Soldotna’s Jacob Strausbaugh and Seward’s Hunter Forshee-Kurtz battle at 130 pounds Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. Strausbaugh won 7-6. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Jacob Strausbaugh and Seward’s Hunter Forshee-Kurtz battle at 130 pounds Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. Strausbaugh won 7-6. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna wrestling celebrates senior night with 2 dual victories

The Soldotna wrestling team celebrated senior night by capturing a pair of dual meets Tuesday at Soldotna High School.

The Stars, a Division I school, welcomed Division II squads Kenai Central, Nikiski and Seward to the mats. Soldotna topped Seward 102-24 and Nikiski 89-48.

In the other duals, Kenai defeated Seward 54-42 and Nikiski defeated Kenai 72-33.

All four coaches were happy to get quality mat time locally at an important, but awkward, time of the season.

Seward coach Brian Mullaly said the double dual was a great opportunity to get matches with some good wrestlers. He said the meet was like two weeks of practice.

“They get that full-speed workout versus drilling through some stuff,” he said. “When you put them in a live match, they get so much more out of it.”

The wrestling season is short. All four of the schools at the meet made the football playoffs, meaning many didn’t start wrestling until mid- to late October.

Now comes a holiday break with the season then ramping up in a big way with conference on Dec. 8 and 9, and state the following weekend.

“We’re going to be working over Thanksgiving,” Nikiski head coach Kaden Spurgeon said. “There’s no time to rest. We’ve got three weeks left.”

While Nikiski, Seward and Kenai are some of the top programs in Division II, the Stars are a top Division I program.

SoHi head coach Pete Dickinson said the priority was moving all 14 of his seniors into the lineup. That meant some starters sat out, but Dickinson said that led to better competition.

The seniors honored for Soldotna were Megan Whittom, Angelina Chavarria, Kaytlin McAnelly, Abriella Werner, Meg Roberts, Tustin Keller, Nicholas Rackley, Nick Calhoun, Bowen Korth, Gage Trent, Gabe Almedia, Leigh Tacey and Collin Peck.

Dickinson said he’s been around Soldotna wrestling since about 2010 and this is the biggest class of seniors to come through in that time.

The coach said there are more big classes to come.

“It’s not a rebuilding, it’s a reloading,” Dickinson said. “I think six of these seniors are first-year wrestlers.

“They just wanted to be a part of a great program, so they came out as seniors. That’s cool. It’s really exciting.”

Dickinson said the program is ready for a great finish to the year.

The girls won the Lancer Smith Memorial — the biggest tournament of the season — over the weekend and haven’t lost all year as they pursue the first girls state title — and wrestling state title period — at Soldotna.

Dickinson said it’s not time to relax.

“We won everything last year too in the boys, then lost the state tournament,” he said.

The boys lost to South at that state tournament, and that’s the only team that has been ahead of the Stars this season. SoHi was second at the Lancer Smith Memorial behind the Wolverines.

Dickinson said the Stars had a chance at winning that tournament if they were at full strength.

“The problem is South’s pretty deep,” he said. “So when it comes to the state tournament, it’s going to be a lot tougher because of the fact they have full backups.”

Tuesday, Dickinson said two matches stood out. At 130 pounds, SoHi’s Jacob Strausbaugh defeated Seward’s Hunter Forshee-Kurtz, 7-6.

Dickinson said Strausbaugh moved up in weight to set up the showdown between two defending state champions.

The SoHi coach said the two have been wrestling since they were 5. He said Strausbaugh has won more matches, but Forshee-Kurtz has won a lot, as well. Strausbaugh came back late to claim this victory.

“It’s always a good iron-sharpening-iron-type thing,” Mullaly said of the match.

The gym was remarkably quiet for the match. The crowd seemed transfixed watching the display of flexibility and strength, while the wrestlers made nary a sound rolling around since efficiency equals silence.

Dickinson’s favorite match, on the other hand, was the loudest the crowd in the gym got all night. At 235 girls, Soldotna’s Roberts topped Seward’s Destiny Langston 7-4.

“The crowd favorite, I thought, was the girls heavyweight,” Dickinson said. “It was pretty amazing.”

Roberts, a first-year wrestler, was able to fight back and take the lead. Langston took an injury timeout in the third period and was able to continue, but could not score the points for a comeback.

Nikiski Bulldogs

The Bulldogs had been building momentum all season, taking fourth in early November at the Mountain City Wrestling Invite, which is a good preview of the Division II state meet.

Then at Lancer Smith, Nikiski had two placers — Langston and Paisley Maxwell at 107.

“We didn’t show up,” Spurgeon said. “Honestly, we just kind of laid an egg and we talked about it.

“We had that whole conversation. We talked about how we have to bounce back.”

Spurgeon said the Bulldogs took a big step forward by wrestling Soldotna tough.

“I think the SoHi dual was just fun,” he said. “Everybody was just amped up for it.

“I know they didn’t start everybody, but they still brought some good competition.”

