Skagway’s Jake Sims Youth Wrestling Invitational was held recently. Above, Millie Myers squares off with an opponent. PHOTO BY DAN FOX


Skagway recently played host to over 70 young athletes during the annual Jake Sims Youth Wrestling Invitational, where kids in the kindergarten-through-fifth grade range battled it out in over 150 bouts.

It was the third year for Skagway’s youth wrestling tournament, and the event’s first year under a new name. The local Youth Wrestling Club rebranded the tournament in honor of Jake Sims, a former Skagway wrestler and Army pilot who died in Afghanistan when his helicopter crashed in October 2017. Sims was the top Skagway wrestler in his junior and senior seasons.

“Our community is small, the wrestling community is small as a whole,” said youth wrestling coach Duppy Ticarro said. “Whether it’s in Skagway or Southeast, or even Alaska as a whole, we remain tight, and to honor someone like Jake and his family in renaming our youth tournament is something special, it’s something that we’re honored to do and we’ll keep his name and his memory living forever.”

In the invitational, Skagway had a bracket champion in the way of Yonder Anderson, two runner-ups with Dane Ames and Jaxon Larsen and numerous third- and fourth-place finishers.

“The kids did great, even from the newest wrestlers that I had to some of my more experienced wrestlers in the youth level,” Duppy Ticarro said. Due to travel expenses, half of the club won’t be able to travel to the next youth wrestling tournament, which is in Juneau on March 2, but Duppy Ticarro said it is “always awesome” to showcase the local wrestlers in front of their community.

“It’s very expensive to travel, so when we have tournaments like this at home, it’s an awesome venue for the kids to showcase what they know and what they’ve done, and all the hard work that they’ve put in,” Duppy Ticarro said.

In youth wrestling, Duppy Ticarro said the coaches try to instill characteristics of perseverance, integrity and discipline into the kids – traits that are transferable to other aspects of life.

“Giving it all you have, never quitting,” Duppy Ticarro said. “Working hard, being respectful.”

The youth wrestling club also serves as a good feeder program for higher levels of play in the sport, according to Duppy Ticarro.

“At the youth level, it’s a lot of focusing on just the fundamentals of the sport itself, learning the rules of wrestling…the fundamentals with stance and point systems and things like that,” Duppy Ticarro said. When wrestlers progress into the middle school and high school levels, Duppy Ticarro said a harder focus on technique begins to dominate the bulk of instruction.

While the principles Duppy Ticarro is teaching are universal, each wrestler draws their own enjoyment from the sport.

“I like that it’s not just a team sport, that it’s actually individual and it’s just you and your coach,” Wynter Radey-Morgan said.

Seth Tronrud said he enjoys the games that are apart of practice, and playing with his friends.

The Jake Sims Invitational ran from 9 a.m. past 5 p.m.

“I thought it was awesome,” Ames said, adding that he was “super tired” after the day was over. Ames said that it was cool to have kids come from outside of Skagway; he said he knew some of them, but others he was meeting for the first time.

Liam Ticarro agreed with Tronrud that games and spending time with friends is part of the fun of wrestling.

One of Skagway’s third-place finishers, Liam Ticarro said the Jake Sims Invitational was long, but that he had fun competing.

Liam Ticarro also said that the wrestling program this year is the biggest it’s ever been.

Before the 2018 season, Duppy Ticarro said his largest group of wrestlers was between 17-19 kids – this year he’s had 21 wrestlers out on the mats.

“Which is huge, if you look at the school population, we have about 20 percent of the school population enrolled into wrestling,” Duppy Ticarro said.