A semblance of order has returned to Arizona high school wrestling. Last year, coaches had to deal with new conference alignments (with 5A and 4A split into two) and the team finals being separated from the individual meet.
They have had a year to adjust to the changes.
Defending 5A-I champion Mesa High lost some significant wrestlers to graduation, but should still be in the state title mix. So will region Mesa neighbors Mountain View, Red Mountain and Dobson.
Tempe Corona del Sol returns 189-pound state champion Luke Macchiaroli along with several others. Gilbert Highland will be tough as always.
In 5A-II, Tempe Marcos de Niza is young but talented. The Padres finished runner-up to Tucson Sunnyside last season.
Phoenix Thunderbird will be the favorite in 4A-I, but Tempe McClintock could make some noise. Queen Creek finished fifth in 4A-II last season and returns a solid nucleus from that squad.
Coolidge will look to improve upon its sixth-place finish of a year ago in 3A, with brothers Eric (state champ at 119) and Aaron Garcia (second at 112) leading the way.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Corona del Sol: Luke Macchiaroli (state title at 189) and Trevor Stapp (runner-up at 275) highlight a veteran lineup that will challenge the Mesa schools.
Marcos de Niza: The Padres have plenty of talent, but might be too young. Marcos de Niza, which finished second to Tucson Sunnyside last season in 4A-II, will likely hit the mats with nine freshmen and sophomores in the lineup.
Coolidge: The Bears finished sixth in 3A last year, mostly due to the abilities of Eric and Aaron Garcia. Eric won the 119-pound division and Aaron was runner-up at 112. Both return this season.
Mesa: The Jackrabbits lost two state champions and two runners-up to graduation after taking home the 5A-I team title last season. Do they have enough talent coming back to make another run at the top?
Mountain View: The Toros finished runners-up in 5A-I last season, but how much will the departure of coach Shawn Rustad affect the squad? State title winner Preston Pico (152) will lead the charge.
Luke Macchiaroli, Corona del Sol, So.: f=Interstate-Light s=10 l=11 Won 189-pound weight class as freshman.
Jake Peterson, Pinnacle, Jr.: Finished 21-2 last season and won state title at 145 pounds.
Josiah Stotts, Marcos de Niza, So.: Won 103-pound division as a freshman, will wrestle at 119 this year.
Preston Pico, Mountain View, Sr.: 152-pound champion of 5A-I division.
Nick Mills, Highland, Sr.: Finished second to the since-graduated Anthony Robles in the 112-pound weight class.
OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH
Nick Hodgeman, Jr., Gilbert
Eric Garcia, Sr., Coolidge
Aaron Garcia, Jr., Coolidge
David Hollis, Sr., Queen Creek
Tod Workman, Jr., Queen Creek
Trevor Stapp, Jr., Corona del Sol
Adam Cherrington, Jr., Pinnacle
Luke Peach, Sr., Valley Christian
Yobel Muchang, So., Saguaro
Trevor Bradley, Soph., McClintock
Blake Edwards, So., Highland
Tony Covert, Sr., Mountain View
Jadon Johnson, Sr., Mountain View
Wes Osborn, Sr., Desert Vista
Chris Hunt, Sr., Mesquite
Jake Kauffman, Sr., Red Mountain
Greg Carbajal, Sr., Red Mountain
Taylor Sare, Jr., Red Mountain
Alex Pacheco, Sr., Mesa
Kyle Flannery, Sr., Basha
Joe Riccio, Soph., Horizon
Steve Haackenson, Sr., Dobson
Ricky Ruiz, Fr., Marcos de Niza
Chazz Romero, Jr., Marcos de Niza
Aaron Pavlenko, Fr., Marcos de Niza
Dec. 9-10: Westwood Tournament
Dec. 16-17: Moon Valley Tournament
Jan. 18: State finalists Mesa and Mountain View will face off in a three-team duel at Dobson.
Jan. 31: 5A team finals
Feb. 9-10: State dual match championships
DID YOU KNOW?
Comeback kid: Pinnacle's Christian Cardwell is recovering from cancer and will try to return to the mat this year.
Coaching carousel: Changes abound in the coaching ranks this year. Mountain View's Shawn Rustad stepped down after his team's runner-up finish in 5A-I last season, and assistant Bob Callison will take over. Pat Quinn returns to coach the Hamilton team after a two-year absence. The new head man at Desert Vista will be Dave Gonzalez, who replaced Todd Ford.
Youth movement: Marcos de Niza has three wrestlers (Aaron Pavlenko, Ricky Ruiz and Josh Elkins) who won junior high state titles last year.
Quick learners: Valley Christian's wrestling program started just five years ago, and the team finished ninth at state last season.