Most say they’ll work off their Thanksgiving dinner. Wrestlers actually have to do it.
The Soldotna wrestling team defeated Nikiski 60-21 on Wednesday in a dual meet at Soldotna Prep. With the conference tournaments for both teams looming on Dec. 9 and 10, the Stars will take today off before getting back on the practice mat Friday, while Nikiski will take a whole two days off before resuming practice Saturday.
“They’ll come back fresh and ready to go after it hard,” Nikiski coach Adam Anders said.
The Stars were able to roll to Wednesday’s victory by getting five forfeits to Nikiski’s one.
Soldotna also received pins from Austin Reeves at 285 pounds, Gideon Hutchison at 120, Brayde Wolfe at 126, Joe VanHout at 132 and Austin Schrader at 182.
Notching pins for the Bulldogs were Dakota Hupp at 195 and Tyler Litke at 220.
Schrader, a senior, had to work the longest to get his pin, getting sophomore Dustin Mullins with just 47 seconds left in the match.
Both wrestlers were wrestling up a weight class.
Schrader is an accomplished powerlifter and star running back for the Soldotna football team, so Anders said Mullins gained a lot of confidence from the matchup.
“He didn’t win but he kept wrestling,” Anders said. “If he keeps going like that, he’s going to be tough to stop.”
It was Schrader’s first match of the season. Gardner said Schrader has been working hard in practice, but that is no substitute for a match.
“He got tired and that’s why he got himself in trouble a couple of times,” Gardner said.
Now, Gardner said it is a race for Schrader to get in wrestling shape in time for regions.
“I told him to tell his lifting coach, ‘Coach Gardner said no heavy lifting,’” Gardner said. “He needs to be able to go for six minutes, not 30 or 60 seconds.”
The closest match of the night came when Mason Payne of Nikiski notched a 6-4 decision over Logan Craig at 113. Craig tried to get a takedown with the seconds winding down in the third period but could not.
Anders said a lot of his younger wrestlers competed well without getting a win, but the coach also said it was a big win for the freshman Payne.
Craig had just finished second at 98 pounds at the Lancer Smith Wrestling Tournament in Palmer on Saturday.
“It was the best tournament he’s ever wrestled in his life,” Gardner said.
Gardner said wrestling up at 113 provided Craig with the type of challenge he must meet to be near the top of the state at 98.
He said Craig continues to wrestle well, with the exception of a habit of reaching back and putting his hand down. That’s the error that cost him in the finals Saturday.
But like Anders, Gardner, who also got 220-pounder Aaron Faletoi on the mat for the first time Wednesday, said his squad is ready to make a run at the end of the season.
The Stars didn’t lose anyone to the final grade check of the season, and will finish the season with 30 wrestlers, up from 22 last season.
Gardner said he’s lost as many as 12 wrestlers in one season to poor grades in his career.
“I’m happy with the team,” he said. “They’re working in the room and they’re working to get their grades up.”
Soldotna 60, Nikiski 21
195 — Dakota Hupp, Nik, p. Quincy Miller, 1:45; 220 — Tyler Litke, Nik, p. Aaron Faletoi, 2:38; 285 — Austin Reeves, Sol, p. Ethan Hack, 1:21; 98 — Joey Yourkoski, Nik, won by forfeit; 106 — Ben Booth, Sol, won by forfeit; 113 — Mason Payne, Nik, dec. Logan Craig, 6-4; 120 — Gideon Hutchison, Sol, p. Caleb Weeks, 1:34; 126 — Brayde Wolfe, Sol, p. Malcolm Yerkes, 4:23; 132 — Joe VanHout, Sol, p. Tyler Olsen, 1:09; 138 — Amanda Wylie, Sol, won by forfeit; 145 — Camron Presley, Sol, won by forfeit; 152 — Hudson Metcalf, Sol, won by forfeit; 160 — Dylan Donham, Sol, won by forfeit; 170 — Double forfeit; 182 — Austin Schrader, Sol, p. Dustin Mullins, 5:13.