PRESCOTT VALLEY – The Groveses keep on growing.
But they are not getting picked apart.
It is quite the opposite as twin brothers Gator and Marco moved one step closer to Arizona immortality as the McClintock juniors each won their third state titles on Saturday.
Gator won the 145-pound title with a tough 4-2 win over Ironwood’s Daniel Morris and Marco used a flurry of takedowns to best Marana’s Blake Proper, 12-6, for the 160-pound title.
“I went up four weight classes from last season so I was little worried about it, but once I started working it was no different than 132,” Marco said. “We both work so hard and just wanted to get the third one to make sure we have a chance next year.”
The duo had a little help toward the end of the year as Deer Valley four-time state champion Jacob Swift, who capped off his career last season, came into the room and helped coach after leaving Nebraska Wesleyan.
“He’s my best friend, and I’ve known him forever,” Marco said. “He makes it fun and we work hard. He’s a lot better than me so it keeps me getting better.”
The brothers were two of the four area Division II champions crowned on Saturday after seven individuals took the center mat at the Prescott Valley Event Center.
Joining the Groves brothers were pair of Queen Creek champions in sophomore Denen Fernandez (138) and Anthony Saba (182).
They helped the Bulldogs to a second-place finish in the team standings, the best the program has ever done, as Marana Mountain View had just a little more firepower to outlast the Bulldogs, 177.5 to 171.
“That’s a tremendous program and we gave them a run,” Queen Creek coach Jacob Goddard said. “We wrestled a great tournament and had some kids that really came through and did better than we expected. We came up short but we had a great run.”
Fernandez won his first state title after finishing as runner-up last year by beating Centennial’s Bryce Saylor, 5-4.
“I’ve been working my way to this for a long time,” he said. “It was a tough match, and I knew I had to be at my best for six minutes.”
Saba took last season off when he was at Hamilton, but didn’t wrestle. He missed the sport and the school so he came back to Queen Creek.
It paid off with a state title as he beat Campo Verde’s E.J. Galvez 3-2 a week after the latter won in the final 10 seconds for the sectional title.
“I wasn’t going to give it up at the end again,” Saba said. “He’s a tough kid.”
The Bulldogs placed nine overall with Xavier Rico (113) and Nikolas Manuel (152) finishing up as runner-ups.
The other local competitor to make the finals but come up short was Williams Field’s Briggs Conway, who lost 9-8 to defending state champion Miles Nuessle of Liberty.
Conway took several shots at the end up it just wasn’t enough to get the winning takedown.
“That was a tough match, right there,” Williams Field coach Travis Fentress said. “We watched (Nuessle) a lot and we knew he didn’t have a lot in the tank, and that’s Briggs’ strength. He’s in your face and keeps coming at you. It just wasn’t enough.”
The Black Hawks finished fifth with five total placers.
“We didn’t quite have the tournament we wanted,” Frentress said. “We had a couple of kids come up short that we thought could place. It’s a tough tournament and one slip up can cost you.”
– Contact writer Jason Skoda at 480-898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda.