Skyview High School's Michaela Hutchison's hand is raised in victory Feb. 4, 2006 as she becomes the first girl to win a state championship wrestling competition in the United States during the State 4A Wrestling Championships at Chugiak High School. (Clarion file photo)

Skyview High School's Michaela Hutchison's hand is raised in victory Feb. 4, 2006 as she becomes the first girl to win a state championship wrestling competition in the United States during the State 4A Wrestling Championships at Chugiak High School. (Clarion file photo)

Michaela Hutchison’s historic wrestling title makes Alaska Sports Hall of Fame

  • By BETH BRAGG
  • Monday, December 8, 2014 11:57pm
  • Sports

The theme of the latest class of inductees for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame?

Trailblazers.

Dick Mize is a builder of trails, a man whose passion and sweat helped give Anchorage a network of world-class Nordic ski trails. 

Nancy Pease is the queen of Alaska trail running, a woman who blazed her name into the record books at Mount Marathon, Crow Pass and Bird Ridge with performances that years later remain unequaled. 

Michaela Hutchison blazed a trail for girls and women in wrestling in 2006 when she became the first girl in the nation to win a state championship against boys.

The Iron Dog is a snowmachine races that showcases men and women who blaze across often treacherous trails when they race more than 2,000 miles from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks every February.

And John Brown? Though not a trailblazer in the real sense of the word, in the late 1960s, he and Ketchikan went where none had gone before and few have gone since. Brown helped Ketchikan become Alaska’s first high school to win four straight state basketball championships, averaging a double-double his senior season.

Mize, Pease and Brown headline the Class of 2015, announced at a press conference Monday. They will become members of an elite group of 30 people who have been inducted as individuals.

Hutchison’s 2006 wrestling victory for Skyview High will be honored as one of the greatest moments in Alaska sports, and the Iron Dog will be honored as one of the state’s premier sporting events. Hutchison’s victory will be the 13th moment honored and the Iron Dog will be the ninth event.

“We’re asking people to compare mountaineers to basketball players,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of the Hall of Fame. “…And I feel great about the results once again.”

This is the ninth class of the Hall of Fame, which inducted its first group of honorees in 2007. The induction ceremony for the new inductees will be sometime in February, Robinson said.

GIRL POWER

Nearly 2,000 people were on hand at Chugiak High on the night Michaela Hutchison made history by winning the 103-pound wrestling title at the 2006 state championships.

The crowd was poised to witness history. It was a time before smartphones, and so flashbulbs popped and camcorders whirred as Hutchison took the mat for the championship bout against Colony’s Aaron Boss.

Hutchison was a Skyview High sophomore who was the top seed in her weight class. The match was scoreless until the final minute, when Hutchison slowly began to rise to her feet to attempt an escape, with the crowd noise rising in unison. With 16 seconds left, she notched that escape to throw the crowd into a frenzy.

The crowd started counting down as the clock neared zero, and roared when the buzzer sounded to cement Hutchison’s 1-0 victory.

“That’s still the loudest crowd I’ve ever heard,” said Clarion editor Will Morrow, who was at that event as a sports reporter.

According to the Daily News account of the match, “Hutchison didn’t show much reaction — she was more concerned with stopping her nose from bleeding.”

She was also concerned with the championship match at 135 pounds that night, when her older brother, Eli, claimed his fourth state title to finish his high school career undefeated. Michaela would later say her brother had the greater accomplishment that night.

Hutchison, who was 45-4 with 33 pins during her championship season, went on to a successful college career at Oklahoma City University, where she was a four-time All-American and three-time national champion for the women’s team and an occasional fill-in for the men’s team.

In the immediate aftermath of her high school title, there were calls from late-night TV hosts and members of the national media. 

More significant is Hutchison’s long-term legacy. This week, for the first time in history, there are enough high school girls wrestling in Alaska that they’ll get their own tournament when the Class 1-2-3A wrestling championships come to Anchorage.

MAKING TRACKS

Dick Mize was a member of the 1960 Olympic biathlon team and has won numerous medals as a masters-level skier, but that isn’t why he’s a household name in Anchorage.

