Wrestling in the State Championship Finals is a big deal. Lights go out, music cranks up and the spotlight illuminates just you and your opponent in a 40-foot diameter circle.
Some people love being the center of attention, others not so much.
Both of the girls competing on the Mariner team, — Heather Harrington and Alex Moseley — got to participate Saturday night under the lights. For Harrington, it wasn’t just being at state that set the tournament apart. Harrington, a sophomore in the 220-weight class, has been wrestling for four years, coming to practices and tournaments, battling with guys the same weight everyday. This weekend for the first time, she was able to compete against her own gender.
The state of Alaska is finally sanctioning a girls-only championship. Her 15-0 win on Friday night versus Ariel Akerlund of Mt. Edgecumbe qualified Harrington for the championship on Saturday night versus Gillian Foxglove of Buckland. Harrington was very excited to be part of the evening.
“It was a phenomenal feeling,” she said.
Phenomenal, indeed, Harrington was able to defend the head and arm and then use her best pinning combo, a power half, to secure the first ever High School Girls State Championship.
“It was so great to have all my teammates backing me all weekend. It truly was something I will never forget,” said Harrington.
Teammate Moseley, a freshman wrestling in the 98-pound weight class but only weighing 92 pounds, earned her first win of the season in the semifinals against Mt. Edgecumbe’s Royale Lowe. Moseley, who had been pinned by Lowe just an hour earlier, got a rematch with her and took full advantage of the second chance.
Having been working on a cross face cradle all week, Moseley put one on Lowe and pinned her to earn her trip to the finals against Joanna Bell of Scammon Bay. Moseley was taken to her back in the first period in a head and arm and bridged tough for a minute before Bell was able to get Moseley’s shoulders to the mat.
On the boys side, Homer’s Sean Blaine, 98, Antonio Ochoa, 170 and Matthew Pollack, 182, all wrestled hard, but could not win a match. Each had losses to accomplished opponents. Ravi Cavasos, 126, Tyler Johnson, 132, and Kyle Wells, 152, won one match, making it to the second day of the tournament.
The team scored 66 points overall and placed eighth out of 61 teams. Kotzebue continued their dominance by scoring more than 200 points to hold off Bethel. Teams from Dillingham and Wrangle had great tournaments placing ahead of Homer. Joining the girls on the podium was sophomore Timmy Woo at 138 pounds. Woo finished third overall. He was able to get many wins this year, but two losses came to the hands of defending state champion Leif Erickson of Nome. Woo also placed sixth last season and has a chance to become only the third four time state winner.
Jared Brant, 120, placed fourth this year and fifth last season, also putting himself in line for a chance at the honorable four-time state placer. Brant wrestled so well on Friday, he beat two competitors from Southeast, including Max Collins of Ketchikan who was the No. 2 seed with a 28-0 record. Brant took him down multiple times with some well-timed leg attacks. Brant then took on TJ Cox from Nikiski. Cox and Brant have had some great battles this season; again this match went to overtime. Brant took a shot and nearly scored the takedown, only to have Cox defend it and score a 7-5 victory and advance to the finals.
Fellow sophomore Jaime Rios, 132, was able to secure fifth place with two wins over Kennan Spencer of Ketchikan. Rios rocked the No. 3 seed in the first round, scoring a pin and advancing. After a loss and a couple of wins, Rios again got to match up with Spencer and this time beat him 15-1. The matches at 132 were close all weekend.
The final placer was freshman Tristan Cook, at 160 pounds. Cook upset the no. 4 seed Joe Cross from Nome 6-3, advancing to the semi finals against eventual champion Nathan Carstens of Nikiski. Cook kept it close all match, but was beaten 3-2.
Cook, Rios, Cavasos and Brant head to Reno, Nev., this weekend to take part in a big national tournament. The team also will be able to watch former Mariner Mitch Wyatt in the college tournament. Wyatt, a junior, is wrestling for the University of Colorado at Mesa and has placed third and fourth in his first two tournaments this season.
The Mariners are looking forward to next season as the team brings back all of their point scorers and has a very skilled group of eighth graders coming in to fill out the lower weights the team was missing this season. A big thank you to assistant coach Bubba Wells, who is the most dedicated assistant coach ever. He is very well liked by the team and is able to run the show at any time. He will be getting the Chapman School wrestlers going after the holiday break and volunteer assistant Danny Rios Sr. will be leading the Homer Middle School athletes in January.
Chris Perk is the Homer High School Mariner head wrestling coach. He also is the school’s activities director.