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Bethel wrestlers are heading to state after winning big at the regional tournament

BRHS boys and girls teams won the 2021 regional wrestling tournament hosted by BRHS in Bethel, Alaska on Dec. 10-11.
Gabby Hiestand Salgado
BRHS boys and girls teams won the 2021 regional wrestling tournament hosted by BRHS in Bethel, Alaska on Dec. 10-11.

Bethel Regional High School wrestlers are heading to the state tournament after winning big points at the regional meet, held Dec. 10 and 11. BRHS hosted the event, where both the Warrior girls and boys teams took first place by wide margins.

In the girls’ competition, Bethel placed first with 132 points. Scammon Bay placed second with 79 points, and Tuntutuliak third with 40 points. In the boys’ competition, Bethel took first with 231.5 points. Chevak placed second with 82 points, and Scammon Bay placed third with 68 points.

Jacelyn Chikigak from Alakanak and Adrian Kopanuk from Scammon Bay were voted Outstanding Wrestlers at the regional meet. The St. Mary’s team won the Academic Award with a 3.89 GPA.

Overall, six Bethel girls and 11 Bethel boys earned automatic berths to the state tournament, happening this coming weekend in Anchorage on Dec. 17 and 18. One of those wrestlers, senior Landon Smith, has won a state title every year of his high school career and is looking for number four.

The BRHS girls heading to state are Emilie Madson, Jordan Klejka, Briella Herron, Fiona Phelan, Payton Boney, and Isabel Lieb.

The BRHS boys who qualified for state are Alvino Vasquez, Liam Phelan, Landon Smith, Paul Dyment, Joseph Smith, Aaron Mute, Charles Smith, Ellis Johnson, Jordan Leinberger, Mason Fitka, and Landon Burke.

It’s been a challenging season for the Bethel wrestlers. Many had not competed for a year and a half before the start of this season due to the pandemic. Bethel coach Daren Lieb said that he had to adjust his training regimen because of that. Normally, he starts the season with two weeks of hard conditioning.

"Knowing we had a lot of kids not do anything for a considerable amount of time, we had to adjust our practices a little bit just so we can kind of ease them in to where their bodies can handle it," Lieb said.

Throughout the season there were additional challenges, as some wrestlers had to quarantine due to being a close contact of a COVID-19 positive individual. And then, Lieb said that much of the team was hit by the flu with the prospect of the regional competition just ahead.

I just let them know [to] keep drinking fluids and get a lot of rest. And we still have goals to accomplish," Lieb said.

Lieb said that the goal of many wrestlers is to see their names on the wall of the BRHS gymnasium, a feat accomplished by winning a state championship.

"The hard work ethic that they've been showing in practice is, I think, going to prove to them that their goals can certainly be met this year," Lieb said.

Another piece of history will be made at the state wrestling tournament this weekend. Lieb said that former BRHS wrestling coach Bob Graham will be inducted into the Alaska Wrestling Hall of Fame.

"Very well deserving. He's the one that started wrestling in Bethel here, back in 1969 when he came up as a teacher from Iowa," Lieb said.

The state wrestling tournament will be held Dec. 17 and 18 at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.

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