Homer’s wrestling team reclaimed their state championship throne last weekend for the first time since 2015.
The Mariners came away from the competition at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage with several individual wrestlers with first place titles, in addition to beating out all other Division II teams with 180 points. The girls’ team took eighth place with 52 points.
Runner-up Glennallen earned 157 points. Two-time defending Div. II champs Bethel finished second, just a half-point behind Glennallen.
Entering the finals round, Homer led the team race by a slim 12 points — 160.5 to Bethel’s 148.5 — with Glennallen close behind with 147.
But Homer had packed the finals with five wrestlers, while Bethel advanced three, and the Mariners finished with four champions for the boys’ tournament — Seth Inama at 125 pounds, Luciano Fasulo at 135 pounds, Wayne Newman at 140, Jadin Mann at heavyweight. All the winners were seniors making their final appearance.
For the girls, McKenzie Cook joined an exclusive club of four-time state champions in Alaska with a pin at the buzzer of Eielson’s Nailah Bealer in the 145-pound final.
With the victory, Cook became the second girl and just the 14th overall wrestler to win a fourth state crown in Alaska history. Cook was also presented with the 2018 Girls Outstanding Wrestler of the Year award.
She ends her career with 97 career victories, coach Chris Perk wrote in an email to the Homer News
“It’s pretty special,” Cook said. “I feel like it was kind of paving the way, or maybe continuing the way for girls that want to wrestle.”
It’s no surprise to learn that Cook got here partly due to the help of a former Kenai Peninsula legend in the world of girls wrestling, 2006 Skyview High graduate Michaela Hutchison, who became the first girl in the nation to win a state wrestling title against boys competition. Cook said Hutchison has coached her for two years with Team Alaska, helping her prepare for national meets.
“I don’t remember her winning (in 2006),” Cook said. “But she coached me and helped me.”
With a promising spot on the McKendree University team (in Lebanon, Illinois) on the horizon, Cook said the four years she has spent with the Mariners have served her well.
“I don’t really want to leave, but I’m ready to go,” she said.
In the boys tournament, Fasulo ended a remarkable career that finished with three straight undefeated seasons and an 111-match winning streak, pinning Dillingham’s Chris Williams with 32 seconds left in the third period while leading 12-5.
Fasulo lost his state semifinal match in 2015 as a freshman, but said that loss motivated him to return hungrier and stronger.
“I think that really set me up for wanting it more,” Fasulo said. “I’m really proud to win this being a senior.”
Fasulo is the only boy on the team to win three state titles, Perk said.
“He ends (his career) with 158 wins, which ranks him 2nd all-time in (Homer High School) wrestling history,” he wrote.
Another Homer finalist that capped his career on a high note was Jadin Mann, the 215-pound champion. Mann tallied his first state title in his second attempt after falling short in 2016 and missing last year to a torn labrum he sustained shortly after the 2016 campaign. Mann said the shoulder injury popped up several more times, including this year at the Top Dog meet at Nikiski and most recently, a week before the conference meet.
Saturday in Anchorage, Mann secured the title with a 5-1 victory over Haley Osborne of Mt. Edgecumbe, controlling the final throughout the six minutes, then celebrated by playing to the Homer crowd in the stands, slapping his biceps in a triumphant showing.
“It feels amazing, especially after the shoulder issue,” Mann said. “It really forces you to change things up when that happens.”
Mann ends his career with the Mariners having placed at the state championships three times, according to Perk.
“This win pretty much made it impossible for the Glennallen Panthers from taking the Championship from the Mariners,” he wrote.
Wayne Newman at 140 pounds beat Jesse Noden from Dillingham “after securing a takedown in the first period and being able to keep Noden off his legs,” Perk wrote. Newman is the only four-time state finalist for the boys’ team and added a first place title to his three previous runner-up awards.
Teammate Mose Hayes at 152 went to the state tournament as the the defending champion. He made his way to the finals to battle Dillon Chaney from Dillingham.
“Chaney and Hayes (had) wrestled three close matches this season,” Perk wrote. “This time Chaney was able to secure a reversal and did not allow Hayes to free his legs to score in the third period and won 2-1.”
Also competing at 152 was Josh Bradshaw, who beat Hayes last week for the Conference Championships. He earned a fourth place finish for the team.
Ian Stovall at 130 ended his career with a fifth place finish at the tournament. Stovall upset the No. 3 seed from Mt. Edgecumbe with a last second head lock takedown, Perk said. Senior Hunter Harrington at 215 will graduate with two wins at the state meet, both achieved with pins.
Ryan Hicks at 160 upset the No. 6 seed, Kyle Henderson from Valdez, and his brother, Alex Hicks at 285, “pinned two opponents on the back side to help earn much needed team points,” Perk wrote.
Austin Cline at 112 earned a qualification to get him to states in his first year of wrestling with the Mariners.
