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State title loss still fresh with Raiders
Individually, it was a relatively minor win when Drew Lattner of Chandler beat Boulder Creek's Vinnie Paterno by a 4-0 score in the 220-pound fifth-place match at the AIA Division I State Tournament in February in Prescott.
But Lattner's win was huge — giving Chandler the team title with 122 points, just 1.5 ahead of Cibola.
Even though that was more than 10 months in the past, the pain of such a close loss hasn't numbed for Raider head coach Mike Jankowski.
“It's as tough to swallow right now as when we heard the announcement or when we saw their 220 pounder win and we knew they won the state title over us,” Jankowski said. “For me it's just as fresh right now as when they raised the kid's hand and he won. It was great for their kid to step up and do it, but now we need our guys to step up.”
The Raiders begin their quest for a better result in Prescott today when they host San Luis at 6 p.m.
The team has four returning state placers back from last year, led by Pierre Gaud, who won at 145 last year. This year he'll be at either 152 or 160.
“People want to take it away from me,” said Guad, the only Yuma County wrestler to win a state title last year. “Like my coach says, they want to prove themselves by beating me. That just makes me work harder. I have to be conditioned from the start. I have to have my strength ready. My skill has to be up to shape. I have to be ready for everything.”
Senior Isaac Camarillo took third at 126 and will either stay there or move up a class to 132.
“He's going to be our captain. He's going to be the guy to lead us,” Jankowski said. “He kind of picked it up. He was one of the natural leaders last year, so it didn't take him too long. Everyone always looks to him. He's one of the guys everyone gets along with, who every one looks at what he does because he's been so successful. He leads by example more than anything. He's not too vocal, but the way her performs, the way he does everything in the room, it's worth a thousand words.”
Rounding out the returning placers are sophomore Andy Gandara at 113 and junior Mark Cruz at 120.
Gaud said the team title weighs as heavily on his mind as defending his individual title. Camarillo, who finished fifth at state as a freshman, said the close loss makes it harder to forget — and drives the team to avenge it all the more.
“Being that close and not being able to win it hurts,” Camarillo said. “The whole team feels it and we're just gunning for first place for sure.”
Jankowski said getting revenge for that loss is a main driving force of the season. But he added he's making sure the Raiders don't lose track of the program's long-term goals.
“A lot of our kids are looking to wrestle in college,” Jankowski said. “We want our program, and some of our kids, to get recognized nationally and start working in the right direction. The right direction is a state title first, then we slowly get ourselves into the national rankings, and hopefully keep working from there.”
Gaud said if the Raiders want the title, it's theirs for the taking.
“It really makes me and everyone else wonder if we're going to win it this year,” Gaud said. “It's our choice if we're going to win it this year. If we work hard we'll win. If we don't, we'll see. But we should push ourselves hard enough to win.”