When the wrestling season started, South began wearing T-shirts that read "mission February" on the front.
The Wolverines accomplished their mission of winning the school's first Class 4A state wrestling title Saturday at Bartlett High, needing a win from their last finalist to do it.
"I was trying not to think about it, and then some guy came up to me and told me I had to win it for my team," South sophomore Gavin Alvarado said. "So, it pretty much got me more pumped to win and I just tried my best."
Alvarado's best resulted in an 11-6 decision over Kodiak's Andrew Cabala in the 113-pound weight class. South fans counted down the last five seconds of the match and erupted in cheers when it was over.
Alvarado, who was named the meet's most outstanding wrestler, was carried away from the mat by his teammates and later was able to celebrate by eating a cupcake for the first time in months.
"I've been cutting 15 to 13 pounds all year," Alvarado said.
South led Wasilla by three points going into the championship finals, South coach Tom Ritchie said. Four wrestlers from each school made the finals, so a close finish was inevitable.
"We told those four finalists, 'you just worry about yourselves," said Ritchie, who was named coach of the year.
Wasilla, which got individual titles from Nate McKimson (145 pounds), Bryce Serna (152) and Quace Wright (220) led by a half point over South with three finals left to be wrestled. All of Wasilla's wrestlers were done, however, and South still had Alvarado's match remaining.
Alvarado's victory was worth four points. Had he lost, South wouldn't have scored a point and would have lost the state title by half a point.
"That's a lot of pressure for a kid to be under," Ritchie said.
The Wolverines, who also got individual titles from Dalton Sauder (195) and Greg Shack (98), steadily improved this season, Ritchie said, maintaining a collective focus on their goal of winning a state title.
"The great thing about it is we're young," Ritchie said. "We got a lot of freshmen and sophomores on this team."
98 -- South's Greg Shack quickly took a 5-0 lead on Wasilla's Logan Albrecht, who kicked and flailed his way out of a pin in the first period. Shack twisted Albrecht into some painful-looking positions as the match progressed and closed out a 9-1 decision for his first state title.
106 -- A clock malfunction forced officials to keep score by hand for the final minute or so of East's Kyle Willard 8-4 decision over West's Jejomar Briones. Willard built an early lead but Briones fought back with gusto while the judges scribbled, nearly rolling Willard over for a pin.
113 -- South's Gavin Alvarado nearly pinned Kodiak's Andrew Caballa right out of the gate, instead settling for a 7-1 lead after one period. Caballa, who won a state title at 106 pounds last season, cut the lead to 7-4 in the second period but Alvarado took an 11-6 decision amid deafening cheers from his teammates and fans.
120 -- Palmer's Mason Cochran won a see-saw battle against Service's Joshua Fetko, scoring a two-point reversal with 55 seconds left to claim an 8-7 decision. If not for Fetko's yellow and green shoes, it would have been impossible to tell whose feet were whose as two twisted each other. Fetko took 7-6 lead on nice reversal early in the third period
126 -- There was no messing around between West Valley's Daide Agnew and Kodiak's Eddy Burris. Both came out on the attack and didn't let up until Agnew secured a 15-9 decision. Agnew outmuscled Burris down the stretch, lifting him up and slamming him to the mat late in the final period.
132 -- Service senior John Pounds made quick work of North Pole's Gage Wright, pinning him in 94 seconds. Pounds, who won a state title at 126 pounds last season, put Gage on his back and pushed him around the mat until he gained full control.
138 -- Kenai's Ellery Steffensen survived a spirited match with South's Kraig Hammond, winning by 4-2 decision with a takedown and a pair of escapes. Steffensen's led 3-0 going into the third. Hammond cut it to 3-2, but couldn't crack Steffensen's defenses in the final minute.
145 -- Fans roared as Wasilla's Nate McKimson hung on for dear life against hard-charging Sam Zimmerman of Lathrop. Zimmerman locked in on McKimson's legs and nearly scored a takedown in the final seconds, but time ran out and McKimson earned a 5-3 decision.
152 -- Ferocious spin moves from his opponent highlighted action in Bryce Serna's 4-2 win by decision for Wasilla. Serna held a 2-0 lead starting the third period, but North Pole's Moo Rogers whirled his way to a 2-2 tie. Serna scored the winning take down when he lifted Rogers off the floor and slammed him to the mat.
