Chants of “Two! Two! Two!” and cheers from family and friends rained down on all the state's top wrestlers from every school and division as they battled in the 2023 AIA state championship at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 18.
Sunnyside of Tucson proved to be the top dog again in Division I, coming in first with a dominant 307.5 points and placing 13 kids throughout the 14 weight classes.
“It almost seemed like it was Sunnyside versus all the matches out there,” Hamilton coach Travis Miller said half jokingly.
However, the East Valley made sure it was well represented with 41 kids placed from Ahwatukee, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek and Tempe.
In Division I, Mountain View came in third with 135 points with seven kids placing. Desert Vista came in a close fourth place with 122 points, placing five.
Logan Smith, who placed third at 132 pounds for Desert Vista, said he was disappointed in his performance, as well as the Thunder's.
“I could've done better,” he said. “Not what we (as a team) expected. We could’ve done better definitely.”
Despite his disappointment, Smith will leave Desert Vista with numerous accolades under his belt.
The third-place win secures his spot as the only Thunder wrestler currently on the team to place at state in the top-three in all four years of high school. He’s also the program’s only current four-time sectionals champion all in different weight classes.
Smith signed with Central College earlier this month, a Division III school in Iowa. He is currently weighing his options, however, as he may decide to pursue a different route in college.
One of Smith’s teammates, Carter Holt, placed third at 138 pounds for Desert Vista. He echoed Smith’s testament that the Thunder underperformed and were disappointed with their results.
“We did better earlier in the week,” he said. “We didn’t expect Damen (Miller) to lose. We couldn’t get it done tonight.”
Miller, who wrestles at 144 pounds, was the only Desert Vista wrestler competing in a state title match. He fell Sunnyside’s Christian Rivera.
Casteel fell in fifth place with 91 points while Desert Ridge placed sixth with 79 points.
Hamilton nearly cracked the top-10 at 11 with 50.5 points.
“Being at the DI level, you never know what’s going to happen,” Hamilton coach Travis Miller said. “There’s a lot of good competition, but I’m really proud of our kids and how well they did and the placers we had making the podium. Putting Hamilton near the top-10 for us is big. I’m proud.”
Miller added that his second-place finisher at 165 pounds, Grant Murray, gave Mike Avelar of Sunnyside — who is committed at the collegiate Division I level — a run for his money.
“He (wrestling in his first state finals) really brought it to him,” Miller said. “He made a seasoned champion look a little bit nervous before championships do what champions do.”
Chandler, Corona del Sol and Queen Creek closed out the East Valley in Division I.
Queen Creek coach Joel Anderson acknowledged the dominance by Sunnyside but credited his boys for the grueling season and effort in the championship rounds.
“I’m incredibly proud of my boys,” Anderson said. “You know, the season is long, not everyone sees the mat during the season, it’s tough. But the determination and grit make it here and to have my boys on that podium, it feels great.”
The Bulldogs placed two wrestlers, Riggs Anderson with fourth place at heavyweight (285 lbs) and Beau Shepherd with third place at 135 lbs.
The East Valley had little action in Division II, with Marlin Whyte of Mountain Pointe being the only contender, placing first at 165 lbs. The Pride finished 17th in Division II, but White became the first Pride wrestler to win a state title since 1992.
While Mesquite and Marcos de Niza were the two East Valley programs featured in Division III, the Wildcats had four make the podium. Angelo Martinez placed fifth at 106, Trevor Ouellette placed third at 120, Eli Conde placed second at 138 and Michael Story placed fifth at heavy weight.
Lius Pichardo was the lone Padre in Division III to place for Marcos de Niza, he finished third at 165.
The East Valley was well represented on the girls’ side early Saturday morning. Casteel’s girls finished in third place. The Colts were led by Isabella Munoz, who captured her third state championship in 145, as well as Anneliese Kisting (126) who was in the finals for the second time in her career.
Freshman Mia Johnson took fifth in her first state meet for Casteel.
Mountain View’s Taina Uasike placed second in the 185-pound class. Her finish is the highest in the history of the Toro girls’ wrestling program. Basha’s Trinity Bouchal captured her second state title wrestling in 165.
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