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College Wrestling: Three Alaskans qualify for NCAAs, two of them face off as Evan Bockman outlasts Levi Hopkins in 2OT

by | Mar 21, 2024 | Cover Story, Wrestling

Levi Hopkins, Evan Bockman and Caleb Hopkins are back at the NCAA Championships.

Two titans of Alaska wrestling on Thursday squared off in Kansas City, where 197-pounders Evan Bockman of Anchorage and Levi Hopkins of Palmer put on a show and made state history.

In the first head-to-head meeting between Alaskans at the NCAA Championships, Bockman edged Hopkins 3-2 in double overtime after winning a tiebreaker to punch his ticket to the Sweet 16.

The 20th-seeded Bockman, of Utah Valley University, won the tiebreaker by virtue of his 14-second advantage in riding time as he upset the 13th-seeded Hopkins, of Campbell University.

This was the second time this year Bockman defeated Hopkins by decision, but this victory will define bragging rights between two wrestlers who rank top 10 on Alaska’s career wins list at the Division I level.

Another man on that list, Campbell 184-pounder Caleb Hopkins of Palmer, was also in action at the NCAA Championships and lost his first-round match to the No. 5 seed.

This is the second straight year Bockman and the Hopkins bros all qualified for NCAAs. The only other time a trio of Alaskans qualified for nationals was 2001 when Iowa’s Gabe McMahan of Glennallen, Purdue’s Jon Bush of Palmer and Oregon State’s Jason Cooley of Anchorage made it.

But Thursday was the first time two Alaskans faced off at the NCAA Championships. Moments into the 197-pound match, Bockman and Hopkins locked horns like two battering rams in an early stalemate as the first period ended scoreless.

Anchorage’s Evan Bockman is a three-time NCAA qualifier. Photo courtesy Utah Valley

In the second period, Bockman started in the down position and nearly pulled off an escape before Hopkins slammed him to the mat as they barreled out of bounds. Ten seconds later, Bockman got his escape and took a 1-0 lead. Hopkins, however, had amassed 40 seconds of riding time after five minutes.

In NCAA wrestling, one minute of riding time at the end of regulation is worth one point. It’s also used as a tiebreaker for OT.

In the third period, Hopkins started in the down position. Both wrestlers adopted different defensive styles from the top position, with Bockman going high and Hopkins going low to maintain leverage. Being on the bottom opens the door for an escape, which Hopkins got to tie the match 1-1 with 29 seconds left in regulation to force OT.

At this moment, Alaska wrestling was on the center stage. The PA announcer at the arena could be heard over the ESPN broadcast telling the crowd about the Alaska wrestlers.

Hopkins and Bockman (upper right) had their own channel on ESPN’s matcast.

“Three wrestlers are here from the state of Alaska and two of them, Hopkins and Bockman, are wrestling in overtime.”

Then the ESPN broadcaster chimed in, giving a shoutout to Alaska musher Dallas Seavey for winning his record sixth Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

“He was a wrestler,” the broadcaster said of Seavey. “Won a national title in Fargo.”

In 2004, Seavey won a 4A state title for Skyview at 130 pounds after beating Bartlett’s Shane Manuel 4-2 in OT.

In high school, Bockman won three state titles and went 43-0 as a senior for Grace Christian while Hopkins was a three-time state finalist with one championship and 115 career wins for Colony.

Two of the best from Alaska are now among the very best in the country, doing their thing at the NCAA Championships.

In the first OT, Bockman nearly earned a three-point takedown before the whistle blew. There was a coach’s challenge, but it didn’t change the call.

Palmer’s Levi Hopkins is a two-time NCAA qualifier. Photo courtesy Campbell

The second OT was split into two 30-second halves. In the first half, Bockman earned an escape with 18 seconds left to go up 2-1. In the second half, Hopkins got an escape with 1 second left but Bockman had held him down long enough to earn enough riding time to take the tiebreaker.

After the match Bockman and Hopkins shook hands and exchanged a quick look before going in different directions. Still in beast mode, this was not the time to reminisce.

Bockman (19-7) advanced to the second round while Hopkins (27-7) dropped into the consolation bracket of the double-elimination tournament.

About 30 minutes earlier, his brother Caleb Hopkins fell 25-8 by technical fall to fifth-ranked Lenny Pinto of Nebraska.

A four-time NCAA qualifier, Hopkins pulled as close as 11-6 at the end of the second period after a three-point takedown and tried to attempt his trademark cradle move but time ran out.

Hopkins (22-10) earned escapes to get within 15-7 and 18-8, but the Big Ten wrestler proved too good.

Hopkins is tied for third all-time among Alaskans with 92 career wins; Levi is eighth with 66 followed by Bockman with 57.

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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