By Chris Perk
For the Homer News
The Mariner wrestling team heads to Nikiski this weekend for Kachemak Conference Championships. The Mariners would like a top-three finish as a team and hope for many top-four finishes as individuals.
Top-four finishers qualify for the Small Schools State Meet the following weekend in Anchorage. After two weeks of subpar wrestling, the Mariners will have to dig deep and finish strong.
Antonio Ochoa had a strong performance at Skyview last Saturday; his 10-2 victory over Jesse Boze gave the Mariners their only lead of the day. After giving up as many as four forfeits, the Panthers beat Homer 60-19.
Ochoa’s brother, Pedro, also picked up a major decision victory over Austin Schrader. Two weeks ago, he had to beat Schrader in the final seconds; this time Pedro Ochoa led from the beginning and won 12-4.
Skyview looks to be the top pick in the conference. It has at least 20 wrestlers it will send to the tourney. In meets like this, size matters. Each wrestler can pick up wins and score points.
Homer looks to send about 14 to regions after losing two to injuries and another to grades. Making matters worse, Homer also was missing varsity members Calvin Johnson and David Woo for personal reasons against Skyview.
Nikiski and Houston also will give the Mariners a fight this weekend. Both teams have some wrestlers that will score big points for them.
Don’t count Homer out, though. If this young squad can get back to the strong wrestling they displayed mid-season, we could see a major upset on our hands. Both 98-pound wrestlers could score a state berth. Jadzia Martin will be seeded number 1 as she has wins against all the other 98-pounders in her conference. She has 20 wins and only five losses this season.
Martin Welty, a freshman, has made the most improvement this season. He has wrestled the other competitors really tough and could have a stellar weekend. He will need two victories to punch his ticket to state.
Freshman Jared Brand, 106, has 22 wins and is currently ranked number 6 in the state. He has Austin Craig in front of him from Skyview this weekend. The match last Saturday went in Craig’s favor.
Diana Gaedecke doesn’t have a lot of wins yet on the season, but is scrappy. Calvin Johnson, the defending conference champion, will have to beat last year’s 98-pound champion. Johnson currently is ranked number 3 in the state and has won 27 matches this season.
The next three weights will make or break the Mariners this weekend: Jaime Rios, 120, Ravi Cavasos, 126, and Timmy Woo, 132, all freshman who have won many matches, but also lost a few.
It is possible to get all three to qualify and make that fourth-place match. Lots will depend on their level of confidence this weekend.
Senior David Woo, 138, should place in the top four. Last year he was sick and did not make the trip. Wyatt Lewis, 145, will represent the Mariners after Andrew Doughty broke his hand and Dakota Alward did not pass the grade check. Lewis has three wins on the season.
Senior and 152-pounder Pedro Ochoa looks to make his mark the next two weeks. He beat number 3 ranked Ryan Radmer at Palmer. Ochoa went to state last season and knows what it takes. He has a very good endurance and a quick double leg attack. His brother, Antonio, will represent the Mariners at 160.
Antonio Ochoa has 10 wins and could earn a state berth with a strong weekend. Jordan Reynolds, 220, Danny Rios, 195, and Heather Harrington, 220, all have wins this season and could sneak into the state meet.
Wrestling starts at 2 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday at Nikiski High School.
Chris Perk is the head coach of the Homer High School Mariner wrestling team.