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Heading into the final two rounds at the fall season state wrestling tournament at Kenai Central High School, Juneau held a slim three-point lead over Ketchikan for third place.
But in the end, the Crimson Bears were able to hold off their Southeast rivals to claim the third-place team trophy behind two individual titles from Anthony Manacio IV and Jerrod Harvey.
Skyview won its second-straight fall season team title with 249 points, outdistancing second-place Nikiski with 229 points. Juneau finished with 168 points and Ketchikan wound up with 165 for fourth place. Soldotna was fifth with 143.5, Sitka was sixth with 141 and Petersburg was seventh with 134 points, giving Southeast four teams among the top seven.
"It (third place) was real important to us," Crimson Bear head coach Bob Mahon said. "We wanted to show that Southeast wasn't a fluke. Skyview and Nikiski had 25 guys in the tournament, but we stayed with them."
The Crimson Bears had to have felt they had the upper hand by landing three wrestlers in the championship round and two into the third-place round. Ketchikan would prove to make things interesting though by getting two of their own into the championship round, plus another in the third-place round.
Matt Haseltine got the Kings, who trailed 158-155 entering the consolation finals, to within a point of Juneau with a 10-3 decision over Valdez's Logan Dodd in the third-place match at 145 pounds, while Juneau's Sungie Musarra and Robert Vicario both had to settle for fourth-place finishes and failed to score any team points. Musarra was defeated by Nikiski's Josh Hundorf at 103 pounds and Vicario was beat 8-5 by Dillingham's James Weise.
Ketchikan's Matt Jones took the 103-pound championship match with a 3-1 win over Valdez's Jeremy Banner to give the Kings a short-lived 161-158 lead, but Manacio took the lead right back for Juneau in the 112-pound title match. Manacio defeated top-ranked Cody Phipps of Skyview, 12-9, for the title. Phipps was last year's 103-pound fall season state champion.
Manacio's win capped of a fantastic career for the three-time Region V champion and avenged a loss to Phipps at the Alaska Christian Schools tournament on Nov. 10.
"Manacio got what he was working for," Mahon said. "He's been working on wrestling the tall guys. We came in with a game-plan and he did it."
The big drama, however, would start in the 140-pound championship match between Juneau's Isaac Cadiente and Ketchikan's Stephan Haseltine, a rematch of the Region V championship where Haseltine pinned Cadiente in the second period. However, Cadiente had beaten Haseltine 10-6 for the title at Juneau's Brandon Pilot Invitational a week earlier.
Neither wrestler was supposed to be in the title match. Stephan Haseltine was the No. 6 seed and Cadiente went unseeded, but both earned their spots in the title match by upending the top seeds. Cadiente upset top-seeded and top-ranked Ryan Savo from Dillingham 4-3 in the quarterfinals then defeated Region III champion Tony Aiken of Nikiski. Haseltine edged Seward's Brandon Davis 11-10 in the quarterfinals then upset No. 2 seed Bjorn Olson from Tok 9-6 in the semis.
"I told them in the coaches meeting that they need to seed him (Cadiente)," Mahon said. "But they didn't listen to me."
Haseltine got the best of Cadiente again and won the title with a 3-1 win, giving Ketchikan another slim 165-162 lead over Juneau for third place. But Ketchikan had no more wrestlers left to wrestle, leaving Juneau heavyweight Harvey with the final say on where each school would stand in the end.
Harvey, the tournament's second seed, advanced to the finals with three straight pins. And in his way for the state heavyweight title stood Sitka's Mike Loucks, who was riding high off a semifinal upset pin over Nikiski's Angelo Luna, the state's top-ranked heavyweight.
"They way Mike Loucks wrestled Luna on Friday in the semifinals was perfect," Mahon said. "We knew he (Loucks) had a shot and he had to ready for him."
It was also another rematch of a Region V championship bout a week earlier where Harvey held off Loucks for an 7-6 win. But Harvey wasn't going to let a state title out of his grasp and proved it by pinning Loucks 1 minute, 17 seconds into the first period, securing third place for the Crimson Bears.
"Everyone did their part," Mahon said. "It was just a great weekend and we went out and accomplished the goals we set. They came together when we needed them to. I'm really happy for the kids."
Juneau's Amanda Krafft, Southeast's first female state qualifier, came within a match from getting into the fifth-place match. After losing to her teammate Manacio in the quaterfinals, she won by a forfeit over Grace Christian's Ryan Edmonds before being pinned eventual fifth-place finisher Devion Hagen from Homer.
Sitka's Darren LaDuke capped off his undefeated season with a state title at 189 pounds to give the Southeast Alaska five state champs. Sitka's David Gauthier (135 pounds), Klawock's Craig Wallace (152 pounds) and Petersburg's Bret Evens (171) were runner-ups at their respective weight classes.
Wrangell's Harry Churchill (130 pounds) and Matt Nore (215 pounds) and Petersburg's Joey Boggs (160 pounds) each wrestled to third-place finishes.
When the schools were broken down into their size classifications, Skyview won the Class 4A title, Nikiski won the 3A title, Klawock won the 2A title and Newhalen won the 1A award.