FARGO, N.D. - The state that is home to Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America, has finally reached the summit of USA Wrestling.
Dallas Seavey of Sterling became Alaska's first cadet or junior national champion in any division Monday night. He defeated Garrett Scott from a traditional state power - Pennsylvania - in the 125-pound cadet Greco-Roman championship match at the Fargodome.
Seavey, who attends Skyview High School, has a family history of conquests. He said his grandfather, Dan Seavey, helped start the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (Dan Seavey finished third in the inaugural Iditarod in 1973).
"My dad still races it," he said. His father is Mitch Seavey, who took fourth in the Iditarod in 1998. Dallas' older brothers, Danny and Tyrell, also are Iditarod veterans.
Dallas Seavey's title culminated a state quest that began in the 1980s, when Alaska routinely sent 25 to 30 wrestlers to the USA tournaments. That number dwindled over the next decade.
"Now we're trying to build it back up," said Ron Baxter, Alaska's cadet/junior director.
He said one of the reasons for the recent success is coach Wes Bockert, an Army soldier stationed in Fairbanks. Bockert, who got some of his wrestling training experience at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., recently signed on with the Army for another three years so he could help continue the Alaska wrestling program.
"He got transferred to Alaska and he just started showing up," Baxter said.
Seavey wasn't the only Alaskan to reach the All-American stand on Monday. Elijah Hutchison of Soldotna, a teammate of Seavey's at Skyview High School, took third at 119 pounds and Kaylen Baxterof West Valley High School in Fairbanks was sixth at 135.
The two USA Wrestling tournaments have been held together since 1996. The cadet tournament features wrestlers who are 15 and 16 years old; the junior tournament includes teenagers who have completed any one of grades nine through 12. There are two styles of wrestling - Greco-Roman and freestyle.
Alaska brought 10 cadets and four juniors to Fargo.
"I think you'll see us get more and more," Bockert said. "Everybody in the group is pushing each other."