In its final regional wrestling appearance, Skyview captured the team championship at the Kachemak Conference tournament Saturday at Nikiski High School.
The Panthers accumulated 234.5 points, 29 more than runner-up Houston, and qualified 12 wrestlers to the Class 1-2-3A state meet next weekend at Anchorage Christian Schools.
“It’s awesome, you always want to go out on top,” said Skyview head coach Neldon Gardner. “And hey, we’re not saying we can’t win a state title, but it’s always good to win this conference. It’s a tough conference, Nikiski’s always had a good program, they’ve won it four years in a row before this, so it’s good to finish out on top.”
Skyview also took a few additional honors. Gardner was awarded Coach of the Year, and sophomore Seth Hutchison took Outstanding Wrestler honors.
“It’s quite an honor this season,” Gardner said. “The kids winning the tournament, and Seth winning outstanding wrestler, it’s really an honor to see that.”
Nikiski’s four-year reign as Kachemak Conference champions came to a quiet end, as three wrestlers won a conference championship — Nathan Carstens in the 126-pound division, Tyler Handley at 138 pounds and Luke Johnson at 195 pounds — but Nikiski finished sixth in the team standings with 133.5 points and will be taking six wrestlers to the state meet.
“I’m happy with the performance of our wrestlers,” said Nikiski head coach Adam Anders said. “Our guys for the most part did what they’re capable of doing, and I think they wrestled to the best of their abilities.”
Three Skyview grapplers won championships in their respective weight classes — Austin Craig in the 106-pound division, Hutchison at 113 pounds and Bailey Blumentritt at 145 pounds.
For Hutchison, who came into the tournament with a 33-2 season record, it was a challenge to face Homer’s Calvin Johnson, but ultimately, Hutchison caught Johnson in a pin 47 seconds into the second round.
“They definitely could meet in the semifinals possibly,” Gardner said. “If Calvin’s in the opposite bracket, you can’t rule him out.”
Homer head coach Chris Perk noted that he knew before the 113-pound title match that it would be a chore for Johnson to beat Hutchison.
“Last time they wrestled, (Johnson) got tacked 18-2,” said Homer head coach Chris Perk. “This time he goes out, he gets a takedown, it’s a tie match, but I really liked what I saw from Calvin. The adjustments we made were effective, and now we just got to go back and keep fine-tuning things.”
Perk’s Mariners squad finished fourth in the team standings with 179 points and qualified 10 wrestlers for the state meet, which is the most Homer has brought in several years.
“Numbers were a factor, we had five weight classes where we were missing points, and that obviously took into account our finish,” Perk said. “Five of them are freshmen, so the future looks good.”
Homer’s lone conference champion Saturday was sophomore Jadzia Martin, who pinned Seward’s Sully Hauze in 44 seconds into the 98-pound championship match and joined an exclusive group of female wrestlers who have won conference titles in Alaska.
“We emphasized all week that she could be a champion, and we just kept instilling that in her,” Perk said. “Sure enough she made it happen. She’s wrestled for a long time, she’s a veteran of the sport, and it’s just really cool that it worked out for her.”
Nikiski’s Johnson, a sophomore, continued his undefeated season (20-0) with a pin of Skyview’s Sage Hill with 1:17 left in the 195-pound match.
“They’ve wrestled since junior high and Sage keeps doing better and better with him,” Gardner said. “I’m not displeased with it. Sage wanted to do better, but I told him, hey it’s a scramble situation there that he set up just in the nick of time, and that could change the whole outcome of the match.”
Coach Anders added, “Luke is a very smart wrestler, and just hard working. He has great mat awareness.”
Anders mentioned sophomore John McCormick’s second-place finish at 182 pounds as another highlight for Nikiski.
Seward finished a strong third in the team standings with 203 points — just two points out of second — and will take 10 wrestlers to state, including two conference champions. Senior Nick Zweifel pinned Skyview’s Cajewl Musgrave in the 170-pound championship match, and it took just a minute for junior Howie Hubbard to pin Tyler Scott of ACS in the 285-pound title bout.
Gavril Kalugin provided all 20 of tiny Voznesenka’s points on Saturday, finishing second after being pinned with 45 seconds left in the 126-pound match by Carstens and earning a spot to state.
But for Skyview, winning the championship became the dominant goal for a team in its last two weeks, and the emotion wasn’t lost on the other coaches either.
“It’s neat for Skyview, it’s emotional for that school and I think this is going to make the rest of their school year go well,” Perk said.
Gardner left no doubt that his Panthers are primed for state.
