• Mark McGregor, Calvin Johnson both earn conference titles
By Sean Pearson
According to Homer Head Wrestling Coach Chris Perk, Mariner Mark McGregor is quite the competitor.
“He doesn’t like to lose,” Perk explained.
So when the senior dropped two 170-pound weight class matches at the Palmer Invitational Wrestling Tournament earlier this season, he made the decision to drop down and wrestle in the 160-pound division at the upcoming state competition in Nikiski.
McGregor placed fourth in the state in the 160-pound weight class last year, and Perk said that, so far, the weight drop has been “mighty successful.”
“Mark is a solid 7-0 this season and pinned all four of his opponents in the first period at the Kachemak Conference Championships on Saturday,” Perk said. “He will now head to the state meet this weekend as the No. 3 seed.”
Both wrestlers seeded above McGregor placed ahead of him at State last year. But Perk thinks things might look a bit different this year.
“Mark now has a solid front headlock to go along with some good leg-riding techniques,” he said.
Joining McGregor as Conference Champion was junior Calvin Johnson at 106 pounds. Johnson pinned Ryan Winters from Skyview for the fourth time this season, and then beat T.J. Cox from Nikiski 12-0.
“Calvin has more than 30 wins again this season, and will go into the State meet as the No. 2 seed,” Perk explained. “He will more than likely see a rematch with Bethel’s Gage Huffman in the semifinals to see who will go to the championship match.”
Johnson beat Huffman 10-8 in an earlier match this season.
“Calvin is one of the team captains and most dedicated wrestlers,” Perk said. “He has attended all 39 practices this season and did not miss a single one last year either.”
The Mariners placed fourth overall in the conference championships at Grace Christian School over the weekend. The team scored more than 100 points and qualified seven wrestlers for State.
Juniors Jordan Reynolds, 182 pounds, and Dick Perez, 220, both wrestled strong at the conference meet. Perez pinned two wrestlers in less than a minute each to earn his way into the championship match against defending State Champion Luke Wagner from Houston.
And, though Perez was pinned in the second period of the championship match, Perk said the first-year wrestler turned in a good performance. Reynolds, also competing in his first year of wrestling, needed a come-from-behind victory over Mitchell Ludwig of Seward to secure fourth place in the conference and a berth at State.
“Reynolds was down 8-4 before putting Ludwig to his back and earning the fall,” Perk said. “He then went on to pin D.J. Tourterot of Skyview to advance to State.”
Juniors Harley Wells 145 pounds, and Pedro Ochoa, 152, also both qualified for the State competition. Wells injured his knee at practice on Tuesday and barely made it through the tournament.
“Harley’s knee was very swollen, but he was still able to win three matches,” Perk said. “His loss to Nikiski’s Mike Stangel in the semifinals was a tight match.”
With the score at 10-8 in favor of Stangel, the Bulldog wrestler took Wells down to his back. But, before Stangel could score a near fall, Wells reversed Stangel to his back and scored five points.
“After 10 minutes of review, the official was finally able to sort through the points and awarded Stangel the 15-13 victory,” Perk said. “Wells then injury defaulted his next match since he had already qualified for State.”
Ochoa, who was seeded No. 2 going into the conference tourney, got off to a rocky start with a first-match loss to eventual runner-up, Carsen Trumblee from Cordova. Trumblee was a state place winner two years ago. However, Ochoa then went on to win four straight matches and earn third place. He currently leads the league with 70 takedowns.
The final State qualifier for Homer was sophomore Austin McGregor at 120 pounds. The younger McGregor, who won two matches, earned his way into the third and fourth-place match against sixth-ranked Nathan Carstens from Nikiski.
“Austin wrestled one of his smartest matches of the season and earned an early 5-2 lead,” Perk said. “But Carstens was able to score with only two seconds left and force overtime, where he took Austin down.”
Senior Kyle Van Alstine, 152 pounds, lost both of his matches but was awarded the Good Sport Award by the conference.
Other participants in the conference showdown included freshman Dakota Alward, 145 pounds, and Andrew Raham, 138.
“We could have had three other qualifiers, but the flu bug hit the day before,” Perk said.
The illness took out both David Woo at 126 pounds, and Danny Rios at 170. Both were ranked fourth in the conference. Freshman Jadzia Martin, who wrestles at 98 pounds, was also ranked fourth, but missed weight and was not allowed to compete.
The State meet will take place at Nikiski High School this weekend. The wrestling begins at 10 a.m. Friday.
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