Juneau Youth Wrestling Club recently sent a total of 27 Juneau middle school wrestlers to Fairbanks this past week to attend the 47th annual Tanana Middle School Invitational.
This invitational is dubbed the unofficial Alaska middle school state wrestling tournament and showcases the best middle school wrestling talent in the state, according to Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School coach Jason Hass.
“For most of Juneau’s middle schoolers, last Wednesday’s early school closure was just a chance to get out of school early,” Hass said. “But for 27 Juneau wrestlers, it was an opportunity to head to the new Juneau Youth Wrestling Club building early and sneak in some extra practice. Then after months of preparation, the blizzard that resulted in record snowfall almost robbed these same hardworking middle schoolers of the opportunity to participate in the storied tournament.”
Hass said that the canceled flights out of Juneau Wednesday created a disruption to flights on Thursday. Hass explained that the team was due in Fairbanks by 6 p.m. on Thursday for weigh-ins, but due to the canceled flights, the team was unable to get into Fairbanks until 12:30 a.m. with a 12-your layover in Anchorage. Hass said thankfully the tournament director allowed Juneau’s team to weigh in upon arrival at the school at 2 a.m.
Hass said this was the largest number of participants at the annual Tanana Invitational with over 500 wrestlers competing. Hass further said that regardless of the lack of sleep, late weigh-ins and long day of travel, the team didn’t let it faze them as they all remained focused and only gave up two matches in the early first round.
“Everyone of the Juneau grapplers wrestled to the best of their ability and felt the sense of accomplishment that follows two very long days (9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.) of tournament wrestling,” Hass said. “After the dust settled Saturday evening, our team placed third out of 42 teams, and we had 13 individual medalists.”
Among the Juneau Youth Wrestling Club, Caleb Scussel placed fourth, Carson Kautz placed sixth, Landon Hill placed second, Camden Messmer second, Landyn Dunn placed third, Jed Davis fourth, Carter Day eighth, Ethan VanKirk seventh, Ivan Shockley sixth, Jaxin Jim third, Darren Foster second, Sofia Contreras third, and the first place Champion in the 97-pound women’s bracket was Nixie Schooler.
“This dedicated team of wrestlers showed perseverance and dedication,” Hass said. “Which further earned respect for us from the rest of the Alaska wrestling community. As a club, team and family we are all so proud of each one of our wrestlers and know that they are proud of themselves. These middle schoolers are further proof of how bright the future is for our Juneau Wrestling Community.
In addition to Hass, the team of wrestlers were coached by Ken Brown, Loren Cummins, Paul Davis, Al Hill, Tom Pegues and Chad Scussel. The trip was funded solely by wrestlers’ fundraising efforts and support from the Juneau Youth Wrestling Club. Hass said if anyone should see one of the club’s young wrestlers selling raffle tickets, the club appreciates any and all support.
• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at firstname.lastname@example.org.