PRESCOTT VALLEY - In today's high school sporting world, the Chandler wrestling program won one for the old neighborhood.
Remember the days when kids went to the school that was the closest and grew up with their high school teammates, creating a bond that is stronger than gravity?
There was a time when there was a commitment to win as one instead of today's self-solicitation approach that has taken over the dynamics of prep sports.
The Wolves took back the neighborhood this weekend by winning their first state title since 1990 in one of the greatest team races, especially for the big-school division, in Arizona history wrestling.
"I don't know what to say...." Chandler co-head coach Vidal Mejia said as he choked up. "These kids did it. We have a great coaching staff, but the kids went out and did it."
Chandler knocked Sunnyside, which had won 14 straight team titles, from its perch and outlasted four other top programs who could have easily won if a match or two went a different way.
The Wolves finished with 122 points just ahead of Cibola (120.5), while Desert Vista (114), Horizon (113), Sunnyside (113) and Corona del Sol (110) were in contention over the two-day tournament. It is the first time Sunnyside finished outside the top three in Arizona wrestling history dating back to 1977.
The Wolves lineup is filled with kids who went to district middle schools, other than Dalton Brady, who came to Chandler as a freshman after attending a Desert Ridge district.
"That's what you like to see," Red Mountain coach Dave DiDomenico said. "Those kids worked with each other inside that program from the very start."
Chandler's Drew Lattner may have finished fifth at 220-pounds but will be forever remembered in the wrestling program's history as his 4-0 win over Boulder Creek's Vinnie Paterno earned the final team points that pushed the Wolves past Cibola.
The Chandler section at Tim's Toyota Center went nuts.
"We tell the kids all of the time that every point, every half point for that matter, means all the difference," Mejia said. "Everything extra we did, whether it was getting bonus points or not giving them up, made the difference."
The Wolves won it with two champions in freshman Tristan Moran (106) and three-timer Brady (120) as he won his third, while Diego Alvarado (170) was a runner-up.
Throw in placers Curtis Buelna (sixth, 152), Daniel Savage (fourth, 160), Lattner and the other qualifiers who earned points along the way.
"The turning point came in the semifinals," co-head coach Curtis Owen said. "We've talked about this for four years, each year getting a little closer and they finally did everything to put us in a position where everything fell the right way."
While the team race was tremendous so were the individual matches as several returning state champions ended up lower on the podium.
One of those was Highland 138-pounder Curt Done as he was dominated from the start by Desert Vista's Robert Sobarzo, who transferred from Westview. Sobarzo got two takedowns right away and then flattened Done with a toss for the pin at one minute and 47 seconds.
"I was pumped and ready to go," said Sobarzo, who lost to Done in the final of the preseason Boarder Wars qualifier. "I wanted to set the tempo and wrestle my match."
The Thunder had two other champions as Robbie Mathers (132) methodically went about his business per usual to win his third title with a 22-8 win over Corona's Zach Walton, who was Mathers' training partner as a youth, and junior Alex Bambic (195) won his second by beating Hamilton's Alex Burgoyne 6-1.
"We went 3-for-3 for the second straight year," Desert Vista coach David Gonzalez said about crowning three champs for the second year in row. "You are happy but at the same time I am competitive and you always know you could have done something more."
Other area state champions were Mesa's Dorian Coleman (DI, 160) and Ben Andrew (DI, 220), Mountain View's Octavio Penunuri (DI, 126), Horizon's Garrett Ryan (DI, 170), Highland's Christian Allen (DI, 182) and Marcos de Niza's Jesse Morales (DII, 132).
State runners-up were Marcos' Richard Castro (DII, HVY) and Dylan Yole (DII, second), Westwood's Da'Wayne Robertson (DI, 120), Mountain View's Seth Monty (DI, 145), Brophy's Marshall Varner (DI, 152), Chandler's Diego Alvarado (DI, 170), Hamilton's Derek Andresen (DI, 182) and Alex Burgoyne (DI, 195) and Corona del Sol's Steven Rodriguez (DI, HWT).
Penunuri was the prime example of someone who used disappointment as a motivator. He placed fourth as a sophomore despite a so-so season where he struggled to make the lineup and then didn't place last season.
"I worked so so hard to get here," said Pennuri, who beat Carl Hayden's Efren Hernandez 3-1 in the finals. "I choked last year and I knew it. I wasn't ready for whatever reason and I wasn't going to let that happen again."