Four wrestlers make state; Jimmy Thomsen wins top tourney award
Notching five pins in five matches, Haines High School junior Jimmy Thomsen was named outstanding wrestler of the tournament at the Southeast region championship last weekend.
Thomsen’s weight-division victory was a first for the squad. He and three teammates qualified for the state championship this weekend in Nikiski.
About 150 wrestlers from 16 Southeast schools participated. "That’s big stuff," said Haines coach Dennis Durr.
"Finally we got some hardware for the trophy case. It’s a start. The best way to build a program is to have some wrestlers win championships," said Durr, who heads up a school sport that had been discontinued and was revived only four years ago.
Thomsen, 16, won the 152-pound weight class, topping about two dozen other grapplers in his division at Mount Edgecumbe. Discussions with residents familiar with the sport before it was discontinued lead Durr to believe Thomsen’s win is a first in the school’s history.
Winning a weight-class at regionals was a main goal for the team this year, and sending four of nine Haines wrestlers at Edgecumbe to the state championship was a "best-case scenario," Durr said. "I’m proud of the guys. It’s the best I was hoping for. Things worked out."
Thomsen’s final match was against Angelo Lerma of Kake, a wrestler he’d beaten before. He got a take-down early but Lerma managed to keep up, trailing only by a single point heading into the third and final round.
Although he was seeded first, Thomsen said his win wasn’t a given. Among his competitors was a Yakutat wrestler he hadn’t seen before who’d beaten higher-seeded opponents.
"I was expecting to do well but I was nervous going into the finals, not knowing how it was going to turn out, but it turned out well," Thomsen said. At next weekend’s state championship in Nikiski, Thomsen may face Devon Phillips, a Kotzebue wrestler who beat him in overtime during a semi-final match at a recent Anchorage tournament.
Thomsen said he’s hoping to place in the top six at state, and that he’s improved from last years. "I had more determination this year to win. I practiced hard and it paid off. I’m faster and better at finishing shots, and better all-around."
Durr said Thomsen’s "outstanding wrestler" award was decided by a vote of coaches at the meet. "That was the icing on the cake." The honor was likely partly due to the fact that Thomsen wrestles in one of the sport’s most crowded divisions. "Not every weight class is equal."
Senior Kenny Thomsen, Jimmy’s brother, placed second at 138 pounds, a division that saw 22 wrestlers. Unlike his younger brother, who has wrestled three years, Kenny joined the team just last year. He entered the tournament seeded second in the division.
"Kenny’s just a natural. He only wrestled half a season last year, but he wrestled strong all year. I’m sure if he started (wrestling) as a freshman, he’d be a state champion by now," coach Durr said.
Junior Caullen Taylor also wrestled in the 138-pound division, finishing fourth and qualifying for state. Thomsen topped him, 9-3, sending him to a consolation match for third place against a Sitka grappler who edged him.
Taylor placed above his sixth-place tournament seeding. Durr said Taylor is strong and continually improves but wrestles in one of the sport’s most competitive divisions.
Recent transfer student Joshua Kerstein, a sophomore, placed third in the 142-pound division. Kerstein weighs 138 pounds, but due to a paperwork error, wrestled in the heavier weight class.
"He did real well for getting bumped up a weight class. The guy he lost to was good and it was a real close match," Durr said.
Durr said he’s hoping the showing will help bolster participation in the sport. "You never know. Some new kids are talking about trying it now."