As Floyd Dryden Middle School wrestling coach Geoff Harden kept track of the team scores during last weekend's Southeast Middle Schools Regional Championships at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, he figured his team had a good chance to win.
The final tally, however, surprised Harden. Floyd Dryden won the 10-team tournament with 264.5 points, 113 points more than second-place Wrangell.
"The semifinal round is the big round in the tournament," Harden said. "A win in the initial rounds is worth two points, in the semifinals they're worth 12 points. I had 10 kids win in that semifinal round. I knew then that it looked pretty good."
Overall, Dryden claimed five individual titles in the 17 different weight classes and had 13 different wrestlers garner top-three honors.
Based on that depth, Dryden had no problems taking the title.
"We had a really good group of younger kids," said Harden, who is in his 19th year coaching at the school. "I'm losing, out of a squad of 32, only nine. There are a good group of sixth-graders who came back and are now seventh-graders."
Among the champions for Dryden, sixth-grader Thomas Riley won the 75-pound division while Eric Hill claimed the 85-pound title.
Kyle Barry, younger brother of Juneau-Douglas High School grapplers Kurt and Matt Barry, won the 95-pound title; Ryan Cao captured the 121-pound bracket; and John Gregory defeated Dzantik'i Heeni's Ben Rupe for the 174-pound title.
"We had a lot of kids showing up at the volunteer conditioning," Harden said of his team. "We had kids right after Christmas and all they were doing was working out hard."
Dzantik'i Heeni took sixth place in the team competition. The team, headed up by JDHS wrestling coach Kris Mercer, had one individual champion. Eric Moy upended Phillip Johnston of Ketchikan for the 133-pound championship.
There were also a number of girls in the competition. Ketchikan's Denise Weston finished second at 174 pounds while Dzantik'i Heeni's Annette Highly finished third at 121-pounds. Highly won her division two weeks ago at the sixth Alaska Girls Wrestling State Championships on Feb. 11 in Sitka.
Up next for a select few wrestlers will be the Tanana Chiefs State Middle School Tournament this weekend in Fairbanks.
Barry and Floyd Dryden's Bobby Hunt, who finished second at 90 pounds, will make the trip to compete in the open state tournament.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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