They came up through the system together, and the seven seniors on Corona del Sol’s wrestling team leave the system on top.
The Aztecs won their second straight 5A-I state team tournament on Saturday, beating Mesa 38-16 in the championship duel at Tempe High School. For this group of seniors, it gives them two team trophies and seven individual state championships, combined.
“This is definitely the best group to ever come through Corona,” senior Derek Felton said, after capping a career that saw him go 191-8 and win two individual titles. “It’s pretty cool to see everyone just come up through the ranks and get stronger over the years. It feels great winning it twice, and in all four of my years in high school we’ve wrestled Mesa in the finals, so it’s kind of a cool way to finish it off.”
Felton was one of the six Aztec seniors to win their final prep matches. Brad Spadafore at 130, Ryan Miller at 154, Blake Ortiz at 162, Sam Fulton at 189 and heavyweight Mike Howard all were victorious. The lone senior to fall was Kevin Thomas, who was up against state champion Edgar Verdi at 145 pounds.
“They were just so confident that I knew when they went out there and had a job to do, they were going to get it done,” first-year Corona del Sol coach Jim Martinez said. “I trusted them and they trusted in me to take them there.”
Typically in duels, Corona tries to hang on and stay close in the lower weights and then rely on its dynamic seniors at the end of the lineup. But Saturday, the lower weights came through with some crucial victories. Freshman Kort Turner opened with a pin over Mesa’s Kevin Hale at 103 pounds. Mesa then won two straight, capped by Gabe Ballesteros’ pin over Robert Butler at 119 pounds.
Corona del Sol then got three huge wins, the first two coming on matching 7-4 decisions for freshman Patrick Buck (125) and Spadafore. Ryan Cox delivered at 130, beating Kenneth Ragu 5-0 and giving Corona del Sol a 15-9 lead.
Mesa then took a 16-15 lead after state runner up Craig Alger won 12-7, and Verdi got a 13-2 major decision over Thomas.
“We gave it all we had, we knew we had to,” Mesa coach Bobby Williams said. “There were some crucial matches down below where we had to have big wins and couldn’t quite get them.”
Trailing by just one point, Corona del Sol then trotted out its four state champions from the individual tournament on Wednesday. Miller had the closest match of that group, slugging out a 2-1 victory over a determined Tsotne Khabuliani that put Corona ahead 18-16. From there, Ortiz, Felton and Fulton slammed the door shut with wins that racked up 14 points.
“I thought if we gave up 24 points by the time we got to 152, we’d be alright,” Martinez said. “We knew once we got to 152 that we weren’t going to lose matches.”
And when junior Simon Allen won at 215 that set up Mike Howard, a state champion in 2009, at heavyweight. After the clock hit zero, the whole Aztec team rushed the mat to dog-pile their big man, hitting the unsuspecting Howard before he had a chance to catch his breath.
For the year, the senior class accounted for 304 victories, an average of 43 for each wrestler.
“We’ve definitely left some huge shoes to fill,” Felton said. “They might have a couple rebuilding years, but they’ll get back up here.”
“I hope that what they left behind in the wrestling room is going to be enough of a start so after the new guys get some matches in the spring and the summer, they’ll be ready to come back and start stepping into the roles that the seniors are leaving for them,” Martinez said. “But (this senior class), they are a magical group of guys.”
Tucson Sunnyside ran it’s consecutive championship streak to 13 with a 35-24 victory over top-seeded Tucson Ironwood Ridge.
The Blue Devils had less than an hour to recover from an emotional 38-28 win over Marcos de Niza in the semifinals.
The Padres trailed 29-28 heading into the 215-pound match between the two state finalists, champion Diego Bravo of Sunnyside and Aaron Pavlenko. It was 1-0 in Bravo’s favor when Pavlenko was called for stalling for the second time, costing him a point.
That call set off a bizarre series of events that ended with Pavlenko being disqualified, giving the Blue Devils six points and locking up the win.
5A-I State Championship
Corona del Sol 38, Mesa 16
103 — Kort Tuner (CDS) pin Kevin Hale, 5:14
112 — John Cooper (Mesa) major dec. Chris Tee 10-1
119 — Gabe Ballesteros (Mesa) pinned Robert Butler 1:16
125 — Patrick Buck (CDS) dec. Edwin Hernandez 7-4
130 — Brad Spadafore (CDS) dec. John Ordaz 7-4
135 — Ryan Cox (CDS) dec. Kenneth Ragu 5-0
140 — Craig Alger (Mesa) dec. Conner Devore 12-7
145 — Edgar Verdi (Mesa) major dec. Kevin Thomas 13-2
152 — Ryan Miller (CDS) dec. Tsotne Khabuliani 2-1
160 — Blake Ortiz (CDS) dec. Nicholas Robles 7-4
171 — Derek Felton (CDS) tech. fall Aaron Cuellar 19-4 (4:53)
189 — Sam Fulton (CDS) injury default Trevor Aranda
215 — Simon Allen (CDS) dec. Alex Joaquin-Gonzalez 6-2
Hwt — Mike Howard (CDS) dec. Jacob Ramirez 7-2
First round scores
Corona del Sol 36, Red Mountain 23
Mesquite 41, Brophy 21
Chandler 38, Dobson 28
Mesa 38, Skyline 24
Corona 45, Mesquite 25
Mesa 33, Chandler 24
First round scores
Ironwood Ridge 54, Marana Mountain View 15
Sandra Day O’Conner 38, Desert Mountain 36
Marcos de Niza 52, Boulder Creek 16
Sunnyside 54, Cibola 14
Ironwood Ridge 52, Sandra Day O’Conner 16
Sunnyside 38, Marcos de Niza 25