Nikiski wrestlers seek 5th Kachemak Conference crown in 6 years

There will be no defending champion at the Kachemak Conference wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday at Houston High School, but the Nikiski wrestling team hopes there is at least a familiar champion.

The Skyview wrestling team won the Kachemak Conference last season, but with that school having closed its doors, the Bulldogs will seek their fifth Kachemak crown in the last six years.

“I think we have a good chance to win it if we show up and wrestle to our potential,” Nikiski coach Adam Anders said. “Houston will be the challenge, and there are a lot of other great programs in the region, like Homer and Seward.

“Not having Skyview in the region certainly takes away one of the toughest competitors in the past, but we still have a lot of great teams to compete against.”

Homer coach Chris Perk said his team probably isn’t big enough to challenge for the conference crown.

With teams able to enter two wrestlers in each weight class, Perk said Houston’s depth will make the Hawks formidable at the tournament. He said he could see Houston outscoring Nikiski with the Hawks’ second guys.

Seward coach Ronn Hemstock sees a nice battle between Nikiski, Houston, Anchorage Christian Schools and Homer.

He said all of those schools have a few stud wrestlers that will roll through the tourney.

“That’s like trading queens in chess,” Hemstock said. “All those schools don’t win the tournaments by winning medals. They win the tournament by getting thirds.”

Hemstock explained that a wrestler taking third in a 16-man bracket can actually earn more points than the champ in an eight-man bracket.

“It’s just going to depend on how it lays out,” Hemstock said. “Sometimes a team will get a bunch of byes, and sometimes they won’t.

“I’ve always said byes are death because you miss out on a bunch of pin points.”

The Bulldogs return three conference champions in Tyler Handley, Nathan Carstens and Luke Johnson.

Handley is ranked No. 3 at 152 by, with no conference competitors ahead of him.

“He’s one of our few seniors and I couldn’t ask for more out of a wrestler or person than Tyler,” Anders said.

Johnson’s undefeated record has him with the top ranking at 220. The junior also went undefeated as a sophomore and Anders said that the great thing is Johnson takes nothing for granted and keeps working hard.

Carstens also has a No. 1 ranking for Nikiski at 160. Anders said Dylan Broussard also wrestles at 160 and is just as tough as his teammate.

Jon McCormick, at 195, is ranked fifth, one spot behind Sean Lang of Houston. McCormick was second at the conference meet last season.

Anders also said TJ Cox, ranked second at 120 behind Bethel’s Gage Hoffman, is poised to win a conference title.

Then come the group of kids that will be so important to Nikiski’s chances due to Houston’s depth.

According to Anders, Austin Ozbun at 98, Tyler Olsen at 106, Donovan Smith and Luck Broussard at 113, Nico Castro at 138, Andrew Tennison and William Lynch at 145, Baker Hensley at 160, and Ian Johnson and Nick Olsen at 182 all are potential state qualifiers. To qualify for state, a wrestler must finish in the top four.

“We’re excited for this weekend,” Anders said. “I’d like to thank all the parents for their support, and I’m looking forward to a good tournament.”

Last season, Perk took 10 Homer wrestlers to state — a number the Mariners had not accumulated in quite some time.

This weekend, Perk is hoping to match that number.

After a disappointing performance at the last meet of the regular season in Kenai on Nov. 25, Perk said his squad is ready to go.

“We’ve worked through sickness and bugs and we feel like the team is pretty darn strong,” Perk said.

The Mariners did a rope climb in practice this week, and Ravi Cavasos won by raising to the roof eight times.

“It was pretty incredible,” Perk said. “Those last two, he gave everything he had.”

Perk said Timmy Woo, at 138, has a great shot at a conference title. Woo is ranked third at 138, but is the top-ranked Kachemak wrestler.

At 120, Jared Brant is ranked fourth, but Nikiski’s Cox is second and Shannon LeMay of ACS is third. Perk said Brant’s only losses were to that pair, but that those came in close matches.

At 132, Perk also sees Jaime Rios in the mix. Rios has lost to Etienne Kinney of Houston, No. 5 on, and has yet to face top-ranked Michael Lucas of Holy Rosary.

At 160, Perk has sixth-ranked Tristan Cook getting back to full strength. Cook must deal with top-ranked Carstens and No. 3 Zack Young of Grace in his bracket.

“He had bronchitis for three weeks,” Perk said of Cook. “He’s been really resilient.”

Perk also sees state qualifiers in Antonio Ochoa at 170, Danny Rios at 220, Julian Richburg at 145, Kyle Wells at 152 and Matthew Pollack at 182.

Homer also is guaranteed of moving its lone two girls to this year’s new girls state tournament. Heather Harrington and Alex Moseley are two of the three girls in the region and thus will qualify.

In Seward, Hemstock is focusing on a positive experience.

“I don’t have any seniors going,” he said. “I have a very young team. I just want to go and have a good time.”

Hemstock said he would be happy with any wrestlers qualifying for state.

“We’ve been having a great time this year,” Hemstock said. “We’ve been up to Bethel and Barrow.

“We just want to finish on a good, strong peak and look forward.”

At Voznesenka, coach Justin Zank said he thinks he could come out of the meet with a pair of state qualifiers.

Senior Gavril Kalugin was second at conference last year and third as a freshman. He is ranked No. 4 at 145, with Grayson Sorenson of Grace at No. 3.

“That was one of our losses,” Zank said. “It was a tight match the first weekend of competition.

“I know Gavril is excited to wrestle him again.”

Zank also thinks sophomore Michael Kusnetsov could qualify at 170. Beyond that, Zank said he has three freshmen that will get the benefit of experiencing their first conference meet.

More in Sports

Kenai’s Reid Titus collects high fives from the bleachers after making an unlikely shot during a basketball game at Nikiski Middle/High School in Nikiski, Alaska, on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Tuesday hoops: Kenai sweeps Nikiski

The Kenai girls and boys teams both came out on top

Martin Flores skis into the finish to win the 40-kilometer Double Tour while carrying an Alaska flag during the Tour of Tsalteshi at Tsalteshi Trails near Soldotna, Alaska, on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Skiers, bikers turn out for Seventh Annual Tour of Tsalteshi

Racers came from across the Kenai Peninsula and beyond and competed in a variety of lengths and modes of travel

ski tease
Soldotna girls, Kenai boys win borough ski meet

The event took place Saturday at Lookout Mountain Recreation Area

hoops tease
Monday hoops: CIA sweeps Nanwalek

The host Ninilchik boys and girls swept Effie Kokrine

Ninilchik’s Riley Tucker moves down the court during a basketball game at Ninilchik School in Ninilchik, Alaska, on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. Tucker was named tournament MVP and three-point champion at the Ninilchik Invitational Tournament. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Nikiski girls, Ninilchik boys win Ninilchik Invitational Tournament

Both teams took wins over Unalaska in title matches on Saturday

Kenai River’s Brady Engelkes and Anchorage’s Will Shepard battle for control of the puck during a hockey game at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Wolverines sweep Brown Bears

The Bears are 12-29-4-0, have 28 points and are 8th in the Midwest Division

Seward’s Ava Jagielski moves with ball as Kenai’s Avia Miller blocks during a basketball game at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Friday hoops: Nikiski and Ninilchik advance in Invitational, Kenai and Seward split

On Friday, Kenai split games with Seward, Soldotna split games with Mountain… Continue reading

Example of a culvert blocked by natural materials on Port Graham Road. (Photo by Sarah Apsens/USFWS)
Refuge Notebook: Connecting fish and community to resources in Port Graham

Streams that baby salmon live in provide shelter from predators, food and conditions for optimal growth

Most Read