Steffensens seek state titles on same day

After winning a pair of Northern Lights Conference wrestling titles on Saturday, Ellery and Paul Steffensen will now attempt to become one of the only pairs of brothers to win a state championship on the same day.

The tournament begins today at Bartlett High School in Anchorage with the qualifying rounds, consisting of preliminaries and championship quarterfinals, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The meet continues with semifinal rounds at 6 p.m.

The championship rounds for each weight class begin at 5 p.m. Saturday.

The Johnson brothers from Nikiski High School squared off for the 195-pound state title in the Class 1-2-3A tournament in 2012, with senior Lincoln getting the win over freshman Luke, but luckily for the Steffensens, both are in a different weight class, so they won’t have to go through each other for it.

Skyview’s Eli and Michaela Hutchison both won a state title on the same day in 2006, as Michaela became the first girl to win a state title in boys wrestling.

The way they have been wrestling this year, there’s a strong chance the Steffensens will both get a state title. The brothers are a combined 40-0 this year in matches, and both are ranked first in their respective weight classes.

“Brothers are good for each other,” Kenai coach Stan Steffensen said. “At the end of the season, they’re enjoying wrestling each other in drills, and we’re looking pretty good.”

As a freshman who just celebrated his 15th birthday Saturday while standing at the top of the podium at the conference tournament, Paul isn’t fazed by the pressure. Of course, when you’re a six-time national champion, winning a region title seems a lot easier.

Stan mentioned that Paul has competed at Idaho State’s Holt Arena football field, which was used as the venue for the national championships. Twenty wrestling mats were put on the field, and under the lights, the pressure can easily get to any athlete.

“Those challenges happen to all those kids,” Steffensen said. “If you wrestle your best in any kind of environment, being that he’s won six national titles, I think sometimes that experience can really help.”

Paul and Ellery are not the only pair of brothers from Kenai that are competing at state. Brett and Tyler Brown also made the cut. Both finished fourth in their weight classes at the conference meet — Brett, a sophomore, at 182 pounds and Tyler, a senior, at 195.

“We’re excited about the Browns and us, it’ll be a pretty neat thing,” Steffensen said.

Kenai is bringing 10 wrestlers, while Soldotna qualified all three of the athletes that competed at the region meet last weekend.

Along with Tyler, two other Kenai seniors will be ending their high school careers this weekend — Dustin Everitt at 138 pounds and Mike Olson at 152.

The Kardinals will also be represented by Matt Vandermartin at 132 pounds (finished third at the conference tourney), Dylan Carter at 160 pounds (finished fourth), Kyle Hunter at 182 (finished second) and Zach Koziczkowski at 220 (finished third).

Stan said that while Carter is off the rankings list of top six wrestlers, he beat Cesar Guzman of East at the West Classic tournament in December. Guzman won the Cook Inlet Conference championship last week at 170 pounds.

The Soldotna Stars wrestling team is batting a thousand — SoHi coach Scooter Hackett took a total of three wrestlers to the conference meet last weekend, and all three of them made the cut for the state tournament.

Freshman Atom Skiba finished fourth in the 113-pound weight division, junior Hunter Bourgeois took fourth at the 152-pound division, and sophomore Dalton Best won his fifth-place match to qualify for state in the heavyweight division.

It also represents the debut of all three SoHi wrestlers, but for coach Hackett, the tournament will be the last he’ll see as a head coach at Soldotna.

Hackett said he decided to step down as head coach, in large part due to a leg injury he suffered last May at a wrestling tournament that has limited his ability to teach.

“I really just want to thank everybody,” Hackett said. “It’s hard for me to do everything I want to do. I still want to be part of the team though.”

Hackett said he would like to return next season as an assistant coach, hopefully under the guidance of longtime Skyview coach Neldon Gardner. The Soldotna head coaching position hasn’t been determined yet for next year, but Gardner would fit that slot easily, as Skyview will be closing its doors this spring, and Gardner brings nearly 30 years of coaching experience.

In an email, Hackett states that, “Bill Carlson invited me into his room six years ago. Bill was a huge part of my opportunity to be a head coach at SoHi. We’ve made a lot of great memories together. He’s always been good to me, and Bill, I will be forever grateful.”

In his fifth year as the SoHi head coach, Hackett said his expectations heading into this weekend’s state meet are the same as usual.

“I just want them to go out and wrestle their best match,” Hackett said. “We’re proud of them, and we’re excited about it. All of their goals were to make it to state, and they did it.”

More in Sports

Homer senior Madison Story swims the breaststroke in the girls 200-yard IM on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020 during the Kenai Peninsula Swimming Championships at the Kate Kuhns Aquatic Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Homer’s Story stars at state club meet

Homer senior Madison Story won two individual titles Saturday at the Alaska… Continue reading

Moose are seen eating on the shoulder of Kenai Spur Highway on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Out of the Office: Into the office

An ode to Kenai Spur Highway

A snowshoe hare in its white winter coat. (Photo by Colin Canterbury/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)
Refuge Notebook: The verge of winter

As the daylight hours seem to slip away, the temperatures are slowly… Continue reading

Soldotna High School head football coach Galen Brantley Jr. poses with former players Galen Brantley III and Aaron Faletoi. Brantley III and Faletoi helped Dickinson State in Dickinson, South Dakota, to an undefeated regular season. (Photo provided by Galen Brantley Jr.)
Brantley III, Faletoi help Dickinson State to undefeated regular season

Galen Brantley III and Aaron Faletoi, 2020 graduates of Soldotna High School,… Continue reading

wrestle
Ninilchik grad Vanderford moves to 10-0 in MMA

Austin Vanderford, a 2008 graduate of Ninilchik School, moved to 10-0 in… Continue reading

Kenai’s Rachael Pitsch swims the girls 500-yard freestyle on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020 during the Kenai Peninsula Swimming Championships at the Kate Kuhns Aquatic Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Homer girls, Kenai boys win swim meet

In their last competitive event of the season, the Homer girls swim… Continue reading

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Theo Thrun brings the puck up the ice on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019, against the Minnesota Magicians at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears split weekend games with Steel

The Kenai River Brown Bears split a pair of North American Hockey… Continue reading

tease
CIA volleyball splits matches at Lumen

Staff report The Cook Inlet Academy volleyball team finished up its regular… Continue reading

Seward’s Lydia Jacoby races to victory in the girls 100-yard breaststroke final Oct. 27, 2018, at the Northern Lights Conference championship swim meet at Homer High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward’s Jacoby takes 2nd at national swim meet

Seward junior Lydia Jacoby, just 16, finished second in the 100-meter breaststroke… Continue reading

The author is seen here skiing a little easier at Trail Lake near Seward. (Photo provided by Kat Sorensen)
Tangled Up in Blue: Grooming the trail

During my first winter spent cross-country skiing in Soldotna, I often found… Continue reading

Basic Incident Command System organization chart. The ICS system has been used for many different types of incidents since its inception. (Chart from Federal Emergency Management Agency)
Refuge Notebook: Incident Command System adapts to record-setting wildfires

The August Complex Fire of 2020 on the Mendocino National Forest in… Continue reading

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Brandon Lajoie pulls up against the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears topple Steel again

The Kenai River Brown Bears moved to 2-0-0-0 in the North American… Continue reading