“His match versus Jaryn Zoda from Nikiski was very exciting,” Perk wrote. “He almost scored a takedown with 1 second left that could have taken the match to overtime. Zoda beat Cline handily last week at the Conference Tourney.”
Sophomore Sadie Blake at 119 pounds broke the Homer High School record for girls’ takedowns in one season with 47, according to Perk. She finished sixth at states. Mina Cavasos at 125 and Mariah Grimes at 160 both won matches but missed placing by one round.
Four Homer boys will travel to Reno, Nevada this weekend to participate in the Reno Tournament of Champions, Perk said.
“A lot of credit needs to go to Coach Bubba Wells for directing this ship all season,” he wrote. “He was able to get these athletes to wrestle their very best at the end of the season.”
Perhaps the award for biggest comeback of the night would have gone to Voznesenka senior Max Kusnetsov, who rallied from an 8-2 deficit in the 119-pound final to force overtime against Alex Buck of Glennallen. Kusnetsov won it just 15 seconds into the overtime period with a takedown to become a two-time state champ. Kusnetsov won in 2016 but lost last year to a four-time state champ.
Kusnetsov tied the final at 10 apiece with 19 seconds to go, but allowed Buck to take the lead on an escape point after starting in the bottom position. Kusnetsov didn’t get the takedown he wanted, but the ref called a stall on Buck as the buzzer sounded to tie it up and force OT.
“I was definitely for a second doubting that,” Kusnetsov said.
The diminutive Voznesenka athlete was able to enjoy the moment as it was his final appearance on a wrestling mat. Kusnetsov said he plans on joining his family in the commercial fishing business full time after high school.
“This was my last match,” he said. “I tried not to get caught up in the hype because I’m a head case.”
Full results at peninsulaclarion.com. Megan Pacer of the Homer News contributed to this report.
Team scores — 1. South Anchorage, 340; 2. Colony, 316.5; 3. Lathrop, 261.5; 4. Wasilla, 178; 5. Soldotna, 127.5; 6. North Pole, 81; 7. Ketchikan, 75; 8. West Anchorage, 69.5; 9. East Anchorage, 68; 10. Palmer, 59.5; 11. West Valley, 42; 12. Kodiak, 37.5; 13. Thunder Mountain, 32; 14. Eagle River, 26; 14. Service, 26; 16. Dimond, 23; 17. Chugiak, 13; 18. Bartlett, 10.
103 — Landon Smith, Bet, 11-7 dec. Ryan Rooney, Wra; 112 — Caleb O’Hara, ACS, 9-2 dec. Joseph Smith, Bet; 119 — Maxim Kusnetsov, Voz, SV 13-11 Alex Buck, Gle; 125 — Seth Inama, Hom, TF 17-2 Caleb Evatt, Nom; 130 — Blaine Henning, UAK, 11-5 dec. Charles Severance, Red; 135 — Luciano Fasulo, Hom, pin 5:28 Chris Williams, Dill; 140 — Wayne Newman, Hom, 3-1 dec. Jesse Noden, Dill; 145 — Aengus Bancroft, Gle, 10-6 dec. Ben Cross, Nom; 152 — Dillon Chaney, Dill, 2-1 dec. Mose Hayes, Hom; 160 — Hayden Lieb, Bet, 4-1 dec. Gabe Martin, Gra; 171 — Eliot Merriner, Gra, 6-1 dec. Kael Gerlach, Gle; 189 — Caden Gerlach, Gle, pin 1:22 Ethan Roetman, Kot; 215 — Benjamin Joe Heather, Bar, 4-3 dec. Seth Henning, UAK; 285 — Jadin Mann, Hom, 5-1 dec. Haley Osborne, MtE.
103 — Colton Ewers, Sit, MD 9-1 Talon Whicker, Ken; 112 — Stephen Maxie, Nap, 7-3 dec. Darius Tilden, Dill; 119 — Boston Postishek, Red, 9-3 dec. Jordan Korth, Gle; 125 — Zach Giron, Cra, 11-6 dec. John Esnardo, Una; 130 — Daniel Chakuchin, Bet, 6-5 dec. Matt Bohlman, ACS; 135 — Aaron Williams, Nap, pin 4:44 Jay Rick Nobleza, Bar; 140 — Jacob Gagner, Sit, 11-6 dec. Dustin Ruckman, UAK; 145 — Leon Evon, MtE, inj 1:00 Dia Martishev, Voz; 152 — Hunter Wiederspohn, Wra, pin 4:02 Josh Bradshaw, Hom; 160 — Tucker Vann, Ken, pin 3:31 Koleman McCaughey, Nik; 171 — Anthony Kalugin, Voz, inj. :00 Erik Mills-Bain, Kot; 189 — Nephi Tidwell, Eie, 5-2 dec. Billy Nelson, Kot; 215 — Elijah Lindley, Bet, pin 1:50 Dustin Mullins, Nik; 285 — Ryan Smith, Bet, pin 1:42 Wesley Verhamme, Hai.
