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By A.J. JANKOWSKI
Daily News Sports Editor
The Ketchikan High School wrestling team went to Soldotna this weekend and showed some of the state’s top 4A programs that its bite is every bit as potent as its bark.
"There’s that saying, that if you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch. Well, we showed we can get in the yard and play," said head coach Bill McLaughlin.
Kayhi placed fifth out of 12 at Saturday’s North/South Invitational tournament with 101.5 points, trailing only Colony (154.5), Service (156), and frontrunners South Anchorage (192) and Wasilla (210).
"A lot of people took notice (of Kayhi)," McLaughlin said. "We want people — especially those guys up there — to know that they are going to have to wrestle us."
The Kings placed six grapplers inside the top four of their respective weight, led by Logan Collins’ second-place finish at 138 pounds.
Collins knocked off Colony’s Spencer Adams, ranked No. 3 in the state, in the semifinals, 7-5, before falling, 13-3, to top-ranked Kraig Hammond of South Anchorage in the finals.
"Logan had the best weekend of wrestling he's ever had," McLaughlin said. "His mind frame was right. His preparation was right. His focus was right. I think he showed himself a little something this weekend."
Several of the Kings showed strong mental toughness, fighting back from earlier defeats to place in the top four. McLaughlin said that willingness to claw through the consolation bracket "is the most underrated ability in individual sports.
"In wrestling, you have 45 minutes to process that kind of personal letdown," he continued. "You get past it; you flush it down the toilet, and then you get right back out there."
After dropping his second match Saturday, 152-pounder Dalton Spear won his next four, ending with a 10-3 decision over Wasilla’s Wyatt Nelson to take third. Craig DeBoer showed similar resilience, losing his first bout to South’s Nathan Hakala before winning four straight to take third.
In the third-place match, DeBoer avenged Friday night’s pin-fall loss to Wasilla’s DJ Morrow by winning 2-0.
"Craig wrestled a great tournament to take third," McLaughlin said. "DJ was eating him up (Friday). But he learned from wrestling him once, and came back to wrestle extremely well."
Freshman Kadin Hallstrom finished fourth, pinning West Anchorage’s Paul Tandy and Colony’s Matthew Bracker en route. Hallstrom led Colony’s Jordan Nero in the third-place match, but made a "freshman mistake," McLaughlin said, and was pinned with five seconds remaining in the bout.
"Sometimes, a freshman makes a freshman mistake," the coach said. "But he’s going to learn from it, and I know it’ll never happen again, because that’s the way he’s wired."
Two more seniors, Isaac Lontz and Cody Ring, rounded out the placewinners for Kayhi. Lontz went 3-2 at 132 pounds, finishing fourth. Ring, the team’s heavyweight, followed up a semifinal loss by beating Colony’s Mitchell Diagle by technical fall, and pinning South’s Jaramie Augafa in the third-place match.
"There’s no other way to say this: That’s the best Cody has wrestled in the six years I’ve coached him," McLaughlin said. "We changed his style up a bit two matches in. Once he started digging more under hooks — I don’t know if it was the green light I?gave him or if he just thought he liked it better, but he opened up."
McLaughlin thought Kayhi was going to have another placewinner, but a change in the 106-pound bracket had sophomore Marcus Martin face Kenai’s Hope Steffensen — No. 1 in the state — twice in four matches.
Martin upset Steffensen 4-2 in their first bout, but Steffensen won by major decision in the consolation semifinals.
"Marcus sent a loud message," McLaughlin said. "I don’t think anyone is going to be looking forward to facing him."
But it wasn’t just the placewinners who put Kayhi in the top five, McLaughlin said. Wrestlers such as Keenan Spencer, Nate Fousel and Caleb Ford, who did not place, but won matches that helped boost the Kings’ team score.
"Only the real big dogs beat us, and that doesn’t happen without the guys that might not have placed, but won matches," McLaughlin said. "We don’t get to where we are without them."
