Tempe Corona del Sol wrestling coach Dave Vibber said he knew going into his team’s 5A Division I state quarterfinal match that his opponent was far better than its No. 5 seed suggested.
Unfortunately for Vibber, that turned out to be true.
Led by strong performances by Seth Pickett, Michael Shauf and Jake Kauffman, Mesa Red Mountain muscled its way past the No. 4-seeded Aztecs 33-23 Tuesday, setting up a showdown in the semifinals with Mesa, which is the defending state champion.
Pickett’s pin of Vincent Stanley in the 135-pound bout was the turning point, giving the Mountain Lions a 9-point advantage with only two bouts left. Both Shauf (130 pounds) and Kauffman (152 pounds) pitched in by scoring technical falls.
“They challenged us and we challenged them,” said Red Mountain coach Nick Karantinos, whose team came back from a six-point deficit midway through the match.
Karantinos said he knew the road ahead would not be easy.
“Mesa’s a heck of team,” he said. “They’re not the state champions for nothing, but we’re going to give our best shot.”
Corona appeared to take control of the match after heavyweight Trevor Stapp (major decision) and 103-pound Ryan Miller (pin) both easily won their bouts, giving the Aztecs a 17-11 lead.
“My mind-set was that we still had a lot of work to do,” Vibber said. “Coaches always try to do the math to come up with enough points. I knew it would be tough to hold on.”
Tough indeed, as Red Mountain came roaring back, winning five of the last seven bouts, including Chris Galvan’s decisive major decision to finish up the match.
“I’m proud of my kids,” Vibber said. “They fought all the way.”