Christmas break is anything but a chance to relax and recharge for most of the high school sports teams.
There are some off days sprinkled in, but for the most part teams are in tournaments or practicing in preparation for the second half of the regular season.
Some teams have already traveled out of state and returned or competed under the spotlight while others are about to get the competitive juices flowing.
The Red Mountain basketball teams got it all started by heading out of state in the days leading up to Christmas.
The girls team headed to Las Vegas for the Tarkanian Classic and held its own in the Ruby Division. The Mountain Lions made it to the semifinals of the 16-team division and finished third with a 3-1 record against teams from California.
They won their two games by a combined 27 points against Campolindo and Mark Keppel – before falling to champion Redondo. To finish off the trip, Red Mountain topped Vanden 56-46 as Kailey Appel scored 13 and Heavyn Jordan grabbed eight rebounds.
The boys team had more of struggle against some good competition in Salem, Ore., at Williamette University as the Mountain Lions went 1-3. It started with a one-point loss, and followed it up with a 10-point win before losing the next two games.
The Moon Valley wrestling tournament, where the finals are competed underneath a spotlight in a dark gym, was held Friday and Saturday with the Mesa and Dobson competing.
Christian Riordan was the lone area champion as the senior won his first high school title, coming back with the 126-pound championship after beating Marcos de Niza’s Makile Shuaibe-Jones, 7-2, in the finals and Boulder Creek’s Jarrett Christofferson, 5-4, in the finals.
“His tenaciousness gave him the win,” Mesa coach Dave DiDomenico said. “He took a couple of shots at the end and finally got it at the buzzer. Good for him. He’s finally starting to believe he belongs on the podium. He’s chaining moves, getting rid of the garbage moves and sticking to our game plans.
“He’s finally reaching that level we knew he could reach.”
Riordan had six pins along the way to the title, while Steve Jarman finished as the runner-up after going 8-1 with three pins with the loss coming in the finals to Corona del Sol state champion Bryce Nickel by a score of 4-1.
The Jackrabbits had two other placers in Sam Heslop (182, fifth) and Alexis Arteaga (170, eighth) to finish sixth in the 36-team tournament.
Dobson, which finished 35th, was led by Tristan Torres (106) as he had two pins and two forfeits in the first seven rounds, while Brandon Thibodeau (126) and Michael Guider (170) each had one win by pin.
The big post-Christmas tournament is the VistiMesa.com Basketball Challenge as the Mountain View boys hosts 16 teams including Red Mountain as five teams from out of state come to town.
“It’s grown into something pretty special,” Mountain View coach Gary Ernst said. “I really like getting a chance to play the teams from the other states and seeing how to compare to them and their style of play.”
The tournament means a lot to some of the Toro players now that tournament has some age to it as they remember coming to the event when they were in elementary and middle school.
“I remember coming to it and thinking about playing in it someday,” senior guard Cooper Richeson said. “They seemed so big. A lot of the players had scholarships and there were some good teams.”
The Desert Ridge, Dobson, Mesa, Skyline boys teams are playing in the McClintock Shootout, while Westwood is headed to the Great Desert Shootout at Cave Creek.
The Mesa girls are headed to Arcadia for the Lady Titan Winter Hoops Classic, the Mountain View and Desert Ridge girls teams are playing in the Chandler Prep Invitational at Higley, Westwood is going north to Prescott Winter Classic, while Red Mountain is hosting the Holiday Hoops Classic including Skyline.
On the pitch most of the action is taking place at Red Mountain Sports Complex for Dobson’s Mustang Classic, which began on Tuesday.
Mesa, Red Mountain and Dobson are playing in the boys tournament, while Skyline is headed to AZ Soccer Showcase in Phoenix at the Reach 11 Complex.
Mountain View girls are also at the Showcase, while Skyline is participating in the Independence Winter Invite.
Most of the wrestling programs are competing in the Steve Blackford Duals on Arizona State’s campus starting Wednesday and finishing up Thursday.
“We’re coming along,” DiDomenico said. “I’m excited to see where they are heading. They are buying into the game plan and following it.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.