November 29, 2012 | Volume 42, No.48

Grapplers to take center stage: Haines hosts regional championship

The Region V wrestling championship for small schools will be held starting noon Friday at the Haines High School gymnasium.

It’s more than rare for a Southeast championship to be held in Haines, as regular-season wrestling tournaments are scheduled here only every other year, said coach Dennis Durr.

“This may be the first ever and it may be the last. I think every school in Southeast is going to be here except Angoon. We’ll even have Gustavus and Pelican,” Durr said. Visitors will include teams from Division 1A, 2A and 3A schools, more than 150 students, 30 coaches and four referees.

Starting at noon Friday through about 6 p.m. Saturday, two wrestling matches should be occurring at all times, he said. “The biggest thing will be Saturday night (finals). That will be a head-to-head competition between the top two finishers in their weight classes.”

Glacier Bear senior Jimmy Thomsen, 17, ranked fourth in Alaska in the 152-pound weight division for small schools, is hoping to make the weekend’s final match, defending his undefeated Panhandle record this season and Southeast title last year.

“I’d like everybody in town to show up and support us. It’s going to be a good meet,” Thomsen said this week.

Thomsen this week was reviewing his “bread and butter moves,” and visualizing his matches between daily drills. With about 20 wrestlers in his weight class, Thomsen may have to beat four or five wrestlers to earn a trip to state. “I’m not going to overlook anybody. I’m going in there like I’m wrestling for the state championship every time,” he said.

Thomsen and classmates Caullen Taylor and Corey Piper are the team’s three originals. They joined the team as freshmen as Haines reinstated wrestling as a sport following a hiatus of a decade or more.

Thomsen said the sport has grown a little bit in stature since then. “Having regionals here will bring a lot of attention to wrestling and make it more popular. But even without it, wrestling wouldn’t die here anytime soon.”

Taylor, at 145 pounds, also will be a competitor to watch this weekend. He has notched a winning record this season and also qualified for state last year, Durr said.

Competing at home for a chance to go to state should provide a big boost to his squad, coach Durr said.

Other Glacier Bears to wrestle this week include senior Zach Rossman, 132 pounds; junior Walker Blair, 160 pounds; sophomores Josh Stearns, 220 pounds, and Casey St. Clair, 152 pounds; and freshmen Kai Hays and Zane Durr, 160 pounds and 126 pounds, respectively.

“This is another big team for us at regionals. We’re hoping to get a couple guys in the spotlight matches and to send three or four to state. That’s what we’re hoping to see,” Dennis Durr said.

The top four finishers in each of 15 weight classes at this weekend’s meet qualify to wrestle at the state meet Dec. 7-8 in Nikiski.