Chris Osbekoff wanted to quit.
Not just once. But after each of his first three seasons.
"I really hate cutting weight to be honest," the Kenai Central senior said. "There was a huge mental thing and my grades dropped to fairly low, Bs. It's really hard to think when you're dehydrated."
Even this season, he battled through elbow injuries, yet persevered again.
It's a good thing he did.
Balancing those distractions four years in a row paid off Saturday when Osbekoff capped his surprising career with a third-place finish at the Class 4A state wrestling tournament at Chugiak High School.
And he did it in the finest of fashions, too, pulling two upsets en route to one of the two highest finishes by a Kenai Peninsula wrestler at the state meet.
Now, he can finally call it a career.
"A beautiful way to end the season for me," he said. "I'm never wrestling again after this. But this is the way I wanted to end it."
After pinning Service's Dan Bray in 2:42 in his opening match on Friday, Osbekoff, ranked fifth by akmat.org, worked his way to a monumental 6-3 win over Wasilla's fourth-ranked Josh Brown, who destroyed Osbekoff to the tune of a 15-3 shellacking in the Northern Lights Conference tournament semifinals last weekend.
Osbekoff wasn't done yet, though.
A 4:05 pin at the hands of Colony's top-ranked Kyle Wilson dropped him into the consolation round, where he earned a 9-3 decision over North Pole's Jacob Rahlfs before stunning Service's third-ranked Nic Cropper, 12-7.
And all of this emanating from a guy who never stepped onto a mat prior to his first practice freshman year.
"I never even knew what the word 'wrestling' meant," he admitted. "I had no clue what it was."
Kardinals coach David Boyle can support that claim.
"He was completely clueless the first couple of practices," recalled Boyle, adding he's also thrilled Osbekoff kept returning each season. "Last year we gave a grumpy wrestler award to Jaron Dambacher and Chris earned that award earlier in the year. It's a grueling, demanding sport -- watching your weight and running every day and trying to keep your grades up. It's tough. You can see it wearing on Chris this season, but he stuck with it and persevered."
Other placers from the peninsula included Soldotna's Nathan Strieby (fourth) and Jess Carlson (sixth), Skyview's Bryce Wilson (fifth) and Danny Maciariello (fifth), Homer's Ben Daigle (third) and Mitch Wyatt (fifth) and Kenai's John Hughes (sixth).
The team title, as predicted, went to Colony for the third straight year, which matched Valley foe Wasilla's run of three in a row just prior to the Knights' current championship stretch.
But the local story was Osbekoff. All the way.
Having "maybe" faced him once in his four-year career, the 125-pounder dominated Cropper, who finished second in last weekend's Cook Inlet Conference tournament.
Just 28 seconds into the match, Osbekoff flipped Cropper onto his back and kept him there until the Cougar squirmed onto his stomach, handing five quick points to the Kardinal.
"I was a little surprised that I got him to his back, but I needed the back points and wanted that throw real bad," he said.
A second-period escape and a takedown in the waning moments of the frame by Cropper sliced the deficit to 5-3 entering the third.
That would be as close as he could get, though, as Osbekoff immediately escaped to begin the third and again turned Cropper onto his back for another five points as he was unable to record the pin.
Cropper's late escape and takedown went for naught as Osbekoff held on for third place after going 0-2 at state as a freshman and 2-2 last year as a junior.
"I came out there and started wrestling and realizing the guys weren't as tough as they used to be," he said, adding he thought he'd finish fifth. "It just paid off in the end to just persevere over them."
Boyle believes his grappler could have advanced to the championship match had he been placed on the other side of the bracket and away from eventual champion Kyle Wilson.
"If he'd have been drawn into the other bracket and he hadn't run into that first-seed Wilson, I believe we would have seen Chris in the finals," he said. "Wilson ... he's just so tough.
"It didn't even look like a match. Chris was clearly his superior. That was Chris wrestling at his best," Boyle added of the contest with Cropper. "He reserved his best wrestling for this weekend."
