Skyview's Tyler Wehrli carries the ball during a game in a snowstorm last season.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Sometime down the road, Tyler Wehrli is hoping his career will take flight.
But for now, the Skyview High School senior, who hopes to eventually become a pilot, has his feet firmly on the ground as he chases another goal that of Alaska state wrestling champion.
"This year, I want to win state," said Wehrli after a recent meet. "Last year, it was a goal, but not as much at the beginning of the season. I improved a lot last season, so it became a goal as I improved and progressed."
Last year was Wehrli's first at Skyview after his family moved to the peninsula from Colville, Wash. Wehrli quickly found a new home in Skyview's mat room, wrestling his way to a third-place finish at 160 pounds at the Region III tournament. Wehrli followed that up with a fourth-place finish at the 4A state wrestling championships.
"Tyler is an extremely hard-working young man," said Skyview wrestling coach Neldon Gardner. "His dedication to the sport in all aspects took him from a medium-level wrestler to a very high-level wrestler by the end of the year."
Wehrli said improving on those finishes this season will be tough, but he's up to the challenge.
"I've got my work cut out for me, but you always have your work cut out for you," Wehrli said. "If you don't keep working, you don't get better."
Wehrli said he first took up wrestling when he was about 8 years old.
"It was just something I wanted to do. I've been into sports my whole life. Wrestling was just another one to try, so I tried it," Wehrli said.
Wehrli stuck with the sport, and while he said his first high school coach back in Colville wasn't the best technical instructor, the school did have a fantastic workout program in which he participated year-round.
"In Washington, our coach wasn't a great wrestler, so he coached us with conditioning and work ethic," Wehrli said.
Gardner said Wehrli has been able to focus that work ethic on improving his wrestling over the past year.
"He had the work ethic when he moved here, he was just lacking in a little bit of the technical moves of wrestling. He's a pretty good listener. If you show him something a couple of times, after a couple of times he picks it up, and he will learn from his mistakes," Gardner said.
Coming from a school that didn't have much wrestling tradition, Wehrli said it was the Panthers' program that drew him to Skyview.
"The Skyview wrestling tradition that was one of the main reasons I chose to come to Skyview," Wehrli said. "I fit in pretty quickly and made friends pretty quickly."
Wehrli actually made his Panthers debut as a member of the Skyview football team, where he was thrust into the role of quarterback.
"Skyview needed a quarterback when I came here," Wehrli said. "It wasn't the position I'd hoped to be playing, but that was what the team needed."
Though the team has struggled over the past two seasons, Wehrli said it was still a good experience.
"It was still enjoyable. The thing that you miss the most is having the same coaches each year," Wehrli said.
Skyview football coach Phil Sheridan said Wehrli provided good leadership on the field for the Panthers.
"He always had a real good attitude. Now matter how tough things went, he stayed positive and didn't get frustrated," Sheridan said. "He was expected to do a lot of things that he hadn't done before in a new system. He never complained. He did what I asked I thought he did a great job."
Wehrli also runs track for the Panthers, competing in the sprints and relays. He went to the state meet last season with Skyview's 1,600-meter relay. He was fourth in the 400 at the Region III meet and also ran on the region champion 800 relay.
"He's just a good all-around athlete. I think he'll do well in track," said Sheridan of Wehrli's running ability.
"It's just something I do," Wehrli said of filling up his spring season. "It's fun. I've got to keep myself busy."
Wehrli said he enjoys the outdoors in his free time. He likes fishing and enjoys hunting, though he said he hasn't had a chance to hunt in Alaska yet.
Wehrli plans to attend college next year and has narrowed his choices down to a few schools. He said he'd like to study aviation.
"It just sounds fun. It seems like a fun career to do, something I's enjoy," Wehrli said. "I've always thought it would be cool to get a private pilot's license and fly a plane."
Wehrli said that prior to moving to Alaska, becoming a pilot was more of a dream. Since moving to the Last Frontier with so many private pilots and small aircraft the idea of flying the friendly skies has become much more real. He said friends have offered to take him up for a flight, but with his busy schedule, he hasn't gotten to it just yet.
But before he takes off, Wehrli will enjoy the rest of the wrestling season. His brother Ryan, a freshman, is on team this year, and Wehrli is as excited to watch him learn the sport as he is about his own progress.
"It's frustrating watching him make freshman mistakes sometimes he's so close to finishing a move but he'll get there. It all boils down to state, and he can make state if he wrestles smart," Wehrli said.
As for himself, Wehrli has a legitimate at soaring to the top step of the awards podium when the state championships roll around.
"He's within grasp of a state championship," said Gardner. "When he walked in the room last year, if he wasn't such a hard worker and a good listener, you'd say he's one of those kids that can place in the top six. Because of his hard work and dedication, he definitely has his shot."
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