Marcos de Niza rode the strong performances of veterans Alex Varela, Alex Pavlenko, Wes Pierce, Cory Felix and five other teammates who placed Saturday to claim its third straight 5A wrestling title at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Marcos de Niza finished with 209 points, paced by individual titles from Varela (130 pounds and 45-0 on the year) and Pavlenko (160, 45-0). Marcos de Niza is the first 5A school since Tucson Sunnyside to win three or more 5A titles consecutively. Sunnyside had a streak of eight from 1981-88. The titles were the second each for Varela (his were back-to-back) and Pavlenko (he also won in 2002).
Varela’s second straight title did not come easy as he rallied in the final period to edge Hamilton’s Kareem Abdullah, 6-3. Varela trailed 3-1 in the final period. Pavlenko edged Mesa’s Pedro Ballesteros, 6-4.
‘‘It was nice to see them win, and get four guys to the finals,’’ Marcos de Niza coach Jim Weed said. ‘‘Cory made it beating a guy who beat him last month at Flowing Wells. He was a nice plus.’’
Felix lost to Phoenix Maryvale standout Angel Cejudo when Felix had to retire after injuring his shoulder on a move by Cejudo in the final period. Weed said Felix suffered a dislocated shoulder. Felix was taken off the mat on a stretcher and taken from the arena for X-rays.
Angel Cejudo closed his four-year career 119-0 with four titles, a rare feat in the sport. Mountain View was runner-up for the second year in row with 159 1/2 points. Maryvale, which had the most individual champions (four), made a championship-round charge at the Toros, falling just shy with 159. Red Mountain (146 1 /2), Desert Vista (132 1 /2), Mesa (124), Highland (119), Hamilton (111 1 /2), Peoria (90) and Mountain Pointe (83) round out the top 10.
Nine East Valley schools qualified at least one wrestler for a championship match. Six of them crowned at least one champion (Hamilton, Marcos de Niza, Red Mountain, Mesa, Highland and Mesquite). At one point, four consecutive matches were decided by one point.
‘‘There is a little more parity statewide,’’ Red Mountain coach Nick Karantinos said after watching two of his three finalists claim titles, Jeff Ramsey (145 pounds) and Nathan Sare (189). ‘‘There were a lot of tense matches.’’
Several unbeaten wrestlers were among those that went down. A.J. Bartels (112) of Red Mountain was the first of four unbeatens to fall in the finals. Bartels lost to Maryvale’s Jose Palencia, 12-8, to finish 48-1. Desert Vista’s Quinton Pruett (215) lost on a takedown by Highland’s Ty Porter in the final five seconds to close the year 45-1. The only pin of the night in 5A finals came in the last match as Mesquite heavyweight Ben Schoonover dropped Mountain View’s Pedro Garcia at 3:34. Garcia beat Schoonover last year to place fifth.
Garcia’s teammate, David Jarman (119), came up short in his bid for back-to-back titles, losing to Maryvale’s Henry Cejudo, 7-3. Only three of nine unbeaten wrestlers at the start of the tournament finished with perfect marks (Angel Cejudo, Pavlenko and Varela).
Mesa High’s title came from Chris Freije (152), who nipped Marcos de Niza’s Wes Pierce, 3-2, in overtime. Hamilton’s Zach Nicholson (125), a runner-up last year, prevailed this time, beating Fiesta Region rival Aaron Dahl, 11-3. Maryvale’s Jose Cortez (171) topped Desert Vista’s Josh Weaver, 7-6.