Wolves take region title, head to state

Wrangell High School's wrestling team not only hosted, but also won last weekend's 2A Region V tournament, with all 10 of its wrestlers headed to State in Anchorage this weekend.

"We're very happy," said the team's coach, Jeffery Rooney. "It's the first team title in over 20 years."

Alisa Heller and Jeffrey Rooney Jr. each took first place titles for Region V 2A.

"High speed, high action, it was very impressive to watch," the coach said of his son's final round.

Competing separately among the region's girls, Heller also took the Outstanding Wrestler and Sportsmanship awards, and will compete in the state's first-ever all-girls tournament.

"She's going to be part of the very first girls competition," said Rooney.

Athletic director Jack Carney said he was hopeful she will take the state championship, and expressed hope the team will do well this weekend.

"I'm hoping for a top-eight finish," he said. "They've been doing similar things all season."

Even without Heller's points counting toward the team score, the Wolves took first out of the 1A-3A schools.

Orion Heller, Ian Jenson, Sam Armstrong and Justus Mikkelsen all took second place for their weight brackets. JD Barratt, Roger Miller, Darren Shilts, and Caleb Groshong all placed fourth. Chet Armstrong took the Sportsmanship Award, while Rooney Jr. and Mikkelsen both made the All-Academic Team.

The team headed off for State yesterday, and Rooney expressed confidence in his team's chances.

"We're right in there," he said. "We're still practicing. We're not going to try and change anything, not going to reinvent the wheel."

Hosting the tournament was a feat in itself. Nineteen other teams and some 230 wrestlers, their coaches and family members came to Wrangell for the weekend.

"We've had so many people help out with food," said Carney. "Parents have really stepped up, especially with hospitality."

Local families offered what space they could, and Trident Seafoods allowed the use of its bunkhouse for the lion's share of visitors.

"They were very, very generous," he added.

Despite some clock issues and the lack of a fourth referee, the tournament itself played out smoothly.

"It went great," said Rooney. "We got a lot of good, positive comments."

When things came down to the mat, though, the coach was sure to give his team the credit for their hard work.

"I just got to be there, they did all the work," he said. After State, Rooney said he would like to hold an awards ceremony for his wrestlers. A new banner marking their victory should be ready to hang in the gym by year's end.


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