“All in all, a good tournament, but as a coach you’re always looking for that little bit more,” Gardner said.
Kachemak Conference tournament
Team standings — 1. Skyview, 234.5 points; 2. Houston, 205.5; 3. Seward, 203; 4. Homer, 179; 5. ACS, 134; 6. Nikiski, 133.5; 7. Cordova, 77.5; 8. Grace, 72; 9. Voznesenka, 20.
98 — Jadzia Martin, Hom, pinned Sully Hauze, Sew, :44; 106 — Austin Craig, Sky, pinned Jared Brant, Hom, 5:40; 113 — Seth Hutchison, Sky, pinned Calvin Johnson, Hom, 2:47; 120 — Aaron Drake, Hou, forf. Terrance Annogiuk, Sew; 126 — Wesley Gilroy, ACS, dec. Grant Valiquette, Sky, 7-3; 132 — Nathan Carstens, Nik, pinned Gavril Kalugin, Voz, 5:15; 138 — Tyler Handley, Nik, pinned David Jack Woo, Hom, 4:28; 145 — Bailey Blumentritt, Sky, pinned Dakota Nickell, Sew, 1:37; 152 — Ryan Radmer, Hou, maj. dec. Michael Stangel, Nik, 9-1; 160 — Josh Hamberger, Cor, pinned Tannen Barry, Sew, 4:46; 170 — Nick Zweifel, Sew, pinned Cajewl Musgrave, Sky, 4:38; 182 — Cody Howard, Cor, dec. John McCormick, Nik, 10-3; 195 — Luke Johnson, Nik, pinned Sage Hill, Sky, 4:43; 220 — Luke Wagner, Hou, pinned Jordan Reynolds, Hom, 1:40; 285 — Howie Hubbard, Sew, pinned Tyler Scott, ACS, 1:00.
98 — Kavan Weinburger, Hou, dec. Martin Welty, Hom, 6-0; 106 — Matt Lacy, ACS, pinned Nic Woodard, Sew, 3:55; 113 — Etienne Kinney, Hou, dec. Shannon LeMay, ACS, 5-4; 120 — Ryan Winter, Sky, dec. Jaime Rios, Hom, 4-0; 126 — Nathan Juliussen, Gra, pinned Ravi Cavasos, Hom, 2:03; 132 — Timmy Woo, Hom, dec Charles Gibbons, Sky, 7-6; 138 — Jed Sapp, Cor, pinned Paxson Berry, Sew, :52; 145 — Sean Turvin, Sky, pinned Adam Hanohano, Hou, 4:15; 152 — Pedro Ochoa, Hom, tech fall Dylan Broussard, Nik, 3:43; 160 — Zach Young, Gra, dec. Keith Paul, Hou, 7-1; 170 — Brian Nicholson, ACS, dec. Ashton Mahan, Sky, 11-7; 182 — Sean Lang, Hou, dec. Jordan Willis, ACS, 6-4; 195 — Iisha Oftedal, Sky, dec. Gabriel Nohr, ACS, 6-4; 220 — Ben Miranda, Sew, pinned Walker Stephens, Hou, 1:36; 285 — Taylor Macrae, Sky, pinned Justin Schutter, Sew, 3:21.
98 — Alhrik Schommer, Gra, forf; 106 — Shyan Horner, Hou, pinned John Russo, Sky, 2:30; 113 — Jon Kingsland, Sew, pinned Phillip Lawton, Sky, 3:30; 120 — Jacob McAnulty, Hou, pinned Enrique Zamudio, Cor, 1:52; 126 — Benjamin Sobek, ACS, dec. Samuel Chapson, Hou, 16-9; 132 — Ryan Merriner, Gra, dec. Garrett Bond, Gra, 5-4; 138 — Kris Hettick, Sew, pinned Joel Hofacker, ACS, 3:50; 145 — Riley Martin, Gra, pinned Ben Hadfield, Sky, 2:21; 152 — Austin Schrader, Sky, dec. Brian Peters, ACS, 5-2; 160 — Khelbie Miller, Sky, dec. Tristyn Dehart, Hou, 6-4; 170 — Caleb Kopp, Hou, maj. dec. Nick Olsen, Nik, 12-1; 182 — Parker Hinton, Sew, dec. James Gallagher, Sky, 12-7; 195 — Thomas Chikoyak, Hou, pinned Logan Schoessler, Sky, 3:59; 220 — Lane Spradlin, Sew, pinned Sawyer Mahan, Sky, :52; 285 — Tony Pule, Hou, forf.