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Nanooks Wrestle Their Way to Early Victories at Nome Invite

52 teams competed in the 123A State Championships for wrestling over the weekend. Bethel High School won the meet, while Nome-Beltz placed 22nd. Photo: Emily Russell, KNOM.

Nearly 100 student wrestlers from around Western Alaska flew into Nome last weekend for the Nome Wrestling Invite. Athletes from larger teams like Nome, Kotzebue, and Bethel competed along with students from Gambell, Golovin, Savoonga, Shishmaref, St. Michael and White Mountain.

High-school boys competed in six weight classes, with Nome’s Ben Cross and Caleb Evatt taking first place in the 126-pound and 145. Starr Erikson led the high-school girls’ team with a win in the girls’ 120 class.

And the Nanooks took five of the seven middle-school weight classes, thanks to Paris Hebel, Michael Marvin, Ethan Hannon, Natalie Tobuk, and David Cardenas.

But Nome head coach Dudley Homelvig says it’s not really about wins at this point in the season. “The goal this early in the season is to get a lot of matches,” he says.

And that meant combining some weight classes, with a smaller group of competitors than normal:

“If there’s only two kids in a weight class, they’re not going to get a lot of matches. But maybe if you bump them up to the next weight class, they might get five or six that way.”

The more matches, the more opportunities to work on correcting mistakes, Homelvig says. That’s especially important for such a young team like Nome. The coach says at this point, as younger wrestlers are still getting the hang of things, the training process includes a lot of teaching and less live wrestling.

“We do the smorgasbord style: We show pretty much everything throughout the course of the year, and it doesn’t always stick the first time around, but we come back. And we train our sixth graders with the same technique that we expect our seniors to be doing.” 

And although it’s a short season — with the state championship in mid-December — Homelvig says it’s long enough to get the students developing their skills:

“Just like building a house: the foundation first. And we’ll finish up with the interior decorating last,” he says.

Homelvig says the middle-schoolers are looking good already.

“Our junior high is an outstanding group,” he says. “That bunch — they keep working hard, they’re going to make some waves down the road.”

They’ll get some more practice as the Nanooks head to Anchorage next weekend for the Anchorage Christian Schools Tournament November 3rd and 4th.

Photo at top: Nome wrestles Shaktoolik at the 2015 1/2/3A State Championships. (Photo: Emily Russell, KNOM)

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