Thunder Mountain High School placed a program-best seventh at the ASAA Division I wrestling state championships on Saturday in Anchorage.
Colony won the team title with 333 points, and South Anchorage was runner-up with 280 points. TMHS finished with 98 points, a sign the program is headed in the right direction. Just under 20 teams competed at the two-day event at the Alaska Airlines Center on the campus of the University of Alaska-Anchorage.
“As a whole, we wrestled really good and I have a good feeling about going into next year,” TMHS coach Josh Houston said. “We have a pretty young team, and next year I suspect we’re going to be even stronger and have a better showing.”
State runner-ups Jahrease Mays and Nick Tipton and three other Falcons mounted the podium in their respective weight classes. Mays lost in the 125-pound finals to Simon Keffalos and Tipton came up just short against Chugiak’s Daniel Niebles in the 189-pound finals. Prior to Saturday, Cody Weldon (2016 state champion) and Carl Tupou (2017 state champion) were the only TMHS wrestlers to reach the state title match. The program has appeared at the state meet for the last 11 years, the last four as a combined team with Juneau-Douglas High School.
TMHS qualified wrestlers in 10 of the 14 total weight classes, with Carson Cummins, Mays, Tipton, Camden Erickson and Jake Ferster placing in the top six to make the podium.
“To get to the top six, it’s still quite an accomplishment because you’re beating 10 other kids that were top kids to even make it to the state tournament,” Houston said.
Mays was pinned midway through his finals match against South Anchorage’s Simon Keffalos, and Tipton lost to Niebles by way of a 10-2 major decision.
Both Keffalos and Niebles were undefeated this season.
“It was a real close match but Jahrease was up by two points,” Houston said, “and then he just got a little out of position on the outside edge of the out-of-bounds of the mat and fell over to his hip, and the kid took advantage of it.”
Ferster and Erickson each end the tournament with wins. Ferster secured a 6-0 decision victory over Daniel Van Slyke of Colony in his third-place match. Erickson won by forfeit against Sean Michel of Lathrop.
Tipton said he’s been driven to winning a high school state championship since the program over two years ago. He said he stayed in shape throughout the year in order to try to achieve that goal.
“It was nice to start seeing the hard work pay off,” Tipton said. “I went and worked so long to get this far. You gotta believe you can make it this far to work towards it. Everyone’s always telling you, ‘You can’t make it there, you won’t get good enough, you can’t accomplish it.’ But to finally get there and see the results start to pay off, it’s pretty exciting.”
Tipton came from humble beginnings, according to his coach, and used his relentless work ethic to elevate his wrestling.
“It’s just amazing the transformation in his success in wrestling,” Houston said. “He didn’t even qualify for state his sophomore year when he first moved here. He had wrestled prior to moving here but again with no real success that I know of … and then only won one match at state last year and then made the finals this year. It’s just purely on his work ethic and his commitment to the sport.”
Mays finishes his Falcons career as a three-time state placer, a mark no other Falcon has achieved.
“Getting to the finals, there’s no guarantee (of winning), there’s tough wrestlers,” Mays said. “I was just happy to get there but wish I finished on top.”
“I’m still proud of what I accomplished,” he added.
Thunder Mountain High School all-time state placers (top-six)
2018 — Derek Mason (215, fourth)
2017 — Jahrease Mays (113, sixth), Carl Tupou (220, first)
2016 — Jahrease Mays (106, fourth), Louie Rubenstein (182, fourth), Cody Weldon (220, first)
2015 — Connor Norman (98, sixth), Hunter Boyer (152, third)
2010 — Thomas Riley (130, fourth), Cole Bossio (285, sixth)
2009 — Cameron Fronimos (171, sixth)
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com.