Spurgeon said Jake Martin provided a big highlight in the dual by pinning Jaykob Kemp at 160. Rex Wittmer then battled Kenai Lepule to the end at 285 and lost 7-6 due to late stalling calls.

“He’s just a freshman and we’re seeing him come into his own,” Spurgeon said.

Against Kenai, the coach said the highlight was Connor Ley losing a 13-11 decision to Delen Byrd.

Spurgeon said Ley is a first-year, freshman wrestler.

“He’s just always ready to battle,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you put across from him.”

Seward Seahawks

The Seahawks boys continued a promising season by placing ninth at Lancer Smith. That was the top Division II team at the tourney. Seward was second at the Mountain City Wrestling Invite.

Mullaly said the Seahawks are very solid until about 140, then are missing some wrestlers and don’t get a big hitter until 285.

That hasn’t stopped Seward from tournament success.

“It’s a really good mark that things have built up a little bit,” the coach said. “I think the kids have wrestled really good. Their tournament experience is getting better.

“It’s hard to say how it all will shake out.”

Mullaly said it will be important to get as many wrestlers as possible through the conference tourney to state. While the competition represented by Kenai and Nikiski was good to help with improvement Tuesday, it also shows how tough the Kachemak Conference tourney will be.

Mullaly said it’s always nice to get experience against the big schools. In addition to the match between Strausbaugh and Forshee-Kurtz, he pointed to John Van Buskirk getting in good matches against SoHi’s Kenai Lepule and Kenai’s Lochlyn Roney.

Van Buskirk was able to pin both, including Lepule in a matchup of the Lineman of the Year for nine-man football and the Lineman of the Year for Division II.

Kenai Central

Kardinals head coach Jason Chavarria showed he knows how to get a team to peak last year in leading the Kardinals to second at state.

The coach has a good feeling again this year.

“We have a young team and they’re looking great,” he said. “I feel they’re gonna peak at the right moment — physically and technique-wise.

“And emotion. A lot of them are way too emotionally invested in their matches. We’re needing them to mature in that area so they can process logically through the match instead of trying to force everything. They’re trying to wrestle like they think they’re in some kind of action movie.”

Chavarria gave credit to Charlie Vermette, who pinned Seward’s Alejandro Herrera at 152, and Macalen Marion, who pinned Nikiski’s Brody Nelson at 152, for showing that patience.

At girls 107, Kenai’s Justyce Stockman was pinned by Nikiski’s Paisley Maxwell, but Chavaria said Stockman showed “moments of glory” in a breakthrough performance.

Chavarria also said Byrd did not have his best match against Ley, but was still was able to figure out a way to win.

Tuesday

Soldotna 102, Seward 24

189 — Collin Peck, Sol, p. William Larow, 0:46; 215 — Gabe Almedia, Sol, won by forfeit; 285 — John Van Buskirk, Sew, p. Kenai Lepule, 2:35; 100G — Megan Whittom, Sol, won by forfeit; 107G — Valarie McAnelly, Sol, won by forfeit; 114G — Angelina Chavarria, Sol, won by forfeit; 120G — Rowan Peck, Sol, won by forfeit; 126G — Abriella Werner, Sol, won by forfeit; 138G — Kaytlin McAnelly, Sol, won by forfeit; 145G — Daisy Hannevold, Sol, won by forfeit; 185G — Infinity-Ann Asiata-Higa, Sol, won by forfeit; 235G — Meg Roberts, Sol, won by forfeit; 103 — Tommy Jarnig, Sew, won by forfeit; 112 — Carson Cobb, Sol, p. Emery Kirchner, 1:16; 119 — Zackary Kemp, Sol, p. Ridge Conant, 4:10; 125 — Tustin Keller, Sol, dec. Aidan Schilling, 5-2; 130 — Jacob Strausbaugh, Sol, dec. Hunter Forshee-Kurtz, 7-6; 140 — Alejandro Sanchez, Sew, p. Harold Rudstrom, 1:01; 145 — Anthony Smith, Sew, p. Nicholas Rackley, 3:27; 152 — Leigh Tacey, Sol, p. Alejandro Herrera, 1:55; 160 — Liam Peck, Sol, p. Mesha Bidnyy, 1:17; 171 — Nicholas Calhoun, Sol, won by forfeit.

Kenai Central 54, Seward 42

171 — Jason Johnson, Ken, won by forfeit; 189 — William Roberts, Ken, p. William Larow, 0:24; 215 — Brandon Blake, Ken, won by forfeit; 285 — John Van Buskirk, Sew, p. Lochlyn Roney, 1:02; 107G — Justyce Stockman, Ken, won by forfeit; 120G — Alicia Perez, Ken, won by forfeit; 103 — Tommy Jarnig, Sew, won by forfeit; 112 — Emery Kirchner, Sew, won by forfeit; 119 — Ridge Conant, Sew, won by forfeit; 125 — Aidan Schilling, Sew, won by forfeit; 130 — Gunnar Stanley, Ken, p. Amos Ballard, 1:19; 135 — Alejandro Sanchez, Sew, p. Abednego Larson, 1:35; 140 — Rusty Holmes, Ken, p. Alex Fink, Sew, 4:55; 145 — Anthony Smith, Sew, p. Cody Holmes, 0:46; 152 — Charlie Vermette, Ken, p. Alejandro Herrera, 2:53; 160 — Atlas Ruark, Ken, p. Mesha Bidnyy, 1:02.

