Junior’s comeback win leads Wolves to second place finish at CIC wrestling tourney

Friday, December 22, 2017 - 13:11
  • Eagle River’s Josh Robles pins East’s Octavius McCleskey during the 113-pound finals at the Cook Inlet Conference werestling tournament on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017 at Chugiak High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s Micah Robles (on bottom) tries to get free from South’s Adam Concepcion during the championship match in the 98-pound weight class at the Cook Inlet Conference wrestling tournament on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017 at Chugiak High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s Collin Blank (in blue) battles South’s Aedyn Concepcion during the 106-pound finals at the Cook Inlet Conference wrestling tournament on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017 at Chugiak High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s Austin Kraft, right, battles South’s Niko Mayo in the finals of the 120-pound weight class at the Cook Inlet Conference wrestling tournament on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017 at Chugiak High. Mayo won a 16-6 decision. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Chugiak’s Riley Demboski bridges during his 132-pound finals match against South’s Riley Harris during the Cook Inlet Conference wrestling tournament on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017 at Chugiak High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s Josh Robles gets interviewed by KTVA-TV reporter John Thompson after winning the 113-pound weight class at the Cook Inlet Conference wrestling tournament on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017 at Chugiak High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Chugiak’s Daniel Niebles tries to get free from Service’s Tyler Farless during the championship match at 170 pounds at the Cook Inlet Conference wrestling tournament at Chugiak High. Farless won by technical fall. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

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

Finals matches

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

Girls finals

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

Chugiak (6)

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.

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