Petersburg’s high school wrestling team excelled at the state competition this year with individual and team wins in Anchorage. The Vikings team took fourth place overall, coming in first place in Division II.
Senior Kyle Biggers won the state championship this year in the 215-pound weight class. He won all four of his matches and earned 26 points.
Biggers says he was in a clear headspace the day of the tournament.
“I was just really calm the whole day,” Biggers said. “Just relaxed, you know, give myself a break, now only really focused on what I was going to do when the time came. And that really helped keep me calm, less stressful. In the long run, I think that’s one of the biggest influences on why I won.”
This kind of calm focus is something that head coach James Valentine says he tries to cultivate in his wrestlers.
“The steps to get your kid to focus-” said Valentine, “The goal is that you’re not thinking past this match. Meaning you want to be able to, if you can, as a wrestler, tune out all the parents that are screaming at you, all the crowd screaming at you, and hone in just on us coaches, the referee, and the opponent that you are wrestling.”
Valentine noticed that Biggers seemed very centered during the state competition. That’s not an easy feat because there was such a huge crowd. Valentine says there were eight mats with wrestlers competing—much more than the two mats they usually see at tournaments.
“When you have eight mats laid out,” Valentine said, “you have four hundred kids, all their friends, family, and all the spectators, you have 1000 people watching you. I mean the pressure is on and the atmosphere is electric.”
Biggers relied on tried-and-true wrestling techniques to win his matches. He is six-foot-four and he usually wrestles guys quite a bit shorter than him. This gives him an advantage for moves like an “arm drag.”
“I tried an arm drag,” said Biggers. “I grab his arm with my hand and pull him into me. And my arm was so long, it could reach around and grab his leg and pick them up. While he’s like ‘hey’ He can’t do anything because I still have his arm.”
Biggers says his emotions were mixed in his last match—the match that won him the state championship.
“Felt great, basically,” Biggers said. “I mean, it’s kind of hard to put into words but I felt relieved. Kind of sad at the same time. It was really bittersweet. Like I wanted, my last match is a great way to go. But at the same time, that was it. I’m done.”
Petersburg sent nine wrestlers to state this year with five of them placing. That means those wrestlers were one of the top six in their weight class. Senior Wyatt Litster placed 3rd (in the 152 pound weight class). Senior DD Toyomura took fourth (in the 107 pound girls class) Junior Jonas Anderson took 4th (in the 160 pound class), and Sophomore Kaden Duke placed 5th (in the 145 pound class).
Harley Dunbar, Markus Anderson, Angus Olson, and Lakell Deinhardt all competed but did not place. But Valentine says just making it to state is a huge honor. Only sixteen wrestlers in each weight class qualify for state each year.
“They all had wins and they all had losses,” said Valentine. “And, again, they’re the top sixteen kids in the state, which is, again, huge. And none of my kids ever give up.”
The Vikings were the top school of their size—Division II.
And, it wasn’t just Petersburg celebrating the championship. Valentine says that all the Southeast teams are part of one big tribe.
“Southeast in general is a very tight-knit community,” said Valentine. “So, Wrangell, Sitka, Hoonah, Ketchikan, Haines… We always go Southeast first, so when any of Southeast wrestlers win, we always celebrate as a whole.”
So, Southeast Alaska can celebrate one more state champion. Senior Kyle Biggers is the first boys’ state champion the school has seen in twelve years.