Mize helped design and build the Mize Loop, one of the most popular trails at Kincaid Park. Scores of championship races, both skiing and running, have used the trail.

Mize is the man behind a maze of trails at Kincaid, Russian Jack, Service High and Girdwood. He had a hand in creating 51 of the 61 kilometers of trail at Kincaid Park, a world-class network that helps make Alaska an important part of the nation’s cross-country skiing world.

“It’s very gratifying for me to see others enjoying these trails for walking, running, skiing and mountain biking, and to know that I had a part in their development,” Mize told the Anchorage Daily News in 2002.

At age 78, Mize remains one of the most frequent users of the trails he built.

RECORD BREAKER

For more than 20 years, no one has been able to dethrone Nancy Pease, Alaska’s queen of the hill.

Her mountain-running resume is legendary. Nine-time champion and record holder at Crow Pass. Six-time champion and record holder at Mount Marathon. Five-time champion and record holder at Bird Ridge.

It’s the records that make Pease an enduring presence in the mountains of Southcentral.

1990 was the summer of Pease. She set records at Mount Marathon and Crow Pass, she was the overall winner at Bird Ridge (beating the men’s winner by more than a minute) and she shared the Crow Pass overall victory with Bill Spencer, a Hall of Fame member since 2012.

Pease and Spencer that summer finished the Crow Pass Crossing in 3 hours, 26 minutes, 20 seconds. Pease holds seven of the top eight women’s times in the marathon-length wilderness run, and until this summer when Christy Marvin won in 3:26:44, no woman had come within 10 minutes of Pease’s record.

Likewise, her record of 50:30 at Mount Marathon, Alaska’s most famous footrace, remains untouched. Pease owns three of the top four women’s times in the three-mile race that consists mostly of climbing and descending the 3,022-foot peak in Seward. In the years since Pease broke Carmen Young’s 1986 record of 50:54, no other woman has finished in less than 51 minutes.

Pease’s 1993 record at Bird Ridge, a three-mile, uphill-only race with an elevation gain of 3,400 feet, is perhaps her greatest mark. She owns the three fastest women’s times in that race, and her record of 42:27 is 3:23 faster than any other woman’s best time.

KING OF KETCHIKAN

Back in the 1960s, all of Alaska’s schools competed in the same classification. For four years, a Ketchikan team led by John Brown reigned over the state’s bigger schools.

Brown was a little big man. A 6-foot-2, 150-pound center, he started all four seasons and finished with 1,572 career points. 

Brown racked up double-doubles before there was even a name for such an accomplishment. In his season year, he averaged 22.8 points and 13.4 rebounds a game — not to mention three assists. As a junior, he averaged 22.5 points a game. 

According to the book “50 Years of Kayhi Basketball,” Brown’s teams recorded a four-year record of 83-13.

“Brown could do it all,” historian Brad Groghan wrote in his book about Ketchikan’s rich basketball history. “Brown was an offensive force … but could also control a game with his defensive play.” 

Brown played one season at Seattle University and eventually returned to Ketchikan, where he works for the Ketchikan Indian Community.

MOTOR MUSHERS

Billed as the world’s longest, toughest snowmachine race, the Iron Dog has lived up to that reputation year after year.

It began in 1984 as a 1,000-mile race from Big Lake to Nome. In 1994, it doubled in length by making Nome the halfway point in a race from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks.

This February it will expand in scope if not distance by holding a ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage.

Racers compete in two-person teams for safety reasons — rough terrain and high speeds can be a dicey combination in any motor sport, but especially in remote Alaska. Every year sees top names pull out of the competition early, either with mechanical problems or injuries.

Soldotna’s Scott Davis, who holds a record seven Iron Dog championships, did not get in as an individual honoree, but he did get his wish of his sport being recognized.

“I’m very happy to see motor sports represented in the Hall of Fame,” Robinson said.

The Hall of Fame is selected by a nine-member statewide panel of sports reporters, administrators and coaches. A 10th ballot belongs to the public, which votes online each November. This year’s online voting drew 1,533 votes, Robinson said.

 

Beth Bragg is the Alaska Dispatch News sports editor and a member of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame selection panel. Reach her at bbragg@alaskadispatch.com. Clarion staff contributed to this report.

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