Nearly two months to the day after losing his first match ever on Alaska soil, Kenai Central sophomore Paul Steffensen returned the favor against South grappler Rami Pellumbi on Saturday to win a state championship.
Steffensen’s title in the 145-pound final was one of a few highlights for Peninsula teams Saturday at the Class 4A state wrestling championships held at Chugiak High School. After securing his state crown with a 2-1 decision, Steffensen’s older brother, Ellery, followed up with a title in the 152-pound final, finishing his high school career on top with a 3-0 decision over Zach Ritchie of South Anchorage.
The Soldotna Stars also wrapped up the year with a pair of state champions.
Senior Austin Craig won a second-straight state championship with a win over Lathrop junior Tyriq Jones in the 113-pound final, and junior teammate Seth Hutchison continued his perfect run of state titles with a third straight, overcoming South’s Matt Glover in the 120-pound bout.
The finishes helped SoHi to an eighth-place result in the team standings with 96 points. Kenai finished 10th in the team standings with 89 points, just two adrift of Service.
Colony won its fifth team championship with 264 points, topping the 255.5 that South compiled. The Knights overcame a 46.5-point deficit after Friday’s semifinals to take the top prize.
Kenai coach — and father of the two brothers — Stan Steffensen said it meant a great deal for Paul to avenge his first loss with a victory over Pellumbi.
“It was just about doing what he needed to do,” Steffensen said. “The biggest thing was being patient and don’t chase the guy.”
After an undefeated freshman season, Steffensen was finally defeated at the North/South tournament in early December, losing a 4-3 heartbreaking decision to Pellumbi in an “ultimate tiebreaker” situation.
Steffensen scored the first point on an escape, then was credited with another when Pellumbi was charged with stalling. Steffensen finished the season with a 23-2 record.
Ellery Steffensen, a senior, capped off a perfect 37-0 season by blanking Ritchie in the 152-pound final. After a scoreless first round, Steffensen scored a takedown and an escape in the second to grab the victory. Coach Steffensen said that although Ellery could not manage to complete the year by pinning every opponent he faced (he also won Friday’s semifinal bout with a decision), all that mattered in the end was finishing with a championship.
“That’s how you try to draw it up,” Steffensen said. “You want to start and finish at the top.”
Craig finished a 31-1 season for Soldotna with a 3-0 decision over Jones, using a strong defensive effort to keep the Lathrop junior from scoring a single point.
Hutchison claimed his third-straight state title with a dominant 5-0 decision over Glover, who lost his first match of the year in the untimeliest of circumstances. Hutchison scored a pair of takedowns in the first and third rounds to distance himself.
The victory was not the only big moment of the night for the Hutchison family. Earlier on Saturday, Hutchison’s older brother Eli, a 2006 Skyview High graduate, was inducted into the Alaska Wrestling Hall of Fame.
In Saturday’s consolation matches, Soldotna senior Ryan Winter claimed the bronze medal at 132 pounds, winning a 5-4 decision over Wasilla’s Hayden Steiner in the third-place match.
In the 160-pound third-place match, SoHi senior Bailey Blumentritt finished fourth after losing to Robert Haan of Colony in a 5-4 decision.
In an interesting twist of fate, Kenai junior Matt Vandermartin took fifth place in the 138-pound class, doing so with a pin of former Colony teammate and old friend Jordan Nero.
Team scores — 1) Colony, 264.0; 2) South, 255.5; 3) Wasilla, 227.0; 4) Kodiak, 115.0; 5) Lathrop, 111.5; 6) Chugiak, 101.0; 7) East, 97.0; 8) Soldotna, 96.0; 9) Service, 91.0; 10) Kenai Central, 89.0; 11) Palmer, 83.5; 12) North Pole, 82.0; 13) West Valley, 62.0; 14) West, 61.0; 15) Eagle River, 29.5; 16) Bartlett, 26.0; 17) Dimond, 21.5.
Championship matches — 98 pounds — Micah Mathis, Was, dec. Micah Ee, Lat, 3-0; 106 — Sam Sisco, Col, dec. Jaidyn Bianchi, Wes, 4-3; 113 — Austin Craig, Sol, dec. Tyriq Jones, Lat, 3-0; 120 — Seth Hutchison, Sol, dec. Matt Glover, Sou, 5-0; 126 — Jay-Ar Small, Kod, dec. Chace Booth, Col, 3-2; 132 — Gavin Alvarado, Sou, pin. Levi Fried, Kod, 4:28; 138 — Dew Rogers, NP, dec. Noah Ottum, Sou, 3-1; 145 — Paul Steffensen, Ken, dec. Rami Pellumbi, Sou, 2-1; 152 — Ellery Steffensen, Ken, dec. Zach Ritchie, Sou, 3-0; 160 — Kamber Lucas, Col, dec. Chardo Elliott, Wes, 7-1; 170 — DJ Morrow, Was, dec. Gabe McSharry, Sou, 3-0; 182 — Abraham Correa-Medina, Sou, dec. Jack Dickinson, Lat, 7-4; 195 — Jesse Nelson, Chu, dec. Austin Farris, Pal, 3-0; 220 — Ben Button, Pal, dec. Nolan Wandersee, Kod, 9-2; 285 — Nicholas Stevens, Ser, dec. Zech Rockstad, Was, 1-0.