ASAA/First National Bank State Wrestling Championship tournament

Hayley Gilson of Ketchikan High School, foreground, wrestles during the ASAA/First National Bank State Wrestling Championship tournament at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. Photo courtesy of Matt Hamilton

Two Kayhi senior wrestlers — Degan Linne and Hayley Gilson — concluded their Ketchikan High School grappling careers Saturday in the finals at the ASAA/First National Bank of Alaska State Wrestling Championships at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.

Although the prize proved elusive, both wrestlers showed skill, strength and tenacity in proving that they belonged in the final matches.

Hayley Gilson wrestled first on Saturday, facing top-seeded Aileen Lester of Newhalen in the girls’ 130-pound weight class final.

Gilson, already a state champion with a title win in 2019, had reached the 2021 final after a strong run during Friday’s opening rounds. She defeated Henrietta Kelly of St. Mary’s by fall in 36 seconds, Adelle Patterson of Hutchison by fall in 1:04, and Fiona Phelan of Bethel by a 7-0 decision.

Gilson was the second-seeded wrestler in the 130-pound weight class, with a 9-1 record for the season coming into the state tournament, according to Trackwrestling data. Lester, a junior, had a season record of 10-2.

It wasn’t the first time that the two wrestlers had met in a final. Gilson had defeated Lester in that 2019 championship match.

On Saturday, Gilson and Lester’s match went a full three two-minute rounds. Lester set the tone early with a successful quick low move in the opening moments of the first round, with Gilson working steadily to avoid an untimely exit by pin.

“She really was in it,” said Kayhi coach Matt Hamilton, recalling an earlier big match in which Gilson was down but ended up throwing her opponent and pinning her. “So I never counted her out one bit.”

Gilson appeared to fare best during the first 1:30 of the second round, taking the match to the Newhalen wrestler. But Lester was accumulating the points, and ultimately would prevail in a 10-0 major decision.

“I don't feel like (Gilson ) was super overwhelmed,” Hamilton said. “It was just a tough, a tough lady. ... (Lester) was just really prepared.”

Gilson placed second in the state tournament as the runner-up.

"The first thing she did when she walked off the mat was apologize and it was heartbreaking," Hamilton said, heartbreaking in that it was meant as an apology to her teammates and coaches.

“There was absolutely no need for it,” he said, “because she did everything she could.”

Degan Linne, who brought a 17-1 record to the state tournament, was the second-seeded wrestler in the 140-pound weight class.

Linne had a bye in the first round Friday, then advanced to the final by defeating Jeffrey Reynolds of Colony by fall in 3:09, and Fred Elvsaas of Wasilla by technical fall in 4:57.

His opponent in the final was the top seed, Colton Parduhn, a Lathrop senior who brought a 44-0 season record to the state tournament.

Linne and Parduhn have known of each other for a while. In 2018, while Linne was placing third in state at 103 pounds, Parduhn was fourth in the 112 pound-class. In 2019, Parduhn placed third in the 125-pound class. In the previous state championships, Parduhn placed first in the 130-pound class. Linne placed second in the 140-pound class.

“(Parduhn’s) the toughest competition around those weight classes there,” Hamilton said, noting the Lathrop wrestler’s undefeated status this season and other accomplishments. “When we were choosing weight classes on where (Linne) was going to wrestle for state, Degan’s never shied away from tough competition, and he thought, you know, if I'm gonna be the best, I gotta beat the best. And (Parduhn) was the toughest guy between the two weight classes of (140) and (145). And so we kind of went for it.”

Like the Gilson-Lester match before it, the Linne-Parduhn match also went a full three rounds. And Linne was in it through the end

Down on points 4-1 at the end of the first round, the Ketchikan wrestler kept the match close at 6-3 going into the last nine seconds on the second round, when Parduhn made a lightening-quick escape and then ended the round with an 8-3 lead.

The third round was hard-fought, with Linne gaining a point but Pardon prevailing in a 12-4 major decision.

“What it was was that (Parduhn) is extremely strong, ... very fast and technically sound,” Hamilton said.

Linne placed second in the state tournament as the runner up.

Hamilton, as he did regarding Gilson, voiced pride in the character shown by Linne.

