Nome-Beltz Nanooks wrestlers faced another tough challenge this weekend in Palmer, at the Lancer Smith Memorial Tournament.
Head coach Dudley Homelvig says he’s happy with the team’s performance, especially considering the level of the competition.
“The Lancer Smith Tournament is tougher than either of the state tournaments. For example, there was a state finalist from last year who was 0 and 2 on day one. There was a three-time state finalist who didn’t make the finals. It’s a tough, tough tourney.”
Nine athletes from Nome flew to the road system for the tournament. Homelvig says it offered learning opportunities for all the students.
“The two kids we had in the JV tournament got to win some matches and get their confidence built up. The two varsity guys found out what sorts of things they need to clean up. And our girls wrestled really well.”
The high-school girls finished ninth out of 39 teams, and all three of them placed. Eighth-grader Katie Smith had a first-place finish in the middle-school 114-pound weight class.
After successes at the Bush Brawl in Kotzebue the weekend before, Homelvig says it was especially good for the middle-schoolers to see how their team measures up to statewide competitors.
“The middle school kids tend to think that life ends after the Bush Brawl, and we showed them there’s a big world out there. And they wrestled well.”
The middle-schoolers and their high-school teammates will have a couple of weeks to tune up before the Northern Conference Meet in Nome on December 2nd.
But the match-up is scheduled a week before most other conferences’ tournaments, which the Nanooks’ coach says he’s not happy about.
“I always look at what’s good for kids, and missing out on a weekend of wrestling is not good for kids, and sitting around for an extra week before the state tournament is not good for kids. They lose their rhythm. The kids that don’t qualify, they’re not so sure they even want to be at practice. And, of course, you’ve got to have practice partners.”
And practice partners will be in short supply, since most other schools will be competing in their own conference tournaments on Nome’s off weekend.
The students that do qualify for the 1A/2A/3A State Tournament will head back to the road system on December 15th.
Image at top: Nome’s Aaron Rose wrestles a Bethel student at the 2017 Nome Invite last month (Photo: Janeen Sullivan, used with permission).