Call them freshmen, but be careful trying to stuff them in a locker.
Tempe Corona del Sol ninth-graders Ryan Miller and Derek Felton may carry the youthful monikers, but the two were instrumental in helping the Aztec varsity wrestling team capture the 15th annual Aztec Duals Saturday, defeating Mesa Dobson 39-19 in the championship match.
Mesa Westwood finished third, defeating Anthem Boulder Creek 49-20.
Both Miller and Felton won individual weight class championships, Miller at the 103-pound weight class and Felton, whose father Tim Felton is an assistant at Corona, won at 140.
Miller said his weight class is particularly key because it usually signals the first match of an event.
“If I can win, I feel it pumps up the team a lot, and gives everyone momentum for the rest of the match,” said Miller, who credits Derek Felton’s father for helping him become competitive in the state.
Derek Felton’s weight class is about midway through a match, and at his level, the going gets harder for a freshman.
“Everyone is bigger and stronger than me,” Felton said. “I have to work on them from the outside, use my technique and let them rush me and work off their mistakes.”
Both Miller and Felton say that they are both focused on a state weight class title as well as helping their team make waves later this season.
Aztec coach David Vibber said the success of his freshmen accents the youth on this year’s Corona del Sol team.
“They’re young, energetic, and they bring that energy to the mat,” Vibber said. “They represent our future, and with six or seven sophomores in the lineup, I think our recent success makes a statement for how hard this team is working.”
The Aztecs’ dual meet win over Dobson made up for an earlier loss this season to the Mustangs, but Vibber said the season is still just getting rolling.
“I feel we’ve improved, and that, over the Christmas break, the team turned a corner when we did well at the Moon Valley Invitational,” Vibber said.
“We’re anxious to see the new power rankings and see where we stand in terms of the state dual meets.”
Dobson coach Steve Tannenbaum said he hopes his team learns from the loss to Corona.
“This is the time of the season that we’ve got to be ready to wrestle in big matches,” Tannenbaum said. “It’s all about attitude this time of year.”
Among East Valley schools, Corona had the most winners in the individual match-ups Saturday afternoon. Besides Miller and Felton, Jordin Pagel (119), Luke Macchiaroli (189) and Trevor Stapp (heavyweight 285) won their contests.
Dobson had three individual winners: Cody Lewis (135), Kadeem Holman (160) and Chris Long (215).
Scottsdale Horizon had two: Kyle Swayzee (112) and Nathan Leidigh (152).