Mariners qualify one state finalist

By Norm Anderson 

For the Homer News

The Homer Mariner Mat team sent seven qualifying wrestlers to the State Tournament at Nikiski High School last weekend and qualified one state finalist, which came in the form of senior Mark McGregor, who lost a 5-1 decision to Trevour Chavez of Bethel.

Junior Calvin Johnson, wrestling at 106 pounds, was seeded second heading into the tournament. Johnson took fifth-place honors, beating TJ Cox of Nikiski in an 18-2 technical fall.

Mariner Austin McGregor (120 pounds), Pedro Ochoa (152 pounds) and Dick Perez (220 pounds), won two matches and finished within the top eight in their weight classes. 

McGregor finished his high school wrestling career with 85 total wins, 21 of which came this year. He matched up against Thorne Bay’s Anthony Minnillo in the state semi-finals in a match that Coach Chris Perk says was the finest of his career. 

McGregor won by a score of 6-5, revenging last year’s loss to Minnillo for third place in the state. He came out of this one ready compete, scoring two takedowns with his front headlock and escaping holds and clinching a 5-0 lead going into the final period. Within the final 20 seconds of play, Minnillo scored two takedowns to cut the deficit, but it wasn’t enough as McGregor moved on to face Chavez, the reigning state champion from Bethel.

Chavez had the lead by the end of the first period and in the second; both grapplers traded escapes as Chavez was trying to control his lead. The third period showed McGregor looking for the upper hand, eventually falling short of the state title 5-1. 

Perk called McGregor’s season “short and successful,” as he was able to score wins over the 170-pound state runner-up and 182-pound third-place finisher this year. 

“He’s a good wrestler, and was more ready than I was,” McGregor said of Chavez. “Things didn’t go my way, and I fell behind on points and had to struggle to get the lead back.”

McGregor counted the loss as an example of less experience than Chavez, but said he harbors no regrets.

“In the first round I lost because of a scramble,” McGregor said. “I took a shot and he ended up on top, and then I was just fighting to come from behind, and you have to be more aggressive than you want to be.”

Perk agreed with McGregor, saying that the senior could have used more aggression in the early stages.

“I think early on we had Chavez on his heels guessing a little bit, and so maybe (Mark) should’ve been a little more aggressive early,” Perk said. “I don’t think he took advantage of the early positioning. And then, once he got called for stalling, Mark I think forced him into a bad shot and wrestling down on a returning state champ isn’t good.”

Still, it was a good season. 

“I’d say that we wrestled OK, we won a lot of matches,” Perk said. “I don’t think we wrestled our best today, but we finished the season on a good note.”

As a team, the Mariners improved from last year’s state meet, scoring 56 points, many of which came from Johnson. Johnson won his first three matches and locked up with Gage Hoffman who was one of eight Bethel Warriors to advance to the semi-finals.  

“Johnson gave up many early double leg takedowns and could not rally enough points at the end,” said Perk.

 Hoffman was able to escape from a near side cradle that would have tied up the contest, instead ending 14-11 in favor of Hoffman. Johnson took fifth place in state while winning 33 matches this season.

Mariner Austin McGregor (120 pounds), Pedro Ochoa (152 pounds) and Dick Perez (220 pounds), won two matches and finished within the top eight in their weight classes. 

 The Mariners will only graduate two wrestlers and a solid group of eighth graders coming in next year could make for a top 10 team in Alaska.


Class 1-2-3A state wrestling tournament


Teams scores (top 25): 1. Bethel, 187; 2. Kotzebue, 139.5; 3. Nikiski, 130.5; 4. Dillingham, 129.5; 5. Valdez, 124.5; 6. Mt. Edgecumbe, 124.5; 7. Sitka, 95.5; 8. Nome, 91.5; 9. Skyview, 91.5; 10. Houston, 91.5; 11. Eielson, 72; 12. Homer, 59; 13. Wrangell, 54; 14. Cordova, 50; 15. Unalaska, 46; 16. New Stuyahok, 43; 17. Craig, 40; 18. Seward 40; 19. ACS, 39; 20. Grace, 30; 21. Glennallen, 26.5; 22. Aniak, 26.5; 23. Haines, 24; 24. Metlakatla, 23; 25. Unalakleet, 23.


Peninsula Clarion sports reporter Joey Klecka contributed to this story.