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Quinhagak has its first state wrestling champion

The championships of the boys 125-pound weight class came down to two wrestlers from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta on Saturday, Dec. 16.

Sheldon Smith, a junior from Bethel, faced off against Daylon Brown, a senior from Quinhagak.

And in the end, Brown, who has been wrestling for eight years, became the first state wrestling champion from Quinhagak. The 17-year-old athlete is a man of few words.

“It was exciting…I was nervous,” Brown said.

His game plan was simple.

“Stick to my basic moves. Single leg and armbar,” said Brown.

Brown had to cut 8 pounds in less than a week to make weight. To make matters worse, he got injured on his first match on Dec. 15, but he pushed through the pain.

“I was wrestling with a bad hip. I don’t know, it started popping. Just sore,” Brown said.  

Brown credits his coach, Thomas Nicori, for his success. Nicori is an electrician by trade and has been coaching on and off again since the 80s.

“Dennis asked me to coach wrestling, coach a team this year, and I had to quit my job to do it. But worth every moment of it,” Nicori said.

Nicori didn’t think Brown was suited for wrestling at first.

“I was his first coach when he was, I think in fifth grade, maybe. And when I first saw him, I said no. I thought his cousin was going to be a lot tougher, and then he started beating him up. I thought, woah, this guy's tough. So yeah, his first year. When I first coached him. His first and last coach, which is wonderful,” Nicori said.

Brown doesn’t have much time to heal up after his state win. The athlete also plays basketball and he plans to compete again at the Native Youth Olympics.

After Brown picked up his bracket sheet and first place medal, he and Nicori celebrated their success as wrestlers often do after cutting weight: they went out to eat. Their food of choice? Chinese. All you can eat buffet, of course.

Francisco Martínezcuello was the KYUK News Reporting Fellow from November 2022 through January 2024. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Journalism. He is also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.