Once again the inequality among the four Division I wrestling sectionals left many wrestlers battle-tested but beat up.
And some very good wrestlers could be left out all together.
Wrestling sectionals were canceled statewide over the weekend because of health reasons. According to an AIA press release late Friday, a solution moving forward won’t be determined until Monday.
If the sectional meets are held in their entirety in the near future, it’ll be a tough road to simply reach the state tournament. Div. I pitted all of the perennial powers in two of the four sectionals. The top four in each of the 14 weight classes from the four sectionals make up the 16-man brackets in the state meets, which begin Thursday for Divisions III and IV, and Friday for Div. I and Div. II at Tim’s Toyota Center.
Mountain Ridge, for example, competed in Div. I, Section III, and has some very good wrestlers, but it doesn’t have the depth seen at most of the schools that are all competing in Sections I and IV within Div. I.
“It’s a tough road,” Desert Vista coach David Gonzalez said. “The older kids know what is in front of them. The younger wrestlers just have to worry about the guy in front of you. Just qualify (for state) and worry about (state) later because it is going to be easier to some degree if they get the seeding falls right.”
The 11-team sectional includes Tucson schools Sunnyside, Ironwood Ridge, Tucson, Buena and Marana to go along with Chandler, Basha, Perry and Hamilton.
The other two sections — Section II and III — lost their strongest program when Yuma Cibola moved down to Division II, while Sunnyside has won 15 of the last 16 state titles (30 overall) regardless of the division it competed in. Ironwood Ridge had won three straight Division II titles after finishing as runner-up the previous two years before bumping to Div. I this season..
But high school tournaments don’t have wild cards to reward the more difficult weight classes or, in this case, sectionals.
Only the top four advance — after a weighted sectional process in which five qualifiers from two and three qualifiers from the other two sections was voted down in the offseason — and there is a clear disparity.
Sections II and III only had 10 teams per section, and while there are some very good individuals, there are no programs considered perennial powers. Many teams didn’t bring a full lineup to fill out the brackets to make the path to the state meet even easier.
Of those 20 teams three have finished in the top three a total of four times in the history of Arizona wrestling, as Mountain Ridge was third in 2000, Chaparral finished third in 1993, and Maryvale finished third in 2004.
Sections I and IV had 11 teams per section and provided 20 of the 28 state finalists last season in Div. I and almost all submitted a full lineup to sectionals. Those programs have combined for 44 team state titles and 36 state runner-up finishes.
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