4A-I gets a new wrestling champion, but little else changes

Big-school wrestling competition is getting pretty predictable.

There was a changing of the guard this year in 4A high school wrestling.  But it was more of the same in 5A as Sunnyside HS won its 12 straight title in 5A-II and Corona del Sol HS repeated as state champions in 5A-I.

Sunnyside rode its group of youngsters this year to a 34-24 win, counting on a couple of swing matches to turn the tide.  Ironwood Ridge HS took a 15-4 lead, but then Sunnyside’s Simon Villa won his match against Luke McClure, 3-0, in the 135 division, and Antonio Garcia scored a major decision, 14-3, over Nathan Boggs at 160 lbs.

Ironwood Ridge came back to make it 24-22 on a Kevin Carlson pin of Isaac Cavillo at 175, but Sunnyside slammed the door with a win by Diego Bravo at 215, as he pinned Phil Nicele.

Corona del Sol repeated, in large part thanks to the work of seven seniors on this year’s squad.  Mesa HS actually jumped to the lead early, 10-6, but Corona came back in a swing match at 125, with Patrick Buck beating Edwin Hernandez, 7-4. The Jackrabbits came back to take another lead at 16-15, but after that it was all Corona as they won the final six matches.

The Aztec  seniors going out with wins included: Brad Spadafore (130), Ryan Miller (154), Blake Ortiz (162), Sam Fulton (189), and heavyweight Mike Howard.

At the 4A level, Cottonwood Mingus HS took care of business as usual, winning its fifth consecutive state title in Division II.  But Moon Valley HS broke through as the only newcomer to the throne, winning its first state championship in Division I.

Mingus coasted through its matches on the way to the title, beating No. 8 Flagstaff HS, No. 5 Williams Field HS, and No. 5 Thunderbird HS.

The match of the day turned out to be at 215, where it took a double overtime for Thunderbirds’ state champion, Jason Birchfield, to defeat Mingus’ Tyler Openshaw.

In 4A-I, Moon Valley HS also worked its way through some of the tourney’s best teams to claim the school’s first title, beating No. 7 Peoria HS, No. 3 Vail Cienega HS, and No. 1 Queen Creek HS.  Cienega is the defending champion.

Moon Valley, which had five first-year wrestlers on its roster this year, finally got over the hump after many runner-up finishes in past state tournaments.   They built momentum with matches against really strong teams like top-seeded Queen Creek, where they had five pins in the first six matches.