Soldotna High senior Seth Hutchison was eight years old the night elder brother Eli won his fourth Alaska state wrestling championship in February 2006. He remembers the magical night well.
“Everyone was giving hugs and I was just in the mix,” Seth recalls. “And I remember the TV (coverage).”
The abundant media coverage surrounding the tournament wasn’t there only for Eli. The Hutchison’s sister, Michaela, made national headlines that night by becoming the first girl in the country to win a state wrestling championship by defeating boys.
With siblings such as Eli and Michaela, Seth has had to carve out his own identity, and there are still moments when people approach him with the question of whether he is the brother of the first girl to win a state title over boys.
“I still get asked that question,” Seth said with a laugh.
Nearly a decade later, Seth laced up his wrestling shoes and joined the record books with his famous siblings.
With one mighty attack, Hutchison entered rarified air at the Class 4A state wrestling championships Saturday night at Bartlett High in Anchorage, winning a fourth straight state crown.
Hutchison pinned Lathrop sophomore Westley Bockert with 24 seconds left in the first round of the 126-pound final, giving him his fourth state championship and becoming just the ninth wrestler in state history to accomplish the feat, although one thing Eli has over his now four-time champion brother is his undefeated record. Eli is still the only wrestler in Alaska to never lose a high school match.
“It’s cool to join my older brother Eli,” Hutchison said after the match. “I mean, more than cool, it’s exciting.”
South won the team title with 254 points, beating runner-up Colony’s 224.5 points and third-place Lathrop’s 223.5. Soldotna finished eighth in the team standings with 93 points, while Kenai Central was 16th with 42 points.
Hutchison ended his final year of prep wrestling with a 43-2 record. The SoHi senior controlled the match from the start, getting a few takedowns and holding Bockert down and staying on top for the majority of the action to quickly take a 7-0 lead.
“I hooked my leg and when he was bending over I grabbed his leg,” Hutchison said.
“It’s kind of sad that it’s over but it feels awesome that I’ve come this far since freshman year.”
The victory was the 11th state title for the Hutchison family, who have seen their share of success over the years, beginning with Zeb (two state titles) and continuing with Eli (four), Michaela (one) and Seth (four). The last of the Hutchison siblings, SoHi freshman Gideon, finished third Saturday with a 10-6 decision over Ketchikan’s Brayden Linne in the 106-pound class.
In the moments following the win, the well-deserved celebration culminated in a photo with Seth, Eli, Hutchison family patriarch Mike and coach Gardner, along with a few other Soldotna students.
“What a way to go out,” Gardner said. “He was on fire out there, and to pin your way to the win, that’s the way to do it.”
Hutchison was not the only wrestler Saturday to go out with a state title their senior year. Heavyweight contender Dalton Best also picked up a state championship — his first — in the 285-pound final, beating Dimond junior Brandon Pili in a 7-3 decision.
Best found himself trailing 3-0 early in the match, but swiftly found his style and came close to pinning Pili before the time ran out.
“I went into that with nothing to lose,” Best said. “I was just focused on not staying tied up with him.”
For Best, it is his second state trophy he has collected his senior year, joining the one he earned with the SoHi football team in October. Best was an All-Tournament lineman for the Stars.
Pili was ranked first in the state on AKMat.org entering the meet, but due to a mixup, was not seeded with the rest of the top contenders. Nevertheless, Pili still found himself in the title bout against Best.
Best stayed aggressive the duration of the match and — much like the vaunted defense the SoHi football team has become known for — kept Pili from gaining points on takedowns or escapes.
Gardner said what made Best’s victory impressive was not necessarily what happened in the match, but what happened before it. Long before it.
Best is the only grappler left from SoHi’s lean years, when the Stars roster only consisted of three or four athletes as recently as 2013. Gardner, who coached for 24 years at Skyview High, transferred to Soldotna once Skyview was turned into a middle school, and the wrestling program immediately saw a big jump in attendance.
“Wrestling wasn’t a big ticket item then, but Dalton stayed with it,” Gardner said, adding that Best is his first pupil to win a heavyweight crown at the state meet.
Kenai failed to place any wrestlers in the finals of the state meet for the first time since 2012.
