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By JOE JUDD
Daily News Sports Editor
The Ketchikan High School wrestling team officially began competition in the annual Bill Weiss Invitational, held on Friday at the Clarke Cochrane Gym.
Kayhi played host to Thunder Mountain, Craig, Haines, Klawock, Metlakatla and Petersburg high schools.
Leading the pack with 40 athletes in play, the Kings consistently gained an advantage over their opponents across weight classes simultaneously on three separate mats.
Kayhi head coach Rick Collins said after the end of day one on Friday evening that he was ultimately pleased with the way his team performed and was excited to see how it can build off the strong showing.
“It went great. It was a whirlwind for sure,” Collins said. “We crammed in a lot of matches tonight, and I’m really pleased with the team.”
The Kings had 40 student-athletes in total take to the mats on Friday, making Kayhi the most-represented school in the invite.
Collins commended the home supporters who came to the gym early and stayed for the duration of the day’s events.
Many of the friends and families made themselves heard throughout the action, even though a majority of them were perched in the many bleachers on either side of the court.
“They did a great job,” Collins said. “This is just a great gym, and it really works out well for wrestling. People get into wrestling in this town — it’s really nice.”
After practicing a number of different moves during practices throughout the week, Collins said he likes to see his wrestlers execute moves they once were not able to do.
It might take a while, but Collins said that the payoff is always worth it.
“Sometimes it takes a year or two to plant that seed and — all-of-a-sudden, I’m starting to see it, and it’s really fun for me,” Collins said. “All the kids are looking great.”
The 18 Kayhi seniors on the team will be honored before the start of Saturday’s festivities.
Collins, who has coached many of the team’s upperclassmen for at least a handful of years, said he expects it to be a very emotional occasion.
“I’ve never had a class of seniors that big,” Collins said.
As far as the rest of the invitational is concerned, it will not held in the traditional double-elimination format, with the aims at getting each wrestler as many matches as possible.
On Saturday, every wrestler will start out in pool play, and will have at least five matches, regardless of whether they win.
From there, brackets will be determined, and the eventual championship round will be another step closer.
“It should result in kids getting matches with kids similar to their abilities — and more of them — so we’re really excited about that,” Collins said. “It should be fun.”
The meet will resume at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, with the championship round of matches scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start time.