It was only a low-key meet, but it was enough to help indoctrinate a handful of young Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears to the world of high school wrestling.
No team scores were kept for the weekend of wrestling at Hoonah High School, which featured athletes from Juneau, Hoonah, Skagway and Mount Edgecumbe. Since there were several weight classes with one or two competitors, the coaches mixed and matched the wrestlers to try and find the best matchups. There were three rounds of matches on Friday, followed by five rounds on Saturday.
"We won a lot of matches, it was a good first tournament," said senior Dennis Hall, who posted a 5-0 record at 130 pounds.
Juneau was the lone large school to send wrestlers to the meet, which came just as the Crimson Bears completed their required tenth practice before the wrestlers are allowed for competition. The three smaller schools started their season in September and are in the middle of their season.
The Crimson Bears took just 12 wrestlers to the meet - about half their team - and most of those were freshmen. Juneau also had a new head coach, Kris Mercer, making his high school debut.
"They were really nervous," said Mercer, a longtime middle school coach at Dzantik'i Heeni. "They kept saying, 'We're not ready, we're not ready.' It was nice to get the jitters off. It was nice for me, too. What was cool was in the first round we had nine of our 12 guys win and we really came together as a team."
Many of Juneau's big point-scorers stayed home this past weekend, but that gave some of the younger Crimson Bears a chance to see what high school wrestling is all about.
"I was very pleased with the effort and sportsmanship by all the wrestlers, the competition was good and Hoonah was a gracious host," Mercer said. "The whole community was just great to us. They put us up, fed us and were just all-around great hosts. I look forward to traveling there next year. I have lived in Juneau my whole life and I finally got to go to Hoonah. It was beautiful and the people were just outstanding."
Mercer said the best matches of the meet may have been the three between Hall and Hoonah's Wilbur Skeek, who injured his shoulder in his third loss to Hall.
Besides Hall, two other returning state tournament qualifiers posted undefeated 5-0 marks on Saturday - Gerry Carrillo at 112 pounds and John Kuterbach at 171.
Freshmen Dante Santos (112), Tyler Casperson-Zimmerman (171) and Clinton Clark (135) each posted 4-1 records, while Mercer said Garret Cox (140) won three or four matches and Samson Keeney (215) went 3-2.
The other Crimson Bears to make the trip were Liam Campbell (145), Luis Highley (189), Chad Carson (112) and Patrick Lumba (heavyweight).
There weren't any other heavyweights for Lumba to face, so he had an exhibition match with Juneau assistant coach Darrin May, a former college wrestler at Lockhaven University. The match went the full six minutes, although Mercer said May had Lumba pinned twice and the referee didn't call it.
"My best competition was my teammate, Dante Santos," Carrillo said. "I hope to do well at Sitka this weekend."
"I won four of my five matches and I beat Hoonah captain Torin Smith," Casperson-Zimmerman said. "I had a really fun time. Next week I'm going to try and crush Sitka and just do my best."
The Crimson Bears will join most of the other Southeast wrestling teams at Sitka High School this weekend for a tournament that will feature about 150 wrestlers, Mercer said. He said there will be round-robin matches on Friday, followed by a bracketed tournament on Saturday.
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