Osbekoff, who during his junior campaign set the school record for pins in a season and topped that this year by creating the new standard for pins in a career at Kenai Central, is just happy he didn't call it quits earlier.
"It's a great feeling to be done and know I accomplished something," he said. "I used to say wrestling gave me nothing. It gave me confidence, at least. It gave me a mental toughness.
"I think wrestling was a great thing for me."
Soldotna's Nathan Strieby knows a thing or two about mental toughness.
A lineman on Soldotna's state championship football team, Strieby arrived late to wrestling practice this year after the extended pigskin season.
The leap right into wrestling without a break took its toll, too.
After finishing third in the state last year, Strieby on Saturday night was forced to forfeit his third-place match to Kodiak's Anthony Atonio due to injuries, one being a tear in his shoulder.
"My body didn't have time to recoup," Strieby conceded. "I had a couple of injuries from football that did not get taken care of. The seasons running into each other was a big problem.
"Hopefully next year there will be a break."
According to Strieby and Stars coach Bill Carlson, the junior had nothing left to prove, having already pinned Atonio twice in the last week, once in 4:51 in the NLC semifinals and again in 3:52 in Friday's quarterfinals.
"I decided it's not really worth the risk going to go for third or fourth and to mess myself up for football," Strieby said.
Once the top-ranked heavyweight in Alaska with his radar locked on a state crown, Strieby was upset in the NLC championship last Saturday, when Wasilla's Jed Johnson pinned him 3:31.
The loss vaulted Johnson ahead of his rival in both the rankings and seedings, allowing the two to meet prior to the state championship this weekend.
And Johnson again took care of Strieby, pinning him in 5:13 in Friday's semis on his way to a state championship.
Unable to take many positives out of his first loss a week ago, Strieby carried a few with him this time around.
"I put him on his back," he said, something he didn't do in their first meeting. "So that's what makes me feel good."
He'll be back next year, with or without a layoff between sports.
"It's all business," he said. "I'll take care of it next year."
Bryce Wilson plans on doing the same.
After dropping a 15-6 major decision to Nick Aadland in Friday's quarterfinals, Wilson (112) got the better of his newfound nemesis on Saturday.
Leading 2-1 after the second period on the heels of a first-period takedown, Wilson added another point on an escape midway through the third before surrendering the tying takedown with under 30 seconds to go.
Taking the mat with 14 seconds remaining, Wilson nearly escaped at the buzzer for the win, but couldn't wriggle free in sending the match to overtime.
But it didn't take long for him to capitalize in the sudden-death session as he picked up a quick takedown and three back points in winning, 8-3.
"My mom was like telling me, 'You better win. You better win,'" Wilson said. "I knew I could take him down but I didn't think I could put him on his back like that. And then it just happened.
"It's just like revenge. It pushes me."
Wilson said fighting your way through the consolation bracket is not only draining on your body, but also on your mind, as any shot at a state title has already passed.
"It's sucks so bad," he said. "The kid (Lathrop's Jeremy Simmons) I lost to today, he was like fresh because he lost late yesterday. And I had to wrestle two matches and it just fatigues you.
"It's way harder," he added. "Mentally, it's just like, 'I don't want to wrestle,' but you've just got that drive in you that makes you want to win."
Having taken sixth last year as a sophomore and now fifth, Wilson set the bar as high as it can go for his farewell campaign.
"Senior year I just want to dominate the whole year so that I can get a state championship," he said. "That would be awesome."
The 140-pound, fifth-place match was a lot closer this time around, as opposed to the wrestler's meeting a week ago in the NLC semifinals, when Wyatt picked up a convincing 6-1 decision over Carlson.
Both conference foes battled through two scoreless periods Saturday before Wyatt snapped the deadlock with an escape 32 seconds into the third. He then added a takedown with 30 seconds left and clung to the 3-1 win.
"He gave me a lot more run for my money that time," Wyatt said. "Toughest tournament of my life. Just a lot of wrestling. There's a lot of tough kids out there. It's the cream of the crop at state. It was all that I expected it to be."
