For the third consecutive year, host Kenai Central claimed victory in the Luke Spruill Memorial wrestling duals on Tuesday night at Kenai.
In a tightly-contested battle that went down to the final bout of the night, the Kardinals edged Skyview 46-40.
“Skyview’s a tough team, they’re awesome, they’re well-coached,” said Kenai coach Stan Steffensen. “I wish (Skyview coach Nelson Gardner) didn’t coach them so well.”
In the final round of the evening, Kenai freshman Paul Steffensen pinned Skyview’s Grant Valiquette in 49 seconds to win the 132-pound match and clinch the tournament for Kenai. Entering the bout, Skyview and Kenai were deadlocked in points, with 40 apiece. The pin continued a successful week for Steffensen, who took Outstanding Wrestler honors at the Lancer Smith tournament in Palmer over the weekend, beating the reigning state champion in the 126-pound division.
On Tuesday, coach Steffensen said he decided to counter Skyview’s strategy of bumping a few wrestlers up a weight class by swapping Steffensen and Dustin Everitt in their respective divisions. Everitt competed at 126 pounds instead of his usual 132, and Steffensen went from 126 to 132.
The move apparently worked, as Everitt pinned Skyview’s Ryan Winter in 52 seconds, to go along with Steffensen’s victory.
“They both weighed in at 128, so we could flip-flop the kids,” coach Steffensen said. “It was like a chess match, and that’s something that the crowd didn’t see, the strategy.”
Leading up to the 132-pound match, the two teams took turns trading the overall lead, as the scoreboard saw six lead changes and five ties. Amazingly, 11 of the 15 matches ended in pins, which amounts to six points each.
“They’re well conditioned, so our kids had to step up and push themselves,” Steffensen said. “We have a motto of one more. It’s always one more takedown, one more save, one more scramble. That’s what kind of kept it alive and gave us hope.”
At one point, Kenai held a 34-22 lead in the championship dual, but Skyview fought back with 18 straight points — one forfeited match, and two by pins from Austin Craig and Seth Hutchison — to grab a 40-34 lead.
Gardner said his Skyview squad was missing its 145-pound starter, Bailey Blumentritt, who beat Kenai’s Aaron Troxell-Tom in Nikiski at the Peninsula Duals 10 days ago.
“We put our JV kid in and he got beat, so, that happens,” Gardner said. “That’s a six-point swing and so it would’ve ended up in a tie.”
Ultimately, the dual was decided by the pins from Everitt and Steffensen.
“Some of the matches were definitely dominant, but there were four or five that could’ve gone either way,” Gardner said. “That’s why you wrestle.”
Earlier in the evening, Kenai beat Nikiski 66-12 to advance to the winners round, while Skyview cruised over Soldotna 73-9 to stake their claim in the finals. In the third-place round, Nikiski beat Soldotna 51-12, as the Stars suffered a few more forfeits than the Bulldogs.
Luke Spruill Memorial Tournament
1. Kenai Central, 46 points; 2. Skyview, 40.
138 — Charles Gibbons, Sky, pinned Matt Vandermartin, Ken, 4:39; 145 — Aaron Troxell-Tom, Ken, maj. dec. Sean Turvin, Sky, 9-1; 152 — Ellery Steffensen, Ken, pinned Jesse Boze, Sky, 1:09; 160 — Austin Schrader, Sky, maj. dec. Andrew Welborn, Ken, 13-2; 170 — Cajewl Musgrave, Sky, pinned Dylan Carter, Ken, 2:59; 182 — Kyle Hunter, Ken, pinned James Gallagher, Sky, 5:00; 195 — Sage Hill, Sky, pinned Daniel Knight, Ken, 1:05; 220 — David Beck, Ken, pinned Sawyer Mahan, Sky, 4:51; 285 — Zach Koziczkowski, Ken, pinned Taylor Macrae, Sky, 1:04; 98 — Kelcei Zoda, Ken, forf; 106 — John Russo, Sky, forf; 113 — Austin Craig, Sky, pinned Natalie Chavez, Ken, 1:05; 120 — Seth Hutchison, Sky, pinned Carlos Caballero, Ken, 1:06; 126 — Dustin Everitt, Ken, pinned Ryan Winter, Sky, 0:52; 132 — Paul Steffensen, Ken, pinned Grant Valiquette, Sky, 0:49.
3. Nikiski, 51 points; 4. Soldotna, 12.
138 — Michaela Dean-Apted, Nik, forf; 145 — Tyler Handley, Nik, pinned Eli Damon, Sol, 4:39; 152 — Dylan Broussard, Nik, dec. Hunter Bourgeois, Sol, 2-0; 160 — Michael Stangel, Nik, forf; 170 — Nick Olsen, Nik, forf; 182 — John McCormick, Nik, forf; 195 — double forf; 220 — Will Olsen, Nik, forf; 285 — Jared Briggs, Sol, forf; 98 — double forf; 106 — double forf; 113 — double forf; 120 — Atom Skiba, Sol, pinned Wyatt Carpenter, Nik, 1:01; 126 — Curtis Larson, Nik, forf; 132 — Nico Castro, Nik, forf.