Travel problems delay state wrestling tourney

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2003

Organizers of the Alaska School Activities Association State 4A Wrestling Championships, slated to begin today in Ketchikan, saw their worst fears realized Thursday as weather prevented many wrestling teams from landing in the Southeast city.

The meet was originally scheduled for today and Saturday. John Andrews, the director of special events for ASAA, said if everyone can get to Ketchikan today, the meet would begin with weigh-ins on Saturday. Finals would be wrestled Sunday.

All or part of three teams, including Sitka, Juneau-Douglas and Wasilla, were able to touch down in Ketchikan Thursday afternoon. A few more teams, including members of the Kenai Central contingent, were able to land Thursday night.

Several other teams, including Soldotna, Skyview and Homer, were sent back to Seattle for the night after waiting in various Southeast cities for much of the day Thursday in hopes that the fog around Ketchikan would lift long enough to allow planes to land.

"It's hard to be in this kind of situation," Andrews said. "We have no control over the weather, and the navigational aids in Ketchikan, which are really great when they work, aren't working.

"We're frustrated. The people that are here running the event have everything in place. They've spent four months planning. We have beautiful floor mats, scorer's tables, scoreboards -- everything's ready to go. We just need wrestlers."

Andrews said Ketchikan, unlike Juneau, rarely has problems with fog shutting down the airport. Thursday's fog reportedly was the first this winter.

Andrews was optimistic the rest of the competitors would be able to arrive today -- including teams from Anchorage that were contemplating staying home when their flights into Ketchikan were postponed Thursday.

Becky West, mother of Skyview wrestler Justin Rainwater, was traveling on a different flight than the team and already had arrived in Ketchikan Thursday.

West said she had talked to Rainwater several times during the day, and that the team was in good spirits considering the circumstances.

"They left Kenai at 5 a.m. (Thursday) morning, but they're doing pretty good," West said. "He hasn't eaten anything since he left home because he's trying to make weight, but I could hear kids laughing in the background, so they're doing OK."

West said the Skyview squad was hoping to arrive in Ketchikan around 8 a.m. today.

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