The Petersburg Vikings were close enough to taste it.
But in the end, the Vikings came up short as Bethel Regional High School claimed the Class 1A-2A-3A state championship when Kotzebue's Dan Dalle-Molle decisioned Petersburg's Geoff Hall, 7-3, in the title match at 275 pounds Saturday night at Homer High School's Alice Witte Memorial Gymnasium.
Hall made two mistakes, and Dalle-Molle capitalized to win the match. If Hall had been able to win the bout, Petersburg would have scored four more points and moved ahead of Bethel in the team standings.
Instead, the Warriors claimed the team title with 122.5 points while Petersburg came up two points short. The Vikings had 120.5 points for second place, followed by Anchorage Christian Schools with 118.5, Valdez with 107.50 and Kotzebue with 97 points in one of the closer state tournaments in history.
It was the first Class 1A-2A-3A state championship tournament since 1999, when Seward won the team title by 2.5 points over Nikiski when Houston's Jacob Chapel upset Nikiski's Matt Kester in the heavyweight match. The state wrestling program was declassified and separate fall and spring seasons were held in 2000 and 2001, and both seasons were won by Class 4A teams each year.
Among other Southeast teams, Mount Edgecumbe tied for 10th place with 54 points, Wrangell was 14th with 32.5, Klawock was 18th with 26 points, Kake took 22nd place with 18 points, Craig was 24th with 15, Pelican was 34th with 3.5 points, while Hoonah and Thorne Bay both sent wrestlers but didn't score any team points.
Petersburg's Jake Oyler, who won the 140-pound title with a pin of Valdez's Gage Graika in 3 minutes, 39 seconds, was named the tournament's outstanding wrestler. Bethel head coach Darren Lieb was named coach of the year, while Corky Gerdts of Bethel was assistant coach of the year. Mount Edgecumbe won the team sportsmanship award and New Stuyahok won the team academic award.
Besides Oyler, Petersburg had one other state champion - 160-pounder Jim Smith, who claimed a 6-5 decision over Valdez's Logan Dodd. The only other state champion from Southeast was Wrangell's Harry Churchill, who won the 135-pound title with a 1-0 decision over Dillingham's Derek Bennett.
The only other Southeast wrestler to reach the championship finals was Petersburg's Kyle Hardin, who lost 8-4 to Bethel's Pat O'Brien at 171 pounds in the only bout between the top two teams. Bethel had one other state champion, Velson Kuqo, who claimed a 4-2 decision over Glennallen's Alex McMahan at 130 pounds. Kuqo and O'Brien were the only two Bethel wrestlers to reach the finals.
Petersburg led through most of the early rounds of the tournament, but the meet was still close. But entering the final round, Bethel and ACS both pulled ahead of the Vikings, with Bethel at 114.5 points, ACS at 113 points and Petersburg third with 110.5 points. Valdez was fourth with 98 points and Kotzebue, the top team in the state's coaches poll for the entire season, was fifth with 93 points.
Valdez had the most wrestlers in the championship round with five, followed by Petersburg with four, and ACS and Nikiski with three each. Bethel, Glennallen and Barrow had two finalists each.
With several head-to-head championship matches between wrestlers from the top five teams, the team standings tightened as each squad had mixed results. Valdez won two titles, while Nikiski, Petersburg and Bethel also won two titles apiece. ACS, Wrangell, Barrow and New Stuyahok won one championship apiece.
New Stuyahok's Justin Gumlickpuk at 112 pounds was the only non-Class 3A state champion (New Stuyahok is Class 1A). The only repeat champion from last year's fall season (when most of the Class 1A-2A-3A teams wrestled) was Barrow's Spencer Hirt at 145 pounds.
CLASS 1A-2A-3A STATE
Results from the Class 1A-2A-3A state wrestling championships held Friday and Saturday at Homer High School.
Outstanding wrestler - Jake Oyler, Petersburg, 140 pounds.
Coach of the year - Darren Lieb, Bethel Regional.
Assistant coach of the year - Corky Gerdts, Bethel Regional.
Team academic award - New Stuyahok.
Team sportsmanship award - Mount Edgecumbe.
Team scores - 1. Bethel Regional, 122.5 points; 2. Petersburg, 120.5; 3. Anchorage Christian Schools (ACS), 118.5; 4. Valdez, 107.5; 5. Kotzebue, 97; 6. Nikiski, 88.5; 7. Eielson, 79.5; 8. Barrow, 75.5; 9. Dillingham, 67; 10. tie, Glennallen, 54; 10. tie, Mount Edgecumbe, 54; 12. Grace Christian School (GCS), 35; 13. Seward, 34; 14. Wrangell, 32.5; 15. Delta Junction, 31; 16. Houston, 30; 17. New Stuyahok, 28; 18. Klawock, 26; 19. Unalakleet-Degnan, 25.5; 20. tie, Aniak, 25; 20. tie, Tok, 25; 22. Kake, 18; 23. Hydaburg, 17; 24. Craig, 15; 25. Newhalen, 14; 26. Ninilchik, 13.5; 27. Nenana, 13; 28. Bristol Bay, 12; 29. tie, Cordova, 11; 29. tie, Dot Lake, 11; 29. tie, Unalaska, 11; 32. Nome-Beltz, 10; 33. Seldovia-English, 4; 34. Pelican, 3.5; 35. tie, King Cove, 2; 35. tie, Stebbins, 2; 37. Akiachak, 1; 38. tie, Sand Point, 0; 38. tie, Hoonah, 0; 38. tie, Koyuk, 0; 38. tie, Gambell, 0; 38. tie, Koliganek, 0; 38. tie, St. Michael, 0; 38. tie, Moses Peter, 0; 38. tie, Galena, 0; 38. tie, White Mountain, 0; 38. tie, Noorvik, 0; 38. tie, Togiak, 0; 38. tie, Nunapitchuk, 0; 38. tie, Point Hope-Tikigaq, 0; 38. tie, Tuluksak, 0; 38. tie, Thorne Bay, 0; 38. tie, Slana, 0; 38. tie, Savoonga, 0.