With two years of high school remaining, Wyatt is also expecting more.
"First place for both years."
Bill Carlson was pleased his son, Jesse, was able to place as a senior, something he couldn't manage at state last season.
"He's improved all the way through the season," Bill Carlson said. "If you're evaluating wrestlers on improvement and work ethic, he definitely deserves some recognition."
After taking fifth two years in a row, Daigle (140) claimed third with a 5-3 decision over Colony's Jess McKee, who he beat 11-1 in last weekend's NLC consolation semis. Maciariello (130) earned fifth with a four-minute technical fall over Kenai's John Hughes, who had also lost to Maciariello, 9-4, in the NLC semis.
"The fact remains that there wasn't a single school on the peninsula that had somebody in the finals," Bill Carlson explained, "but to see improvement and to see wrestlers who continue to step it up, continue to improve, is gratifying in itself."
Matthew Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ASAA/First National Bank Class 4A State Championships
At Chugiak High School
103 - Achman, Lat, m.d. Fox, Was, 13-5; 112 - Malnoske, Eas, dec. I. Wilson, Col, 4-3; 119 - Martin, Ket, dec. Moore, Eas, 5-3; 125 - K. Wilson, Col, dec. Sullivan, Chu, 12-10; 130 - Shelley, Sou, dec. Loggins, Col, 3-2; 135 - Hoffer, Eas, dec. Gross, Was, 14-8; 140 - Stahler, Pal, dec. West, Col, 7-6; 145 - Sullivan, Chu, m.d. Pfeiffer, Col, 12-3; 152 - Antesberger, NP, m.d. Pressler, Wes, 15-5; 160 - McBryde, Chu, dec. Jutila, NP, 11-4; 171 - Katchinska, Was, m.d. Baldwin, Chu, 10-1; 189 - Crane, Was, dec. Lewis, NP, 9-6; 215 - Fan, Col, dec. McDonald, Wes, 6-5; HVY - Johnson, p. Collins, NP, 4:17.
103 - Hogenson, Sou, dec. Amos, Sou, 9-5; 112 - Lisenby, Bar, dec. Simmons, Lat, 12-5; 119 - Coisman, Col, dec. Hughes, Lat, 4-1; 125 - Osbekoff, Ken, dec. Cropper, Ser, 12-7; 130 - De. Templeton, WV, dec. Fultz, Ket, 3-1; 135 - N. VanMatre, Kod, dec. Lennihan, Chu, 7-6; 140 - Daigle, Hom, dec. McKee, Col, 3-1; 145 - John, Ket, dec. Smith, Col, 12-11; 152 - Lemons, Lat, dec. Williams, ER, 8-5; 160 - Clausen, Lat, dec. Boykin, Col, 5-1; 171 - Hoeffel, Lat, m.d. Reilly, Ser, 15-1; 189 - Bellotte, Col, dec. Reed, Sou, 7-3; 215 - Crowley, Hou, dec. Ferris, Dim, 4-2; HVY - Atonio, Kod, won by injury default.
103 - Loggins, Col, m.d. Wood, NP, 11-3; 112 - B. Wilson, Sky, dec. Aadland, Sou, 8-3; 119 - Russell, Sou, p. Anthony, Kod, 1:37; 125 - Rahlfs, NP, dec. Kiser, NP, 5-4; 130 - Maciariello, Sky, T.F., Hughes, Ken, 4:00; 135 - Do. Templeton, WV, won by forfeit; 140 - Ross, Chu, dec. Bahnke, Eas, 6-2; 145 - T. VanMatre, Kod, won by forfeit; 152 - Wyatt, Hom, dec. Carlson, Sol, 3-1; 160 - Shepersky, NP, dec. Ramirez, Ket, 5-2; 171 - Heindel, Pal, dec. Anthony, Kod, 6-5; Ellis, Ser, dec. Hicks, Lat, 9-8; 215 - Wright, Col, p. Archuleta, Sou, :35; HVY - Lewis, Lat, p. Tidwell, NP, :37.
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