Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Juneau’s high school wrestling team, a mix of Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kalé and Thunder Mountain grapplers, hosted the Brandon Pilot Invitational at Thunder Mountain High School over the weekend.
TMHS seniors Camden Erickson and Nate Houston were honored before the finals matches since this will be their only home meet this season.
“It’s a pretty weird feeling knowing that the end is near,” Erickson said. “The season is definitely a bit different than most seasons, but we are making the best out of it.”
Erickson took the 215 pound finals over Wrangell’s Jake Eastaugh and finished the weekend undefeated, with seven wins, while Houston bumped up in weight from 125 to 130 pounds for more matches and went 6-0 on the weekend.
“I am just looking forward to getting better and working on what I need to do to further my life,” Houston said. “Hopefully wrestling can help with that. We have a lot of new faces on the team, a lot of new people to meet, and a lot of new friendships to make.”
The tournament is named in honor of Brandon Pilot, a Crimson Bears freshman who died in a car accident on Fish Creek Road on Nov. 18, 2000. A week later, the wrestling team went on with the scheduled Thanksgiving Classic wrestling meet, dedicating it to Pilot’s memory and won the team title. The following year the tournament was renamed in his honor, and each year since it has showcased the wrestling talent from across Southeast.
Juneau coach Josh Houston said this season has been a bit strange with a move from October to late March and with COVID-19 protocols.
“The multiple rules and regulations between state and federal and local and obviously the school district having their own rules has been a lot,” he said. “It is just a lot to juggle. It takes a lot of people helping out… the athletic director, and other coaches… a lot of things to do to make sure we are doing it in a way we can continue to do it.”
Coach Houston said the team is small but numbers won’t deter their skill set.
“We just have a good group of kids that are well behaved and really hard workers,” he said. “It is a fairly young team as well. So I think that theme is going to continue to carry for the next couple years, and we are in a good position for building. I like the fact that a majority of our team are underclassmen as compared to upper classmen.”
Finals placings on a tournament wrestling website included TMHS’ Carson Cummins (overall weekend record of 6-0) first at 112 pounds with Ketchikan’s Dawson Larna second and Mt. Edgecumbe’s Peter Griggs third; Sitka’s Evander Elixman first at 119 pounds with Ketchikan’s Nathan Mowery second and Mt. Edgecumbe’s Elston Dock third; Ketchikan’s Carson Spokely first at 140 pounds with TMHS’ Blaze Darbonne (2-3) second and Mt. Edgecumbe’s Trey Dock third; Mt. Edgecumbe’s Emilio Mangrobang first at 145 pounds with Petersburg’s Jonas Anderson second and Mt. Edgecumbe’s Jared Alirkar third; Ketchikan’s Charlie Blair was first at 152 pounds, with TMHS’ Jarrell Williams (2-2) second, and Wrangell’s Randy Churchill third; Wrangell’s Ryan Rooney first at 160 pounds with Ketchikan’s Andy Collins second, Sitka’s Jason Young third, and TMHS’ Joshua Quintal (2-5) fourth; TMHS’ Eric Tipton (4-2) first in the 160B pound placings, with Petersburg’s Wyatt Litster second and TMHS’ Kaleb Paddock (0-6) third; TMHS’ Jamal Johnson (7-0) first at 171 pounds with Petersburg’s Jonas Baekkelund second, Wrangell’s Ethan Blatchley third, and Sitka’s Derek Hammack fourth; Sitka’s Aiden Ojala first at 171B, with Ketchikan’s Tyler Manypenny second and Wrangell’s Steven Bales third; Wrangell’s Rowen Wiederspohn first at 189 pounds with TMHS’ Sage Richards (4-1) second and Mt. Edgecumbe’s Martin Brown third; TMHS’ Erickson (7-0) first at 215 pounds with Wrangell’s Jake Eastaugh second, TMHS’ Wyatt Harvey (2-5) third, and TMHS’ Silvester Montez (0-6) fourth; and at 285 pounds, Sitka’s Hunter Littlefield first, Sitka’s Alex Johnson second and Mt. Edgecumbe’s Arthur Heckman third. A weight class for TMHS’ Chase Darbonne (4-2) was unknown.
In the girls tournament finals, Petersburg’s Deirdre Toyomura took the 103 weight classification and Mt. Edgecumbe’s Cheyenne Murphy the 125 pound classification. At 135 pounds Wrangell’s Liana Carney placed first, Mt. Edgecumbe’s Bernadette John second and Mt. Edgecumbe’s Hailey Moses third; at 145 pounds Mt. Edgecumbe’s Alexis Evon was first, Mt. Edgecumbe’s Krine LoneWolf second and Mt. Edgecumbe’s Chiara Chase third; at 160 pounds Wrangell’s Lilian Younce was first, Mt. Edgecumbe’s Trinity Pitka second and Mt. Edgecumbe’s Anya (Oliver) Tyrrel third.
In his final senior home match, Camden Erickson faced two teammates in his weight class and a wrestler from a talented Wrangell program.
“Definitely I was a bit rusty,” he said. “It has been a year and a half since I have been on the mat last. There are things to work on but overall I think I did pretty well. The team as a whole I was happy with, I think we all wrestled good.”
Erickson first wrestled at age 4.
“Definitely I put a lot into it, but I am happy where I have got and to be doing it with a lot of the same kids I started out with is pretty cool. Competing is definitely the best part of wrestling. There is a lot of really hard work that goes into wrestling that people don’t see. You showcase everything once you get to a tournament so competition is my favorite part of the game without a doubt. Obviously practice is not the most enjoyable thing but it is definitely necessary.”
Juneau captured the overall team scores - boys and girls - with 84 points. Wrangell totaled 74, Sitka 44, Ketchikan 37, Mt. Edgecumbe 35 and Petersburg 26.
Wrangell will host a meet next weekend.