Since Degan was little, he's never shied away from competition,” Hamilton said. “He's always ... seen what the options are and he's always taking the hardest road possible probably. And that's his parents, that's coaching instilled in him because he knows that he gets better from every one of those. And to do that with your state tournament was impressive. And I was really happy for him, to see that.”

Kayhi also had two wrestlers, Kollin Houthoofd and Julia Biagi, place sixth in their weight classes, (152 and 125, respectively).

Houthoofd worked his way to the 5th/6th match through the consolation rounds on Saturday, after winning one match but losing a second on Friday. On Saturday, Houthoofd defeated Roth Powers of South Anchorage by fall in 3:57, then lost to Scott Micheal of Soldotna in a 13-2 major decision. In the 5th/6th place match, Houthoofd lost to Jevin Lim of Service in a 14-2 major decision.

Biagi also worked through the consolation rounds after a first round loss followed by a consolation round win over Lilauna Simon of Scammon Bay by fall in 0:38. She then defeated Joyce Brown of Bartlett by fall in 0:46, before being defeated by Avery Long of Palmer by fall in 1:39. In the 5th/6th place match, Biagi lost to Nevaeh Mason of Colony by fall in 2:35.

In the girls tournament, which included schools of all sizes, Ketchikan placed 10th in the team results, with 47.5 points. Wrangell placed seventh with 62 points. The three top-scoring teams were Lathrop (164), Colony (98) and North Pole (88). Ketchikan had seven wrestlers in the girls tournament.

Other Southeast Alaska wrestlers who placed in the girls tournament were: 103 — DD Toyomura (Petersburg), 5th place; 130 — Jamie Early (Wrangell), 4th place; 135 — Liana Carney (Wrangell), 1st place — state champion; 145 — Mia Wiederspohn  (Wrangell), 6th place; 235 — Helen Sachsenmaier (Sitka), 5th place.

In the Division I (larger schools) boys tournament, Ketchikan placed 10th among the 19 programs in the meet, with 66 points, just below Thunder Mountain in ninth place with 66 points. Ketchikan had 17 wrestlers participate in the tournament.

Colony High School placed first with 248.5 points, followed by South Anchorage (236) and Lathrop (223.5)

Other Southeast Alaska wrestlers who placed in the Division I level included: 112 — Carson Cummins (Thunder Mountain), 2nd place; 125 — Kadin Messmer (Thunder Mountain), 3rd place; 189 — Sage Richards (Thunder Mountain) 4th place.

On Monday, talking about the Ketchikan wrestling team, Hamilton says he’s never told the team that they’re the biggest, strongest or fastest.

“But what makes us impressive is we're a bunch of wild cards — you don't know what's going to happen because you know, a lot of the up-north teams tend to take us lightly because we're a Southeast team,” he said.

And Southeast teams can be at a disadvantage because of they have relatively fewer opportunities to wrestle in big meets with high quality competition.

Hamilton described a conversation that an up-north wrestler had with a Kayhi athlete, with the up-north wrestler saying that he didn’t like wrestling Ketchikan competitors because he’d go into a match thinking he’d be wrestling “some scrub,” but then the Kayhi wrestler would get ahead by five points and pull off a win.

Hamilton said that, although Ketchikan might not look like a bunch of Spartans, “I always tell them, like, we're all heart, no brakes and full throttle. And they truly embody that. They attach themselves to that, because there's some sort of pride, there's that Alaska grit that we always try to instill in our kids — and wrestlers tend to tend to have that here in Southeast.”

He added that there’s a lot of solidarity among Southeast wrestlers at the state tournament.

“It’s the one time you'll see Ketchikan and Juneau sitting together, because when we go to the state tournament, all of Southeast was like in one section,” he said. “Because we're competition when we're in Southeast, but when we walk out there, we know it's us versus them.

“ ... We're seeing each other down the floor and all of our kids are cheering for Juneau kids to get in the finals,” he said. “You know, we're cheering for Wrangell and Petersburg and Craig. Just amazing camaraderie in that moment.”

Division II

The Division II (Smaller Schools) boys state championship tournament was held at the same time as the Division I boys and girls (all schools) tournaments.

