Nikiski hosted Kenai Central in a meet Tuesday to get wrestlers from both building programs some mat time and to honor Bulldogs seniors Hunter Neal and Tim Goodnight.
“We just wanted an opportunity to get on the mat,” Nikiski coach Kaden Spurgeon said. “That’s our biggest issue right now. It’s just lack of experience.
“We need time to practice what we’re doing in the room. You can look like a hero in the room, but it doesn’t really matter if you don’t have a real opportunity to try it against somebody else.”
Kenai Central head coach Jason Chavarria agreed, especially with the Lancer Smith coming up this weekend in Palmer. The tournament draws small and big schools from around the state and is considered the toughest title to win, but many inexperienced wrestlers end up getting just two matches.
Spurgeon is even taking the step of practicing with Dimond on the way up to the Valley just to make sure all the wrestlers get a look at different bodies.
“Most of our kids don’t get enough mat time or just get wrecked because we have a lot of first-time wrestlers,” Chavarria said. “They also have a lot of first-time wrestlers. We’re both trying to build a program and it worked out good.”
It particularly worked out well for Goodnight and Neal on a night all wrestling took place under a spotlight.
Goodnight was able to work to a pin of Kenai’s Roman Dunham at 189 pounds.
“They put a lot into this,” Spurgeon said of his wrestlers. “Whether it shows on scoreboards across the state or titles doesn’t matter. They’re still putting in as much work as that state champion, they’re just not getting that recognition.
“So to be able to have a scene like this is important.”
Neal picked up two wins at 152, pinning Ryan Johnson and topping Delen Byrd 14-10 in the match of the night. Both Neal and Byrd were on their feet with 15 seconds left with the score 12-10 and Byrd needing a takedown to tie it. Neal was able to get a takedown of his own to seal the match.
“It made my day,” Spurgeon said. “It was just what he showed out when he was wrestling, specifically that last match where it came down to the wire and he pulled it out.”
Chavarria also liked what he saw out of Byrd in his two matches.
“I think he built enough confidence,” Chavarria said. “We know he can get in on legs. It was just getting him moving to finish and he finished quite a few takedowns in the first match. He was getting on legs easily.”
Chavarria said two more highlights were Davis Deese getting a 10-6 decision over High McCaughey at 160 and Elisha Beans getting a pin of Jorja Peppinger at 145 girls.
Kenai vs. Nikiski
145 girls — Elisha Beans, Ken, p. Jorja Peppinger; 145 — Reymond Perez, Ken, m.d. Niles Broussard, 15-3; 152 — Niles Broussard, Nik, p. Delen Byrd; 152 — Hunter Neal, Nik, p. Ryan Johnson; 152 — Hunter Neal, Nik, dec. Delen Byrd, 14-10; 160 — Kage Adkins, Ken, p. High McCaughey; 160 — Davis Deese, Ken, dec. High McCaughey, 10-6; 171 — Johnny Ralston, Nik, p. Roman Dunham; 189 — Tim Goodnight, Nik, p. Roman Dunham.