The wrestling season is a few weeks old.
It’s a good thing, too, as it’s taken just about that long to get a handle on all the movement.
Two of the area’s top wrestlers – two-time state placer Zach Walton, formerly of Corona del Sol, and two-time state finalist Tristan Moran, formerly of Chandler – moved to separate Oklahoma high schools to take away some of the firepower to recent Division I team championship programs.
Corona also lost sophomore Alex Carillo, who finished fourth at state last season, to Desert Vista.
Carillo adds to an already talented lineup including state placers Brian Mitchell and Tristan Ezell along with state qualifiers Matt Mathers and Jeremiah Imonode.
“It’s a good room right now,” Desert Vista coach David Gonzalez said. “They are picking up each other every day and making sure everyone is accountable. It makes it easier on me because they are hearing it from each other instead of just me.”
While Chandler lost a former state titlist in Moran, it gained a couple Champions, as Dajour, who finished second in state last year, and Quince Reece came over from Laveen Cesar Chavez.
Mountain View might have received the biggest bonus as an already strong lineup has been boosted by the addition the Taylors brothers from Utah, where twin brothers Weston and Kiefer helped Maple Mountain win a team title, and freshman Merritt, who was a Western Regional champion.
The Toros were considered the top team in Division I before the year began and cemented it by beating Corona and rival-Mesa handily before heading to New Mexico, where Mountain View won the Rio Rancho dual meet tournament by an average score of 71-7 to extend its dual meet win streak to 38 matches.
The competition figures to be Yuma Cibola, which won the Deer Valley dual tournament over the weekend, Tucson Sunnyside, Basha, Corona, Chandler, Desert Vista and a few others.
“It’s been a great start, and we are winning the close matches, but it’s a long season,” Mountain View coach Bob Callison said. “We will keep working hard and pushing until we get to top.”
The top programs from the area in Division II will be Queen Creek, Marcos de Niza and Apache Junction, while Division III should see Campo Verde make another run toward the top five and the trio of Seton Catholic, San Tan Foothills and Canyon State Academy has enough quality individuals to make a run at the top 10.
Other than the movement the big news of the offseason season was the fact the latest proposal for state qualifying was not pushed through by the wrestling advisory board on Nov. 18.
The wrestling coaches association took the time to analyze three years of data in order to support the idea of a weighted sectional, meaning some sectionals would have five qualifiers and others three, in cases where tournament fields are stacked with talent.
It is especially needed in Division I where two of the sectionals are overloaded with top programs, while the other two sectionals seemingly have easier path to the state tournament.
As one would expect the coaches within the sectionals targeted for only three state qualifiers for each weight class weren’t too keen on the idea.
So it remains four qualifiers for each weight class from each of the four sectionals across the board.
“We were trying to make the sectionals proportional to the degree of competitiveness,” Callison said. “It would be like the NCAAs where the Big 10 gets seven to eight qualifiers per weight class plus a wild card, while the Pac-12 has only one or two qualifiers.
“We thought we had something good in the place, something data driven that showed why it was needed, but the same people saying we needed to do something about the equity didn’t come through when we needed them to step up. It’s back to drawing board and we will see what we can do next year.”
Wrestlers to Watch
Ted Rico, Combs; Anthony Wokasch, Queen Creek; Blake Monty, Mesa Mountain View; Ethan Tursini, Corona del Sol; Trey Ronayne, Basha; Bridger Barker, Corona del Sol; Brian Mitchell, Desert Vista; Michael Spencer, Poston Butte; Quentin Hovis, Seton Catholic; Dajour Reece, Chandler; Glenn Farina, Corona del Sol; Weston Taylor, Mesa Mountain View; Kiefer Taylor, Mountain View; Kamden Krum, Basha; Gary Smith, Desert Ridge; Dylan Kronberg, Corona del Sol; Mike Kiel, Pinnacle; Robert Schrock, Mesa; Travis Widmer, Queen Creek; Emmanuel Pjetrushi, Notre Dame; Paul Gonzalez, Tempe; Gabriel Cobb; Williams Field; Chandler Follett, Williams Field; Tristan Ezell, Desert Vista.
Dec. 13-14: Nate Johnson Memorial (at Red Mountain High School)
Dec. 20-21: Moon Valley Invitational (at Moon Valley H.S.)
Dec. 27-28: Steve Blackford Duals (at Arizona State)
Jan. 3-4: Mile High Challenge (at Tim’s Toyota Center, Prescott Valley)
Jan. 10-11: Peoria Invitational (at Peoria H.S.)
Jan. 17-18: Flowing Wells Invitational (at Flowing Wells H.S.)
Jan. 17-18: Payson Invitational (at Payson H.S.)
Feb. 8: Sectionals at various sites TBD
Feb. 13-15: State championship matches (at Tim’s Toyota Center, Prescott Valley)