Sports

Alaska sports week in review: State wrestling full of surprises, Chugiak hockey remains undefeated

This past week in Alaska sports saw a pair of prep programs dominate, a pair of collegiate programs come up short and a junior team split a road series. There were also some athletes with Last Frontier roots that shined Outside. On the prep sports scene, South Anchorage won its first state wrestling title since 2018 and Chugiak boys hockey continued its strong start to the season after a lengthy break. On the college scene, the University of Alaska Anchorage women’s basketball team got blown out on the road while the men’s hockey team got swept by its in-state rival for the second straight week.

Headlines and highlights

After finishing as runner-up in two of the last three years, the South Anchorage High School boys wrestling team broke the stranglehold that Colony had by claiming its first Division I crown in three years over the weekend at the state championships.

The Wolverines had their title wrapped up before the finals were even finished, thanks to the incredible performance of their wrestlers in the consolation rounds Saturday morning.

[South claims Division I state wrestling title thanks to the ‘backside boys’]

“It’s been a few years, and it feels really good,” South head coach Randy Hanson said. “We’ve been close a couple years and fallen short. We had some adversity this year like every team but the guys showed up these last two days.”

While the Knights saw their consecutive team title streak come to an end, the Lathrop girls extended their run by claiming a third straight team title highlighted by a pair of individual champions, Megan Spencer at 107 pounds and Amaya Coon at 114 pounds. This marked Spencer’s second year in a row claiming a title after she won state at 103 pounds in 2021.

After narrowly finishing as runner-up last year, the Redington boys team won the Division II team title with an absolutely dominant showing at state. Like the Wolverines, they were propelled to the top spot thanks their depth dominating in the back side of the bracket as well. The Huskies had three wrestlers make it to the finals and two won individual titles. Myles Campbell bulked up and won a title for the second year in a row, this time at 130 pounds and his teammate, Thomas Swalling, won his first at 145 pounds.

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Last week’s snow storm didn’t allow for a full slate of extra curricular activities but the top-ranked Chugiak boys hockey team (9-0-1) was able to squeeze in another impressive performance in between school cancellations. Thanks to a hat trick by senior forward Ajay Johnson, the Mustangs remained undefeated, extended their winning streak to eight in a row and handed reigning Division I state champion Dimond (4-3-1) its first loss to a conference opponent in the process.

[Chemistry, physicality and work ethic have propelled Chugiak hockey to an undefeated start]

On the college hockey scene, the UAA men’s team returned home for the second leg in the return of the annual Governor’s Cup this past weekend after getting swept by in-state rival UAF in the first last week. The end result was the same for the Seawolves as the Nanooks swept them again to hand them their fourth straight loss. Unlike last week when they were able to score a pair of goals in both games, they got shut out in both contests this time around.

While his team wasn’t able to find success on the ice this past week, UAA hockey coach Matt Shasby was able to have some better luck on the recruiting trail by having local product Caleb Huffman sign a National Letter of Intent to join the program after the holiday break. The Anchorage native has appeared in 87 games for the Kenai River Brown Bears of the NAHL where he has recorded five goals and 19 assists for 24 career points.

“Caleb is a hometown kid who has really found his game over the past couple of years in junior hockey,” said Shasby in a statement. “He plays with an edge to his game that makes him tough to play against, and his skill set allows him to contribute offensively. We are very excited to be adding Caleb at semester and feel he will make an immediate impact.”

A day after the hockey team got shut out for the second straight time in the frigid Last Frontier, the UAA women’s basketball team got blown out in sunny southern California 88-58 by undefeated Cal State Dominguez Hills. It marked the second loss for the Seawolves on the young season but their first in lopsided fashion. Senior guard Rachel Ingram came off the bench and led the team in both minutes with 28 and points with 14 as the only player to reach double figures in any statistical category.

The UAA men’s basketball team didn’t take the court this past week but it did land a notable recruit for the future of the program, announcing Utah prep standout Trey Evans signed his National Letter of Intent to join the team. The 6-foot-5 point guard is averaging 9.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 3.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game for Real Salt Lake Academy and is the first member of the Seawolves 2023 recruiting class.

“We are excited to welcome Trey to Seawolf Nation. He is a special player who makes his teams better and impacts winning in so many areas,” said head coach Rusty Osborne in a statement. “Trey is definitely a Division I-caliber player and had opportunities there if he wanted. But with his father being a former D-II All-American, he understands the quality of D-II basketball.”

Osborne coached against Evans’ father, David, when he starred at BYU-Hawaii.

