Athlete of the Week: Palmer wrestling’s A.J. Woodfork

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 3:45 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A.J. Woodfork is just the second male Palmer wrestler to win the Lancer Smith Memorial Tournament and currently holds a 28-0 record on the season.

Woodfork is known for his aggressive take downs and always chasing after the best competition. The first week of the season, he wrestled in the 160 pound weight class and after winning his matches, he noticed that some of the other wrestlers dropped down to the 152 pound weight class, so he followed.

“It is kind of a selfish type thing, it’s like yeah, I am the best and I want everyone that ran away to know it, ya know?” Woodfork said.

Watching Woodfork now, it is hard to believe that he has yet to win a state championship with the way he dominates on the mat. The process of becoming as good as he is has taken time, and he has had plenty of help along the way, specifically from his mom. Daisy Woodfork was his coach his freshmen year when they lived in Glacier View, and to say that their team was small would be an understatement.

“It was a one-man team. It was great until we didn’t have anyone to practice with,” said Daisy Woodfork, assistant coach for Palmer wrestling.

A.J. Woodfork went from being a one-man team to being a leader on the Palmer Moose team made up of over 30 wrestlers. Palmer wrestling’s head coach Daniel Graham said that after the Lancer Smith Memorial Tournament, Woodfork even gave a team speech about how much he appreciates his teammates always being there for him.

It can be easy to get lost in watching Woodfork take people down with such ease. His double leg take down and ankle pick is just about as fast and explosive as one will see in the state of Alaska, but that isn’t his best skill, according to his coach.

“Well honestly, most people see his explosive take downs and just the way he pins everybody, but what makes him honestly special, what makes coaches from down south come up and talk to me is the way he listens,” Graham said.

Even though the Woodforks are now both apart of the bigger Palmer Moose family, they still have a strong connection when it comes to the mat.

“Right before his matches we do a little prayer just to keep him focused on what he needs to be doing, and then my thoughts are to just keep him safe on the mat,” Daisy Woodfork said. “So I’m mat-side just what he can’t see and what he can’t feel I try to — you know, since I’ve been there as long as I have, I kind of can see his setups.”

“My mom, she is everything to my wrestling career. She supports me a lot,” Woodfork said. “A lot, a lot. She really helps with the fundraising part too, like going down to the Lower 48 and stuff.”

The Alaska wrestling season is nearing its end with regional and state competitions on the horizon, and A.J. Woodfork’s goal is about as clear as it can be for the rest of the year.

“The mission is just to dominate everyone and just to like, prove that I’m the best at what I do in the state of Alaska,” Woodfork said.

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