After a lackluster performance on the first day of the Brandon Pilot Invitational, the older Juneau-Douglas High School wrestlers and their coaches decided it was time for a team meeting.
The captains and coaches gathered the Crimson Bears together before Saturday's matches started, and they told the younger wrestlers about Pilot, who died in a Nov. 18, 2000, car wreck when he was a sophomore. Juneau's annual Thanksgiving tournament was named for Pilot after his death, with this year's competition taking place Friday and Saturday at the JDHS main gym.
"We had a lot of young guys who don't know Brandon and why this is called the Pilot Invitational," said senior 125-pounder Dennis Hall, who was one of three Juneau wrestlers to claim weight-class titles in the tournament. "So we told them about Brandon and the way he wrestled. He was very intense."
"Most of the kids don't know Brandon if they're not a junior or senior," added junior Jake Ritter, who won the 215-pound championship for Juneau. "This tournament means a lot to Brandon's parents and his friends."
The Crimson Bears, who were in fifth place well behind eventual champion Ketchikan after Friday's first two rounds, regrouped after talking about Brandon. While they never contended for the team title, the Juneau wrestlers moved up to fourth in the final standings and closed their gap on Ketchikan by a few points during Saturday's matches. Sophomore Gerry Carrillo, at 103 pounds, was Juneau's other individual champion.
"After our meeting, we stepped it up," said junior Jordan Saceda, who took third place at 112 pounds for Juneau. "We had all the older people who wrestled with Brandon tell the younger guys about him, and they realized how much it meant to us. I think they've got a good understanding now. We got a lot of thirds and fourths, and that caught us back up."
The Kings, who led most of the tournament, trailed Sitka by two points entering the final bout of the night and had to pull out the team title with a 5-4 double-overtime victory by heavyweight Jon Hamilton over Petersburg's Collin Martins. Ketchikan finished with 161 points, followed by Sitka with 159, Petersburg with 150, Juneau with 135 1/2 and Wrangell with 115 1/2 points.
"I had no idea," Hamilton said of the team score. "I didn't think it would be that close."
Hamilton won last year's Class 4A state champion at heavyweight, while Martins, a senior, hadn't wrestled since he was in the seventh grade. Even so, Martins upset Hamilton last weekend in Ketchikan - providing extra motivation for Hamilton on Saturday.
The match was scoreless through the first period, and Hamilton took a 1-0 lead in the second period with an escape. In the third period, Martins received a stalling penalty point to tie the match and took a 2-1 lead when Hamilton was penalized for throwing Martins after the whistle. Martins added an escape to make it 3-1, but Hamilton tied the match 3-3 with a takedown.
With 32 seconds left in regulation, Hamilton gave up an escape point so Martins held a 4-3 lead. But then Martins was called for stalling to tie the match at 4-4 as regulation ended. The first overtime period was scoreless, and Hamilton, as the first point scorer, was given his choice of positions to start the second overtime. Hamilton chose to start in the down position (on his knees with Martins wrapped over the top), then worked free for the winning escape.
"Yeah, I knew we needed it, and it went double-overtime," Sitka coach John Hedden said. "That's as close as we've been (to a team title) in a long time."
Carrillo opened the championship finals on a winning note for Juneau, as he claimed a 2-0 decision over Craig's Spencer Beckman at 103 pounds. The two wrestlers battled to a scoreless tie through the first two rounds, but Carrillo scored a reversal in the third period to win it.
"I didn't really get my head into the match until the third period. It was a hard match," Carrillo said. "We've still got a really young team. The more matches we get the better we'll be. It's still early."
At 112 pounds, Ketchikan senior David Mann claimed a 2-0 decision over Juneau junior Sungie Musarra in one of the highlight matches of the tournament. Mann won last year's Class 4A state title at 103 pounds, while Musarra took third place at state at 112 pounds. Their match was low-scoring - only a two-point reversal by Mann in the third period - but both wrestlers were very active during the bout.
"We're going to be neck-and-neck all year," said Musarra, who was wearing a wrap on his left shoulder because of an injury three weeks ago. "It's just going to be a matter of who makes a mistake. I'll be more prepared for the next time."
"We've been wrestling each other a long time," added Mann, who missed most of this week's practices because of a hip injury. "I thought I had a takedown in the first period, but I caught him in the third. My hips came through for me. I feel a lot better than I did last weekend."
Hall had an easier time winning the 125-pound title, as he claimed an 8-0 major decision over Sitka's Devin Johnson. At 215 pounds, Ritter made short work of Petersburg's Jesse Birchell, claiming the title with a pin in 51 seconds.