Greg Shack (South) pins Trevor Wutzke (Ketchikan), 1:41
Slava Hoffman (Service) pins Trevor Wutzke (KTN), 1:48
Marcus Martin (KTN) dec. Hope Steffensen (Kenai), 4-2
Marcus Martin (KTN) maj. dec. Soren Simpson (Colony), 10-2
Kyle Willard (East) tech fall Marcus Martin (KTN), 21-4
Hope Steffensen (Kenai) maj. dec. Marcus Martin (KTN), 8-0
Kadin Hallstrom (KTN) pins Paul Tandy (West), 3:20
Gavin Alvarado (South) pins Kadin Hallstrom (KTN), 3:39
Kadin Hallstrom (KTN) pins Matthew Bracker (Colony), 0:58
Jordan Nero (Colony) pins Kadin Hallstrom (KTN), 5:55
Justin Gentz (Wasilla) tech fall Ben Kacenas (KTN), 16-1
Troy Newland (Wasilla) maj. dec. Ben Kacenas (KTN), 12-2
Keenan Spencer (KTN) dec. Caleb Wolfe (Wasilla), 6-4
Zachary Ritchie (South) pins Keenan Spencer (KTN) 1:26
Keenan Spencer (KTN) maj. dec. Tyler Nunez (Bartlett), 18-4
Desmond Corpuz (West) pins Keenan Spencer (KTN), 2:48
Isaac Lontz (KTN) pins Hunter Myers (Bartlett), 3:06
Isaac Lontz (KTN) dec. Gavin Arnold (Eagle River), 5-4
Ryker Steiner (Wasilla) pins Isaac Lontz (KTN), 3:53
Isaac Lontz (KTN) pins Eli Daman (Soldotna), 2:34
Gavin Arnold (Eagle River) dec. Isaac Lontz (KTN), 2-1
Logan Collins (KTN) pins Hayden Riebe (Eagle River), 2:00
Logan Collins (KTN) pins Jordan Pace (Bartlett), 4:50
Logan Collins (KTN) dec. Spencer Adams (Colony), 7-5
Kraig Hammond (South) maj. dec. Logan Collins (KTN), 13-3
Dalton Spear (KTN) maj. dec. Chardo Elliot (West), 16-3
Wyatt Nelson (Wasilla) maj. dec. Dalton Spear (KTN), 9-1
Dalton Spear (KTN) dec. Gabe McSharry (South), 3-2
Dalton Spear (KTN) dec. Xavier Horton (Eagle River), 7-3
Dalton Spear (KTN) maj. dec. Robert Nash (Colony), 13-3
Dalton Spear (KTN) dec. Wyatt Nelson (Wasilla), 10-3
Nathan Hakala (South) dec. Craig DeBoer (KTN), 5-1
Craig DeBoer (KTN) dec. Ashton Rouska (Bartlett), 2-1
Craig DeBoer (KTN) pins Daniel Flores (Soldotna), 2:44
Craig DeBoer (KTN) dec. Logan Conway (Colony), 3-1 OT
Craig DeBoer (KTN) dec. DJ Morrow (Wasilla), 2-0
Zane Fejes (South) maj. dec. Nate Fousel (KTN), 11-1
Nate Fousel (KTN) pins Brady Ingersoll (Wasilla), 1:25
Nate Fousel (KTN) pins Jack Soukanya (East), 1:59
Andrew Knowles (Colony) maj. dec. Nate Fousel (KTN), 16-6
Joshua King (East) dec. Kohl Hallmann (KTN), 3-1
Abraham Faletagoai (West) maj. dec. Kohl Hallmann (KTN), 15-6
Nicholas Stevens (Service) pins Caleb Ford (KTN), 0:29
Caleb Ford (KTN) pins David Beck (Kenai), 2:45
Mike Hyde (West) pins Caleb Ford (KTN), 2:26
Cody Ring (KTN) pins John Alexander (Soldotna), 5:13
Erich Pili (Service) pins Cody Ring (KTN), 3:11
Cody Ring (KTN) tech fall Mitchell Daigle (Colony), 16-0
Cody Ring (KTN) pins Jaramie Augafa (South), 2:12