Wolves second at Bob Bailey Invite

New coach takes over Eagle River wrestling


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Eagle River High head wrestling coach Chris Ruggles, left, watches a match during the Bob Bailey Invitational on Saturday, Nov. 16 at Bartlett. This is Ruggles’ first year running the Wolves’ varsity program.

PHOTO BY DAN SHEPARD

Chris Ruggles couldn’t have started his first season at the helm of Eagle River High’s wrestling program much better.

With just 11 grapplers, the Wolves placed second out of 14 teams at the Bob Bailey Invitational on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 15-16 at Bartlett High.

East won the team title with 176.5 points and nearly twice as many wrestlers as Eagle River (102 points).

The Wolves’ high finish surprised many of the other teams, Ruggles said.

“We opened a lot of eyes,” he said.

Eagle River sophomores Marcus Amico (126 pounds) and Gavin Arnold (138) finished first in their weight classes. Arnold pinned Chugiak’s Dawson Budke in 1:34 in the championship match, and Amico won via forfeit.

Senior Xavier Horton — last year’s top Cook Inlet Conference wrestler at 152 pounds — took second at 170 pounds, losing to Austin Rake, of Valdez, by pinfall in 2:45.

Hayden Riebe (145) finished third for the Wolves in an 18-5 major decision over Brian Allen, of Vadez.

An assistant at Chugiak High last season, Ruggles takes over for Daren Williams.

Ruggles, a physical education teacher at Eagle River Elementary, wrestled from kindergarten through high school. While in college at Brigham Young University, he served as head coach for a junior high team.

Ruggles is making a few changes to the Wolves’ program.

His practices are closed to parents, Ruggles said, and each Eagle River wrestler signed a contract that holds them to higher standards than what the Anchorage School District requires of its athletes.

Ruggles wants to change the attitude other teams have about Eagle River.

“Right now, a lot of people check us off their list,” he said.

Last week’s performance certainly helped.

“It was just awesome for the team to see we can be something,” Ruggles said.

Ruggles, who is the Wolves’ fourth head coach in nine years, also wants to bring stability to Eagle River.

“I have every intention on being there for a while,” he said.

Eagle River has decent numbers (between 22 and 25 on the roster), Ruggles said, and should have a strong showing this season.

“We have a very bright future,” he said.

Ruggles, who focuses on conditioning at practice, said work ethic is what makes the difference.

“We have the talent,” he said. “If we do what we’re supposed to do and work hard, it always pays off.”

Budke’s second-place finish led Chugiak, which also brought 11 wrestlers. The Mustangs placed 10th as a team with 61 points.

Ashton Franchino (113) and Dustin Holta (132) each finished third for Chugiak. Franchino pinned Service’s Evan Enyart in 1:58 while Holta edged Bartlett’s Tyler Nunez 3-1.

For full results, visit www.trackwrestling.com.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com.

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