When there's a coaching staff as experienced as that of the Skyview wrestling team, it's unusual for a group of kids to spark a major philosophy change.
But that's exactly what happened with the Panthers' 1996-97 state championship team, and Skyview continued to reap the benefits Friday night in a season-opening dual meet against Nikiski.
The Panthers, the defending fall state wrestling champions, defeated the Bulldogs 53-14 in a dual meet that was scaled back due to the absence of many key wrestlers on both sides.
Skyview coach Neldon Gardner, who has been at the helm since the school opened in 1990, said he thought the Panthers got an edge Friday from being a little more fit.
"Maybe we're running a little bit more than they are," Gardner said. "It's hard to say so early in the year, but I really run the kids a lot."
The coach picked up his emphasis on running five years ago, when a group of wrestlers like Brian Baker, Zeb Hutchison, Sam Carranza, Zach Reilly, Levi Reilly and Chad Benson came along.
"That group of kids wanted to work hard, and they pushed me to work them harder," Gardner said. "That group also had enough points for the state championship after the first day of the state tournament, which is a two-day meet.
"That's the level they were at."
The legacy of that group, which also includes a one-hour study hall before practice after school, continued to pay dividends in 1998-99 and last year, when the Panthers rolled to more state titles. It also helped Skyview Friday.
The Panthers took 10 of the 14 matches, including seven by pin. David Leach had two pins, while Jake Mork, Josh Miller, Jake Savely, Tom Wagenaar and Alex Jauregui added pins.
"It was a good night, but it won't have any effect on what happens at the end of the season," Gardner said. "Nikiski is going to be one of the teams at the top, and we plan to be up there, too."
The reason it's hard to draw conclusions from Friday's meet is because both teams were missing so many wrestlers.
Nikiski coach David Martian said he expects more than 15 wrestlers to come aboard now that football season is over. He said Friday's lineup featured about six of the Bulldogs' 14 starters.
Meanwhile, Gardner also was missing a handful of wrestlers due to football and injuries. His lineup Friday had about four starters.
Despite the lack of so many key wrestlers, Martian was not pleased with how his team performed.
"It wasn't at the level these guys usually perform at," Martian said. "We kind of misfired tonight."
The coach, who continued to be amazed by the performance of first-year wrestler and German foreign exchange student Hans Habel, said the performance was all the more surprising due to Nikiski's great attitude in practice.
The Bulldogs' four victories came from Josh Huhndorf, Anthony Lorenzo, Tab Key and Ryan Wicker.
"I'm sure, after what happened tonight, the intensity in the room will pick up at practice Monday," Martian said.
Meanwhile, Gardner said he was happy with what he saw from returning state qualifier Leach. He also likes the new talent injected into the team by Mork, a freshman, and Savely and Zach Rohr, a pair of transfer students from Ninilchik.
He also thought Cody Phipps, last year's state champion at 103, had a solid match against Joey Wicker. Wrestling at 119, Phipps topped Wicker 9-6.
SKYVIEW 53, NIKISKI 14
103 -- Alex Jauregui, Sky, t.f. Sonny Clark, 17-2
112 -- Josh Huhndorf, Nik, m.d. Duke McGarvey, 16-0
119 -- Cody Phipps, Sky, dec. Joey Wicker, 9-6
125 -- David Leach, Sky, p. Oscar Nelund, 2:39
160 --Zach Rohr, Sky, dec. Devin Larbarbra, 6-2
145 -- Jake Mork, Sky, p. Ryan Wicker, 4:40.
135 -- Josh Miller, Sky, p. Hans Habel, 3:31
135 -- Jake Savely, Sky, p. Travis McCaughey, 2:52
152 -- Anthony Lorenzo, Nik, dec. Shane Michael, 14-10
152 -- Tom Wagenaar, Sky, p. Ray Grim, 0:37
103 -- Alex Jauregui, Sky, p. Lance Penhale, 1:50
119 -- Tab Key, Nik, dec. Duke McGarvey, 7-1
125 -- David Leach, Sky, p. Jarred Mazurek, 5:22
145 -- Ryan Wicker, Nik, dec. Liloa Lavea, 11-5
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