With the season already underway, the Thunder Mountain and Juneau-Douglas wrestling teams look to make more early season progress this weekend in Skagway.
The first tournament of the season took place in Hoonah on Oct. 9-10, where Thunder Mountain placed fourth overall, while JDHS took sixth. Due to various reasons, the Bears were only able to take four wrestlers to the tournament while every other team was able to bring at least seven. Grade, health and paperwork issues have dealt a blow to the team.
The Crimson Bears will only be able to bring four athletes to Skagway this weekend.
Head coach Ronald Horton said despite the number of wrestlers, JDHS looks strong and should be a force during the upcoming season.
"Right now, JDHS is sitting weak, not in talent, but in bodies, he said. "Having two schools split like this put both schools at a disadvantage weight-wise. It's kind of odd that it came out this way, but we're sitting with the heavier weights and they've got all the lighter weights.
Horton said considering the amount of bodies available, they have abundant talent. As far as competition goes in Southeast Alaska, he said he does not think along those lines.
"You know, I'm not really concerning myself with that (competition)," he said. "I'm concerning myself with teaching my guys basic skill and incorporating what they know with some of the newer moves coming out, as opposed to just teaching them moves."
Horton said there is much more to coaching than just teaching the moves.
"I'm teaching them what happens between the moves, because wrestling is all about the set-up," he said. "If you fail to show that every aspect of wrestling is a set-up during practice, then they're just learning moves and they're not incorporating them correctly."
Horton said, as a retired coach, he made an appearance here hoping to have an assistant coach to help lay the groundwork to make JDHS a power house again; it's just a matter of getting bodies, especially after the schools split.
He said that one wrestler he expects to place first this weekend and be successful all season is 125-pounder Jufer Librando, who earned a pin-fall in all six of his matches in Hoonah.
"We just want to do the best we can because we have a small team right now," he said. "Last week, we had a small team too, but we did well individually, so that's what we're looking for."
Librando said he expects the team to be back at full strength within a couple of weeks.
Horton said other wrestlers to watch for include Henry Dalton, Randy Segelhorst and Cole Bossio. He said he expects great results from all of them this weekend.
Coach Chad Requa of Thunder Mountain said he also plans to create something special by building the Falcon wrestling program successfully from the start.
"Our motto we started from the very beginning is 'Falcon wrestling: building tradition from the ground up'," he said. "Growing up wrestling in Washington state, there are a lot of high schools down there that just had an absolute tradition. There were certain schools that would give you all you could handle, and that's what I'm looking forward to building here.
"We're focused on doing things the right way. We've got young kids and we're working on doing things right from the start."
Requa said more than results, he is concerned with the effort and experience his kids are getting. He said they are seeing members of the team learn from their mistakes and correct them quickly, which is important to being successful.
"We have to do things right from the start," he said. "It's a lot easier to build a program the right way the first time than to screw it up and have to fix it later. So, we're really focusing on doing it right the first time, and working it slow and building it up."
Wrestlers to watch for from Thunder Mountain include Thomas Riley, Brian Koenig, Wilson Suzuki, James Minchew and Jackson Pavitt.
Both Thunder Mountain and Juneau-Douglas will be wrestling this Saturday and Sunday in Skagway.
Matthew Tynan can be reached at email@example.com