Nikiski's Jared Mazurek avoids the Eielson defense during a game earlier this season.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Ask Bulldogs senior Jared Mazurek, and he'll tell you it was former Nikiski coach and teacher Steve Gillaspie who first got him involved in wrestling, recruiting him to the mat room in middle school.
Some of his fellow seniors suspect a slightly different motivation.
"We always just kind of wrestled around with him," said Travis McCaughey.
"Then finally in eighth grade Jared came out (for the team)," Lance Penhale said.
"You can only take a beating for so long before you've got to learn to fight back," said McCaughey.
Whatever the case, Mazurek certainly can hold his own these days in the Bulldogs mat room.
Mazurek said he lost just three matches as an eighth grader, though he qualified that success.
"In middle school, it's all about attitude," he said. "When you only have a few losses, you think it's fun."
Things got more competitive in high school, but after losing a couple of matches early in his sophomore season, Mazurek went on a winning streak during which he defeated the state's top-ranked wrestler at 125 pounds.
His streak came to an abrupt halt, though, when he broke his collarbone.
Mazurek started his junior season with another impressive run, racking up a 26-0 record at 130. Bad luck ended that streak too as he broke his other collar bone. Mazurek came back to wrestle in the area tournament and qualified for state, but saw his undefeated record against 3A competition end in the first round of the state tournament.
The key to Mazurek's success has been his willingness to put in the work and his determination to be the best he can be.
"I try to get it done when I'm wrestling, and try to help out other kids," Mazurek said.
Mazurek's work ethic also serves as an example for the Bulldogs.
"He has good intensity. He's always hard working," McCaughey said.
Those sentiments were echoed by Nikiski football coach Ned Clooten.
"He's the single hardest-working athlete I've ever coached. He never lets anyone outwork him," Clooten said.
Mazurek played running back for the Bulldogs, picking up 666 yards on 104 carries this year and scoring seven rushing touchdowns and one two-point conversion.
"When I took over (last year), he came in as the JV tailback. When we were at the jamboree last fall, Jared showed me he wasn't a JV player and we had to find a way to get him on the football field," Clooten said. "Through his actions, he's proven that he's a high-level type of kid."
Mazurek also performs well in the classroom, earning straight A's. He said he plans to attend college next year, though he's not sure exactly where. He would like to study sports therapy, "but I'm into film, too."
"With sports therapy, you can go into a lot of different areas. It would be cool to be a trainer with a professional sports team," Mazurek said. "I want to stick with sports. It's fun, and it's been a big part of my life."
When wrestling wraps up, Mazurek will join the Nikiski basketball team. He also plays soccer for the Bulldogs, loves baseball and considers himself a pretty good ping pong player.
For the time being, Mazurek is focused on the wrestling season. This year, he said, he's not feeling any pressure to put together another streak.
"I'm not too pressured. I mainly just want to get a team championship," Mazurek said. "Last year I felt pressure more than this year. This year it's just going out and scoring points for my team."
The Bulldogs were just six points away from a team title at last year's 1-2-3A state wrestling championships and with many of the same wrestlers back, along with third-year coach Abe Porter, Mazurek said he likes Nikiski's chances this year.
"Things are looking really good for state," Mazurek said.
While Mazurek said he doesn't feel a lot of pressure this year, it hasn't stopped him from setting high goals.
"My goal is to take state, which is everybody's goal," Mazurek said.
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