New faces in Wolves' wrestling pack
Eagle River has a new head coach, lots of new faces and plenty of optimism heading into the 2011-12 wrestling campaign.
“It’s not about quantity, it’s quality,” said senior standout Dominic Taus.
First-year coach Daren Williams took over the head job after Lance Bodeen stepped aside to spend more time with his family. Williams, a longtime Eagle River assistant, said he’s enjoying the role — most of it, at least.
“There’s a lot of paperwork,” he joked.
Eagle River returns four state qualifiers from last season, led by seniors Taus — who won the Cook Inlet Conference title at 135 pounds last season — and Logan Sheets, who was third at the conference tournament a year ago.
Taus and Sheets are among five Wolves’ wresters ranked in the top six at the Class 4A level, according to website akmat.org, which released its first rankings of the season last week. After a disappointing showing at the Bob Bailey tourney, Taus was ranked sixth at 145 pounds, while Sheets held down the No. 4 spot at 170.
Williams said he’s actually got a glut of talent at 170, as talented sophomore Nate Gorski (ranked sixth) is also starting the season at that weight.
“We’ve got a couple good kids there,” Williams said, noting that one of the two wrestlers may move to a different weight class.
Other akmat.org-ranked Wolves include junior Zach Luff (sixth at 126) and junior Kevin Gilliland (sixth at 220).
Taus made the state finals at 135 last season, and he said that’s where he’d like his season to end again this time around.
“State finals, that’s the goal,” he said.
In order to do that, Taus will have to get through a stacked 145-pound weight class that also includes both defending state champ Auston Tennis of Soldotna and runner-up Matt Downing of East Anchorage.
“Those are the two big ones,” Taus said.
Eagle River has about 25 wrestlers in the program this year, the bulk of whom are younger athletes.
“We’ve got a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” Taus said.
Williams said all that youth means the team’s coaching staff will have its work cut out for it.
“You can only teach so much advanced stuff at first,” he said.
Eagle River lost Jake Borrego (third in state at 130) and Nate Williams (sixth at 215) to graduation, while a couple other standouts with eligibility left are still on the fence about joining the team.
“We’re working on ‘em,” Williams joked.
However, the team has an experienced coaching staff (Williams has been with the program as a volunteer or assistant since Eagle River’s first season), and Williams thinks the Wolves will see vast improvement as the season goes on. And, if the likes of Taus, Luff and Gorski can live up to their potential, Williams said the Wolves could be a team to be reckoned with when conference and state meets roll around.
“Overall, as the season goes on, by the end I think we’ll have a pretty decent team,” he said.
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mustangs tie for 12th in Palmer
Chugiak tied Skyview for 12th place at the 26-team Lancer Smith Memorial tournament in Palmer on Nov. 18-19.
Senior Garrett Morrison made a tournament final for the second week in a row, only to lose by fall to the same wrestler. Morrison was pinned by Service’s Stephen Ellis in the 195-pound finals, but still went 3-1 in the tourney to earn second place. Morrison is currently the No. 2 ranked wrestler at 195 pounds, according to akmat.org.
Chugiak’s top-ranked 182-pounder Jacob Granado skipped the Lancer Smith tourney with a shoulder injury.
The Mustangs had three wrestlers place fifth in the tournament. Junior Chase Jury went 6-2 to claim fifth at 126 pounds, senior Jake Wenzl was 5-2 at 132 pounds and sophomore Richard Burroughs went 3-2 at 220. Junior Alex Medeiros finished 3-3 at 195 pounds to claim sixth.