Justin Tumbaga finished off his high school wrestling career with a smile.
The Nikiski High School senior, wrestling at 152 pounds, turned a disappointment in the Friday semifinals of the state 1-2-3A wrestling championships into motivation to finish strong, coming back to claim third place by major decision in his weight class Saturday at the Wasilla Sports Complex.
“I was disappointed not winning in the semis, but I think it made me crave it more,” Tumbaga said after defeating Mike Gumlickpuk of New Stuyahok 10-2 in the consolation finals.
While no wrestlers from the Kenai Peninsula were able to advance to the championship round, Tumbaga was joined in the third-place round of matches by Seward’s Coty Beck, wrestling at 189 pounds. Beck fell behind early in his match against Jake Voss of Barrow. Beck was able to score a takedown and some back points with a near fall in the closing minute of the match, but it wasn’t enough to overtake Voss, who notched an 8-6 win.
Tumbaga’s match with Gumlickpuk started intense and stayed that way throughout. The match was scoreless after the first period, and Tumbaga, starting the second period in the down position, earned the first point with an escape. Tumbaga scored four more points with a takedown and a near fall before giving up an escape to lead 5-1 heading into the final period.
Gumlickpuk scored an escape to open the third period, but Tumbaga countered with a takedown and three more points for a near fall for the final margin of victory.
“The first time we wrestled it was high-intensity like that, and I just got by, by two or three points,” Tumbaga said of a match with Gumlickpuk earlier this season. “Thanks to a few quick tips right before the match I was able to pull away.”
Tumbaga said Nikiski assistant coach Dan Carstens suggested a tilt move which Tumbaga successfully executed to score his near-fall points and said head coach Lucas Peless provided some inspirational words as he waited for the match to begin.
Tumbaga said the top four wrestlers in the 152-pound class have been evenly matched all season. Unalaska’s Jesse Kueber, to whom Tumbaga dropped a 7-4 decision in the semifinals, and Anchorage Christian’s Cody Dunbar tangled in the championship match while Tumbaga and Gumlickpuk battled for third.
“No one was ahead of anybody. We were all at the same spot wrestlingwise. We’re the same caliber, any match could’ve gone either way,” Tumbaga said.
After having his arm raised in recognition of his win and shaking hands with Gumlickpuk’s coaches, Tumbaga, grinning from ear to ear, then had a hug for just about everybody sitting alongside the mat.
“Coming back Saturday (after Friday’s loss) makes me happy,” Tumbaga said. “It was a real good finish. ... Thanks to all the support from my family and friends. They’ve been so supportive of me throughout my years of wrestling.”
Several peninsula wrestlers made it to Saturday’s fifth-place matches. Seward’s James Aase notched a quick pin at 215 pounds, and teammate Brandon O’Brikis won by fall at 275.
Ninilchik sophomore Austin Vanderford also made it to a fifth-place match, wrestling at 135 pounds. Vanderford scored first with a takedown, and while his reach was better than his opponent’s, Jonathan Williams of Napaskiak was able to muscle out of each move Vanderford tried.
Vanderford was down by a point, 5-4, to start the third period. Vanderford started the period in the up position and while he maintained control through most of the frame, he could not roll Williams to his back. Vanderford nearly picked up a near fall in the closing 30 seconds, but Williams broke free and worked a reversal to ice a 7-4 win.
“It’s less than what I wanted,” said Vanderford, who had his sights on a top-three finish. “I’ll just keep wrestling, work hard in the offseason and wrestle some freestyle.”
Notes: Former Nikiski High School coach Steve Gillaspie was inducted into the Alaska Wrestling Hall of Fame during a ceremony prior to the championship round of matches. Gillaspie currently is the athletic director at Sitka High School. Former Anchorage Christian Schools coach Richard Hofacker also was inducted. ... Former Skyview High School wrestler Elliott Gauthier, now a senior at Grace Christian High School in Anchorage, made the finals at 130 pounds, defeating Herman Reich of Kotzebue 7-3 to earn a state title.