160 -- Service's Rilen Skieens held Palmer's Luke Heun firmly to the mat for the majority of the match. Heun's body hit the mat with a thud as Skieens took him down in the first round for a 2-0 lead. Skieens cruised to a 7-1 decision for his second state title.
170 -- Testing time and boundary limits, East's Josh Wiggins outlasted West's Leroy Elliot in the only final requiring overtime. On numerous occasions the wrestlers fought their way beyond the mat's boundaries, Wiggins grabbing hold of Elliot's leg during one exchange and forcing Elliot to dance on one foot for about 30 seconds before being taken down near the edge of the circle. Elliot scored a takedown with five seconds left to tie it 4-4. Wiggins escaped from the down position in the third overtime to win 5-4, claiming his second state title.
182 -- Colony's Sawyer Root dominated West Valley's Hiland Story from the start, earning a pin in 5 minutes, 3 seconds. He built a 6-0 lead and never gave Story any chance to make up ground.
195 -- South's Dalton Sauder led the entire match but barely hung on amid deafening noise for a 7-6 decision over Kodiak's Kerry Powers. Sauder nearly pinned Powers in the first period on his way to a 5-0 lead, but Powers put together some nice maneuvers in the second and third. Sauder spent almost the entire third period trying to keep his chest pressed to the mat as Powers kept attempting to flip and pin him.
220 -- Wasilla's Quace Wright shot both hands in the air as the buzzer sounded to end his 3-2 win over Colony's Ian MacKenzie. The two big men roamed all over the mat and were breathing heavily in the final minute. They still managed enough energy for one more frantic, spinning sequence that resulted in a winning take down for Wright.
285 -- Like two bears testing each other's strength, Palmer's Brian Thompson and Kodiak's Salalau Sega started slow. Most of the action came late, with the two heavyweights battling to a 5-5 tie with 32 seconds remaining. Piercing screams from fans echoed through the gym when Sega made an escape with 14 second left to win a 6-5 decision.
Reach Jeremy Peters at email@example.com or 257-4335.
ASAA/First National Bank
Class 4A wrestling tournament
Team scores -- 1) South, 226.02; 2) Wasilla, 222.53; 3) Service, 175.54; 4) Palmer, 162.55; 5) Colony, 149.56; 6) North Pole, 123.07; 7) Kodiak, 122.08; 8) East, 120.09; 9) Ketchikan, 92.510; 10) Chugiak, 92.011; 11) West Valley, 90.512; 12) West, 64.013; 13) Kenai, 45.014; 14) Lathrop, 43.015; 15) Eagle River, 35.016; 16) Bartlett, 29.517; 17) Soldotna, 21.018; 18) Thunder Mountain, 7.019; 19) Dimond, 2.020; 20) Juneau, 0.0.
98 -- Bryan McKimson (Wasilla) p. Trevor Wutzke (Ketchikan), 0:53. 106 -- Noah Ottum (South) p. Cameron Frazier (North Pole), 3:58. 113 -- Matt Glover (South) p. Kadin Hallstrom (Ketchikan), 2:28. 120 -- Rami Pellumbi (South) d. Andrew Concepcion (South), 4-2. 126 -- Alexander Nanez (Service) p. Tyler Wintersteen (Chugiak), 2:23. 132 -- Ryker Steiner (Wasilla) d. Zachary Ritchie (South), 6-3. 138 -- Anthony Sierra (East) d. Kamber Lucas (Colony), 7-0. 145 -- Tyler Thammavongsa (Service), d. Christopher Ray (Colony), 8-2. 152 -- Vince Fricilone (West Valley) d. Robert Huffer (Chugiak), 4-3. 160 -- David Best (North Pole), d. Jean Paul Sosa (East), 7-6. 170 -- Franklyn Dunbar (Service) d. Simon Root (Colony), 3-1. 182 -- Caleb Nielsen (Palmer) d. Alex Medeiros (Chugiak), 4-2. 195 -- Billy Schultz (Wasilla) p. Nicholas Cruz (Service), 0:54. 220 -- Ben Button (Palmer) d. Richard Burroughs (Chugiak), 5-4. 285 -- Cody Ring (Ketchikan) p. John Alexander (Soldotna), 3:33.
By JEREMY PETERS