Wrestlers return with two state champions

The Wolves returned to Wrangell a pack victorious.

Two state champions added another title to their high school wrestling careers and others chalked up second- and third-place wins after last weekend's state championship tournament in Anchorage.

Seniors Ryan Rooney and Liana Carney both bested their opponents to win in their weight classes. Rooney is a two-time state champion with a 21-0 record, and this is the third state title for Carney, who is 19-0.

It was a close call for Rooney, though, with Charles Severance of Wasilla's Reddington High School scoring 10 points on him. Rooney was able to finally best Severance in the third round of the 160-pound weight class.

"Ryan hadn't had an offensive point scored on him all season," said assistant coach Jack Carney. "Severance scored 10 unanswered points on Ryan. With 30 seconds left ... Ryan saw Severance hanging his head."

Carney said Rooney saw his opportunity, "ran around, trapped (Severance's) head, and threw him to his back. The crowd was pretty excited about it."

Had Rooney lost to Severance, Reddington would have beat Bethel for the state team title, Carney said, adding that Rooney was pretty popular with Bethel after his win.

"It was a really close match, that's exactly what we preach to those kids about, and instill into them," said head coach Jef Rooney, who is also Ryan Rooney's father. "I don't care if it's 14-0, you go until the bitter end, and you walk off with honor and integrity. There was 30 seconds left and (Ryan) sealed the deal for us and got it for himself as well."

He said there were some questions surrounding Ryan's ability to compete this year after he suffered a broken leg during cross country practice.

"There was definitely some question, and we did have a lot of discussion with the surgeon," Jef Rooney said. "Usually, you're looking at six to eight weeks for a bone to heal, and we did that. At six weeks we cut him loose, started him into some light physical therapy, and then by eight weeks he was on an elliptical and by 13 weeks he was cleared to compete."

The broken leg impeded the senior's ability to run, which the coach believes is imperative to training as it builds up endurance on the mat.

Liana Carney pinned Maysa Brown of East Anchorage in the 135-pound weight class of the girls division, where schools of all sizes compete in the same division. She pinned her opponent at 1:23 in the first round.

Junior Ethan Blatchley fell to Simon Grenier, of Nikiski, giving him a second-place finish in the 171-pound weight class of Division II. Senior Rowen Wiederspohn also finished second in the 189-pound weight class after competing against Seth Briesmeister of Hutchinson High School, in Fairbanks.

"Just great young men. They went in there and absolutely gave it their all," Rooney said. "If you go out there and wrestle your best, it's never a loss."

Junior Randy Churchill beat Rogan Hanson, of Craig, to win third place in the 152-pound weight class.

Senior Jamie Early fell to Bethel's Fiona Phelan to take fourth place in the 130-pound weight class for girls. And sophomore Mia Weiderspohn ended up in sixth place after a loss to Jahzara O'Neil of Dimond.

Though she didn't place, freshman Della Churchill did beat a returning senior state champion, Carney said.

"It was quite an epic tournament," Rooney said. "We had a ton of fun. Just a phenomenal group of young men and women."


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