Juneau-Douglas High School head wrestling coach Bob Mahon gathered his athletes around him on the wrestling mat after their final practice at Marie Drake gymnasium before this weekend's Region V tournament in Sitka.
"There's no reason why everybody here can't go to state," he said to the sweaty group Wednesday. "Everybody has to step up this weekend and wrestle to way you can wrestle. If you do that you'll be fine."
Twenty Crimson Bears began their trip to Sitka this morning in pursuit of recapturing the Southeast region crown that has eluded Juneau the past four years. Each team is allowed two wrestlers in each weight class.
"This weekend is when it really counts," Mahon said to his wrestlers. "We're all even and there's no home turf. You just gotta want it."
The Ketchikan Kings have had Juneau's number for nearly half of a decade, winning four straight region titles. At last year's region tournament in Ketchikan, the Kings edged Juneau 249-228 with a strong Petersburg team finishing a close third with 208 pounds.
This year looks to be just as close. At last weekend's Brandon Pilot Invitational in Juneau, Ketchikan won the team trophy with 174 points while Petersburg finished second with 159 and Juneau was third with 155 points.
However, Reid Dihle (145 pounds) Stephen Perry (152) and Justin Rasmussen (215), three of Juneau's top wrestlers, were out of the lineup with injuries. Their return this weekend should give the Crimson Bears the extra boost they need to claim the region title.
"We've got a good group," Mahon said. "Last year we sent 22 or 23 to regions and 18 of them qualified for state. I'd be happy if 15 make it this year. Everybody could lose one match and still go (to state)."
Senior 275-pounder Jerrod Harvey blames himself for the Bears not winning regions last year and is looking for a little redemption this year.
At last year's region meet, Harvey lost his 215-pound championship match to Mat Nore of Wrangell 13-4 and Brian Thatcher, who graduated, lost his 171-pound championship match to Wrangell's Alec Pempek 4-2, sealing the victory for Ketchikan.
"I blame myself for last year," Harvey said. "Me and the guy below me lost to guys who we had beaten all year long. This year we can't have a let-down. If we wrestle the way we can, it will be pretty close."
Senior Amanda Krafft made Juneau's region squad at 112 pounds and begins her quest to become the first female from Southeast to qualify for state. Krafft placed fourth at the Pilot Invite, where almost all of the Region V schools competed in addition to Valdez and Anchorage Christian Schools, and must place in the tip six to earn a state berth.
"I'm excited." Krafft said. "I don't really want to jinx myself, but I think I have a shot. I'm still nervous though."
However, Krafft says the team title means just as much to her a qualifying for state.
"The team title means a lot to me because I've been here four years and never won it," Krafft said. "We just have to wrestle the best we can. We have to focus."
One of Juneau's weak spots could come from one of its top wrestlers. Senior Anthony Manacio IV, ranked No. 2 in state at 112 pounds, has been bothered by a sore knee and reaggravated it in practice early this week.
"I'm worried about Manacio wrestling (Chris) Schnur," Mahon said. "He can take him down all day long, but Manacio's going to have to wrestle him on the mat. He has trouble with taller guys."
Last year, Manacio IV defeated Schnur in the 112-pound championship match and the two wrestlers look poised to meet again for another showdown. However, Schnur did not make weight at 112 pounds at the Pilot Invite and was forced to wrestle at 119 pounds where he was pinned by Juneau's Vernon Perry in the first period in the semifinals.
The Region V seeding committee met this morning to place wrestlers in appropriate brackets. Weigh-ins begin at 8 a.m. on Friday with first-round action set to begin at 10 a.m. and continue through the quarterfinals at 10 p.m. Saturday's wrestlebacks and semifinal rounds begin at 10 a.m. with championship match starting at 7 p.m.
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crimson Bear region team
103 -- freshman Sungie Musarra, freshman Logan Harvey
112 -- senior Anthony Manacio IV, senior Amanda Krafft
119 -- senior Vernon Perry, sophomore Dennis Hall
125 -- senior Willy Dodd
130 -- freshman Buckley Svinicki
135 -- junior David Lilidahl
140 -- junior Isaac Cadiente, junior Atlin Daugherty
145 -- sophomore Reid Dihle
152 -- senior Stephen Perry
160 -- senior Kyle Monti
171 -- freshman Jake Ritter
189 -- senior Jonathan Moore, junior Robert Vicario
215 -- senior Justin Rasmussen, freshman John Zuniga
275 -- senior Jerrod Harvey