The Soldotna wrestling team celebrated senior night by defeating Homer 47-32 on Tuesday at Soldotna Prep, but the matchup with the most pedigree didn’t even count in the team scores.
Homer senior McKenzie Cook, a three-time girls state champion and the top-ranked wrestler at 145 pounds by alaskangrappler.com, took on Soldotna junior Amanda Wylie, who was third at state last year.
Wylie is ranked No. 2 at 160 but Soldotna coach Neldon Gardner said she should be up to No. 1 after winning the Lancer Smith Memorial in the middle of the month. Wylie also is a true 152-pounder, but that weight class doesn’t exist for the girls.
Gardner and Homer assistant coach Chris Perk said the match hinged on Wylie’s excellent head-and-arm move. Perk said the coaching staff worked on defending the move with Cook and it paid off with a pin with 1 minute, 26 seconds, left in the third period.
“She did defend really well against the head and arm,” Gardner said. “If Amanda had been able to get it, it would have been a different match.”
More than her technical precision, Perk loved the way Cook persisted in scoring points until the pin came.
“If you’re going to be No. 1, you’ve got to wrestle like it,” Perk said.
The Stars honored seniors Brennan Warner, Logan Craig and Gideon Hutchison, then went out and notched four pins in upending the Mariners.
Gardner said key pins came from Werner at 189 and Brayde Wolfe at 145.
Werner had been wrestling 215 all season, but has moved down to 189 because the starter at the weight, Hudson Metcalf, has been lost for the season due to injury.
“You never know if a kid is going to be able to pin when he moves down like that,” Gardner said.
Gardner also thought Wolfe’s match with David Weisser would be close, but Wolfe was able to notch the third-period pin.
Other pins from SoHi came from Sean Babitt at 171 and Hutchison at 130. Babitt is ranked No. 6 at his weight class, while Hutchison, a defending state champ, is No. 2.
Several wrestlers were absent that could have made the evening more interesting. Aaron Faletoi, the top-ranked Division I wrestler at 215, just barely missed making weight for the Stars. Jadin Mann, the No. 2 heavyweight at Division II for Homer, and Josh Bradshaw at 160 could not make the trip on a school night. Homer forfeited at heavyweight and 160.
But Perk had plenty to like, including the performance of his quartet of top-ranked wrestlers in Seth Inama at 125, Luciano Fasulo at 135, Wayne Newman at 140 and Mose Hayes at 152.
Fasulo was wrestling just his second match of the season after coming back from a knee injury. The senior and two-time defending state champ pinned Blaine Hayes for his 99th straight win.
There was talk of a battle royale between Fasulo and Hutchison, but they settled on different weight classes.
“As a wrestling fan, I’d love to see those two wrestle,” Perk said. “As a coach of a healing wrestler we’re going to need in two weeks, I think we made the prudent decision.”
Newman won by pin, while Inama and Hayes both won via major decisions.
Hayes’ 15-7 victory over Dennis Taylor had something both coaches could love. Gardner said he was proud of the way his sophomore battled a defending state champ.
Perk loved the way Hayes turned Taylor loose with 17 seconds left, then scored a takedown in the final seconds to turn a decision into a major decision.
“That guy has got goals,” Perk said of Hayes. “He wants to win state.
“He could have rode him out for 17 seconds but didn’t. When we talk in three weeks, I think that will be a decision that helps put him on the championship podium.”
Hunter Harrington pinned for Homer at 215, while Perk also liked the way Ian Stovall, ranked No. 6 at 130, battled Hutchison, holding a 5-4 lead after the first period.
Soldotna 47, Homer 32
160 — Aiden Willets, Sol, won by forfeit; 171 — Sean Babitt, Sol, p. Cayleb Diaz, 0:29; 189 — Brennan Werner, Sol, p. Kamdyn Doughty, 2:20; 215 — Hunter Harrington, Hom, p. Max Rogers, 1:30; HWT — Melvin Lloyd, Sol, won by forfeit; 103 — Caleb Evans, Hom, won by forfeit; 112 — Hunter Secor, Sol, won by forfeit; 119 — Logan Craig, Sol, t.f. Austin Cline, 2:51; 125 — Seth Inama, Hom, m.d. Ben Booth, 16-5; 130 — Gideon Hutchison, Sol, p. Ian Stovall, 3:53; 135 — Luciano Fasulo, Hom, p. Blaine Hayes, 1:30; 140 — Wayne Newman, Hom, p. Brian Kuhr, 3:49; 145 — Brayde Wolfe, Sol, p. David Weisser, 4:24; 152 — Mose Hayes, Hom, m.d. Dennis Taylor, 15-7.
130 — Vydell Baker, Sol, p. Mischelle Wells, 1:45; 160 — McKenzie Cook, Hom, p. Amanda Wylie, 4:34.
160 — Mose Hayes, Hom, p. Aiden Willets, 3:35; 215 — Alex Hicks, Hom, p. Conor Boyd, 2:00; 215 — Eli Floyd, Sol, p. Alex Hicks, 3:55; 112 — Hunter Secor, Sol, p. Caleb Evans, 1:20; 152 — Israel Aley, Sol, dec. Dakota Moonin, 5-2.