Samson Imonode clearly found his place, and not just in reaching the Division I 152-pound semifinals. It is more about the wrestling program that is Horizon.
He wrestled the last couple of years for Phoenix Central but transferred for various reasons.
The difference can be seen by his performance at state where last year as the top seeded he came in overworked and ended up not placing.
"It has been a great fit," Imonode said. "I love it, my family loves it. I couldn't have found a better place."
This year under the watchful eye of Horizon coach Ben Wick, Imonode and his freshman brother Jeremiah (182 pounds) have flourished.
"That was the first time I smiled after a match in a long time," Samson said after his quarterfinal victory. "I had the perfect mental approach and I am ready to finish this season the way I want to."
Great sight to see?
Former Marcos de Niza champion state champion Aaron Pavlenko was expected to be in attendance to watch his brothers (Tempe coach Alex Pavlenko and Marcos' 195-pounder Adam Pavlenko) at the state meet Saturday.
About 10 months ago, Aaron Pavlenko was in a serious car accident that he was lucky to survive. It happened near the family home after an overnight shift at a bakery.
They originally thought they might have to amputate his right leg but he told them no at the scene. They expected internal bleeding or a head injury, but he was fine other than leg injury, which was repaired by using his latissimus dorsi muscle.
His brothers said doctors believed he was saved by the fact that he was in the best shape of his life as he was attended the Olympic Training Center regularly.
DeBerry back in the saddle
Longtime Tucson Sunnyside coach Bobby DeBerry made a stir when he stepped down during the offseason.
When he did it was hard to envision a state tournament without him.
When Tucson High coach Rich Ortiz was suspended indefinitely at the end of January, DeBerry, who was on campus as a professional academic advisor, was named the interim coach.
"I thought about it for a minute and figured I might as well. The kids needed someone," said DeBerry, who brought three wrestlers to the tournament. "There was no one else. I didn't see this happening, but it is interesting how things work out sometimes."
Nos. 27 and 28
St. Johns senior Ryder Nielsen and Safford senior Trey Andrews became the state's 27th and 28th four-time state champion after winning the Division IV 113 and Division III 120-pound titles, respectively.
Andrews cruised through the tournament and finished his career 203-12.
"It's an amazing feeling," Andrews said. "After a shaky freshman year when I lost nine times before putting it together my goal was to win it every year."
Nielsen said he could barely believe what he accomplished after pulling out a dramatic 4-3 win with an escape and takedown in the final eight seconds.
"Something in your head just tells you have to go," he said. "It hasn't sunk in yet."
Workman doing his thing
Former Queen Creek coach Tot Workman has Eagar Round Valley doing well, as the Elks finished seventh, including a lot of points from his freshman son, Ethan. Ethan finished second in Division IV at 113 pounds after falling 4-3 to St. Johns' Nielsen.
"I'm loving it, absolutely loving it," the elder Workman said.
Workman was a four-time finalist and three time state champion for the Elks in the 1980s when his dad, Tot, was the coach at Round Valley for 18 years.