February 12, 2005
Today’s 5A state wrestling championship will have a distinct East Valley feel to it.
Highland, the Fiesta Region champs, leads the pack with 107 points with two Mesa schools — Red Mountain (103 1 /2 points) and Mountain View (102 1 /2) — close behind.
The Hawks held nearly a 10-point lead heading into Friday’s consolation matches, but four straight losses bridged the gap with the Mesa schools.
"Highland dropped a couple, but they are still so powerful," Red Mountain coach Nick Karantinos said. "It’s going to be hard to stop them."
Highland 160-pounder Nate Schultz, who recorded a 16-7 major decision over Phoenix Goldwater’s Daniel Vance, salvaged the consolation bracket for the Hawks.
The Mountain Lions will be at a disadvantage for the final two rounds today with only three wrestlers in the winners’ bracket, compared with five each for Mountain View and Highland.
"I got to say it was a good round, but there is still a lot of wrestling to be done," Karantinos said. "The big points are given (the final day)."
The only weight group where any of the top three schools will meet is the 189-pound division, when two seniors — Red Mountain’s Marcus Martinez (47-4) and Highland’s Stetson Anderson (32-0) — will face off.
The lead could change hands through all of the smaller weight classes. Mountain View sophomore Tony Convert is the first to take the mat at 103 pounds, followed by Red Mountain’s Greg Carbajal (112), Mountain View’s Jed Johnson (119) and Highland’s Spencer Jasper (125).
In total, the three schools will be represented in all but two weight classes (140 and 160 pounds), leading to an exciting day of wrestling and scoreboard watching.
Highland may have an advantage with its depth in the larger weight classes.
Seniors Ty Porter, the defending state champion at 215 pounds, and 277-pounder Richard Tuitu’u are a combined 56-3 this year and Anderson is undefeated.
Anderson joins Mesa’s Anthony Robles (103) and Alberto Montes (189), Phoenix North’s Eric Sanchez (152) and Mountain View’s Clancy Stockton (171) as wrestlers that have a chance at undefeated seasons.
In 4A, Tempe’s Gabe Gomez was the only local wrestler to advance to the finals. Gomez, a junior and the top-ranked wrestler in the 112-pound division, will face Phoenix Thunderbird sophomore David Leaphart in the final.
Led by Gomez, the Buffaloes are in eighth place. East Sky Region champion Desert Ridge is in 10th place and Apache Junction is 13th.
Coronado’s Sal Muna was expected to advance to the final, but he was hospitalized after an apparent head or neck injury during a semifinal match with Bullhead City Mohave junior Matt Guyer. Muna was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.
Muna, the second-ranked heavyweight in 4A, entered the match with a 14-1 record and his status for his thirdplace match with Prescott’s Kyle Kissack is unknown.
In the 4A team competition, Tucson Sunnyside, the five-time defending state champions, holds a comfortable lead over Thunderbird.
At the 3A level, three schools — Queen Creek, Higley and Fountain Hills — will each send two wrestlers apiece to the semifinals, which start at 10:30 a.m. today.
For the Bulldogs, Tod Workman (119) and Roberto Villalpando (152) advanced to the semifinals. Fountain Hills advanced two underclassmen — sophomore Jacob Kauffman (125) and freshman Jerrad Trulson (130).
Higley, which finished sixth at state last year, advanced Zach Appenzellar (189) and Walker Scheurn (215).
Knights coach Darren Johnson is excited about the possibility of two straight topten finishes in just the school’s third year.
"That’s really what I wanted and the kids know that," Johnson said. "And we should be able to get it."