by Tommy Wells
Landon Smith finished off the 2019 wrestling season in style this past weekend at the Menard Sports Center in Wasilla. He helped power the Bethel Wrestling Club to top 10 finishes at the Alaska USA state wrestling tournaments by three gold medals.
Competing in the Cadet 16 and under division, Smith won the folkstyle, freestyle and Greco titles at the three-day event which featured more than 1,000 wrestlers from throughout the state.
The Bethel Wrestling Club benefitted from Smith’s efforts. Backed by his gold medal performances, Bethel managed to finish in the top 10 in the final team standings in all three meets. Overall, Bethel collected 43 medals, including eleven state titles.
Smith was among three BWC wrestlers nailing down state titles in the freestyle tournament. He dominated the 113-pound weight classification by winning all six of his matches. In four of his bouts, he held his opponent scoreless.
The Bethel Regional High School standout kicked off his freestyle outing with a 17-10 victory over Copper River’s Keegan Delaquito. From there he reeled off back-to-back 10-0 wins over Tri-Valley’s Jeffrey Reynolds and Chugach’s Tony Inguagiato and earned a berth in the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, he outwrestled Delaquito by a 17-10 margin.
After downing Anchorage’s Blake Foster in the semifinals, he finished off his title run with a 10-0 rout of Juneau’s Kadin Messmer.
Zayden Boyer and Zach Pleasant also captured state titles in the freestyle tournament. Boyer won the Pre-Banton’s 90-pound weight classification’s top honors. Pleasant took the title in the men’s Open division’s 134.5-pound division.
Carter Evon almost handed Bethel a fourth freestyle state title. He advanced to the state championship match in the Bantam 8 and under’s 85-pound division before earning second-place honors.
Evon’s teammate Kade Latham was third in the 85-pound standings.
Claire Dyment, Wade Kinegak-Merculief and Axel Madson also medaled in the freestyle tournament. All three took third in their respective divisions, Dyment was the bronze medalist in the Intermediate 10 and under’s 56-pound bracket. Kinegak-Merculief was third in the Novice 12 and under’s 160-plus class, while Madson wrestled his way to a bronze medal in the Cadet 100-pound ranks.
Logan Hastie, Camron Jordan, Charles Smith and Hans Holkesvik all placed fourth in their divisions, while Tyler Laraux, Matthew Chagluak, Ethan Wheeler and Julian Sebastian wrestled their ways to fifth-place marks.
Maya Iverson also turned in a gutsy effort for Bethel. The 6-year-old wrestled her way through eight matches in the Bantam 8 and under’s 53-pound classification and finished sixth.
Overall, Iverson placed fourth overall in the All-Girls Freestyle tournament and sixth overall in the Mixed Freestyle tournament on Friday. Iverson’s division in the Mixed Freestyle event featured 24 boys and girls from throughout the state.
Peyton Glore and Jordan Leinberger also placed in their weight classes. Both finished sixth in the standings.
As a team, Bethel finished sixth in the team standings in the freestyle tournament.
Landon Smith continued his road to wrestling’s version of the state triple crown in the folkstyle tournament. The Bethel standout posted a 7-0 mark in the event and breezed to the Cadet division’s 113-pound crown.
He sealed his second title with a 16-1 win over Messmer in his final match.
Smith wasn’t the only BWC star to pick up a state crown in the Cadet ranks. BRHS standout Hayden Lieb also garnered a first-place finish in the 160-pound division.
Lieb, one of the state’s top high school wrestlers, kicked off his title run with a pair of quick pins. He defeated AFWC’s Andrew Green at the 3:05 mark of his first-round match. He followed that with a win over Tri-Valley’s Brice Lestenkof-Chapman in the quarterfinals. From there, he claimed a victory over Joshua Bradshaw, who wrestled this past season for the Class 3A state champion Homer Mariners. In the finals, he outwrestled Andrue Shepersky by a 3-2 margin.
Madson and Laraux also did well for BWC in the Cadet ranks. Madson was third overall in the 100-pound class, while Laraux was fourth in the 132-pound standings.
