PRESCOTT VALLEY – Tyler Cattey’s mouth was bleeding, his right eyebrow had the scar of early season frustration but he was smiling.
Albeit between deep breaths, but the Gilbert state placer just couldn’t help it.
After finishing fourth in the Division I, Section III tournament last weekend on two one-point defeats, Cattey wrestles for the Division I 171-pound state title.
“Those losses only made me worker harder,” said Cattey, who was state runner-up last season and missed a part of this season because of gash over his right eye. “I think everyone was thinking I lost it. That I couldn’t make the finals again. Well, here I am.”
It wasn’t easy for many of the East Valley wrestlers at Tim’s Toyota Center as the new set of rules (four divisions instead of six classifications) and odd seeding (top six with blind draw for the rest of the field) made for some very competitive matches all throughout Thursday’s action.
Cattey got a first-round forfeit from Basha’s Tyler Ronayne, who beat Cattey last week, topped state-placer Christian Allen 8-6 and then took down Boulder Creek’s Scott Eddy 10-5 in the semifinals.
He takes on Sunnyside’s Cedric Gonzalez, who beat Cattey 11-10 in the semifinals last week, for the championship.
There are a lot of familiar faces from the area in the finals – Chandler’s Dalton Brady (112), Desert Ridge’s Nate Covarrubias (112), Desert Vista’s Robbie Mathers (125), Highland’s Curt Done (130), Mesa Mountain View’s Seth Monty (140), Mesa’s Edgar Verdi (152), Red Mountain’s Bobby Davis (160), Corona del Sol’s Simon Allen to name a few – but there are couple that aren’t as well.
Mesa’s Dorian Coleman didn’t wrestle in the state tournament last year, having trouble making the lineup and giving away to then-seniors.
A year later, Coleman is in the finals at 160 after using a slick duck under at the buzzer to beat Desert Vista’s Ace Martinez, 3-1 in the semifinals.
“That’s a big jump,” said Coleman, said of his ascension to the JV wrestler to state finalist. “To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d be here but I gained confidence as the season went on.”
He will take on Red Mountain’s Davis in the finals. They have split a pair of matches this season.
Another first-timer is Desert Vista’s Kendall Love, who transferred in from Indiana. He didn’t qualify for the state meet in the Hoosier State, which has one state meet for the entire state.
But the Thunder junior 135-pounder used a duck under like Coleman in the third period for a five-point move in a 9-7 win over Mesa Mountain View’s Grant Huber. Love will take on Sunnyside’s Andres Piedra in the finals.
Another intriguing finalist is Chandler’s former state champion Max Mejia, who beat Highland’s Trevin Waite 2-1 in the 119-pound quarterfinals after losing the first four meeting this season. He went on to beat Westwood’s Da’Wayne Robertson 7-6 in the semifinals and now the Harvard recruit takes on Cibola state champion Adam Ludwin.
As far as the team race, Sunnyside is well on its way to another state title with 116.5 points, while Desert Vista (79), Chandler (71), Cibola (66) and Mesa (65.5) round out the top five.
Highland (65, sixth), Red Mountain (53, seventh) and Corona del Sol (49, 10th) are in the top 10.
In Division II, Marcos de Niza is second behind Ironwood Ridge, 127.5 to 82 while Queen Creek (48, seventh) is the only other top 10 team.
Marcos has finalists in Jesus Morales (130) and Aaron Pavlenko (215), while Chaparral’s Gino Stoppa will take on Morales at 130.
Queen Creek’s Kolton Lock (145) is the only other area finalist and he has felt the pressure of being a defending state champion.
“They give you their best shot,” said Lock, who faces Barry Goldwater’s Austin Crawford in the finals. “I feel sluggish because of the pressure, but now that I am back I will come back strong and fresh for the finals.”