Wrestling city championship set for today
When Gila Ridge coach David King attended Howell High School in Howell, Mich., his rival school was on the other side of town. Every year, the two combatants battled for the city championship trophy, which was a road sign someone once stole.
At 1 p.m. today at Kofa High, Cibola, Gila Ridge, Kofa, San Luis and Yuma High will compete in a five-way wrestling match to decide who will be Yuma's first wrestling city champion.
“We all wanted to get the teams together and wrestle each other,” Cibola coach Mike Jankowski said. “It's like a one-time, winner-take-all format.”
At the very least, the schools will compete for bragging rights but a trophy is in the works. Although nothing is official, coaches said the prize is a sledgehammer with the winning school's name etched on the side. The plan is for the trophy to reside at the winning school until the next city championship match.
“We came up with the idea watching football games and their ceremonial stuff,” Kofa coach Steve Kelly said. “We were kicking ideas around and we decided the sledgehammer embodies what Yuma wrestling symbolizes.”
San Luis coach Rob Jankowski added, “It kind of builds rivalries. You see it in college, so why not put it Yuma and create a friendly rivalry between the schools and the wrestling teams.”
According to King, Rob Jankowski and Yuma High coach Jeff Welsing, the credit for this creation should be shared between Kelly and Mike Jankowski. The Cibola coach said he approached others with this idea before the season because the last time the region schools congregated, it was about three years ago for the Gila Valley Region tournament.
However, the city championship will not be recognized officially by the AIA. The coaches said since the AIA allows schools to participate in four tournaments a year, making the city championship an official tournament would mean one less opportunity for the schools to travel to other tournaments.
Nonetheless, the coaches agree the city championship has its benefits.
“It's just good to try to get people interested in wrestling,” Welsing said. “Obviously, we wrestle out of town a lot, so it would be good to wrestle in front of people in town and promote wrestling. It's a win-win situation for everybody.”
Depending on whom you talk to, the stakes for each school is different.
At Kofa and San Luis, the hope is for wrestlers to use the city championship as a learning experience and improve. Rob Jankowski said he would like to see grapplers such as heavyweight Gustavo Vargas and 145-pounder Daniel Hinojosa shine and win at least three of their four matches.
With Welsing's squad, he said the goal is to beat San Luis and Kofa while closing the gap on Gila Ridge and Cibola, two schools the Criminals lost to in dual matches earlier this season.
Mike Jankowski said while many coaches see his team as the favorite, he plans to use this opportunity for his team to get better as sectionals are two weeks away.
But at Gila Ridge, the Hawks plan to surprise many folks.
“Cibola has some amazing wrestlers. They are the only team we haven't seen or beaten,” King said. “I think we can show that we're a program that's gone a long way.”
Whether Cibola holds serve, Gila Ridge accomplishes another season-long goal or Yuma High, San Luis or Kofa High comes through with the upset, whoever wins knows the responsibility of being a city champion goes beyond Yuma.
“It symbolizes that you're the toughest team in the city,” Mike Jankowski said. “You might have to protect the pride and the image of the city because you are the best team in the city. Even though we're coming from a smaller town, we're not sitting down. We're coming after people.”
Cheng Sio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6866.