Soldotna 89, Nikiski 48

171 — Jackson Wittmer, Nik, p. Gage Trent, 1:01; 189 — Bowen Korth, Sol, won by forfeit; 215 — Truit McCaughey, Nik, p. Gabe Almedia, 1:22; 285 — Kenai Lepule, Sol, dec. Rex Wittmer, 7-6; 100G — Megan Whittom, Sol, won by forfeit; 107G — Valarie McAnelly, Sol, p. Paisley Maxwell, 1:06; 114G — Angelina Chavarria, Sol, won by forfeit; 120G — Rowan Peck, Sol, won by forfeit; 126G — Abriella Werner, Sol, won by forfeit; 132G — Jade Hemphill, Nik, won by forfeit; 138G — Kaytlin McAnelly, Sol, p. Addison Perkins, 1:18; 145G — Daisy Hannevold, Sol, p. Oceanna Broussard, 0:43; 165G — Wynter Yeager, Nik, won by forfeit; 185G — Infinity-Ann Asiata-Higa, Sol, won by forfeit; 235G — Meg Roberts, Sol, dec. Destiny Langston, 7-4; 112 — Grady Adams, Sol, won by forfeit; 119 — Andrew Fielden, Sol, won by forfeit; 125 — Tustin Keller, Sol, won by forfeit; 130 — Jacob Strausbaugh, Sol, t.f. Mason Doth, 2:38; 135 — Wyatt Maguire, Nik, won by forfeit; 140 — Wyatt Maguire, Nik, p. Harold Rudstrom, 5:48; 145 — Nicholas Rackley, Sol, p. Kaiden Parrish, 2:48; 152 — Frank St. Denis, Nik. p. Leigh Tacey, 1:17; 160 — Jake Martin, Nik, p. Jaykob Kemp, 3:06. Exhibition: 171 — Johnny Ralston, Nik, p. Nicholas Calhoun, 0:27; 215 — Breaker Schmit, Nik, p. Devin Fielden, 1:16; 152 — Ryatt Weed, Sol, p. Connor Ley, 2:13; 152 — Brody Nelson, Nik, p. Leigh Tacey, 4:37.

Nikiski 72, Kenai 33

189 — William Roberts, Ken, won by forfeit; 215 — Truit McCaughey, Nik, won by forfeit; 285 — Rex Wittmer, Nik, p. Lochlyn Roney, 3:34; 107G — Paisley Maxwell, Nik, p. Justyce Stockman, 2:33; 114G — Kayani Whicker, Ken, won by forfeit; 120G — Alicia Perez, Ken, won by forfeit; 132G — Jade Hemphill, Nik, won by forfeit; 138G — Addison Perkins, Nik, won by forfeit; 145G — Oceanna Broussard, Nik, won by forfeit; 165G — Wynter Yeager, Nik, won by forfeit; 235G — Destiny Langston, Nik, won by forfeit; 130 — Gunnar Stanley, Ken, p. Mason Doth, 2:30; 135 — Abednego Larson, Ken, p. Wyatt Maguire, 0:59; 140 — Thayne Quiner, Nik, p. Rusty Holmes, 0:30; 145 — Kaiden Parrish, Nik, p. Cody Holmes, 0:37; 152 — Keagan Stanley, Ken, dec. Frank St. Denis, 5-2; 160 — Jake Martin, Nik, p. Atlas Ruark, 2:31; 171 — Jackson Wittmer, Nik, p. Bryce Jolicoeur, 1:09. Exhibition: 215 — Breaker Schmit, Nik, p. Brandon Blake, 1:36; 152 — Macalen Marion, Ken, p. Brody Nelson, 4:53; 152 — Delen Byrd, Ken, dec. Connor Ley, 13-11; 171 — Johnny Ralston, Nik, p. Davis Deese, 1:05.

Soldotna’s Kenai Lepule and Nikiski’s Rex Wittmer battle at 285 pounds Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. Lepule won 7-6. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Kenai Lepule and Nikiski’s Rex Wittmer battle at 285 pounds Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. Lepule won 7-6. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Brody Nelson and Kenai’s Macalen Marion battle in an exhibition at 152 pounds Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. Marion won by pin. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Brody Nelson and Kenai’s Macalen Marion battle in an exhibition at 152 pounds Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. Marion won by pin. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Paisley Maxwell and Kenai Central’s Justyce Stockman battle at 107 pounds Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. Maxwell won by pin. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Paisley Maxwell and Kenai Central’s Justyce Stockman battle at 107 pounds Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. Maxwell won by pin. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Destiny Langston and Soldotna’ Meg Roberts battle at 235 pounds Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. Roberts won 7-4. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Destiny Langston and Soldotna’ Meg Roberts battle at 235 pounds Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. Roberts won 7-4. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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