The Kenai Central wrestling team celebrated a successful senior night Tuesday at Kenai Central High School, even as Nikiski made off with a 48-24 dual victory.
The Kardinals won five of the seven contested matches Tuesday, but Nikiski picked up points in six of the seven forfeited matches to run away with the team title.
The night began with a celebration of Kenai’s lone senior on the squad, Brandon Kroto, and the evening ended for Kroto with a 9-6 win over Nikiski’s Mason Payne. Kroto was one of three Kenai wrestlers that turned the tables on their Nikiski opponent. Earlier this year, Payne prevailed over Kroto in a close 7-6 decision at Nikiski’s home tournament, the Top Dog Invite, in early November.
“It felt good to get redemption,” Kroto said.
Kenai’s other two competitors who avenged earlier season losses to their Nikiski counterparts included Tucker Vann over Koleman McCaughey and Rocky Sherbahn over Dustin Mullins. Vann lost to McCaughery 9-7 at the Top Dog Invite but beat him Tuesday 7-4 in the 160-pound match, while Sherbahn lost to Mullins by pin at the ACS Invite, but pinned him Tuesday at 215 pounds.
Kroto said he enjoyed the festivities of senior night, even though he was the lone senior competitor of the evening. Kenai also celebrated senior team manager Jayce Lakshas.
The night was especially enjoyable for Kroto, who said he joined the wrestling program as a sophomore because of his late father, Ted Kroto, who passed away in 2005 when Brandon was very young.
“He was a state placer at Nikiski,” Kroto said of his father. “I joined because he wrestled too.”
Kroto beat Payne Tuesday night with a 9-6 decision in the 152-pound match, using a late takedown to break a 6-all tie.
Kenai head coach Stan Steffensen praised both his seniors on the team for their consistent hard work put in throughout the season, and said Tuesday night was a prime time to recognize both Kroto and Lakshas.
“The greatest thing is seeing them show up and ready to go each and every day,” Steffensen said. “(Payne) is a tremendous athlete so for Brandon to beat him after he got beat last time is phenomenal, and (Lakshas) is the cream of the crop.”
Talon Whicker grabbed the 103-pound win Tuesday with a pin on Nikiski’s Griffin Gray with 32 seconds left in the second round.
Nikiski got wins out of Chase Olsen in the 119-pound match and Jordan Fleming at 125 pounds. Olsen pinned Kenai’s Daemon Duniphin in the first round and Fleming pinned Isaiah Ticknor with 39 seconds left in the second round.
Bulldogs head coach Adam Anders was pleased with the dual win but said his Bulldogs squad is still just a tick away from executing at full capacity with the conference tournament right around the corner.
“It’s good just to wrestle well tonight,” Anders said. “We definitely have areas to improve in, but the effort’s there. We just have to clean up a few things technically.”
Olivia Easley of Kenai won the lone girls bout of the night, a pin on Nikiski’s Destiny Martin at 130 pounds.
Senior Night Dual
Tuesday at KCHS
106 — Talon Whicker, Ken, p. Griffin Gray, Nik, 3:28; 112 — Jaryn Zoda, Ken, forf; 119 — Chase Olsen, Nik, p. Daemon Duniphin, Ken; 125 — Jordan Fleming, Nik, p. Isaiah Ticknor, Ken, 3:21; 130 — Olivia Easley, Ken, p. Destiny Martin, Nik, 2:25; 135 — Justin Cox, Nik, forf; 140 — Simon Grenier, Nik, forf; 145 — double forf; 152 — Brandon Kroto, Ken, def. Mason Payne, Nik, 9-6; 160 — Tucker Van, Ken, def. Koleman McCaughey, Nik, 7-4; 171 — Caileb Payne, Nik, forf; 189 — Malcolm Yerkes, Nik, forf; 215 — Rocky Sherbahn, Ken, p. Dustin Mullins, Nik, 1:55; 285 — Ethan Hack, Nik, forf.
119 — Daemon Duniphin, Ken, def. Joey Yourkowski, Nik, 16-9; 215 — Aaron Hack, Nik, p. Thomas Mathis, Ken, :51.