The memory of last year's Region V-Class 4A wrestling championships is still a bitter thought for many of the Juneau-Douglas High School wrestlers.
The Crimson Bears lost the title to Ketchikan by six points last year in a meet the Juneau wrestlers feel they should have owned. The year before, Juneau also finished second to Ketchikan, this time by 12 points, in another meet the Crimson Bears feel they should have won.
So, as the Juneau wrestling team prepares to host the Region V-4A meet on Saturday, winning the championship is the main thought weighing on the minds of the Crimson Bears this week. Wrestling starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Juneau-Douglas High School main gym, with the semifinals set for noon. The consolation finals are at 5 p.m., with the championship finals starting about 7 p.m.
``We won when I was a freshman, but we haven't won since,'' said Juneau wrestler Garrett Schoenberger, a senior 171-pounder. ``It's actually a lot bigger deal than people think. Most people ask me if I'm thinking about state, and I am, but I want to win regions first. Last year, two upsets cost us the whole tournament. We want to get it (the team title) back.''
``It will be really big for us (to win the region title),'' said Anthony Manacio III, a junior 125-pounder. ``We haven't won since I've been here, and we should have won it every year. But people got sick or weren't wrestling at their best.''
Juneau coach Bob Mahon figures the Crimson Bears will enter the meet with five top seeds (the meet's seeding meeting is at 7 p.m. tonight) - Schoenberger at 171 pounds, Gary Reid at 160, Anthony Manacio III at 125, Anthony Manacio IV at 103 and Willy Dodd at 112. With several other Crimson Bears seeded second or third, Mahon said a good weekend would be for Juneau to win five or six individual region titles. The top two finishers in each weight class will advance to the Class 4A state championships Feb. 4-5 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Patty Center.
``We should take anywhere from nine to 13 wrestlers to state,'' Mahon said. And even he was musing about last year's region meet. ``We lost to Ketchikan by six points. That's one match, where a Sitka kid knocked us off when we were looking past him,'' Mahon said.
The Crimson Bears should have the momentum as they enter this weekend's action. Last weekend in a two-day triple-dual meet in Sitka, Juneau swept two dual meets apiece from Ketchikan and Sitka despite leaving a couple of key wrestlers home to get their grades straightened out. Add in the return of senior Mike Jackson at 145 pounds, after missing most of the season with a knee injury, and the Crimson Bears are feeling pretty good about their chances.
``We've got 24 wrestlers eligible (out of a possible 28 spots for Juneau in the region meet, at two wrestlers per weight class), and most years we only have about 18 this late in the season,'' Mahon said. ``Last weekend was good for us. Ever since the first duals in Ketchikan, we've gone undefeated in the region.''
Juneau now has a 5-2 record against Ketchikan and is a perfect 7-0 against Sitka in dual meets this season.
``Winning last weekend was big,'' Schoenberger said. ``I thought it would be a lot closer. But we wanted to win those dual meets going into the region tournament. Last weekend was the closest weve been as a team all year.''
``That was really, really great,'' Manacio said. ``My teammates are awesome. My teammates really came through. But we have to concentrate on this weekend. We can.t look ahead to state.''