103 — Seth Jacob, Nap, TF 16-0 Gusty Blunka Jr., NSt; 112 — Demetry Hoseth, Dill, 3-1 dec. Keegan Delaquito, Gle; 119 — Zach Kolbe, Dill, 8-6 dec. Jacob Andrew, NSt; 125 — JJ Marble, Nom, 4-3 dec. James Paris, Red; 130 — Ian Stovall, Hom, TF 18-3 Thomas Ooka, Sew; 135 — Joshua Baird, Eie, SV 12-10 Colton Dow, Gra; 140 — Moses Korth, Gle, pin 2:57; Gavin Metcalf, Red; 145 — Austin Cramer, Gle, pin 2:25 Jamin Crow, Bet; 152 — Graham Staley, Eie, 8-1 dec. Elden Cross, Nom; 160 — Kole Sperl, Pet, 7-6 dec. Luke Wegend, Cra; 171 — Omar Powers, Delta, 7-5 dec. Wayland Patton, Cra; 189 — Dillon Rooney, Wra, 3-2 dec. John Welsh, Sit; 215 — Andrew Bergan, Kot, pin :41 Rocky Sherbahn, Ken; 285 — Ulric Lehman, Cra, forf. Russell Saccheus, Elim.
Team scores — 1. Mt. Edgecumbe, 141; 2. Bethel, 102; 3. Lathrop, 92; 4. South Anchorage, 88; 5. Eielson, 78; 6. North Pole, 74; 7. Hutchison, 57; 8. Homer, 52; 9. Wasilla, 51.5; 10. Kotzebue, 51; 11. Eagle River, 40; 12. Ketchikan, 39; 13. Palmer, 38; 14. Nome, 36; 15. Dillingham, 35; 16. Petersburg, 34; 17. West Anchorage, 32; 18. Soldotna, 30; 19. Wrangell, 26; 20. East Anchorage, 24.
103 — Jolie Lucas, Eie, pin 3:42 Dellarae Charlie, Bet; 112 — Starr Erickson, Nom, pin 1:55 Liana Carney, Wra; 119 — Elizabeth Schumaker, NP, pin 4:36 Tatiana Green, Was; 125 — Ruby Massin, Pet, pin 2:42 Kristina Gerasimyuk, Was; 130 — Shelby Ottum, Sou, pin 4:27 Rebecca Samuelson, Bet; 135 — Brystel Charlie, MtE, 5-0 dec. Lindsey Beans-Polk, Bet; 145 — McKenzie Cook, Hom, pin 4:00 Nailah Bealer, Eie; 160 — Madison Ellis, Sou, pin 1:30 Amanda Wylie, Sol; 189 — Jayleen Sekona, Sou, 5-0 dec. Alaina Pete, MtE; 235 — Debranna Bealer, Eie, 3-0 dec. Maggie Miller, MtE.
103 — Trinity Pendergrass, Pal, 9-6 dec. Jean Krause, Dil; 112 — Autumn Poland, Lat, pin 1:53 Zaida Baldwin, Kot; 119 — Alyssa Andrews, ER, pin 2:11 Heidi Warner, Was; 125 — Jaron Mute, Bet, SV 4-2 Kaitlynne Rice, Hut; 130 — Janice Dykes, NP, pin :49 Maysa Brown, MtE; 135 — Kaleiha Ashbury, Hut, pin 3:33 Kenya Edwards, Hut; 145 — Anya Pingayak, MtE, pin 3:29 Candace Wilson, Kot; 160 — Dakota Magnuson, MtE, 3-1 dec. Halle Savage, Una; 189 — Megan Parrish, NP, SV 8-6 Rachel Moore, Sha; 235 — Ashlan Tisega, Wes, pin 3:14 Jana Allen, Val.
103 — Kelsi Madson, Bet, 5-1 dec. Jessica McCall, Kot; 112 — Ashley Andrews, ER, pin 3:37 Eva Sherman-Dawe, Dim; 119 — Cate Gomez, Dill, inj. Sadie Blake, Hom; 125 — Aiyana Erhart, Lat, pin 2:13 Ada Odden, Ket; 130 — Olivia Troxell, Kod, 5-3 dec. Jessie Merrick, Hou; 135 — Danielle Johnson, Lat, pin 4:55 Hayley Gilson, Ket; 145 — Eve Negovanna, Bar, inj. Autumn Williams, Lat; 160 — Desarae Matheny, Lat, pin 2:00 Twyla Anderstrom, Red; 189 — Jacelyn Chikigak, Ala, inj. Theresia Vaafuti, Wes; 235 — Jaideen Agbayani, Pal, 5-4 dec. Tryston Macar, MtE.