The contingent of wrestlers from the Kenai Peninsula headed to Eagle River for the state 4A wrestling championships at Chugiak High School grew by two this week as a pair of Soldotna grapplers were selected as alternates.
Competition begins at 9 a.m. today at Chugiak High School. The championship semifinals are scheduled to follow the 7 p.m. parade of athletes.
Consolation bracket competition starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, with the championship session third-place, fifth-place and championship matches slated to begin at 5 p.m.
While the Skyview Panthers qualified 10 wrestlers for the event at last weekend's Northern Lights Conference meet in Homer, the Stars saw their number of qualifiers jump from nine to 11 as 130-pounder Anthony Kline and 215-pounder Matthew Strieby were added to the roster.
The Stars are led by Brandy Goracke, a conference champion at 140 pounds, and Sean Whitmore, conference champ at 275. Coach Jeff Breakfield said he had an experienced group of seniors with expectations of ending up on the medal stand at the meet.
And while the Stars aren't sending any juniors to the state championships, Breakfield said the underclassmen that qualified will pick up some valuable experience as they'll be called on to step up as team leaders next season.
The Panthers had just one conference champion in 135-pounder Eli Hutchison, a two-time state champion, but coach Neldon Gardner said all 10 Skyview wrestlers heading to the meet are quality wrestlers and expects at least eight of them to finish in the top six.
What's more, Gardner said the Panthers still have a shot at a state crown if they can push five or so wrestlers through to the championship finals. Gardner said it would be tough as NLC and defending state champion Wasilla is the favorite and a few other schools would be in the mix, but he wasn't about to rule it out, either.
The Panthers have won four state titles and have finished second at the state meet for the last two seasons.
The Homer Mariners send five wrestlers to the state meet while Kenai Central did not have an athlete qualify for the competition.
ASAA/First National Bank Alaska State 4A Wrestling Championships
Kenai Peninsula Qualifiers
103 Michaela Hutchison, Skyview.
112 Simeon Daigle, Homer.
119 Jake Ciufo, Soldotna.
125 John Bouman, Homer; Steven Burlison, Soldotna.
130 Louden Greiner, Homer; Anthony Kline, Soldotna (alternate).
135 Eli Hutchison, Skyview (conference champion); Camron Hagen, Homer; Erick Morris, Soldotna.
140 Brandy Goracke, Soldotna (conference champion); Scott Foster, Soldotna; Shane Strausbaugh, Sky.
145 Clark Buffington, Skyview; Michael Burlison, Skyview.
152 Eddie Buffington, Skyview, Eric Rodgers, Skyview.
160 Ben Breakfield, Soldotna.
171 Tyler Wehrli, Skyview; Josh Carlon, Skyview.
189 Terrence Carlson, Soldotna.
215 Russel Bacon, Skyview; Matthew Strieby, Soldotna (alternate).
275 Sean Whitmore, Soldotna (conference champion); Cody Crum, Homer; Les Baker, Soldotna.
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