Thanksgiving weekend gives many the opportunity to see family.
The holiday gave the Kenai and Soldotna wrestling teams time to spend with each other.
With conference tournaments looming Dec. 10 and 11 and state set for Dec. 17 and 18, wrestlers had no time for a holiday break. The Stars hosted the Kardinals for Friday and Saturday practices, then a Tuesday dual meet.
The dual featured matchups and no team scores were kept.
Soldotna head coach Neldon Gardner said about 20 kids showed up for the holiday practices, with a few missing and about six out of town. The Stars are one of the best Division I teams in the state, with Colony favored for the title and Soldotna, Lathrop and South in a race in case the Knights slip up.
Making Soldotna’s status all the more impressive is that the Stars will lose just two seniors after this season. Those seniors — Wayne Mellon at 171 pounds and Saiyan Baker at 140 — were honored Tuesday.
Gardner gave Hunter Richardson, the 189-pounder, credit for letting Mellon move up from 171 to pin Kenai’s Zoticus Active. Kenai did not have a 171-pounder for Mellon to wrestle.
“He’s a captain,” Gardner said of Mellon. “He wrestled very well and it was a good way to go out his senior year. I’m really proud of Wayne.”
Gardner said he had to make the tough decision to pull Baker out of the lineup due to a small skin infection.
“We’ve got a little bit of that going around the room and we’ve got to get a handle on it before regions and state,” Gardner said of skin infections. “Obviously, we didn’t want to give it to Kenai. So we had to pull him out of the lineup tonight.
“We’ve got good seniors. Both are really good kids.”
Soldotna received two pins from Daisy Hannevold at girls 135, two pins from Hunter Bras at 135 and pins from Ezekiel Miller at 130, Nicholas Rackley at 140, Isaac Chavarria at 145, Mellon at 189 and Trinity Donovan at 145 girls.
Kenai received pins from Talon Whicker at 125, Owen Whicker at 130, Andrew Gaethle at 152 and Simone Watts at 145 girls.
Kenai head coach Jason Chavarria said it has not been an easy stretch for his Division II team competing against the Stars.
“We got some good push,” Chavarria said. “I was putting them in some tight spots and making them work. I’m thankful for SoHi helping us out and putting it on our kids.”
Chavarria said Owen Whicker had a great night with a pin of Nicholas Rackley at 130, then a competitive match against Ezekiel Miller before Whicker was caught for a pin.
“He really pushed Zeke to his limits,” Chavarria said of Whicker. “I feel like he could have won it, because he was wrestling to win.”
The coach also said Gaethle came in for some extra wrestling at 6 a.m. Tuesday, then got the pin at 152 and an 8-3 decision over Collin Peck at 160.
“He’s really pushing himself,” Chavarria said of Gaethle. “He’s not just looking for the win. He’s looking for a way to get better.”
Both the Stars and Kardinals will get their final tuneup for conference at the Grace Shakedown in Anchorage on Friday and Saturday.
Kenai vs. Soldotna
Tuesday at Soldotna
119 — Ryan Buchanan, Sol, m.d. Sawyer Vann, 13-2; 125 — Talon Whicker, Ken, p. Blaze Michael, 3:05; 130 — Ezekiel Miller, Sol, p. Owen Whicker, 4:17; 130 — Owen Whicker, Ken, p. Nicholas Rackley, 4:55; 135 — Hunter Bras, Sol, p. Delen Byrd, 2:34; 135 — Hunter Bras, Sol, p. Antonio Perez, 1:39; 140 — Nicholas Rackley, Sol, p. Elijah Dambacher, 2:45; 145 — Isaac Chavarria, Sol, p. Reymond Perez, 3:07; 152 — Andrew Gaethle, Ken, p. Edgar Land, 3:07; 160 — Andrew Gaethle, Ken, dec. Collin Peck, 8-3; 189 — Wayne Mellon, Sol, p. Zoticus Active, 3:07; 135G — Daisy Hannevold, Sol, p. Sarai Bravo-Moe, 0:18; 135G — Daisy Hannevold, Sol, p. Jalyn Yeoman, 0:16; 145G — Simone Watts, Ken, p. Erin Bell, 0:38; 145G — Trinity Donovan, Sol, p. Jenna Yeoman, 0:33.