“We were all one house at one time,” Juneau-Douglas High School wrestling coach John Smith said, borrowing from his Tlingit background. “We are the same clan, we just live in different houses. At one time all these kids worked together and even last year when we traveled there was good balance with the kids among the schools. Many of these kids went to middle school together but are on different high school teams. They respond to each other. They hang out together. They are close and sociable, until we get on the mat.”
When the two schools do get on the mat, fans can expect to see some exciting wrestling action. With only three schools in the Southeast Conference, including Ketchikan, only the single individual winner from each weight class at region tournament time moves on to the state championships.
“So if there is one tough kid from Ketchikan or from Juneau-Douglas you have to beat them both,” Thunder Mountain coach Chad Requa said. “The problem is, a kid may get beat in the season and realize he will not be the region champ so he quits for another sport.”
Some regions up north are allowed up to six qualifiers, chosen from eight schools. The Southeastern Conference used to have two and sometimes three allowable state wrestlers from each weight class. The argument from athletic directors was that Southeast competition levels were not up to par with the rest of the state, yet Southeast wrestlers continue to place well at the state tournaments. In 2012 the number of qualifiers will be raised to two per weight class.
“We obviously get the least wrestlers,” Requa said. “If kids have a chance at second place they can go up to state for experience.”
Thunder Mountain features returning fourth-place state placer Thomas Riley at 132 pounds and returning state competitor Jackson Pavitt at 170 pounds. Riley can easily bring home a state championship this year.
“If he works as hard as he always has, and continues to inspire his teammates like he does, I would expect nothing less,” Requa said.
Senior Stephen Patz at 182 pounds and Matthew Abrams at 195 pounds look to be capable of moving to the state venue.
The Falcons include: Junior Liana Tseu at 120 pounds, Hunter Nicholson at 132 pounds, brothers Shawn (145) and Dylan (138) Taylor, sophomore Zack McCracken at 145 pounds and junior Dante Taylor at 138 pounds, sophomores Josh Moorehouse and Brylie Yadao at 152 pounds, senior Alexander Glass and Devin Womak at 160 pounds, senior Noe Hernandez at 170-pounds, and Zach Mills at 195 pounds.
JDHS wrestlers include talented sophomores David Dumesnil at 108 pounds and Sam Adams at 135 pounds
At 140 pounds is senior William Lott, whose father Smith wrestled against in high school.
“They have a lot of the same characteristics,” Smith, a Hoonah graduate, said. “He has been working people over.”
The Crimson Bears will also feature Ludving Lindval at 130 pounds, Kiko Lona at 140 pounds, senior Ben Hock, junior John Nichels and Jacob Hamilton at 145 pounds, Keenan Wright at 147 pounds, Dartanan Campos and Malika Brown at 150 pounds, junior Jayce Hyatt at 154 pounds, and senior Ilkka Kettunen at 156 pounds. Sophomores Reid Willis is still determining a weight class. Jerry “J.D.” Hudson is at 190 pounds.
Teammates have been calling Hudson, “Juneau-Douglas,” instead of the Jerry Don his name suggests.
“It has been my nickname and I like it,” Hudson said. “I also like wrestling because I lose weight and build friendly team characteristics and I want to go to state and place.”
Kettunen is an exchange student from Finland, where he excelled in soccer and skiing.
“Just with my brothers,” Kettunen answered in broken English when asked if he had wrestled before. “I like wrestling a lot. It is fun and gets you in good shape. It is very interesting and hard.”