“Arizona has some great wrestlers and we want to give them a chance to be NCAA Division I All-Americans at GCU.”
That statement came from R.C. LaHaye, the head wrestling coach at Grand Canyon University, after he added a couple of Arizona state champions to his roster earlier this week. Grand Canyon is one of just two Division II schools in the state that offer wrestling, but both programs have been loading up on local talent lately.
There were 10 Arizona high-school grads on the 2013-14 GCU roster and Arizona State added five local athletes in the past two years.
Two of those on the Sun Devils’ roster were high-school state champions: Wesley Moore, a sophomore from Queen Creek High School competes for the Devils in the 197-pound weight class, and Seth Monty, a state champ at 140 while wrestling for Mesa’s Mountain View High School, was added this year.
ASU changed head coaches this year following the resignation of Shawn Charles and the hire of former ASU wrestler and Olympian Zeke Jones (see 4/10/14 phxfan article). It’s assumed that Jones will continue mining the talent in his own back yard, but that remains to be seen.
While the Sun Devils have been working through several down years in their wrestling program, Grand Canyon has been experiencing steady and increasing success under LaHaye, who started the school’s wrestling program during the 2007-08 school year. Since the school is beginning a transition up from Division II, it will now be providing its recruits with a D-I opportunity.
And, more than that, LaHaye has a national stage to offer his high-school prospects. The Antelopes won the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) Championships in Texas last month, dominating the competition in that national title event. GCU is ineligible to compete in the NCAA Championships during its four-year transition period, so the NCWA provides a post-season opportunity to compete against other colleges and universities that find themselves in a similar situation.
The ‘Lopes worked their way into the No. 1 spot nationally in the NCWA coaches poll by the end of January and also won the NCWA Collegiate Cup in a field of teams that included nine of the top 10 teams in the country.
During the early signing period in November, LaHaye signed up two state champions, Gabriel Gonzales (197) from Sunnyside High School in Tucson and Trey Ronayne (165) from Basha High School in Chandler.
And Monday he announced the addition of two more Arizona state champions, both two-time title holders. William Olivas posted an undefeated season at 125 pounds at Sunnyside, won the Reno Tournament of Champions, and was named the Arizona Wrestler of the Year. Pierre Gaud, who wrestles at 157 for Cibola High in Yuma, was named the 2014 Arizona Wrestler at the state tournament.
The addition of Gonzales and Olivas is significant since both come from Sunnyside, the storied wrestling powerhouse that has dominated high school competition in the state for decades. “We are excited to build the pipeline between Sunnyside and GCU for years to come,” says LaHaye.
“These two athletes (Olivas and Gaud), as well as the two we signed in November, show that we believe in Arizona wrestling, and we believe these athletes can succeed at the highest level of collegiate wrestling.”
If he’s right, the push toward more local recruiting should become a win-win situation for both the schools and the athletes.
(Photo: GCU Athletics/ Darryl Webb)