The number of state qualifiers in the young history of the Thunder Mountain wrestling program continues to grow as, for the second straight year, the Falcons will be sending four grapplers to the final tournament of the high school wrestling season.
For one of those athletes, 160-pound junior David Steininger, it is an honor to go down in the record books as one of the first to make it to state in the school's history.
"It feels pretty great," Steininger said. "It's an honor to be one of the first groups to go to state.
"I want to go up there and show all the people up north that even though we're new, we can still take them down."
As seems to be the case with many wrestlers in Southeast Alaska, Steininger said the sport runs in the family, even though it took a little convincing.
"My older brothers wrestled, but I wasn't that interested when I was little," he said. "In middle school I just tried it out and stuck with it."
And it turns out this is a sport at which Steininger is pretty good. In fact, now it's his favorite sport.
"I've been doing it for seven years or so," Steininger said. "I think once I found out I was pretty good at it, about sixth grade, is when I really started to like it."
But wrestling wasn't the only thing Steininger found interesting as a junior high, and now high school, student. While he's always gotten his physical workout on the mat, he's also been able to find rhythm in his musical endeavors, as well as other sports.
"Outside of (wrestling), I play trombone in the band," he said. "I've been playing for about seven years, same amount of time I've been wrestling.
"In sixth grade they made us take music and I really didn't feel like singing, so I just picked (the trombone) because it seemed fun."
Steininger said his favorite part about playing music, other than the sound that is produced, is it gives him something to which he can dedicate himself. But he said he still finds more to occupy his time.
Steininger is also a member of the cross-country team at Thunder Mountain High School, and while there is no Falcons tennis program he still practices with the Juneau-Douglas squad during the season.
And he's no slouch in the classroom, either. After graduation Steininger hopes to pursue a degree in civil engineering, but also thinks being a music teacher would be an enjoyable profession.
But for now, Steininger said it feels good to inspire the other sports programs at Thunder Mountain. He said he knows what it means to represent his school at the state tournament in Wasilla.
"Other kids think, 'Hey, if they can do it, we can do it, too," he said of his wrestling team.
And even in his tired, post-practice physical state, Steininger analyzed the relationship between wrestling and the mathematical technicalities that interest him.
He said he wrestled a state No. 1-ranked grappler earlier in the season, and that experience, along with his pension for technical analysis, will help in competition this weekend.
"After I wrestle somebody and get a feel for how they wrestle, I remember it. And because I'm really technical I can use it against them," he said with a laugh.
So Steininger's opponents should hope they've never before faced the junior 160-pounder, because chances are he's already gotten a full analysis.
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