The Nikiski High School wrestling team hosted Soldotna and Kenai for a pair of dual meets Tuesday, earning a split as they gear up for the upcoming area meet and small-schools state championships.
"Any time we can go up against some 4A teams before we go back to 3A, it's a good chance to get some tough competition," said Nikiski coach Abe Porter, adding that it adds some variety to the schedule to get some big schools on the mat while the state's split wrestling seasons overlap.
The Bulldogs had a tough go of it against the Stars Soldotna picked up three wins by pin and four more by forfeit en route to a 46-20 win.
Jared Mazurek started the Bulldogs off on the right foot with his win at 135 pounds. After a forfeit at 140, Travis McCaughey won by pin at 145 for the Bulldogs before the Stars rattled off six straight wins, including pins by Jake Howarth at 160, Ben Breakfield at 171 and Jose Gomez at 189.
Nikiski's Lance Penhale kept his unbeaten streak intact, bumping up to 119 pounds to win by technical fall and Jordan McCaughey won by pin at 125 pounds, but it wasn't enough for the Bulldogs to overcome the points they gave up in the weight classes they couldn't fill.
Still, Soldotna coach Jeff Breakfield said he liked getting a dual meet in before the holiday break.
"It's always fun to come out and wrestle Nikiski. They're a good group of kids," Breakfield said. "It's always nice to go wrestle somewhere on a Tuesday.
"I like duals. ... They're a lot more relaxing than a big meet like North-South."
Breakfield said he was pleased to see sophomore Erick Morris wrestle tough against Mazurek, a senior who moved up a weight class for the meet, at 135.
The Kardinals and Bulldogs only matched up for three matches in their dual meet, won by the Bulldogs 34-24 though Kenai won two of the three matches contested.
Loren Fanter won by pin at 160 pounds for the Kardinals while teammate Michael Dormady won by pin at 171.
Tyler Payment notched a major decision for the Bulldogs at 152.
Kenai coach Rocky DeMello said getting as much match experience as possible was important for the young Kardinals team.
"We're trying to get some mat time for these kids. That's where they they learn the most," DeMello said. "We drill them in practice, but what they do here on the mat makes all the difference in the world."
The Kardinals also had some success in several exhibition matches against Soldotna, including a pair of pins by Halyn Lipps.
Porter said he's been happy to see Travis and Jordan McCaughey emerge as top wrestlers this season.
"The McCaughey brothers are really starting to step it up. It's really been nice to watch them come out of their shells a little bit as wrestlers."
Stars 46, Bulldogs 20
135 Jared Mazurek, Nik, dec. Erick Morris, Sol, 5-2
140 Brandy Goracke, Sol, by forfeit
145 Travis McCaughey, Nik, p. Richard Hatt, Sol, 2:50
152 Spencer Tachick, Sol, maj. dec. Tyler Payment, Nik, 13-1
160 Jake Howarth, Sol, p. Josh Vance, Nik, 1:12
171 Ben Breakfield, Sol, p. Chad Holloway, Nik, 1:50
189 Jose Gomez, Sol, p. James Barrett, Nik, 3:05
215 Terrance Carlson, Sol, by forfeit
275 Sean Whitmore, Sol, by forfeit
119 Lance Penhale, Nik, tech. fall Jake Ciufo, Sol, 19-2, 5:11
125 Jordan McCaughey, Nik, p. Steve Burlison, Sol, 0:44
130 Anthony Kline, Sol, by forfeit
Bulldogs 34, Kardinals 24
135 Jared Mazurek, Nik, by forfeit
140 Greg Aho, Ken, by forfeit
145 Travis McCaughey, Nik, by forfeit
152 Tyler Payment, Nik, maj. dec. Jaron Dambacher, Ken, 18-6
160 Loren Fanter, Ken, p. Josh Vance, Nik, 0:51
171 Michael Dormady, Ken, p. Chad Holloway, Nik, 2:52
189 James Barrett, Nik, by forfeit
275 Halyn Lipps, Ken, by forfeit
119 Lance Penhale, Nik, by forfeit
125 Jordan McCaughey, Nik, by forfeit
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