Trio of champion grapplers lead way to state
Garrett Morrison and Dominic Taus are double trouble.
Chugiak’s Morrison and Eagle River’s Taus each earned their second consecutive Cook Inlet Conference wrestling titles on Saturday, Jan. 28 at Chugiak High. The two seniors were joined at the top of the podium by Chugiak sophomore Richard Burroughs, who claimed a narrow 8-7 finals win over Service’s Derek Zorea at 220 pounds for his first CIC title.
But there’s still plenty of work left ahead.
“It’s a pretty good feeling, but the state tournament’s all that matters,” Taus said.
Morrison pinned Eagle River’s Ed Hall early in the second round of their finals clash at 189 pounds. Taus earned a hard-fought victory with a 3-1 win over East’s Cesar Guzman at 145, getting a pair of back exposure points at the final whistle to break a 1-1 tie.
“He’s gotten a lot better,” Taus said of Guzman.
After pinning all three of his opponents in the tournament, Morrison agreed that a region title is nice — but far from the ultimate goal.
“The next step is the first match at state,” Morrison said. “That’s all I’m thinking about.”
Chugiak finished fourth in the team standings. Eagle River was sixth.
Burroughs’ match was one of the most exciting of the evening. Facing a wrestler who had already beaten him twice in Zorea, Burroughs used a late third-period escape to pick up the come-from-behind win — sending the large pro-Chugiak crowd into a frenzy.
“It’s an undescribable feeling,” Burroughs said.
The Mustangs will send 13 wrestlers to this weekend’s state tournament, which will be held Feb. 3-4 at Bartlett High. Seven Eagle River athletes earned state tourney berths.
Morrison won the CIC’s 215-pound class last season, Taus won at 135. Both lost in the state finals at their respective weights. Burroughs reached state as a freshman last season, but did not place.
Heading into the tourney, Morrison is the No. 1 ranked 182-pounder in the state, according to akmat.org, while Taus is No. 3 at 145 behind Wasilla’s Tyler Adams and Soldotna’s Auston Tennis.
Five Mustangs earned third place finishes over the weekend, including sophomore Robert Huffer (152); juniors Chase Jury (126) and Alex Medeiros (195); and seniors Jake Wenzl (132) and Kody Trombley (285).
Chugiak coach Tom Huffer Jr. Said he was pleased with the team’s showing. Chugiak’s 13 qualifiers is the most since the Mustangs also sent 13 athletes to state in 2009.
“That’s more than we’ve had in a few years,” Huffer said.
The Chugiak coach was especially pleased with the group’s youth. Of the qualifiers, only Morrison, Wenzl and Trombley are seniors.
“It’s a real young group,” he said.
Other state qualifiers for Chugiak include freshman Colten Jury (5th at 138) and Jesse Peterson (6th at 120); sophomores Karson Forbush (4th at 160), Elijah McKenzie (6th, 106) and Ron Wagoner (6th at 113); and junior Tyler Wintersteen (5th at 126).
For Eagle River, sophomore Nate Gorski (160), junior Zack Luff (120) and senior Logan Sheets (170) all finished third.
Other Eagle River qualifiers include junior Jachi Madubuko (4th at 195) and senior Dylan Simmons (6th at 160).
Wolves coach Daren Williams said he hoped to get a couple more wrestlers to state, but he’s pleased with the team he’s bringing to Bartlett.
“Overall I’m really happy with the guys we’re taking,” said Williams, whose team had six wrestlers in the top four spots at the CIC tourney.
Williams said he believes many of those wrestlers have the ability to make deep runs in the state bracket.
“Points-wise I think we should do better than we did last year,” he said.