Ruckman, Esnardo lead Raiders to 2nd at meet
Dustin Ruckman and Alexander Esnardo Jr. both turned in gold-medal performances on Saturday and helped the Unalaska Raiders turn in an eye-opening effort at the 2017 Great Alaska Conference Wrestling Championships in Bethel. The Raiders rolled up 228 points and finished second to Bethel in the final team standings.
Ruckman, who had entered the three-day tournament as the No. 2 seed in the 132-pound weight classification, turned in a dynamic outing. After opening the tournament with a quick win over Emmonak's Jeffrey Polty-Westlock, he earned his way into the semifinals with a pin of Alexander Bird of Emmonak in the quarterfinals. He followed that with a pin of Nunapitchuk's Cody Benn in the semifinals to set up a showdown with Quinhagak's Collin Brown for the 132-pound title.
Brown, the division's top seed, went into the finals with a 19-2 record.
In the championship match, Ruckman managed to scratch out several quick points and then never looked back en route to a 14-5 victory. With his 4-0 mark, Ruckman improved to 18-5 heading into this weekend's state tournament.
Like Ruckman, Esnardo left a major impression on the Great Alaska Conference tournament, going 4-0 en route to claiming the 138-pound championship.
A junior, Esnardo finished off his outing with a pin of Scammon Bay's Joe Uttereyuk in the finals, pinning the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta star at the 3:13 mark.
For the season, Esnardo improved to 14-5.
Curtis Jeppesen, Blaine Henning and Landen Shaishnikoff added to the Raiders' success on the mat. Jeppesen claimed the runner-up honors in the 113-pound division, while Henning took second in the 126-pound ranks. Shaishnikoff was second in the 145-pound standings.
Chris Garcia, senior Talon Shaishnikoff and Matthew Faoasau also collected second-place finishes. Garcia rebounded from a loss to Aniak's Justin Ward in the championship match of the 170-pound classification to beat Nunapitchuk's Curtis Napoka in the runner-up match.
Shaishnikoff earned his first trip to the state meet by beating Napaskiak's Isaac Joekay in the second-place contest of the 182-pound bracket.
Faoasau was second to Bethel's Ryan Smith in the 285-pound standings.
Johnny Khongsuk, Quinnton Parker and John Esnardo narrowly missed advancing to state. Khongsuk and Parker finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 220-pound class, while Esnardo was third in the 120-pound standings. Matthew Sua also finished fourth in the 182-pound bracket, while Ariel Go was sixth in the 195-pound standings.
Unalaska's Hall Savage narrowly missed qualifying for the girls' state tournament. She placed third in the 160-pound division.
Other Unalaska wrestlers competing in the Great Alaska Conference tournament included Junior Santos, Sean Conwell, Luke Shaishnikoff and Bailey Hahm.