The Sitka Wolves won the most weight-class titles, with four (George Howard at 130 pounds, Tyler Wagner at 140, Dylan Bergman at 152 and Jake LaDuke at 189). Besides Juneau, Ketchikan and Petersburg also won three crowns each. Ketchikan's titles went to Mann, Hamilton and Rafael Ramirez-Ruiz (135), while Petersburg had Drake Lyons (119), Jim Smith (160) and Victor Jenny (171) win crowns. The other weight-class title went to Wrangell's Harry Churchill at 145 pounds.
In the third-place match at 119, Saceda needed an overtime takedown to beat Sitka's Jim Jurczak with a 5-3 decision. Juneau's other third-place finisher was John Kuterbach, who pinned teammate Chris Pleasants at 160 pounds. Besides Pleasants, other Crimson Bears to finish fourth in their weight classes were Dante Santos at 103 pounds, Garret Cox at 135, Matt Barry at 140 and Samson Keeney at 189 pounds.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
BRANDON PILOT INVITATIONAL
Team and final-round results from the Brandon Pilot Invitational wrestling tournament held Friday and Saturday at Juneau-Douglas High School. Complete results will run later this week in the Empire.
Team scores - 1. Ketchikan, 161 points; 2. Sitka, 159; 3. Petersburg, 150; 4. Juneau-Douglas, 135 1/2; 5. Wrangell, 115 1/2; 6. Craig, 33 1/2; 7. Mount Edgecumbe, 32 1/2; 8. Kake, 21 1/2; 9. Hoonah, 21; 10. Klawock, 14; 11. Yakutat, 7; 12. Metlakatla, 4.
103 pounds - Gerry Carrillo (Juneau) dec. Spencer Beckman (Craig), 2-0. 112 - David Mann (Ketchikan) dec. Sungie Musarra (Juneau), 2-0. 119 - Drake Lyons (Petersburg) pin. Lucas Chambers (Sitka), 4:45. 125 - Dennis Hall (Juneau) maj. dec. Devin Johnson (Sitka), 8-0. 130 - George Howard (Sitka) dec. Josh Garrison (Wrangell), 9-3. 135 - Rafael Ramirez-Ruiz (Ketchikan) dec. Dan McCay (Petersburg), 9-4. 140 - Tyler Wagner (Sitka) dec. Marcus Robecker (Ketchikan), 8-6. 145 - Harry Churchill (Wrangell) pin. Sam Carney (Mount Edgecumbe), 1:12. 152 - Dylan Bergman (Sitka) dec. Jason Koelling (Sitka), 11-7. 160 - Jim Smith (Petersburg) dec. Jake Mork (Wrangell), 5-3, OT. 171 - Victor Jenny (Petersburg) dec. Zach Thompson (Ketchikan), 8-6, OT. 189 - Jake LaDuke (Sitka) maj. dec. Russell Shilts (Wrangell), 10-2. 215 - Jake Ritter (Juneau) pin. Jesse Birchell (Petersburg), 0:51. 275 - Jon Hamilton (Ketchikan) dec. Collin Martins (Petersburg), 5-4, 2OT.
103 pounds - Nick Fama (Ketchikan) dec. Dante Santos (Juneau), 11-4. 112 - Bryan Westfall (Craig) tech. fall Steve Poitra (Sitka), 16-0, 5:57. 119 - Jordan Saceda (Juneau) dec. Jim Jurczak (Sitka), 5-3, OT. 125 - Nick Ashton (Wrangell) dec. Jesse Agner (Petersburg), 8-5. 130 - Adam Gregg (Ketchikan) dec. Josh Dunham (Petersburg), 11-9. 135 - Drew Eyon (Wrangell) dec. Garret Cox (Juneau), 7-0. 140 - D.J. Lindstrom (Hoonah) dec. Matt Barry (Juneau), 3-1. 145 - Iain Brown (Ketchikan) dec. Neil Jenny (Petersburg), 9-7. 152 - Houston Laws (Ketchikan) dec. Kris Edfelt (Petersburg), 9-8. 160 - John Kuterbach (Juneau) pin. Chris Pleasants (Juneau), 3:53. 171 - Justin Albee (Sitka) pin. Anthony Haskins (Sitka), 2:48. 189 - Matt Loucks (Sitka) dec. Samson Keeney (Juneau), 8-5. 215 - Benjamin James (Kake) pin. Mike Slenkamp (Ketchikan), 3:48. 275 - Tyler Holmlund (Sitka) pin. James Roberts (Klawock), 1:54.