HOUSTON - The Houston Invitational featured the three newest members of the Class 1-2-3A Kachemak Conference and the host Houston Hawks got the best of their brand-new rivals.
Houston moved eight grapplers into the finals and crowned four champions en route to earning the team title at its own tournament at Houston High on Saturday afternoon.
"We wrestled a pretty tough dual last night with Skyview. We knew there would be two or three teams, and we'd be in the hunt," Houston head coach Brad Drake said.
Houston, which moved from the Class 4A Mid-Alaska Conference to the Kachemak this season, finished with 150.5 total points, nearly 20 more than second-place Skyview.
"We've got a lot of goods wrestlers on our team," said sophomore Luke Wagner, one of the Hawks' four individual champs Saturday.
The points gave the Hawks the title in the 25th annual Houston Invite, and marks the first time in about 15 years that Houston has won any wrestling tournament.
Wagner, Drew Drake, Cody Barber and Jake Davis each won their weight class Saturday. Davis, who scored a win by technical fall over Dennis Martishev of Voznesenka, was named the meet's most outstanding wrestler.
Wagner capped the tourney with a thrilling victory in the 220-pound weight class. Wagner was tied with Skyview's Jonathon Alexander heading into the final seconds of regulation when he pulled Alexander to the mat and spun around to get the takedown with five seconds left to edge the Skyview grappler 7-5.
"Do that head shuck, shuck him down and go for that ankle," Wagner said of his strategy late in the match.
Wagner had used the head shuck and was trying to pick the ankle of Alexander throughout the match.
"That was just there," Wagner said. "It showed up, so I looked for it."
Alexander scored an early takedown to take the lead, but Wagner used a reversal to tie the score at 2 at the tail end of the first period. An escape gave Alexander the lead in the second period, but Wagner used
another takedown to take the 4-3 advantage.
Early in the third, Wagner tried for the ankle pick again, but Alexander was able to slip away and get behind the Houston sophomore.
Wagner tied the score at 5 with an escape with 56 seconds left, before earning the game-winning takedown late.
"He's a big sophomore," Drake said. "It's kind of rare you find a large younger wrestler that's got good ability."
Drew Drake scored a slim 2-0 win over Grace Christian's Anthony Friese in the 138-pound class. Drake scored his points on a second-period reversal.
In a matchup of Hawks, Cody Barber beat Jake Finney in the 160-pound final. Calen Wilber (126), Jenae Shannon (145) and CJ Cyphers (182) also advanced to the finals and finished second.
Skyview and fourth-place Homer also moved from 4A to the small-schools rank this season. The Panthers and Mariners are former members of the Northern Lights Conference. Drake said he's glad to see the Hawks in the new conference.
"It's more appropriate for our school," Drake said. "We only have 430 kids at our school. We're at a more appropriate level as far as school numbers."
Skyview, which finished with 133 total points, crowed a meet-high five champions. Hannah Hutchison, TJ Checketts, Sam Janorschke, Frank Navarro and Alex Rodriguez each finished first for the Panthers.
Hutchison beat Homer's Calvin Johnson 4-0 in the final, using a takedown in the first period and a reversal in the second to score the win.
The rest of Skyview's wins in the finals came by pin. Checketts pinned Wilbur to win at 126. Janorschke also pinned his opponent, Nikiski's Tyler Baker, in the 132-pound final. Navarro pinned the top seed, Nikiski's Patrick Sterling, in the first round. Rodriguez scored a quick pin of Cyphers in the 182-pound class.
Johnson was the lone representative in the finals for fourth-place Homer.
Nikiski, which finished fifth with 70 points, placed a pair of wrestlers in the final round.
Dakoda Neely pinned Grace Christian's Jeremy Schild to win at 113. Trey Zimmerman was second at 120.
Avram Kalugin led sixth-place Voznesenka with a title in the 145-pound class.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman sports editor Jeremiah Bartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, Houston High
Team standings: 1. Houston 150.5; 2. Skyview 133; 3. Grace Christian 109.5; 4. Homer 89.5; 5. Nikiski 70; 6. Voznesenka 50.
106 pounds - H. Hutchison, Sky d. C. Johnson, Hom 4-0; 113 - D. Neely, Nik p. J. Schild, GC 3:06; 120 - A. Walsh, GC m.d. T. Zimmerman, Nik 11-3; 126 - T. Checketts, Sky p. C. Wilbur, Hou 3:52; 132 - S. Janorschke, Sky p. T. Baker, Nik 3:11; 138 - D. Drake, Hou d. A. Friese, GC 2-0; 145 - A. Kalugin, Voz p. J. Shannon, Hou 2:19; 152 - F. Navarro, Sky p. P. Sterling, Nik 1:44; 160 - C. Barber, Hou m.d. J. Finney, Hou 12-4; 171 - J. Davis, Hou t.f. D. Martishev, Voz; 182 - A. Rodriguez, Sky p. C. Cyphers, Hou 0:48; 220 - L. Wagner, Hou d. J. Alexander, Sky 7-5.
106 - G. Kalugin, Voz d. C. Wheeles, GC 5-2; 113 - N. Jette, Hom wbf; 120 - C. Gibbons, Sky p. Q. Leadbetter, GC 3:38; 126 - C. Davilla, Hou m.d. G. Sorenson, GC 10-2; 132 - P. Johnston, GC m.d. R. Radmer, Hou 9-0; 138 - B. Blumentritt, Sky d. D. Marsengill, Hom 9-6; 145 - P. Ochoa, Hom p. C. Main, GC 4:59; 152 - D. Rios, Hom p. J. McNamara, GC 1:56; 160 - J. Walker, GC m.d. A. Paul, Hou 13-0; 171 - E. Kuzmen, Voz p. A. Reeder, Hou 4:33; 182 - M. Wells, Hom p. T. Wolfe, Hom 1:40; 220 - D. Williams, Hom 2:28.