National Sports

Four Alaska youth wrestlers claim national titles, continuing to bolster the state’s reputation on the mat

Coaches for Team Alaska at the USA Wrestling Kids National Tournament often field a throng of questions about the 49th state from competitors and other coaches, ranging from climate to wildlife interactions.

However, last month when the team finished second overall in the Greco-Roman portion of the event on the first day, the line of questioning shifted on day two when the freestyle tournament took place.

“They came back that second day and it was all about ‘How do you have so many good kids coming all the way from Alaska?’ ” Mat-Su Matmen coach Daniel Graham said.

Four Alaskans from Anchorage and Mat-Su were crowned national champions by the end of the tournament, held from June 27-30 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

On the first day during the Greco-Roman portion, Kanin Kumfer finished first in the 14U division at 71 pounds, as did Manny Novelli in 14U at 87 pounds and Shane Ostermiller in 14U at 125 pounds. The only champion crowned on the second day for the freestyle portion was Cadan McPeck in the 8U division at 53 pounds.

When the tournament was last held in Farmington, Utah, in 2022, Team Alaska took a record 29 kids. Even though their numbers weren’t as great, the Alaska contingent of wrestlers was still strong with nine other top eight placers in addition to the quartet of title winners.

“It was good placing that many kids,” Graham said. “It was a lot tougher this year than it was in Utah the last couple of years.”


He was impressed by the effort and performance all of the Alaska wrestlers put forth over the course of the tournament and was especially proud of the four who made it to the top of their respective podiums and disciplines.

“A lot of those guys are the same age and same general weight class so they’re wrestling each other half the time in the state of Alaska and then to all go and win national titles is pretty cool,” Graham said.

McPeck is practice partners with Graham’s daughter Kailey, who is also a former national champ. He was the youngest of the bunch crowned champion. Graham said it was gratifying to watch him finally ascend to those heights after making it to finals on the first day in Greco but coming up short.

“He has been battling pretty tough and done a great job in these tournaments the past couple of years so it’s pretty cool to see him break through and win his first national title,” Graham said. “For him to come back the second day and take the title was really exciting for all of us coaches to see.”

This tournament marked the second year in a row that Kumfer claimed a national title. Last year he was crowned champion in freestyle and got runner-up in Greco-Roman.

Novelli added to his growing coffer of titles by tearing through a formidable bracket in the boys 14U 87-pound division with relative ease.

“Manny had a really tough bracket too,” Graham said. “(In the finals) match, he was wrestling a really tough kid and just made it look easy. His road to get to a (technical) fall was as good as it gets.”

After receiving a first-round bye, Novelli defeated all four of his opponents by technical fall, which is when a wrestler gains what is deemed an insurmountable point advantage. He blew out his first opponent 14-3 and shut out his last three by a combined 25-0.

[Anchorage youth wrestler Manny Novelli’s confidence soars after multiple national titles]

Ostermiller has been on a similar tear the past couple of years. He won a title at Kids Nationals in 2022, came up short of a repeat last year and bounced back in 2024.

The continued growth of the sport at the youth level throughout Alaska in recent years has helped the program thrive but just as importantly, it has earned them more respect from their peers around the country.

“These last couple of years have been a lot of growth,” Graham said. “It’s no longer just a neat experience for someone to see (a competitor) from Alaska wrestling. Now when they face a kid from Alaska, there is that respect and they don’t just look at them like it’s going to be an easy match anymore.”

Team Alaska Wrestling Kids Nationals Top 8 finishers

Cadan McPeck: 1st in freestyle and 2nd in Greco-Roman at 8U-53lbs

Kanin Kumfer: 1st in Greco-Roman and 5th in freestyle at 14U-71lbs

Shane Ostermiller: 1st in Greco-Roman and 3rd in freestyle at 14U-125lbs

Logan Beck: 3rd in Greco-Roman and 3rd in freestyle at 14U-136lbs

Roy Dschaak: 8th in freestyle at 10U-49lbs


Bridger Graham: 6th in Greco-Roman and 6th in freestyle at 10U-56lbs

Mason Green: 2nd in freestyle and 3rd in Greco-Roman at 10U-105lbs

Manny Novelli: 1st in Greco-Roman at 14U-87lbs

Refan Yundt: 6th in Greco-Roman at 14U-92lbs

Mick Dobbs: 5th in Greco-Roman at 14U-92lbs

Finley McPeck: 5th in Greco-Roman at 10U-53lbs

Mason Novelli: 4th in Greco-Roman at 10U-59lbs

Kailey Graham: 8th in Greco-Roman at 12U-108lbs

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.