Three local wrestlers win conference titles
Xavier Horton is a fast learner.
In just his second year of wrestling, the Eagle River High junior won the 152-pound Cook Inlet Conference title Saturday, Jan. 26 at Chugiak.
“He’s got a ton of natural ability,” Wolves’ head coach Daren Williams said.
And his work ethic is unparalleled, he said.
“He’s been at every single practice,” including two-a-days over Christmas break, Williams said. “He works hard every day.”
Horton was one of three local grapplers who won conference titles. Chugiak’s Alex Medeiros (182 pounds) and Richard Burroughs (220) also stood atop the podium following the two-day tournament.
Five South High wrestlers won individual titles and nine reached the finals to help the Wolverines finish first as a team with 365.5 points. Chugiak finished fourth and Eagle River was seventh.
In the semifinals, Horton met familiar foe Robert Huffer of Chugiak — Huffer earned a 6-2 decision over Horton 10 days prior. On Saturday, Horton edged his crosstown rival 7-6 to earn a championship berth, and Huffer finished third.
In the finals, Horton scored a point just before time expired to tie the match at 5-5 and force overtime. He scored two points 45 seconds into sudden death to defeat East’s Cesar Guzaman 7-5.
Horton said nothing would keep him from claiming the top spot.
“I had to get what I’ve been working for all year,” he said.
Following the win, Horton was already preparing for the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska 4A Wrestling State Championships, which Bartlett is hosting Friday and Saturday, Feb. 1-2.
“That’s my next goal, win state,” he said.
The top six CIC wrestlers earn state berths. Eagle River is sending seven to state — Marcus Amico (106), Zack Luff (120), Gavin Arnold (132), Cory Florence (145), Horton (152), Jimmy Stemper (160) and Justin Vanderlooven (170). Luff placed sixth at state last year and is the only returning place-winner for the Wolves.
The ten Mustangs heading to state include, Ronald Wagoner (113), Tyler Wintersteen (126), Chase Jury (132), Colt Jury (145), Robert Huffer (152), Karson Forbush (160), Jesse Nelson (182), Alex Medeiros (182), Toren Cheely (195) and Richard Burroughs (220).
Half of that group — Medeiros, Chase Jury, Colt Jury, Forbush and Burroughs — are returning place-winners.
Saturday marked Burroughs’ second straight conference title and second straight time he defeated Service’s Derek Zorea in the championship match.
Zorea had gotten the better of Burroughs the two times they met earlier this season, but the Chugiak junior said he was determined to win Saturday.
“I was wrestling to win, not wrestling not to lose,” he said. “That makes up for the other two he beat me.”
The timing of Burroughs’ victory over the Service senior couldn’t have been better, said Mustangs’ head coach Tom Huffer Jr.
“He beat him when it counted,” he said.
Medeiros, a senior, cruised to a 15-0 technical fall victory over Keahi Queja of East. Coming off of a shoulder injury that kept him sidelined most of the season, Medeiros said he feels great.
Coach Huffer was concerned about Medeiros’ shoulder, but said the time off proved beneficial.
“I was really worried about him,” he said. “It looks like the rest was good for him.”
Chugiak had five wrestlers reach the conference finals. Senior Chase Jury (132 pounds) lost to Service’s John Pounds 14-2. His younger brother, Colt Jury, lost 7-0 to Tyler Thammavongsa of Service in the 145-pound title match.
Chugiak’s Karson Forbush was pinned by wrestler of the meet Rilen Skieens of Service in the 160-pound title match.
Overall, Eagle River had a good showing at the CIC tournament, Williams said.
“We wrestled hard and I’m proud of them,” he said.
Horton likes the Wolves’ chances at state.
“We’re gonna have a good chance at getting a lot of places,” he said. “The whole team has been working hard.”
Coach Huffer, too, was pleased with the number of Mustangs that will be wrestling this weekend.
Having five reach the finals is a sign that the Mustangs are on their way to building the program, Colt Jury said.
“Last year, we said we’re gonna put Chugiak back on top and we did,” he said. “We’re all motivated for next weekend, I can tell you that.”
Other local place winners included: Marcus Amico, ER, third at 106; Ronald Wagoner, Chu, fifth at 113; Zack Luff, ER, third at 120; Tyler Wintersteen, Chu, third at 126; Gavin Arnold, ER, fourth at 132; Cory Florence, ER, fifth at 145; Robert Huffer, Chu, third at 152; Jimmy Stemper, ER, fifth at 160; Justin Vanderlooven, ER, sixth at 170; Jesse Nelson, Chu, sixth at 182; Toren Cheely, Chu, sixth at 195.
For full CIC tournament results, visit www.trackwrestling.com.