Wolverine wrestlers finish season on a high note

They labor in long hours of obscurity, and then find themselves on a lonely mat, competing one-on-one in front of everyone.

Wrestling has to be one of the most challenging and demanding sports of all, and Cordova’s grapplers were rewarded for their efforts by sending a remarkable five out of nine wrestlers to this year’s state tournament.

In the girls division, Arianna Ryan qualified by taking first place in the 145 pound weight class at the Kachemak Region championships held in Houston on Dec. 9-11, and Levi Pearson and Charlie Carroll both qualified by finishing third.

To fill out the State tournament bracket, a selection committee then chose other deserving wrestlers. Cordova’s senior Cody Shaw was picked in the 189-pound weight class, as well as CHS senior Jaqai Kinseman, who made it in the 285-pound class.

Cordova Coach Seth Balint was delighted.

“This is a great honor because out-of-town members saw what Cody and Jaqai could do on the mat, and everyone agreed that those guys deserved to compete at the state championships.”

Balint, who was an outstanding CHS wrester himself, described the drama of going to state.

“This is the tournament we train for all season, and the days are long and drawn out with so many participants wresting,” he said.

“There are eight mats laid out on the gym floor of the Alaska Airlines Center, with matches going on continually,” Balint said. “Cordova fought hard and wrestled the best in the state for two days. Three of our wrestlers ended up losing the match just before the medal rounds, so if they would have won one more match, they would have placed and brought home a medal to Cordova.”

Balint described the outcome as bittersweet, but a source of great pride.

“Missing a year of live matches (due to COVID-19 protocols) took a toll on our wrestlers,” he said. “Mat time is so important, but we went out and showed everyone that Cordova wrestling is alive and well. I am honored to be a part of this year’s wrestling squad, and next season can’t come soon enough.”

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Dick Shellhorn is a lifelong Cordovan. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 50 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and 2020, and third place in 2017 and 2019. He also received second place for Best Editorial Commentary in 2019. Shellhorn has written two books about Alaska adventures: Time and Tide and Balls and Stripes. Reach him at shorn@gci.net.