High School Sports

‘Go out and kick butt’: Kenai wrestler gets encouragement from a former foe on his title run

Andrew Gaethle had a chance encounter just before his championship match Saturday at the Division II state wrestling tournament.

Gaethle, a senior 152-pounder from Kenai Central, crossed paths with Glennallen’s Alex Buck, the wrestler who defeated him for the 2021 state title at 152 pounds.

Buck’s message was short and to the point: “He just told me to go out and kick butt,” Gaethle said, relaying the message.

Gaethle did just that. He defeated Leo Wald of Haines by technical fall 16-1 in a dominating performance.

It was the exclamation mark on a near-perfect run for Gaethle, who hadn’t allowed a single point through all of his matches at regionals or state until the finals.

“My plan was to win,” he said. “My ultimate goal was to not get scored on. But I got scored on, he got an escape point.”

The 9-2 loss to Buck, who was a senior last year, was definitely on Gaethle’s mind during the course of his postseason matches.


“It was super motivating,” he said. “After that, I was determined to work and get back.”

While many wrestlers are willing to give up escape points with plans of compiling even more takedowns, Gaethle has a different strategy.

“I love to ride,” he said. “I love to ride and try to turn.”

One thing was certain when Myles Campbell started his 2022 wrestling season for Redington: He was not going to be competing at the 112-pound weight class where he won a state title in 2021.

Campbell, who spent much of the summer traveling for Greco tournaments and camps, came in significantly heavier.

It didn’t matter for the junior.

Campbell earned a first-round pin against Bethel’s Paul Dyment to earn the state title at 130, his second career championship.

Campbell and Dyment had split a pair of matches earlier in the season, but Campbell caught him with a takedown that gave him top control and earned a quick pin.

“I was surprised when I got that,” he said.

While it’s not unusual for wrestlers to move up in weight class as they get older, moving up 18 pounds and three weight classes is significant.

“It was quite different,” he said. “They were a lot stronger and with better technique. I learned some more technique. I’m used to being able to muscle kids and it’s nice to be able to use that stuff.”

The 18-pound weight gain not only meant better competition for Campbell but more snacks as well.

“It’s pretty nice,” he joked. “Now that the season is over before club starts I can eat as much as I want.”

Chris Bieri

Chris Bieri is the sports and entertainment editor at the Anchorage Daily News.