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Wrestling: Fairbanks club collects its first international medal during month-long road trip

by | Feb 26, 2024 | Cover Story, Wrestling

Left to right: Zeke Bolton, Brian Grabner, Jeremy Bockert, Colton Parduhn, Frank Rodriguez, Kodi Hollis at Rosny Cup in Paris, France. Photo by Westley Bockert

The Interior Grappling Academy of Fairbanks is a wrestling club that thinks big. It caters to all ages — little kids in Ninja and Gladiator age-group classes, adults in MMA and boxing classes and teenagers who comprise one of the most competitive high school teams in Alaska.

At the top of the academy’s pyramid is the National Training Program, a group of about two dozen athletes pursuing national and international experience in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.

“We have a number of higher-level dreamers,” said head coach Westley Bockert, who started IGA in 2017.

Dreamers became believers earlier this month when 16-year-old Brian Grabner captured the academy’s first international medal. Grabner won bronze at the Rosny Cup in Paris with his third-place finish in the U17 Greco-Roman 65-kg division.

Grabner is one of six Greco-Roman wrestlers back in Alaska after a month-long trip that included training camps in Colorado Springs and Denmark plus the international tournament in Paris.

“The purpose is to get into environments that have the world-class mindset of Greco-Roman,” Bockert said. “We are getting exposed to more details we need for our boys.”

Two team members advanced to bronze-medal matches in Paris.

Grabner won his with a 6-4 win over a Norwegian who had beaten him 8-0 in the second round. Grabner rebounded with three straight wins in the wrestlebacks to earn a rematch with the Norwegian; he avenged his loss to finish with a 5-1 record and a medal in his first international tournament.

Brian Grabner stands on the bronze medal podium. Photo by Westley Bockert

At 67 kg, U20 wrestler Colton Parduhn won his first two matches before a semifinal loss sent him to the bronze-medal match. There he faced a Danish wrestler he earlier had defeated with a technical fall, but the rematch ended in disappointment for Parduhn — he lost a 1-1 criteria decision and had to settle for fifth place.

Also on the trip were U17 wrestlers Frank Rodriguez, Zeke Bolton and Kodi Hollis and U23 wrestler Jeremy Bockert.

The group started with a week-long, senior-level training camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. After that came a few days of training in Denmark with the Danish national team, followed by the tournament in Paris. The Alaskans returned to Denmark for two more weeks of training, including a five-day international camp.

The trip was a fact-finding trip for wrestlers hungry for knowledge. The goal was to soak up as much as they could — and then come home and share it with other academy members.

This is the second year academy athletes have traveled internationally; a previous trip took them to Romania and Moldova, Bockert said.

Bockert is a longtime coach in Alaska. Last summer, as head coach of Team USA at the U17 Pan-American Games in Mexico, he led the Americans to 10 medals and the team championship.

He’s the owner of the Interior Grappling Academy, which offers academic classes and is sanctioned to participate in a handful of Alaska School Activities Association sports, including wrestling. At the state high school championships in December, IGA’s Student Wrestler Development Program placed second to South High in the team standings and boasted numerous place-winners, including one champion and one runnerup.

Denmark International training camp, featuring wrestlers from Denmark, USA, Norway, Germany, Sweden, Turkey and Romania. Photo by Westley Bockert

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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