It wouldn’t be surprising to learn David DiDomenico scheduled when and how many times he blinked each day.
Some people are just wound that way and DiDomenico’s meticulous ways are influencing the Mesa wrestling program as the Jackrabbits prepare for Saturday’s Division I, Section I wrestling tournament at Red Mountain.
The Jackrabbits went through the season with very little drop off in the number of participants and for the first time in his 30 years of coaching every single wrestler is eligible.
“It’s been tremendous,” DiDomenico said. “Our numbers didn’t really waver all year and I made grades a major emphasis. I personally checked every grade each Monday and have a conversation with the kids. I’ve never seen 100 percent in all my years.
“I’ve been really excited about it. It’s been about employing senior leadership, accountability and camaraderie like it was 10 years ago.”
A lot has changed in a decade since the Jackrabbits were winning team state titles in 2006 through 2008.
First and foremost, DiDomenico and Bobby Williams have changed places with Williams deciding to take a step back and become the assistant.
The role reversal could make for a tricky dynamic environment, but the last two years have been just like the old days before DiDomenico left to take over Red Mountain (2007-08 to 2012-13) before coming back five years ago as an assistant.
“He’s the best in the biz in running practice and developing wrestlers,” DiDomenico said. “My ego wants to take over all of it, but it is good a team. Bobby does what he does, and I do what I do. It’s about roles and we know what we do best.”
It has led to a renewed energy within the programs that they hope translates to a successful couple of weeks unlike last season when the sectional and state tournaments weren’t kind.
The 10-team tournament has a couple of favorites in Desert Ridge, Mountain View along with Red Mountain and Kofa, but the Jackrabbits, who went 23-9 in dual meets, can crack the top five with a good performance.
The top performers for Mesa this year are a couple of wrestlers who have made huge strides from last season.
Steve Jarman (132, 40-3) and Christian Riordan (126, 39-3) entered the year without having ever won a high school tournament but both changed that this season and head into sectionals as one of the favorites to win their weight class.
“They’ve had a tremendous influence on each other,” DiDomenico said. “They’ve seen it all come together.”
The biggest difference for both competitors has been belief. Riordan has had the talent to be a state qualifier but has never won the biggest matches of the year. It is why he enters his final two weeks looking for his first state qualification.
“It took a long time to realize I had what it takes to compete and win matches against the top wrestlers,” he said. “Then I win (the title) at Moon Valley and everything changed for me.”
Jarman, who won the Doc Wright tournament at Winslow, had to overcome that fact that he’d get too nervous to perform at an optimal level.
“I was so nervous for every match, even the ones I shouldn’t have been,” he said. “It came down to belief, really. I started to get it by working with (Riordan) every day and realizing if I can wrestle with him I can wrestle with anyone.”
The program has had a similar resurgence. The Jackrabbits are not ready to win it all anytime soon like the Anthony Robles-led teams, but the foundation is set.
DiDomenico is meticulously making sure it sets up just right.
“He goes over everything with us,” Jarman said. “It’s grades, and the psychological part. He figures everything out and makes sure we are always prepared.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send human interest story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.