Warriors claim 6th state wrestling title

In the moments leading up to the state championship finals, Coach Lieb gathers his Warriors to give them words of encouragement. photo by Greg Lincoln

by Tommy Wells

After the first day of the 2017 ASAA/First National Bank State Wrestling Championships, Bethel Regional High School head coach Darren Lieb met with his athletes and told them the mountain they faced if they wanted to claim the Warriors’ sixth state team wrestling championship would be a steep climb after watching Homer take a 40-point lead.

And they overcame it.

Bethel, backed by gold medal performances from senior Thomas Dyment, sophomore Hayden Lieb and Mian Alexie-Leonard, turned in a dynamic effort on Saturday. The Warriors rolled up more than 50 points in the final day of action at the 2-day tournament at the Alaska Airlines Center and raced to a stunning 11-point victory. With the victory, Bethel rolled up 207 points and repeated as the Division II state champions. Homer finished as the state runner-up for the second straight year with 196 points. Barrow finished a distant third at 101.

Dyment highlighted Bethel’s come-from-behind victory with a historic effort to cap his remarkable prep career. He posted a perfect 4-0 run in the tournament and breezed to becoming the 11th Alaska wrestler to win four straight state championships.

The 2017 Division II Outstanding Wrestler, he kicked off his quest to become a 4-time champion with a bang. He dispatched Grace Christian’s Owen Ford in the first round of the 113-pound weight classification. From there, he pinned Isaiah Hoffman of Glennallen in the quarterfinals. After downing Anchorage Christian’s Matthew Bohlman in the semis, he capped a 35-0 season with an impressive win over Voznesenka’s Maxim Kusnetsov in the championship match. Dyment needed just 52 seconds to claim the win.

The win enabled Dyment to complete his BRHS career with a staggering 127-7 record.

Dyment began his string of state titles with consecutive 98-pound titles as a freshman. He was 35-4 as a freshman and 29-3 as a sophomore. He was 35-0 this season and 28-0 last season, when he won the 106-pound state title.

Like Dyment, Lieb finished the tournament with a state title. He won his second state title in as many years by posting a 4-0 outing in the 145-pound classification.

Lieb, who finished the season at 33-3, made easy work of his route to the state title. He pinned Houston’s Dakota Bolduc in the first round. Moments later, he cruised to a 15-2 rout of Homer freshman Joshua Bradshaw to earn a spot in the semifinals opposite Wrangell’s Ian Jenson. After downing Jensen, Lieb finished off his title run by pinning Klawock’s Jonas Heppe in the finals.

Alexie-Leonard dominated the 152-pound division, winning all four of his matches, including a 5-3 victory over Klawock’s James Heppe in the title match that finished off his 26-8 season.

He earned his way into the 152-pound title bout by reeling off an easy 14-6 over Grace Christian’s Michael Kuentzel in the first round. Alexie-Leonard followed his win over Kuentzel with a pin of Sitka’s Sid Fleming and an 11-2 romp over Wrangell’s Hunter Wiederspohn in the semifinals.

Jarius Allain narrowly missed becoming Bethel’s fourth state champion. He advanced to the finals of the 106-pound division before suffering a close 6-4 loss to Eielson’s Deven Perez. En route to finishing second in his weight class, Allain went 3-1 and finished his season at 29-8.

Allain defeated Jason Hadraki from Sand Point in the opening round. He defeated teammate Travis Chaney to advance to the semifinals where he battled Jude Merriner of Grace Christian to advance to the championship round.

Seth Smith added to the Warriors’ medal count. He claimed a bronze medal in the 120-pound weight classification by finishing third overall. He capped a 4-1 record during the weekend by grinding out a tough 2-1 victory over Dillingham’s Justin Dye in the third-place contest.

Smith, who finished the year at 26-12, made his presence felt early in the meet. He moved into the semifinals by reeling off wins over Chevak’s Edward Atcherian and BRHS teammate Avery Hoffman in the first two rounds. Following a loss to New Stuyahok’s Blunka Blunka Jr., Smith got back into gear. He bested Redington’s Jonathan Kirby in the consolation semifinals by a 7-3 clip.

Mathew Hunter and Sven Williams also did well in the tournament. Both wrestled their way to fourth-place marks in their respective weight classifications. Hunter turned in a 4-2 record in the 126-pound division, Williams finished fourth in the 182-pound standings.

Mathew Ferguson, Ryan Smith and Elijah Lindley added to Bethel’s accolades. Ferguson won four of his six matches and finished fifth in the 160-pound bracket. Smith also garnered four wins and placed fifth in the 285-pound classification. Lindley was sixth in the 220-pound division.

Hunter Secor may not have placed in the 98-pound division, but he did prove he can hold his own with the state’s best. He went 2-2 overall at the state tournament.

Travis Chaney, Kevin Valadez and Kyle Valadez also competed in the tournament for BRHS.

Bethel head coach Darren Lieb was selected the 2017 Coach of the Year. BRHS assistant coach Paul O’Brien was named the 2017 Assistant Coach of the Year.

ASAA/First National Bank Division II wrestling championships Team scores

1. Bethel 207; 2. Homer 196; 3. Barrow 101; 4. Dillingham 98; 5. Glennallen 94.5; 6. Grace Christian 90; 7. Kotzebue 81; 8. Unalaska 71; 9. Mt. Edgecumbe 67.5; 10. Voznesenka 62.5; 11. Wrangell 58.5; 12. Sitka 58; 13. Anchorage Christian 51.5; 13. Monroe 51.5; 15. Craig 50; 16. Eielson 50; 16. Houston 48; 17. Klawock 47; 18. Nome 46; 19. Redington 43.5; 20. Aniak 36; 21. Hutchison 28; 22. Holy Rosary Academy 26; 22. New Stuyahok 26; 22. Petersburg 26; 25. Delta 23; 26. Napaskiak 22; 27. Seward 18; 28. Su Valley 17; 29. Nikiski 15; 30. Noatak 6; 31. Metlakatla 5; 32. Glacier View 4; 32. Haines 4; 32. Quinhagak 4; 35. Koyuk 3; 35. Newhalen 3; 35. Nunapitchuk 3; 35. Sand Point 3; 35. Shaktoolik 3; 35. Shungnak 3; 41. Galena 2; 41. Gambell 2; 41. Nenana 2; 44. Bristol Bay 1; 44. Unalakleet 1