The top-scoring teams in Division II were Bethel (158.0), Reddington (152.0) and Glenallen (133.5). Among the Southeast Alaska teams, Wrangell placed sixth with 115 points, followed by Mt. Edgecumbe (16th, 41.0), Sitka (18th, 35.0), Petersburg (20th, 33.0), Craig (21st, 25.0) and Haines (21.0)

The following are the Southeast Alaska wrestlers who finished the event in first through sixth places.

125 — Evander Elixman (Sitka) 5th place; Gage Massin (Petersburg) 6th place. 130 — Tristan Goodell (Mt. Edgecumbe), 2nd place. 140 — Keegan Hanson (Craig), 5th place. 152 — Randy Churchill (Wrangell), 3rd place; Rogan Hanson (Craig), 4th place. 160 — Ryan Rooney (Wrangell) 1st place — state champion; Jason Young (Sitka) 5th place. 189 — Rowan Wiederspohn (Wrangell), 2nd place. 215 — Jake Eastaugh (Wrangell) 3rd place; Kyle Biggers (Petersburg) 6th place.

Kayhi results from Saturday

Girls 119

Consolation Round 2 — Trisha Capps (Ketchikan) won by fall in 4:30 over Abby Duckworth (Ketchikan). Cons. Rd. 3 — Katie Smith (Nome) 20-8 won by tech fall over Trisha Capps (TF-1.5 4:01) (15-0))

Girls 125

Consolation Round 2 — Julia Biagi (Ketchikan) won by fall in 0:38 over Liliauna Simon (Scammon Bay). Cons. Rd. 3 — Julia Biagi won by fall in 0:46 over Joyce Brown (Bartlett). Consolation Semifinal — Avery Long (Palmer) won by fall in 1:39 over Julia Biagi. Consolation 5th/6th — Nevaeh Maxon (Colony) won by fall in 2:35 over Julia Biagi.

Girls 130

Finals — Aileen Lester (Newhalen) won by major decision over Hayley Gilson (Ketchikan) (MD 10-0).

Girls 135

Consolation Round 2 — Ruby McCue (Ketchikan) won by 4-2 decision over Annika Johnson (Chugiak). Cons. Rd. 3 — Payton Boney (Bethel) won by fall in 3:24 over Ruby McCue.

Boys 112

Consolation Round 2 — Liam Rogers (Eagle River) won by fall over Kristian Kellogg (Ketchikan) (Fall 2:42).

Boys 119

Consolation Round 2 — Luke Rauwolf (Ketchikan) won by 16-8 major decision over Owen Woodruff (Thunder Mountain). Cons. Rd. 3 — Alden Bevis (Service) won by fall in 3:42 over Luke Rauwolf.

Boys 130

Consolation Round 2 — Hunter Cowan (Ketchikan) 11-2 won by fall in 4:00  over Quinn Kraus (North Pole). Cons. Rd. 3 — Ethan Osborn (Colony) won by fall in 2:25 over Hunter Cowan.

Boys 135

Consolation Round 2 — Kawaiola Patterson (Lathrop) won by 11-0 major decision over Kai Biagi (Ketchikan).

Boys 130

Finals — Colton Parduhn (Lathrop) won by 12-4 major decision over Degan Linne (Ketchikan).

Boys 145

Consolation Round 2 — Tommy Bourne (Lathrop) won by fall in 2:07 over Brock Thomas (Ketchikan).

Boys 152

Consolation Round 2 — Kollin Houthoofd (Ketchikan) won by fall in 3:57 over Roth Powers (South Anchorage), Cons. Rd. 3 — Kollin Houthoofd won by 11-6 decision over Jarrell Williams (Thunder Mountain). Consolation Semifinal — Scott Micheal (Soldotna) won by 13-2 major decision over Kollin Houthoofd. Consolation 5th/6th — Jevin Lim (Service) won by 14-2 major decision over Kollin Houthoofd.

Boys 189

Consolation Round 2 — Conner Ray (Ketchikan) won by fall in 1:30 over Brodyn Mariscal (Chugiak). Cons. Rd. 3 — Lucas Frank (Palmer) won by fall in 4:00 over Conner Ray.

Boys 215

Consolation Round 2 — Tyler Manypenny (Ketchikan) won by 15-3 major decision over Paul Thompson (Ketchikan).  Cons. Rd. 3 —Henry Rayburn (Lathrop) won by fall in 2:10 over Tyler Manypenny.