Many think of wrestling as an individual sport, but don't tell that to the Bethel team.
Despite not claiming an individual title Saturday, the Warriors secured their fourth straight Class 1-2-3A state title at Anchorage Christian and did so by a wide margin. For the second straight season, runner-up Kotzebue finished nearly 50 points behind.
Bethel senior Josh Mendenhall was one of six Warriors to reach the finals. He hadn't lost in 35 matches this season, but Eielson's Nate Ezell got the better of him with what Mendenhall called a good move that led to a pin in the second period.
"My dreams of being a state champion are crushed, but I'm gonna keep my head up and I'm gonna keep moving forward," said Mendenhall, who also finished second last season at 126 pounds.
Getting over his defeat will be tough, Mendenhall said, but being part of a team title a fourth straight season outweighs his pain.
"We've won it every year I've been in high school and not many people can say that," he said
Bethel qualified 17 wrestlers for state and Mendenhall said the six in the finals was the highest number he has seen from his team in four years. The secret to the Warriors' success is all in the coaching, Mendenhall said, and the bonding that takes place among teammates.
Tristan Evan (98), Tecumseh Hensley (106), Gage Hoffman (113), Avery Coplin (138) and Scott Carpenter (195) were the other Bethel wrestlers to finish second. Their teammates gathered around the mat for each match and offered support during and after the matches, Mendenhall said.
"It breaks my heart to see a teammate lose," he said.
Darren Lieb, Bethel's coach since 1998, said Mendenhall's loss was the most shocking of the day and failing to bag any individual titles was a disappointment. Many have commented, Lieb said, that the only reason Bethel keeps winning titles is due to their high number of qualifiers, but he thinks six wrestlers in the finals and 10 placing fourth or higher is evidence of a high level of wrestling.
"It really speaks to the hard work and dedication our kids put in," Lieb said. "Not having one come out on top is kind of hard to swallow, but that shows how tough the matches were that we had this evening."
Two Kotzebue wrestlers earned the right to stand at the top of the podium, with Gary Eakin winning by decision at 145 pounds and Josh Roetman triumphing at 182 pounds with a pin.
Skyview, which finished fourth as a team, pocketed two individual titles as well. Austin Craig and Seth Hutchison each won by decision at 106 and 113 pounds, respectively.
Nome's Leif Erkson (126) and Emery Booshu (138) both pinned opponents in the finals, as did Valdez' Isaac Deaton (160) and Austin Rake (170).
As a senior in what is likely his last wrestling meet, Mendenhall said the two-day event was full of exciting moments for everyone, but there is one aspect a little more thrilling than the rest.
"The excitement of never having to cut weight again," he said.
Reach Jeremy Peters at email@example.com or 257-4335.
1) Bethel, 217.0; 2) Kotzebue, 167.5; 3) Valdez, 152.5; 4) Skyview, 138.5; 5) Nome, 136.0; 6) Houston, 112.5; 7) Homer, 85.5; 8) Glennallen, 70.5; 9) Petersburg, 69.5; 10) Mt. Edgecumbe, 65.0; 11) Dillingham, 59.0; 12) Barrow, 56.0; 13) Anchorage Christian, 53.0; 13) Nikiski, 53.0; 15) Eielson, 52.0; 16) Seward, 51.0; 17) Craig, 47.0; 18) Hoonah City, 44.0; 19) Unalaska, 43.5; 20) Thorne Bay, 36.5; 21) Cordova, 34.0; 22) Wrangell, 29.0; 23) Sitka, 28.0; 24) Metlakatla, 24.0; 25) Aniak, 20.0; 26) Hutchison, 17.0; 27) Pilot, 16.0; 28) Napaskiak, 14.0; 29) Su Valley, 13.0; 30) Shaktoolik, 9.0; 31) Akiachak, 4.0; 31) Grace, 4.0; 33) Bristol Bay, 3.0; 33) Galena, 3.0; 33) Haines, 3.0; 33) Pelican, 3.0; 33) Shishmaref, 3.0; 38) Newhalen, 2.0; 38) Nunapitchik, 2.0; 38) Unalakleet, 2.0.
98 -- Gavin Maslen, Glennallen, p. Tristan Evan, Bethel, 1:22; 106 -- Austin Craig, Skyview d. Tecumseh Hensley, Bethel, 5-0; 113 -- Seth Hutchison, Skyview, 41-2 d. Gage Hoffman, Bethel, 3-0; 120 -- Aaron Drake, Houston, p. Brettlyn Reich, Kotzebue, 5:13; 126 -- Leif Erikson, Nome p. Emmanuel Budke, Hoonah City 4:34. 132 -- Nate Ezell, Eielson p. Josh Mendenhall, Bethel 2:41; 138 -- Emery Booshu, Nome p. Avery Coplin, Bethel, 1:18; 145 -- Gary Eakin, Kotzebue d. Brian Allen, Valdez, 10-3; 152 -- Luther Jenson, Thorne Bay, d. Ryan Radmer, Houston, 4-3. 160 -- Isaac Deaton, Valdez, p. Tucker Thain, Craig, 1:18; 170 -- Austin Rake, Valdez, p. Torsten Skaflestad, Hoonah, 12-4 p. 1:35; 182 -- Josh Roetman, Kotzebue, p. Cody Howard, Cordova, p. 3:00. 195 -- Luke Johnson, Nikiski, p. Scott Carpenter, Bethel, 0:46. 220 -- Luke Wagner, Houston, p. Thomas Hoseth, Dillingham, p. 2:35. 285 -- Paul Johanson, Mt. Edgecumbe, p. Howie Hubbard, Seward, 0:36.
98 -- Jared Virgin, Glennallen, t.f. Buddy Stalmach, 6:00 (15-0); 106 -- Alex Gray, Nome p. Daryl Toyomara, Petersburg 1:44. 113 -- Calvin Johnson, Homer, t.f. Rainier Marquez, Unalaska, 4:00 (20-4); 120 -- Terrance Annogiuk, Seward, 36-11 d. Avery Chiklak, Bethel, 6-5. 126 -- Carlie McIntyre, Bethel, d. Cody Greene, Valdez, 6-1; 132 -- Aaron Olsen, Bethel, p. Martin Gardiner, Dillingham, 2:43; 138 -- Keefe McIntosh, Valdez, p. Spencer Woods, Kotzebue, 4:00; 145 -- Jaren Sumuang, Sitka p. James Horner, Nome, 5:39; 152 -- Adam Downing, Valdez, d. Koy Johnson, Kotzebue, 12-6; 160 -- Devon Phillips, Kotzebue, d. Junyor Erikson, Nome, 6-5; 170 -- Patrick Francisco, Bethel, p. Ashton Mahan, Skyview, 3:41; 182 -- Dylan Magnusen, Unalaska), p. Joseph White, Glennallen, 3:18; 195 -- Oliver Hoogendorn, Nome, d. Sage Hill, Skyview, 3-2; 220 -- Stephen Hyatt, Kotzebue, p. Walker Stephens, Houston, 2:00; 285 -- Tristan Alexander, Metlakatla, p. Tyler Scott, ACS 2:50.
Past State Champions
|1984-85||North Pole (Division I); Homer (Division II)|
|1983-84||Glennallen (Division I); Service (Division II)|
|1982-83||Glennallen (Division I); Service (Division II)|
|1981-82||Homer (Division I); Service (Division II)|
|1980-81||Eielson (Division I); West (Division II)|
|1979-80||Petersburg (Division I); Kenai (Division II)|
|1973-74||Chugiak & Lathrop|