by Tommy Wells
Landon Smith went into the Tanana Middle School State Wrestling Championships in Fairbanks knowing he had a huge target on his back. The top-ranked wrestlers get that honor.
Target or not, Smith helped the Bethel Regional Junior High School warriors turn in a head-turning performance at Tanana Middle School in Fairbanks. Leading a team that had won the six previous Class 1A/2A/3A state middle school titles, Smith proved why he was touted as the best 91-pound wrestler in the state.
Smith wrestled his way to an impressive 5-0 record en route to winning the 91-pound crown.
The BRJHS standout kicked off his tournament outing with a dominating effort. He defeated Ole Watson by a staggering 24-11 clip in the first round on Friday. From there, he rolled to easy wins over Colony’s Elijah Malcom, Ryan’s Ben Pilon and Muldoon Wrestling Club’s Liam Lockard to earn a berth in the finals against Ben Pope, one of several independent wrestlers entered into the event. Smith claimed a hard-fought 2-1 victory in the finals.
Smith was far from the only medal winner the Warriors had in the tournament. Joseph Smith and Tyler Laraux wrestled their way onto the podium in their respective divisions.
Smith posted a 4-1 record en route to placing second in the 98-pound classification. He won his first four matches and moved into the championship round to face Ryan’s Colton Pardun.
Parduhn escaped with the 98-pound title by scratching out a narrow 11-9 win.
Laraux finished third in the 110-pound division by posting a 6-1 mark. He outwrestled Soldotna’s Jakob Brown by a 6-4 clip in the third-place contest on Saturday.
Larry Bayer and Alex Madson also did well for BRJHS. Bayer finished fifth in the 174-pound weight class, while Madson took sixth in the 84-pound standings.
Isabel Lieb and Anna Avalos highlighted Bethel’s efforts in the girls’ division. Lieb finished fourth in the 120-pound classification. Avalos was sixth in the same division.
Also competing for Bethel were Ryan Chaney, Eddie Jimmie, Ellis Johnson, Justin David, Mason Fitka, Cyrus Anaruk and Charles Smith.
Napaskiak’s Seth Jacobs added even more prestige to the Lower Kuskokwim by wrestling his way to third in the 84-pound division. He went 5-1 overall, including a 13-3 victory over Palmer’s Cody VanSiegman in the third-place contest.
2018 Tanana Middle School State Wrestling Championships
Held March 2-3 at Tanana Middle School in Fairbanks
1. Teeland Middles School 309; 2. Wasilla Middle School 279; 3. North Pole Middle 266; 4. Tanana Middle School 228.5; 5. Redington Jr/Sr High 195.5; 6. Palmer Junior Middle School 188; 7. Southcentral Independents 173.5; 8. Muldoon Wrestling Club 171; 9. Colony Middle School 170; 10. Chugiak Eagles Wrestling 144; 11. Bethel Jr High 143; 12. Alaska Avalanche 130; 13. Randy Smith Black Bears 126; 14. Eielson Junior High 118; 15. Ryan 109; 16. Juneau Youth Wrestling 108; 17. Wrangell 103; 18. Soldotna Whalers 87; 19. Delta Junior High School 82; 20. Kodiak Middle School 80.5; 21. Grace Christian 70; 22. Hopson Middle School 55; 23. Ketchikan Southeast 54.5; 24. Glennallen Middle School 46.5; 25. Valdez MS Huskies 34; 26. Craig Panthers 31; 27. Glacier View 28; 28. Petersburg 24; 29. Napaskiak Middle School 23; 30. Dillingham Middle School 22; 31. Fronteras Middle School 21; 32. Chevak Comets 15; 33. Anchorage Christian 10; 34. Houston 3.