The last time the Juneau-Douglas High School wrestling team saw action, the Crimson Bears won the West Anchorage Christmas Classic.
Three weeks later, the Crimson Bears couldn't duplicate that magic as they finished fifth out of 10 teams in the West Valley Invitational held Friday and Saturday in Fairbanks, even though Juneau sent five wrestlers to the championship finals. Senior 112-pounder Sungie Musarra won Juneau's only title.
The Wasilla Warriors won the West Valley meet with 193 points, with all three of their title-winners beating Juneau wrestlers in the finals. South Anchorage took second with 173.5, Lathrop was third with 146 and West Valley fourth with 139. Juneau had 138.5 points for fifth place, followed by Sitka with 128.5. Colony's Hollan Gravely was the meet's outstanding wrestler after winning the 125-pound title.
"We got a lot of good motivation for the rest of the season," Juneau coach Kris Mercer said. "We've got our goals now and we know what we need to do. (Winning the West tournament) is all hype, now let's get back to work."
Four of Juneau's five finalists met Wasilla wrestlers in their championship bouts, and Musarra was the only Crimson Bear to come through with a title. Musarra pinned Wasilla's Ryan Hogan in 1 minute.
Juneau's strength this year has been in its lower weight classes, but this time the Crimson Bears didn't open the tournament with a title at 103 pounds as Wasilla's Alan Bartelli claimed an 8-2 decision over Juneau's Dante "Jephty" Santos in a battle between the No. 1 and No. 2 wrestlers in the state. It was the first loss of the season for Santos, who was ranked second in the AlaskaWrestling.com listings.
"Bartelli ankle-picked him (Santos) right away, and Jephty was a little flat." Mercer said. "It's good not to go undefeated, though. It gives you something to work for."
After Musarra's victory, Gerry Carrillo lost a 10-8 decision to Wasilla's Clayton Schmidling in the 119-pound final with Schmidling getting the winning points in the final seconds of the match. Carrillo is ranked No. 1 in the state at 112 (Musarra is No. 2), but he moved up a weight class. Schmidling is ranked No. 2 at 119.
Juneau's next finalist was Matt Barry, who lost an 11-3 major decision to Lathrop's Brandon Stoner at 140 pounds.
The final Crimson Bear to have a shot at a title was John Kuterbach, who dropped a 14-7 decision to defending state champion Jake Wade of Wasilla at 171 pounds.
"John was a little flat in the first round, but I told him he's wrestling the defending state champion and he might as well have some fun," Mercer said. "He wrestled a lot better in the second and third periods."
Juneau also had three wrestlers finish third in their weight classes - Buddy Howard at 112, Jordan Saceda at 119 and Jake Ritter at 215.
In the Red & Gold Tournament, a consolation tournament for wrestlers who were knocked out of the main bracket early, Juneau's Samson Keeney won one of the two brackets for 171 pounders.
The Crimson Bears were supposed to open their trip with a dual meet at Lathrop on Thursday, but the Malemutes didn't show. Mercer said Lathrop had a new activities director who didn't know about the meet because he was working off an old schedule.
The Juneau wrestling team heads to Ketchikan next weekend for a series of dual meets with Ketchikan and Sitka. The Crimson Bears will host the Kings and Wolves for a series of dual meets on Jan. 21-22. The region meet is Friday, Jan. 28, in Sitka, with the Class 4A state tournament Feb. 4-5 at Chugiak High School.
Tournament results can be found on the Local Sports Page.