Yes, the Crimson Bears want to reclaim the championship that Ketchikan has won four of the past five seasons. But there are more important things to accomplish. The main goal of the region meet will be trying to qualify as many wrestlers as possible for the Class 4A state championships the next weekend at Chugiak High School.
"It's such a wimpy tournament," Juneau coach Kris Mercer said of the region meet, which features just three teams - Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka. "The thing about it is to get as many guys out of here to go north."
Each team is allowed to enter two wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classes, but none of the Southeast teams are deep enough to field a full 28-man squad.
Juneau will take 17 wrestlers to this year's region meet, up from just 12 last year. Ketchikan had 17 last season and should have about the same number this weekend, while Sitka will probably be down from the 20 wrestlers it took to last year's meet.
The Crimson Bears hope to improve on the 10 wrestlers they qualified for last year's state meet, with four individual region champions. The top two wrestlers in each weight class qualify for state.
"I think we should win," said senior captain Dennis Hall, who is ranked fourth in the state at 125 pounds. "Most of the guys in this room have a good shot at going to state. As a team, we're solid in our lower weights and we should have some qualifiers. A lot of our younger guys have come a long way."
Juneau has two of the state's No. 1-ranked wrestlers in this week's AlaskaWrestling.com rankings - sophomore Gerry Carrillo at 103 pounds and undefeated junior Jake Ritter at 215 pounds. Neither of the top-ranked wrestlers considers himself a shoo-in for state, though.
"A lot of these guys may have had a bad season, but they can still do good at regions and have a good state meet," said Ritter, who is 25-0 this season. "We wrestle all season for these two weeks. We don't have the strongest region, so it's important we wrestle well for seeding. We need to finish strong. Those guys up north, numbers two through five have all been ranked second at one time or another and they'll all be gunning for me. My (perfect) record doesn't mean anything, but it sure would be nice."
"I'm feeling pretty good and I'm pretty sure we can win," said Carrillo, who is 19-6 overall but undefeated at 103 with four losses to Ketchikan 112-pounder David Mann and other losses to Craig 112-pounder Bryan Westfall and Petersburg 119-pounder Drake Lyons. "There's a lot of good wrestlers on this team. I'll try my best. I think I could win a region title."
Besides the two top-ranked Crimson Bears and Hall, Juneau has a ranked wrestler in junior Jordan Saceda, who is fourth at 119. Juneau junior Sungie Musarra, the only returning region champion from last year, was ranked third most of the year at 112, but shoulder surgery two weeks ago means he's done for the season.
"I think I have a good chance of winning (a region title)," Hall said. "This year, I'm pretty confident."
"I think we'll get them all (to state)," said Saceda, who wrestled at 130 pounds last year and didn't make state. "Everyone is improving and our hard work has paid off. We're working harder than anybody else in the region. My goal is stepping up and winning a region title. I started really getting into it."
Ketchikan returns two state champions in Mann (who won at 103 pounds last year) and Jon Hamilton (275) and should contend for its fifth region title in six years.
Mann was ranked No. 1 most of the year at 112, but this week Colony freshman Hollan Gravley slipped ahead of him in the state rankings. Hamilton has been ranked second much of the year, but this week moved ahead of Wasilla's Jeremie Miesler to take the top spot.
Other ranked Ketchikan wrestlers are Nick Fama (sixth at 103 pounds), Rafael Ramirez-Ruiz (seventh at 135) and Zach Thompson (third at 171). The only ranked Sitka wrestler is Dylan Bergman (fifth at 152).
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
The 17 Juneau-Douglas High School wrestlers expected to compete in Saturday's Region V-Class 4A meet in Ketchikan. The meet starts at 10 a.m. with first-round matches and championship semifinals. The meet continues with consolation finals at 5 p.m. and championship finals at 7 p.m.
103 pounds - Gerry Carrillo. 112 - Dante Santos, Chad Carson. 119 - Jordan Saceda. 125 - Dennis Hall. 130 - Clinton Clark, Joardan Savland. 135 - Garret Cox. 140 - Matt Barry. 145 - Liam Campbell. 152 - None. 160 - John Kuterbach, Chris Pleasants. 171 - Tyler Casperson-Zimmerman. 189 - Samson Keeney. 215 - Jake Ritter, Luis Highley. 275 - Pat Lumba.
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