Today and Saturday, Kodiak will be the host of the Northern Lights Conference wrestling tournament. Grapplers from Soldotna and Kenai Central high schools will be looking to reach the state competition, if all goes as planned.
“We have to keep doing what we’re doing,” Kenai head coach Stan Steffensen said. “Some kids are doing two workouts a day, some even three.
“The regions tournament is really competitive, and there are a lot of awesome matches.”
Soldotna head coach Scooter Hackett said he will have 10 wrestlers on the team going to Kodiak, and four of them are ranked in the current state standings.
“Our numbers are really low, but four of them are ranked, so that’s good,” Hackett said.
“If we can take more than half of the 10 guys to state, we’ll be doing good.”
Soldotna senior Auston Tennis will be returning as state champion in the 145-pound weight class. Tennis is currently ranked second in the state in the division by akmat.org.
Kenai junior Hope Steffensen is the lone Kardinal who is out to defend a state title. Last year, she won the 103-pound weight class. This year, it has been bumped up to 106 pounds, and she is currently sitting fifth in that class.
Steffensen mentioned a few wrestlers from Kenai who may have big days.
“Aaron Troxell-Tom, he’s capable of doing well. He beat up one of the state qualifiers from Soldotna about a week ago,” Steffensen said of the sophomore.
Freshman Ellery Steffensen is another potential contender. Steffensen is currently ranked second at the 132-pound weight class.
Soldotna boasts some formidable competition as well.
Along with Tennis, senior Kade Foust likely will be a contender, as he is currently ranked sixth in the 160-pound class, along with junior Troy Streiff, who is third in the 182-pound division.
“Jared Chavez is another guy that could surprise some folks,” Hackett said of the freshman.
Chavez is currently ranked fifth in the 126-pound weight class.
On the downside, there are a few injuries. Soldotna senior Steven Tony has a sprained ankle, and won’t be making the trip, said coach Hackett.
Both coaches want everyone to heal up, and said they hope the teams put forth their best effort.
Steffensen stressed that the close competition is looking more and more like a crapshoot.
“It’s so close this year, because there are a few kids from other schools that are sick, and with others graduating last year, the playing field has been leveled so much,” he said.
Both teams left Thursday, and both coaches mentioned that the travel will hopefully not be a big problem.
“The biggest issue I think is worrying about getting your supplies there,” Steffensen said. “It’s not a customary procedure, since you have to either do by boat or plane.”
“We rented a bed and breakfast, and we have the place to ourselves, so we’re just going to chill out and get ready,” said Hackett.
Hackett said there was a Thursday practice session, in order to get the teams ready for the two days of competition.
“This is what we’ve been working for, getting through this weekend,” Hackett said.
“At state, all men are created equal, and anyone can come away with a win.”