Before Saturday’s event, Kenai Central wrestling coach Stan Steffensen showed his team five pictures of Luke Spruill.
When it was over, the Kardinals snapped photos of their own.
Host Kenai Central defeated Soldotna 48-33 to win the Luke Spruill Memorial Tournament, which included Nikiski, Seward, Voznesenka, Cook Inlet Academy, Skyview and Homer.
Spruill, who graduated from Kenai Central as a two-time state champion, was killed in a Bristol Bay fishing accident in 2004 at the age of 27.
“The team kind of acted like Luke today — hardworking, determined, never say die — just a great attitude,” Steffensen said.
Dustin Everitt, Ellery Steffensen, Devon Carter, Matt Aho and Jake Dragseth earned pins for the Kards in the championship match, capping a day when the team also defeated Voznesenka and Nikiski.
Ellery Steffensen and sister Hope Steffensen went 3-0 for the tournament, as did Carter. Dragseth finished perfect, too, but a pair of those wins came by forfeit.
It was the only home meet this season for the Kards, who won one dual last year.
“It’s one of those things you dream of at home — ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to win your own tournament?’ — and then it becomes reality,” said Ellery Steffensen, who wrestles in the 132-pound weight class and is undefeated for the season. “So it’s that much more cool.”
Carter, who wrestles at 138 and 145, was perfect for the second consecutive tournament after going 5-0 at the Peninsula Duals at Nikiski last weekend.
The senior missed the only dual the Kards won in 2010.
“This year, the team has really stepped up and showed intensity in all our matches,” Carter said. “We’re going out there and wrestling every match like it’s our last.”
The second-place Stars, who had 14 wrestlers in action, were led by Auston Tennis at 145.
Tennis was 3-0 and earned the Most Outstanding Wrestler award. Teammate Troy Streiff also went undefeated as the Stars made it to the finals by defeating Seward and Homer.
SoHi coach Scooter Hackett said he was surprised the Stars made it to the championship.
“We wrestled good,” Hackett said. “We had a few guys that lost matches they should have won and Kenai wrestled great, but all in all we wrestled tough. The guys did great.”
Nikiski, which beat Homer 31-30 in the match for third, was short-handed because Corey Green, Kaden Spurgeon, Lincoln Johnson, Trey Zimmerman, Josh Brown and Morgan Suave competed at a tournament in Palmer.
Coach Adam Anders said Cody Evans (106), Tyler Handley (113), Floyd Armstrong (152) and Devan Berry (170) all wrestled well.
Skyview finished seventh without a full squad, sending a large contingent to Palmer.
Homer took fifth and was led by Mark McGregor, who pinned Nikiski’s Armstrong at 152 in the third-place dual.
Eighth-place CIA had three wrestlers compete, while Seward grabbed fourth and Voznesenka took sixth.
But it was the Kards who posed for victory photos on their own floor.
“We always talk about working hard and it always pays off, but you don’t know when,” Stan Steffensen said. “What a blessing it is to show up sooner than later.”
Luke Spruill Memorial Wrestling Tournament
at Kenai Central
1. Kenai Central; 2. Soldotna; 3. Nikiski; 4. Seward; 5. Homer; 6. Voznesenka; 7. Skyview; 8. CIA.
Kenai Central 48, Soldotna 33
106 — Hope Steffensen, Ken, won by forfeit; 113 — Not listed, Ken, won by forfeit; 120 — Dustin Everitt, Ken, p. Hunter B., Sol, 4:34; 126 — Jared Chavez, Sol, p. Aaron Troxell-Tom, Ken, 1:13; 132 — Ellery Steffensen, Ken, p. Tim Price, Sol, 0:38; 138 — Devon Carter, Ken, p. Eli Daman, Sol, 0:36; 145 — Soldotna won by forfeit; 152 — Auston Tennis, Sol, p. Bill Ashwell, 0:56; 160 — Matt Aho, Ken, p. Brent Nichols, Sol, 1:48; 170 — Kade Foust, Sol, dec. Brad Smithwick, Ken, 7-1; 182 — Troy Streiff, Sol, p. Tyler Brown, Ken, 0:52; 195 — Patrick Powell, Sol, p. EJ Ismael, Ken, 3:00; 220 — Jake Dragseth, Ken, p. Jared Briggs, Sol, 2:58; heavyweight — Kevin Hunter, Ken, won by forfeit.
Niksiski 31, Homer 30
106 — Calvin Johnson, Hom, p. Cody Evans, Nik, 3:00; 113 — Taylor Handley, Nik, p. David Jack, Hom, 3:04; 120 — double forfeit; 126 — Greg Brown, Nik, won by forfeit; 132 — D.J. Marsengill, Hom, won by forfeit; 138 — Nikiski won by forfeit; 145 — Pedro Ochoa, Hom, inj. Pat Sterling, Nik; 152 — double forfeit; 160 — Mark McGregor, Hom, p. Floyd Armstrong, Nik, 2:33; 170 — Devan Berry, NIk, won by forfeit; 182 — Homer won by forfeit; 195 — double forfeit; 220 — double forfeit; heavyweight — Henry Eide, Nik, won by forfeit.