The Juneau-Douglas High School wrestling team gave itself a Christmas trophy, just in time for the holidays.
The Crimson Bears claimed the title in the two-day West Christmas Classic tournament on Saturday night at West Anchorage High School, winning the 17-team tourney by 20 points.
Juneau put four wrestlers into the championship finals, and three of them won titles, to score 173.5 points. Chugiak, which had two champions, took second place with 153.5 points, while Soldotna was third with 133.5, Wasilla took fourth with 125.5 and West Anchorage was fifth with 112. Soldotna and West also had two champions, while Wasilla had one (tournament outstanding wrestler Clayton Schmidling at 119 pounds).
The tournament title completed a perfect road trip for the Crimson Bears, who beat East Anchorage 50-9 and Colony 38-26 in a pair of dual meets Thursday night at East Anchorage High School. Juneau is off until the Jan. 6-8 weekend, when it heads to Fairbanks.
"We're coming along," Juneau coach Kris Mercer said during a phone interview as his team took a post-tournament trip to Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream cones. "We're going to wait until January to really push it, and try to peak in February. The guys are going to take a break to see their families and get their grades up."
The Crimson Bears had three wrestlers win titles - Dante "Jephty" Santos at 103 pounds, Gerry Carrillo at 112 and John Kuterbach at 171. Jake Ritter also made the finals at 215 pounds, but lost to Bartlett's Bobby Dunbar, who is listed third nationally in Intermat's high school rankings. Juneau also had three wrestlers claim third place - Sungie Musarra at 119 pounds, Cody Wolf at 125 and Matt Barry at 140.
Juneau has been strong in its lower weights this season, but Kuterbach's title proved to be a nice, unexpected complement in the upper weights. Kuterbach, a senior, used an unorthodox style to beat most of the top guys in his weight class. In the final, Kuterbach claimed a 12-6 decision over Kodiak's Steve O'Brien.
"John was very impressive," Mercer said. "Every guy on the podium, he beat. Usually you've got a couple of guys you don't wrestle, but he beat the other guys who placed.
"He has that weird style, he's so flexible and when he gets his legs in on you he's deadly. The other guys try to muscle him, and they just don't know what to do."
For Santos, winning the title at 103 atoned for his not making weight during Juneau's road trip to Kirkland, Wash., on Dec. 4. Juneau lost 30-25 to Snohomish in the title dual meet of the Rebel Duals at Juanita High School, and the difference was the six points from Santos' forfeit. Santos won his title match on Saturday with a 5-2 decision over Jimmy Eggemeyer of Kodiak.
"He's managing his weight well right now," Mercer said. "Right now we're at Cold Stone, and he's like a kid in heaven (because he'll have two weeks to lose the weight from his ice cream)."
Carrillo, who is the state's top-ranked wrestler at 112 pounds, was the winner Juneau expected most to win. Carrillo, who won last year's state title at 103 pounds, claimed a 10-6 decision over Bartlett's Theron Apodaca.
"Gerry's so quick and he's got such good hips and such excellent balance," Mercer said. "That guy he wrestled was huge. He was like a 125-pounder who dropped down to 112, with veins sticking out in his arms and everything. He got Gerry on a takedown, but Gerry doesn't panic."
In Ritter's championship match, he ran into a highly skilled opponent who just moved to the Class 4A level this year after winning a couple of Class 1A-2A-3A state titles while attending Anchorage Christian Schools. Dunbar pinned Ritter in 1 minute, 53 seconds to keep Juneau from sweeping all four of its title matches.
"It wasn't even close," Mercer said. "He (Dunbar) has got one of the best shots I've ever seen. He'll come from the left one time, and then he'll come from the right. You don't know where he's coming from. His shot is so incredible, and it was like he was behind Jake and Jake didn't even see it."
In the third-place matches, Musarra claimed a 6-1 decision over Wasilla's Danny Lyles, Wolf won a 5-2 decision over Chugiak's Sam Carlson and Barry won a 5-3 decision over Colony's Ryan McKee.
Tournament results are on the Local Sports Page
Click here for more pictures from the tournament.