Blunka earns shot at 3rd state title
New Stuyahok senior Blunka Blunka Jr. made sure he would have the opportunity to have a chance at becoming a two-time state champion this past weekend with a solid showing at the 2017 Sockeye Conference Wrestling Championships in Dillingham.
And he did it with style.
The 2016 state champion at the 113-pound level, Blunka netted his fourth appearance in the upcoming DI/DII State Wrestling Championships by powering his way to the conference's 120-pound crown in front of a large crowd in the Dillingham gym on Saturday.
The top-ranked wrestler in the region, Blunka had to wait a bit to begin his run at the Sockeye title. By earning the top seed in the bracket, he enjoyed a bye in the first round.
After Dillingham's Justin Dye had won a semifinal showdown with teammate Braden Sifsof to earn a spot in the finals, Blunka hit the mat with a purpose. He cinched a return to the Dec. 15-16 state tournament by pinning Dye at the 4:37 mark of the finals.
With the victory, Blunka improved to 18-2 overall.
Blunka edged out Bethel's Avery Hoffman in the finals of the 113-pound division last year. As a sophomore, he was second in the 106-pound ranks. He took sixth in the 98-pound bracket in 2014 as a freshman.
While Blunka was stealing the individual spotlight, Dillingham was running away with the team accolades. Sparked by first- or second-place marks from 13 individuals, the Wolverines easily won the Sockeye championship by rolling up 198 points — 141 more than its closest competitor.
Darius Tilden, Jimmy Nicolai, Jesse Noden and Dillon Chaney got the Wolverine machine going by dominating the light-weight classes. Tilden won the 106-pound title by edging out Sand Point's Jason Hadraki for the top spot. Nicolai took the 113-pound bracket, taking top honors with a win over runner-up Brayden Brandell of King Cove.
Noden and Chaney keyed a stellar effort by Dillingham wrestlers in the 132- and 138-pound weight classes. Noden posted a 9-7 win over teammate Chris Williams in the 132-pound championship. Chaney notched a 13-2 win over teammate Samuel Calvert in the 138-pound class.
The top two finishers in each weight class advance to the state tournament, which will be held this weekend in Anchorage.
Joseph Wassilly-Walker and Sam Jenkins added to the Wolverines' gold-medal count by winning their respective divisions. Walker edged out Newhalen's Jared Paine for the top spot in the 145-pound ranks. Jenkins highlighted another 1-2 finish by DHS grapplers by nipping teammate Mathew Krause in the 182-pound bracket.
Overall, Dillingham won six weight classifications and finished second in seven others.
Bristol Bay's Logan Phelps and Jackson Peters made sure the Angels would be represented at the state tournament. Phelps wrestled his way past Dillingham's Bobby Nicholson to win the 126-pound title. Peters took the 160-pound bragging rights.
New Stuyahok and Sand Point will also be sending multiple wrestlers to state. Ivan Blunka and Kivaso Neketa netted New Stuyahok's other state berths. Blunka won the 98-pound title, while Neketa finished second to King Cove's Dylan Larsen in the 220-pound standings. Charles "Wolf" Jackson claimed Sand Point's second spot after edging out Dillingham's Chris Taylor for the 195-pound crown.
Manakotak's Edward Nick Jr. also punched a ticket to state by winning the 152-pound title. Dillingham's Alex Casteel was second.