Mix of experience, youth bodes well for Eagle River wrestling

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 - 19:20
Freshman wins Bob Bailey title
Eagle River’s Kyle Daniel squares off against Nicolas Devens of Valdez during the Bob Bailey Invitational on Saturday, Nov. 10 at Chugiak High.

Thanks to a mix of experience and young talent, Eagle River wrestling coach Daren Williams is hoping the Wolves can crack into the top 10 at state this season.

“We’re pushing for that,” he said.

Eagle River has finished 11th in team standings the past two years. Last season, seven Wolves earned a trip to the state tournament.

“I want to match that or top it,” Williams said.

One of the key returners for Eagle River is senior Zack Luff, Williams said.

Luff finished sixth in the 120-pound weight class at state last season.

“That was one of the toughest classes,” Williams said. “He had a great year.”

Williams is expecting similar success this season for Luff — who will be wrestling at 126 pounds.

“I’m looking for a good year out of him,” Williams said. “He’s a dedicated kid.”

The addition of two freshmen — Marcus Amico and Gavin Arnold — has increased the intensity in the gym early in the season, Williams said.

Amico — who capped an undefeated season last year by winning his second straight title at 100 pounds at the Anchorage School District Middle School Championships — and Arnold — who placed second at 121 — have been challenging the team’s upperclassmen, Williams said.

“They’re both tough kids,” he said. “I think they’ll have a great first year.”

Amico couldn’t have started the season off any better. He won the 106-pound title at Chugiak’s Bob Bailey Invitational on Saturday, Nov. 10, helping the Wolves to a ninth-place team finish.

Wasilla won with 155.5 points.

In the championship match, Amico edged South’s Noah Ottum with a 6-5 decision.

Arnold (138) and Cory Florence (145) turned in fourth-place finishes for Eagle River.

Gruening’s benefit to the varsity program doesn’t stop at talent — the middle school has also opened its practice facility to Eagle River.

Instead of searching for a space to roll out their mats, the Wolves are utilizing Gruening’s wrestling room for the first time, Williams said.

“They have their own space,” he said. “Gruening’s been great.”

Each of Eagle River’s 22 wrestlers will benefit from the five assistant coaches helping Williams.

“A lot of individual attention,” he said. “I’m hoping for a great year.”

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