Last-minute coaching changes can really put a program in a bit of a bind.
That could have been the case with the Red Mountain wrestling program when Kyle Hare resigned in September after the school year started.
Teaching positions are already filled so bringing in a coach that late into the process is nearly impossible.
Good thing Red Mountain had a Hall of Famer already involved with the program as Nick Karantinos took over the program after Hare stepped down and ended up as an assistant at Queen Creek.
The Nate Johnson Memorial dual meet tournament this weekend cemented the fact that Karantinos was the right choice as the Mountain Lions went 8-2 in the 20-team tournament to finish fourth.
“I figured we could make the top two (in their pool),” he said. “Wrestling in this format is all about match ups and we had some good wins.”
Karantinos, who was the Red Mountain head coach previously until 2008, was helping out as an assistant with his sons Zach and Alex in the starting lineup, plus he knew many of the other wrestlers when he was helping coaching the feeder programs.
“It was an easy transition because I was already here already,” said Karantinos, who was inducted into the Arizona Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame last month. “Kyle has been doing a good job and I was already involved.”
Karantinos, who has two-time state finalist Spencer Jackson from Mountain View as an assistant, said he told the administration he would take a wait and see approach on whether or not he’d coach past this season as his sons are seniors.
For now it has gone well as the Mountain Lions went 8-1 in pool action losing to small-school power Safford, 46-31, and squeaked past short-handed Chandler, which gave up six forfeits, by three points to finish second in their pool.
It led to a matchup with Division I defending state champion Corona del Sol in the cross-bracketing finals for third place.
The Aztecs had too much for Red Mountain as Corona won 53-24 behind six pins and a forfeit.
“It was a good test all weekend,” said Nick, who came into the year with a career record of 442-88-1. “We had some of our younger wrestlers get tested and they competed well.”
Zach, who is wrestling at 132, has taken on the responsibility of showing the lower weights what is expected of them.
“Once we had wrestle-offs I said now that you are on varsity it is time to take the next step,” he said. “I want to be leader and coach them some, too. That’s what you are supposed to do as a senior.”
Michael Welle (106), Tanner Castillo (113), Karatinos (132), Cody Foote (138), Connor Blakeman (145) and Michael Beuoy (152) had a good showing for the Mountain Lions, who have been without state placer Alex Karantinos (elbow) all year while state qualifier Braeden Howey (182) is still making his way back from football.
“We have some work to do, but the foundation is there for this group,” said Karantinos said. “We have a tough schedule. These type of tournaments expose what it is you need to work on and we will get back in the room and work with them.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to email@example.com.
Round 10 – Championship round
First place: Yuma 42, Safford 30
Third place: Corona del Sol 53, Red Mountain 24
Fifth place: Cienega 41, Chandler 39
Seventh place: Combs 42, Hamilton 36
Ninth place: Marcos de Niza 42, Florence 31
11th place: Chaparral 50, Paradise Valley 10
13th place: Mountain Pointe 60, Parker 15
15th place: Morenci 42, Fairfax 24
17th place: San Luis 64, Desert Mountain 24
19th place: American Leadership 52, Alhambra 18
Red Mountain 8-1
Paradise Valley 5-4
Marcos de Niza 4-5
Desert Mountain 2-8
Corona del Sol 8-1
Mountain Pointe 3-6
San Luis 1-8
American Leadership 0-9