Homer's Austin Cline wrestles to a 20-13 decision over Kenai Central's Talon Whicker at 135 pounds Tuesday, April 27, 2021, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai, Soldotna wrestlers honor seniors

By JEFF HELMINIAK

Peninsula Clarion

Kenai Central couldn’t have its normal Luke Spruill Invitational, but the wrestling program still found the time to honor Spruill on Tuesday during a dual meet with Homer.

Spruill is a former Kenai wrestler and coach who died at 27 in a fishing accident in Bristol Bay in 2004. Spruill, a 1995 graduate of Kenai Central, is a two-time state champion and is normally honored at Kenai with an invitational each season.

With the schedule all jumbled up due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Kardinals honored Spruill with the unscored dual meet instead. Kenai head coach Ryan Moss said Luke’s father, Gary, and sister, April were able to attend.

Moss also thanked Furie Operating Alaska LLC for funding T-shirts commemorating the event in both Kenai and Homer colors.

The Kardinals also honored seniors Donovan Wynn and Tucker Vann on the evening. Wynn had a season-ending injury.

There was no wrestler from Homer to match up with Vann, so he wrestled Kenai assistant coach Ben McPhail instead and came up with a 6-4 overtime victory.

“He’s put in 14 years in wrestling, and I’ve coached him for six of those,” Moss said. “He’s been a consistent kid.”

Moss said Vann also has been a good student-athlete. He said Vann wants to play college football and pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

Homer coach Justin Zank saw several highlights from his wrestlers.

He said Ben Graham wrestled with more intensity at 215 pounds in getting pinned by Kenai’s Shane Taylor in the first round.

Zank said Austin Cline gave up a lot of points at 135 to Kenai’s Talon Whicker, but still found a way to pull out a 20-13 victory. The coach said Russell Nyvall had a tough opponent at 145 in Andrew Gaethle, put gave up no points in an 8-0 win. Finally, he said Sadie Blake gave up weight in a 119-pound contest with Kenzie Keller but still pulled out a 10-2 victory.

At Soldotna, the Stars hosted Nikiski and Seward in more unscored dual meets to get the wrestlers ready for the big tournaments at the end of the season.

The Stars also had senior night. Hunter Secor, Noah Land, Dennis Taylor, Taylor Schouweiler and Sean Babitt were honored.

Soldotna coach Neldon Gardner gave credit to the seniors and all his wrestlers for continuing to work hard.

“It’s definitely a different time of year to be a wrestler, but the good part about it being sunny all the time is kids have better attitudes,” Gardner said.

Gardner said he still has 28 to 30 in the mat room, a good number considering all the obstacles this season. He expects to get three wrestlers back from injury who will make a difference at the conference and state tournaments.

The coach gave Babitt special credit for finishing fifth in the Virginia Beach High School Nationals on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Babitt actually beat the top seed at 173 pounds in the quarterfinals.

“That kid is committed to Arizona State, so Sean is right up there with the best of them,” Gardner said.

Hunter Richardson went 2-2 at the tournament, while Wayne Mellon was 3-2.

Homer vs. Kenai

Tuesday at Kenai

130 — Owen Whicker, Ken, p. Kayden Crosby, 1:30; 135 — Austin Cline, Hom, dec. Talon Whicker, 20-13; 145 — Russell Nyvall, hom, m.d. Andrew Gaethle, 8-0; 215 — Shane Taylor, Ken, p. Bruce Graham, 1:48; 119G — Sadie Blake, Hom, m.d. Kenzie Keller, 10-2.

Soldotna vs. Nikiski

Tuesday at Soldotna

140 — Cassius Miller, Sol, p. Mylan Johnson, 1:41; 145 — Collin Peck, Sol, p. Jaryn Zoda, 4:20; 152 — Edgar Land, Sol, p. Sam Yerkes, 3:42; 171 — Hunter Richardson, Sol, p. Koleman McCaughey, 5:02; 189 — Sean Babitt, Sol, t.f. Truit McCaughey, 2:52; 189 — Cole Radeck, Sol, p. Johnny Ralston, 1:44; 215 — Liam Babitt, Sol, p. Tom Goodnight, 3:41; 215 — Robert Isabel, Nik, p. Kevin Steger, 1:37; 285 — Mayaac Schmit, Nik, p. Taylor Schouweiler, 1:42.

Soldotna vs. Seward

Tuesday at Soldotna

140 — Isaac Chavarria, Sol, t.f. Jacob Wendt, 1:53; 189 — Sean Babitt, Sol, t.f. Fayzon Lawrence, 3:19; 285 — Marcus Lastimosa, Sew, p. Noah Land, 0:47; 145G — Trinity Donovan, Sol, p. Kathryn Brockman, 0:28.

Seward vs. Nikiski

Tuesday at Soldotna

145 — Jacob Wendt, Sew, p. Hunter Neal, 2:19; 145 — Hunter Neal, Nik, p. Kathryn Brockman, 1:32; 189 — Truit McCaughey, Nik, p. Fayzon Lawrence, 1:29; 285 — Marcus Lastimosa, Sew, p. Mayaac Schmit, 1:44.

Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion 
Kenai Central’s Tucker Vann wrestles to an exhibition victory over assistant coach Ben McPhail on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska.

Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion Kenai Central’s Tucker Vann wrestles to an exhibition victory over assistant coach Ben McPhail on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska.

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