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Prep Wrestling: Wolverines win D1 state title; East’s Kenton Cooke, South’s Aaron Concepcion cap undefeated year; Soldotna’s Trevor Michael pulls off last-second stunner

by | Dec 17, 2023 | Cover Story, Prep Spotlight, Wrestling

South wrestlers were easy to identify by their bleach blond hair. Photo by Steven Glasheen

It had to be the hair.

Sporting freshly dyed bleach blond hair, the boys of the South High wrestling team stood out in more ways than one at the ASAA Division I state wrestling tournament.

They could be nicknamed The Bleach Boys, but they prefer you call them state champs.

The Wolverines ran away with the team title to win the large-school state championship, beating the second-place Student Development Wrestling Program by 45 points and third-place Soldotna by 95 points.

South racked up 315 points and qualified finalists for eight of the 14 weight classes in Saturday’s main event at the Alaska Airlines Center.

Aaron Concepcion capped a 29-0 season by winning the 160-pound title, Roth Powers posted his 45th win by claiming the championship at 171 and Anan Siackhasone prevailed in arguably the most technical savvy match of the night at 119.

Concepcion built an 8-3 lead before pinning North Pole’s Simon Connolly at 1:45 of the first period. It was a matchup between the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds.

South’s Roth Powers lifts Soldotna’s Collin Peck off the mat. Photo by Steven Glasheen

Powers finished his season with a 45-1 record after pinning Soldotna’s Collin Peck at 5:01.

Siackhasone outdueled Titus Watts of Soldotna 8-4 in a match that was tied 2-2 early in the third period.

Both wrestlers pulled off reversals in the final 30 seconds and they each rolled the other on his back several times in the dogfight, but only four nearfall points were awarded during the entire six minutes.

Siackhasone and Watts came into the final with a combined 70-7 record and the evenly matched bout could have gone either way as it was a two-point match with 30 seconds left.

In addition to the customary post-match handshake, these two warriors hugged in the ultimate sign of sportsmanship and respect.

ASAA/First National Bank
D1 Top 10 Team

315 – South
270 – SWDP
220 – Soldotna
191 – Colony
124 – Palmer
113 – Wasilla
77 – Lathrop
71 – East
65 – Eagle River
53 – North Pole

Like Concepcion, East’s Kenton Cooke finished his season with an identical 29-0 record after holding off Soldotna’s Michael Dickinson 7-5.

The biggest stunner of the night came at 152. The outcome wasn’t necessarily shocking as much as the OMG way it happened as Soldotna’s Trevor Michael pulled off an incredible comeback with a last-second pin.

Michael trailed South’s Zane Gerlach 10-4 with 23 seconds left in the third period before Michael flipped the script – and his opponent – to win by fall with just 3 seconds remaining on the clock. He needed the pin to win the match as his takedown and nearfall points would not have been enough to force overtime.

Tournament madness was in the air because Gerlach was one of three 40-win wrestlers to lose Saturday night.

Wrestlers to repeat as state champions included Soldotna’s Jacob Strausbaugh, who won 125 this year after winning 112 last year; Cooke won 140 this year after winning 130 last year; Palmer’s Cody Vansiegman won 145 this year after winning 140 last year.

Saturday’s Finals

103 – No. 2 seed Noah Justice of Colony pinned top seed Dylan Frawner of South at 1:50 of the first period. Justice set up his fall with a beautiful takedown 67 seconds into the match. He pinned all four opponents at state to end the season 37-5. Frawner finished 31-2.

112 – In the easiest match of the night, No. 3 seed Lincoln Werner of the Student Development Wrestling Program won by forfeit over No. 4 seed Carson Cobb of Soldotna. Both finalists had knocked off top seeds in the semifinals. Werner ended the year with a 37-4 record while Cobb fell to 20-4.

119 – In a marvelous match that went the distance, No. 2 seed Anan Siackhasone of South held off top seed Titus Watts of Soldotna 8-4. Siackhasone seized control with two nearfalls inside the final 1:20 to wrap up his season 39-4. Watts slipped to 32-3.

125 – In the highest scoring match of the night, No. 1 seed Jacob Strausbaugh earned an 18-5 major decision over No. 2 seed Jacob Morris of South. Strausbaugh piled up nine points in the third period alone to help him to end the year 40-1. Morris finished 42-3.

East’s Deshawn Barbee. Photo by Steven Glasheen

130 – No. 1 seed Deshawn Barbee of East used five takedowns to power his 11-5 decision over No. 2 seed Joseph Spangler of Wasilla. Barbee was quick on his feet and swung his hips around very well to maneuver into position. Both wrestlers were podium finishers at 119 a year ago. Barbee finished the season 26-1 while Spangler slipped to 30-8.

