Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Verhamme wrestling state champion


January 9, 2020

Courtesy of Wesley Verhamme

State champion Wesley Verhamme points to his family after defeating his opponent in the final match of the wrestling tournament.

Before heading to the state wrestling championship at Anchorage in late December, junior Wes Verhamme told the CVN he wouldn't feel he had met his athletic goals until the referee had raised his hand in the center ring, signaling his victory, after the final match of the state championship.

When that happened, Verhamme said his win didn't sink in until he saw his family's faces in the crowd. Siblings Jordan and Merissa, and parents Christie and Jason attended the tournament and watched Wes take first place. As the referee held Verhamme's left hand in the air, he pointed toward his family with his other.

"They were all just standing up and smiling and laughing. They were all happy. My mom looked more surprised than anything. When I pointed at them, I could see all the emotion flow out," Verhamme said. "They know I put a lot of hard work into this. They saw the days I would eat a smaller dinner so I could make weight next week or saw the times I would come home from practice limping."

Verhamme, ranked first in his division for most of the season, defeated four contenders in the 215-pound weight class for the title.

He pinned his first opponent, Kotzebue's Jamais Pagofie, in 17 seconds during the first round. His second match against Sitka's Gabe Vanveen ended in less than two minutes. Verhamme pinned his third opponent, Savoonga's Derek Seppilu early in the second round.

During the finals match, Verhamme faced a more difficult competition against Eielson's Nephi Tidwell, a top seed wrestler he defeated earlier in the year, which secured Verhamme's number one ranking for the remainder of the season.

"We knew going into it that it would be a two-man race," Verhamme said of the rematch. "We both knew that final match was going to be emotional. I felt like I was never more prepared for a match in my life. Right out the gate I knew I needed to be aggressive. Right off the whistle I went right into him."

Verhamme controlled the match throughout, scoring points each round and emerging with a 11-1 win.

Christie Verhamme said watching her son's season progress and his final victory was difficult, but rewarding.

"It was emotional for me, and exciting," Christie said. "Watching him not be able to eat because he was keeping in his weight class, that was hard for me to watch. Seeing him take first was pretty awesome."

Head coach Ben Bard said Verhamme kept his composure throughout the tournament, and knew he was there "to take care of business."

He said Verhamme's win sent him into a kind of shock. "At first I kind of didn't believe it was happening," Bard said. "I just remember that last four or five seconds watching the clock count down. I thought 'Holy crap, we have a state championship for Haines.'"

Courtesy of Wesley Verhamme

Wesley Verhamme picks up head coach Ben Bard after winning the state wrestling championship in Anchorage.


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