After the first day of the fall state wrestling tournament at Kenai Central High School Thursday, the only thing that had been determined is that the event is running smoother than last year.
Defending state champion Skyview paced the field after the first day of the three-day event with 94.5 points, while Nikiski is close behind with 84.5 points. Next is Ketchikan at 55 points, followed by Juneau-Douglas and Sitka at 54.5 points, and Dillingham at 50.5 points.
Soldotna is tied for eighth after the first two rounds and leads the other peninsula entrants. Also, Seward is tied for 13th, Homer is tied for 15th, Ninilchik is 18th, Kenai is tied for 26th and Seldovia is tied for 35th.
"We lost one or two matches we were seeded to win, but we won about five that we shouldn't have won," said Skyview coach Neldon Gardner. "It's real hard to tell anything after the first day.
"There's a lot of important wrestling left."
While little could be told about the eventual state champion Thursday, coaches were complimentary of some changes Kenai Central made to make the tournament better for wrestlers and spectators.
"Kenai's doing a great job," said Soldotna coach Sarge Truesdell. "It's better than last year. They're really on top of everything."
Coaches weren't happy about a number of things after Kenai's first attempt at hosting the state tournament last year.
The problem that got the most attention is that two of the competition mats are on the gym floor, while the third is upstairs in a wrestling practice room. This meant coaches and spectators could easily miss an important match.
Kenai did a number of things to try and rectify that problem this year. There is a television in the gym showing the matches upstairs. Also, Soldotna assistant Bill Carlson brought a projector over to Kenai. The projector was placed on the stage at the end of the gym and casts a large image of the upstairs matches.
Also, sound from the announcements in the gym is piped upstairs to the third mat in order to keep everybody on the same page.
"The biggest concern of the coaches was having that third mat upstairs," said Kenai Central athletic director Tim Delaney. "With the televisions, and the announcements upstairs, we've done everything we can to try and deal with that problem."
Nikiski coach David Martian commended Kenai's effort, but said Kenai Central is still not a good place to hold the state meet.
"I appreciate what Kenai's done, and I know they've done everything they can do," Martian said. "The problem is the facility. For a state tournament, this is still pretty weak.
"The announcements upstairs helped a little bit, but the televisions didn't help. We have two coaches, and we're still missing kids (when they're wrestling). I can't imagine what teams with one coach are doing."
Martian also said he wasn't happy that some big matches were taking place on a small stage like the practice room.
"There have been some great matches up here today," Martian said as he sat near the third mat. "Great matches at a state tournament, and they happened in a practice room."
At least they happened in a practice room that's at a decent temperature. The third mat is right above the pool, and last year that led to a sweltering, sauna-like feel in the room.
"It was like a heat wave up here," Gardner said. "It's fine up here this year."
Delaney said he had borough maintenance take care of the temperature problem.
Another adjustment the tournament is making is not cutting down to two mats until after the quarterfinals. Last year, the tournament cut down to two mats for the quarterfinals, and Friday's wrestling didn't wrap up until after midnight. This year, the quarterfinals will happen on three mats.
"Last year was brutal," Martian said. "Coaches and kids didn't want to be here that late when they had to get up, weigh in and wrestle some big matches the next day."
Delaney said a number of factors came together to make the tournament better this year, including cooperation of borough maintenance and numerous volunteers.
The tournament continues today, with the big matches being the quarterfinals from 2 to 4 p.m. and the semifinals from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, the third-place semifinals will be from noon to 2 p.m., the fifth-place matches will be from 2 to 3 p.m., the third-place matches will be from 5 to 7 p.m. and the championship matches will be from 7 to 9 p.m.
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