The Bears are hosting their first NLC Championships since 2004.
Kodiak finished second last year, behind only Wasilla, which went on to win the state title.
The Warriors are again the team to beat.
“Wasilla is the best team,” Kodiak coach Pat Costello said. “Now, if Wasilla falters a little bit and we up the tempo, we can win.
“But we have to wrestle extremely well to stay with them. We have to wrestle extremely well to stay in second with Colony and Palmer chomping at our heels.”
Three of the top five teams in the state will be at this tournament in Wasilla (first), Kodiak (third) and Colony (fifth). Palmer is not too far behind.
Kenai and Soldotna fill out the six-team championship that begins Friday at 11 a.m. and concludes with championship matches Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Kodiak has a pair of dual victories against Wasilla this season, but Costello said his team is still the underdog.
“They were not at 100 percent in the duals and we were not at 100 percent in the duals,” he said. “They have pretty good firepower.”
The Warriors have a pair of top-ranked grapplers in Abe Fox (120) and Tyler Adams (145).
Fox is last year’s 119-pound region and state champion, while Adams was the 130-pound tregion champ.
Fox is not the only one coming to Kodiak as a defending state champion. Kenai’s Hope Steffensen (106) and Soldotna’s Auston Tennis (145) also won state last year. Both also are defending NLC champions.
Kodiak junior Eddy Burris is seeking his third straight NLC title.
Burris is ranked fourth at 120 pounds, after wrestling the majority of the season at 126. Teammate Francis Llorente is second in the same class.
Costello said either of them could win a title. He also said Andrew Caballa (106), Levi Fried (113), Cameron White (132), Kerry Powers (171) and Charlie Johnson (182) could also contend for an NLC title.
“On paper, (Johnson) is probably our best chance to win it, but that doesn’t mean anything,” Costello said.
Kodiak co-head coach Sean Costello said it’s good and bad to be hosting the NLC Championships.
“Some kids wrestle amazing at home and some kids, especially since they don’t wrestle at home that often, wrestle a lot worse,” he said.
“As far as a coach, it is great. Your family gets to come see you there. The kids family gets to come see them. That is an awesome part about it.”
Pat is banking on seniors Kevin Lepola and Branden Canete to generate energy from the crowd. Both wrestlers are unranked, but finished second and third at last year’s NLC Championships.
“For us to do well as a team, they have to do well,” Pat said. “We think those are two of the kids, because we are at home, will step up to the plate.”
The top six placers in each weight classification qualify for next week’s 4A state championships.
Pat hopes to qualify 16 wrestlers to state.
“The way we have wrestled, we could get a lot through,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we bumped it up 20.”
Contact Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at email@example.com.