A pair of college wrestlers from Alaska picked up wins at the NCAA Championships this week in Tulsa, Oklahoma while a third Alaskan saw his stellar career end after two tough losses.
Campbell University junior Levi Hopkins of Palmer finished 1-2 on the big stage. Ranked No. 24 in the nation at 197 pounds, Hopkins opened the tournament facing sixth-ranked Max Dean of Penn State and lost 6-1. He bounced back to earn a 6-4 decision over Virginia’s Michael Battista in an elimination match. Hopkins took a 5-4 lead over Battista midway through the second period and held on, adding an escape in the third for his first career NCAA tournament win. He exited after losing by a 13-4 major decision to No. 10 Jacob Cardenas of Cornell. Hopkins (Colony) finished the season with a Southern Conference title, his first NCAA win and a 25-10 record to increase his career win total to 39.
Utah Valley University sophomore Evan Bockman of Anchorage went 1-2 in his second straight trip the NCAAs. He opened against Iowa State’s Younger Bastida, who Bockman had beaten two weeks earlier at the Big 12 Tournament. Bastida won 5-2. From there, Bockman collected a 13-6 decision over Trey Rogers of Hofstra. The Alaskan set the early as he built a 8-2 lead after the first period after he scored two takedowns and a four-point near fall. “Evan wrestled really well early and built a great lead. It was nice to see him get his first NCAA win,” said UVU head coach Greg Williams. Ranked No. 20 nationally, Bockman saw his tournament come to a close after getting pinned by four-time All-American and 2021 NCAA runnerup Jacob Warner of Iowa. No shame there. Bockman (Grace Christian) finished the season 21-9 and ran his career win total to 39.
Palmer’s Caleb Hopkins of Campbell University carved his name into the Alaska record book after becoming just the fifth Alaskan to qualify for the NCAA Championships at least three times; Palmer’s Gabe McMahan of Iowa is the lone four-time qualifier while other three-timers include Kodiak’s Scott Norton (Oregon), Palmer’s Scott Jorgensen (Boise State) and Chugiak’s Cayle Byers (Oklahoma State/George Mason). Hopkins (Colony) went 19-10 this year after an 0-2 showing at NCAAs after winning a match in each of the previous two tournaments. The senior finished his career with three Southern Conference championships, two wins at NCAAs and 62 career wins, which ranks No. 7 among Alaskans at the NCAA Division I level (Wasilla’s Alan Bartelli is No. 6 with 73 at Boise State; Byers is No. 1 with 112).