Ward highlight’s Y-K’s efforts at state wrestling tournament

photo by Greg Lincoln

by Tommy Wells

Justin Ward turned more than a few heads this past weekend at the ASAA/First National Bank Division II State Wrestling Championships by turning in a stellar performance. The Aniak High School standout became the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta’s top small-school finisher by earning a second-place finish.

Ward posted a 3-1 record over the weekend and rolled to a silver medal in the 170-pound weight classification.

A senior at Aniak, Ward opened his performance with an impressive win over Kotzebue’s Billy Nelson. He posted a 14-3 victory over Nelson en route to advancing to the quarterfinals to face off against Petersburg’s Nick Hoffsted. After defeating Hoffsted, he worked his way to a 7-5 victory over Delta’s Omar Powers.

Caden Gerlach edged Ward in the championship match of the 170-pound division.

Andrew Wilson also turned in a solid outing for Aniak. He went 4-2 in the 220-pound division and finished fifth overall.

Wilson defeated Bethel’s Elijah Lindley in the fifth-place match. Arthur Freitas of Mt. Edgecumbe placed 3rd.

Napaskiak’s Stephen Maxie also added to the Y-K’s accolades by placing fourth in the 98-pound weight classification.

Napaskiak’s Aaron Williams, Alex Larson, Curtis Napoka and Isaac Joekay also wrestled for the Hawks.

Raymond Wooten, Milton Charles of Akiachak and Kurt Foss of Akiak also represented the Y-K at the state tournament. Wooten, a Kalskag standout, competed in the 98-pound weight division. Charles highlighted Akiachak’s efforts. Kurt Foss wrestled for Akiak.

Nunapitchuk had three wrestlers compete in the tournament, including Aiden Nicholai, Nathan Andrew and Cody Benn. Quinhagak’s Collin Brown and Scammon Bay’s Joe Uttereyuk also competed, as did Chevak’s Ajey Moses and Edward Atcherian.

The Y-K had several female wrestlers participating in the girls’ tournament, including Akiachak’’s Leah Alexie and Michaela Charles, Chevak’s Charity Boyscout-Homer, Koliganek’s Natasha Merlino, Kuskokwim Learning Academy’s Sophie Nicholai, Napaskiak’s Kelly Paul, Nunapitchuk’s Nikki Nick and Scammon Bay’s Rita Uttereyuk, Anecia Rivers and Justina Wilson.

Celeste Katcheak of Stebbins was the highest finishing girl from the Y-K Delta. She placed fourth in the girls’ 106-pound division.

The Mt. Edgecumbe High School Braves girls wrestling team led by Coach Kimber won the state title. Wrestling for MEHS and joining Anya Pingayak were Andrea Prince, Kwethluk’s Bristel Charlie, Alaina Pete, Haley Ulroan, Mikayla Kameroff, and Agatha Andrews – girls champion in the 182 lbs. division.

Sydney Kimber of MEHS received the Girls Outstanding Wrestler award.

ASAA/First National Bank girls wrestling championships Team scores

1. Mt. Edgecumbe 193; 2. North Pole 78; 3. South 68; 4. Homer 57; 5. West 52; 6. Bethel 41; 7. Eielson 34.5; 8. tie, Nome and Soldotna 33; 10) tie, East and Kotzebue 29.