For the Juneau-Douglas High School wrestling team, this weekend isn't about filling every weight class or plugging holes in the lineup.
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This is the weekend of the Brandon Pilot Invitational Tournament and time for the Crimson Bears to show their fans, friends, families and each other what they're made of against Southeast Alaska's and Matanuska-Susitna's tougher teams.
The Bears will host 15 squads in the tournament on Friday and Saturday, but will first take on Mat-Su powers Palmer and Wasilla at 6 p.m. today in a pair of dual meets.
"We have some really talented guys," Juneau's Bryce Saviers said. "We may not have a big team, but our guys' talent goes real deep. We're all pretty good friends here and look out for each other. And with the shorter season, everyone is not burned out like last year. Everyone is amped, ready to go and pushing it."
Throughout most of the wrestling season, JDHS has struggled in dual meets. Because the Crimson Bears aren't one of the state's bigger teams in terms of roster size, they frequently find themselves on the losing end of dual meets. These losses aren't because of a lack of effort, but simply due to a lack of bodies in all the weight classes.
Did you know?
What: Brandon Pilot Invitational Tournament.
When: 5 p.m. Friday, 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Finals at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Juneau-Douglas High School gym.
Who: JDHS hosts Skagway, Sitka, Palmer, Wasilla, Hoonah, Angoon, Yakutat, Ketchikan, Metlakatla, Craig, Klawock, Petersburg, Wrangell, Kake and Mount Edgecumbe.
What else is happening: JDHS will take on Wasilla and Palmer in a pair of dual meets at 6 p.m. today at the JDHS gym.
It's hard for JDHS to win a meet when its constantly giving up between 20 and 30 points per meet due to forfeiting weight classes.
"We've done a lot of dueling and, without a full team, it's kind of depressing," JDHS coach Kris Mercer. "It's not as much fun as it should be. The individuals are doing good, but as far as a team goes, we're not pulling all the weight classes."
Just because JDHS has struggled in dual meets, however, doesn't mean the talent isn't there. Pound for pound, the Crimson Bears might be one of Alaska's toughest teams.
JDHS is led by undefeated captain Steven Dyer. The senior is undefeated and the top-ranked Class 4A wrestler at 152 pounds in the state, according to the state wrestling Web site, www.akmat.org.
"He's dominated everyone right now," Mercer said. "He's undefeated. ... He wrestles to the level of the guy he wrestles. I'm still looking for the part where he has a tough time."
No other JDHS wrestler is ranked in the top five in their weight class. That may change, however, with a strong performance this weekend.
One wrestler who could burst onto the top five is captain Bryce Saviers. The 130-pounder is 15-1. His lone loss came by one point to defending small-school state champion Bret Lopez of Petersburg.
There's a good chance the two might meet up in the 130-pound finals on Saturday.
"Losing to a state champ by one point - I'm proud of that," Saviers said. "I get another chance here and look forward to seeing how I can do. It's some real tough competition coming down here."
Jufer Librando (112 pounds) and Lester Hunt (125) could also go deep Saturday.
Ramiro Lamas, Juneau's 215-pounder, also has enjoyed a solid season.
"He's dominated the upper two weight classes (215 and heavyweight) in region," Mercer said of Lamas. "He's got six years experience. He's a senior. He's got confidence. He doesn't panic. He's starting to get used to getting bigger. Last year, he had a growth spurt and didn't keep up with it. Now he's fitting into his body better."
Due to the limited number of wrestlers on the team, a team title this weekend is probably out of the question.
Nevertheless, with such little time left in the season, the push for the state championships starts now. Wrestlers must determine what weight classes they want to compete in, as well as get ready for the rigors of the season.
Opposed to previous years, though, Juneau-Douglas should be fresh and ready for the postseason.
"I think it's a sprint compared to the 10K," Mercer said of the season. "It's much easier on their bodies. We don't nearly have the injuries we had last year."
In addition to getting ready for the region and state tournaments, JDHS will have the extra incentive of competing at home.
After starting the season with four meets on the road, Juneau-Douglas will get a chance to reward its fans and supporters this weekend with a strong home effort.
"My whole family is coming," Saviers said. "My family has always been so supportive of not only sports but everything I do. ... To have them watch me and cheer for me - there's nothing better."
Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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