Blatchley, Churchill close out high school wrestling as state champs

Two senior wrestlers went to Anchorage as regional title holders. They returned to Wrangell with another title to their names: State champions.

Ethan Blatchley and Randy Churchill each took on four competitors in their respective weight classes from across Alaska to win the Division II state championship title on Saturday night. Blatchley won for the 171-pound weight class and Churchill won for the 160-pound weight class.

Over the course of Friday and Saturday, Blatchley grappled with Memphis Mack of King Cove, pinning him in 25 seconds; Richard Didrickson of Mt. Edgecumbe, winning the match in a 5-0 decision; pinning McKennan Mayer of Valdez in 2:52; and finally taking on Wyatt Milnes of Redington High School in Wasilla for the title.

Blatchley kept his cool from the beginning of the match with Milnes. Though there was plenty of maneuvering, the first round remained scoreless. Milnes was hit with two stall calls, giving points to Blatchley who kept his opponent on the move. By the end of the second period, the score was 4-0 in favor of Blatchley.

Blatchley showed why he was the No. 1 seed going into the state tournament by staying on top of Milnes, who was able to pull off a reversal but quickly lost it to Blatchley, who won the match in a 6-2 decision to be crowned state champ.

A shout of "Go Wrangell!" echoed from the stands as Blatchley raised his arms in victory.

In his championship match, Churchill took on Jason Young of Sitka, who came out strong against the Wrangell senior. Young controlled the match from the beginning, pushing Churchill out of bounds and piling up points from the start. Young had a lead of 3-1, but Churchill took advantage of penalties against Young to tie it up, 3-3. With only 1:37 left to go in the third round, Churchill outscored his opponent 5-3, holding onto the lead to the end. Churchill won the state title by decision.

Della Churchill, Vanessa Johnson and Katelyn Gillen also went to the state competition for the Division II girls. Churchill just missed third place by falling to Nyah O'Neil of Anchorage's Dimond High, securing a fourth-place finish in the 114-pound weight class.

Johnson came in sixth place in the 165-pound weight class, after falling to Kyra Billings of Barrow. Gillen also placed sixth, falling to Alanis Cortes of Delta.

Boomchain Loucks lost in what's known as a "blood round," which is the last match before placing, according to head coach Jack Carney. He said wrestlers Cody Barnes and Elias Decker picked up wins before falling to higher-seeded grapplers. Ian Nelson had the opportunity for two matches, one of which would go on to win the state title.

"It was not an easy season, but the work and focus paid off," Carney said. "We had our share of illness and trials over the season, but these last few weeks were especially tough."

Carney said his squad was hit by doubt and excuses but were able to stay focused and get ready for state.

"Randy and Ethan had unique struggles, but they didn't waver," he said. "A week and a half ago, a few extra motivational texts and direct conversations were all it took to remind them of what they were capable of and what their goals were."

Churchill's name will be put on a banner to be displayed next to his uncle Harry Churchill's banner, who won a state title in wrestling 20 years ago. Blatchley's father, Josh, missed the state title by a couple of points in the same weight class in 1989.

Carney said a strong assistant coach in Rolland Wimberley helped make the season a successful one.

"His perspective is much appreciated, and he fit in perfectly with our program," Carney said. "The support of the community, teaching staff, administration, donors, volunteers and chaperones has been phenomenal. These two titles were wins for Wrangell."

The titles are second state wins for Churchill and Blatchley who previously won for cross country. The two will work for another state title by joining the boys basketball team.


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