The Mesa Mountain View High School wrestlers have certainly made up for lost time.
After a tortuous 14-year span without a state title, and being forced to settle for eight runner-up finishes, the Toros won a Division I state title last year – and now have added a second straight with their team victory over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the frustration has shifted to Sunnyside High School, which has taken over the official position of runner-up. Mountain View beat Sunnyside last year by 55 points and this year outpaced the Blue Devils by 35 points, winning the title with a team score of 193 points, comfortably ahead of Sunnyside (158) and Ironwood Ridge High School (118.5).
The rise of the Mountain View wrestling program has been especially troublesome for Sunnyside, which has dominated wrestling in Arizona going back well into the ’80s. The Blue Devils have won 16 state titles over the past two decades, the last in 2013.
The legendary head coach at the Tucson school, Bobby DeBerry, resigned following the 2011-12 season to explore new challenges after winning 14 straight titles. The program faltered the next year, finishing fourth at state, but DeBerry’s successor, Anthony Leon, put things back in order with the 2013 title – but is having trouble getting past the detour in Mesa the last two seasons.
Last year the Toros cruised to the state title after going 20-0 in duals during the regular season, winning most matches in dominating fashion. They had nine placers at the state tournament and two individual champions – after qualifying wrestlers in 13 of the 14 weight classes at state.
This year Mountain View, which looked like the favorite to win the state title all season long, had to take a more indirect route to the championship, with 10 state-placers and just one lone individual title, as senior Kieffer Taylor claimed the championship at 170 pounds. Taylor was one of three Toros wrestlers who finished as runners-up last year.
Despite losing out on the team title again this year, Sunnyside brought home three state champions: Roman Bravo-Young at 106 pounds; Angel Laguna, who upset Desert Vista’s Alex Carrillo at 120; and at 132 pounds, Juaquin Olivas, who will graduate this year with three state titles.
The title that Bravo-Young won at 106 pounds belonged to Danny Vega last year, but this year the Ironwood Ridge High School junior wrapped up his second straight state title by competing at 113.
Mesa High was the only other school with more than one individual champion, as James Williams won at 152 and Jonathan Allen at 182. Other title winners included: Ryan Farina, Corona del Sol (126); Taylor Rich, Sandra Day O’Connor (138); Josh Jaramillo, Dobson High (145); Jeremiah Imonode, Desert Vista (195); Travis Howard, Marana High (220); and Roy Lopez, Mesquite High (285).
In Division II…Cibola High School in Yuma continues to reap the benefits from a move down from Division I two years ago as it just claimed its second straight title in the new classification. However, it did take a lot more effort to secure this year’s title.
Last year the Raiders ran away with the D-II team title, outdistancing Mountain View High School (Marana) and Cienega High (Vail) who tied for runners-up. Cibola finished with 179 points – 68.5 points ahead of both schools.
This year, Cibola scored 142 points, just 12 ahead of runner-up Liberty High School from Peoria. The Raiders placed eight of their 13 wrestlers and bagged two individual championships. Vicente Guerrero won his second straight title at 182 pounds and Andres Gandara is the new state champion at 145 pounds.
Guerrero was just one of four wrestlers repeating as state champs this year. The others are Joshua Kramer, Desert Edge High (126); Jacob Swift, Deer Valley High (152); Daniel Hernandez, Prescott High (195); and Danny Reyes from Barry Goldwater High at 220. Swift is positioned to become one of those unique individuals who make it through their high school careers with a state title for each year; the junior is now three-for-three.
And a pair to watch, also with the potential to accomplish that feat, are the Groves, freshman brothers at McClintock High School in Tempe. Gator Groves won at 120 and twin brother Marco took the 132-pound title.