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Given there's only one state championship berth for each weight class in Southeast Alaska, it truly is win or go home for Juneau's prep wrestlers.
Thunder Mountain and Juneau-Douglas grapplers hit the road Thursday on the way to Craig for the Region V tournament beginning Saturday, and both sides are confident they will have several representatives at the state tournament next weekend in Nikiski.
Falcons coach Chad Requa said his team was able to find areas that needed improvement following the Pilot Invitational Nov. 19-20 at Thunder Mountain High School.
"It helped us identify some areas we needed to work on, so we brought that into the practice room. Not having that weekend of wrestling, we were able to just work on fixing things that caused some pretty significant problems," he said. "It was just little things, but hopefully fixing those little things will pay big dividends this weekend."
Once again, Requa said he expects 112-pound Melissa Fisher, 130-pound Thomas Riley and heavyweight Cole Bossio to lead the way for Thunder Mountain, as well as David Steininger at 160 pounds and Jackson Pavitt at his new weight of 171 pounds.
"We only get one berth, so I figured we might as well spread out our guys and avoid beating each other up," Requa said.
Riley and Bossio each won their weight division at the Pilot Invite, and Fisher lost to Ketchikan's Ian Rod in the championship match of the 112-pound weight class, a matchup that may happen again Saturday.
As for the heavyweights, Ketchikan, Thunder Mountain and Juneau-Douglas all boast a strong contender for the state berth. Bossio defeated JDHS' Eric Ashenfelter two weeks ago to win his division, avenging a loss earlier in the season to the Bears' 285-pounder.
Juneau-Douglas coach John Smith said that match was one Ashenfelter never quite got over completely.
"He's pretty pumped and motivated after getting whooped on pretty good by Bossio," he said. "He was steaming at the ears a good three hours after that battle. He definitely knows he made some mistakes, and you know if you make one little mistake in wrestling you can lose. That's the way it is.
"I'm pretty excited to see how it turns out between Eric (Ashenfelter) and Bossio. It's going to be a sight to see."
Another Bears wrestler, 140-pound Andrew Hoch, has made his mark in the Southeast going undefeated over the course of the season, and Smith said he doesn't expect anything different.
"He hasn't been beat this year, so I see no reason he shouldn't be able to go to state, that's all I can say," he said. "I'm looking at Andrew, Eric and Henry (Dalton) to do fairly well."
Another name Smith mentioned is 160-pound Dillon Scranton, who will be traveling with the team for the first time this season.
The teams will weigh in today in Craig with matches beginning tomorrow morning.