By the end the voice was a little raspier, the Desert Ridge hat was crooked on Travis Jackson’s head and the Jaguars were huddled around their wrestling coach as he held the Division I, Section I wrestling championship plaque.
The first in program history.
“There’s so much that has gone into this,” Jackson said. “We set a state record for state qualifiers (12), had five sectional champions, but we won it because of the guys on the bottom (consolation bracket) came through.
“I had a mentor – Herb Stinson who is in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame – tell me a long ago that your studs are going to be studs, but you win as a team when the guys come through on the bottom. These guys have bought into the team concept and this is what happens when you fully commit to something.”
The Jaguars sealed the title by going five for five in the championship round as Alex Wood (126), Antonio Esteban (145), Cody Lewis (160), Dillon Stevenson (182) and Bailey Young (HVY) secured a top-four seed at the Division I state tournament on Thursday in Prescott Valley.
Wood finished third last year, Esteban was diagnosed with form of Hodgkin’s disease after last season, Lewis placed as a sophomore, but failed to last year, Stevenson recovered from two dislocated shoulders to win his first title and Young won his title in overtime.
In other words, nothing came easy for this group.
“We’ve been working toward this since our freshmen year,” said Stevenson, who pinned Kofa’s Jose Rascon in overtime for the title. “We had a lot of things to overcome and we did it.”
Desert Ridge won the 10-team tournament with 206.5 points to top Mountain View (186) and Kofa (181.5).
Mesa (136) and Red Mountain (110) finished out the top five.
The Toros qualified 10 including champions in Bowen Doolen (132), Jeremiah Hollen (195) and Johnathan Garcia (220).
Hollen had a close match with Red Mountain’s Andre Lopez though two periods until getting a pin with one second left in the match.
“I’m wrestling different now,” he said. “I’m more aggressive and smarter about hitting moves at the right time.”
Mesa had a great tournament with seven qualifiers, but the Jackrabbits struggled in the championship matches, losing all five and six of seven in the final round.
Paul Alvarado (120), Steve Jarman (132), Ali Hansen (152), Sam Heslop (170) and TJ Becker (220) all finished as sectional runner-up.
Alvarado returns to state after missing most of the season by beating the third- and second-seeded wrestlers at the sectional before losing in the finals to the top seed.
“I just want to keep getting better,” Alvarado said. “The results will happen if I just keep improving.”
Red Mountain came in with high hopes and impressive records but managed to only get through three second-place finishers in Zach Karantinos (126), Cody Foote (138) and Lopez (195).
“There was a lot of toss matches that could have gone either way and it was one of those days where it didn’t go our way,” Red Mountain coach Nick Karantinos said. “It was very competitive throughout. You gotta make your own breaks and we didn’t make enough of them.”
One unfortunate defeat came for Alex Karantinos, who lost 3-2 to Desert Ridge’s Trey Pacheco in the consolation semifinals.
Karantinos read the scoreboard wrong – he thought was winning 3-2 – and wasn’t trying to score as the clock ticked away.
“He looked up and thought he was winning; he looked under Mountain Lions, which was normally our score obviously,” his father said. “We couldn’t figure why he wasn’t shooting. He was expecting to get his hand raised and that wasn’t the case.”
Westwood and Skyline competed at the Division I, Section II tournament at Skyline as the Coyotes finished sixth and the Warriors seventh.
Skyline’s Matt Martinez won the 113-pound sectional title with two pins and a technical fall. He will be joined in Prescott by Luis Lopez (195, third) and Gianni Andrade (160, fourth).
Westwood had two runners-up heavyweight Matt Eagar and Charlie Boyle (106). Kyle Yazzie gave the Warriors a third qualifier after finishing third at 138.
Dobson competed in the Division I, Section III tournament as Desert Vista had one qualifier in 220-pounder Drew Meneses, who finished third.
In the Division I, Section IV tournament Chandler won with 192.5 points with one of the qualifiers being Marco Groves, who ended up taking an injury default with 10 seconds left after being hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct.
Groves, who is going for his fourth state title and first in Division I, did not throw a punch as previously tweeted by MyNewsMesa.com. Chandler coach Vidal Mejia said he chose to use the injury default in a lopsided, and physical match.
“He never remotely throw a punch,” Mejia said. “It was a physical match, and he wasn’t going to win. He was getting emotional and one more infraction and he would have been disqualified. As a coach I had a right to end the match and that’s what I did.”
— Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send human interest story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.