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After one win in two seasons, Vargas eyeing state berth
Cibola, San Luis, Kofa at Division I Section I Championships, 9 a.m., Tolleson High
Yuma High, Gila Ridge at Division II Section I Championships, 9 a.m., Peoria High
Yuma Catholic, Antelope, San Pasqual at Division IV Section I Championships, 11 a.m. Camp Verde High
Top four wrestlers in each weight class from each section advance to the state championship, Thursday-Saturday in Prescott Valley.
Don't give up. Listen to directions. Practice year round – coaches tell their players these things breed success.
Yuma High wrestling coach Jeff Welsing has an actual example of that instead of talking about it in the abstract.
Carlos Vargas won one match his first two years on the Criminals' junior varsity wrestling squad. Fast-forward two years, and the Yuma High senior 145-pounder is 32-12 and on the verge of a berth of a state tournament.
“He would be the poster child,” Welsing said. “We always try these kids to continue working hard. At first you may not succeed, but if you keep working hard and doing the right things all the time, success will come. That's definitely true of him.”
Vargas and the rest of the Criminals will be at the Division II Section I Championships at 9 a.m. Saturday at Peoria High. The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to the state tournament, Thursday and Friday in Prescott Valley.
Vargas went 20-27 with five pins last year. But even that was an improvement from his first two seasons, during which he went winless his freshman year and had a one-win sophomore campaign.
Welsing said he and Mike Jankowski – who was an assistant during Vargas' freshman year and is now the head coach at Cibola – didn't think Vargas would make it through that first year.
“Carlos was getting killed every single day in practice,” Welsing said. “It was like, ‘Oh man, that kid is going to quit.' It's a joke between me and Jankowski now. ... I texted him after (Vargas) beat the No. 1 kid at the Payson tournament and he's going to be in the semifinals, and Jankowski is all excited. We thought there was no way that kid going to make it. It's a tribute to him.”
But Welsing said he never gave up, and now Vargas is hoping for a top six finish at state.
“I guess, trying hard (helped the turnaround),” Vargas said. “Practicing during the summer, going to camp and everything, really changed it.”
Vargas said his year has been “a little better than average.”
“I expected a little improvement from last year, but it's been every better this year.” Vargas said.
Vargas made a run at the sectional tournament last year, beating a couple higher seeded wrestlers, but fell short of the semifinals and a state berth. He started the year at 160 before working to drop to 152. Welsing said he could have been at 145 last year, and the lower weight class has been a huge factor in Vargas' improvement.
Of course, dropping that weight and then maintaining it takes work. Work, Welsing said, Vargas is more than happy to do.
“The biggest thing is Carlos is one of those kids who's always there,” Welsing said. “He works hard. He does whatever you say. You never hear the guy say a word because he's real quiet, real shy real respectful. And he's always here. He does the freestyle. He does the summer. He does the fall. He just kept working and kept getting better.”
The Criminals qualified seven wrestlers for state last year. Welsing said he think they'll get at least that many back this year, and is hoping for 10.
Five Criminals head into state with 30 wins or more – Vargas, Kodi Doerr (106), Leo Salcedo (113), Kade Kottenbrook (138) and Andreus Gomez – who at 220 was the only city champion for Yuma High. One of those city foes, Gila Ridge, will be at the Crims' sectional.
“Obviously the class of our section is Gila Ridge,” Welsing said. “We're not quite on their level. We're looking to take second place behind them at the sectional, get 10 guys to state and place high at the state tournament.”
And one of those seven definites, Welsing said, is Vargas.
“I tell the kids all the time Carlos is one of those kids that'd I give him the shirt off my back,” Welsing said. “I'd do anything for that kid, cause he's the type of kid you want in your program for four years. He's always going to be there, you never have to worry about his grades, you never have to worry about him missing practice, he's a quiet kid – I haven't heard him say 10 words in four years. He does everything I say. He's one of our captains.”