The Juneau-Douglas High School wrestling team, coming off what coach Kris Mercer called "the best week of practice in years," could make some serious noise at the Southeast Conference championship tournament Saturday in Ketchikan.
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The Crimson Bears should win a number of individual titles and may have a shot at the overall title this weekend when they take on Sitka and Ketchikan.
"Our goal this weekend is to get it over with and not get hurt," Mercer said. "A little concern is our depth. If Sitka and Ketchikan show with two full squads, they could have lots of third and fourth place points and chip away at the regional crown."
While an individual or team regional title is nice for a program, Saturday's main objective for wrestlers will be to qualify for the state tournament. The top two wrestlers in each weight class qualify for the state tournament on Feb. 2-3 in Chugiak.
Due to the relatively small size of the three teams in Southeast, the regional championships can be quick and anti-climactic. Sometimes, all a wrestler has to do to qualify for the state championships is get dressed and not trip while walking to the mat to receive a forfeit win.
"The thing is, we've done this so many times we know the outcome of 95 percent of the matches," Mercer said of wrestling Sitka and Ketchikan. "There's only a couple of upsets."
Tentative roster for Saturday's regional tourney
103 pounds: Bobby Hunt and Sabrina Story.
112 pounds: Ian Otness and Jufer Librando.
119 pounds: Bryce Saviers.
125 pounds: Dante Santos and Lester Hunt.
130 pounds: Ben Roemeling.
135 pounds: None.
140 pounds: Sam Cordero.
145 pounds: None.
152 pounds: Matt Barry and Steven Dyer.
160 pounds: Joardan Savland.
171 pounds: Samson Keeney.
189 pounds: Tyler Zimmerman.
215 pounds: Ramiro Lamas.
285 pounds: Jake Mason.
Managers: Eva Ceder and Alisha Mack.
The Crimson Bears have a shot at qualifying their entire roster for the state tournament due to the talent and the lack of competitors in the weight classes.
Juneau's Bobby Hunt and Sabrina Parks may both qualify the 103-pound division simply because of the lack of regional grapplers.
Most of Juneau's wrestlers should qualify for Chugiak without much trouble. Dante Santos, the state's top-ranked wrestler at 125 pounds according to Web site akmat.org, should use this weekend as a formality in preparation for next weekend.
Matt Barry and Steven Dyer, ranked third and fifth respectively at 152 pounds, should both go while Joardan Savland (160), Samson Keeney (171) and Tyler Zimmerman (189) could win regional titles.
Ian Otness and junior varsity wrestler Jufer Librando (112), Lester Hunt (125), Ben Roemeling (130), Sam Cordero (140) and Ramiro Lamas (215) could all qualify for state depending on the competition they face this weekend.
At 112 pounds, a major roadblock for Otness and Librando could by Ketchikan's Nick Martin. The Kings' lightweight is 1-1 against Otness this season, according to Mercer.
The 119-pound weight class could also feature an interesting final as Ketchikan's Kyle Foote and Juneau's Bryce Saviers should battle each other.
Another entertaining match could be between Barry and Dyer for the 152-pound title. The two teammates went at each other on Jan. 13 with Barry earning a hard-fought win.
One move of note for Juneau-Douglas is senior Jake Mason moving from 215 pounds to heavyweight this weekend.
Mercer moved Mason, the state's fifth-ranked 215-pounder, in an effort to increase his chances at a state title. While Mason will be giving up possibly 30-to-50 pounds in matches, he should have distinct speed and stamina advantage against his bigger opponents.
"He's OK with it, he's kind of excited," Mercer said of Mason's move. "He'll be the only heavyweight in shape. He's been wrestling with (assistant coach Darrin May) for the last couple of years and he's a heavyweight. It can't be any worse than practice."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.