135 – Colony’s Matthew Mitchell went into beast mode, scoring a takedown 11 seconds into the match and maintaining control for every moment before pinning SWDP’s Brian Grabner at 4:52. Mitchell, the No. 1 seed, was powerful and dictated terms to overcome a defense-minded Grabner who was the only state opponent to get out of first period against Mitchell, who went 4-for-4 in pins and finished the season 29-1. The second-seeded Grabner ended 37-5.

East’s Kenton Cooke. Photo by Steven Glasheen

140 – With an undefeated season on the line, East’s Kenton Cooke pulled away in the third period for a 7-5 victory over Michael Dickinson of Soldotna. The top-seeded Cooke used an escape and takedown in the first 60 seconds of the final period to build a 7-3 lead and then held on for the two-point decision to finish 29-0. It was just the third loss in 27 matches for Dickinson, the No. 2 seed.

Palmer’s Cody Vansiegman grapples with Colony’s Tristen Mayer. Photo by Steven Glasheen

145 – This was the chaos bracket as the top three seeds were knocked out of the winner’s bracket before Saturday’s finals, opening the door for No. 4 seed Cody Vansiegman and No. 6 seed Tristen Mayer of Colony. Vansiegman won 5-1, thanks to a big third period to finish the year 29-5. Vansiegman won each of his last three state matches by decision, outscoring opponents 14-4. Mayer, who knocked off the No. 2 seed in the semifinals, fell to 40-9.

152 – In the first final of the night, Soldotna’s Trevor Michael stunned top seed Zane Gerlach of South with a fabulous finish. Trailing 10-4 with 23 seconds left, Michael scored a takedown and then pinned Gerlach with 3 seconds on the clock. Michael, the No. 2 seed, led 3-2 early in the second period before Gerlach gained control and looked to be in cruise control. It was just Gerlach’s second loss in 45 matches while Michael ended the year 26-3 to snag the state title that eluded him a year ago when he was third at 145.

160 – South’s Aaron Concepcion capped his 29-0 season with a first-round pin of North Pole’s Simon Connolly. The Wolverines’ top seed led 8-3 before sealing the deal with 15 seconds left in the period. Connolly, the No. 2 seed, ended the year 38-3. Seconds after having his hand raised by the referee, Concepcion celebrated by executing a cartwheel, backflip combo.

South’s Aaron Concepcion (left) and West’s Liam Hase shake hands after a match at the Lancer Smith Memorial.

171 – The match started slowly but finished with a bang as No. 1 seed Roth Powers of South pinned No. 3 seed Collin Peck of Soldotna at 5:01. The score was 0-0 for the first 2:30 before Powers earned an escape for a 1-0 lead. Powers maintained his slim advantage and was on Peck’s back for the first minute of the third period before turning him over for the pin to punctuate a 45-1 season. Peck ended 27-4.

189 – Palmer’s Kaelan Vesel made an impressive defensive stand at the end of the third period to key his 6-3 win over Gabriel Schumaker of South. Clinging to a 4-3 lead, Vesel held off Schumaker’s escape bid by clutching onto a leg and not letting go. That defensive stand carried the No. 1 seed to victory, pushing his record to 31-3. The No. 2 seed Schumaker fell to 44-5.

215 – Moments after giving up a four-point lead late in the third period, Chugiak’s Spencer Johnson pinned No. 1 seed Nolan Gallagher of Colony with just 24 seconds left. Johnson’s escape with 53 seconds left in the match extended his lead to 8-4 before Gallagher scored a takedown and nearfall twenty seconds later to forge an 8-8 tie. Johnson, the No. 2 seed, ran his record to 33-2 while Gallagher dropped to 27-2.

Chugiak’s Spencer Johnson. Photo by Steven Glasheen

285 – The big guys didn’t disappoint as No. 2 seed Arnold Baffour of Service outlasted No. 1 seed Chris Strawderman 4-1 in a double-overtime thriller. After a scoreless first period, each heavyweight wrestler scored a single point in the second. Baffour was on Strawderman’s back for the entire third period and prevented a near escape with 15 seconds left. In the second OT, Baffour scored an escape to take the lead with 11 seconds left in the first of two 30-second legs. He added a nearfall at the horn of the second leg, improving to 19-4 while handing Strawderman just his second loss in 34 matches.

Story made possible by:

Family of Sponsors

Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Alaska Airlines | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Joe Alston | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Aspen Endodontics | Glen Bailey | Kathie Bethard | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Continental Auto Group | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris | The Conway Family | Donley Family | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Foley & Pearson | JL Properties | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Amy and Jason Miller | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | Rick Mystrom | Kathleen Navarre | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Dave and DeAnne Rand | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Replacement Glass | Residential Mortgage | RSA Engineering- Sarah & A.J. Schirack | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Peter Pounds | Dan Rufner | Harlow Robinson | Pete Robinson | Moria Smith | Taylored Restoration | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Team Heat | Todd Whited | UAA Seawolves | Don Winchester

Family of Sponsors

Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose's Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie - Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited | Moria Smith | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Peter Pounds | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | RSA Engineering

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