The Nikiski wrestling team got its season off to a promising start by winning the Luke Spruill Memorial Tournament on Saturday at Kenai Central High School.
The tournament is so early in the season that many squads are not close to full. At the same time, any tournament where a squad can finish on top of Homer, which has a Division II state title and two runner-ups in the past three seasons, and Division I school Soldotna has to be considered a success. The host Kardinals also have a nice record of success at the tournament.
“We were able to get a pretty good group here,” Nikiski coach Adam Anders said. “We haven’t had any problems. Everybody is still healthy.
“That’s what made the difference. We were able to get everyone on the mat.”
Anders said that to say Nikiski was hurt by injury last season is an understatement.
Three of Nikiski’s titles came from wrestlers that battled injury last year. Jaryn Zoda won at 119 and Justin Cox won at 140. Both wrestlers were out last season due to injury. Dustin Mullins also took a title at 215. He was out until the postseason last year due to injury.
Caleb Payne also finished second for Nikiski at 171. He also missed last season due to injury.
Nikiski also got a title from Koleman McCaughey at 171. McCaughey was healthy last year.
Anders said the Bulldogs have good numbers in the room and have a bunch of good wrestlers. After last season, though, he is wary about making predictions.
“It’s too early to tell,” he said. “We have to stay healthy, keep our numbers up and keep our grades up.”
Anders also said the Bulldogs have great leadership this season, not only from Cox, Payne and Mullins, but also from Jordan Fleming at 130 and heavyweight Ethan Hack.
The tournament is named for Luke Spruill, who graduated Kenai Central as a two-time state champion and was killed in a Bristol Bay fishing accident in 2004 at the age of 27.
Soldotna’s Gideon Hutchison, a senior, won the Luke Spruill Award. The award goes to a wrestler who exhibits dedication, good sportsmanship, ability to help and coach others, a can-do attitude, coachability, kindness, leadership and tenacity.
A coach from each of the four teams picks one of their wrestlers. The names then go in a hat, and the winning wrestler is picked.
Kenai Central coach Stan Steffensen said Hutchison is a worthy winner.
“If Neldon Gardner said it is so, it is so,” Steffensen said.
Gardner, now the head coach at Soldotna, has coached in the area long enough that he coached against Spruill when Spruill was both in middle school and high school.
Homer took second at the tourney, getting titles from Seth Inama at 125, Mina Cavasos at 125 girls, Wayne Newman at 145, Alex Miller at 189 and Jadin Mann at 285.
Soldotna, which also was busy winning a Division II state football title Saturday, was third, getting titles from Ben Booth at 130, Hutchison at 135 and Brayden Wolfe at 152.
The host Kardinals received titles from Talon Whicker at 103 and Tucker Vann at 160.
Luke Spruill Memorial Tournament
Saturday at Kenai Central
103 — 1. Talon Whicker, Ken; 2. Griffin Gray, Nik; 3. Justin Bussdieker, Sol; 4. Caleb Evans, Hom. 119 — 1. Jaryn Zoda, Nik; 2. Lucas Craig, Sol; 3. Austin Cline, Hom; 4. Zach Knott, Hom. 125 — 1. Seth Inama, Hom; 2. Chase Olsen, Nik; 3. Gavin Maupin, Hom; 4. Briar Reaktenwalt, Sol. 125 girls — 1. Mina Cavasos, Hom; 2. Olivia Easley, Ken; 3. Destiny Martin, Nik; 4. Ann Graham, Hom. 130 — 1. Ben Booth, Sol; 2. Jordan Fleming, Nik; 3. Saiyan Baker, Sol. 135 — 1. Gideon Hutchison, Sol; 2. Ian Stovall, Hom; 3. Timmy Hatfield, Hom; 4. Mischelle Wells, Hom. 140 — 1. Justin Cox, Nik; 2. Seraphim Macaully, Hom; 3. Caleb Weeks, Nik; 4. Blaine Hayes, Sol. 145 — 1. Wayne Newman, Hom; 2. Simon Grenier, Nik; 3. Brian Kuhr, Sol; 4. Dakota Moonin, Hom. 152 — 1. Brayden Wolfe, Sol; 2. Mason Payne, Nik; 3. Brandon Kroto, Ken; 4. McKenzie Cook, Hom. 160 — 1. Tucker Vann, Ken; 2. Josh Bradshaw, Hom; 3. Jeremiah Kvasnikoff, Sol; 4. Jordan Henley, Sol. 171 — 1. Koleman McCaughey, Nik; 2. Caleb Payne, Nik; 3. Sean Babitt, Sol; 4. Kaden McKibben, Ken. 189 — 1. Alex Miller, Hom; 2. Malcolm Yerkes, Nik. 215 — 1. Dustin Mullins, Nik; 2. Eli Floyd, Sol; 3. Max Rogers, Sol; 4. Conor Boyd, Sol. 285 — 1. Jadin Mann, Hom; 2. Jacob Grant, Ken; 3. Hunter Harrington, Hom; 4. Ethan Hack, Nik.