A lesser team would have struggled after having its coach move away, but Mesa Skyline is at a different place.
The Coyotes have 12 seniors, wrestlers who have worked together for the past three years, growing up under the guidance of Josh Burch.
Burch left the team on Jan. 6 and moved to Germany, where his wife had a job offer that was too hard to pass up.
On Saturday, the Coyotes won the Apache Junction Invitational, beating 5A-II power Tempe Marcos de Niza, 36-30 in the team dual championships.
“It feels really good to win a tournament like this,” said senior Jared Gishie, who won the title at 140 pounds in the individual tournament, one of three Coyotes to win their weight classes.
“We went from being stomped on as sophomores to stomping on people now.”
Zach Lair, who was an assistant at Skyline for the last three years, slipped seamlessly into the driver’s seat, and with an experienced team to work with, the move was an easy one.
“Josh and I are fairly similar in styles and philosophies,” said Lair, who noted that he was helped by several members of the Skyline community who volunteered their time where needed over the winter break. “We’ve worked with this group for three years and we’ve been building things up, and it’s all coming together.”
Skyline had already beaten Marcos de Niza once in a dual earlier in the season, but Marcos was without several varsity wrestlers who were on the Padres’ football team that reached the state title game. This time, Skyline had to forfeit two weight classes to Marcos, which was at full strength.
“When we beat them earlier in the season, I think there was a feeling that once they got their football players back, it’d be a different story,” Lair said. “This just showed that it was not a fluke.”
Skyline and Marcos de Niza each went undefeated in their pools to reach the championship round, and the dual was tied at 30 heading into the heavyweight match, where Skyline’s Chris Brown brought the team title home with a pin.
Brown also won the individual crown in his weight class, as did teammate Juan Munoz at 135.
In the team side of the tournament, Coronado beat Apache Junction 45-35 in the third-place dual, Perry beat Williams Field 40-27 for fifth place and Tempe beat Morenci 57-18 for seventh place.
Apache Junction and Marcos de Niza each matched Skyline with three individual champions. The Prospectors’ titles came in succession, as Dallon Bush (119), Chase Converse (125) and Trenton McMinn (130) all won, with Converse and McMinn winning by quick pins.
Marcos de Niza got titles from Dominic Sotelo (145), Mike Baca (152) and Aaron Pavlenko (215).
The outstanding wrestlers from the tournament were Coronado’s Andrew Patino (who was the champ at 112) in the lower weights, Sotelo in the middle weights and Williams Field’s Heath Boers (160) in the upper weights. For Boers, who pinned Skyline’s Jon Rollins in his final, it was the third outstanding wrestler award he’s won this season.
The other East Valley individual winner was Perry’s Abraham Flores at 171.
But the weekend belonged to Skyline, who definitely had a better few days than its former coach.
“I know being here for this is killing him,” Lair said of Burch. “He called yesterday and they lost his luggage, so he’s sitting in a blizzard in Germany with no luggage.”
103 – Miguel Arce (Kofa) dec. Ivan Ruiz (WF) 10-9; 112 – Andrew Patino (Coronado) pinned Josh McIntyre (Skyline) 1:59; 119 – Dallon Bush (AJ) dec. Jake Sondrup (MdN) 5-4; 125 – Chase Converse (AJ) pinned Kaleb Cisneros (Coronado) 1:33; 130 – Trenton McMinn (AJ) pinned Jesse Morales (MdN) :34; 135 – Juan Munoz (Skyline) dec. Bryce Dillard (Perry) 8-2; 140 – Jared Gishie (Skyline) dec. Joseph Breese (Coronado) 15-7; 145 – Dominic Sotelo (Marcos de Niza) dec. Zack Merril (Skyline) 9-4; 152 – Mike Baca (MdN) dec. Josh Roberts (Skyline) 7-3; 160 – Heath Boers (WF) pinned Jon Rollins (Skyline) 3:53; 171 – Abraham Flores (Perry) dec. Sean Taylor (Tempe) 13-5; 189 – Trevor Montgomery (Kofa) dec. Dillon Yole (MdN) 4-2; 215 – Aaron Pavlenko (MdN) dec. Tyler Masson (Kofa) 7-4; Hwt – Chris Brown (Skyline) dec. Aaron Cota (Kofa) 4-2
3rd and 4th place matches
103 – Wyatt Richardson (Coronado) dec. Nathan Bosley (Perry) 7-0; 112 – Gabe Jaramillo (MdN) dec. Erik Roybal (Morenci) 10-7; 119 – Adam Patino (Coronado) dec. Patrick Marucha (Skyline) 5-2; 125 – Derrik Rios (Morenci) pinned Alex Carlson (Skyline) 2:14; 130 – Grant Camacho (Coronado) dec. Mohammed Mouga (Campo Verde) 12-6; 135 – Robert Simington (Agua Fria) pinned Kyle Land (WF) 4:51; 140 - David Freshour (Agua Fria) dec. Thomas Eckhardt (Apache Junction) 6-0; 145 – Kondie coleman (Perry) dec. Jeremiah Casillas (Agua Fria) 5-4; 152 – Ryan Sanders (MdN) dec. Blaze Dikeman (Coronado) 10-5; 160 – Adam Pavlenko (MdN) pinned Spencer Wilson (Perry) 1:15; 171 – Nolen Scheurn (WF) dec. James Dawkins (Sierra Linda) 9-8; 189 – Spencer Toupal (Coronado) pinned John Buppert (Campo Verde) 2:43; 215 – Seth Sullivan (Perry) pinned Michael Cionni (Campo Verde) :42; Hwt – Marvin Martinez (WF) dec. Cameron Lucero (Tempe) 2-1