PALMER — Entering the conference championships, the run for the Northern Lights crown was a three-horse race.
But by Day 2, it had narrowed down to a heavyweight battle between a pair of Alaska wrestling powers — Wasilla and Colony.
With 10 wrestlers in the finals, the Warriors wanted to make sure the team title didn’t come down to the heavier weights.
Wasilla crowned five champions during the first nine matches of the final round, and held on to win the team title of the Northern Lights Championships wrestling tournament at Palmer High School Saturday afternoon.
Runner-up Colony, which fell only 10.5 points shy in the final team standings, advanced a half-dozen wrestlers to the finals. There were only two matches with a Knight facing a Warrior — Wasilla’s Ryker Steiner vs. Colony’s Spencer Adams at 132 and Wasilla’s Quace Wright vs. Colony’s Ian MacKenzie at 220 pounds.
The tournament saw two local athletes take a region championship on Saturday.
Senior Hope Steffensen and her younger brother, sophomore Ellery, both from Kenai Central, recorded pins to notch their region title. For both of them, it was their second career high school region crown.
Hope pinned Joel Valdez of Kodiak in 3 minutes, 26 seconds, to win her title in the 106-pound weight class, while Ellery pinned Kamber Lucas of Colony in 1:14 for the 138-pound title. Hope also took home the NLC Most Outstanding Wrestler of the championships.
Steffensen came out strong, taking a 2-0 lead with an early takedown. She led 4-0 when she pinned Valdez. Kenai coach Stan Steffensen said both Hope and Ellery pinned their opponents with an arm bar.
“They didn’t mess around, they got quick pins,” Steffensen said. “She got after him and turned him and it looked dominating. She wore him down.”
The finals berth also means Hope has qualified and competed in the finals of a region championship all four years of her high school career, an accomplishment that coach Steffensen was proud of.
“We feel very blessed, Hope has worked hard,” he said. “She’s made the finals four times, so it means a lot.”
Kenai’s Aaron Troxell-Tom earned points for Kenai as well, scoring a 9-0 major decision over Kodiak’s Tristan Eluska in the 132-pound fifth-place match.
In the 160-pound class, Dylan Carter won the third-place match by pinning Wasilla’s Conner Minnick in 4:18, and Matt Aho beat Kodiak’s Joshua Lochman in a 9-3 decision in the fifth-place match.
In the 170-pound fifth-place match, Kyle Hunter pinned Kodiak’s Jacob Ouellette in 2:03, and in the 285-pound fifth-place match, Jake Dragseth was pinned by Kodiak’s Salalau Sega in 2:32.
Kenai finished fifth in the team standings, holding 105.5 points. Soldotna was sixth with 30 points.
Soldotna’s top performance came from senior John Alexander in the 285-pound category, who pinned Mitchell Daigle from Colony only 48 seconds into the third-place bout. Alexander had lost to Daigle in a 9-4 decision in the first round of the tournament.
SoHi senior Troy Streiff, competing with an injured foot, wrestled his way to the fifth-place match, where he won a 5-2 decision over Colony’s Andrew Knowles. Streiff pinned Knowles in the first round, but then lost two straight matches which placed him into the fifth-place match.
SoHi’s Dalton Best made it to the fifth-place match in the 220-pound division, but was pinned by Silas Root from Colony in 1:40 and finished sixth.
Notes — Valley programs held 23 of the 30 spots in the NLC final round, and advanced 55 wrestlers to the upcoming state tourney, which starts Friday at Bartlett High School in Anchorage. The top five wrestlers from each weight class advance, giving the Valley 55 of the 75 spots.
Colony led all with 20 top-five finishes. Wasilla had 19, and Palmer had 16.
Kodiak, Kenai and Soldotna combined for 20 in the top five. Although Kenai moved only six into the state tourney, two will head there as region champions.
Clarion reporter Joey Klecka contributed to this story.
Team scores — 1. Wasilla 368; 2. Colony 357.5; 3. Palmer 316; 4. Kodiak 227; 5. Kenai 105.5; 6. Soldotna 30.
Championship finals: 98 pounds — L. Albrecht, Was d. B. McKimson, Was 4-0; 106 — H. Steffensen, Ken p. Jo. Valdez, Kod 3:26; 113 — A. Caballa, Kod t.f. B. Abbott, Was 15-0; 120 — M. Cochran, Pal d. A. Shannon, Was 6-4; 126 — S. Carpenter, Was p. E. Burris, Kod 3:18; 132 — R. Steiner, Was d. S. Adams, Col 6-2; 138 — E. Steffensen, Ken p. K. Lucas, Col 1:14; 145 — N. McKimson, Was p. B. Marks, Was 1:50; 152 — B. Serna, Was m.d. H. Molesky, Pal 20-7; 160 — L. Heun, Pal p. L. Conway, Col 1:13; 170 — Si. Root, Col d. M. Swineheart, Pal 8-3; 182 — Sa. Root, Col d. C. Nielsen, Pal 6-3; 195 — K. Powers, Kod win by inj. def. T. Bigley, Kod; 220 — I. MacKenzie, Col d. Q. Wright, Was 3-2; 285 — B. Thompson, Pal d. C. Frohling, Pal 7-3.
Third-place matches: 98 — B. Adams, Col p. W. Spencer, Col 1:26; 106 — S. Simpson, Col p. I. Lynch, Was 3:00; 113 — J. Nero, Col m.d. J. Sanders, Pal 12-4; 120 — L. Fried, Kod d. Chan. Fannon, Col 7-1; 126 — M. VanderMartin, Col d. Chas. Fannon, Col 9-8; 132 — W. McGann, Pal d. C. Campbell, Was 7-5; 138 — C. Bendixen, Pal p. K. Gonzalez, Kod 4:21; 145 — E. Fouch, Pal d. C. Ray, Col 6-4 OT; 152 — D. Morrow, Was d. K. Sparkman, Pal 5-2; 160 — D. Carter, Ken p. C. Minnick, Was 4:18; 170 — C. White, Pal d. Z. Doan, Col 7-2 OT; 182 — M. Dobbs, Was p. Z. Rockstad, Was 2:54; 195 — A. Rench, Col d. J. Ryno, Pa 2:19; 220 — B. Button, Pal p. N. Wandersee, Kod 4:16; 285 — J. Alexander, Sol p. M. Daigle, Col 0:48.
Fifth-place matches: 98 — J. Valdez, Kod p. B. Conrad, Pal 2:31; 106 — M. Kageyama, Kod m.d. T. Jackson, Col 13-0; 113 — K. Harper, Was p. M. Bracker, Col 4:46; 113 — J. Small, Kod d. J. Gentz, Was 11-4; 120 — A. Molesky, Pal p. B. Dyer, Pal 0:40; 132 — A. Troxell-Tom, Ke d. T. Eluska, Kod 9-0; 138 — P. Inglet, Was d. W. Wall, Was 6-5; 145 — S. Samson, Col d. J. LeVan, Kod 5-1; 152 — R. Fredrickson, Col d. K. Nash, Col 3-2; 160 — M. Aho, Ken d. J. Lochman, Kod 9-3; 170 — K. Hunter, Ken p. J. Ouellette, Kod 2:03; 182 — T. Strief, Sol d. A. Knowles, Col 11-2; 195 — B. Schultz, Was d. C. Smith, Pal 10-6; 220 — Sil. Root, Col p. D. Best, Sol 1:40; 285 — S. Sega, Kod p. J. Dragseth, Ken 2:32.