One Seawolf that did enjoy some success in his respective sport was junior alpine skier Leon Nikic. He led UAA with a pair of top-10 finishes at the Nor-Am races at Beaver Creek with a sixth-place finish in the slalom race on Dec. 14 followed by a ninth-place finish on Dec. 15.

The UAA volleyball program announced the promotion of longtime assistant Stacie Meisner to the position of head coach. The former Seawolf player turned coach will be replacing the coach she played for and served under in Chris Green, who resigned last month as the most successful coach in program history.

[UAA hires longtime assistant Stacie Meisner as new head volleyball coach]

The Anchorage Wolverines played the first two legs of a five-game road trip with a two-game series with the Wisconsin Windigo that they split, dropping the first and winning the second. They had three players record a pair of goals over the weekend with Anchorage natives Aiden Westin and Cameron Morris finding the net once in each game and forward Kyle Bauer scoring both of his in the second.

Alaska stars shining Outside

Utqiagvik native and former Barrow high school hoops star Kamaka Hepa scored a career-high in points in his last time on the court when the University of Hawaii Manoa men’s basketball team beat Saint Francis 90-66 on Dec. 11. The 6-foot-10 senior forward led the Rainbow Warriors in minutes with 36, rebounds with 14, and in points with a career-high 30 for his second double-double of the season.

During his first two years of playing prep basketball in Alaska before finishing his last two in Portland, Oregon, Hepa led the Whalers to back-to-back state championships as a freshman and sophomore and was twice named Alaska’s Gatorade Player of the Year.

After placing eighth in Norway the week before in her first race back from illness, Alaska Pacific Nordic Ski Center member, Rosie Brennan, reached the podium this past weekend after finishing third at the Davos 20K freestyle race in Switzerland. She was pleased to have such a strong turnaround after a “disappointing” showing the day before to finish on the podium the second day.

“It was a tight race the whole way and I am thrilled to have just nipped the podium spot,” Brennan wrote in a statement. “I have never done a 20K interval start which was probably true for the whole field today. That made it really tricky to know the pace or really what to expect. I love the course here and love skiing at altitude so I had some confidence that I could find a steady pace and hold it. I had really good skis today and did all I could to push the downhill on the last lap which just barely snuck me on the podium.”

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Brennan’s fellow American Jessie Diggins finished first in the 20K. Anchorage’s Gus Schumacher placed 18th in the 20K on the men’s side.

Anchorage’s Jeremy Swayman and North Pole’s Pheonix Copley made history for Alaska hockey Saturday when they became the first goaltenders from the Last Frontier to win games in the National Hockey League on the same day. Swayman stopped 31 shots between the posts for the Boston Bruins in a 4-2 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets while Copley prevented 23 shots from finding the back of the net for the Los Angeles Kings to beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2.

Last week’s results

Prep Hockey

Boys

Tuesday

West 9, Service 1

Wednesday

Chugiak 6, Dimond 2

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Friday

West 5, Eagle River 4

Saturday

Dimond 6, Service 1

Eagle River 11, Bartlett 1

Basketball

Thursday

West Valley 63, Service 55

Friday

West 78, Colony 76

Monroe Catholic 45, Service 31

Doherty 57, South 39

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Ketchikan 78, Chugiak 63

Wasilla 66, Eagle River 41

Saturday

Doherty 73, West 41

Service 61, Lathrop 44

Eastside Catholic 65, Dimond 49

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Wasilla 54, South 49

Ketchikan 82, Chugiak 59

Colony 65, Eagle River 53

Wrestling

State Wrestling Tournament

Division I Boys Team Top 5

1. South Anchorage 275; 2. Soldotna 261.5; 3. Lathrop 180.5; 4. Wasilla 176; 5. Colony 174.

Division II Boys Team Top 5

1. Redington 172.5; 2. Kenai Central 118.5; 3. Bethel 100; 4. Petersburg 90; 5. Delta 86.

Girls Team Top 5

1. Lathrop 179.5; 2. North Pole 149; 3. Soldotna 113; 4. Bethel 81; 5. (tie) Colony 79; 5. (tie) Service 79.

College

Women’s Basketball

Sunday

Cal State 88, UAA 58

Hockey

Friday

UAF 4, UAA 0

Saturday

UAF 1, UAA 0

NAHL

Friday

Wisconsin Windigo 5, Anchorage Wolverines 2

Saturday

Anchorage Wolverines 6, Wisconsin Windigo 4


Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

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