For the second year in a row, under coach Stan Steffensen’s guidance, the Kenai Central Kardinals took home the crown in the Luke Spruill Memorial Tournament, held at Kenai on Tuesday evening.
Kenai beat the Homer Mariners 57-15 in the team’s first dual matchup of the night, then recorded six pins to defeat Skyview 49-36 for the championship. Soldotna nipped Homer with a score of 36-35 to win the third-place dual.
“It’s not really a surprise, but it’s always nice to wrestle and do good,” Steffensen said. “These kids come to practice every day and put in the time and effort, and in this tournament, the kids were pinning their opponents by waiting for the best opportunities.”
Six Kenai wrestlers pinned their Skyview opponent, while the Panthers had three pins. The Kards got pins from Ellery Steffensen in the 145-pound weight class, Dylan Carter (170 pounds), Matt Aho (182 pounds), Brad Smithwick (195 pounds), Zach Koziczkowski (220 pounds) and Jake Dragseth (285 pounds). Skyview’s pins came from Grant Valiquette (120 pounds), Brenner Musgrave (138 pounds) and Frank Navarro (160 pounds).
“We had a couple of changes in the lineup tonight, and a few pivotal matches that didn’t go our way,” Skyview coach Neldon Gardner said. “It’s a good tuneup for state, though.”
Skyview, along with Homer, is preparing for the 3A state tournament, which is being held next month, but Kenai and Soldotna will not need to worry about state until February because the two schools wrestle in 4A. Soldotna was missing two important wrestlers in Tuesday’s tournament — Troy Streiff and Daniel Rosin — due to current ineligibility.
The tournament is so named after a two-time state champion wrestler who competed for Kenai in the mid-90s, but was lost in a boating accident in June 2004 at the age of 27. Luke Spruill’s name is now etched into the trophy, which was proudly held by the Kenai wrestlers in a team photo op at the conclusion of Tuesday’s competition.
Perhaps the most impressive performances of the night came from coach Steffensen’s two children, sophomore Ellery and senior Hope. Ellery Steffensen pinned his first opponent of the night — Homer’s Dakota Alward — in 15 seconds, then pinned Skyview’s Khelbie Miller in 1:51 to win the 145-pound division.
His sister, Hope, defeated Homer’s Calvin Johnson by a 3-1 decision, then beat Skyview’s Ryan Winter in an 11-1 decision to take the 106-pound class.
Hope took home the Most Outstanding Wrestler Award for her efforts.
In the third-place dual, forfeits from both Homer and Soldotna cost each team, but the matchup was ultimately decided by the 152-pound bout, contested between Homer’s Pedro Ochoa and Soldotna’s Gaeden Ames. Ochoa won by a 17-2 decision, but only gained five points for Homer, instead of the six that is credited by a pin.
“We’ve just been struggling to get off the bottom,” Homer coach Chris Perk said. “The takedowns looked better tonight, but it usually comes down to strenght, technique and desire.”
Luke Spruill Memorial Wrestling Tournament
at Kenai Central
1. Kenai Central; 2. Skyview; 3. Soldotna; 4. Homer.
Kenai Central 49, Skyview 36
98 — Seth Hutchison, Sky, won by forfeit; 106 — Hope Steffensen, Ken, d. Ryan Winter, Sky, 11-1; 113 — Austin Craig, Sky, won by forfeit; 120 — Grant Valiquette, Sky, p. Dustin Everitt, Ken; 126 — Quincy Fuller, Ken, won by forfeit; 132 — Sam Janorschke, Sky, won by forfeit; 138 — Brenner Musgrave, Sky, p. Aaron Troxell-Tom, Ken, 3:35; 145 — Ellery Steffensen, Ken, p. Khelbie Miller, Sky, 1:51; 152 — Nolan Christopher, Ken, d. Kyle Zimmerman, Sky, 3-0; 160 — Frank Navarro, Sky, p. Kyle Hunter, Ken, 4:43; 170 — Dylan Carter, Ken, p. Cawjel Musgrave, Sky, 4:26; 182 — Matt Aho, Ken, p. DJ Tourterot, 1:26; 195 — Brad Smithwick, Ken, p. James Gallagher, Sky, :53; 220 — Zach Koziczkowski, Ken, p. Taylor McCrae, Sky, :15; 285 — Jake Dragseth, Ken, p. Josh Oui, Sky, 1:45.
Soldotna 36, Homer 35
98 — Double forfeit; 106 — Calvin Johnson, Hom, won by forfeit; 113 — Double forfeit; 120 — Austin McGregor, Hom, won by forfeit; 126 — Double forfeit; 132 — David Woo, Hom, p. Dillon Ackerman, Sol, 2:29; 138 — Hunter Bourgeois, Sol, won by forfeit; 145 — Eli Damon, Sol, p. Dakota Alward, Hom, 1:51; 152 — Pedro Ochoa, Hom, d. Gaeden Ames, Sol, 17-2; 160 — Mark McGregor, Hom, p. Daniel Flores, Sol, 2:26; 170 — Danny Rios, Hom, p. Brent Nichols, Sol, :52; 182 — Troy Streiff, Sol, won by forfeit; 195 — Timber Haselow, Sol, won by forfeit; 220 — Hunter Brewer, Sol, won by forfeit; 285 — Dalton Best, Sol, won by forfeit.