Skyview High School hosted it’s last wrestling dual meet on Saturday afternoon, and the gym sent off its wrestlers with a 60-17 dual win over the Homer Mariners in front of the fans and supporters for the final time.
For head coach Neldon Gardner, who was honored in a celebration after the competition in the commons area outside the gym, the dual felt like just another meet in a long line of competitions throughout the years.
“It’s not too bad. It’ll set in next year I guess, when I’m somewhere else and not in this gym,” Gardner replied when asked if Saturday’s meet felt different. “There’s some guys here that started with me. Some were here for the first meet, and now the last one.”
When Skyview’s doors close this spring, Gardner will leave as the only coach the wrestling team has ever known. He signed on to coach the Panthers in the fall of 1990 — the first year — and has stayed ever since.
“There’s a lot of old dads and old fans in the stands watching this last meet, so that was really good,” Gardner said.
During the competition, a few familiar faces hung back behind the line of seated wrestlers on the edge of the mat, watching each grappler take a chance against an opponent. Among those watching was four-time state champion and current assistant coach Eli Hutchison, and his father Mike Hutchison. Both were watching and supporting the second-youngest of the Hutchison family, Seth, who pinned Homer’s Diana Gaedecke in 44 seconds in the 113-pound weight class.
“I’m sure that wherever I end up there’ll be some kids from this team there with me, if not all of them,” Gardner said. “We might be wearing a different-colored uniform or something, but wrestling is wrestling and coaching is coaching.”
Homer was missing some varsity members, as well as their head coach, Chris Perk, who was on vacation. Interim coach Bubba Wells said he was still satisfied with the performance of the team.
“(Jadzia Martin) wrestled up today, and she did really good,” Wells said about the sophomore, who usually competes at 98 pounds but instead wrestled at 113 pounds on Saturday. “She’s about the only one that really impressed me today.”
Antonio Ochoa (160-pound division), Timmy Woo (132) and Pedro Ochoa (152) all nabbed points for the Mariners with either a pin or decision. Because of their low numbers, Homer suffered four forfeits in the dual, and also decided to put some of their wrestlers in exhibition matches against Skyview opponents which did not count for points.
Wells said he believes the best matchup involving a local wrestler at next week’s Kachemak Conference wrestling tournament could be Skyview’s Seth Hutchison and Homer’s Calvin Johnson from Homer.
But on Saturday, it was clear that Skyview is nearly ready for next weekend’s conference tournament by the two dual wins the team has had this week, including the 63-18 win over Nikiski on Wednesday. Gardner looked as calm and relaxed as ever, spouting instructions from his chair on the sideline, as if nothing has changed. And, when all the matches finished up, the mats at Skyview were rolled up for the final time, and Garnder was unfazed.
“When we opened the school and we went from Soldotna High School to here it was the same thing,” he said. “I left behind a few kids there that I really enjoyed coaching, and it’s been the same here since.”
Saturday dual at Skyview
Skyview 60, Homer 17
160 — Antonio Ochoa, Hom, maj. dec. Jesse Boze, Sky, 14-6; 170 — Cajewl Musgrave, Sky, forf; 182 — James Gallagher, Sky, forf; 195 — Sage Hill, Sky, dec. Jordan Reynolds, Hom, 9-4; 220 — Taylor McCrae, Sky, pinned Heather Harrington, Hom, :49; 285 — Sawyer Mahan, Sky, forf; 98 — Martin Welty, Hom, forf; 106 — Austin Craig, Sky, maj. dec. Jared Brant, Hom, 14-2; 113 — Seth Hutchison, Sky, pinned Diana Gaedecke, Hom, :44; 120 — Ryan Winter, Sky, pinned Jaime Rios, Hom, 1:45; 126 — Grant Valiquette, Sky, tech fall over Ravi Cavasos, Hom, 4:50 16-0; 132 — Timmy Woo, Hom, dec. Charles Gibbons, Sky, 5-2; 138 — Jaryn Tanner, Sky, forf; 145 — Bailey Blumentritt, Sky, pinned Wyatt Lewis, Hom, 3:26; 152 — Pedro Ochoa, Hom, maj. dec. Austin Schrader, Sky, 12-4.