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Napaskiak wrestling team wins last tournament of the season

Wrestling mats lined the basketball court at Gladys Jung Elementary on Dec. 1 and Dec. 2. Teams from across the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta traveled to Bethel to compete in the final tournament of the season.

“It's essentially like regionals for these kids. So it's a really big tournament for these little guys,” said 25-year-old Gage Hoffman.

Hoffman has been coaching the Gladys Jung Cranes for three years.

“We had some injuries that, you know, we hate to see, but uh, kids wrestled tough. And last tournament we were at the Gladys Jung Elementary. Kids kind of got beat by a lot of points to the junior high team. But at the end of the year, these gentlemen, we ended up tying for second. So that was surprising,” Hoffman said, referring to the junior high wrestling program at Bethel Regional High School.

Out of the 16 teams that competed in the tournament, the Bethel junior high team and Gladys Jung both scored 224 points.

Andy Gillilan works for the LKSD District Office. According to the retired wrestling coach-turned-announcer, this is the 15th year of the Gladys Jung Invitational. Gillilan said that the team that comes out on top either comes from Gladys Jung or Bethel, but not this time.

“So for this year, for the first time, we have new champions: the Hawks of Napaskiak,” Gillilan said over the loudspeakers inside the packed gym.

Aaron Williams is in his second season as Napaskiak’s wrestling coach. The 22-year-old lost his voice from shouting over the past two-day tournament.

“And finally, the Napaskiak Hawks have won this tournament. Surprisingly I didn't, I didn't really know that we would,” Williams said.

The Hawks brought eight boys and six girls to compete in Bethel. All but two received medals, and one of the girls received the coveted Outstanding Wrestler Award.

“We had a female outstanding wrestler, Adeline Samuelson. She's in the 130 weight class, and she basically dominated her weight class. Most of the kids I brought with me took first, one took second, one took third. And actually two took second,” Williams said.

Williams also said that he plans to encourage his Napaskiak team to continue wrestling in the offseason.

Francisco Martínezcuello was the KYUK News Reporting Fellow from November 2022 through January 2024. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Journalism. He is also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
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