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Two Vikings crowned at local wrestling tournament


Erik LeDuc / Petersburg Pilot

Billy Ware came out strong, slamming state champ from last year Kotzebue's Gary Eakin several times early in the match.

The season has just begun, and already it's a good year for Petersburg wrestling, coming in with four boys in the final bouts of a weekend invitational that brought teams from across the southeastern boot of the state and even a fly in visit from the northern reaches.

All told, about 150 boys and girls were seen contorting themselves and, hopefully, their opponents over Friday evening and a grueling, day long extravaganza on Saturday. When all was said and done, blood and sweat cleaned from the mats, sophmore Buddy Stalmach and senior DJ Toyumura reigned as king for their weight divisions, 113 pounds and 120 pounds, respectively, while John Brooks and Billy Ware, 138 pounds and 152 pounds, stood a step below their thrones in second place.

Oddly enough, that was where the line was drawn, as the Vikings went all or nothing to victory, with other wrestlers placing fourth or below.

"Those four guys really stood out," Coach Dan van Swearengen said. "Until the finals match everyone just whipped it - they beat everyone they came up against."

Best of all, they had some incredible opponents, he acknowledged. "The kid from Ketchikan that John (Brooks) beat, Marcus (Martin), he's going to place really high at state and the kid that Billy (Ware) was beating (Gary Eakin of Kotzebue), up until the last couple of seconds, was the state champion last year."

That was a match you should have been there for, Swearengen said, recalling the blitzing start of Ware as he hoisted Eakin into the air and slammed him back down multiple times in the first two rounds - riding a sound margin of points up through the tail end of the second, when he seemed to run out of juice against his opponent who just refused to give in those last centimeters for the pin. "We're hoping that's going to be an easy fix, just get him in a little better shape."

Brooks, though he fought on valiantly, never could rise above the mountain of Ketchikan's Marcus Martin, while Toyumura, with a style and grace all his own, had one of the easiest final matches as he serenely choked the fight out of his opponent, Adam Gibsen of Ketchikan, for a winning pin. The speed at which he handled his last match was only surpassed by Stalmach, whose primary tactic for this tournament - a fury of fakes and twisted pins launched the moment the whistle sounded - landed more than a handful of victories in the first round.

"I don't take it slow, I try to get (a pin) as quick as I can to save my energy," Stalmach said. "I can always switch to something else - there's a lot of moves to just try something different."

Coach Rob Schwartz added that Stalmach, a wrestler since middle school, seemed to have found his edge this year, losing past boyish distractions as he snapped to focus on a single goal - winning.

Erik LeDuc / Petersburg Pilot

The Vikings gathered for Senior Appreciation on Saturday, right before the final matches of the invitational wrestling tournament. Surrounded by family and lined up from left to right are seniors Billy Ware, Gus Petersen, DJ Toyomura, and John Brooks.

"He's amazing at reading situations," he said. "That's what makes champions, keeping your frontal lobe going. He'll feint, fake at being gassed and tired for 40 seconds then hit a move in the last few to win the match. He took a region title like that when he was 12 years old - the Academy Award for tiredness goes to Buddy Stalmach."

Both coaches will be hard at training, looking to cover small deficiencies and hone winning skills as the season continues.

"Every meet we go, (Coach Schwartz) and I, and look over what we didn't do good - that's one practice, or they're out of shape - we watch that kind of stuff," he said. "First couple of days of practice the next week is when we work on specific stuff," said van Swearengen.

Hopefully that will pay off soon, as the boys have headed up to Juneau to face off against division competitors, with the experimental addition of the larger schools in the smaller pools this year, he added. "The kids will get a lot of matches, we're wrestling Thursday, Friday and Saturday. That's some more experience for those younger guys. Mt. Edgecumbe is likely to bring about 100 kids."


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