Kardinal senior Zach Koziczkowski finished the highest with a win in the third-place match over West Valley’s Jake Foshee. Koziczkowski pinned Foshee 1:55 into the match. On Friday, Koziczkowksi made it to the semifinal round but was pinned by Pili while leading late in the match.
State wrestling tournament
at Chugiak, Bartlett
Team scores: 1. South, 254; 2. Colony, 224.5; 3. Lathrop, 223.5; 4. Wasilla, 141.5; 5. North Pole, 102; 6 (tie). Ketchikan, Palmer 97.5; 8. Soldotna, 93; 9. Chugiak, 86; 10. East, 75.5; 11. Service, 68; 12. West Valley, 64; 13. Eagle River, 53; 14. Dimond, 46; 15. Kodiak, 45; 16. Kenai, 42; 17. Bartlett, 34.5; 18. Thunder Mountain, 30.5; 19. Juneau, 24; 20. West, 23.
98 — Ee, Lat, dec. Mcalpin, Sou, 9-2; 106 — Spencer, Lat, dec. Martin, Sou, 5-4; 113 — Mathis, Was, m.d. Jones, Lat, 14-3; 120 — Hopkins, Col, TB-1 Harris, Sou, 8-4; 126 — Hutchison, Sol, p. Bockert, Lat, 1:37; 132 — Shack, Sou, dec. Sturgeon, Was, 10-9; 138 — Wolff, Was, dec. Hopkins, Col, 4-2; 145 — Rogers, NP, dec. Ottum, Sou, 7-3; 152 — Amico, ER, m.d. Schumaker, NP, 16-8; 160 — Pellumbi, Sou, won by injury default over Budke, Chu; 170 — Haan, Col, dec. Lowe, Chu, 3-1; 182 — Nash, Col, p. Bonar, WV, 5:18; 195 — Fousel, Ket, dec. Weldon, Jun, 15-6; 220 — Miller, Lat, dec. Johnston, Chu, 11-6; 285 — Best, Sol, dec. Pili, Dim, 7-3.
98 — Fannon, Col, p. Andersen, Pal, 2:03; 106 — G. Hutchison, Sol, dec. Linne, Ket, 10-6; 113 — Ott, Lat, dec. Lincoln, Sou, 8-5; 120 — Shack, Sou, dec. Todd, Eas, 4-1; 126 — Elvsaas, Was, dec. Walton, Kod, 5-1; 132 — Powell, Eas, dec. Steiner, Was, 5-1; 138 — Martin, Sou, won by forfeit over McGann, Pal; 145 — Booth, Col, m.d. Farris, Pal, 12-3; 152 — Boyer, TM, m.d. Todd, Eas, 16-2; 160 — Tolver, Lat, dec. Pace, Bar, 5-4; 170 — Nero, Col, TB-1 Antesberger, NP, 2-1; 182 — Dickinson, Lat, dec. Herrera, Ser, 3-2; 195 — Correa-Medina, Sou, SV-1 Gold, Eas, 3-1; 220 — Phelps, Ser, p. Christy, Col, 4:12; 285 — Koziczkowski, Ken, p. Foshee, WV, 1:55.
98 — Stewart, Ket, dec. Norman, TM, 5-0; 106 — Gonzalez, Kod, dec. Briones, Wes, 3-1; 113 — Torres, Col, dec. Tenebro, Ket, 9-6; 120 — Tavares, Ket, m.d. Faulkner, Ser, 8-0; 126 — Divelbiss, Dim, dec. Simpson, Was, 7-3; 132 — Christy, Col, m.d. Music, NP, 10-1; 138 — Larionoff, Kod, m.d. Mueller, Lat, 8-0; 145 — Metcalf, Sol, dec. Story, Lat, 3-1; 152 — Mcenerny, Ken, won by injury default over Glynn, Pal; 160 — Ditzler, Chu, dec. Kurka, Pal, 6-4; 170 — Antesberger, NP, dec. Fricilone, WV, 6-2; 182 — King, Eas, won by forfeit over Wilson, Was; 195 — Farris, Pal, dec. Caldarera, Ser, 8-6; 220 — Wright, Sou, won by DQ over Minnick, Was; 285 — Jeong, Lat, m.d. Speziale, Bar, 16-3.