Justin Tumbaga paid for his 2003 Area 2 South wrestling championship with a currency worth its weight in grappling gold: blood, sweat and tears.
"It was exhausting," Tumbaga said following his thrilling 4-3 double overtime win over Ninilchik's Vincent Kruzick in the finals Saturday at Nikiski High School.
The match was a classic, featuring two wrestlers intent on finding a way to win. The first period was a bloody affair, as action had to be stopped because of blood coming from Tumbaga's mouth and nose. However, neither wrestler was able to gain much of an advantage, and the period ended 0-0.
Tumbaga struck first in the second period. After starting in the down position, he was able to break away from Kruzick's grasp and earn one point for an escape. However, his lead was short-lived, as Kruzick executed a perfect single leg takedown to go up 2-1. Tumbaga managed to get to his feet, but was promptly deposited back on his backside as time ran out on the period.
"He's really tough," Tumbaga said of Kruzick. "He just always manages to come back."
Tumbaga retook the lead in the third period, as he wrenched Kruzick to his back to earn two near fall points. Tumbaga held Kruzick down for remainder of the period, but with 30 seconds left, the referee awarded Kruzick a point after determining Tumbaga was using an illegal hold, sending the match into overtime.
Tumbaga said he wasn't sure he could go much longer after the regular time had elapsed.
"By the first overtime, I was running on 'E' already," he said.
Nikiski's Lance Penhale wrestles Voznesenka's Kornely Polushkin to a championship win at 103 pound Saturday.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The first overtime featured near-takedowns by both wrestlers, but neither could get the upper hand, sending the match into a fifth period. By virtue of scoring first in the match, Tumbaga was given the choice of starting on top or bottom, and he took down. With Kruzick as spent as he was, Tumbaga managed to stand up and pull away, giving him the one point victory, and earning a giant ovation from the home crowd.
Tumbaga then collapsed into the arms of Nikiski coach Abe Porter, unable to stand up for several seconds.
"That was definitely the highlight," Porter said after the tournament. "Justin is always fun to watch."
In addition to winning the 135-pound weight class, Tumbaga's inspiring effort also helped earn him the Most Outstanding Wrestler title, as voted on by Area 2 coaches.
However, Tumbaga's heroic individual effort was not enough to propel Nikiski to a team title. That honor went to Anchorage Christian Schools, which won five individual titles on its way to racking up 209.5 team points. Nikiski finished second with 141.5, while Seward's 139 points were good enough for third.
In addition to Tumbaga, Lance Penhale at 103 pounds and Anthony Lorenzo at 152 also placed first for the Bulldogs. Both won in decisive fashion, as Penhale the state's top-ranked wrestler at 103 pounds easily defeated Voznesenka's Kornely Palushkin, 18-2, while Lorenzo scored a major decision over Seldovia's Jimmy Payton.
Penhale's easy win came as no surprise to the diminutive dominator, as he's rolled through the lightest weight class with ease this season.
Winning the Area title was nice, he said, but the real test comes next week at the state tournament, where he'll be looking to win a second consecutive state title.
"That's what I've been building up for all season," Penhale said.
Judging by how this year has gone, Penhale said a repeat is probably a pretty good bet.
"So far, I've beaten all the kids that are going to be there," he said.
As for the team competition next week, there are a number of squads who likely will fight it out for the small-schools state title, though ACS which will host the tournament looks to be the favorite. The Lions placed 16 wrestlers in the top four Saturday, which means they'll have a big numbers advantage over Nikiski, which will send 10 wrestlers to the tournament.
"That helps a lot," said ACS head coach Jason Hofacker. "They're going to have to get out there and win, though."
Hofacker mentioned the Bulldogs, Petersburg, Wrangell and Kotzebue as teams he expects to make a strong showing. Seward, which got individual titles Saturday from Eric Amberg at 140 pounds and Jake Wilder at 145, also will bear watching.
After racking up a 68-point victory Saturday, however, Porter said he believes ACS is definitely the team to beat. But if Nikiski can work hard and get some breaks, Porter said he believes the Bulldogs should be able to finish somewhere close to the top.
"We'd like to place in the top three," Porter said.
It won't be easy, he said, but if his grapplers can wrestle to their potential, the Nikiski coach thinks his team has a decent shot at challenging for a title.
"We're going to just have to go up there and take care of business," he said.
Area 2 South Championships
TEAM SCORES 1. Anchorage Christian, 209.5; 2. Nikiski 141.5; 3. Seward, 139; 4. Grace Christian, 91; 5. Seldovia, 69; 6. Houston, 52; 7. Voznesenka 27; 8. Ninilchik, 26.
CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHES (Top 4 wrestlers qualify for state)
103 Lance Penhale, Nik, tech. fall Kornely Palushkin, Voz, 18-2
112 Gerardo Arias, ACS, maj. dec. Blake Elder, Hou, 11-1
119 Zach Shelly, ACS, forfeit Kenny Balfe, Grace
125 Jacob Masog, ACS def. Tab Key, Nik, 4-1
130 Judah Allen, ACS, forfeit Jared Mazurek, Nik
135 Justin Tumbaga, Nik, def. Vincent Kruzick, Nin, 4-3 (2 OT)
140 Eric Amberg, Sew, p. Christianson, Grace, 3:45
145 Jake Wilder, Sew, def. Tommy Pargeter, Grace, 4-2
152 Anthony Lorenzo, Nik, maj. dec. Jimmy Payton, Sel, 18-5
160 Coty Beck, Sew, p. Karl Coulomb, Grace, 1:19
171 Jevon Chartier, Sel, p. Charles Howard, ACS, 3:50
189 Chance Collier, Sel, tech. fall Chris Hansen, Hou, 20-2
215 Bobby Dunbar, ACS, p. James Aase, Sew, 1:42
HWT Alex Hawkins, ACS, p. David Rorrison, Nik, 5:22
THIRD/FOURTH PLACE MATCHES (scores were unavailable)
103 Hollis Troxel, ACS, def. Carlos Arias, ACS
112 Sava White, Voz
119 Jordan McCaughey, Nik, def. Matt Adams, Sew
125 Zach Coots, Sew, def. Ryan Edmunds, Grace
130 Josh Hundorf, Nik, def. Nolan Willis, ACS
135 Cody Dunbar, ACS, def Charlie Rinninger, Sew
140 Cyle Webb, ACS, def. Bill Payton, Sel
145 William Scott, ACS, def. Travis McCaughey, Nik
152 Casey Hultquist, Grace, def. Michael Flanigan, ACS
160 Brian Hanson, Grace, def. Ian McCarty, ACS
171 Don Caulkins, Hou, def. Joe Vasakis, ACS
189 Jeremy Grube, Hou, def. Hans Alderman, Sew
215 Fred Young, Hou, def. Reece Parrish, Nik
HWT Gus Linville, Sew, def. Patrick O'Neil, Grace
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