There are times Johnathan Garcia looks awkward on the wrestling mat.
It’s as if his mind and body are both working at hyper speed to hit a move but they have different ideas as to what to execute next.
It leads to unique, fast-and-furious and successful style for the Mountain View senior 220-pounder as Garcia advanced to Saturday’s finals at the Peoria Invitational with a 25-0 record after beating Sunnyside’s Eugene Gonzales, 10-6.
“He’s a unique individual, and he’s kind of weird and freewheeling out there so he can kind of give you a heart attack,” Mountain View coach Corey Anderson said. “You are taking about a kid who made a total investment in himself. As he became more dedicated to wrestling his grades and productivity have both increased.
“He’s bettering himself through wrestling and the results are showing up in all aspects of his life.”
Garcia was one of four area wrestlers to make the finals at Peoria on Saturday as teammate Bowen Doolen (132), Desert Ridge’s Cody Lewis (160) and Westwood heavyweight Mathew Eagar joined him on the center mat at the packed gym.
Eagar was the lone champion as beat Sunnyside’s Adrian Monreal. 6-1 in the finals.
Eagar has become a state title contender this year and feels like it started at last year’s state meet when he lost in the first round at Prescott but won three straight matches to finish sixth.
“It proved to me I could win a lot matches there,” he said. “I’ve gotten better since then on my feet and I can get out on the bottom now. I’m a stronger wrestler than last year.”
Doolen wrestled a good tournament but faced one of the nation’s top wrestlers in Sunnyside’s Ramon Bravo-Young, a Penn State commit and finishing off what is arguably the greatest Arizona prep career in history, in the finals.
The match lasted 17 seconds.
Lewis came up short in the finals, getting pinned by Liberty’s James Dietz, but seemingly turned the corner this year after failing to place at state as a junior after placing sixth as a sophomore.
“It really made me rededicate myself,” said Lewis, who was the second seed at the state tournament. “It was a bad weekend and I don’t want to feel like that again.”
Desert Ridge coach Travis Jackson said Lewis has the talent and pedigree it takes to be a champion.
“He’s not afraid to open it up against kids and it gets him in trouble,” Jackson said. “He’s been around the block and been on the Arizona National team. He’s an under the radar kid, but Cody can compete with anyone.”
The three area schools managed seven semifinalists combined with four making the championship round.
Missing out on a chance for Peoria a title, but still placing were Westwood’s Charlie Boyle (106), Mountain View’s Rainen Schiffner (160) and Jeremiah Hollen (195).
Boyle had a late lead in the semifinals against his Sunrise Mountain’s Caden Perez, but was put on his back in the final seconds in a 10-9 loss, while Hollen sustained his first loss of the season with a 5-4 defeat after falling behind 5-0 early.
Hollen came back to finish third, Boyle finished fourth and Schiffner took fifth.
Desert Ridge had three other placers in Everett Gomez (120, sixth), Trey Pacheco (132, fifth) and Dillon Stevenson (182, fifth).
Mountain View, which wrestled without 113-pounder Hunter Richards and had another placer in heavyweight Jeremiah Katt (fifth), finished seventh behind runaway winner Sunnyside, which finished with 290.5 points in a watered down field as several teams pulled out of the tournament late.
Desert Ridge, which was without several starters, came in eighth and Westwood came in 14th in the 28-team tournament.
Garcia, whose brother Alexis placed at state for the Toros, said he needs to keep improving between now and February in order to find his way to the podium at the state meet.
“I get a lot of good work in practice from my teammates and coaches,” Garcia said. “If I just keep doing what the coaches ask me to do, and work hard I’ll be ready. I dedicated everything I have to this sport so I could have a good senior year.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to email@example.com.