Six local grapplers place at West tourney
Eagle River and Chugiak wrestlers took to the mat at the West High Christmas Classic on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 20-21.
Fifteen teams competed in the tournament. The Mustangs placed 11th with 89 points, and Eagle River followed right on their heels for a 12th place finish with 74 points. Wasilla won the team title with 255 points.
Six local grapplers finished sixth overall or better. Chugiak’s Toren Cheely (182 pounds) edged Jakob Fejes of South, with Cheely coming from behind and scoring the winning point in the last 15 seconds, sliding by with a 9-8 decision for a fifth-place finish.
“In the beginning I was getting a feel for him and then during the end I didn’t want to give up,” Cheely said. “When I got him in the standing position, I knew I had him. I was pretty stoked.”
Chugiak’s Jesse Nelson (182) was fourth, falling to Kenai’s Kyle Hunter 7-6 in the third-place match.
Chugiak sophomore Brandon Lowe, wrestling in the 160-pound division, came from behind to pin Joshua King of East with 16 seconds left in the match, earning him third-place bragging rights.
“I was very well prepared,” he said.
Lowe alternates between the 160 and 170 weight divisions.
“I like 160 best because it gives me a good challenge and because I can use more muscle,” he said.
He credits his coaches with mentally prepping him for matches.
“Our coaches always tell us, ‘Don’t look at the scoreboard,’ and I didn’t look,” he said.
Lowe knew he had King the moment he had him in pin position.
“We have a saying, ‘Squeezzzze,’ and we say it with about sixes. And then you squeeze with every muscle you have,” he said. “That’s what I did.”
Brian Cuddeback, Chugiak coach, was happy with his team’s performance.
“We had a remarkable day,” he said. “Probably the best wrestling we’ve had all season.”
His team had a lot more heart and wrestled smarter, he said.
“There was a change in the kids from yesterday, and it was a good change,” he said.
Eagle River also showed a lot of heart, especially when Ed Hall hit the mat.
“Ed’s a beast,” a boy shouted from the crowd.
Hall (195) won with a 4-2 decision over Josh Reed of West for the third place overall finish.
The match featured a lot of maneuvering, a lot of strategy, a lot of mind games. Hall remained unruffled.
“I was thinking, ‘I’m not going to let him take me down.’ I just kept looking for that crawl space,” he said.
Hall, a former wrestler, joined the team just a few weeks ago.
“I go into every match believing I can win,” he said.
Eagle River’s Hayden Riebe (145) finished fourth, falling to Wasilla’s Andrew Shannon 14-2 in the third-place match. The Wolves’ David Wilson (152) placed sixth.
Eagle River head coach Chris Ruggles was pleased with his team’s effort.
“I’m happy with the way things turned out,” he said, adding that three of his top wrestlers were away wrestling a tournament in Reno, Nev.
“We did fairly well for the guys we have here. Still,” he added, “there’s a lot of room of improvement, seeing that we’re halfway through the season.”
Five Chugiak and three Eagle River wrestlers competed in the Reno Tournament of Champions in Nevada this past weekend. These included Chugiak wrestlers Dustin Holta, Jared Reed, Colt Jury, Robert Heffer and Richard Burrough, and Eagle River wrestlers Marcus Amico, Gavin Arnold and Xavier Horton.