Jestin Hulegaard liked what he saw as the Juneau-Douglas High School wrestling team warmed up for its Halloween Bash tournament Friday and Saturday at the JDHS main gym.
The Crimson Bears hadn't been at full strength for its first two weekends of action, but as the team warmed up for the Halloween Bash Juneau was finally able to put the team on the mats it expected earlier in the year.
"I was real excited," said Hulegaard, who won the 130-pound final with a 7-2 decision over Sitka's Jamie McCrehin. "It felt good seeing all the people we had running around the mats for warm ups. We worked everybody this week, and everybody wrestled about as well as we thought they could. We've got 10 guys in finals, and that really says something."
With a full lineup, Juneau ran away with the team title Saturday as the Crimson Bears scored 126 points. Hoonah took second place with 66 points, followed by Petersburg with 48, Sitka with 30, Mount Edgecumbe with 12, Pelican with six and Skagway was scoreless. Teams earned 10 points for a wrestler winning his weight class, eight for second place and six for third. Results are on the Scoreboard, Page B2.
Juneau, which had six wrestlers gain their eligibility this weekend, had 10 wrestlers earn a spot in the finals and another wrestler (Robert Vicario at 215 pounds) won his weight class but sat out so the final could decide second place at the weight.
The Crimson Bears were especially dominant in the lower weight classes, as Vern Perry won the 103-112 pound division, Anthony Manacio IV jumped up a division and led a Juneau sweep of the top-three places at 119 pounds, Anthony Manacio III won at 125 and Hulegaard won at 130. Juneau also picked up victories from Brandon Pilot at 152, Vicario at 215 and Jerrod Harvey at 275 (after jumping up from 215).
"It was nice to have a full varsity team," said Harvey, a second-year wrestler who got his start in the sport when one of his father's friends bet him he wouldn't last through one wrestling practice. "It would have been nice to have been at full strength last week against Ketchikan. But it's not just about having everybody. It's about being in your hometown."
"We got to see how good we really are," said Patrick Carrillo, who beat teammate Willie Dodd in the 119-pound final, which decided second place behind Manacio III. "It was especially nice to do this in our own hometown. We're happy. We did a great job, especially after last year when we lost regions at home. This was our first home match since then. We showed it's a new year."
Vern Perry posted a perfect record during the round-robin portion of the tournament, then posted a 13-5 major decision over Hoonah's Brandon Wright in the final. It was the first meet of the season for Perry, a junior.
"It finally shows we can dish it out as well as take it," said Perry, who fell behind by one point at the end of the first period of his match against Wright. "I was kind of relaxing being ahead, and he kind of gave me a wake-up call."
Since there were only three wrestlers to make the 112-pound weight limit, and two of them were younger wrestlers, Manacio IV was bumped up to 119 while the others wrestled at 103-112. Manacio IV won the 119-pound division, then wrestled Sitka's Richie Witson in the 112-pound final, winning by pin.
"I thought I was wrestling at 112 this week, but I got bumped up," Manacio IV said. "There was more competition and I think I did pretty good. We'd been missing half our team, and it was kind of a good feeling to know we had our team this week."
Manacio III won the 125-pound division, then pinned Petersburg's Kevin Thynes in the final. He said he appreciated knowing Juneau wasn't giving up any points with forfeited matches, like the Crimson Bears had to do in some weight classes the last two meets in Hoonah two weekends ago and in Sitka last weekend. The forfeits, combined with some matches where JV wrestlers were filling in for missing varsity wrestlers, cost Juneau a couple of dual-meet victories against Ketchikan and Sitka when the Crimson Bears posted a 3-3 record last weekend in Sitka.
"I was really happy because we pretty much filled every weight class with our varsity wrestlers," Manacio III said. "I was pretty surprised with all our young guys. It would be great if we wrestled like this the rest of the season. We've been waiting for everyone to come out. So far, so good."
Another Juneau wrestler making his debut this weekend was sophomore Brandon Pilot, who won the 152-pound title with a 7-3 decision over Hoonah's Ryan Hill. Pilot has competed for Juneau High School coach Bob Mahon's Juneau Tornadoes wrestling club team and won state titles in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling, but this was his first high school meet after not wrestling as a freshman.
"I think I got a little sloppy, but otherwise I was fine," Pilot said. "I've dropped from 160 pounds to 152 since Tuesday. It was hard, but I think it was a good thing. There were some tough guys at 160. I was happy with how I did."
Brian Botts of Hoonah won the title at 135 pounds with a 4-3 decision over Sitka's David Gauthier. While Hoonah is only a Class 2A school (those with enrollments under 100) and took second place against much larger schools, Botts thought the Braves could have had a better performance this weekend.
"I'm not happy," Botts said. "I think the weight cutting got to us this week. Our scale at home was weighing us about two pounds lighter than the one they have here, which is digital. I starved for two days. We're used to a regular scale, but this will be good for us because this is more like the scales we'll see at state."
Hoonah had a scary moment Saturday afternoon when Jimmy Refuerzo, who took third place at 160 pounds, landed hard on his shoulder and had to be carted off in an ambulance after being strapped to a backboard. At first meet officials thought Refuerzo broke his collarbone, but he returned to the gym during the finals and said he separated some muscles in his chest and will be out for awhile.
Petersburg's Mike Nilson won the 140-pound title with a 9-1 major decision over Garrette Anelon of Mount Edgecumbe. Nilson said the Vikings were missing some of their seniors this weekend because they were home taking the ACT exam.
"We expected our butts to get whipped," Nilson said. "It was a wake-up call for us. But a lot of our guys did really well. We were definitely stronger last year."
One unexpected victory for Petersburg came in the 145-pound final, when Charlie McCullough upset Ben Botts of Hoonah 4-3. McCullough took third place at 140 pounds and Botts took second at 145 during the round-robin portion of the tournament, but McCullough pulled off a minor upset.
"I don't know how I did it," said McCullough, who Nilson said is the hardest working wrestler at Petersburg. "It wasn't easy. I think I wrestled smarter this time. I was in a better position. I lost to his younger brother (Brian Botts), so I thought I'd lose here, too."
The Crimson Bears hit the road this coming weekend for an extended road trip. Juneau will wrestle at the Nikiski Invitational on Nov. 3-4, then will wrestle in a tri-meet with Seward and Soldotna on Nov. 7 at Soldotna. The Crimson Bears will close out their road trip with the Anchorage Christian Schools Invitational on Nov. 10-11.