Now that the big mat rats have finished their season, it is time for the middle school and local elementary programs to start practicing to become state champions. Practices for the Homer Middle School and Chapman Middle-Elementary School programs begin on Monday and are held every day after school.
For more information on the Homer Middle School program, contact coaches Danny Rios or Larry Croft at 399-3114; for the Chapman School program, contact Bubba Wells at 299-6433. This season is for grades 7 and 8.
Returning for the Chapman Eagles are two borough finalists: Kyle Wells and Tyler Johnson, who also placed eighth at Tanana, the State Middle School Tournament. Incoming seventh-graders will include Wayne Newman and Hunter Harrington, each of whom placed fourth in freestyle state and third in Greco for Popeye wrestling. Luciano Fasulo, also a seventh-grader, placed fourth in Greco, while Allison Wells placed first in the girls state tournament.
Homer Middle School will be returning two borough champions from their five last season. Teddy Croft, who has placed fifth and third at the Tanana tournament, was the borough champion at 105 pounds last year. He then went on to place second in folkstyle and third in freestyle for Popeye wrestling. Tristen Cook, also a defending Kenai Peninsula Borough School District champion, placed fourth at Tanana last year.
Newcomers will be Popeye veterans Ian Stovall, Jadin Mann and Wyatt Alborn, each of whom have won many matches and placed at state in the past. Katie Rios and McKenzie Cook have dominated on the girls state scene, each winning state titles. Cook also placed fifth at state in freestyle.
There will be a home match at Homer Middle School on Jan. 17 in the multi-purpose room at 4 p.m.
The new year also starts the youth wrestling program at the Homer Education and Recreational Complex, former location of the Homer Boys and Girls Club, for grades three through six. Coach Jared Bradshaw, who ran this program last year at West Homer Elementary School and assisted with Popeye, will be instructing basic skills and can be reached at 299-7441. These practices will be Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30-5 p.m. at the HERC. Students need to ride the bus to the middle school and walk to the HERC.
Chris Perk is the head coach for the Homer High School wrestling program and coordinates the middle and elementary school wrestling programs.