Wade Kinegak-Merculief and Hannah Howell added to Bethel’s title count with outstanding efforts in their divisions. Kinegak-Merculief defeated Seward’s Jack Waldron at the 1:26 mark of their 160-pound championship bout in the Novice 12 and under division. Howell took the 110-pound title in the women’s Schoolgirl 14 and under division. She posted an easy 15-0 win over Cecilia Fitzpatrick in the title bout.
Ethan Wheeler wrestled his way to a 4-1 record and finished second in the 98-pound class. Sebastian was fourth in the 67-pound standings, while teammate Alvino Vasquez worked his way to sixth in the 82-pound ranks.
Kaitlyn Walters and Brielle Herron joined Howell as BWC grapplers to reach the finals in the women’s Schoolgirl ranks. Herron was the state runner-up in the 101-pound ranks. Walters was second in the 127-pound standings.
Abbygail Mael was third in the 101-pound standings. Melissa Soolook earned 6th place in the 97-pound division.
Dominic Evon, Camron Jordan and Holkesvik added to Bethel’s prestige by taking state runner-up honors in the classifications. Evon worked his way to second in the Intermediate 10 and under’s 105-pound standings. He finished the tournament with a 2-1 record and placed one spot ahead of Hastie, who finished at the bronze medalist.
Jordan was the runner-up in the 10 and under 120-pound classification, while Holkesvik was second in the Open 189.6 standings.
Cole Iverson finished fourth in the 10 and under’s 63-pound standings. Elias Komulainen was sixth in the 93-pound ranks.
Bethel also picked up a state runner-up finish from Sheldon Smith in the Schoolboy 14 and under division. Smith went 3-1 in the 71-pound class. He secured second-place honors with a 9-3 victory over Knowledge Reddish of the Avalanche Wrestling Club in his final match.
Cameron McCarr also medals, taking third in the 102-pound division. Leah Valadez was fourth in the 250-pound class, while teammates Tyler Tikiun and Peyton Glore wrestled their way to sixth in the 97- and 187-pound divisions, respectively.
Pleasant was sixth in the men’s Open 189.6 standings.
Landon Smith picked up his third state title of the weekend with a stellar effort in the Greco tournament. He went 6-0 and rolled to the Cadet 113-pound championship in the 16 and under division.
Laraux garnered a silver medal with a second-place mark in the 132-pound ranks. Leinberger was sixth in the Cadet 145-pound standings.
Pleasant highlighted Bethel’s efforts in the Open division. He won the 138.9 state title. Holkesvik was third in the 191.8-pound standings.
Logan Hastie, Camron Jordan and Sheldon Smith advanced to the championship match in their classifications. Hastie was the state runner-up in the Intermediate 10 and under’s 105-pound class. Jordan was the runner-up in the 120-pound ranks. Smith was second in the Schoolboy 14 and under’s 71-pound bracket.
Wheeler picked up a third-place medal in the Novice 12 and under’s 98-pound division. McCarr and Chagluak were fourth in the division’s in the Schoolboy 14 and Under 102 and 106 ranks, while Glore was fifth in the 187-pound standings.
Leah Valadez picked up Bethel’s final state title with a first-place finish in her class in the Alaska USA Women’s State Championships.
Herron, Abbygail Mael, Saige Wheeler and Howell all finished second in their brackets, while Dyment wrestled her way to third a third-place mark.
Bethel Wrestling Club coach Darren Lieb said he was pleased with the team’s effort this season, noting the Club had more than 160 wrestlers competing this season.
“I would like to thank all of the parents for allowing their children to be a part of our wrestling family here in Bethel,” he said. “(Thanks) to our volunteer coaches that put in countless hours of their time teaching and coaching, not just wrestling technique, but life skills as well. And a very special thank you to our sponsors this year.”
Sponsoring the team this season were several local businesses and entities, including Prime sponsors Gonders and May Hoffman (in lieu of son, Ben Hoffman), Sammy’s Cars and BVESA (Bethel Emergency Volunteer Firefighters Association), Donlin Gold and Crowley Services, while M and M Rentals was a Silver sponsor.
Among the volunteer coaches this season were Regina Lieb, Hayden Lieb, Thor Williams, Marty Smith, Daryl Smith, Zach Pleasant, Ryan Wheeler, Hans Holkesvik and Seth Smith.