Mirror Lake eighth-grader Jack Straub puts a move on Hanshew's S. Lindsoe during their match in the consolation semifinals at the Middle School City Championships on Feb. 24 at Goldenview Middle School in Anchorage. Lindsoe recovered to win the match 6-2.
STAR PHOTO by Matt Tunseth
Score one for the suburbs at the City Championships.
Chugiak-Eagle River's two middle schools proved wrestling has a bright future by grabbing two of the top four spots at the annual season-ending battle between Anchorage's 10 middle school wrestling programs on Feb. 24-25 at Goldenview Middle School.
"I tell you, what a program," said Mirror Lake coach Todd Gillespie. "It's really the last of the old-school sports."
Gillespie's Coyotes used their uncommon team depth to place second behind Hillside juggernaut Goldenview for the second straight year, while the Gruening Colts had three individual champions and edged Wendler by just a half point for fourth.
"This was a total team effort," said Gruening coach Kip Bailey.
Winning titles for the Colts were seventh-grader Marcus Amico at 80 pounds, seventh-grader Gavin Arnold at 100 pounds and 140-pound eighth-grader Tyler Tulare.
Following his relatively difficult pin in the finals (it took him 1:39, longer than his two previous matches combined), Amico said he plans to head to the unofficial state championships this weekend at Tanana Middle School.
"Last year I took second, but I'm hoping for first," he said. "There's a lot of good kids at my weight class."
Amico, who finished his season 11-0, said he wants to eventually wrestle at the high school and collegiate level.
"I want to wrestle for the Air Force Academy," he said.
Arnold also finished his season undefeated, going 12-0 after a tight overtime decision over Gavin Alvarado from Goldenview.
Arnold led Alvarado by two points in the closing seconds of regulation, but the Goldenview eighth-grader picked up a reversal at the buzzer to force extra time. Once in overtime, Alvarado nearly had a takedown, but Arnold rolled through the move, got on top and earned two points for the championship.
"Another second and he would have had me," Arnold said.
Arnold said he lost to Alvarado in a match last season and knew the final match would be a tough one.
"I attacked more this time," he said.
Gruening's final champion, Tulare, had a dominant tournament run, picking up three straight pins for his title, finishing the season with a sparkling 11-1 record.
Mirror Lake trailed Goldenview by just six points heading into the finals, but their momentum came to an end there, as all five Coyotes went down in their finals matches.
Placing second for Mirror Lake were sixth-graders Cody Keen (75) and Dawson Budke (105); seventh-grader Tevin Cormier (133); and eighth-graders Somerset Bethke (127) and Mason Shafran (160).
Budke lost to Goldenview's Zach Ritchie in the finals, one match after winning a thrilling quadruple-overtime match over Gruening seventh-grader Cole Marks.
"That was a fabulous match," said Bailey.
Four Mirror Lake wrestlers won their third-place matches, as did three for the Colts. They included Mirror Lake's Tyler Frazier (85), Dakota Vikdal (110), Solomon Harris (115) and Nick Toombs; along with Gruening's Jesse Peterson (95), Marks (105) and Jimmy Stemper (133).
Fourth-place winners for Mirror Lake included Noah Ralph (95), Charlie Bucolo (100) and Dustin Holta (121). Mirror Lake's Chris Elder also placed fourth, but wrestled as a nonscoring athlete.
Only one varsity wrestler can score points for a team in tournaments, although others can be added if there are slots available. That was the case with nonscoring athletes like Elder, who assistant Travis Harrington said still played a big role in the second-place finish.
"Their job is to remove people from other teams who can score points," he said.
Heavyweight Christian Navarro won two bouts to earn fourth for Gruening despite entering the tournament with just two wins all season.
"Everything fell together for him," Bailey said of Navarro, a seventh-grader.
Bailey said he was proud of his team's big showing and credited the entire squad for a solid weekend.
"Everyone wrestled hard," he said. "Everyone."
With an 84-member team, Gillespie's Coyotes fielded one of the largest squads at the tournament. He said that's by design, and said the goal of the program is to get as many kids as much action as possible.
"Participation is the primary force," he said.
Gillespie said he was happy with the amount of wrestling his team got in this year, especially since all tri- and quad-meets this year utilized three mats running simultaneously for the first time.
"It was a most welcome addition," he said.
Harrington said that such a participation-heavy sport (City Championships also featured a junior varsity tournament, with action on six mats at a time) wouldn't be possible without the involvement of countless community and parent volunteers.
"The reason for our success is our community support," he said.