Junior’s comeback win leads Wolves to second place finish at CIC wrestling tourney
Josh Robles was going to have to wait another year for his shot at a conference championship. With less than a minute left in his finals match Saturday at the Cook Inlet Conference tournament, the Eagle River 113-pounder trailed East’s Octavius McCleskey by eight points and was running out of gas.
“I was tired, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do it,’” he said.
But Robles wasn’t about to quit, either, and when McCleskey made a small mistake, Robles pounced.
“I just saw an opportunity and I took it,” he said.
Robles used an uncommon pinning combination, turning McLeskey onto his back while bridging over the top of the East wrestler and pressing down with his back — Robles described it as “kind of like a head-and-arm but from the floor” — to pin the stunned Thunderbirds freshman with just 36 seconds left in the match.
Robles improved to 29-5 on the season, and said he learned a valuable lesson about conditioning in the process.
“I was getting tired, if I had more endurance I could keep on going,” he said.
Eagle River coach Chris Ruggles said he “was jacked” to see Robles pull off the miraculous finish.
“He knew he had to do something big and he did,” Ruggles said.
The win gave Robles the lone win among eight Chugiak-Eagle River wrestlers in the finals and helped the Wolves to their second straight second-place CIC tournament finish.
“It’s taken a lot of time, but success breeds success,” said the Wolves’ fifth-year head coach.
South won the overall title in runaway fashion, racking up 508.5 team points to more than double the Wolves’ output. The Wolverines won nine of 15 weight classes and qualified 23 wrestlers to state. West finished third, followed by Bartlett, Service, East, Dimond and Chugiak.
Ruggles’s team qualified 15 wrestlers to state, one fewer than last year, when the Wolves finished a program-best ninth place.
“That’d be awesome if we could break that, that’s our goal every year to do better than the year before,” Ruggles said.
Ethan Robles (98), Collin Blank (106), Austin Kraft (120) and Grant Burningham (145) also reached the finals for Eagle River, but none could join Josh Robles atop the podium, and all fell to South wrestlers: Ethan Robles lost by technical fall to Adam Concepcion, Blank dropped a major decision to Aedan Concepcion, Kraft lost a major decision to Niko Mayo and Burningham fell 8-4 to Spencer Martin.
Andrew Hamilton placed third at 160 pounds for the Wolves, who also got a fourth-place finish from Caleb Robles at 132.
Chugiak will send six wrestlers to state, half what they sent in 2016. Chugiak had three wrestlers in Saturday’s finals, with Riley Demboski (132), Cameron Peck (138) and Daniel Niebles losing to keep the Mustangs without an individual champ. Demboski and Peck suffered back-to-back pins to — you guessed it, South wrestlers — as Riley Harris got the better of Demboski at the 4:33 mark and Micah Ee stuck Peck in just 50 seconds. Niebles also saw his match end early, with Service’s Tyler Farless posting a technical fall early in the third period. Freshman Grant Jones finished fourth at 145 pounds in his CIC tournament debut.
Farless was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler, while Service coach Daniel Murakami was named Coach of the Year.
Eagle River also had four participants in the girls’ tournament, which was held concurrently with the boys tourney. Caitlyn Blank (106), Caitlin Andrews (120) and Braydn Boswell (132) finished third for the Wolves, while Kyla Trout was fourth at 120.
Wrestlers will get a crack at the rest of Alaska’s Division I and Girls division programs next weekend at the Alaska Airlines Center, where the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska DI/DII/Girls Wrestling State Championships will be held Friday and Saturday, Dec. 15-16.
After winning his first career conference championship, at least one wrestler is already raring to go.
“It was my goal to win the region title,” Robles said. “My next goal is to win state.”
CIC Wrestling Tournament
Friday-Saturday, Chugiak High School
Team scores — 1) South, 508.5; 2) Eagle River, 225; 3) West, 161; 4) Bartlett, 150; 5) Service, 147.5; 6) East, 133; 7) Dimond, 108; 8) Chugiak, 101
98 — Adam Concepcion, South tech. fall Ethan Robles, ER, 17-1 (4:50)
106 — Aedyn Concepcion, South, maj. dec. Collin Blank, ER, 18-4
113 — Josh Robles, ER, p. Octavius McCleskey, 5:24
120 — Niko Mayo, South, maj. dec. Austin Kraft, ER, 16-6
126 — Jacob Shack, South, def. Theo Cha, South, 8-2
132 — Riley Harris, South, p. Riley Demboski, Chu, 4:33
138 — Micah Ee, South, p. Cameron Peck, Chu, 0:50
145 — Spencer Martin, South, def. Grant Burningham, ER, 8-4
152 — Rylan Randolph-Oxholm, Dimond, def. Mason Keffalos, South, 10-4
160 — Jacob Anderson, South, inj. def. Luke Lockard, South
170 — Tyler Farless, Service, tech. fall Daniel Niebles, Chu, 17-2 (4:18)
182 — Auston Vreeland, Dimond, def. Elijah Lear, Bartlett, 9-3
195 — Riley Sweet, South, p. Dylan Webb, East, 0:52
220 — Kaden Caldarera, Service, p. Tyler Cross, South, 1:15
285 — John Faletagoai, Dimond, sudden victory-1, Poe Vaafuti, West, 2-1
106 — Rachelle Bault, Bartlett, p. Carson Adams, West, 0:43
113 — Breeze Anderson, Bartlett, won by default
120 — Tatiana Green, East, def. Katlynn Powell, East, 7-0
132 — Shelby Ottum, South, p. Adrienne Toyukak, Service, 4:42
145 — Madison Ellis, South, p. Caressa Hoover, Bartlett, 2:30
160 — Maleah Vint, West, won by default
182 — Thereisa Vaafuti, West, won by default
220 — Jayleen Sekona, South, p. Ashlan Tisega, West, 3:21
Placewinners (qualifiy for state)
Eagle River (15)
98 — Ethan Robles, 2nd
106 — Collin Blank, 2nd
113 — Josh Robles, 1st; Tyler Ormsbee, 6th
120 — Austin Kraft, 2nd
126 — Lance Plummer, 5th; Domenic Wilkins, 6th
132 — Caleb Robles, 4th
138 — James Salter, 6th
145 — Grant Burningham, 2nd
160 — Andrew Hamilton, 3rd
182 — Michael Caywood, 6th
220 — Will Mourcade, 5th; Collin Bryant, 6th
285 — Makiah Stafford, 4th
106 — Oliver Hays, 6th
132 — Riley Demboski, 2nd
138 — Cameron Peck, 2nd
145 — Grant Jones, 4th
170 — Daniel Niebles, 2nd
285 — Daniel Fujimoto, 6th
Eagle River girls (4)
106 — Caitlyn Blank, 3rd
120 — Caitlin Andrews, 3rd; Kyla Trout, 4th
132 — Braydn Boswell, 3rd
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated Stafford’s placing.