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Spencer Woods of Shungnak is headed to Olympic wrestling trials

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: November 17, 2019
  • Published November 17, 2019

Spencer Woods of Shungnak is headed to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for wrestling.

Woods, a 2016 graduate of Kotzebue High School, earned a berth in next year’s Greco-Roman trials Friday at the Bill Farrell Memorial International Open in New York City.

Woods finished second in a loaded field at 77 kilograms (170 pounds). Because he was the top American finisher in the weight class, Woods qualified for the April 4-5 Olympic trials at Penn State, according to USA Wrestling.

He won four straight matches Friday, outscoring opponents 24-6, before losing to Egypt’s Hassan Hassan Ahmed Mohamed in the championship match.

Woods, who trains at Northern Michigan University’s Olympic training site, won Alaska state high school championships in 2014 and 2015.

After high school he headed to the University of Maryland to wrestle collegiately, but he left the team after a year when he switched from folkstyle wrestling to Greco-Roman. Greco-Roman wrestling is all about upper-body strength -- competitors aren’t allowed to go for their opponent’s legs.

In a Friday semifinal match, Woods clinched a spot at the Olympic trials by defeating Jesse Porter 5-0 in an all-American match. Porter was coming off a huge victory in the preliminaries, where he defeated reigning Olympic champion Davor Stefanik of Serbia 11-1.

In the finals, Mohamed handed Woods a 6-1 loss.

Woods is believed to be the first Alaska man to qualify for the Olympic trials since Anchorage’s Philip Johnston in 2008. Earlier this month, he captured the gold medal at the Malar Cupen, an international meet in Asteras, Sweden. At the U.S. Open in April, he took second place in the 82-kilogram weight class.