This record-breaking season by the Desert Ridge wrestling program was set in motion in 2013-14 when this junior high team won state.
It built a foundation of trust, confidence and expectations that has followed them through the years and now the seniors and juniors have turned it into a breakout year.
“Going back to those years we knew something like this could happen,” said junior 120-pounder Everett Gomez, who finished fifth. “It’s what we talked about when we won Jr. High State. “We’ve all worked hard to get to here.”
Here ended with a fifth-place finish in the Division I team standings at the state tournament behind 12 state qualifiers, five state placers and the program’s first state champion in Cody Lewis (160).
Head coach Travis Jackson was their coach back in middle school before taking over Desert Ridge three seasons ago.
All set a new standard for the program and will have next year’s team ready to challenge.
“We’ve a good core of guys that want to put in the work,” said junior 126-pounder Alex Wood, who finished third for the second straight year. “The coaches push us.”
The seven Mesa schools finished with 14 state placers out of 41 qualifiers.
State champs: Cody Lewis (Desert Ridge, 160), Jeremiah Hollen (Mountain View, 195), Johnathan Garcia (Mountain View, 220)
State runner-up: Charlie Boyle (Westwood, 106), Steve Jarman (Mesa, 132), Dillon Stevenson (Desert Ridge, 182).
Third place: Alex Wood (Desert Ridge, 126), Bowen Doolen (Mountain View, 132), Mathew Eagar (Westwood, HVY).
Fourth place: Christian Riordan (Mesa, 126)
Fifth place: Everett Gomez (Desert Ridge, 120), Rainen Schiffner (Mountain View, 160), Bailey Young (Desert Ridge, HVY)
Sixth place: Zach Karantinos (Red Mountain, 126).
Eagar lost in the quarterfinals and came all the way back to finish third.
“He works so hard,” Westwood coach Aaron Decker said. “He finishes ahead of the lightweights in sprints. He deserves everything he gets.”
Wood lost in the semifinals on Thursday and said he was too ready, if there is such a thing.
“I usually try to stay relaxed and that’s usually when I’m at my best,” he said. “I was too amped for that semifinal match. I warmed up too much, and I got tired. I’ll learn from it.”
Nick Karantinos came out of retirement to take over the Red Mountain program and had a chance to coach his two sons, Alex and Zach, their senior years.
“It’s a different thing to coach them because you have that additional emotional attachment,” he said. “Everything is amplified. I’m glad I had that chance.”
Karantinos is unsure whether or not he will continue with the program after this season.
Zach set the big-school record for wins (61) in a season.
For parity sake
A few years back the AIA went away from geographical section placement for wrestling teams.
Years ago there had been too many of the wrestling powers in the same sections and the complaint was there were state tournament level wrestlers at home while others in the weaker sections were skating through.
The design has been working and the breakdown of number on the placers is more proof.
Section III produced the most state placers at 25 while, Section IV and Section II had 20 each with Section I at 19.
Section IV had the most in the finals at 10, but only 10 other placers from third through six. Team champion Sunnyside made up 50 percent of the total.
Section III had seven finalists, nine for third and fourth and nine for fifth and sixth.
Section II had six in the finals, eight for third and fourth and six for fifth and sixth.
Section I had five finalists, six for third and fourth and eight for fifth and sixth.
So next year, in the new two-year block all the sections change. The Mesa schools will be placed with the Metro schools.
Carlson golf outing
Mesa High grad and wrestling ambassador John Carlson is the focus of the F Cancer Golf Invitational on Feb. 17 at Lone Tree Golf Course.
It is $125 per players with a check-in time of 11 a.m. and shotgun start of 1 p.m.
To register call or text Paul at 480-861-0220 or Sasha at 480-621-9350.
Carlson lost his leg in his battle for cancer and they are raising funds for his electric wheelchair and handicap accessible van.
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.