The three-month wrestling season begins today for Kodiak.
The Bears are partaking in the Peninsula Duals at Nikiski High School, an event the team placed second at a year ago.
Many of the wrestlers from last year are back, which should not only set up for a good showing this weekend, but for the entire season.
“We are looking pretty good region-wise,” third-year Kodiak coach Sean Costello said. “Even state-wise, I think we stack up pretty well.”
Kodiak coaches pride themselves on teaching fundamentals, and Costello believes the diversity being taught at practice will set his team apart from others. The coaching staff, which is comprised of several former college athletes, is teaching a slew of different styles this season.
“We have a lot of really good coaches in this room right now and we covered a lot of different aspects of the sport and every one of our athletes has a different style,” Costello said. “If you can have that on your team, when you are a coach sitting in the corner wrestling against that team, it makes it really hard.”
Kodiak has just over 40 wrestlers and returns three state placers from last year’s squad. Leading the way is heavyweight senior Leo Sega, who went 32-8 as a junior to become the Bears’ 24th state champion.
“He is back to do business,” Costello said. “He is leaner than he was last year. He is faster. I think that is going to be a huge advantage for him. He has that confidence.”
Senior Andrew Caballa was the state 113-pound runner-up last season while compiling a 33-4 record. As a sophomore he was the state’s top 106-pounder. This year he is moving up to the 120-pound classification.
“He is stronger than he has ever been,” Costello said. “He went to some camps this summer and put in all the time. He is going to be a threat for anybody.”
Junior Kerry Powers finished last year with a 29-5 mark and a second-place finish at the state meet at 195 pounds.
“With the coaches we have had in here helping out, he has made huge improvements,” Costello said. “I see good things from him.”
Both Caballa and Powers are Kodiak’s only returning Northern Lights Conference champions.
Kodiak also returns state qualifers Jenny Valdez (98 pounds), Masami Kageyama (113) Jay-Ar Small (126) and Nolan Wandersee (220). Costello is expecting a breakout season from Wandersee after attending a wrestling camp during the summer.
“He was really learning fast last year and just barely falling short of beating really good kids,” Costello said.
Costello also has high hopes for senior Josh Yavorsky (170), who missed most of last season with injuries.
“We have been pleasantly surprised,” Costello said. “His tempo is up a notch and is really putting the hammer down on people.”
Kodiak is deep with talent at the top and bottom of the weight classes, but will give up points in the middle of the order from 132 to 152 where it has a bunch of developing wrestlers.
“That makes it tough, and it is nobody’s fault,” Costello said. “It is just the way our students are built and our team is.”
Kodiak, which dealt with a lot of injuries last season, finished fourth in the Northern Lights Conference last year behind Wasilla, Colony and Palmer, and was seventh at state.
Costello believes the regional title is up for grabs this year. Kodiak last won in 2011.
“If we want to be in the running to win a region title, I think we need to make sure we keep kids healthy,” he said. “Last year that really hurt us. We had a few kids get injured early on and that changed the whole season for us.”
As of now, Kodiak’s entire season will be played on the road. The coaches are trying to fill two open weekends in December and January with a home event.
“The next two weekends when we travel off island our goal is to get teams talked into coming here … we are doing the best we can. We do want to have a home meet,” Costello said.
Contact Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nov. 15-16 — at Peninsula Duals in Nikiski
Nov. 22-23 — at Lancer Smith Tournament in Palmer
Dec. 6-7 — at North/South Tournament in Anchorage
Dec. 13-14 — at Alaska Duals in Anchorage
Dec. 20-21 — Open (possible home event)
Jan. 10-11 — Open (possible home event)
Jan. 17-18 — at the Dimond/Service Tournament
Jan 31-Feb. 1 — at the Northern Lights Conference Tournament at Colony
Feb. 7-8 — at the state tournament in Anchorage