Story last updated at 3:46 p.m. Thursday, October 31, 2002

Mariner wrestlers aim to build program

HHS roster sits at 15 bodies and counting

by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

photo: sports

  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
Adam Hediger, right works to turn the tables on teammate Jim Pollack during a recent wrestling practice at Homer High School.  
To state the obvious, wrestling is a one-on-one sport.

If one student turned out to wrestle, Homer High School could muster a presence in the high school wrestling season, potentially winning any match that came along. But without wrestlers in the majority of weight classes, the Mariners could not make a run for points in any team competition, including Region III or the state Class 4A championships.

So with its season-opening meet at Ninilchik School on Saturday, the Homer wrestling team is searching for a few more able bodies, according to head coach Chris Perk.

The Mariners have done better than a team of one, but with 15 members, many of whom wrestle in the same weight class, the Mariners have fallen well shy of the 40 or so grapplers Perk had hoped to see on the team.

So he put this challenge to the Homer High School student body -- come out for wrestling, and you are just about guaranteed a varsity letter. More important than lettering, Perk promised that students who come out will pick up a set of skills, training techniques and a measure of discipline that will carry well beyond the wrestling mat.

"Nothing is tougher than getting through a wrestling season," Perk said. "After all the hard work that goes into it, I look at any (problem) and think it's not that big a deal."

If the roster stays at 15, Perk said, the Mariners still have a shot at some great individual successes.

Led by juniors Monte Garroutte and Devion Hagen, who wrestle in the 130- and 125-pound categories, respectively, the Mariners have a solid core.

Garroutte placed in the fall championships in both his freshman and sophomore years, taking third in his first year and fourth last season.

Hagen also did well in the fall championships, placing second and fifth his first two seasons. He also grabbed a bronze medal at the Arctic Winter Games in Canada and Greenland last March.

Perk also pointed to Jim Pollack, who wrestles at 171 and 189, as a threat for the Mariners. Last season, Pollack led the team with 17 pins and won 27 matches only to be sick with the flu at regions.

Other Mariners also hope to earn a spot and do some damage at this year's Class 4A championships, which will replace the fall season championships Homer had been competing for during the past couple of seasons.

Sophomore Louden Greiner (119) and juniors Adam Hediger (171/189) and Tommy James (140/145) are looking to improve on last year's championship-qualifying seasons. Luke Fennell (112) and Jared Weaver (215), both juniors, hope to take their seasons a little further this year and qualify for the postseason.

The big X-factor for Homer is the crop of freshmen wrestlers, who account for almost half of the squad.

"The new guys are going to be learning a lot," Perk said. "The real trick as a coach is how to push one group and bring the other group along without scaring off the younger guys."

The freshmen are led by last year's runner-up in the Kenai Peninsula Borough middle school meet, Camron Hagen. Hagen had a very successful season wrestling in the 103 division, losing only to Skyview's Eli Hutchison.

Unfortunately for Perk, his team will be even more shorthanded, as the Mariners kick off their season without the Hagen brothers, who have been out of town and won't have the necessary 10 practices in time for the season's start.

Given the sparse roster and many untested team members, Garroutte said that as the season gets under way, the more experienced wrestlers will have an opportunity to help bring their younger teammates up the learning curve.

"In live wrestling, you can find a lot of things that people are doing (wrong) that can be easily stopped," Garroutte said.

The Mariners' season-long learning curve officially begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, when action starts at Ninilchik.

Sepp Jannotta can be reached at sjannotta@homer