Future stars shine at City Championships

Five earn middle school wrestling titles


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Mirror Lake Middle School wrestler Josh Edwards ties up Mears’ Shane Piscoya during their finals match at 127 pounds during the Anchorage City Championships on Thursday, Feb. 21 at Goldenview Middle School. Edwards won by fall to claim the title.

Matt Tunseth

While wrestling’s place in the Olympics is currently in doubt, there’s no question about the future of local wrestling.

Chugiak-Eagle River middle schoolers earned five individual titles at the Anchorage City Championships Feb. 21, with Mirror Lake placing second overall and Gruening taking seventh. Between them, the two local schools had finalists in nine of the 18 weight classes.

“I feel like a proud parent,” said MLMS head coach Todd Gillespie.

Mirror Lake also won the junior varsity championship.

Gillespie credited his team’s large staff of mostly volunteer coaches with his team’s success.

“If we didn’t have that kind of participation it wouldn’t work,” he said. “It’s always been that way.”

Mirror Lake had three individual champions — all eighth-graders — including Josh Edwards at 127 pounds, Dawson Budke at 133 and Merrick Johnson at 190. Gruening’s titlists were Terry Park (85 pounds) and Derryk Snell (148).

After winning his finals match with a decisive pin over Mears’ Andrew Hampton, Park looked almost stunned after capturing his first City title.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I’ve never felt anything like it before.”

Park said he was confident entering the tournament at Goldenview Middle School, but said he never imagined he’d return to Gruening as the city’s top 85-pounder.

“It’s cool just knowing I’ll go back to school and everybody will be like, ‘Oh my God, you won!’”

Snell, Park’s seventh-grade teammate, had one of the most exciting matches of the finals. With just three seconds remaining in his match against Mears’ Hunter Fanning, Snell earned a reversal to win by a single point.

“I was pretty happy,” Snell said.

After freeing his head from Fanning’s arm to earn the winning points, Snell said he glanced at the clock ticking down and realized he’d earned a title.

“I was just freaking out in my head,” he said.

Mears won the overall title with 236.5 points, besting MLMS by 9.5 points.

All three of the Coyotes’ finals wins looked easy. At 127 pounds, Josh Edwards overcame an early deficit to pin Mears’ Shane Piscoya.

“This is amazing,” Edwards said.

Budke got a third-round pin in his finals match with Goldenview’s Kaden Caldarera, a wrestler he hadn’t faced all season.

“I had no idea what to expect,” Budke said. “He was strong.”

Budke’s win was especially meaningful after a couple years of disappointment at City’s.

“After two years of coming in second, I finally got it,” he said.

Johnson manhandled his opponent at 190 pounds, pinning Goldenview’s Buddy Ingram in one of the event’s toughest weight classes.

“Just physicality,” is what he used to subdue Ingram, Johnson said.

Johnson said he was proud to come out on top in the tournament’s second-largest weight class.

“I’m excited. There’s a lot of big kids here,” he said.

Other local finalists included Mirror Lake’s Cody Keen (90), Ashton Franchino (110) and Jakub Kindred (140). Bret Jedlicki placed second for Gruening.

Earning third-place victories for the Coyotes were Tanner Holta (75), Dallas Mayhew (95), Trevor Hicks (160) and Michael Mrugala. Chris Elder (115) and Brennan Dalgleish (148) placed fourth.

For the Colts, Grant Burningham (100) and Hayden Painter (127) placed fourth.

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