The Juneau-Douglas High School wrestling team faced its toughest competition of the season Friday and Saturday en route to the Brandon Pilot Invitational at home.
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Colony rolled to the overall victory with 272 points. JDHS finished in second place. The Knights had five individual champions and had representatives in all but four of the title bouts.
"They did great," Colony coach Frank McKenney said. "The kids absolutely performed well. We're happy to be invited here. It was a great tournament with a whole bunch of different styles. It gave us a good look at the Southeast teams."
The Crimson Bears had three individual champions and two second-place wrestlers en route to the second-place finish.
JDHS senior Matt Barry wrestled in his first tournament this season and pinned Colony's Levi Krueger in 3:46 for the 145 pound title. Barry, who was the state's top ranked 145 pound grappler last season until suffering a broken collarbone, said he's still rusty despite the win. Krueger had Barry on his back early in the match before the Crimson Bears' grappler rebounded to seal up the title.
"I definitely had some rust today to work out," Barry said. "My timing was a little off. It took until I landed flat on my back that I realized I had to kick it up a little bit."
Juneau's Steven Dyer steamrolled his way through the 152 pound class to a title. The junior looked sharp in a 14-0 whitewash of Sitka's Ryder Torgeson. Dyer thoroughly controlled the match and went though a variety of pinning combinations against his opponent.
"I would've liked to get the pin or (technical fall), but it's all right, don't worry about the small stuff," Dyer said.
The Crimson Bears' Dante Santos grabbed the team's third individual title by picking up a 6-1 win over Colony's Zac Beauchamp at 125 pounds. Santos pinned Ketchikan's Jasper Reese and Hoonah's Thomas Norris en route to the title.
"I was real pleased with Santos," JDHS coach Kris Mercer said. "He stepped right up to the competition. He wrestles as good as the guys he's up against and he was up against a pretty tough kid. He's had closer matches with this guy but it was pretty decisive this time."
Juneau-Douglas' heavier wrestlers got some valuable experience by going toe-to-toe with West Valley. Tyler Zimmerman fell to the Wolfpack's Jeremy Fulk via pinfall in the 189 pound final while former state champion Dustin Baxter upended Juneau's Jake Mason 7-1 for the 215 pound championship. Juneau-Douglas' Samson Keeney (171 pounds), Bobby Hunt (103) and Joardan Savland (160) each earned third-place honors at the tournament.
This year's Pilot Invitational was the largest in the tournament's six-year history. Twenty schools made the trip and offered something for everyone.
For Colony, the opportunity to wrestle quality Class 1A-2A-3A schools was too good to pass up. Wrestling season for the smaller schools started about a month before the Class 4A teams hit the mats. That means the Class 1A-2A-3A wrestlers are in top shape while the larger school wrestlers are still getting acclimated to the season.
"That's why we came down," McKenney said of the smaller schools. "You have a lot of really good small schools and a lot of fine coaches in Southeast. It's unbelievable. ... And each school has different styles that we would not see regularly."
Hoonah's D.J. Lindstrom, Class 1A-2A-3A's top ranked 160 pounder, won his weight class with a 6-5 victory over Petersburg's Jeff Davidson.
The Vikings' Caleb Caulum won the 135 pound in thrilling fashion over Colony's Justin Martel. Down by four points with less than a minute left, Caulum scored a reversal and a three-point near fall to pull off a 6-5 win.
With three tournament's under their belt, the Crimson Bears will be off until Dec. 7. In the meantime, Mercer plans to intensify the team's training as the Bears head into the heart of their schedule.
"That Colony team is really strong and they woke our boys up a little bit," Mercer said. "Now they know what's up north and they're asking us to work them harder, asking for more cardio. They've been asking us for these things and we've been holding back on it, trying to make the season easier. Now it's on."
TIm Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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