Due to a number of key wrestlers missing on both sides, both Skyview coach Neldon Gardner and Nikiski coach David Martian said the host Bulldogs' 48-15 dual meet victory over the Panthers Tuesday doesn't have much significance in the overall scheme of things.
But the dual between two of the state's wrestling powers did have some significance in the mind of Nikiski senior Kyle Alexander.
"Neither team was at full strength but it was still a big meet," Alexander said. "This feels a lot better than the beginning of the season, when they creamed us.
"It feels good to get one back on them."
Skyview defeated Nikiski 53-14 while the season was just getting rolling. Alexander, like many Bulldogs, didn't wrestle in that meet because he had to worry about playing in the small-schools state championship football game the next day.
While the Bulldogs controlled the scoreboard thoroughly Tuesday, many of the matches were extremely close. Six of the 13 matches were decided by eight points or less.
"It's been a tough week," Gardner said. "Yesterday, we were hit by a bunch of things like injuries and sickness. We had half of the team we usually wrestle with.
"I'm happy with the way we wrestled, though. If you would have asked me yesterday, based on the pairings, I would have said we'd get beaten by more than we did."
One of the wrestlers that kept the margin of defeat from growing was Brandon Cleveland, who wrestled Nikiski's Wayne Aitken at 130. Cleveland, in one of the night's most thrilling matches, started the third period trailing 5-3.
He began the third period with an escape, then went up 7-5 with 1:14 left after a takedown and a penalty point. However, Aitken battled back with an escape, then a takedown to grab an 8-7 lead with 38 seconds left. Cleveland swung the lead back to his favor once again with a reversal with 16 seconds left that gave him the 9-8 victory.
Alexander was able to come out on top of a match with Skyview's Justin Rainwater that provided just as many opportunities to bite nails.
The Nikiski senior started the third period in a 5-3 hole. Up until that third period, Alexander appeared to be the more winded wrestler.
"We just got back from a long road trip (to Ketchikan), so I was pretty tired," Alexander said. "I got my second wind just in time."
The first minute of the third period was fairly uneventful, but the referee changed that when he warned Rainwater for stalling. With 1:01 left in the match, Alexander scored an escape to cut the gap to 5-4. Then, with 32 seconds remaining, Alexander took the lead with a takedown. Instead of being content with the one-point victory, he tried to break Rainwater down for some back points, but ran out of time.
"It was tempting, looking up at the clock, and knowing I could just ride it out and take the win," Alexander said of his aggressiveness. "I just wanted to try and get as many points as I could for the team."
Martian, who was missing three starters Tuesday, continued to be impressed by the steadiness of Chris McCaughey at 125 pounds. McCaughey notched an 8-5 decision on Mike Lasky.
"I think he's been in control of every wrestler over the last 20 matches," Martian said. "It doesn't matter if it's a state champion or somebody he's supposed to beat, he's out there competing as hard as he can to win.
"I think that's what's missing in a lot of wrestlers today, that constant intensity day after day. He's a rare breed."
Along those same bloodlines, Martian lauded the Tuesday performance of Travis McCaughey, the freshman brother of Chris. Travis pinned Skyview's Josh Miller.
"He's come alive," Martian said of Travis. "I was actually a little concerned at the beginning of the match about him getting beat pretty bad. Then he comes back and pins Josh Miller, who's a quality wrestler."
Gardner also saw a lot of bright spots during the evening. He was particularly happy with the wrestling of Zach Rohr at 160 (where he pinned Nikiski's Josh Boye), Dallas Seavey at 112 (where he scored a 6-2 decision on Tab Key) and Chris Lawrence at 189 (where he pinned Brandon Huhndorf).
"Chris has been working so hard," Gardner said. "He's been doing the things we've been telling him to do, so it's nice to see him progressing."
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