Juneau-Douglas High School wrestling coach Kris Mercer received his wish on Friday and Saturday in Washington state - he got his Crimson Bears some serious competition.
Riverside High School defeated Juneau-Douglas 40-38 in a dual meet on Friday, and the Crimson Bears took eighth out of 16 schools at the Deer Park Tournament in Spokane on Saturday.
"I was very impressed," Mercer said of his team. "They didn't quit. They were in the third round and they were moving. They gave me everything they had. It was obviously that they were done when they came off the mat. They left nothing out there."
None of the Crimson Bears took home an individual title on Saturday, but did have two wrestlers claim second place.
Matt Barry, wrestling up a weight class at 152 pounds, had his undefeated streak snapped in the finals by Hermiston's Randy Larson, 8-5.
"You want to push a kid but hate to see it happen," Mercer said of Barry's first loss. "He took it well. He's a hell of a competitor. We need to get this out of the way so it won't happen in February."
Jake Mason took Juneau-Douglas' other second-place finish, making it to the finals of the 215-pound weight class.
Mason, who normally wrestles at 189 pounds, fell 6-5 to Mt. Spokane's Bryce Malone.
"Jake weighed in at 190 pounds and had the best match of his life," Mercer said. "All the way right to the finish. He had him on his back and everything."
JDHS brought 11 wrestlers to the trip, forfeiting three weight classes. With the forfeits, the Crimson Bears bumped up weight classes to compensate for the lineup omissions.
Mason, despite giving up 10 to 15 pounds against his competition, fared well against his bigger foes.
"We wrestled tough," Mason said. "We came off Thanksgiving break and its our first match after it."
Juneau-Douglas had two wrestlers claim third-place honors on Saturday.
Crimson Bears' 103-pounder Ian Otness took third. He defeated Kettle Falls' Brandon Fifer 6-4 in the third-place match.
"I think we wrestled pretty tough," Otness said. "It was our first tournament out of state and it was good to get it over with and get better."
Dante Santos took third place in the 125-pound weight class by earning a 2-1 decision over Colville's Dustin Christianson.
Kyle Foote fell to Mt. Spokane's Gagandeep Thandi 5-3 to take fourth place while Garret Cox (160), Tyler Zimmerman (189) and Buddy Howard (119) also took fourth.
Samson Keeney finished fifth in the 171-pound weight class.
On Friday, Juneau-Douglas won 7-of-14 matches but ended up being nipped by traditional Class 2A power Riverside. Mason, Zimmerman, Matt Barry, Santos and Otness earned pinfall wins while Kyle Foote earned a major-decision victory at 112 pounds. Clinton Clark also won at 145 pounds.
"Riverside has got a heck of a program," Mercer said. "They've got 38 kids on the team, a full varsity and full JV. They've got a little-school feeder program. The school is pretty darned amazing. This is a wrestling school."
Juneau-Douglas should return this afternoon and be back in the practice room on Monday.
The Crimson Bears' busy schedule continues with a trip to Palmer for a dual meet on Thursday and the South Anchorage Dual Tournament on the weekend.
"Next weekend is about showing Alaska what we've got," Mercer said. "Show that we have some kids down here that need to be considered."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org