Three schools that finished in the top six at the Division I state wrestling meet last year are strong contenders for the title this weekend although none prevailed last year. It is highly likely Corona del Sol (sixth in 2016), Sunnyside (second) or Cibola (fourth) will handle the most- prized hardware come Saturday at Prescott Valley Event Center.
Sunnyside, which qualified its entire team (14) for state, Corona del Sol (13 qualifiers) and Cibola (11 qualifiers) possess the most firepower. Sunnyside has four top-seeds, Corona del Sol three and Cibola two for the tourney that begins Friday (Feb. 10) and concludes Saturday (Feb. 11).
Overall Sunnyside has nine top-4 seeds, Corona (8) and Cibola (7). All three won section championships last weekend. The fourth section champ, Mesa Mountain View, is not as strong as the D-I champs of 2014 and 2015 and third-place finisher from 2016, but qualified 10 for the meet.
Here's a closer look at the aforementioned team contenders:
Corona del Sol received a nice boost to its title hopes with the addition of four wrestlers who transferred from Seton Catholic -- Brandon Konecny (160 pounds), Vincent Dolce (152), Jacob Garcia (138) and Bryce Nickel (132). All were state placers in D-II last year. All are seeded 1 or 2 this year in their respective weight classes. Konecny is a two-time champ, three-time placer. Dolce was champ last year and runner-up in 2014 and 2015, Garcia took fourth last year and Nickel earned a fifth-place finish. The Aztecs have four others who placed last year in D-I - Zack Kvalve (106, 6th last year), Cam Upshur (120, 5th), Hunter Carmona (145, 3rd) and Nick Ruffalo (170, 5th). Corona won team titles in 2009 and 2010 when the format was dual-meet. The Aztecs have yet to win a individual-bracket state tourney.
Sunnyside is always in the title mix no matter the division. The Blue Devils have been D-I runners-up the last three years and champs in 2013. They won 11 consecutive titles between 2000-2010 in D-II or 4A. Sunnyside is led by junior Roman Bravo-Young, a two-time state champ wrestling at 132 this year and a national champ as well. He has a fellow defending champ in the lineup in senior 145-pounder David Salazar III. Bravo-Young and Salazar III are top seeds as are freshman Jesse Ybarra (106) and junior Manny Garcia (113). Three more state placers are back from last year Vicente Loaiza (120, 2nd last year), Hector Salazar (138, 6th) and Joey Hernandez (182, 3rd). Loaiza and Salazar III are top-four seeds.
Cibola features a returning state champ in junior Tommy Mommer (220), a top-seed in his weight class. Of its 11 qualifiers this year, seven wrestled at state last year. Senior David Wuertemburg (138) is a No. 1 seed and was third at 126 last year. Senior Andres Duron (113) was third at that weight a year ago as well. Four-place finishers at state returning are senior Alan Beltran (145, placed at 132 in 2016) and sophomore Mario Neblina (182, fourth last year at 160). Cibola has won a pair of team titles this decade (D-II in 2015 and 2014) and was D-I runner-up in 2012. The Raiders only big-school title was in 1995 (5A at the time).
Watching Bravo-Young defend his titles and unbeaten career prep record to date is one thing to keep an eye on. Corona, Sunnyside and Cibola have top-4 seeds in each of the 120, 138, 145 and 152 classes. Corona may have the best chance to take home the most individual titles, but Sunnyside could answer that with a few champs and more wrestlers coming through consolations. Brackets to look for where competition is most keen are 120, 145 and 170.
OTHER NO. 1 SEEDS: Boulder Creek senior Stone Crooks, 126 pounds; Kofa junior David Castaneda (170); Mesa Mtn. View senior Brock Doolen, (182); Desert Vista senior and defending champ Chad Porter (195) and Skyline senior Kolo Uasike, (HWT). UNDEFEATED WRESTLERS: Four wrestlers are perfect this season led by Sunnyside's Bravo-Young at 39-0 this year and 128-0 in three seasons. The other unbeatens are Corona del Sol's Konecny (22-0) and Dolce (20-0) and Skyline's Uasike (20-0).
D-I TOP-4 SEEDS BY WEIGHT CLASS
106 pounds: 1. Jesse Ybarra (SS); 2. Chris Kelly (CHAN), 3. Hunter Richards (MTV), 4. Charles Boyle (WW). 113: 1. Manny Garcia (SS), 2. Andres Duron (CIB), 3. Aaron Valenzuela (KOFA), 4. Alex Rodriguez (BASHA). 120: 1.Cameron Upshur (CDS), 2. Alex Wood (DR), 3. Vicente Loaiza (SS). 4. Franxl Zaragoza (CIB). 126: 1. Stone Crooks (BC), 2. Angelo Pool (TUC), 3. Aaron Rodriguez (SS), 4. Gabriel Casteneda (KOFA). 132: 1. Roman Bravo-Young (SS), 2. Bryce Nickel (CDS), 3. Jared McMinn (DR), 4. Gary Rice (SDO). 138: 1. David Wuertemburg (CIB), 2. Jacob Garcia (CDS), 3. Iochin Howey (RMT), 4. Hector Salazar (SS). 145: 1. David Salazar III (SS), 2. Alan Beltran (CIB), 3. Hunter Carmona (CDS), 4. Benjamin Peters (MTV). 152: 1. Vincent Dolce (CDS), 2. Aaron Gandara (CIB), 3. Garrett Wolfe (MTV), 4. Ivan Tena (SS). 160: 1. Brandon Konecny (CDS), 2. Cody Lewis (DR), 3. Jose Rubio (SS), 4. Pedro Medina (HOR). 170: 1. David Castaneda (KOFA), 2. Nicholas Ruffalo (CDS), 3. Nathan Suwyn (MTR), 4. Travis Galloway (PERRY). 182: 1. Brock Doolen (MTV), 2. Kashawn Crump-Valenzuela (TUC), 3. Mario Neblina (CIB). Brendan Gill (DVIS). 195: 1. Chad Porter (DVIS), 2. Jeremiah Hollen (MTV), 3. Brendon Kaufman (MTR), 4. Jacob Santa Cruz (CDS). 220: 1. Tommy Mommer (CIB), 2. Trevor Nipper (BASHA), 3. Jacob Lambert (CCHAVEZ), 4. Jonathan Garcia (MTV). 285: 1. Kolo Uasike (SKY), 2. Justin Moore (VV), 3. Brett Johnson (DVIS), 4. Brian Olmedo (BCP).