The start of each of wrestling season in Arizona the last few season has had some common themes.
The beginning of 2012-13 season was no different.
The season began in earnest last week with changes to the state tournament yet again, transfers finding new homes and the area’s elite talent continues to find more and more opportunities.
Let’s take on the state tournament process first.
Each of the four divisions now have four sectional meets (up from three) with the top four schools/wrestlers advancing to state (instead of five plus one overall at-large) in an effort to spread out the wealth of talent.
The seeding for state goes like this: The sectional champs will earn the top four seed. The section runner-up will be placed on the opposite side of the bracket than their respective sectional champ. The other eight qualifiers will be placed in the bracket by blind draw.
It’s good in some regard, but still not completely what coaches want in regards to the field of sectional (some are stacked — especially Division I, Sections III and IV — while others are weak) and the state meet seeding. To that end, most prefer No. 1 vs. 4 or No. 2 vs. 3 matchups) still could cause some tougher than need be first round match ups.
“It’s a step forward, but not a big step,” Desert Vista coach David Gonzalez said. “We get a little closer each year. It is much better than it used to be so we will get through it and see what happens”
Next year changes are anticipated because the appeal process will put a lot more teams in Division II and lesser numbers in Division I so it might be hard getting enough teams in DI for four sectionals.
“We will revisit and see how it all works outs,” Arizona Interscholastic Association tournament director Dean Visser said.
One thing that also keeps getting better is the number of elite wrestlers earning Division I college scholarships.
This year Chandler’s Dalton Brady (Utah Valley), Mountain View’s Seth Monty (Arizona St.) along with two wrestlers with Arizona ties — Robbie Mathers (Utah Valley/Desert Vista/Olympic Training Center) and Garret Ryan (Columbia/Horizon/Wyoming Semiary, Pa.) — found a home.
Desert Vista’s Alex Bambic, who will probably end up at West Pointe Prep School, and Mesa’s Ben Andrew, possibly Arizona State, will end up somewhere at the end of the year as well.
The interesting one was Brady after he de-committed from Arizona State to attend Utah Valley. He’s lost once in Arizona as he goes for his fourth state title.
“I had to find a place that it is going to get me to the next level,” said Brady, who cited the presence of Utah Valley associate coach Erkin Tadzhimetov (9-time national champion and similar weight to Brady) as a major influence. “They have the coaching staff that can work with me. It was a tough decision, but I found the right spot for me.”
The top teams look to be much of the same as Division I defending state champion Chandler brings back plenty of talent, including state champion Tristan Moran, state-placer Dalton Moran and Brady. Mountain View has the Monty brothers (Blake and Monty), Corona del Sol (despite state placer Daniel Cartegena moved to Texas), Desert Vista (Bambic, Brian Mitchell and Jeremiah Imonode) and most of the other Mesa district schools will be challengers.
Marcos de Niza, despite the retirement of longtime coach Jim Weed, and Queen Creek, which has three state placers and freshman Anthony Wokasch, will be Division II contenders.
Division III only had one top 10 team a year ago in Campo Verde, which had a senior-laden roster, with Tempe, Combs and Higley fielding solid teams as well.
This should be a better season for Division IV squads as few teams made an impression a year ago. Canyon State always produces top individuals while San Tan Foothills has been making strides each year.
Teams to watch
Chandler: The Division I defending champions have two state champs returning along with two other state placers and Hamilton transfer Ulibarri
Corona del Sol: Losing the Cartagena brothers to Texas hurts, but plenty of talent is back with Ethan Tursini, Glenn Farina and Zach Walton.
Desert Vista: Alex Bambic and Brian Mitchell are the only state placers coming back but there is plenty of talent with Matt Mathers, Cooper Gardner, Tristan Ezell and Horizon-transfer Jeremiah Imondoe capable of finding the podium this year.
Mountain View: The Monty brothers (Seth and Blake) drive the room while Grant Huber is as steady as they come.
Queen Creek: Coach Tom Wokasch’s influence will start being felt this year with three state placers back in Devan Adkins, MacKenzie Hill and Hayden Moore, along with freshman Anthony Wokasch at 126.
Wrestlers to watch
Tristan Moran, So., 106, Chandler: Training with Cejudo, Brady helps just a little
Travis Matt, Jr., 113, Horizon: Horizon lost some of its firepower due to transfers but Matt still there
Dalton Brady, Sr., 120, Chandler: One career loss in AZ for Utah Valley recruit, going for fourth state title
Seth Monty, Sr., 145, Mountain View: Finishing second last year didn’t sit well; ASU recruit wants gold again
Alex Bambic, Sr., 195, Desert Vista: Has anyone ever won 3 state titles at a lower weight class each year? He may be the first.
Ben Andrew, Sr., 220, Mesa: Made huge strides last season to win state; will progression continue?
Nov. 30-Dec. 1: Southwest Showdown Invitational (at Grand Canyon University)
Dec. 7-8: Warrior Classic (at Westwood H.S.)
Dec. 14-15: McClintock Wrestling Invitational (at McClintock H.S.)
Dec. 21-22: Moon Valley Invitational (at Moon Valley H.S.)
Jan. 4-5: Mile High Challenge (at Tim’s Toyota Center, Prescott Valley)
Jan. 4-5: Peoria Invitational Tournament of Champions (at Peoria H.S.)
Jan. 11-12: Apache Junction Invitational (at Apache Junction H.S.)
Jan. 18-19: Flowing Wells Invitational (at Tucson Flowing Wells H.S.)
Feb. 7-8-9: State championships (at Tim’s Toyota Center, Prescott Valley)
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.