Cibola, Gila Ridge eyeing team gold
Cibola and Gila Ridge aren't shooting for third. They're not shooting for platitudes.
No, the Raiders and Hawks have one goal at their respective state championships: gold, gold, gold.
Cibola, competing in Division I, and the Hawks, in Division II, are both eyeing team titles at the state championship, which begins with Division III and IV schools today. Division I and II compete Friday and Saturday.
Cibola coach Mike Jankowski said he feels like six teams have a shot at a team title. But given the showings the Raiders have had at tournaments throughout the year, he is confident they will build off last year's fourth-place finish.
“We're a little more relaxed than what we were last year,” Jankowski said. “I know we talk about a state title, and it is well within our reach, but we're trying not to put too much stress on ourselves. If you try to avoid mistakes, sooner or later mistakes will happen. We'll just try to wrestle like we have all year and take care of business like we have all year.”
Cibola qualified 12 wrestlers, most of any Division I school. Rafael Jaimes earned the No. 3 seed at 106 after winning a state title last year, and Isaac Camarillo was fifth last year at 112 but is seeded No. 1 at 126.
Gila Ridge also qualified 12 wrestlers; however, Division II powerhouse Ironwood Ridge qualified all 14 weight classes.
“I think that we had a really great sectional tournament and I hope we can build on that momentum,” Gila Ridge coach David King said. “I know that Ironwood Ridge — probably our biggest competition — qualified all 14 of their boys. Numerically they've got the edge but I think our boys can finish right there with them. It's going to be a dogfight and I'm looking forward to seeing who comes out on top. I think it's going to be real close.”
Kevin Jumbeck won a state title last year for Gila Ridge and leads the contingent of Hawks. Six of their wrestlers are seeded fifth or better. King said he has very high hopes for Darryl Lane, who was 35-1 this year and will be seeded fifth. He was 13-0 last year but got hurt late in the season.
King said the Hawks are trying to make a name for themselves.
“We show up at tournaments and people still ask where Gila Ridge is. It'll be good for us to make a statement. It's been kind of our catchphrase to make a statement and show people who we are and what we do. This is our chance to make that statement.”
Gila Ridge was fifth last year and has six qualifiers back from that team. Jumbeck and Isaac Saenz — who was sixth at 140 last year and was drawn into the 14th seed at 145 this year — are the only two placers back from last year.
“As a whole so many were so close last year that they should be right in the thick of things this year,” King said. “We had a tougher schedule so we're more battle tested against top competition from both in and out of state. It was amazing for us to take fifth last year, and I saw how close we were to being right there with the top teams. I think we're there this year.”
Yuma High will also be at the Division II tournament with a seven-man contingent. The only seeded wrestler — the top six wrestlers are seeded, and the remaining 10 are randomly drawn — for the Criminals is James Gomez, who is looking to cap a 47-3 senior season with a state championship.
He'll potentially have to get past Glendale's Michael Holwell, the 46-0 No. 1 seed. Holwell topped Gomez in the sectional, although Gomez led most of the way before giving up a late escape and takedown.
“He likes to go out there against guys who give him a challenge,” Yuma High coach Jeff Welsing said. “Being the defending state champ, it was a good challenge for him. He just made one small mistake, and that is always costly in big matches. We have a ways to go before we get there, but he can compete with anybody in the state.”
Antelope and San Pasqual will join Yuma Catholic at Division IV. The Rams will have four wrestlers competing, including No. 1 Kurtis Skousen (44-3) at 152. He'll face a familiar foe: YC's Grady Eldridge (42-11) in the first round. Skousen is 3-0 against Eldridge this year but they've gotten closer and closer each time, said Antelope coach Rick St. Clair.
“When you see a guy over and over, they get a little bit closer and a little bit closer each time you face them,” St. Clair said. “Sometimes it's easier to wrestle someone you don't know because they don't know you either.”
San Pasqual also qualified four after taking just five to sectionals, said coach Angelo Derma. He said he has high hopes for Reggie Sanchez, who earned the No. 2 seed after taking fifth at state last year. He'll face YC's Brandon Moreno in the 138-pound opener.
“I saw some good things in sectional. I hope we can turn it on and get some places, hopefully win a championship,” Derma said. “Reggie is gunning for it, going for the top. We might change that score (against Uecker) around. It was good to see him before state, that's for sure.”
San Luis qualified two wrestlers (No. 6 Carlos Urquillo at 220 and No. 5 Gustavo Vargas at heavyweight) and Kofa one (No. 6 Brandon Landeros at 160) at Division I.
“Brian had a great sectional,” Kofa coach Steve Casey said. “We wrestled well, hung tough and I couldn't be prouder. He's peaking at the right time... and hopefully he'll find himself on the podium.”