103 pounds - Lance Penhale, Nikiski, dec. Gerardo Arias, ACS, 9-4. 112 - Justin Gumlickpuk, New Stuyahok, dec. Josh Huhndorf, Nikiski, 6-5. 119- Jeremy Banner, Valdez, dec. Judah Allen, ACS, 10-3. 125 - Casey Graika, Valdez, tech. fall Kyle Lafromboise, Glennallen, 15-0. 130 - Velson Kuqo, Bethel, dec. Alex McMahan, Glennallen, 4-2. 135 - Harry Churchill, Wrangell, dec. Derek Bennett, Dillingham, 1-0. 140 - Jake Oyler, Petersburg, pin Gage Graika, Valdez, 3:19. 145 - Spencer Hirt, Barrow, dec. Derrick Turner, Unalakleet-Degnan, 3-1. 152 - Anthony Lorenzo, Nikiski, dec. Bjorn Olson, Tok, 11-9. 160 - Jim Smith, Petersburg, dec. Logan Dodd, Valdez, 6-5. 171 - Pat O'Brien, Bethel, dec. Kyle Hardin, Petersburg, 8-4. 189 - Uriah Fellman, Delta Junction, pin Jack Packer, Barrow, 3:35. 215 - Bobby Dunbar, ACS, tech. fall Zach Doyel, Valdez, 20-5. 275 - Dan Dalle-Molle, Kotzebue, dec. Geoff Hall, Petersburg, 7-3.
103 pounds - Zach Coots, Seward, dec. Jesse Moe, ACS, 7-6. 112 - Jerry Hunt, Dillingham, dec. Kenny Balfe, GCS, 9-7. 119 - Brandon Sanbei, Aniak, pin Ed Garroutte, Kotzebue, 1:33. 125 - Randy Houck, ACS, pin Gilbert McIntyre, Bethel, 4:57. 130 - Travis Smith, Houston, pin Richie Diehl, Aniak, 5:53. 135 - Nuk Harcharek, Barrow, dec. Hans Hansen, Kotzebue, 5-4. 140 - Kenji Badger, Eielson, maj. dec. James Geffe, Glennallen, 9-1. 145 - Jack Carney, Mount Edgecumbe, maj. dec. Ryan Nicholson, Dillingham, 11-2. 152 -- Sterling Reardon, Bethel, pin Vic Jenny, Petersburg, 3:46. 160 - David Nolton, Kotzebue, dec. Charles Herron, Bethel, 5-4 (2 OT). 171 - Curtis Demmert, Klawock, dec. Cody Hultquist, GCS, 4-2. 189 - Jeremiah Davidson, Nenana, dec. Cliff Sheehan, Mount Edgecumbe, 6-1. 215 - Byron Nelson, Kotzebue, dec. Daniel Frank, Hydaburg, 8-3. 275 - Jeremy Raby, Eielson, dec. Matthew Ashenfelter, Kake, 12-7.
103 pounds - Earl Alstrom, Mount Edgecumbe, dec. Jeremy Luce, Nome-Beltz, 10-7. 112 - Jacob Massog, ACS, dec. Bryan Westfall, Craig, 5-0. 119 - J.R. Swanson, Kotzebue, dec. Jordon McCaughey, Nikiski, 4-2. 125 - Josh Garrison, Wrangell, dec. Kevin McCambly, Dillingham, 7-6. 130 - Richie Deaver, Petersburg, dec. Justin Tumbaga, Nikiski, 4-3. 135 - Cody Redford, Houston, dec. Joey Wicker, Nikiski, 4-2. 140 - Steven Miller, Ninilchik, dec. Sam Carney, Mount Edgecumbe, 9-3. 145 - Matt Clarkson, GCS, dec. Skyler Palmer, Unalaska, 12-5. 152 - Garrette Anelon, Newhalen, over Dustin Lie, Kotzebue, by forfeit. 160 - Max Shellabarger, Mount Edgecumbe, maj. dec. Greg Lundy, Tok, 10-0. 171 - Cliff Shellabarger, Mount Edgecumbe, over James Wiese, Cordova, by forfeit. 189 - Jamie Higgins, Eielson, dec. Charlie Kilangak, Bethel, 15-9. 215 - Doug Jones, Seward, over Tino Fosi, Barrow, by forfeit. 275 - Josh Homan, ACS, dec. Brionne Elkins, Barrow, 3-1.