Mariner wrestlers start season in Kenai

  • Cole Bernier works to release himself from his wrestling partner's hold during a Mariner wrestling practice.
  • Homer High School head wrestling coach Chris Perk referees a practice match between Cole Bernier and Damian Kerr. The Mariner wrestling team has their first match of the season on Saturday, Oct. 15 in Kenai.

After winning the state championship in 2015, the Homer High School wrestling team is back in action, and ready for a repeat of last season’s success.

“We’re bringing back a very experienced squad,” said Homer High School head wrestling coach and athletic director Chris Perk. “The attitude and work ethic in the mat room right now, the coaches are really pleased with.”

Both the boys and girls wrestlers are forces to be reckoned with as underclassmen step up from the shadows of seniors and freshmen, who made a difference at state last year, are now sophomores with more experience under their belts. In addition to returning players, incoming freshmen with Popeye or Anchor King wrestling experience add skill to the team.

The team also has a mix of athletes new to the sport, Perk said.

“They’re coming in and trying to figure it out. As a coach it’s been a challenge to get the older experienced wrestlers who are chomping at the bit to wrestle and then the newer ones we want to teach technique and get a good skill set,” Perk said. “The first couple weeks we focused on technique so we can progress together.”

Assistant coach Bubba Wells and volunteer assistants Mick Wells and Simeon Dagle have also returned to work with Perk to train the team.

“It’s great having young guys around the kids can bond with and joke with at practice,” Perk said. “They can wrestle them still and not wake up the next day and wonder, ‘Why did I do that?’”

Perk runs through the weight classes and gives the low down this year’s team.

Boys

Light: Sophomore Wayne Newman was a runner-up at state last year and is going up a weight class this year. Newman went outside and placed at Western Regionals. “He’s primed and ready to get on top of the podium,” Perk said.

113: Sophomore Seth Inama missed placing at state by one match last year. He also wrestled at a couple camps this summer. “His wrestling has technically improved from last year and he’s for sure in the running for top six at state,” Perk said.

120: Sophomore Ian Stovell wrestled some Popeye last spring. Though he wasn’t able to finish the high school season with the Mariners last year, he is already making some good strides and fitting right in, Perk said. He has guys around his weight to wrestle with to make sure he’s going to be able to peak and be a place at state come December, Perk said.

126: Sophomore Luciano Fasulo is coming off a stellar cross-country running season after the boys’ and girls’ teams took state, Perk said. He’s been dedicated to running all summer. He has a couple moves he’s really good at. In wrestling, Fasulo took third in state last year with a couple of seniors above him. “I have a feeling he’s going to have a really good season and I could see him being a state finalist this year,” Perk said.

132: Freshman Moses Hayes was a borough champion as an eighth grader and wrestled in the freestyle season. He also won a state championship with Popeye in the spring. “Hayes is a really focused wrestler. He comes with a game plan and is serious about making improvements,” Perk said.

138: Senior Jared Brant also had a solid cross-country season and he attended the 28-day J. Robinson camp this summer, which is one of the big wrestling camps in the nation. “To dedicate yourself to 28 days straight of anything in the summer time is really impressive for him to fulfill his wants to become a better wrestler,” Perk said. “He was a state finalist last year and definitely he is mature after that camp. He’s really had a chance to dig down deep and find the self confidence he needs to become a champion this year.”

145: Freshmen Damien Kerr and Cole Bernier are going to be battling it out for varsity. “The technique from these young guys is good — really nice leg attacks. It will be a matter of them having enough confidence in matches for them to do it,” Perk said. “It may take a couple weeks for them to build that up but I definitely see promise in those guys for their future.”

152: Junior Chris Kudaback just missed going to state last year, put in a real solid off season with Popeye, and did a couple wrestling camps as well. Kudaback also was voted team captain this year. “He’s on top of his game and hoping to not only go to state this year but he’s really focused on placing, getting on the podium somewhere come December,” Perk said.

160: Senior defending state champion and returning team captain Timmy Woo is one of the Mariners’ most tenacious wrestlers. “He is interesting to watch because he has a strong engine. He doesn’t tire out in matches,” Perk said. “Usually most wrestlers you’re tired out in the third period ... but Timmy’s body is just going and he’s just as aggressive in the third period.”

170: Senior two-time state placer Jaime Rios is currently injured from the football season. Perk said he hopes after a couple more weeks Rios will be back on the mat. “Rios is one of our emotionally charged teammates,” Perk said. “ It depends on how quickly his ankle can heal up. He’s had a great career at Homer High School and no matter how this season finishes up, he’s had a great career in my eyes.”

182: Junior Tristan Cook went outside and wrestled down in Fargo, N.D., in one of the national tournaments and did a couple training camps to go with it. “He comes to every day of practice pretty much no matter what,” Perk said. “I can see him being a state finalist this year. He took third last year.”

195: Junior Kyle Wells took third at state last year and Perk says he can see him finishing higher up on the podium this year. “His enthusiasm this year is really contagious. He’s been coming in the room and really aggressive and enthusiastic and happy to be there,” Perk said. “That’s one of our things we emphasize. People who are successful are enthusiastic about what they do.”

220: The Mariners do not have a wrestler in the 220-pound weight class.

Heavyweight: Sophomore Jayden Mann took sixth at state last year as a freshman. Mann is coming off of a solid football season and brings good energy, positive thoughts and quality work effort. “It’s inspiring to see a big guy moving with everything he’s got in practice. Its like, “Whoa, you wanna stay out of this guy’s way,” Perk said. “We’re happy that our high end guys are getting after it.”

Girls

113: Alex Mosely placed twice at state last year and this year brings a lot of enthusiasm and energy to the room. Mosely just finished cross-country running but started training in the mat room instantly, Perk said.

120: Freshman Mina Cavasos went to the western regional tournament and placed fourth. She brings in a load of experience wrestling, as her father is the coach of the Popeye wrestling team. “As long as I’ve watched her wrestle, she has a good attack and has good fundamentals,” Perk said.

132: Sophomore Alison Wells placed at state last year and Perk expects the same again this year. “She is getting herself into shape and once she gets her body strengthed up she’ll be ready to get herself on the podium like she did last year,” Perk said.

145: Sophomore McKenzie Cook is a team captain this year. She went outside to Fargo and placed fourth, which named her All American at the Cadet National Tournament. “I could see her wrestling some varsity at 145 in the boys lineup as well,” Perk said.

Anna Frost can be reached at anna.frost@homernews.com.

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