ANCHORAGE -- Despite not having any individual champions, the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears took second place Saturday night in the state's biggest fall season high school wrestling tournament, the Anchorage Christian Schools Invitational held Friday and Saturday at ACS.
The Crimson Bears only sent two wrestlers to the finals -- senior Anthony Manacio IV at 112 pounds and senior Jerrod Harvey at 275, where both lost. Instead, it was a solid top-to-bottom performance by the Juneau wrestlers that carried the Crimson Bears to the tourney's runner-up spot as none of the Juneau wrestlers had fewer than two victories in their respective weight classes.
The Nikiski Bulldogs claimed the team title with 244 points and four individual champions, while Juneau was second with 206.5 points. Dillingham took third place with 163 points, Skyview was fourth with 150, Soldotna took fifth with 134.5 and Kotzebue was sixth with 134. Ninilchik won the small schools (under 80 enrollment) trophy after taking 15th place with 54.5 points.
Kotzebue's Kanae Peacock earned the tournament's outstanding wrestler award after his 11-9 overtime decision upset victory over top-seeded Darien Draper of Seward, who hadn't lost in more than a year.
Three other Southeast teams competed in the 46-team tournament besides Juneau, with Sitka scoring 113 points for eighth place, Mount Edgecumbe had 24 points for 25th place and Hoonah had 20 points for 27th place. The only champion from Southeast was Darren LaDuke of Sitka, who won the 189-pound weight class with a 4-2 decision over Bobby Dunbar of host ACS.
"We had a pretty good tournament, even though we didn't win a title," Juneau head coach Bob Mahon said. "A lot of our younger guys stepped up and found out they could wrestle. That should help their confidence."
Many of Juneau's top wrestlers haven't seen much action this season because of the way the schedule worked out. The Crimson Bears, who have yet to host a home meet, have been on the road all season with several trips to smaller Southeast towns like Skagway and Hoonah where Mahon used his younger wrestlers so they could gain experience. When Juneau's gone to the bigger tournaments, the Crimson Bear wrestlers haven't always been able to face the top Southeast competition.
So the Crimson Bears were looking forward to the ACS Invitational, so they could see where they stand after competing in the largest tournament of the season.
Manacio said he'd only had about six matches all season entering the weekend, and he nearly doubled that total as he posted a 4-1 record. Manacio dropped a 16-5 major decision to Cody Phipps of Skyview in the championship final at 112 pounds.
"I've got an easy weight class, but I am a little rusty," Manacio said.
Harvey won all of his matches by pin until he reached the championship at 275 pounds, when his back acted up and forced Harvey to lose to Nikiski's Angelo Luna by injury forfeit. Mahon said he figures Harvey and Luna will have a chance to wrestle each other again, possibly even this coming weekend when both teams are at the Bill Weiss Tournament in Ketchikan.
Juneau had two wrestlers take third place in their respective weight classes -- Jonathan Moore at 189 pounds and Isaac Cadiente at 140. Sungie "Jon" Musarra took fifth place at 103 pounds, Willy Dodd was fifth at 130, Jake Ritter was fifth at 171 and Justin Rasmussen took fifth place at 215. David Liliedahl finished sixth at 135 pounds, to round out the list of Juneau medalists.
With 46 schools at the tournament, the ACS Invitational is considered by many to be a preview of the state meet, which will take place in December in Kenai.
"I like coming to these big tournaments. Any match you get helps you, this is nothing but good for us," said Dodd, who got a late start on the season because he was on the football team. "I'm still real rusty and I go out there and die. I ran out of energy. I'm trying to get my wrestling endurance back."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.