Nikiski hosted the Peninsula Dual wrestling meet Saturday. Skyview's Panthers wrestled their way to the top of the 15-school tournament, defeating Nikiski in the championship round and earning a total of 191 points.
Skyview wrestlers credited their coaches and teammates for the victory, while coach Neldon Gardner saved his praise for the athletes on both his team's and Nikiski's.
"Our kids are wrestling hard and their kids are wrestling hard," Gardner said. "I thought we had a total team effort."
Wrestlers on both teams worked hard for their individual victories. Melina Hutchison, Skyview's only female wrestler, defeated Jody Wirker at the 112-pound weight level.
Homer's Gideon Scott tries to get free from South Peninsula's Jake Savely during their match at 112 pounds Saturday morning.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
"I have good coaches," she said. "I mean, I have awesome coaches."
The Panthers were optimistic from the outset. Cody Phipps, who won at 103, said "If we keep this up, I think we'll win."
He was right. Relentless effort helped put a number of Panthers over the top, including Joe Legner, who wrestled Kyle Alexander at 171.
"That kid was tough," Legner said. "It felt like he was stronger than me. (But) he just couldn't keep (his endurance)."
Skyview athletes were also quick to acknowledge their opponents' determination. Ryan Childers wrestled Tony Aitken at 130. He had wrestled and defeated Aitken last weekend in Seward and found him harder to beat at Nikiski.
"It was a closer match this time," Childers said. "He wrestled tough this time."
Nikiski had its share of winners in the championship tournament. Neil Fucci, who defeated Ben Nabinger at 135, said he looks forward to competing with Skyview in the future.
"I believe that honestly we'll be able to take them (the Panthers)," he said, "if not here, then at their house."
Steven Calderwood wrestled at 145 and defeated Skyview's Nate Morse. He also expressed enthusiasm for his team's potential, and noted that many Nikiski wrestlers, including himself, had just finished playing football and needed to "work on a few things."
"We're working our way back," he said.
Of the Nikiski wrestlers, James Mika put on one of the most exciting shows at 215. The match was intense and kept the crowd on its feet. Mika slammed Mike Misner to the mat and pinned him.
"It was kind of exciting," Mika said. "I was kind of scared of the guy then he ended up being a fish."
Nikiski finished with 186 points.
Barrow defeated Ketchikan in the consolation round. The action was tense, and tensions ran high when Ketchikan's Geoff Nordlund injured Barrow wrestler Dustin Voss at 160. Voss said his neck hurt and was subsequently wrapped in medical tape.
Ketchikan's wrestlers eventually lost the match.
"I was pretty disappointed with our performance," Ketchikan coach Rick Collins said.
Still, he said, he was grateful for the opportunity for his team to compete.
"The tournament was nicely run," he said. "We're pretty isolated on that island out in Southeast."
Barrow earned 162 points and Ketchikan, which participated in five matches (Barrow, Nikiski, and Skyview wrestled in four), earned 183 points.
Other Kenai Peninsula teams participating in Saturday's tournament were Ninilchik, Homer, Seward, Kenai, and Soldotna.
Detailed results of the Peninsula Duals will be posted in Monday's Clarion.
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