter, Ken, m.d. Ian Johnson, Nik, 8-0. 195 — John McCormick, Nik, p. Rodney French, Sol, 3:43. 220 — Luke Johnson, Nik, p. Taylor Macrae, Sol, 1:47. 285 — Dalton Best, Sol, p. Richard Brock, Hom, 0:29.
106 — Natalie Chavez, Ken, received a bye. 113 — Tyler Vaughn, Ken, received a bye. 120 — Jared Brant, Hom, p. Shayna McKinley, Ken, 2:30. 126 — Silas Buss, Nik, received a bye. 145 — Julian Richburg, Hom, p. William Lynch, Nik, 1:22. 152 — Kyle Wells, Hom, m.d. Andrew Pennison, Nik, 12-1. 160 — Hunter Bourgeois, Sol, p. Tristen Cook, Hom, 1:25. 182 — Nick Olsen, Nik, dec. James Gallagher, Sol, 8-3. 195 — Heather Harrington, Hom, received a bye. 220 — Danny Rios, Hom, received a bye.