Juneau-Douglas junior Jahrease Mays looks over at the official as he pins Ketchikan’s Patrick Rauwolf in the 125-pound bracket final of the Brandon Pilot Invitational on Saturday at Thunder Mountain High School. Mays won by pin at 1:10. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas junior Jahrease Mays looks over at the official as he pins Ketchikan’s Patrick Rauwolf in the 125-pound bracket final of the Brandon Pilot Invitational on Saturday at Thunder Mountain High School. Mays won by pin at 1:10. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Falcons wrestling hit the Pilot mats

Mays, Tipton and Mason win brackets

Juneau-Douglas 125-pounder Jahrease Mays made quick work of his finals match at the Brandon Pilot Invitational on Saturday night at Thunder Mountain High School.

Mays, who wrestles for Thunder Mountain because the Juneau-Douglas squad folded, took all of 70 seconds to pin the only challenger in his weight class, Ketchikan’s Patrick Rauwolf, but the rising junior said this season as a whole — now already a month in — won’t be a sprint.

Mays learned important lessons in his freshman season (“my work ethic wasn’t there”) and sophomore season (“my weight cut, that destroyed me”) that he hopes will pay dividends.

“This year, I’m working hard and not cutting too much weight,” Mays said.

Thunder Mountain’s Derek Mason and Nick Tipton were also victorious in their finals Saturday.

Mason, a senior, won by a 6-0 decision over Sitka’s Maximus Johnson in the 215-pound final. Mason pinned Sitka’s Gabe VanVeen in the semifinals. Tipton, a junior, defeated Ketchikan’s Wyatt Glen by major decision in the 171-pound final. He pinned Wrangell’s Jake Eastaugh less than a minute into his semifinal matchup.

Approximately 90 wrestlers from six Southeast teams attended the invitational. Ketchikan led all teams with 217.5 points, while Mt. Edgecumbe finished in second place with 140 points. Thunder Mountain had 112 points, a big improvement from the Petersburg Tournament, which took place the week before.

Less than half of the Thunder Mountain team were eligible to travel. Assistant coach Jesse Cruz wants to change the culture around the team so that missing any meet would be unthinkable.

“You’re all in or you’re all out,” Cruz said. “If you’ve got hesitations then you’re not buying into the program, you’re not giving me your all, and I don’t need that. So if you’re all in, I’m all in with you.”

Cruz is new to the team this season. Last year’s head coach Jason Boyer moved away, and Cruz, a former Western Colorado University coach, has implemented a disciplined program. It’s been a welcome adjustment for some, like Mays and Tipton.

“There’s a lot more running,” Tipton said. “I do think that the coaching change has made a big difference. I feel like we learn a lot better technique and (Cruz) just has a way of explaining it a lot better.”

The team welcomed four freshmen this year, but numerous upperclassmen did not return or left the team in the first month of the season.

“It’s a young team,” Thunder Mountain head coach Josh Houston said. “They’re focused, they’re hard workers. It’s probably the most controlled and focused room we’ve had in several years. I think a lot of that is because we have a younger group.”

Freshmen Kadin Messmer and Blaze Darbonne both wrestled in their first home meet. Messmer was second in his weight class and Darbonne was third. Other top-three finishers included Nate Houston and Camden Erickson.

The Falcons are off to Ketchikan next weekend for the Bill Weiss Invitational. The John Tobin Invitiational is the week after in North Pole.

“I think this year we’re just looking good with kids that are behaving and working hard,” coach Houston said.

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