The Juneau-Douglas High School wrestling team isn't stacked with tons of grapplers in each weight class. What the Crimson Bears do have, however, are a hardy, determined group of athletes starting to come into their own.
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JDHS won six of eight matches at the Northwest Duals Tournament in Portland, Ore., on Thursday and Friday. The Crimson Bears finished first in the consolation division while fellow Alaska squad, Colony, romped to the overall title.
More important than the six dual meet wins, though, was that the Bears got two days full of tough competition as they prepare for the season's stretch run.
"There were some really good matches," JDHS coach Kris Mercer said. "Everyone got a loss so I got my job done. Everybody had good competition."
JDHS opened the tournament on Thursday by going 2-2 in its five-team division. Despite forfeiting the 140, 145 and heavyweight classes, the Crimson Bears handily defeated Oregon schools Clackamas and Banks. The Bears lost to West Salem, Ore., and fell to Oregon's Forest Grove 37-36 on a tiebreaker.
On Friday, JDHS rebounded to beat Oregon High Schools Scappoose, McMinnville and The Dalles-Wahtonka to win the consolation bracket.
"They're attacking," Mercer said of his team. "They're taking the match to them and not letting them control the match. You can't let them control the pace."
This past weekend also featured the return of a pair of standout Juneau wrestlers. Team captain Matt Barry returned to the mat after suffering an elbow injury and Joardan Savland manned the 160-pound weight class after missing time with the flu.
Barry won seven straight matches in Oregon after dropping his first bout Thursday.
"He got back on that horse," Mercer said. "He lost his first match and came back real strong. He's flowing and working and moving like that old Matt Barry."
Savland won 6 of 8 matches in his return to action.
Juneau-Douglas senior Jake Mason continued his impressive season by finishing the Northwest Duals with a 7-1 record. The 215-pounder is currently ranked fifth in Alaska's Class 4A.
"He went down there and is shooting well," Mercer said of Mason. "He's getting off his knees. The one loss was he was on his knees and side, which are bad positions. But he learned his lesson and is shooting angles."
Dante Santos, a state runner-up last season, also finished 7-1. Santos won seven straight matches at 130 pounds.
Ian Otness (119 pounds) and Lester Hunt (125) each went 5-2 while Samson Keeney (171) and Tyler Zimmerman (189) won 5 of 8 matches in Portland.
Bobby Hunt won three bouts at 103 pounds, Ben Roemeling won one match at 135 pounds and freshman Jufer Librando won 4 of 2 matches at 112 pounds.
"He's got a little fire in him," Mercer said of Librando. "We found out we have to get him mad. He's a nice, quiet kid but when he gets hit he turns into a little beast."
Juneau will fly to Fairbanks this week for its most important regular-season matches to date. The Crimson Bears will take on North Pole in a dual meet on Thursday before competing in the Red and Gold Tournament at West Valley High School on Friday and Saturday.
"It's a big weekend in Fairbanks," Mercer said. "We'll see where we stack up against the upper part of the state."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.