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Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Shooting the half: Juneau-Douglas' Bryce Saviers (top) tries to lock in a half-nelson on teammate Kyle Foote during a practice match on Tuesday at Marie Drake Middle School. Saviers and Foote are two newcomers to the Crimson Bears in the lightweight divisions.
What started on Oct. 17 as a room full of about 50 wrestling hopefuls has dwindled to half that in three weeks.
The Juneau-Douglas High School wrestling team boasts about 25 members, all of whom have toiled, sweated and bled in the practice room. The Crimson Bears open their season this weekend at the Ketchikan Tournament.
"We just started wrestling a lot," JDHS junior Garret Cox said. "We had preseason for two weeks which is straight running, jump-squats and pushups. It's nice to do something other than that. It's nice to get back into wrestling."
Juneau-Douglas boasts a nice mix of seniors and underclassmen, along with depth in the lighter and middle weights.
Third-year JDHS coach Kris Mercer has the amazing luxury of three wrestlers at 103 pounds.
"We've got three guys at 103, that's so wonderful," Mercer said. "Normally you can't find one little guy, then three show up."
Juneau-Douglas is hoping to improve on last year's fifth-place finish at the state championships by utilizing a talented roster of grapplers and a relentless schedule.
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Get over here: Juneau-Douglas' Jeff Santos (front) tries to escape the grasp of teammate Clinton Clark during practice on Wednesday.
With the exceptions of Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Crimson Bears will be on the mat nearly every weekend from Nov. 4 to the state championships on Feb. 3-4.
"We're traveling a lot," Mercer said. "You're allowed to have 24 weigh-ins in a season. We have 22. You can only wrestle four times in a day, so they could wrestle up to 88 times this season and for a Juneau kid that's huge."
One of the best on JDHS may be senior 130-pounder Gerry Carrillo. The senior was a state champion at 103 pounds his sophomore season. He took time off from the sport in the offseason, but said he feels rejuvenated for the 2005-2006 campaign.
"I played tennis this year, so that was different," Carrillo said. "I took a little break form wrestling this year. It's probably the first break I took in a few years. I feel rejuvenated. I feel I have the motivation I need to get back into it."
Carrillo leads a talented group of lightweights.
head coach kris mercer, assistant coach darren may
nov. 4-5 at ketchikan tournament
nov. 11-12 at sitka tournamnet
nov. 17 south anchorage / west
anchorage at jdhs
nov. 18-19 pilot tournament at jdhs
dec. 2 at riverside
dec. 3 at spokane, wash.,
deer park tournament
dec. 8 at palmer
dec. 9-10 at south anchorage
dec. 16-17 at sitka duals
dec. 28 at liberty
dec. 29-30 at portland, ore.,
northwest duals tournament
jan. 12 at wasilla
jan. 13-14 at diamond team tournament
jan. 20-21 at ketchikan duals
jan. 28 region v tournament at jdhs
feb. 3-4 at chugiak, state championships
At 112 pounds, freshman Bryce Saviers joins the Crimson Bears will impressive credentials. Saviers won three regional middle school titles and placed third state-wide as an eighth-grader.
"Coming in as a freshman, the seniors are helping me out a lot," said Saviers, who sported fresh blood on his shirt following a practice match. "I did real good in middle school but now it's a whole new level."
At 103 pounds, Kyle Foote, Lester Hunt and Ian Otness will be battling for varsity time.
Defending Southeast Region champ Dante Santos mans the 119-pound position while another region titleholder, Cody Wolf, is slated to wrestle at 125 pounds.
Along with Carrillo, Chilean native Paul Rassad will be looking to compete at either 125 or 130 pounds.
Sophomore Steven Dyer moved to Juneau from Utah and is scheduled to wrestle at 135 pounds.
"Good, tough, wiry, strong and he really loves the sport," Mercer said. "When they need it and want it, it's a beautiful thing."
Senior Clinton Clark and freshman Kyle Barry are both at 140 pounds, while senior Jordan Savland, a defending Southeast Region champ, is at 145 pounds. Matt Barry is wrestling at 152 pounds now but may swing between weights.
Sophomore Ramiro Lamas is also at 152 pounds.
Mercer has the luxury of multiple wrestlers competing for spots in different weight classes. Whenever there are more wrestlers than spots, Mercer can use wrestle-offs to see who will take a varsity spot for a particular meet.
This creates increased competition in the practice room and a much hungrier team.
"We're really trying to boost the J.V. team," Mercer said. "If you have a good, solid J.V. team it makes your varsity that much richer. They have to work every day and last year we didn't have a lot of wrestle-offs."
Cox will man the 160-pound spot.
"He's a good kid and a heck of a leader as a junior," Mercer said of Cox. "It's nice to see that from a kid. He's been to every practice. He's the driving force of this team."
In the heavier weights, juniors Tyler Zimmerman and Samson Keeney are possibilities at 171 pounds, while 189-pound junior Jake Mason is a second-generation Juneau wrestler.
In the 215-pound and heavyweight class, senior Justin Behrends and Kevin Wilkens will likely see time in those spots.
In terms of action on the mat, Mercer said he wants his team to be able to score on their feet.
That means attacking the opponent, scoring points and getting pins.
"Attack, attack, attack," Mercer said. "We're trying to bring a little more cradling in to the game, looking for more pins, quick pins. If you're good on your feet and you can get a guy on his back, it's over. That's what it's all about. Get it done with."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org