Juneau-Douglas is sending two senior grapplers to this weekend's 4A state wrestling championships at Chugiak High School. Both are first timers in Alaska's biggest meet of the year.
Sam Cordero, 152 pounds, has been wrestling since the sixth grade, but classmate and 189-pounder Derrick Swanson is finishing up his first season on the biggest stage - the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska state meet.
The brackets for the double-elimination tournament aren't yet available, but there are 16 competitors in each class. The competition begins Friday with weigh-ins at 8 a.m..
First-year JDHS coach Ron Horton said his guys can expect to see top-level competition, no matter how the draw shakes out.
"They can expect to have a great time and have the chance to participate in something that they'll never forget the rest of their lives," he said. "They're prepared and it will be amazing for them. They'll see an extremely high level of competition. I've seen 4A wrestlers in the free style program, and I've been involved with USA Wrestling for 20 years, ... there are some tough opponents there."
Swanson won the Region V championship via forfeit.
"I kind of got a free ticket to ride. I'm a little worried about state, but I'm happy I made it. All the other guys earned the trip there, so I know they'll be tough," he said. "I don't know much about them at all, that's what's worrisome. I'll just basically try to outmuscle the guy. That's worked so far. I try to use technique but when you're on the mat, instinct takes over.
"So we'll see how it goes. It's going to be a fun trip."
Cordero, also the Region V champ in his weight class, said though going into the competition blind, he expects to see the best Alaska's different regions haveto offer.
"I don't know who the competition is because we've been traveling throughout the Southeast and I've missed a couple of competitions due to school and musical activities," he said. "But I plan on staying solid and using whatever I know."
Cordero said he's happy to have a shot to compete at state in his final meet.
"It's hard to say what I feel right now, but I'm glad I finally get to go," he said. "It's my first time, and I'm a little speechless."
Right now, Cordero said, the duo is working mostly on polishing up techniques so as not to wear themselves out too much.
"We'll be doing a bunch of shots and drills to help us prepare," he said. "Usually, when you work on something the day before, your brain will hang on to it and your body will naturally follow through."
As for any last-minute advice from Horton, he said he wants them to "wrestle hard, drive forward and never give up. It's mano a mano."