The Homer wrestling team kept a tight grip on the Kachemak Conference on Friday, Dec. 9, and Saturday, Dec. 10, at Anchorage Christian Schools.
The Mariners qualified 16 boys for the state meet, which is the most in school history. Four girls from Homer also qualified for the state tournament, which will be held at the Alaska Airline Center at University of Alaska, Anchorage Dec. 16-17.
The Mariners defended their conference title in dominant fashion, claiming nine champions and scoring 311 points to runner-up Houston’s 144.5. Also from the Kenai Peninsula, Nikiski was third, Seward was sixth and Voznesenka was eighth.
Before last season, Homer, also the defending Class 1-2-3A champs, last won the conference in 1986.
“It feels great,” Homer coach Chris Perk said. “The boys and girls are wrestling strong.
“To be able to have a sustainable program and hold on to something for two years in a row is a true mark of competitiveness.”
Homer received conference championships from Wayne Newman at 106 pounds, Seth Inama at 113, Luciano Fasulo at 126, Jared Brant at 138, Timmy Woo at 160, Tristen Cook at 170, Levi King at 182, Kyle Wells at 195 and Jadin Mann at 285.
Repeat conference champs are Woo, Newman, Inama and Brant.
Brant is now 40-1 and was named the meet’s outstanding wrestler.
“He’s a hard-working young man very committed to excellence,” Perk said. “This summer he went Outside to a 28-day intensive camp. Just making that type of commitment to anything is impressive.”
Meanwhile, Fasulo, at 41-0, is the only Homer wrestler still undefeated. Perk said Voznesenka’s Dia Martishev nearly had a couple takedowns on Fasulo, but that Fasulo was just too competitive to let them happen.
The girls from Homer also had a big day. Although team scores are not kept, girls can earn state berths by finishing first. Alex Moseley won at 113, Mina Cavasos won at 120, McKenzie Cook won at 145, Heather Harrington won at 220 and Allison Wells won at 132.
Perk said Wells provided the team with the highlight of the day. In her championship match against Megan Wallace of Houston, she won by ultimate tiebreaker at 7-5.
“She lost to that girl earlier in the morning and had to fight her tail off to be in the position to force overtime,” Perk said. “She found a way to put her on her back after 8 1/2 minutes of wrestling.”
The coach said girls are a big part of the program, going all the way back to Homer’s Tela O’Donnell, now Tela Bacher, who made an appearance in the 2004 Olympics, still lives in Homer and appears in the mat room from time to time.
“Luckily for us, we’ve had a good female pedigree,” Perk said.
Homer now takes aim at a second-straight state title. There was some sickness in the Homer camp this weekend, but Perk said he’s hopeful a good Sunday rest will clear the team for the upcoming week.
“We were actually a little flat this weekend and let some points go we should have earned,” Perk said. “Going into next weekend, we’re going to have to clean some things up if we want to try and repeat our state performance.”
On the boys side, it took a top-four finish to qualify for the state meet. Also qualifying for Homer were Cameron Blaine in third at 98, Ian Stovall in fourth at 120, Mose Hayes in second at 132, Chris Cudaback in second at 152, Jaime Rios in second at 160, Tomas Babitt in fourth at 182, Taylor Finn in fourth at 220 and Richard Brock in fourth at 285.
Nikiski got a championship from Tyler Litke at 220 pounds.
Also qualifying for state for the Bulldogs were Joey Yourkoski in fourth at 98, Jordan Fleming in second at 106, Mason Payne in second at 113, Dustin Mullins in third at 170, Dakota Hupp in fourth at 195 and Ethan Hack in third at 220.
Seward did not have any conference champs, but had several state qualifiers. Isaiah Bivins was fourth at 113, Cole Norcross was third at 120, Simon Estes was third at 132 and Jaden VanDyke was fourth at 138.
Voznesenka had five wrestlers at the meet, and all were in the top five, led by Maxim Kusnetsov’s title at 98.
Other state qualifiers were Martishev at 126 in second, Anthony Kalugin at 145 in third and Nikit Anufriev at 170 in second.