PRESCOTT VALLEY – Sometimes sports and competition are superseded by something far more important.
Even if history is on the line.
That was the case Thursday when Chandler senior wrestler Marco Groves was pulled out of the Division I state tournament.
Groves was attempting to become a four-time state champion with the first three coming at McClintock.
After much discussion this week between the Groves family and the Chandler coaching staff, it was decided it would be best if Groves didn’t compete.
“The official answer is it is private,” Chandler coach Vidal Mejia said. “He’s having some personal issues and it was mutually decided to take a break.”
Groves, who along with his brother, Gator, transferred to Chandler from McClintock, a Division II program, in the offseason in part to take on the challenge of Division I wrestling.
He was considered one of the contenders at 160 this year, but last week in the sectional final he was pulled off the mat with about 10 seconds left while trailing 15-3 to Brophy’s Luke Jacobs.
Groves was called for a head butt and later an unsportsmanlike conduct when he locked up in a manner that was deemed too hard. Instead of risking a disqualification for Groves and being unable wrestle this week, Mejia called an injury default and pulled his wrestler.
It created a bit of an uproar in the heat of the moment but was later applauded by several coaches.
“I was making the right decision for my kid at the time,” Mejia said. “I wanted to make sure he had a chance this week.”
As it turned out, Groves, who had a 23-5 record, needed more time than those final 10 seconds at sectionals.
Last year after winning his third he said, “We both work so hard and just wanted to get the third one to make sure we have a chance next year.”
Dobson’s Drew Meneses and Mesa’s T.J. Becker both left Chandler and transferred to their respective schools.
The two cousins managed to both qualify for state at the same weight – 220 – and the bracket gods were not kind.
They faced off in the first round.
Meneses prevailed with the pin, but Becker is still alive heading into the second day while Meneses is eliminated.
Their match was tightly contested until the last second pin by the Dobson junior.
“It was like wrestling myself,” said Meneses, who competed with a sprained meniscus in his knee. “I was more nervous. You don’t want to lose to family.”
Becker had similar sentiments about their first-round meeting.
“It was like wrestling a mirror,” he said. “We’ve trained together forever, and we know what the other likes to do. It was tough.”
While Groves missed out on history, his brother, Gator, is going for No. 4 at 145 and Sunnyside’s Roman Bravo-Young is in line for his fourth at 132 after both won in the semifinals.
They are looking to become the 31st and 32nd four-timers in state history.
Bravo-Young will look to cap off an undefeated career – he did lose in a preseason national exhibition called ‘Who’s No. 1? for the first time in October – and head off top national power Penn State.
He’s 180-0 entering the championship match to break the state record of 178-0 by Waldo Gutierrez of Morenci from 2000-03.
“I want to show you can come from anywhere to reach the top,” Bravo-Young said about transitioning to Penn State. “If you work hard enough you can achieve anything you put your mind to.”
There is still hope that the AIA will eventually adopt girls wrestling as its own sponsored sport.
It would most likely be competed in the spring, but the fall is a possibility.
“It’s moving forward, but at a very slow pace,” Desert Vista coach David Gonzales said. “We hope to get something in place, and concrete, but it is going to take some time.”
The seven Mesa schools brought a total of 41 wrestlers to the tournament and went 21-20 in the first round.
The area went 10-11 in the quarterfinals and 6-4 in the semifinals.
In addition to the 10 semifinalists, 11 other wrestlers are still alive heading into Friday’s consolation rounds.
Red Mountain and Mountain View have three, Desert Ridge, Mesa and Mountain View have two each and Westwood one.
Several quality wrestlers were eliminated on the first day including Skyline’s Matt Martinez, who won his sectional title but went 1-2 including a first-round upset to Hamilton’s Eric Ramos, who finished fourth at his sectional.
The finals will be at 7 p.m. Friday night.
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to jskoda@mynewsmesa,.com
Consolation wrestlers still alive
Desert Ridge: Everett Gomez (120), Alex Wood (126), Trey Pacheco (132), Bailey Young (HVY)
Mesa: Christian Riordan (126), Ali Hansen (152), TJ Becker (220)
Mountain View: Hunter Richards (113), Bradley Basgall (120), Bowen Doolen (132), Rainen Schiffner (152)
Red Mountain: Zach Karantinos (126), Cody Foote (138), Andre Lopez (195)
Westwood: Matt Eagar (HVY)