Warriors roll to GAC crown, send 15 to state wrestling tournament

by Tommy Wells

The Bethel Regional High School Warriors went into the Great Alaska Conference Wrestling Championships this past weekend with two goals. They wanted to win the conference title and to have a bevy of athletes earn berths in the upcoming state wrestling tournament. They accomplished both.

Bethel securing 15 spots in the state wrestling tournament, the BRHS wrestlers breezed to the conference championship yet again. The Warriors, who had 22 wrestlers finish in the top six in their respective classifications, rolled up 283.5 points and easily outdistanced Unalaska for the GAC title. Unalaska finished second with 105 points.

Hayden Lieb highlighted a list of eight Bethel grapplers to wrestle their way to conference championships. The University of Wyoming signee continued his quest to close out his senior season unbeaten by dominating the 160-pound weight classification. Lieb reeled off two straight wins and ran his season record to a perfect 23-0.

A three-time state champion, Lieb earned his way into the 160-pound finals with a quick win over Jeff Tunutmoak of Scammon Bay in the semifinals. In the title match, he picked up a win over Emmonak’s John B. Charles.

Landon Smith also continued his unbeaten run through the Alaska ranks this season. He moved to 32-0 by winning the 112-pound classification. He finished off a 3-0 effort in the tournament by wrestling his way to a 3-1 decision over Nunapitchuk’s Devonte Sallison.

Simon Snow also punched his ticket to the state tournament with a solid outing. He came into the GAC tournament with a 7-11 record. Snow found his stride in front of the home fans. He defeated Unalaska’s Landon Shaishnikoff in the finals of the 171-pound division.

Kevin Valadez added his name to the Warriors’ state qualifiers. He won the 189-pound championship, going 2-0. He defeated teammate Lawrence Bayer in the finals.

Bayer also advanced to the state meet. Only the top two finishers in each weight classification earned berths in the state meet, which will be held this weekend at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.

Axel Madson and Nelson Evans added to BRHS’ gold-medal run. Madson won the 103-pound title with a win over Hooper Bay’s Earnie Smith.

Evans owned the 135-pound division, going 3-0 en route to garnering a trip to state. He edged out Unalaska’s Curtis Jeppesen by a 5-4 margin. Mason Fitka was third in the 135-pound standings.

Jarvis Evans also collected a gold. He won the 152-pound title with a win over teammate Sam Beans-Polk in the championship bout.

Beans-Polk went 3-1 in the tournament. He rallied back after his loss to Evans to claim a decision over Scammon Bay’s Adrian Kopanuk in the second-place match.

Bethel teammate Hayden Morris finished 6th in the 152-pound weight classification.

Like Beans-Polk Jamin Crow also pocketed a silver medal by finishing second. He was the runner-up in the 145-pound division with a 3-1 mark. Crow wrestled his way to the finals of the division before dropping a 6-2 decision to Unalaska’s Blaine Henning.

Crow came back to take second with a win over Nunapitchuk’s Cody Benn in the second-place contest.

Jordan Leinberger and Cyrus Anaruk tied for sixth, respectively, in the 145-pound standings.

Terrell Jimmy added his name to the state-qualifier list with a stellar effort in the 140-pound bracket. Jimmy went 3-1, including a victory over Emmonak’s Alexander Bird in the second-place contest.

Napaskiak’s David Fisher won the 145-pound division.

Bethel sensation Peter Bill completed his 2019 season with a fourth-place mark in the 140-pound standings.

Kyle Valadez, Charles Smith and Klaydon Charlie also punched their tickets to the state tournament by placing second in their respective brackets. Valadez was second to Isaac Joekay of Napaskiak in the 215-pound standings. Smith was second to Unalaska’s John Esnardo in the 130-pound ranks.

Smith defeated Scammon Bay’s Xavier Smith in the second-place match.

Charlie defeated Patrick Polty in the second-place bout in the 125-pound division. Bethel’s Tyler Laraux won the 125-pound title, going 2-0 overall.

Jaymes Martins was fourth in the 130-pound division, while Eddie Jimmy was sixth in the 112-pound standings.

Stephen Maxie and David Fisher of Napaskiak, and Ayden Alstrom of St. Mary’s also won gold medals for their teams. Caden Sallison won a silver medals and a spot on the state finals bracket.

They will be joining Earnie Smith, Devonte Sallison, John B. Charles, Isaac Joekay at the state meet.

Great Alaska Conference Final team standings

1. Bethel 283.5; 2. Unalaska 105.0; 3. Napaskiak 73.0; 4. Nunapitchuk 61.0; 5. Scammon Bay 54.5; 6. Emmonak 49.0; 7. St. Mary’s 36.0; 8. Pilot Station 29.0; 9. Chevak 27.0; 10. Hooper Bay 13.0; 11. Mountain Village 11.0; 12. Kwethluk 10.0; 13. Alakanuk 8.0; 14. Marshall 7.0; 15. Aniak 6.0; 16. Akiachak 4.0; 17. Kotlik School 3.0; 18. Nunam Iqua 0.0; 18. Quinhagak 0.0.