Anchorage Christian Schools will be the favorite to keep its Kachemak Conference title Friday and Saturday at Grace Christian School in Anchorage.
"They've got a lot of kids in their first string that are pretty tough," Nikiski coach Abe Porter said of the Lions. "They've also got a lot of backups that do pretty well.
"That makes them a good tournament team and a good dual team."
The wrestling will start Friday at 1 p.m. Wrestling will start again at 10 a.m. Saturday, with the finals scheduled for 1 p.m.
The Lions showed just how tough of a team they have earlier this season, when they defeated Wasilla in a dual meet. The Warriors are the defending Class 4A, or big-schools, champion, while the Lions are a small school.
Last year at the Kachemak Conference tournament, which was then called the Area 2 South tournament, ACS won five individual titles on its way to racking up 209.5 team points. Nikiski was second with 141.5, while Seward was third with 139. ACS would then go on to win the state title over Nikiski.
Porter said, barring a collapse by the Lions, he hopes his team is again good enough to claim second place.
The Lions have four wrestlers that are ranked tops in the Kachemak Conference according to alaskawrestling.com. The Web site has Zach Shelley at 135, William Scott at 145 and Cody Dunbar at 152 all ranked first in the state. Josh Baker at 103 is second in the state. The Lions have three other wrestlers ranked in the top five in the state.
Nikiski actually has one more wrestler ranked atop the Kachemak Conference than the Lions.
"We have a great group of kids with a lot of experience," said Porter, who expects to take 12 wrestlers to the tournament. "Then we have a bunch of first-year wrestlers."
Lance Penhale at 112, Jordan McCaughey at 125 and Justin Tumbaga at 140 are all the top-ranked wrestlers at their weight classes in the state. Penhale and Tumbaga both won Kachemak Conference titles last year, while Tumbaga was named the meet's Most Outstanding Wrestler.
The other two wrestlers ranked atop the conference are Jared Mazurek, who is third in the state at 130, and Dave Rorrison, who is second in the state but has a knee injury and may not wrestle this weekend.
The four wrestlers in each weight class at the conference tournament advance to the state tournament.
"It'd be great if we can get all our wrestlers to state," Porter said. "That would be a great experience for our first-year wrestlers."
Peninsula schools Seward, Voznesenka and Ninilchik also will be at the conference tournament.
The Seahawks have three wrestlers who are ranked in the top five in the state.
At 215, James Aase is the top-ranked wrestler in the conference and is ranked third in the state. He took second at the conference tournament last year.
Coty Beck is ranked fifth at 171, while Branden O'brikis is fifth at 189. Beck won the conference title last year at 160.
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