Alaska School Activities Association/First National Bank Alaska State 1-2-3A Wrestling Championships
Friday and Saturday at the Wasilla Sports Complex
Team standings 1. Dillingham, 189; 2. Anchorage Christian, 147; 3. Kotzebue, 123.5; 4. Nome, 103.5; 5. Bethel, 103; 6. Petersburg, 102; 7. Houston, 99.5; 8. Eielson, 68.5; 9. Wrangell, 61.5; 10. Grace Christian, 58.5; 11. Mt. Edgecumbe, 57; 12. Barrow, 45; 13. Craig, 43; 14. Unalaska, 41; 15. Seward, 35.5; 16. New Stuyahok, 34.5; 17. Cordova, 23; 18. Vladez, 21; 19. Hutchison, 19; 20. Yakutat, 17; 21. Hoonah, 16; 22. Akiachak, 15.5; 23. Nikiski, 14.5; 24. Ninilchik, 9; 25. Noorvik, 8; St, Michael, 8; 27. Galena, 6; Seldovia, 6; 29. Unalakleet, 5; Klawock, 5; 31. Napaskiak, 4; Nenana, 4; 33. Tok, 3; 34. Koyuk, 1; 35. Voznesenka, Glennallen, Stebbins, Togiak, New Halen.
103 Kevin Hanson, Kotzebue, f. Joe Hunt, Dillingahm, 4:58
112 Spencer Beckman, Craig, d. Joe Hirt, Barrow, 7-0
119 Dan Savo, Dillingham, f. Josh Baker, ACS, 2:46
125 Wes Richards, Dillingham, d. Michael Miller, ACS, 10-3
130 Elliott Gauthier, Grace, d. Herman Reich, Kotzebue, 7-3
135 Jeremy Luce, Nome, d. Gilbert McIntyre, Bethel, 2-1, 2OT
140 Zach Shelley, ACS, f. Landon Shuster, Kotzebue, 3:24
145 Drew O’Brien, Bethel, d. Sam Anaruk, Bethel, 3-1
152 Cody Dunbar, ACS, d. Jesse Kueber, Unalaska, 5-2
160 Mike Carty, Dillingham, d. Joe Christensen, Grace, 9-5
171 Neil Jenny, Petersburg, d. Kelson Phillips, Kotzebue, 7-4
189 Zack Klein, Mt. Edgecumbe, d. Bradd Erickson, Houston, 6-5, 2OT
215 Clinton Banzhaf, Houston, f. Sam Beecher, ACS, 3:24
275 Khoren Green, Nome, f. Bob Neilsen, Dillingham, 5:55
103 Clinton West, Nome, t.f. Will Riley, Mt. Edgecumbe, 17-0
112 Graelin Garlington, Eielson, f. Andrew Miller, Dillingham, 4:15
119 Brady Echevarria, Unalaska, f. Zack Schneider, Akiachak, 5:33
125 Joe Garrison, Wrangell, t.f. Ramon Ponce, Nome, 16-0
130 Chase Fagan, Eielson, d. Caleb Caulum, Petersburg, 6-4
135 Tim Erickson, Petersburg, d. Del Bryce, Eielson, 9-2
140 Josh Dunham, Petersburg, d. Allen Mark, Dillingham, 9-6
145 James Gillen, Hutchison, f. Matt Gardner, Houston, 1:45
152 Justin Tumbaga, Nikiski, m.d. Mike Gumlickpuk, New Stuyahok, 10-2
160 Trygve Angasan, Dillingham, d. Sean Larson, Petersburg, 12-6
171 Chris Hansen, Houston, d. Claude Young, Mt. Edgecumbe, 7-4
189 Jake Voss, Barrow, d. Coty Beck, Seward, 8-6
215 Michael Raphael Bethel, d. Sean Octuck, Nome, 6-3
275 Joe Pavlik, Yakutat, d. Nate Hughes, Valdez, 14-7
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